The Sensual Line in Henri Matisse and Gary Komarin

The use of line in drawing can function in many ways. It can be diagrammatic, choppy, tonal, or work in ways that can be defined as sensual or even erotic. The use of line that is erotic or sensual can describe a form, whether human or not, as the drawing could well of a bowl of apples or pears, but more often we think of the use of a sensual line in regards to human form, as human form particularly the female form has curves and hollows that lend themselves to a sensual line. When we look at a very lean and elemental drawing of a woman by Matisse we see how very spare he is in his use of line. Picasso did many sensual drawings of the human form as well. Line describes volume and still asserts itself on the page in an abstract fashion, in that the viewer can appreciate the quality of the line in the same way that a singer can appreciate and adore the quality of a musical line apart from the meaning that it conveys. When Komarin does a vessel drawing or painting, there is often an erotic or sensual aspect. Komarin vessels are entirely made up, though they stem from observing vessels from antiquity, whether Greek, Roman or Egyptian, for many years. A Komarin vessel, like a Matisse drawing, describes the forms involved, but carries with a certain grace like a song beautifully sung under a starry...

Guston Pink & Komarin Pink

The subject of the use of the color pink by Philip Guston and Gary Komarin (me), who studied with Guston as a graduate teaching fellow in Boston in the mid 1970’s, comes up fairly often at exhibitions worldwide and studio visits by museum curators, collectors, critics and friends. Guston’s use of pink is very different from mine. It may stem in part from a certain ‘cartooniness’ in Guston’s work and mine, but that is where the similarities end. Guston uses pink in a darker and grimmer fashion, as the skin is peeled back to reveal the raw pink matter underneath where blood and pink membranes commingle under the outer skin. Historically, one thinks of such pivotal paintings such as ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’ by Titian in 1575, where a horned creature (Marsyas) is hung upside down and its outer skin sliced off as punishment for his sins. Guston had what I would call a tragically comic and rather dark vision of human kind and the human condition. He had lost a brother in a car accident whose legs had to be amputated followed by the spread of gangrene. I too lost a brother to leukemia when he turned 25, very shortly before I met Guston, but my use of pink is more life embracing, while still cartoony at times, as I was an avid reader of comic books and avid chewer of pink bubble gum as a kid growing up in New York in the 1950’s. The pungent inks of comic books fresh off the press was very available to a kid with a dime in his pocket, this...

Synchronicities and Correspondence between paintings of Grandma Moses and Fairfield Porter

While gallery hopping recently in New York City , I happened upon some wonderful paintings by the great American master and ” Outsider” Folk artist, Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses was born as Anna Mary Robertson in Greenwich, New York in 1860. She starting to paint in her late 70’s and lived to be 101 years of age. Grandma Moses painted till the end of her days. Her paintings featured elemental and charming scenes, depicting simple country pleasures, and modest well articulated landscapes. She painted barn raisings, wooden carts crossing fields, grazing farm animals, and old white frame houses sitting in the early morning light. While looking at the art of Grandma Moses, it occurred to me how very much her paintings looked in spirit- and even form- like the landscapes and still life paintings of Fairfield Porter. Fairfield Porter was born in 1907 in Winnetka, Illinois and studied at Harvard, later entering the New York School art scene and producing representational art during the height of Abstract Expressionism. Porter’s art was both heartfelt and simple, depicting scenes of domesticity. Porter was fond of painting dappled lawns where the sun breaks through the trees and throws a pitter patter of small organic shapes on deep green lawns. Both artists painted white open farmhouses with front porches and shadows cast by large oak trees, painting the true American landscape. While Grandma Moses yielded a smaller brush and worked in a more detailed fashion, her appetite and love for the simple chores of life, the beauty of farms and villages and the charms  of a cloud about to nestle over a church...
My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

I recently attended the new Francis Bacon exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York. I was struck by how very powerful his paintings were and was unexpectedly pulled into them, having seen them many times. This most recent visit was intense in its grasp of my attention and emotion. Bacon is a most curious painter in that he combined a raw and gritty set of images against a beautifully painted and often serene backdrop. Combining the beautiful with the grotesque gives Bacon’s work an unexpected mystery and strength. Francis Bacon came from a design background and did a certain amount of set design early in his career. He had a way with color that was somewhat schizophrenic. The ‘set’ or ‘stage set,’ within which his figures writhe and twist and bend and scream, is painted in a fairly flat and beautifully coordinated way. It occurred to me during this visit how elegant were the backdrops, lean and clean and very much like a Motherwell painting in their sensitivity to flat planes of color and beautifully aligned edges. The creation of a proscenium sets the stage quite literally for the drama that is about to unfold. Within this ‘stage set,’ Bacon gives us figures that are anything but beautiful. Often grey and grisly, Francis Bacon’s figures are twisted and torn, whether sitting or stretched out on the floor. Bacon’s figures are bruised and bent, sometimes missing parts of their anatomy – as if the pressures of life have carved entire chunks of flesh away. Bacon was interested in diseases of the mouth and one sees in many of his paintings...
Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Above: Duke and Wigmore No. 24, 2008 by Gary Komarin   It is a most curious thing how some painters lean towards stripes and others towards curves in the development of their work. Neither is better than the other, they sit on opposite sides of the spectrum. Throughout the History of Art, and that of painting in particular, artists have been using both striped and curved motifs in their work. This was a natural progression as the world itself is filled with both striped and curved motifs. The human body is, needless to say, a bundle of carefully orchestrated curves. Architecture, stone slabs, trees that shoot up to the sky in a straight shot – all have aspects of the stripe, which moves in one direction only and does not bend or twist in its ascent. Some bones in the human body are quite straight, but most curve at some point as they reach their ‘attachment’. Painters began, sometime after the beginning of the 20th century, to choose between stripes and curves. I don’t think this was a communal decision. Rather, individual painters in the privacy of their studio and their own thoughts, selected stripes or curves as the motif for their work. With this decision (stripes or curves) painters may have felt that they were reaching ‘higher’ ground, as for many painters there is a spiritual quest that is going on, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The world is such a complex and uncertain place that I believe it gave some artists great comfort to choose between stripes and curves rather than have this choice be made for them....

Sex Sells and Sex Sells in Contemporary Art

It is no great secret that sex sells in advertising and has been doing this quite well for some time now.  A great many products from cars to clothing to perfumes to hair conditioners and even to food products — where sauces are slowly dripped into place and icings on cakes are licked with eager tongues — all use sex to help sell the product at hand. Sex also sells in Contemporary Art. Not only Contemporary Art, but art of the past several thousand years. Certainly images of loosely clad women in the Japanese and Indian and Chinese Silk drawings engaging in sexual acts illustrates that sex was on the mind of our ancient forebears perhaps as much if not more than in the present time frame. African sculpture, which is tribal and primitive and quite beautiful in its elemental simplicity, done since the time of Christ (and made for ceremonial  and tribal reasons and not for the art market which did not exist at that time), is chock full of phallic attachments. It is often humorous to me in its directness and simplicity. A standing figure will have a phallus longer than the individual is tall. Sex sells is evident in contemporary art More recently Courbet, the great French painter of the 19th century, created an infamous portrait of a woman who is nearly without clothes lounging on a divan, to the delight of the onlookers and the collector who finally bought the piece. It was exhibited privately for a number of years because of its saucy nature. De Kooning, the great Dutch painter of the last century, became...