English Deutsch Español

Français Português Italiano

+1 (707) 877 4321

+33 (977) 198 888


Nicholas Krushenick was an American abstract painter whose artistic style straddled the line between Op Art, Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Color Field. He was active in the New York art scene in the 1960s and 1970s, before he withdrew and focused his time as a professor at the University of Maryland for almost thirty years until his death in 1999. Initially experimenting with a more Abstract Expressionist inspired style and cut paper collage, Krushenick is more well known for his paintings which use bold Liquitex colors and juxtaposing black lines, which fall under the category of pop abstraction. In fact, he is a singular figure within that style.
Born in New York City in 1929, Krushenick dropped out of high school, served in World War II, worked on constructing the Major Deegan Expressway, and then returned to art school, with the help of the GI Bill. He attended the Art Students League of New York (1948–1950) and the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art (1950–1951). In 1957, he and his brother, John Krushenick, opened a framing shop on Tenth Street, which quickly turned into an artists' cooperative called Brata Gallery. Artists such as Al Held, Ronald Bladen, Ed Clark, Yayoi Kusama, and George Sugarman exhibited there. In 1962, Krushenick left the gallery and began receiving solo-exhibitions around the world. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prominent painter in the New York art scene. However, in his later years, Krushenick taught at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1977 to 1991. He died in New York on February 5, 1999, at age 69.
Krushenick was part of a generation emerging at a time when Abstract Expressionism had fallen out of fashion; these artists were trying to distance themselves from this style and create something new. As a result, Krushenick's work in particular straddled the lines of many styles, including: Op Art, Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Color Field. Some of his inspirations were Henri Matisse, J. M. W. Turner, Henri Rousseau, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg. The last two, in particular, Krushenick considered the fathers of pop.
In 1956, Nicholas Krushenick debuted alongside his brother at Camino Gallery. At this stage, Krushenick's paintings resembled the Abstract Expressionist style considerably, yet already he was starting to poise masses next to each other in something of a "Cubist persuasion."
By 1959, he switched from oil paint to liquitex painting, which had an immediate effect on the brightness and saturation of his paintings. This could be considered his breakthrough moment. His paintings start to feature black lines, first as a framing device for both every individual form in the painting and the painting itself. At this stage, Krushenick was painting at a time when the art world was polarized without much respect for pop art; his sense of humor and overall joyfulness did not rest easy with the styles of the time.
In 1965, one art critic, Vivien Raynor, noted "...he is now beginning to look Pop. Whether this is because he anticipated the movement and now looks more official, or because he's using acrylic colors, or simply because everyone to an extent becomes a victim of the audience's compulsion to organize artists into groups I can't tell." Yet it is important to note that only his palette resembled pop art, his subject matter made no references to Pop Culture, nor did it make any reference to any recognizable object. However, he did find inspiration in cartoon illustration and the subject matter did vaguely appear sexual: vulvar and even penetrative. By this time, he had honed in on his style, totally obscuring the visibility of the artist's hand. At first he did this with the aid of extensive drawings that became like maquettes for the painting. Overtime, these drawings would become less precise and, instead, he'd rely on using tape directly on the canvas surface. This technique, in particular, was less improvisational, and thus, can be seen as a way that Krushenick further distanced himself from the Abstract Expressionist movement. By 1967, his style had become increasingly tighter, without losing its emotionality. John Perreault explained, "In spite of the hard black, coloring-book lines that divide one shape or super-color from another, the neat flatness, and the often symmetrical composition, these paintings are systematic visual manifestations of the emotionally organic, executed with cool precision, but conceived with great gusto. The raucous candy-cane stripes that Krushenick uses as the basic device of his abstractions do not 'contain' the painting." In 1969, Krushenick gave up his soft brush abstract expressionist technique for bolder colors and lines similar to illustration, yet maintaining use of abstract figurative forms. This style marked him as one of the original practitioners of pop art.
In the 1970s, Krushenick began to withdraw from the New York art world. At this time, his vision began to falter and his focus turned towards education. Though he began teaching at the University of Maryland, he did continue painting. At this time, his style changed quite a bit; gone were the days of feathery, curvilinear forms. At this point, the form of the grid began to take precedent on his canvases, almost like a prescient depiction of the boom in technology that would soon arrive. Corinne Robins explains "The new paintings like the old have a tonal feeling; but now, rather than the blare of trumpets, the buzz of an IBM machine making crazy computations comes to mind." In fact, during this time he was a guest artist in 17 art departments around the country. Into the 1980s and 1990s, his paintings would become busier but his colors quieter, favoring razor blade-like shapes over feathery forms and grids.


Show More