Don Nice (1932-2019) was a prominent American painter and printmaker, who used his work and position in the art world to inspire environmental awareness from the 1960s. His early works were influenced by the Abstract Expressionist movement, in particular de Kooning, but he also found kindred spirits in the art of Alex Katz, Jasper Johns, and Marsden Hartley. In the 1960s, Nice became a leader in Pop-Realism, as his practice of abstract mark-making coalesced into figurative images, in particular the monumental single images for which he is most widely known. Void of shadow and perspective, and with an intentional nod to Americana and consumer culture, they explore motifs of food, animals, and consumer products: grapes, artichokes, apple pies, eagles, trout, and iconic brands such as Converse sneakers, and Ray-Ban sunglasses. In the following decades, he arranged these single images into more complex arrangements using the formal constructs of Native American totems, predellas borrowed from Renaissance altarpieces, and elements drawn from American folk art, to present the complex relationship of our society with the natural world. Always trying to bring the viewer closer to the earth and the very spirit of the forces in nature, his work turned to focus primarily on landscapes. He increasingly experimented with various materials, shapes, and orientations of the work in relation to the viewer. His later Earthscape and Spinner series, which were part of his daily sketching practice from the 1950s, but fully realized late in his career, challenged traditional modes of looking at art, to capture, with greater clarity, our empathetic relationship to the landscape.
From an early acquisition by the Whitney Museum through the Ford Foundation Purchase Award in 1963 to the receipt of the Lee Krasner Award in recognition of his lifelong achievements in the arts in 2018, Nice has received substantial recognition throughout his career. His work has been the subject of notable gallery and institutional exhibitions and is in the permanent collections of prestigious museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Art Center, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.