Characters at Dusk Exhibit Features Islander Dan Nistor
review by David Stone
There are gallery shows that satisfy your appetite for art, others that are a little disappointing. A very few exceptional shows leave you wishing for more. Dan Nistor’s Characters at Dusk at RIVAA’s gallery in the lobby of The Octagon, 888 Main Street, is one such show. A visitor wishes for more from this artist.
Dan Nistor left Romania for the United States in 1996, continuing his career as artist and teacher in New York. In 1997, he moved to Roosevelt Island. He has taught fashion design and illustration at Parsons The New School for Design, the Art Institute of New York City, and Gibbs College. Characters at Dusk is his first solo show in the United States.
An example of what makes Nistor’s work so memorable is The Red Sweater, one of over 20 acrylics and pastels filling out the exhibit. A figure poses with hands on hips, suggesting a model. Her sweater is set off by a bright yellow vest and a green skirt draped below. For the background, the artist selects a wash of color that deftly accents, without interfering with his main figure. The picture is a generous mix of light, color, and design that holds the eye.
Although Nistor does not subscribe to a specific artistic philosophy, his work shares the immediacy of expressionism. Figures are indefinite reflections on a “unified emotional state.”
“I see paintings as an expression of a moment,” Nistor explains.
Visual arts are rarely well served by descriptive words, although viewers commonly like the guidance of titles and curation notes. He resists that temptation. Nistor prefers that visitors be stirred by the raw emotion in color, not a narrative invented after the moment of creation.
His paintings are so direct and appealing, even their simple titles seem a concession. He chose Characters at Dusk because “I was required to provide a title.” The point is well taken, as his collection swells beyond the limitations of words.
His Garden at Twilight is free of characters of any kind. This painting takes us down a narrow path between overflowing beds of flowers toward a shadowy area under trees, the scene unified by the condensing of light at dusk.
Also absent characters is The Brass Pot, a simple object in which Nistor discovers an abundance of subtle variations of light and color. The pot is realized as an object of art that most would pass without noticing. Its expression is symphonic in complexity, and the image is quietly accented by a single blue flower on a stem, discarded at the base.
Nistor’s methods are spontaneous. He chooses a subject and lets his imagination run free in a first draft. “My interest lies primarily in the process and what happens after the first draft, since the first draft can lead to any result,” he explains. He strives to work quickly and intensely “to authentically capture the moment,” and to finish each work in a single session.
The results are stunning. When he takes on character, as he does in Lyra, blending the emotions of an instant with the craft of design, art is created that rushes into a viewer’s visual cortex, expanding consciousness. A woman stares straight at you expectantly from the frame, with just enough seriousness that you will not take her lightly. Nistor borrows from his skills at fashion design, dressing her in a ruby red cape over a violet sweater. A green turtleneck balances the design, extending beneath the cape to reappear on her arms as a kind of color brace. This is a painting that an art lover can absorb immediately for all its subtle beauty, then look again and see even more.
In a brief text accompanying the show, Nistor quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas on beauty as “that which being perceived, pleases instantly,” clearly confident that his work does that. The pictures are complimented by a sense that he never overreaches to achieve that goal, and if he does, the result never meets the public’s eye.
“Each painting is addressed to somebody still unknown who would be the ideal viewer — someone who will enjoy the work in a permanent way,” the artist says.
He should have no problem finding a good number of “ideal viewers” with this graceful display of creative brilliance.
RIVAA’s gallery at The Octagon is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Characters at Dusk will continue through February 28.