Adrian Nivola is a New York-based sculptor and painter. His elaborately constructed objects, made of wire and wood, explore a theme of human frailty and the often absurd disparity between aspirations and limitations. Each work suggests a metaphor for the tragic (if also, at times, amusing) condition of futility. From his paintings of carefully observed dead birds with one or more of their wings extended as if still capable of flight to his sculptures of unplayable musical instruments with their refined aesthetic machinery that fails to produce a sound, Nivola's subjects always appear to have veered far off course from fulfilling the function they promise. And yet their beauty, Nivola's work suggests, maybe in the detour.
The artist draws his inspiration from various sources spanning ancient Egyptian and Minoan forms to the constellations of Alexander Calder and not exclusively from art-historical traditions. For example, a recent body of work was influenced by the early failed inventions in flight that pre-dated the Wright brothers. Nivola was struck by the expressive power of these first unsuccessful flying machines, which were not guided by an understanding of science but rather by faulty observations of birds and a spirit of wayward longing to soar above the earth. What these machines failed to achieve practically was redeemed, in Nivola's view, by their exquisite designs, which conveyed all of the hope, desperation, and joie-de-vivre of their makers. In the same vein, Nivola set about inventing his machines, 25 of which were eventually exhibited in 2014 to great success. His subsequent and most recent exhibition of musical instruments in 2016 achieved similar success and critical acclaim.
Nivola, born in 1977, began to take his professional artistic ambitions seriously at the age of 18 when he went to work for the well-known artist Caio Fonseca in Pietrasanta, Italy. He went on to study at Yale University from which he graduated in 2000, has received several prestigious awards while attending the university, including the Ellen Batell Stoekel Fellowship. He later received a Master’s degree in fine art from the New York Studio School, graduating in 2006. Adrian is the grandson of Costantino Nivola, a celebrated Italian sculptor who was among the first wave of artists who settled on the East End of Long Island in the 1940s along with contemporaries Saul Steinberg, Jackson Pollock and later Willem de Kooning among other masters. Having grown up surrounded by the works of his grandfather and other great works of art given to Nivola's family by Costantino's artist friends, Adrian was influenced by his grandfather's calling and exposed to the rigorous tradition of the New York School from which during his childhood he benefited from a unique perspective and access.
The artist's work is currently in numerous prestigious collections both in Europe and the U.S. Nivola has exhibited at the Yale University Art & Architecture Gallery, New Haven, CT; The Paul Dietrich Gallery in Boston, MA, The Painting Center, in NY; and The Drawing Room, in East Hampton, NY among others.