Chris Kahler: Bio-Dy­namic,

Pasatiempo - - Art - David Richard Con­tem­po­rary, 130-D Lin­coln Ave., 983-9555; through Oct. 9

Chris Kahler of­fers a com­plex and in­ven­tive 21st-cen­tury vi­sion in his show at David Richard Con­tem­po­rary. Poised some­where be­tween de­pic­tions of dream­scapes and sub­atomic worlds of or­ganic mat­ter, far be­low a level that the un­aided eye can see, Kahler’s paint­ings are a se­ries of de­tailed ab­strac­tions that in­vite close-up view­ing. In fact, it’s fun to look at them closely and then stand back to let their bleed­ing, milky, and gar­ish col­ors es­tab­lish their own pat­terns in your mind. No two view­ers will see them in ex­actly the same way.

The work in Bio-Dy­namic might take you out of your com­fort zone be­cause, com­po­si­tion­ally, the paint­ings lack a cen­ter of grav­ity and do not ap­pear self-con­tained within the bound­aries of their rec­tan­gu­lar can­vases. But first im­pres­sions do not nec­es­sar­ily tell the whole story. Take Kahler’s large paint­ing Dy­namic Hy­brid C-1. A milky-blue and green­ish-yel­low space is filled with a roil­ing mass of dots and lines co­a­lesc­ing like chem­i­cal com­pounds around spi­dery DNA­like struc­tures. On first ap­pear­ance, it may strike you as un­set­tling be­cause your eye finds no place to rest. The dots in the paint­ing look like drips from an Ac­tion painter’s brush, but there is such de­tail and con­sis­tency in them — as though each dot is part of an evolv­ing struc­ture, not yet ad­vanced enough in com­plex­ity to de­scribe an ac­tual form. Many of the dots — painted in a mul­ti­col­ored ar­ray of bright col­ors — are con­nected to one an­other by thin lines. To­gether, they form strange pat­terns, each color over­lay­ing an­other in a chaotic blend that must have taken con­sid­er­able time to cre­ate.

This is a paint­ing that’s not al­ways easy to look at. As with many of the paint­ings in the show, branch­ing lines — geo­met­ric frag­ments that might form part of a larger struc­ture, if only we could see it — share space on the can­vas with the vari­col­ored dots and swirling clouds of paint. Other paint­ings, such as Du­al­ity A-1, share sim­i­lar at­tributes of com­plex­ity and ran­dom­ness with those in the Dy­namic Hy­brid se­ries. The forms cre­ated by the den­sity of dots in some of the Dy­namic Hy­brid paint­ings have a lu­mi­nous ap­pear­ance, like gaseous clouds in in­ter­stel­lar space giv­ing birth to new worlds. In fact, the line be­tween the in­te­rior world of bi­o­log­i­cal forms and the outer world of alien land­scapes — or per­haps some kind of deep-space anom­alies — seems to get blurred in this show.

There are four paint­ings shown to­gether in a grid that are part of an­other, smaller se­ries of Rhomb paint­ings: Rhomb C-3, C-6, C-8, and C-9. The pre­dom­i­nant color in all of them is white, but the white­ness en­velops dark pock­ets of space that con­tain blotches of paint that bleed into one an­other in flow­er­ing ex­plo­sions of color. These paint­ings — all acrylic on panel — are smooth and glossy and are among the most at­trac­tive in the show. The straight blue lines that cut through them don’t de­tract from the oth­er­wise fluid feel of the paint­ings. Maybe that is be­cause we think of our in­ner bi­ol­ogy in a way that re­sem­bles how Kahler paints — as an in­ter­play of rec­og­niz­able struc­ture (such as the dou­ble helix) at the chem­i­cal level and of amor­phous form.

The most tex­tu­ral work in the show, Hy­brid A-1, is sep­a­rated from the main body of work. That seems wise be­cause, though it shares an affin­ity with the other paint­ings in that it seems to de­scribe a kind of bioscape, its sur­face is built up much more, giv­ing it a tac­tile qual­ity that is some­how more de­scrip­tive, some­how more ex­pressly bi­o­log­i­cal than the oth­ers.

At once ar­chi­tec­tural and or­ganic, fluid and lin­ear, Bio-Dy­namic rep­re­sents a kind of paint­ing that has evolved be­yond the de­riv­a­tive Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ism that artists fall back on too eas­ily. It has an affin­ity with ex­pres­sion­ist work, to be sure, but ul­ti­mately cre­ates its own niche re­al­ity that, though it may not ini­tially ap­par­ent, is so­phis­ti­cated and re­fined.

— Michael Abatemarco

Du­al­ity A-1, 2010, acrylic and oils on can­vas, 72 x 96 inches

Chris Kahler: Rhomb C-9, 2010, acrylic on panel, 30 x 30 inches

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