The Unexpected in Painterly Abstraction

Many people, whether collectors, curators, gallerist or appreciators of the visual arts, don’t fully realize or realize at all how much the ‘unexpected’ plays a part in painterly abstraction. For me, as I work without a prefigured plan of any kind, the painting leads me as much as I lead the painting. Allowing for wide sweeps of the brush, paint has a tendency, if you allow it, to create movement and drama with relatively little direction. In fact, if you control things and ‘lean’ on the painting, areas of great fluidity can go quite dead. Painters have long known this, but in earlier centuries, when figuration was a desired goal, the end point was to make an image that the viewer could read and understand, whether a barn, a cow, a road, a tree or Jesus on the cross. Mistakes, changes of heart, erasures of sorts, or whatever you choose to call them, were not desired. Picasso and Matisse, amongst others, opened the door to the use of the accident and the unexpected in their work. While both these painters may have had an image in mind, whether a still life or a seated woman in front of a window with palm trees on the beach, they allowed for accidental movements, marks, and gestures to breathe unexpected life into their work. When Komarin paints a painting, he allows for the unexpected and even welcomes it. The drip, the soft edge versus the hard edge, the overlapping planes of color, a tornado of color, a reduction in color — all of these are embraced rather than denied. The painter works with the...

Cakes & Drips / Drips & Cakes

I have been painting cakes in one format or another, on paper and canvas, tall and lean, square or rotund, light or dark since the mid-90’s when I was invited to show with jean Michel- Basquiat, Phillip Guston and Bill Traylor in New York. The question of drips or no drips in the cakes comes up quite often more often than you might suspect. The curious thing is that whether doing an abstraction of a cake, which in effect all of the Komarin cakes are large, small or lean and tall: some cakes have more drips, some have few and several have nearly none at all. A drip can mean many things to many people and there is something odd or wonderful in human nature that some see a drip as positive, a good thing, and others the opposite. Not just cakes, but in real life or daily life, that drip that occurs when the icing is perhaps too thin or too hot when applied, but when you think about it, all liquids drips, whether water, blood, milk or wine. A drip can be watched or recorded nowadays as it moves along a flat plane of a painting or a woman’s dress as a glass of wine tumbles about at a boisterous dinner party or a rocky ship. Humans weep and those tears are drips and water flows over steep rocks and those are drips too. Are they beautiful, ugly or somewhere in between? Deliberate or not, they have energy, they move, and they are unpredictable. A brand new Mercedes fresh from the factory does not want to have...

On the Surface/Under the Surface: What is Going on in Painterly Abstraction?

A painter, whether abstract or not, makes marks on the surface of the canvas. The brush hits the weave of the cloth and leaves behind marks of some kind, whether broad or short or drippy or creamy or wide or narrow, thick or thin. But what happens, often in a quite magical way, is that a certain drama begins to unfold ‘under’ the surface, in that repeated layers of paint create a whirlwind of forms and energies and swaths of paint, that can speak to the viewer, collector, and admirer……in ways that are somehow even more poetic and oblique than what sits on the surface. One thinks of a person, a human being who has an outer surface, a certain physicality, color, tone, texture, skin – smooth or rough , hair – long or short or in between brow furrowed or smooth, wrists thin or thick. There are nearly infinite possibilities. And yet under the surface, there are things seen but also ‘felt’ that have as well – a life of their own, and we as sensitive beings can feel and somehow know this under the surface world. It can be an angry person under a calm visage or a shy person under a rumpled outer layer…..or any number of combinations. An abstract painterly painting can in fact, have yet more going on visually and emotionally ‘under’ the surface than on the surface the viewer must engage with the painting, breathe a bit or a bit more slow things down and come to know the under layers where “life” with all its attendant joys and sorrows plays out for...

Cakes Stacked / Stacked Cakes

I am quite thrilled to be doing an exhibition by invitation for the first time in my career of the cakes. This exhibition to open January 13, 2018 was curated by James Salomon in New York. I have been doing cake paintings on paper and canvas since 1996 when I first showed with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York. This exhibition is titled: Cakes Stacked / Stacked Cakes: From 24 Cakes at Kit Mandor. The cakes developed organically over time and were never ‘directed’ or intentionally or theoretically developed. It happens that my father was an architect who trained in Europe and worked in New York, while my mother, who was a Viennese writer, baked a good many taste cakes while we were kids growing up in New York. The cakes therefore are a marriage of sorts between the architectural and the domestic. Barry Schwabsky, a New York based writer and art critic had written that the he felt that the cakes were more architectural than they were about something ‘sweet’ and that the armature of the cake, in a similar fashion to Josef Alber’s squares and Mark Rothko’s floating cloud shapes, allowed me to play with color and space, and the tension and/or harmony between the two; i.e. the armature of the cakes and the variations on color of armature and ground was what kept the cakes alive and intriguing. For me, the rather amazing aspect to the cakes is how very much ‘variety’ I manage to squeeze out of a format that I have done many, many times. One writer in New York termed this – “the solace...

Forms and Formlessness in Abstract Painting

Many collectors wonder about the use of forms and formlessness in contemporary abstract painting. Throughout the history of art, painters would generally paint forms in space whether they were bison and antelope, Jesus on the cross or a cow grazing in a meadow under an azure sky. This made good sense, as a painting was painted to tell a story and the story depending on the depiction of forms in space whether those forms were painted large or small, clearly or less clearly, but overall the forms existed and were meant to be seen. Abstract painting in the beginning of the 19th century, and with Picasso in particular leading the pack, painters began to break up forms and questioned the integrity of form. Partly as a result of experiments in physics wherein physicists began to see that forms were less stable than expected, composed of smaller particles that were themselves forever moving in space and these theories were somehow in the ether and painters being intuitive and tuned in, generally speaking, picked up on this issue of form and formlessness. Cezanne in the late 19th century began to break up forms whether they were human or trees or rocks and Picasso and Braque in Paris continued these explorations with analytic and synthetic cubism. Following this in the mid-20th century Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko further exploded forms in space, Pollock by dripping paint across the large surface of canvas he placed on the floor of his studio in East Hampton and Rothko by applying thin layers of paint, layering one color over another to dissolve form and create abundant and terrifyingly beautiful...

Running into de Kooning

Although it seems far more recent in the mind’s eye, it was back in the late 70’s that my dear wife and I rented a house out in the summer of 1979 in the Springs, East Hampton, where I was painting for my very first New York exhibition at Maxwell Davidson Gallery. Little did we know till a few days had passed that we had in fact rented next door to the world famous and very talented painter: Willem de Kooning. I had been a devoted fan of de Kooning’s work ever since I was introduced to it in art school and very much loved his free swinging brush, and the way he would put a painting together, take it apart and put it back together, usually much stronger for the passages and necessary torture, it (the painting) went through. I am writing this piece from a cottage in Southampton, New York, looking out on grassy fronds and blue green bodies of water, all of it reminding me of that summer in the Springs. East Hampton and other sections of the east end of Long Island had great attraction for many painters of the early 50’s who were working in gritty downtown lofts, often dark and dank, and noisy from trucks rambling below. For de Kooning, the Springs reminded him of parts of Holland with its low lying land and pools of water and grass and a big sky overlooking everything. One would see de Kooning bicycling around in high white painter pant overalls and we chatted just a bit and he rounded this and that curve in the...