Art Archive

  1. Evan-grothjan-spaces-its-nice-that-list

    You know what we’re like, always going all gaga over pretty colours and GIFS like little typing magpies. But we’re not all about a pretty picture over here at It’s Nice That; and neither is designer Evan Grothjan. While we admit we were initially drawn in by his vivid tones and abstract compositions, it turns out there’s a lot more to his Spaces series than crowd-pleasing aesthetics. Instead, the images form an ongoing investigation into the relationship between space and emotion; something Evan’s been interested in since studying animation as part of his Rhode Island School of Design course.

  2. Tate-britain-its-nice-thatlist

    The current director of the Nottingham Contemporary gallery, Alex Farquharson, has been announced as the new director of Tate Britain. The 45-year-old founded the Nottingham Contemporary in 2009, launching the site with a show of David Hockney’s work from the 1960s. Alex says: “I am delighted to be joining Tate as director of Tate Britain. As the home of 500 years of British art, Tate Britain has a unique and fascinating position in the cultural life of the nation. I look forward to working with a highly skilled and experienced team of curators to share these histories with audiences of all kinds.”
      
    Tate director Nicholas Serota adds: “Alex Farquharson has established Nottingham Contemporary as one of the leading art galleries in the UK. He has created a programme that serves local and national audiences, working closely with artists and reflecting history as well as the present.” Alex will take up the director role in late autumn this year.

  3. Alex_g_paradise_int_list

    It’s the surreal quality and ambiguity in Los Angeles-based Alex G’s paintings that makes them so interesting. Contorted bodies climb, lounge and bend over pastel-coloured boxes, as though they’ve slipped mysteriously out of reality and into a limbo-like world. The uniformity of the figures adds to the peculiarity of the work, all of them with silhouetted hair and features and dressed in white T-shirts and shorts. Looking back through Alex’s work, it’s his current set of paintings, where he’s drifted away from the fantasy-like details and focused more on the on the abstract and obscure, that are strongest.

  4. Charlie-roberts-itsnicethat-list-2

    Artist Charlie Roberts is based in Oslo, but the energy and dynamism of his work belies the tranquility that I can’t help but associate with Norway’s serene landscapes. His past work dealt almost obsessively with collecting remnants of pop culture and laying them out in orderly lines to be documented, but more recently Charlie has shifted towards cool canvases depicting adolescents lazing about, smoking joints on car bonnets, wrapping their long arms around their friends and watching the world go by. It’s a relaxed portrait of young adulthood – all seductive almond eyes, tangled limbs, Nike sportswear and ripped jeans, and it feels like a sweet love letter to this universal but transitory time.

  5. Patrick-savile-itsnicethat-list

    If your long, arduous week has left you looking a bit sickly and slightly grey in colour, Patrick Savile might well be the man with the cure to pep you up for the weekend. A freelance illustrator and designer with experience working for Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Pop magazine populating his back catalogue already, his Personal Zone (real section of his website) is full of abstract, sci-fi-influenced landscapes and textural objects floating bizarrely over fantastical scenes. There – we can see the bright yellow of the screen reflecting off those pallid cheeks already.

  6. Ai-weiwei-passport-int-list

    After four years of soft detention for Ai Weiwei’s social and political activism, the Chinese authorities have returned the artist’s passport. Ai Weiwei broke the news on Instagram today with a selfie brandishing the travel document. “Today, I picked up my passport,” he wrote in a caption.

  7. Sighht-its-nice-that-gif-list

    I don’t know too much about the Sighht Tumblr, but I know what I like, and what I like is weird glitchy net art, Throbbing Gristle and psychedelic flashy things that hurt the eyes and brain. Which is exactly what Sighht is, and with every scroll it gets stranger and more fascinating. After some internet detective work by our in-house super sleuth (and INT Works art director) Callum, who first spotted this little blog of joy, it was discovered that two men named Joel Evey and Peter Steineck are behind Sighht.

  8. Fundaci%c2%a2n-bot%c2%b0n_-sol-lewitt_-wall-drawing-413-(2)--its-nice-that-list

    At first, it seems a career as graphic designer for Seventeen magazine is rather different to that of a genre-defining conceptual artist. Laying out covers of lipsticked teens, first crush woes and nail art dilemmas surely requires a rather different head to one that could, say, provide probably the best known definition of conceptual art we have. Unless you’re Sol LeWitt, that is.

  9. Max-colson-itsnicethat-list

    If you live in a city, the chances are you’ve already encountered the digital composite images used to advertise the new “urban builds” popping up left, right and centre like ant hills in an otherwise lovely summer’s garden. Have you ever taken a second to recognise how hilarious a spectrum of “urban residents” they include though? A lovely smattering of white middle class men aged between 20 and 40, perpetually swinging briefcases, with the odd sweet-looking woman pushing a buggy for good measure.

  10. Jenny_holzer_hauser_and_wirth_int_list

    You would be forgiven for thinking Jenny Holzer’s hard-hitting work and guerrilla tactics would seem incongruous in the English countryside. Somerset is an unlikely setting for the American artist whose first public works Truisms began as posters dotted around Manhattan in the late 70s where, among many things, she first told the world “There’s a fine line between information and propaganda.” A few years later her plea to be saved from ourselves blazed above New York’s capitalist heart in Times Square: “Protect me from what I want.”

  11. List-its-nice-that-caro_first-national-1964_jonty-wilde

    Somewhat hazily now I remember embarking on my art GCSE, first through the bowler hats and apples of Surrealism, via depictions of the Spanish Civil War to the far less familiar territory of abstract sculpture. The latter was brought to us in the form of the work of Anthony Caro, from dog-eared art book pages and monochrome photographs on bad photocopied printouts. We were tasked with sitting down to create our own Caro-esque moquettes from clay. It seemed a terrifying proposition: compared to the ubiquitous Dalis and comparatively straightforward narrative of Guernica, his shapes and lines felt incomprehensible to a 15-year-old brain. What were they for? Why were they there? I found the misty-eyed Caro-adoration of my art teacher Mrs Silk baffling.

  12. Lj_cinema_moralia_int_list

    The split between the aesthetic and intellectual levels of Larry Johnson’s work is a dichotomy the California-born artist welcomes. But unlike much art that makes a spectacle of words, Johnson is in the business of subversion rather than critique, and manages not to fall prey to more well-trodden ideas that art and criticism are mirrors of each other. In an interview some years ago he argued the reason abstract painting exists is because people inherently like to look at nothing, and for an artist whose irreverent work so often conflates word and image, he is happy to enter the vacant realm of decoration.

  13. Klas_ernflo_trax_itsnicethat_list

    Swedish artist Klas Ernflo hasn’t graced our site since 2011, and while he’s been steadily creating work over the years it’s his latest work which takes the form of simple, methodical figures on boards that caught our eye. Like tidy hieroglyphics, Klas’ abstract forms seemingly focus on the environment with a pair of peachy legs and a delicate silhouette of a cow in the mass of paintings. But it’s the addition of the scientific-looking instruments and wiggly, wavy symbols that add an ambiguity to the world Klas is documenting.

  14. Barbican-list

    “We wanna be free, we wanna be free to do what we wanna do,” as we heard through Primal Scream (it’s a quote from the film The Wild Angels , fact fans). Now for the Barbican’s mammoth Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening show by Doug Aitken, artists from Gillian Wearing to Bob and Roberta Smith and graphic design studios including Zak Group and Good Wives and Warriors have created posters responding to the concepts “free” or “freedom.” As you’d expect from such a varied bunch, the posters show a huge range of approaches to the brief, including a depiction of a smoking vicar and a few simple, typographic responses from Ruth Ewan and Zak Group. The idea behind the posters’ creation was to echo “the sprite of Fluxus happenings,” according to the Barbican, and will be pasted throughout the centre-wide show.

  15. George-quaintance-taschen-itsnicethat-list

    Before there was Tom of Finland, the Finnish artist whose steamy work moved from his private sketchbooks to national postage stamps, there was George Quaintance, an American artist born at the beginning of the 20th Century whose depictions of muscular men set the tone for homoerotic illustration for years to come. His illustrations are fabulously, overtly camp: flamboyantly made-up hairless Adonises, shining of skin and rippling of muscle pose with horses and fend off wild animals clad only in loincloths or faded jeans. George’s drawings scream of joy, sex and testosterone, hinting at mens’ health magazines and the Calvin Klein ads that would follow 50 years after their publication.

  16. Erin_armstrong_itsnicethat_list

    There’s a wonderful dreaminess to Toronto-based Erin Armstrong’s paintings, as she adds an ethereal slant to the everyday with her characters existing in a haze of colour and brushstrokes. Keen to create her own reality in which her silhouettes can exist, Erin’s work is best when she abandons clean lines and bravely swooshes paint across the canvas. A lovely briskness is created in these loose figures and the beautiful jewel-like shades blending with subdued pastels adds to the whimsical atmosphere. Calming and graceful, I love how Erin adds natural elements like plants or water to her acrylic paintings to give them some sort of grounding in the real world.

  17. David-jien-itsnicethat-list

    As an artist (in this case, David Jien) what do you do when you’ve created a body of work (in this case Exodus) so brilliantly executed and far flung in its mythical references and bizarre abstractions that you don’t really know what to make next?

  18. Alex_ebstein_int_list_1

    Baltimore-based artist Alex Ebstein’s textural collages are like a postmodern tryst between the oft-quoted designs of the Memphis group and equally popular Matisse cut-outs. What makes Alex’s work stand out in a sea of block colour and simple shapes are her unexpected materials. Working with exercise paraphernalia for her textural abstract works, she teams hand-cut yoga mats with acrylic and twine to surprising ends. Both graphic and vivid at a distance whilst pleasingly tactile up close, her beautifully simple amorphous works walk a fine line between being strongly geometric and organic at the same time.

  19. Soundscapes-ticket-its-nice-that-list

    In a sea of Instagram-ready art, begging for participation and first dates, it’s an utter joy to strip things right back and force our laser-shredded, ball-pond wearied, slide-befuddled eyes to actually just look. And in the case of the National Gallery’s incredible new show, Soundscapes, to listen, too.

  20. Fraser-muggerige-barbican-happening-its-nice-that-list

    The worlds of conceptual art and functional graphic design cross perhaps less often than they should. But creating a piece of design that has to perform in a commercial sense and the expression of complex, looser artistic ideas can come together beautifully, as exemplified in the little corner devoted to graphic design at the Barbican’s current show by Doug Aitken, Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening.

  21. Jarvis-cocker-its-nice-that-tlist

    Pulp frontman, solo artist and deep-voiced saviour of Sunday afternoon radio Jarvis Cocker has turned his hand to art, in the form of his Paris exhibition 20 Golden greats. The works on show are “gold records” – fictitious awards that explore the mythology of the artefacts of the same name so often cited in rock biographies. In truth, the accolades have no value whatsoever, according to the gallery showing Jarvis’s work, “not only because they usually aren’t at all made with gold, but moreover because they are generally crafted in a manner at best vaguely artistic, and at worst, perfectly kitsch."

  22. Basquiat_warhol_guggenheim_int_list

    From subway graffitist to art world darling, Jean-Michel Basquiat was perhaps the quintessential New York artist. Before he came to embody that particularly urbane trinity of poetry, jazz and painting, the Brooklyn prodigy was spray painting cryptic messages on Lower Manhattan buildings under the moniker SAMO and selling sweatshirts and postcards emblazoned with his work. Basquiat was one of several graffiti artists to transition to the gallery, but the only one with such a meteoric ascent and with such staying power. By his early twenties he counted Andy Warhol as a friend and collaborator, and his impassioned brand of countercultural painting had completely taken New York by storm.

  23. List-sculpture-in-the-city-its-nice-that-tomoaki-suzuki-'zezi'-courtesy-corvi-mora_-london

    As this week’s public art-themed Nicer Tuesdays reminded us, it’s all too easy to take the masterpieces in full view around the city for granted. And while there’s a plethora of work to see all year round in many cities across the UK, from next week the City of London is placing work by the likes of Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei and Adam Chodzko around the Square Mile to add a little culture to the landscape of our wolves of Threadneedle Street. This is the fifth year of the programme, Sculpture in the City, and will see a total of 14 works go on show. They will remain in situ until May next year.

  24. List-ai-wei-wei-an-archive-its-nice-that-

    Ai Weiwei has printed five years worth of his many, many tweets onto rice paper to form a new piece called An Archive . The artist has long used Twitter as a platform from which to protest Chinese government oppression, leading to a ban from Chinese Twitter. In an interview with The Creator’s Project, Ai tells how the piece, which is formed of thousands of pieces of printed rice paper, showcases a time when he could use the social network for “discussions and memories of the past, as well as predictions for the future. Twitter was an exercise for the mind and one where you are fully exposed to the public."

  25. Royal_academy_summer_exhibition_poster_list

    I never thought I’d use the word irreverent to describe the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Since 1769 the RA has taken a fairly unwavering and conservative approach to the world’s largest open submission exhibition, hanging up to 1,000 works by both amateur artists and great names. Long the lacklustre foxhole of stuffy Academicians and part-time painters, this year marks the greatest effort the RA has made yet to reinvigorate the English summer stalwart.
     
    It’s no surprise that the man behind the brightest, boldest edition yet is Michael Craig-Martin, this year’s curator and the artist best known for his Pop Art palette and his tutorship of YBA trailblazers Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. Among his modernisms for the show is the decision to repaint the three central galleries in colours lifted straight from his work: hot pink, turquoise and baby blue. Far from playing to mere spectacle, Craig-Martin’s trademark penchant for polychrome is a bold statement that does away with both the white cube mis-en-scène of contemporary art and the fusty grandeur of the Academy. Regular attendees might also notice he has made the print galleries more central.

  26. Jim_lambie_zobop_ra_it's_nice_that_list

    For this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Scottish artist Jim Lambie has transformed the storied art institution’s grand staircase with one of his kaleidoscopic floor installations and shaken up the English cultural calendar highlight. Using hundreds of strips of adhesive vinyl tape, Lambie’s eye-catching floor work follows the architecture of the Academy and is part of his ongoing series Zobop. The 2005 Turner Prize nominee’s slightly riotous, technicolour stairs breathe new life into the neo-classical space, and the optical effect packs huge impact, fittingly leading the way to the boldest, brightest edition of the Summer Exhibition in its nearly 250-year run.

  27. Nina-chanel-abney-its-nice-that-list

    The carnivalesque colours and vibrant busyness caught our eye in Nina Chanel’s work; her attitude and subject matter kept us looking. Nina is based in New Jersey, and uses bright brushstrokes and text to explore issues of race, politics, sex and the strange world of celebrity. How? Through a strange troupe of aliens, strange symbols and rainbow colours. Surrealism plays with pop art and high-brow plays with low-brow in her huge e-number fuelled pieces, which carry a depth belying their initially saccharine appearances.

  28. David-shrigley-football-mascot-its-nice-that-top

    David Shrigley has designed a rather strange mascot for Scottish Premiership football team Partick Thistle. Shrigley – a fan of the team – was appointed to create the little yellow jagged character, named Kingsley, as part of the team’s new sponsorship deal with US investment firm Kingsford Capital. The artist also created the brand mark that will appear on Thistle kits and around its home stadium.

  29. Luis-vasallo-itsnicethat-list

    Life drawing classes are more often than not the conservative preserve of academic art, but Luis Vassallo’s nudes tell a different story. Luis’ series A Life Drawing Class, made as part of a collaboration with Hot and Cool magazine, is a refreshing take on a somewhat strait-laced tradition. Over the course of several weeks the Madrid-based artist transformed the models in front of him into adventurous images that juxtapose the classical with the surreal, mixing and matching a number of drawing styles – often in the same sketch – from hard-edged geometry and soft, rolling forms that alternate between clean pencil lines and those in thick jagged charcoal. Finding inspiration in the Italian avant garde and the 60s revival of figurative art, Luis is clear that his work is less about looking back and more about finding a way to pick up where these 20th Century movements left off. The results are unlike any nudes we’ve seen before.

  30. Jackson-pollock_-number-34-1949-its-nice-that-list

    As one of the most instantly recognisable modern artists and a GCSE art staple, it’s tempting to think there’s little we haven’t seen of Jackson Pollock’s work. A new exhibition at Tate Liverpool, however, proves us wrong. The exhibition, entitled Blind Spots, is the first in more than 30 years to show his late black pouring works. Some we’ll know, many we won’t, but all prove – if proof were needed – what an important, inspirational figure Pollock was. He managed to bring tricky concepts of Abstract Expressionism into the minds of a far wider audience than the art world inner circle, and his works are surely some of the most oft-seen, yet never tiresome artworks of the last century.

  31. Matthew_craven_demiurge_it's_nice_that_list

    Matthew Craven’s dizzying mix of ink patterns, cut-outs and ancient culture is as powerful as it is studied. We’ve written about the New York artist’s vivid collages before, and in his most recent series demiURGE, Matthew pairs both tribal and Greek sculpture with his hand-drawn designs and recurring motifs. His images play with materials as much as they play with time, and with their lost relics and archeological curiosities it’s as if Matthew has picked through old history textbooks and back issues of National Geographic for the mystic effect that makes his work so instantly recognisable. Pairing busts, masks, vases and classical bric-a-brac with optical patterns, Matthew’s collages always prove greater than the sum of their parts.

  32. Richard_prince_new_portraits_it's_nice_that_list

    Richard Prince’s New Portraits have proven to be nothing short of sensational. The artist’s controversial series has seen him take other people’s Instagram posts, print them on six-foot canvases and sell them for up to $90,000. The only changes made to these images of everyone from Pamela Anderson to total unknowns are the bewildering or lewd remarks Prince adds to the comments thread. As of last Friday, ten of these new works are on show at Gagosian London. “The iPhone became my studio,” Prince says somewhere in the seven-page stream of consciousness that makes up the press release.

    For the last 40 years the New York artist has inspired everything from acclaim to outrage for the unapologetic appropriation that has defined much of his work. As the man who reprinted copies of JD Salinger’s classic teenage anthem Catcher in the Rye with his own name in place of the author’s, Prince has found himself on the wrong side of copyright lawsuits multiple times. Resulting opinions of him tend to violently swing between genius and good-for-nothing. In the case of the New Portraits series, Peter Schjeldahl writing for the New Yorker’s response to the screenshot-cum-paintings was “something like a wish to be dead,” whilst sex writer Karley Sciortino has said she felt honoured to be included in the series.

    In an unexpected but fitting turn, people seemed to feel slightly vindicated when some of Prince’s unauthorised Instagram reproductions were recently reproduced and resold by some of their original subjects, namely the LA-based group of alternative pin-up girls and burlesque dancers operating under the moniker SuicideGirls. “Payback!” headlines screamed, but this ceaseless loop of feedback and mirroring perfectly plays to Prince’s raison d’être. Even this is not the artist’s own, and in his ideas about enshrining banality and popular culture he is most definitely walking in Warhol’s slightly worn-out silver shoes.

    Mining the internet for source material is not new either, but as abhorrent as they may be, Prince’s portraits eloquently teach a powerful lesson in the trappings of social networking. They test public and private limits and have started an important and much-needed conversation about copyright and art in the digital age. They have also been sharp reminders that our self-exposure and digital exhibitionism doesn’t exist in the vacuums of our various feeds, but very much enters into public territory.

    The most absurd part in all of this postmodernist pageantry however, happened during my exchange with Gagosian’s PR when I asked for press images and was told, “I’m afraid that we don’t have permission to use any images of any individual works.” Irony is a beautiful, twisted thing.

  33. 9.koons_tulipanes-itsnicethat-list

    There’s been a lot of conversation in the studio recently about art exhibitions that beg to be photographed, and they don’t come much more Instagrammable than the Jeff Koons retrospective. Having started out at New York’s Whitney Museum and then progressing to Paris’ Centre Pompidou, the show has just begun the final leg of its journey at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, where we attended the opening last week; to take a selfie with the balloon dog, among other things.

  34. Carsten-holler-list

    Leafing through the Serious Art Critics’ reactions to Carsten Höller’s huge fairground of a show at the Hayward, I felt optimistic, smug even. “Old fuddy-duddies,” I thought. Yes, that’s it – they’ve forgotten how to have fun! Love-in, hippy me mulled over my kindly utopian ideas about how art should be democratic, how wonderful it is to have the wee kiddie-winks enjoying art just as us cerebral grown-ups can. Sadly, I’m now about to agree with the bunch. They’re not really just world-weary and po-faced, they’re right: the show’s really not all that after all.

  35. 8_red-with-red-1_2007_%c2%a9-2015-bridget-riley.-all-rights-reserved_-courtesy-karsten-schubert_-london-itsnicethat-list

    Bridget Riley’s work is utterly fascinating to me. Her enormous geometric canvases, ranging from illusory patterns to orderly explosions of colour have developed over the course of her career to create an extensive oeuvre exploring every dark corner of shape and form. Behind the expansive canvases lies a deeply methodical approach which, although invisible to the viewer, is the concrete foundation to her work, and in this new UK retrospective at the De La Warr Pavilion the accompanying studies will be displayed alongside the finished canvases. Spanning 50 years worth of her curve paintings and including more than 30 paintings and studies, it looks set to be a show to remember.

  36. Ema-itsnicethat-list

    Musician and multi-media artist EMA has launched a call-out to members of the public to send her their “sacred objects,” which she will digitally destroy as part of a performance piece called I Wanna Destroy (Sacred Objects from Suburban Homes). The piece will take place as part of her residency in Station to Station: A Three Day Happening at the Barbican this summer, and will take the form of an immersive performance and installation featuring music, visuals, and a virtual reality environment for Oculus Rift.

  37. Duane_hanson_serpentine_itsnicethat_list

    Walking through the doors of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery you’re instantly met by Duane Hanson’s Flea Market Lady parading her worldly belongings in a yard sale. You expect her to look up and acknowledge your arrival, but she remains still. Even though you know she’s a mixed media amalgamation of oil, bronze and plastic, a part of you still expects her to glance away from her magazine. This unnerving feeling follows you throughout the Duane Hanson retrospective and his sculptures exude such an overwhelming presence it’s both captivating and unsettling. 

  38. Camille-walala-itsnicethat-list

    If you’ve walked around east London at any point over the past few years, the chances are you’ve come across some of Camille Walala’s work. You can’t miss it – her geometric designs are plastered across walls from Great Eastern Street to Redchurch Street, with a few popping up in New York and Paris, too. The artist and designer had always wanted to paint walls, she told us, so she started with one small space in Shoreditch, and now she’s taking over the world, one Memphis-patterned wall at a time.

  39. Fredrik_akum_it's_nice_that_list

    Fredrik Åkum’s slightly psychedelic, hazy paintings of palm fronds and pineapples seem an unlikely choice of subject for an artist working out of Gothenburg. Unlikely or not, the exotic plant kingdom is the Swedish painter’s chosen arena. In case you don’t remember Fredrik from the 2013 It’s Nice That Annual, his lush body of work is made up of acrylic and vinyl paintings of tropical foliage that melt like mirages in the sultry days of summer. We’ve written about these before, and although some of the heat has been taken out of his more recent work as Fredrik embraces a somewhat cooler palette, all their jungle-like delirium remains.

  40. Agnes_martin_gratitude_2001_it's_nice_that_list

    “It’s easy to walk past an Agnes Martin,” says Frances Morris, co-curator of the artist’s Tate Modern retrospective that opens today. Such is the subtlety of her paintings: taut graphite lines and pallid washes of pink, yellow and blue. Martin’s pared down compositions reduced painting to a bare minimum with a handful of pencils, some masking tape and more water than paint, and while her work is often celebrated as Minimalist, she resisted the label’s lofty undertones in favour of Expressionism’s gut instincts.

    Her signature grids and diluted colours may seem at odds with the mostly male school of Abstract Expressionism she considered herself part of, but upon closer inspection, visible brushstrokes and a very physical relationship with her canvases mean her material restraint and tightly drawn lines set limits without eschewing the human hand and the integral surface of modern American painting. Throughout her life Martin suffered debilitating episodes of schizophrenia and her careful, calm paintings belie her ongoing struggles both spiritual and personal. As much as her work was a kind of controlled escapism from her fragile mental health, it was first and foremost about painting itself. Finding solace in the repetitive nature of her work, after a laboured mathematical process of mapping out her compositions, she painted fluidly and quickly, tissuing off any drips.