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Nicholas Sullivan, Massachusetts College of Art

25, sculpture

Nicholas Sullivan.
Sullivan’s sculpture “Kiddos.”

Many of Sullivan’s sculptures seem flat. As painters these days often push toward 3-D, he pushes in the opposite direction. But Sullivan has even more in mind. He uses familiar images — a Japanese woodcut, cartoons, a child’s drawing of a jail cell, a baby from Second Life – and manipulates them. While they ring a bell, they also jangle your perceptions.

“The jail drawing undoes itself in the viewing experience,” Sullivan says of the giant steel “drawing” stretched out of perspective. “It’s information unfolding and undoing itself.”

He’s fascinated by today’s flood of visual stimuli. He mimics that flood by skewing images as if he were mashing up their binary codes. For “Kiddos,” he used Photoshop to stretch a Japanese woodcut. He projected and painted it onto aluminum backing in the shape of two figures, and squeegeed the paint into abstract expressionist smears. Looking at it, referents tickle at you, but you don’t know exactly where you stand.


“The undoing is also about not knowing,” says Sullivan, “and not being comfortable enough to know.”