December 15, 2008

Collection Rotation: Tucker Nichols

Our regular feature, “Collection Rotation“. Every month or so I invite a local guest to organize lists, groupings, or ‘exhibitions’ from our permanent collection. Our wonderful guest this month is Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols. Note: clicking through on the images will take you to our collection pages, with more info on art and artist.

Ten Natural Pairs
Collected by Tucker Nichols

Creating an online exhibition from SFMOMA’s permanent collection carries the luxury of choice without the hassles of scheduling or installation. The options are seemingly endless. Rather than come up with an idea and then hunt for fitting examples, I decided to take an afternoon to look at every image in the permanent collection available online. When something jumped out at me, I saved it in a folder. I didn’t think about what I was collecting or why. When I went back to look at the folder, natural pairs formed before my eyes. It was kind of eerie, really — every image found a partner for one reason or another.

Why is the most basic organizing principle to put like things with like things? What does it do for us? I can only guess that there are simply too many things in the world. It’s beyond our comprehension to take them all in. But when we group similar objects, we can begin to digest them. It’s why we have the cereal aisle — a typical US supermarket would be even more overwhelming if we didn’t organize everything by shared attributes. Once we’re able to look beyond the volume, we can start to see what’s there. The group below represents ten of the pairs that formed in my folder.

Pair of torsos

Left: John Coplans, Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above), 1984, gelatin silver print. Right: Robert Gober, Untitled, 1990, beeswax, pigment, and human hair

Pair of transcendent whites

Left: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Canton Palace, Ohio, 1980, gelatin silver print. Right: Robert Ryman, Untitled [E], 1965, enamel on linen

Pair of instantaneous artworks

Left: Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917/1964. Glazed ceramic with black paint. Right: Bruce Nauman, Study for Hologram, 1970. Screen print on Kromekote paper.

Pair of photographs as sculpture

Left: August Sander, Bricklayer, 1928. Gelatin silver print. Right: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled, 1992/1993. Offset print on paper (endless copies) © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

Pair of surveillance photographs

Left: Mitch Epstein, Untitled, New York 1996, 1996. Chromogenic print. Right: Todd Hido, Untitled #2027-A, from the series House Hunting, 1996-1998. Chromogenic print

Pair of photos of the planet

Left: William Anders/NASA/Michael Light, Earthrise Seen for the First Time By Human Eyes, 1968/1999, digital chromogenic print. Right: Bill Owens, World Savings opening day 1975, 1975, gelatin silver print.

Pair of Memphis Egglestons

Left: William Eggleston, Untitled, Memphis, 1970, 1970, dye transfer print. Right: William Eggleston, Untitled, Memphis, 1970, 1970, dye transfer print.

Pair of editing as artwork

Top: Christian Marclay, Video Quartet, 2002, four-channel video projection with sound. Bottom: Tauba Auerbach, Alphabetized Bible, 2006, offset lithograph

Pair of circles of identical white objects

Left: Richard Long, Chalk Circle, 1986, chalk. Right: Rody Graumans, Chandelier 85 Lamps, 1993, lightbulbs, cords, and sockets

Pair of mildly depressing photographs of life in America

Left: Mitch Epstein, Amos Power Plant Raymond, West Virgina, 2004. Chromogenic print. Right: Larry Sultan, Practicing Golf Swing, 1989. Chromogenic print.

Tucker Nichols is the artist behind He is represented by ZieherSmith Gallery in New York. For more information see

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