March 16, 2017
The frenetic pace of Gordon’s life set the stage for her most recent exhibit, Magnified, which was shown last spring at the Linda Warren Projects Gallery in Chicago. This exhibit set a series of exciting things in motion.
“I’ve never been much of a marketer,” says Gordon, a characteristic many artists might claim. “But someone from Hi Fructose Magazine saw Magnified and decided to feature my paintings in a 10-page spread. Then, I was contacted by a Spanish fashion designer called Armuseli—to create clothing items using my paintings. The current momentum is pretty amazing.”
The well-spoken, yet modest Gordon is now engrossed in her latest body of work that is scheduled to show in July at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, one of the premier galleries of New Contemporary art. “While Magnified was about finding peace in the chaos, I’m flipping that idea and imagining what life would be like if we were given more space for quiet and reflective thought,” she says. “The narratives are the fantastical wild and crazy worlds that we can create for ourselves when we’re alone. Finding quiet, being reflective, and viewing the world creatively.”
This next solo exhibit of Gordon’s, yet untitled, will include 15-20 pieces at the gallery’s request, integrating a figure into each situation—typically in the form of a child.
“I’m very concept-based and series-based,” Gordon explains. “Typically, I have an overall concept for the entire series. Then, I find imagery that really resonates with me and fulfills that. I spend a lot of time creating the compositions. Sometimes I’ll create five, six, or seven compositions before I start painting them.”
Gordon keeps an ongoing database of imagery that she’s constantly referring back to. For this new body of work, she’s selected amusement parks and rides (many of them long-since abandoned) and things that mesh with pop culture iconography to convey her narratives. She’s drawing from experiences one has as a child and sometimes mixing them with something more sinister. One element that repeats throughout Gordon’s work is a teacup, reminiscent of the Walt Disney Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride. “The spinning teacup ride is something so joyful and so innocent, but also so terrifying and sickening,” Gordon says. “I think it is something most people can relate to visually.”
A third of the way through this new effort, Gordon is finding her color palette to be a bit darker and richer than past collections. “I might take a landscape and invert all of the colors so it’s not what you expected to see. My color selection is very dictated by a mood that I might be in or a path that I’m enjoying,” she says. “You’ll also notice that I’ve painted all of the figures in my paintings in black and white so they appear as ghostly figures. I want people to wonder if this is imagination, or reality, or just a dreamscape. It makes the narrative more obscure and more open to interpretation.”
Even as Gordon works up against an aggressive summer deadline, something she is driven by, she finds herself easily working on multiple paintings simultaneously and referencing female surrealist artists from the past.
“I recently realized that here I am, a female artist, and although I often reference a lot of art and art history in my work, I haven’t given a nod to many female artists in the past,” she says. “Part of it is that the female artists aren’t typically in your line of sight. So I started to do some research, specifically female surrealists, because I consider my work a contemporary take on surrealism.”
A standout for Gordon was Dorothea Tanning, an artist who made a name for herself for many decades throughout the 20th century, dying at the age of 101 in 2012. “I was a huge fan of Tanning’s in college and found myself recently reexamining her work. She has this amazing quote ‘Keep your eye on your inner world.’ That really is what this whole new body of work is about for me—not looking elsewhere for direction on where to forge your path. You have to find that direction and inspiration from within.”
Gordon will incorporate an installation art piece as part of her show in July, as installation art is such a significant part of the work she creates. “I had this idea to have a full-scale teacup that people could sit in and feel as if they’ve walked into one of my paintings,” she muses.
In spite of the growing demand for her work, Gordon finds the time when she is actually putting brush to canvas—whether the painting be large or small—to be therapeutic and meditative. “I don’t think I’m unlike many artists in that I have this almost compulsion inside of me to make art. It fulfills something that is unexplained and it’s here for me whenever I need it.”
To learn more, visit nicolegordon.com.
June 29, 2016
It’s the 40th volume of Hi-Fructose!
Featured in this issue is:
Mark Mothersbaugh’s new museum retrospective at the Akron Art Museum, the elaborate skull carvings of Jason Borders, a studio visit with Japanese artist collective three, the wonderful drawings of Nicomi Nix Turner, photographer Robert Bartholot’s mysteriously artificial images, Nicole Gordon’s bright and tragic landscapes, and Vincent Castiglia’s amazing blood paintings. Then we delve into the violence of man with Cleon Peterson’s graphic paintings, discover the cinematic baroque paintings of Jamie Adams, and review on the new Peelander Z documentary Mad Tiger!, and more!
April 14, 2016
Chicago based artist Nicole Gordon creates eclectic landscapes reminiscent of fairytale dreamlands as metaphors for the emotional and physical loss of personal space.
These paintings are from Nicole’s series entitled “Magnified,” and are on display currently at Linda Warren Projects in Chicago until April 30th, 2016.
April 6, 2016
Nicole Gordon paints landscapes that lean on the whimsical and somewhat grim, an expression of beauty met with the horrors of real world change and transformation. The Chicago based artist cites namely 16th century painters Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch as her inspiration, whose works while dramatic and highly stylized, also offered expressions of the every day of their time. Similarly, Gordon describes her work as a combination of fantasy with darker truths: her use of bright colors and out of place objects create an imaginative view of reality.
“I like to make commentary that’s veiled within some sort of beauty; something beautiful that upon closer inspection reveals itself to be more darker, more sinister,” she explains. Her recent body of work, currently showing at Linda Warren Projects in Chicago, realizes new scenery that are equally beautiful and eerie. Throughout, her paintings detect a deep concern for the environment; man-made structures are taken back by nature, as in works like “Congestion”, featuring pastoral landscapes overtaken by humongous highway systems, or “Stop the Ride”, depicting Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party teacups spinning in dramatic forests.
“I would say that my work reminds us of our flaws, but encourages us to overcome them,” Gordon says. “I attempt to create work that while dark and rather apocalyptic in many ways also incorporates ornate touches and decorative elements that serve to balance the somber and more serious imagery. These devices offer beautiful moments that happen alongside the often destructive ones and are meant to reflect hope and the possibility for change.”
April 15, 2016
Tiptoeing between reality and the surreal, Nicole Gordon’s exhibition “magnified” presents a whimsical wonderland of phantasmagorical landscapes. In her paintings’ highly stylized alternate realities, people are strange, cartoon-like creatures with delightfully eccentric silhouettes and sceneries look like elaborate movie sets. In them, larger-than-life LEGO brick sculptures appear in natural settings. Oversized teacups reminiscent of amusement-park rides battle wildfire and pink flamingos wander in enchanted gardens.
Gordon takes us down the rabbit hole of her imaginative worlds—a mash of reality and absurdity—with bright, vibrant colors that create unnerving, illogical sceneries representing the ultimate place of mystery and wonder: the real world in which we live. As powerful metaphors for our contemporary culture, these images offer insights into the way we experience the world today—reflecting the environment as a physical and emotional space in which the nature/technology binary is made readily apparent.
In an otherworldly space wherein painting and installation coexist, Gordon’s large-scale oil paintings hang alongside a wicker chair swinging from the ceiling hovering over a moss rug in which tiny polka-dotted mushrooms appear to grow. Allowing the viewer to physically enter into the narrative, the three-dimensional installation not only extends the paintings into the viewers’ space, it also challenges them to inhabit them. By breaking traditional barriers between painting and sculpture, the artist blurs the line between artistic mediation and pure experience. Seductive, idyllic habitats are juxtaposed with post-apocalyptic worlds, where after natural or man-made catastrophes, only scattered elements of society and technology remain. Out-of-context objects create bizarre, sometimes disturbing settings—physical remnants or enigmatic traces of technology or human activity that disrupt natural life.
Considering the visible and the tangible as well as the more elusive and mysterious senses of space, Gordon moves beyond its physical dimension toward its social and the psychological aspects. This makes “magnified” more than a fairy tale-like world within which the viewers could let their minds roam free. As they try to define (or redefine) themselves in the multi-layered realities of space, the show leaves them feeling exactly like right after a whirling, disorienting thrill ride, spinning in their own oversized teacup into oblivion. (Vasia Rigou)
January 16, 2016
The show runs from March 18th 2016 to April 20th 2016. An opening reception will be on Friday March 18th from 6-9 pm
August 7, 2015
CHICAGO — In the entire history of art, how many works depict a tree as their main subject? The answer is probably incalculable, but even attempting to imagine it makes the mind dizzy, like trying to grasp the mathematical concept of infinity. Yet in two group shows in Chicago, one sees a range of artists wringing new meaning from our leafy friends.
In Roots, at Linda Warren Projects, 18 artists were invited to show work that illustrates their own relationship to trees. As evidenced by a catalogue of short artists’ statements that accompanies the show, many of the artists have personal associations with trees, while others use the tree as a formal pictorial or sculptural device. Thus we have more or less straight depictions of trees in paintings, photos, and sketches by Tom Torluemke, Tom Van Eynde, and Brenda Moore; small paintings of evergreens in lurid, Pop-art colors by Chris Uphues; and whimsical paintings in which cartoonish characters pose in the middle of forests, as in Nicole Gordon’s “Curiosity Often Leads to Trouble.” That painting seems to be a form of throwing one’s hands in the air when confronted with the long and weighty tradition of landscape painting, almost as if poking fun at the whole enterprise. Better and more convincing responses can be seen in the more abstract works, such as Emmett Kerrigan’s sculptures or Nina Rizzo’s paintings, which both use different dimensions of wood pieces and play around with their weight in space. The wisest moves seem to occur when artists forgo color altogether: Joseph Noderer’s “Bigfoot Creek” is a tall canvas of interlocking monochromatic shapes that nevertheless uses strong contrasts to imply different colors; and in Michiko Itatani’s “CTRL-Home/Echo,” the artist has forsaken representation altogether and made an image that looks totemic.
May 28, 2015
May 28th - July 11th 2015
Nicole Gordon’s large-scale oil paintings and gouache studies reflect surrendering to a loss of personal space. Using natural environments to stand as metaphor for physical, emotional, or spiritual personal space, each timeless setting has been infiltrated by pop-culture imagery. The heightened colors and out-of-place objects create absurd, and sometimes disturbing, stage-like scenes that become an alternate reality. What may at first seem like a disturbance to the serenity ultimately animates the setting and breathes new life into the space.
January 10, 2015
January 10th - March 8th
August 12, 2014
October 5, 2009
Now on view at the Chicago Cultural Center is Stateless, New Work by Nicole Gordon. The paintings by the Chicago-based Gordon employ a lush commingling of diverse stylistic references from Flemish artists to Persian miniature paintings to create her own whacky vision of the clash between urban civilization and the natural world. In her two major paintings on view here, onlooking monkeys gaze dreamily or stare directly at us, perhaps assessing our complicity in this. A centrally placed sculptural element completes this “unnatural” tableau.
Gordon’s work can be seen as a fusion of dialectical tensions, between disparate cultures, between three dimensional “real” space and the two dimensional picture plane, as well as between civilization itself and the natural world. Her painting clearly employs imagery from Pieter Bruegal as well as his dark allegorical sensibility and moral tone. But it also has specific references to the patterning of Persian miniatures and to be flattened, layered Asian perspective. Thus East, Mid-East and West are conjoined in these paintings. Ultimately the exhibition can be seen as commentary on our relationship to the natural world and on the representation of our place in it.
April 20, 2009
Consumers are the new criminals: a trope that was always overdetermined and simplistic, and that by now feels worn out and somewhat outdated given the new batch of financier sinners we’re scapegoating these days. In fact, the current economic shipwreck makes environmentalist finger-pointing seem almost nostalgic, as Nicole Gordon’s show at Linda Warren Gallery illustrates. Gordon’s paintings, with obvious influences from Northern Renaissance painters Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch to William Blake, are simultaneously religious and carnivalesque, each one illuminating one of the seven deadly sins as acted upon the planet. Gordon considers each sin from a purely environmental perspective, where, for example, gluttony is imagined as an apocalyptic oil-drilling scene, and envy as a surrealist diamond mine. The connection is hardly new, and the show doesn’t leave very much up to the analysis of the viewer in terms of theme or intellectual challenge. The paintings turn out to be most interesting in their hybrid style, which comprises a striking combination of quasi-realistic backgrounds and cartoon-like, overtly artificial foregrounded figures. This kind of visual mash-up seems to offer much more insight into the way we experience the world now—perhaps a comment on the simulacric way we interact with the natural environment (when we do so at all), where specific fictions have allowed such eco-holocausts to take place. However, the images themselves, from animals in gas masks to a childish depiction of a man being sodomized by a gas line, seem overly simplistic, and it’s hard to know how we’re to take the final image, “The Culmination,” which depicts a literal apocalypse, complete with a nuclear cloud in the distance; the artist statement claims these paintings reflect hope and a possibility for change, but other than the ambivalent style, the work itself shows the frustrating lack of complexity that underlies all propaganda, eco-friendly or otherwise. (Monica Westin) - See more at: http://art.newcity.com/2009/04/20/review-nicole-gordonlinda-warren-gallery/#sthash.EC7971ZQ.dpuf
April 7, 2005
Boundary Breaker April 07, 2005
Nicole Gordon is a self-described good suburban Jewish girl whose sweetly colored paintings and installations at Peter Miller disturbingly reflect on cultural displacement. Her goal is to cut through viewers’ complacency using her work’s studied prettiness. “In the very protected suburbs I grew up in,” Gordon says, “you hold yourself in your own little world and pretend that things around you aren’t really happening. I want to draw people in with my atmospheric colors and decorative surfaces.” Harvest is based on a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Harvesters, but Gordon has her workers collecting land mines rather than harvesting hay. The composition is nicely balanced, the colors almost soothing, yet some of the peasants resting in the foreground have missing limbs, and fires burn in the background.
Three of the 13 pieces here are even more provocative, partly because Gordon takes her imagery into the gallery space. Airs and Graces centers around a painting of elegant women in 18th-century dress apparently dining at a table outdoors. Oddly, there are construction barriers in the foreground, one of which continues onto a panel protruding beyond the picture’s edge, and on the floor in front of the painting sits a construction barrier Gordon made, papier-mache stones, and tufts of grass that look like those in the painting’s foreground. The three-dimensionality gives the imagery an unsettling mix of realism and fantasy, as Gordon recasts a toys-come-to-life fable. Though her ladies are copied from an 18th-century tapestry, they’re holding margarita glasses, and the construction barriers relocate the scene to the suburban present.
April 4, 2003
Nicole Gordon showed nine paintings and three constructions at the Peter Miller Gallery in January and February. The artist begins with scenes from 19th-century French wallpaper, which she intensifies and embellishes to create lively fantasies. We see Saracens sword fighting; ancient cities ablaze; Egyptians lounging among ruins; a sailing vessel in the Arctic with icebergs and polar bears nearby; and little girls in long dresses playing ring-around-the-rosy on a Sunday afternoon in London.
Gordon’s over the top imagery occupies a horizontal strip in the center of each painting. Beneath the horizon, she paints patterns that suggest tiles or bedrock in layers. In the sky we see huge clouds, columns of smoke or abstract patterns. The artist uses lots of impasto and scatters glitter on some paintings. This is the most visually exuberant work that we have seen in a long time.
So far, so good, but Gordon must be “relevant.” Her images are “beautiful and uncomfortable at the same time,” she says. As we enjoy her exotic confections, we must also recall the horrid history of colonialism, savage destruction of traditional cultures and the white man’s burden.
Nothing in Gordon’s paintings justifies this politically fashionable interpretation. These are wallpaper scenes, after all, not documentaries of misery and persecution. They work visually. The artist should be satisfied with that.
January 31, 2003
The decorative impulse in painting periodically has promised to restore pleasure to a practice that had become too cerebral. The last time this happened was in the wake of Minimal Art, with the short-lived 1970s movement known as Pattern Painting.
Now a number of young artists who are in no way connected look to the past as a way of modifying conceptually based painting. Nicole Gordon, who is having her first solo exhibition at the Peter Miller Gallery, is one of these artists.
As the pattern painters chose Henri Matisse for inspiration, so does Gordon return to earlier French art, though her way back is less direct She is interested in academic painting of the 19th Century as it was reflected in wallpaper patterns.
The central portion of each of her panels reproduces an exotic scene that relates to a decorative treatment of, say, Orientalist painting. This she surrounds with abstract motifs derived from mosaics, textiles and color charts, before adding glass beads or glitter.
Sometimes she treats the subject she represents—conquistadors, crusaders, desert architecture—in a complementary sculpture that views the same motif from a different angle and recasts it in three dimensions. More often, Gordon extends decoration beyond the boundary of her pictures, by strewing glitter on the floor or continuing an arabesque onto a wall.
The overkill of the artist’s decoration does not annul her representational scenes. On the contrary, it looks meant to act as a sensuous foil to scenes that remain conceptual, as most of the motifs are about imperialist conquest of one form or another.
This is quite a load for each painting to bear, and it’s not borne easily.
The pieces add up: viewers will have little trouble seeing where the artist is going. But the extravagance of her decoration keeps us from yielding to it, for the pleasure it offers come close to being kitschy. And that, in turn, eats away at the conceptual aspect of each painting until you find yourself giving credit for the effort but not accepting the synthesis as a convincing result.
Still, the ambition here is impressive. Its development should be interesting to watch.