Nick Van Zanten’s work aims to create opposition between appearance and reality and to complicate the relationship between form and content, deriving formal elements from the materials, and conversely choosing materials that refer, in unexpected and ironic ways, to formalist abstraction. Oriented strand board, or OSB, is a commonly used building material made by randomly pressing wood scraps together with liberal amounts of glue to panels. Visually, OSB is tacky, it is exciting, it is boring, it is organic, and it is artificial. It is ubiquitous and utterly banal. In his OSB paintings, Van Zanten emphasizes all these qualities and sets them against each other.
Many of Van Zanten’s paintings look almost exactly like the material on which they are painted, but this is achieved only through painstakingly repainting, in oil, the image of the panel over itself. For Van Zanten, the paint does not sit on top of or hide the support, but rather joins with and magnifies its presence. This process negates the paint, as every application is also a denial that any color has been applied and all gestures are dictated by the material toward the goal of leaving no trace of a gesture, reproducing the OSB that it hides. And there is an economic contradiction: Van Zanten’s work is very labor-intensive in its recreation of a careless, mechanical product, transforming a cheap material though the application of expensive paint into a luxury good that imitates its original form, impoverished but beautiful. One example, “OSB RTD SHTG EXP 1/24/16,” is a full 4x8’ sheet of OSB completely overpainted in oil to look untouched. The readymade chaos of OSB offers infinite possible compositions. Though resembling an Ab-Ex painting, the marks are not original to the artist but prescribed by the wood, making the piece the opposite of an action painting. Van Zanten has also created OSB by collaging together watercolors of wood-grain and by layering semi-transparent screenprints. Through intense labor and consideration, the work transforms a dull visual symbol of the cheap and careless environment that we have made for ourselves, into a beautiful art object.
Nick Van Zanten was born in Chicago in 1988. He received his BFA from Pratt Institute, graduating in 2011, and a post-baccalaureate certificate from MICA in 2013. Van Zanten has shown throughout the US, including in group shows at Fjord in Philadelphia and Martos Gallery in New York, and a solo show at Shoot the Lobster. He was a resident at VCCA, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Wassaic Project, where is he also currently showing as part of their annual exhibition. His work has been reviewed in theHartford Courant and Art in America. He is presently beginning his MFA studies in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Solo and Two-Person Exhibitions
2015 Dawn Hunter Gallery, Anthony Cudahy/Nick Van Zanten Brooklyn, NY; two-person show with Anthony Cudahy (upcoming) 2014 Creative Alliance, Not Too Close, Baltimore, MD; two-person show with Spencer Carmona 2013 Whitaker Gallery, Hood College, Projection, Frederick, MD 2012 Shoot the Lobster, It's Going Down, New York, NY Broad Street Gallery, Econography, Hartford, CT 2011 Pratt Institute, Recent Work, Brooklyn, NY
Selected Group Exhibitions
2015 Pratt Institute, 2015 Fine Arts Alumni Exhibition, Brooklyn, NY (upcoming) Wassaic Project, Deep End, Wassaic, NY Fjord, Autocomplete/Manual Delete, Philadelphia, PA 2014 Trestle Gallery, Grab Bag, Brooklyn, NY Work Detroit Gallery, University of Michigan, Visualizing Data: The Art of Information, Detroit, MI 2013 MICA, All the Way, Baltimore, MD Riggs & Leidy Galleries, MICA, En Masse, Baltimore, MD 2012 Windsor Art Center, Rough Around the Edges, Windsor, CT 2011 Martos Gallery, We Regret to Inform You There is Currently No Space or Place For Abstract Painting, New York, NY Hadas Gallery, First Annual Student Group Exhibition, Brooklyn, NY Five Myles, Definitions, Brooklyn, NY Front Room Gallery, Ubiquitous Spring 2011, Brooklyn, NY 2010 Pratt Institute, Ubiquitous Fall 2010, Brooklyn, NY 2009 Pratt Institute, Pratt in Venice, Brooklyn, NY Apartment Show, Pop-Up Home, Brooklyn, NY
Curated or Organized Exhibitions
2012 Broad Street Gallery, Marie Allen / Russell Prigodich, Hartford, CT Broad Street Gallery, Beena Azeem: Reflection - snoitcelfer, Hartford, CT 2011 Front Room Gallery, Ubiquitous Spring 2011, Brooklyn, NY Pratt Harlem Project, New York, NY, exhibition juried by Heather Bhandari and Elissa Levy 2010 Pratt Institute, Ubiquitous Fall 2010, Brooklyn, NY
Residencies and Fellowships
2014 Wassaic Artist Residency, Wassaic, NY Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT 2013 VCCA, Amherst, VA 2011 Fifth Year Fellowship, Trinity College, Hartford, CN
Paddy Johnson, Art F City, 'Gloom, Doom, and Glory at the Wassaic Project', June 18 2015, online only Arvolyn Hill, Millbrook Independent, 'The Wassaic Project Opens with "Deep End"', June 15 2015 Chip Schwartz, Knight Arts, The unexpected allure of a prefab, mass produced world at Fjord, January 15, 2015, online only Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, '"Rough Around the Edges" At Windsor Art Center', July 16 2012 Casey Ruble, Art in America, 'We Regret to Inform You', September 2011, pg. 130 Art Observed, June 16, 2011, online only