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Patricia Nix: American Baroque

By Denise Colson

On August 8, the Boca Raton Museum of Art inaugurates “American Baroque,” an exhibition by well-known painter and sculptor Patricia Nix, who has been creating surprising works of art since the early 1950s. Nix is motivated by her ironic and psychological interpretations of the materials she collects, which sometime make reference to her native Texas. By masterfully combining these often strange fragments, she creates exuberant constructions and boldly colorful paintings. In addition, her work reinterprets art history and draws on the major stylistic movements of the 20th century.

Patricia Nix, The Hanged Man (Tarot), 2001, mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Nix, The Hanged Man (Tarot), 2001, mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Since her first solo exhibition in New York in 1977, Nix has been exhibiting her “constructions,” paintings and collages. She attended The Art Students League, New York University and The New School in the early 1970s, traveling back and forth between her residences in Texas and New York. She relocated permanently to New York City in 1982 at the urging of friends, including Elaine de Kooning, and since then, her work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, articles, books and catalogs. Her remarkable pieces are part of a number of public collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., National Academy Museum in New York and San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio, Texas, as well as many private collections. Nix relocated her studio from New York to Palm Beach, Fla., in 2012.

Patricia Nix, Beauty and the Beast, 2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Nix, Beauty and the Beast, 2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

“American Baroque” assembles several new extravagant works, as well as a selection of earlier pieces that reveal her artistic trajectory and influence from the works of American master collagist Joseph Cornell. The exhibition begins with examples of the boxes she’s been creating since the beginning of her career, as she is considered Cornell’s spiritual heir. The gallery then opens up to showcase sculptures and assemblages that hearken to the works of women artists of Surrealism’s founding generation, including Jacqueline Lamba Breton, Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini and Meret Oppenheim.

Patricia Nix, Rococo for Cockatoo, 2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Nix, Rococo for Cockatoo, 2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

The most recent work in the exhibition, completed in 2017, is The Magic Mountain, a 15-foot-tall, monumental-shaped wooden construction painted gold and filled with a variety objects, including a flag, a bicycle wheel, animal horns, furniture parts and other detritus. Also just completed is Circus Maximus, an 8-foot sculpture shaped like a hoop skirt with sundry objects dangling from its ribs. Other large-scale objects include a series of ornate totems dedicated to the memories of family members and paintings from Nix’s Trellis series, featuring flower forms, characters from history, tarot emblems and bright splashes of color.

Patricia Nix, Magic Mountain, 2005-2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Nix, Magic Mountain, 2005-2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Nix’s studio in Palm Beach is, as with her art, filled with the ephemera she collects, such as vintage photographs, discarded dolls, musical instruments, wood fragments, ex-votos, old engravings, ledgers, ribbons, tarot cards, fabric scraps, old greeting cards and all kind of curiosities. Her work is the expression of the spirit of this great country, seasoned with the legacy of so many different cultures.

Patricia Nix, Circus Maximus, 2015-2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Nix, Circus Maximus, 2015-2017, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

“Patricia Nix: American Baroque” is on view through October 22, 2017 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The museum is located in Mizner Park. 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL, 33432 | Phone: 561 392 2500 | www.bocamuseum.org

Denise Colson is an arts writer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.