Thursday, May 16, 2002
Art: City Folk: Alexandra Nechita''s lithograph "Skyline" shows the young artist''s humanism through the prism of cubist design. "After all," she writes of the piece, "a city is not bricks and mortar, but people."
A few years ago an 8-year-old sold a painting for $50 at a library exhibition. When the public caught wind of her work, mavens compared it to that of modernist masters like Joan Miro, Paul Klee and Marc Chagall. She painted like a child. But then again, Pablo Picasso said it took him a lifetime to figure out how to paint like one.
Two years later the earnings from her art exceeded $1 million. Celebrities ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley bought her work. The press nicknamed her "Petite Picasso" for the self-taught abstract style echoing cubist ideals. And among today''s cognoscenti, 16-year-old Alexandra Nechita is one of the most recognized living artists in the world.
It''s not that her paintings parrot Picasso''s-they don''t. She was developing her own abstract style before she ever laid eyes on a cubist painting. Rather, the art world gawked at the child''s capable handling of abstract expressionism without a single lesson. Once Nechita realized her visual language worked for her, she stuck to her modernist guns.
Bringing a sketchbook wherever she goes, Nechita continues to develop a unique neo-modernist language by poetically distorting color and line. Her figures weave themselves into backgrounds by intertwining their abstract, geometrical shapes. The visual mix reveals significant connections between the figure and its surrounding space. An adherent to cubist principles, Nechita simultaneously presents various angles to express ideas about her subject more meaningfully than if she recorded one natural viewpoint.
Contorted faces, protruding eyes, and squiggly appendages scrabble around her canvases, while bright hot reds and oranges contend with cool blues and greens. Of color she says, "I think it''s definitely the key to my work, the essence of my work." Nechita constantly plays with moods and meaning through color, juxtaposing them to fit her expressive needs.
While inviting the viewer into her strange and exotic world, Nechita also provides clear artistic objectives for herself and for her audience. She often uses significant titles and written summaries to accompany her work, elaborating on her visual ideas. In one lithograph titled "Skyline," buildings take on human traits in an organic city made of people. "After all," writes Nechita, "a city is not bricks and mortar, but people."
As one might expect from a 16-year-old whose work has met with fantastic acclaim, her ideas are dominantly optimistic and hopeful. However, she says, "Not all my work is happy and bright. I have pieces of despair. There are situations where you want to give up, where there''s no mercy."
Her lithograph "Let There Be Peace," completed last summer, was an almost prophetic preparation for the terror attack of September 11. In a written piece to accompany the lithograph, Nechita expounds, "How wrong we are to believe that the faith of our nations lies in someone else''s hands or circumstances. How selfish to think that our own intentions and action have little or no apparent influence on humanity''s future..." The hopeful, peace-bearing artwork became the center of a Red Cross fundraiser launched by Nechita to help those impacted by the tragedy.
In the aftermath of the attacks, a nervous Nechita canceled about 25 art shows around the world. Among the many trips she canceled was a special invitation by Nechita collector Prince Faisal to the Royal Palace in Saudi Arabia.
Expressing emotions is increasingly complex for the high school student after a not-so-smooth sophomore year. Nechita prefers to let the art do the talking. But she does confess to thinking a lot about her metamorphosis into adulthood. And that change involves the usual teen problems, only with a uniquely precocious Nechita twist: her friendships must be able to survive a packed globetrotting schedule, and her willingness to plunge into the stew of teen romantic angst is tempered by levelheadedness and idealism.
"I was actually thinking about that, and I don''t have time to date," she says. "I don''t think it''s the ideal situation for me right now. I''m a witness of my friends who have relationships, and I''m there when they''re crying in the bathroom. But I love myself too much to cry over a boy."
College is on the horizon, and she definitely wants to study art and art history. She looks no further than UCLA. "I love the States too much, and I love L.A. too much," she says.
The former pint-size Picasso''s work has matured in leaps and bounds since she sold her first painting at 8. "It''s the process of me learning. It''s been fun, spontaneous, full of surprises." As she enters full adulthood, the focus will be on her skill as an artist rather than her uniqueness as a child prodigy. Having seen extraordinary artistic growth in her first 16 years, the world can only hold its breath anticipating what she''ll do with a lifetime ahead of her.
Alexandra Nechita will appear on the May 17 and 18 opening nights of her art show at the Richard Thomas Galleries, Dolores and 5th in Carmel, from 6-9pm. Free with RSVP. 625-5636.