Richard Nonas

New York, USA, 1936

After ten years of anthropology, he began to make art. New York, in the early seventies was a hot bed of change in all the arts. Everything seemed possible. Nonas began to seriously make and show work there. From the beginning, he used only ordinary and familiar materials; stones, wood, steel arranged in simple and easily recognized forms. Mario Merz said that the problem for every artist is the same: just adding or removing. Nonas’ work sits on the narrow edge where one becomes the other. Some have called Nonas’ work minimalist, but what he shares with the minimalists is only a vocabulary of simple forms. Nonas's aim is always emotional power and presence, not the cold rigor of minimalist reduction. His work speaks to both the head and the stomach. He says he builds places; objects that feel like places, that change the world like places do.

 

«I am no longer an anthropologist. Anthropology was my friend, my serious companion. Anthropology was what took me out of my-self, stretched me, and kept me seeing. It opened the world for me. Anthropology destroyed the certainty of my upbringing, it taught me to play with difference. Anthropology gave me the gift of sliding thought. I mean the ingrained habit of positive and powerful uncertainty that the actualities of other people’s lives forced upon me. The inescapable habit of doubt: doubt of what is most obvious, doubt of what is most pleasant, doubt of what is most useful and self-serving, doubt of what is obscure and difficult, doubt of what is painful, destructive or useless. Doubt, I mean, of everything; even of anthropology. That is the anthropology I mean. The anthropology of doubt. Anthropology gave me doubt as the definition of human life. Anthropology gave me the gift of continual doubt. But sculpture forced me to use it. I began to make objects; objects specifically meant to be unclear, meant to be ambiguous, meant to be resistent to the limitations of language and explanation. I made my doubt into sculpture. I physicalized doubt itself.»

 

(R.Nonas, from No-Water-In, P420 gallery, Bologna, 2011)

Gallery exhibitions

Available Works

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Richard Nonas, Senza titolo, 1974, oilstick on paper, cm.56,5x72,5
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 1974, oilstick on paper, cm.58x74
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Richard Nonas, Water-in down, 1974-2011, wood, 70x10x12,5 cm
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 1974-2011, wood, cm.70x10x5,5
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 1976, iron, cm.8,5x6x6
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 1980-81, iron (3), cm.50x16,5x5 each (cm.61x53x13 overall)
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 1984, wood (6), cm.17,5x17,5x9,5 each (cm.197x17,5x9,5 overall)
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 2006, wood, cm.21,5x25x12
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Richard Nonas, Untitled, 2008, wood partially burned, cm.51x38x12
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Richard Nonas, Torino T, 2010, iron, cm.79x49,5x10

Video

Courtesy P420, Bologna
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