Solo Shows

Alice Tippit: Other beautiful things

Alice Tippit, Sweep, 2022, oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches

Contributed by Jenny Zoe Casey / The title of Alice Tippit’s show at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, “Surely Any S is Welcome,” refers to a note Gertrude Stein left in the margins of a first-edition copy of Tender Buttons. Like Stein, Tippit thinks deeply about language and enjoys juxtaposition. In her small-scale oil paintings, flat forms meet cleanly to form line, which in turn delineates silhouettes. Color contrasts produce optical illusions in which figure and ground vie for attention and interpretation. In Sweep, the foreground is symmetrical except for a flicking snake’s tongue at one end of an s. It is deep red and incorporates a pair of wine glasses. The one at the bottom points up, the one at the top down, their “lips” meeting. The surrounding area is a lighter-hued gray, and cartoonishly drunken faces are detectable on either side. 

Alice Tippet, Grove, 2022, oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches

Each painting in the exhibition seems to convey, at least obliquely, private togetherness. Perhaps drawing on the device in poetry called a blazon, whereby parts of the body are likened to other beautiful things, Tippit often fuses visual references to human intimacy with images from nature. In Grove, dark green abuts a skin tone to create an edge outlining what could be breasts, a bird’s claw framed by spread wings, or a dried-out tree amid lush forest. In Blade, similar colors yield a face and head, its feathered hair rhyming with the delicate needles of a conifer. The head flips into a chest, chin, mouth, and nose, the mouth parted in a cry.  

Alice Tippit, Blade, 2023, oil on canvas, 13 x 10 inches

The show also includes monochromatic murals that stretch from floor to ceiling. One is titled Cork, and Blade is situated at its center. While the dominant image does resemble a cork with a stem and head, it also looks like two enormous hammers facing each other. Tippit is surely aware that words commonly used to describe the parts of hammers – neck, face, throat, cheek, head, claw and eye – also reference parts of the body, and the hammers are to an extent personified. Their faces turn inward and touch, while their claws, curving and tapered to points, extend outward.

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery: Alice Tippit, Cork and Blade, installation view

Another mural, Steel, is hung between Sweep and Cold. Viewed upside-down, Steel represents a candlestick. As presented, however, it is indeterminate – a not-quite-right column of some kind. Negative spaces secrete the profiles of laughing apes. In Cold, needle-like fingers with polished orange nails serve as eyes in a woman’s head, which can also be seen as the tip of a penis. Like other pieces in the show, those in this grouping confound and compound one another, but to enchanting and enlightening effect.

Alice Tippet, Steel, 2023, acrylic, dimensions variable
Nicelle Beauchene Gallery: Alice Tippit, Sweep, Steel, Cold, installation view
Alice Tippit, Cold, 2023, oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches

The needle motif also appears in drawings on found notepaper printed with the image of a saguaro. Each drawing comprises paired two-syllable words that are connotative homophones; in choosing the words, Tippit relies on pareidolia, a tendency to construct stories spontaneously. She has arranged the set of drawings to resemble the trunk and branches of a cactus. They drive home the unabashedly graphic character of Tippit’s work. But while it may incidentally reflect the potential convergence of design and fine art, that is not her main purpose. Design is intended to minimize ambiguity. Tippit’s scrupulously crafted images celebrate it, poignantly insisting that things do not have to be just one way.

Alice Tippit, Single Finger, 2023, colored pencil on paper, dimensions variable

“Alice Tippit: Surely Any S is Welcome,” Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, 7 Franklin Place, New York, NY. Through April 29, 2023.

About the author: Jenny Zoe Casey is a Chicago-based painter and art writer.

One Comment

  1. A Chicago artist! It only matters because artists there have a uniqueness to their work. Alice’s paintings are always clever and meticulously painted. So beautiful to look at …. and her perfected surfaces adds to the ironic and uncanny paintings.

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