'Lily Pulitzer Meets a Concentration Camp': Nicola Tyson at Friedrich Petzel

The new works by Nicola Tyson at Friedrich Petzel Gallery last night featured colorful, twisted figures whose bodies were all emotion, as if they were built in a lab for the sole purpose of having awkward encounters.

One painting, Couple, seemed to feature a faceless woman, shyly holding an arm behind her back as she is approached by an apparently male figure who’s nonchalantly slid his hands into his thighs as if they were pockets. All the paintings boast a sickly pastel, with a palate of around nine colors for the entire show.

“People say she’s very much like Bacon, because she’s British, but I thinks she’s quite different,” said Vera Alemani, the Petzel director who organized the show.  “In the colors, certainly.”

“It’s like Lily Pulitzer meets a concentration camp,” offered a painter mingling at the opening.

The large-scale paintings all originate as sketches, Ms. Tyson told The Observer, in a second room that featured sculptures in clay not dissimilar from the kind you use in elementary school. After the rapid-fire sketches, done in a matter of minutes, she decides whether or not the figure is worthy of exploring further in a painting.

“It’s more than a doodle, and it’s not automatic drawing,” Ms. Tyson said of her sketches. “It’s kind of like downloading from some part of the brain that’s not censored, boring and decision-making,”

Most of the figures in the other room featured two figures and the show actually marked the first time Ms. Tyson has worked with couples. While the bodies may have a grim chemistry on the canvas, they’re actually drawn individually.

“It was a pairing up — I would take these characters that I’d draw individually and then move them around,” Ms. Tyson said. “It was a game to see who went with who.”

'Lily Pulitzer Meets a Concentration Camp': Nicola Tyson at Friedrich Petzel