Nicola Tyson Pens Letters to Manet and Picasso

"Figure with Tree" (Photo courtesy Petzel gallery)

The artist Nicola Tyson, whose twisted figures are currently on display at Friedrich Petzel were called “Lily Pulitzer meets a concentration camp” by one admirer at the opening, will hold a performance at that gallery on October 6 during which she will read letters to her forebears, among them Francis Bacon, Thomas Gainsborough and James Ensor.

The Observer recently had a chance to peruse two of Ms. Tyson’s letters, to Pablo Picasso and Édouard Manet. Manet is portrayed as someone she likes very much, to the point where she’s self-effacingly worried about his influence, and some of her compliments seem a bit back-handed (“May I congratulate you on pulling off those late flower paintings while dying of syphilis?”) Picasso, though? She’s just tired of him.

Christ.. all those clunky female (..what else?) nudes with as much interiority as a concrete park bench. Weren’t you bored painting or fashioning them – with those priceless hands that nightly fondled real breasts, no doubt, with a real head hovering above them, with real eyes in it, looking down on the shining bald pate of your fucking genius?

The letters have a free-written feel to them and the format feels appropriate — it’s as if she has something to get off her chest, something that she really should have said earlier but some length of time has passed where a letter is really the only appropriate thing. It’ll certainly be something to watch Ms. Tyson, who speaks very quickly and sports frizzy red hair, performing this live on October 6. Nicola Tyson Pens Letters to Manet and Picasso