American, b. 1948

Painter Nicholas Africano was born in 1948. As a former poet, with an interest in narrative art, his writing has always influenced his oil and acrylic canvases.

Nicholas Africano was educated at Illinois State University. During the late 1970s he was associated with the New Image painters and later in the 80s became known for his paintings and works on paper, which featured small, detached figures in fanciful, theatrical roles, often isolated in the center of his large canvases, with additional work being created directly on gallery walls as well as on canvas.

Africano began sculpting these small figures, experimenting first in clay, and then in glass, working at such major glass studios as Pilchuck in Seattle. These figures have evolved with the addition of, and experimentation with different pigments and finishes.

The figures reflect the artist's personal experiences, even events from his childhood and in some ways "everymen." These "New Imagist" works are about human experience, so subject matter is a primary concern. The physical and painterly concerns are minimized, with, according to Africano, "the singular purpose of burdening the work with clear intent."

Africano has exhibited at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

Three art critics discuss Nicholas Africano's art:

Lisa Lyons, Nicholas Africano: Innocence and Experience, Lannan Foundation, Los Angeles, January 1991

"Nicholas Africano entered the art world through the back door. As an undergraduate at Illinois State University in the early 1970s he majored in English, fully intending to pursue a career as a writer. His writing style was spare and economical...he began to supplant verbal images with small illustrations within the text...Eventually; he determined that he could express himself more directly as a visual artist, and he enrolled in the university's painting program in 1973. It was a time when the figure and emotional content were reasserting themselves...Among Africano's early efforts are sequences of narrative paintings in which diminutive figures, ...enact spare stories based on the artist's life...Africano himself admits to being troubled by his painterly invasions of his own and others' privacy...he stopped using autobiographical material in 1980....Over the years, the struggle for self-revelation has remained a central theme in Africano's work...For one, Africano has moved away from simple storytelling to a more dynamic and improvisational use of narrative. Rather than illustrating a single tale, he now uses multiple sourcesliterary, musical, and perceptualas his points of departure...The, from inner to outer reality and back again...he has pushed his narratives into three dimensions in the group of tabletop figurines he has produced since 1985 and the life-size nudes that he has created in the past year...Africano admires...William Blake...Blakean, too, is the central role that writing has played in the development of Africano's recent work. Each morning he makes entries in his journal, and the emotions and images described in these musings resonate in the paintings and sculptures on view here...If there were a story, Africano says, it would have to do with 'the loss of innocence and the acceptance of that loss. Most of all, the impossibility of innocence and the futility of experience is what interests me right now.'...'I am only a little less bewildered by life's common ironies, but a kind of integration is occurring within my own life that I hope will reveal itself in my art as well. It is a harsh movement, not poetic in its progress. My art will speak with a quieter voice, and seek that strength which equals poise between the truth and the lie'...The blatant and high-strung tensions that characterize so many of his previous creations have been replaced in his new works by a subtler, if not less disturbing mood, suggesting the depth of understanding and knowledge that comes with maturity...Africano's real genius is to create images that, no matter how personal their significance, burrow beneath our consciousness and call forth a host of universal associations...It is a voice filled with pain and passion..."

Colin Westerbeck, ARTFORUM, Summer, 1987

"There's something modest and unadorned about this new work by Nicholas Africano...In most of the ...sculptures, the forms look like figures crudely fashioned out of mud...The glass sculptures, for instance, transform the dark figures...into creatures that are luminescent...they seemed to glow from within...There the inchoate man, the mythological being he longs to create, comes more truly to life for us."

Herbert Muschamp, Greater Expectations, Holly Solomon catalog, October 1986

"...these new paintings and sculptures by Nicholas Africano are not enigmas. They are invitations...They meet us at the retina and beckon our minds to join them there...The forms are Africano's but the stories are ours...Africano's figures are ready-mades for our thoughts. They come drifting into our contemporary life on small rafts of art, conscious of the politics as well as the aesthetics of reception, trusting that our intentional and pathetic fallacies will rescue them."

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