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A Zeal for the Miscellaneous

Apr 1 - May 10, 2020

Installation view of Wayne Nowack: A Zeal for the Miscellaneous

at Shin Gallery , New York 2020 © SHIN GALLERY

Wayne Nowack
SHIN GALLERY is pleased to present zany box constructions, collages, drawings and paintings by Wayne Nowack from The Allan Stone Collection. Evocative and cerebral in aesthetic, Nowack creates surreal worlds overflowing with fanciful florals and psychedelic landscapes. Gallerist and collector Allan Stone, a supporter of Nowack’s career, advocated for the artist’s inventive work and exhibited him alongside renowned artists including Joseph Cornell. The exhibition aims to remember both Stone and Nowack’s legacy, friendship, and contributions to the art world from the perspectives of a collector and artist.

Nowack’s career began with boxes, collages and ink drawings, but in the ensuing decades, these cerebral explorations gave way to more pastoral pen drawings, watercolors and canvases of the natural world, and reminiscent of American Regionalist painters from the first half of the twentieth century, people like Edward Hopper or Charles Burchfield. The latter’s prickly netherworlds are often overflowing with fanciful flora that verge on the psychedelic, no doubt influencing the later works by Nowack. The earlier collages and box constructions employ an “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality, merged with the emotion and materiality of the ‘60s era, as if Cornell was suddenly introduced to acid and diverted from his more restrained, Victorian-esque boxes. Nowack’s work, guided by the extremes of natural isolation to the excess of consumer culture, straddle a line that has only become more pronounced as time has passed.

Nowack’s delightful assortment of found objects nod to pioneer of assemblage art Joseph Cornell, another artist championed by Stone. Cornell’s enigmatic boxes were admired by Surrealists, such as Salvador Dali, and other renowned artists for decades to come. Yet unlike Cornell’s constructions, Nowack created esoteric compositions through the juxtaposition of various cultural ephemera. Nowack's dioramas include an overload of imagery from contemporary cultural references to mystical symbols. Lucas Samaras, a comparable contemporary to Nowack’s eclectic style, implemented personal experiences within his boxes. Pierced multiple times with pins, glass, or mirrors, the boxes detract viewers from touching it and yet, despite these qualities, the box’s handle and, when closed, has mysterious contents inviting us to open it. Reflecting on his experiences from the Greek Civil War, Samaras creates a small inner space, almost womblike. Reclusive in a similar regard, Nowack’s world of wondrous items feel as enclosed as they do open, inviting the viewer to take a closer look. Vintage toys, postcards, and quirky clocks are playful yet disturbing. Similar to Edward Kienholz’s iconic assemblages of found objects reflecting human existence and hostility of twentieth-century society, Nowack comments on the excess of consumer culture. Discarded items, no longer in need of use to individuals, are meticulously placed within Nowack’s boxes. The result – intricate constructions emphasizing the vulgar reality of society's incapability to view an inhumane world.

Allan Stone, a loyal supporter of Nowack’s work, was a celebrated figure in the arts known for his early advocacy of pivotal artists from the 20th century. Stone was a leading authority on Abstract Expressionism, the first dealer for Wayne Thiebaud, and a passionate collector of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, John Graham, and John Chamberlain. He also promoted and collected the work of a younger generation of artists, including Jack Whitten, Robert Mallary, David Beck, and Richard Hickam, among many others. In addition to modern masterworks and contemporary art, Stone’s collection included tribal and folk art, Americana and important decorative arts and industrial design.

Stone represented Nowack in numerous gallery exhibitions and assisted in placing the artist’s work in permanent museum collections. Perhaps Stone’s eclectic taste was fitting with Nowack’s natural chaos of forgotten and odd objects. The two men’s approaches to collecting and creating art were quite similar - both scavenged for new materials to create rhythm, pattern and flow in order to formulate a unique narrative. The concept is seen in Nowack’s quirky constructions as well as Stone’s wondrous collections.

Wayne Nowack (1932 - 2004) was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He studied at the State University of Iowa, where he received a BA, MA, and finally MFA in painting, in 1950. In the ensuing decade, he was involved in art therapy in public and private hospitals, and from 1957-1965 he was an Associate Professor of Art at Union College, in Schenectady, New York. Nowack was represented by Allan Stone Gallery from 1961-1981 and Rolf Nelson Gallery from 1965-1968. Exhibited widely, he has shown at the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art, Minneapolis Museum of Art, and the Rose Museum at Brandeis University. His work is included in prestigious collections, including the Fort Worth Museum, Des Moines Art Center, the collections of Williams College, Skidmore College, and Yale University, as well as the Joseph Hirshhorn Collection. Nowack received a Danforth Foundation Grant in 1963 and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1973. He died in 2004 in West Danby, New York, a place he called “Lovearth.”

For press inquiries, please contact Stavroula Coulianidis: stavroula@shin-gallery.com