The Primacy of Process with Laine Nixon

Arts & Culture


For some, the siren song of the sea represents limitless adventure. For others, the vast reaches of space yet loom large as the final frontier. Still more seek the thrill of exploration in the endless possibilities of a burgeoning digital world. But for the explorer in artist Laine Nixon, all she needs is a fresh canvas. Opening tonight with a reception at Alfstad& Contemporary, Laine Nixon: Unfixed brings audiences into the artist’s world of process as exploration, including select pieces from the past five years and the debut of new large-scale work.

Featuring art from three of Nixon’s series, including the long-running Zuhanden series and Assent, which garnered the artist a John Ringling Towers Grant in 2017, Unfixed simultaneously highlights both the artist’s prolific exploration and experimentation, as well as her devotion to established process. Running since 2013, Zuhanden comprises 22 paintings at this point, and Nixon plans to continue. Both Assent—four works created from the recombinated remains of fifty abstract watercolors—and Becoming Unfinished—a departure in technique seeing the artist work with liquefied pigment and syringes—may have completed their runs in 2017, but Nixon always leaves the possibility open for future exploration.

But despite the show spanning years of creation and multiple series, Nixon remains unconcerned about any scattered or unfocused effect, as the pieces remain in conversation with one another, partly due to this throughline of process. Obvious linkages can be made through color palette or even the overall penchant for abstraction (“I’m drawn to abstraction for the sheer aesthetic experience one can have,” says Nixon, echoing the Unfixed sentiment), but perhaps the greatest point of commonality resides in the lingering ambiguity permeating each presentation, which should come as no surprise, as the primacy of process over conclusion necessitates the presence of the unanswered—the process has a point, even if what that is remains to be discovered.

Therein lays the paradox of process and the value of constraint. By forcing herself to abide by the confines of process, Nixon forces herself to explore in a more focused and minute manner. Instead of each canvas being an entirely new conversation, it represents but a slight variation on the theory, each shedding new light on the general proposition. And the work, as a series, becomes a dedicated area of focus, as opposed to a passing flight of artistic fancy. “It’s important, if you have an idea, to execute the idea as best you can,” says Nixon. “If you switch too much, then you don’t really know if your first idea would’ve worked or not. You can only do so much in one painting—the more marks you put on a canvas, the more locked down it is. So if you have three or four ideas, then you have to make a series.”

Opening tonight with an artist reception at Alfstad& Contemporary at 5:30pm, Laine Nixon: Unfixed runs through June 29.

Pictured: "Infinite Sameness" by Laine Nixon. Photo courtesy of Alfstad& Contemporary.

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