Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tucker Nichols interview with Dave Eggers and Gallery 16 installation photos

As Interviewed by Dave Eggers

DE: Let's start with this: How many pieces of paper are there on these walls?

TN: At the gallery? Hard to say just yet, somewhere between 30 and 60. I won’t really know what’s in the show until I get all the stuff in there. It's a luxury of having a show in your hometown.

Let's say there are 46. Next question: I notice that you've drawn on many different-colored papers. Why not use the same color? Seems kind of willful to be using different colors so much.

I’m always on the lookout for paper with a bit of history. It sets the tone for the drawing, like a location in a movie. White paper is good too but sometimes I like different scenery.

It still seems willful, but moving on: Why do you write words on some things, and other things you leave without words?

The words mostly come from real text I've seen out in the world, and I like to mix some advertising into every show or book I make. Advertising is inescapable these days.

Was there a time in your life when advertising was escapable? You talk like you grew up before advertising was invented.

I don’t think there used to be ads on the thing that separates my groceries from the person in front of me.

Why work on paper? There's something so iconic about your work, but most of it's on paper, and often on paper of an everyday kind, which lends a weird fragility to the work. If I lived in your house, I would be afraid to ever take out the recycling, for fear that there would be some priceless work there among the newsprint. So again, why paper?

Paper is essential, even in our new digital age. It's everywhere. But a stretched canvas has no place in our lives beyond a gallery really. When you see a painting on canvas you have no choice but to think it was made to be a painting. But something on paper could exist for so many reasons, so things open up a bit. Also I make a lot of bad drawings and paper is much easier to destroy. I make paintings on panels too but even there I want there to be a slight chance that they were made for some other purpose, like a sign or a map.

Can you tell the readers where you work? I’ve been to your studio, and you have chickens out front, and a fruitful garden, and many cats. I felt like I'd gone to Vermont.

Things have changed. The chickens moved up to a farm in Sonoma with an aggressive rooster named Fucking Lucky, and I moved my studio out to the Headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge. Now I work in an old military building where they used to fix the missiles. It’s a crazy nice location, with hawks and bobcats and the ocean. The winter storms shake the whole building, which is mostly fun.

Here in this gallery you have all of this artwork tacked up in a certain way. When someone buys one of these, how should they display it in their home? That is, is it wrong to frame one? Do they lose their potency if put behind glass, or separated from their fellow drawings?

I like forcing people to figure out how something I made fits into their lives. When I send a drawing to someone in the mail, I know it could end up taped to the refrigerator, in a drawer with the scissors, in a fancy frame or in the trash. It’s good when someone else finishes the job. For this show, most things will be framed, but there will be clusters of drawings and panels that are intended to be broken up and reconfigured. It’s kind of like a sofa and table display in a furniture store. You can buy them together, but maybe you just want the sofa.

You produce a lot of work. How often do you forget you did something, only to see it on a wall somewhere and you say, Oh yeah, that was pretty good?

It's true I don't remember making some of the things I see, especially if they leave my studio right away or I bury them under a pile of other things for a while. Seeing them later I sometimes think, hey I like that, but just as often I think, I don't want to take responsibility for that but there's nobody else to blame. If it's still in my possession I can pretend it never happened, but once it's out in the world it's like a bad quote on your yearbook page or an outfit you clearly thought looked cool from a photo from 8th grade.

Can you talk about the sculpture in the show? It's not a form I immediately associate you with, but that's probably just me being dumb. I would think your approach to the ephemeral nature of things, a la paper, is different when you're making a 200-pound object that could stop a bullet.

I like sculpture because it's even more direct than drawing. It's not a depiction of something, it just is the thing right in front of you. I hate storing the stuff but once I started making sculptures a few years ago, I couldn't stop. It's satisfying to try to make sad things that wash up on the beach look important.

Hey, I never thanked you for recommending cutting my own hair.

It’s the only way to go. I’ve been cutting my own since 1993.

I'm at least a year in and nobody's said a word about how dumb my hair looks. What else should we be doing ourselves? Filling cavities? Replacing the brakes on our cars? I suddenly feel really capable.

1. I have the tools to do tooth extraction. Seriously.
2. I cannot fix your brakes but I can counsel you in other ways of stopping.

...and some installation shots of Tucker Nichols' new show at G16.
The show opened on May 13th and runs through June 30th.


  1. Great interview and beautiful show!

  2. tucker,
    would you like to go to our warehouse and try some amazing papers: we have hundreds of different kinds, drawing, printmaking, watercolor, italian, nepalese, and japanese papers.
    call maureen at savoirfaire in novato