Paint it black Artist Karen Gun­der­son

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Night Vi­sion. Pasatiempo.

New York-based artist Karen Gun­der­son didn’t al­ways make monochro­matic paint­ings us­ing only black. From the mid-1970s un­til the late 1980s, when she was rep­re­sented by New York’s Fis­chbach Gallery, many of her paint­ings were cloud­scapes. But when the gallery di­rec­tor Aladar Mar­berger was dy­ing of AIDS, the dis­ease that claimed his life in 1988, a paint­ing in­tended as a trib­ute to him took Gun­der­son in a new di­rec­tion that has de­fined her work ever since. “I didn’t want to be in the gallery any­more, to be hon­est, be­cause he wasn’t there any more,” Gun­der­son told “So I de­cided I would paint a sun­set in his honor. I painted black clouds on blue skies. Then I let that dry and went against the grain of the black with color as a way to show vol­ume.” This led to a se­ries of paint­ings hung as an in­stal­la­tion, placed in cor­ners, around cor­ners, and on the gallery ceil­ing. “I was re­ally try­ing to im­merse peo­ple in it. Those worked out very well, and I got re­viewed all over the place,” she said. “A lot of peo­ple came to see that show. I had a lot of tex­ture in all of them. I went to lunch with Aladar, and he said, ‘What are you do­ing in this gallery? You’re such a con­tem­po­rary kind of artist. You shouldn’t be in this gallery.’ I said, ‘I’m wait­ing for you to come back.’ He said, ‘I’m not com­ing back.’ ”

With Mar­berger’s bless­ing, she left the gallery and re­treated to the stu­dio where she made her first all­black paint­ing, She was work­ing with the hu­man fig­ure, ren­der­ing por­traits of Adam and Eve against a back­drop of a wa­ter­fall but us­ing only black. “My friend Jonathan Sil­ver came to visit and just stood there and stared at them for the long­est time. He said, ‘You know, Karen, I think these are re­ally great. I think you should just let them be. Don’t paint on them. Prom­ise me.’ I promised him and did what he said, and that be­gan the whole black paint­ings. Some­times you have to re­ally trust your friends.”

Gun­der­son is rep­re­sented in Santa Fe by Wil­liam Sie­gal Gallery; open­ing on Fri­day, Aug. 26, is a solo show of pri­mar­ily new works — rep­re­sen­ta­tions of ocean waves and de­pic­tions of the moon — and a se­lec­tion of older pieces, in­clud­ing some of her cloud paint­ings and works on pa­per. A show of mostly monochro­matic works might sound like an ex­hi­bi­tion of min­i­mal­ist works, but Gun­der­son’s paint­ings are finely de­tailed and filled with iden­ti­fi­able im­agery. Var­i­ous el­e­ments in the com­po­si­tion are de­lin­eated not by color but by tex­tures and their light-cap­tur­ing prop­er­ties. “I was teach­ing a class at one point on Chi­nese art his­tory, and I found this book on the con­cepts of how you paint — Chi­nese ideas about paint­ing — and it talked about the essence of paint, the essence of a color, and the essence of en­ergy. It re­ally hit me that how you feel de­scrib­ing some­thing with a mark — it’s as if you’re touch­ing the thing it­self. That’s what I try to make my brush marks do. It’s re­ally about con­nect­ing with my­self and touch. It’s re­ferred to as the hap­tic, the sense of touch. By mak­ing black paint­ings that have to do with touch and form, you’re elim­i­nat­ing ev­ery­thing ex­cept the hap­tic. It’s about imag­in­ing how it would feel to touch the moun­tains, the rock, the grass, the tree, the face. That’s prob­a­bly why no­body would be able to make my paint­ings ex­cept me. I can’t have a whole stu­dio full of peo­ple who can paint them.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.