Albuquerque Journal, Sunday, March 2 1980
Rarely are fervent creators soft-spoken about their passions, but Chicago collagist Robert Nickle is.
It's one thing for an artist to ask his creation to speak for itself. Robert Nickle asks it to not only speak for itself, but for him too.
Rarely does a single work by a contemporary master wend its way to completion over several decades. Nickle's collages sometimes take 20 to 30 years to complete, and then are completed in the perfect moment of intuitive rightness.
Nickle is that rare artist for whom the creative product is worth a lifetime. His rare collages go on display Tuesday at the Hoshour Gallery, 417 Second Street SW. The show by the Chicago artist most highly regarded for his integrated vision and action continues through March 30 during regular gallery hours noon to 5 pm Tuedays to Saturdays.
Nickle will travel to New Mexico for the opening of this unusual exhibit of some works completed between 1962 and 1979. A reception is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, marking a change from regular Sunday to regular Tuesday openings at Hoshour.
Nickle, a professor of design for 25 years at the University of Illinois in Chicago, has made a living mostly by his designs, according to his statements, reserving his art work as a personal meditation. Though he began showing at the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago in 1963, and since has been recognized by the Art Institute of Chicago with a one-man exhibit, his art remains purist and powerful.
The Nickle collages at Hoshour, for me, are insistently hushed and are dramatic in their silence. Earth colors predominate, though brighter colors sometimes find their way into the works.
It must be understood that Nickle is a collector and arranger of all things in his collages. He doesn't paint pieces of paper, but he finds the appropriate papers floating in the debris of the Windy City.
Nickle salvages discarded ticket stubs and luggage labels about to return, rotting to the earth; snatches children's drawings and scribbles being sucked into Chicago cisterns, meditates on McDonald's translucent plastic drinking cup lids and wrenches lost shoe heels from sidewalks. These are the components of his collages. These elements are used like paints, however and with little funkiness or teasing gymnastics sometimes found in "found object" art.
The compositions they become are solidly powerful, and sometimes magnificent in their understatement. Nickle's concern with the perfect combination of items within his often square (and sometimes rectangular or circular) formats is best expressed in his gallery statement for a January 1980 exhibition: "That very thin line that separates right from wrong in a work is as filled with wonder and fragileness as life itself. I search out that line, moving as closely as possible to it as I work - sometimes slowly and cautiously and at other times swiftly and recklessly... Collage enables me to touch, test, lose and then touch again those critical forces that surround the line. I hope that my work holds particular value to those who, like myself, are searching for that magically elusive threshold where nothingness unpredictably becomes everythingness."