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Nick Schleicher


Gallery JJ

Seoul, Korea

February 23rd - March 30th 2024


“Only the rhythmic oscillation between presence and absence, veiling and unveiling, keeps the gaze awake.”

Saving Beauty, Byung-Chul Han

GalleryJJ is pleased to present Cloud Wave, the first solo exhibition in Korea by American artist Nick Schleicher (b.1988), known for free-form color field abstract paintings that eloquently convey diverse life stories. Since his inclusion in last year’s group exhibition, Untitled: Plane, Layer at GalleryJJ, his distinctive palette and shaped canvas left a lasting impression at KIAF as well. This exhibition features thirty-two of his latest works, including uniquely shaped triptychs, arches, and larger panels, offering a comprehensive exploration of the significance and recent development in his artistic practice. Marking his debut in Korea, it is anticipated to captivate the public with the unique blend of color and form.


Schleicher delves into color, medium, and space, drawing inspiration from everyday surroundings, fleeting moments, popular culture, and art history. Operating in both abstract painting and sculptural realms, he substitutes various daily subjects and emotional narratives with color. The smooth surfaces mirror the environment with layered, stratified colors, creating an interplay between undulating edges of accumulated pigments and the gentle curves of the frame that establish a visual hallmark of his work. Depending on distance, perspective, and light, the painting changes and undulates like an object, refusing monotony. Besides revealing beautiful color field abstraction and painterly fulfillment, the rich references within the work, such as cultural nuances and intimate moments, provide subtle implications that encourage diverse interpretations.


The exhibition title, Cloud Wave, gracefully embraces viewer-ascribed epithets. The irregular, organic-shaped panels evoke associations with cresting waves or the peaks of passing clouds. The exhibition’s throughline is color, considering both the attributes of its medium and the distillation of its time. Recalling fleeting yet pure moments from the past visually and by touch, smell, or taste, he summons them to life through color. The works on view are crafted from a color palette inspired by significant moments in 2023, especially influenced by his trip to Mexico.

Beneath the surface, playfully mingling layers reminiscent of drifting clouds embrace light and occupy space in a distinctive departure from traditional painting methods. The dynamic synergy between the surroundings, the exhibition space and viewers, and the artwork abounds, reaffirming the unique charm of his work.


/Form - expand, place

Schleicher’s painting expands into and alters the environment, turning the exhibition space into a specific place. Filled with numerous references from everyday life, the works transcend the boundaries of painting and sculpture. He senses the world through color and translates it into vibrant, tactile abstract paintings, perceiving them not merely as flat surfaces but as objects. By employing shaped canvases in circles, semicircles, and arches, the pigments surpass the confines of rectangular frames, forming irregular contours, akin to strata, that redefine the edge of painting. These shaped canvases, resembling amorphous clouds or cathedral windows, enable the painting to extend beyond the frame with more rhythm and vigor that enhances viewer engagement in real space. It leads to another understanding of painting itself.


The city of St. Louis, where Schleicher resides, boasts several grandeur edifices including The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and the famous Gateway Arch. His abstract shaped panels, especially arches, originate as recollections of real elements such as surfboards, mountains, or arched windows. “I did have interest in this convening space growing up. It was and still is very beautiful. I enjoyed the way that arched window shapes changed the tone of the environment. For me, this convening space now manifests in galleries and museums. This translated to the paintings, and I’d like my work to instigate a pause within the viewer and have a unique interaction with them,” Schleicher asserts. A place to experience through the body and unfold imagination, perhaps our reality is also in the realm of abstraction itself.


Examining his artistic endeavors, a sustained focus in various mediums, from painting and sculpture to representation and abstraction, is evident. Initially, his artistic journey involved experimentation, graduating from representational paintings to exploring object-making processes during his time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including his papier-mâché Basketball (2013-16) series and pop culture memorabilia of Facsimiles (2013-17). In 2015, he departed from representation and began color abstraction influenced by Minimalists, actively delving into the possibilities of the medium. He has then further deliberately challenged the exactness of Minimalism, introducing imperfect lines and edges that indicate the artist’s hand. Through subsequent explorations with form and color in Word Paintings (2016), draped acrylic collage-like Skin Paintings (2017), and painted foam sculpture Monoliths (2018), his inquiry into the form and color has deepened.


/Color - sensate, memory

The pigments’ materiality is unveiled through reflections along undulating edges, embracing light within each stratum of the color-scape. In retrospect, the departure from self-imposed constraints on the traditional picture frame, exemplified by Frank Stella's shaped canvas, initiated discussions on materiality and dismantled prescribed concepts and metaphysical references. Schleicher’s process is informed by an in-depth study of the canvas - the support for painting - its surface, and the materiality and application of pigments. Thin layers, consisting of fluorescent pigments and glossy gels, are meticulously applied until achieving both flatness and a strong material presence. The interplay of transparent and opaque irregular layers, enhanced by smooth and shimmering pigments, generates captivating ambiguity and spatiality. These paintings combine psychedelic color sensibility with tactile materiality, surpassing the surface of pure colors pursued by color-field abstraction, and bestowing materiality upon its non-material properties. The vivid colors and artificial attributes of fluorescent pigment and glossy gel evoke a lively and visually playful element from popular culture, establishing in his work both solemnity and lightness.

Hand-shaped panels and pulled pigments leaving brushstrokes and undulating edges hint at the body, in which his work diverges from the exactness and formality of minimalism in pursuit of something more human and whimsical.


“Color! What a deep and mysterious language of dreams and the listening eye.”

- Paul Gauguin


No realm is as compassionate in embracing emotions hurled by reality as art. If Goethe believed that 'color is closely associated with human senses rather than mechanical classification,' Schleicher, in a similar vein, perceives the world through color. In his work, color acts as a medium to express and convey emotions, and he is particularly immersed in the combination of palettes. Whether inspired by the hues of Berber carpets, restaurant heaters, album covers, childhood toys, or meaningful references from movies like the Marvel series or The Simpsons, they find their way into the work. Titles like CBB-SLM, resembling cryptic codes, consist of initials extracted from references inspiring each work, serving as clues that prompt him to recall and collect cherished moments. Scenes from memory are filtered into abstract forms and translated into color and texture, becoming something intriguing and enigmatic.


Through undulating memories and time, the layers vacillate in unveiling themselves, rejecting monotony. They expand inward, reach the periphery, and transcend boundaries. The surface reflecting our appearance is smooth yet not entirely, harboring hidden interiority. Unlike the seamless smoothness of Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog, Schleicher’s surface becomes a stage where imaginative stories unfold, enticing with gravity and play, in which his work embodies a profound interplay between various depths. The oscillating layers of color in his paintings, rather than portraying a universal order or eternity, raise questions about such enduring concepts. Beyond reflections, they cleverly project ever-changing imperfections and mortality, imbued with vanities and uncertainties.

Text | Juyeon Kang, GalleryJJ Director

Translation | Brett Lee

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