Chris Kahler: Bio-Dynamic,
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