Nicholas Krushenick 1968–1978: A Decade of Prints

Friday, Jun 25 – Aug 21, 2021

216 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610

Nicholas Krushenick keeps you guessing.

His work isn’t Pop. It’s not Op. You can’t call it Minimalism, or Expressionism, or Color Field Totalitarianism. So don’t even try with any other -ism you can think of, play charades with, or throw in a prism.

Krushenick uses the language of comics—bright primary colors, thick black lines, the rigid rectangularity of a cel. It’s a style often associated with cartoon strips or advertisements. Or it brings to mind Warhol and Lichtenstein, who imported comics and advertisement illustrations directly into museums.

But there are no figures, no commodities, and no trademarks in Krushenick’s work. He rejects any direct reference to our world. It’s a Pop devoid of any actual Pop.

“Up until 1954, I could not do a totally abstract painting,” Krushenick confessed in an interview for the Smithsonian. “I had to have some kind of recognizable element before I could conceive it and do it. [...] It was a real battle royal, getting myself to accept that idea [of abstraction].”

Yet in a way, Krushenick never quite succeeded in creating a pure abstraction either. His struggle to shed himself of recognizable images is present in the prints displayed at PICKLEMAN. His shapes—ragged edges like the circumference of a comic book POW! or curling thought bubble—teeter on the edge of our understanding, as if they have been plucked from a piece of pulp science fiction. As do his colors, which lie closer to an approximation of Superman red and lightning bolt yellow.

Instead, Krushenick has created an amalgam. A pop-tinged abstraction. His work is eager, rather than cool. Enthusiastic over impenetrable. It feels of our world, yet still manages to be novel.

It’s a friendly invitation to interpretation.

Krushenick’s seven prints displayed at PICKLEMAN are like passing clouds; they resemble whatever you want them to. One of them looks like a zipper. Another’s a folded folio. Next to that is the sawtooth blade. Or at least that’s what I think. See them, and you can decide for yourself.