James Nelson “Wild”

McKenzie Fine Art

poster for James Nelson “Wild”
[Image: James Nelson "Untitled" (2018) graphite and white NuPastel on Chinese paper lined with Kozo paper 4 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.]

This event has ended.

McKenzie Fine Art presents the re-opening of the gallery with an exhibition of new drawings by James Nelson. This is the Brooklyn-based artist’s sixth solo outing with the gallery. The show will open on Thursday, June 25 and run through Saturday, August 15, 2020. The exhibition is comprised of sixty small-scaled works on paper. A catalogue created in conjunction with the show, titled Wild (detail), can be viewed here. To see an additional thirty-three images from the exhibition, please view this PDF.

James Nelson has long created drawings using graphite, charcoal, and pastel on Chinese papers. Whether abstract or representational, his drawings have been characterized by their nuanced, lyrical and varied mark-making, by their subtle yet intense sense of focus, and by their clear expression of the love of drawing for its own sake.

Nelson has written the following about this new body of work:

In early 2018, I felt the need to focus on one small thing in nature, to isolate and see what drawings would result from this concentrated effort. Being winter in New York, the season and my intent were comically mismatched. So I used what was at hand, a dried bit of oak leaf hydrangea from the summer before. It was a sculptural wonder—strange, ferocious, twisted. Come early spring, the flowering trees and so-called weeds pulled me outside to scrutinize their pollination and survival strategies (the bees and I often shared the same attraction). In June, clusters of daisies emerged to populate the roadside. These thin-stemmed, scraggly-leaved, petal-encircled ruderals proved an inexhaustible subject. Eventually the daisies gave way to blackberry brambles warning of late summer.

Two years on, Wild is an almanac of the fleeting, fragile and persistent.

Wild has resulted in several hundred drawings. I’m always drawing to draw, and hydrangeas, wildflowers and blackberries are fascinatingly complicated. The nearly one to one scale felt right for the intimacy and simple nature of the project. The natural brown tones of some of the Chinese papers enhance the impact of the white pastel in many drawings. There were a few moments during the process when I did pull the lens back a bit and draw a broader landscape (the detail needing context).

I’ve never made much distinction in my work between abstraction and representation; I get to explore the challenges of drawing either way. But, the representational quality of this body of work is a reflection of the subjects themselves having something specific to convey through their physicality. For me, active looking triggers an empathic response. This is a unique time. We live in a world altered by a changed climate, yet still recognizable for the moment. Our interdependence, especially on what have been predictable cycles, exposes our mutual vulnerability. Nature’s delicate perfection is under tremendous stress.



from June 25, 2020 to August 15, 2020
Summer Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm; closed July 2 through 6.


James Nelson

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