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....
Chaos and Control in Contemporary Abstract Painting

Chaos and Control in Contemporary Abstract Painting

Few people, including collectors and aficionados of contemporary abstraction, fully realize how much a painting veers between levels of Chaos and Control. Picasso and his peers opened the door to the idea that a painting could be built up, torn down, and built up again. This swinging Arc between Building and Destroying is part of the Process for Many Abstract Painters And while there are some who proceed with carefully worked out plans, for many painters including me the process is far more chaotic and uncontrolled. You have to make a big mess on the canvas before you can come in and clean up that mess. The well planned canvas may work for some but for painters with my disposition, based on largely intuitive choice and based on moment by moment reaction to what is in front me on the canvas, the experience of painting for me, is more Like jazz. Unlike the process of constructing an office tower in a big city where every single decision is guided by a prior decision and all is controlled so that a cantilevered platform does not collapse on eager visitors to that building, a freely brushed and painterly abstract painting is free from the burdens of responsibility. It can be anything, and while it has an internal order upon completion, that sense of order can be far more oblique than obvious.   The Act of Destruction in painting can be as enjoyable and cathartic as the Act of Building up forms in space. Control and Chaos sit on the same tight bench. The Painter moves from one set of circumstances to the other. Not unlike a...
On Being on the Cover of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens Magazine

On Being on the Cover of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens Magazine

In November of last year I was invited to be on the cover of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens Magazine for The Art Issue. They were doing a special issue on Artists in Connecticut and one fall morning I got a call from the Editor in Chief. They asked me if they could come to do a photo shoot at my studio in Roxbury. I replied: Delighted! When the ‘crew’ arrived they began to snap photo after photo seconds after getting out of their vehicles. As an Artist who is often in motion – I move around the Painting quite a bit while working (as the canvas typically begins on the floor of the studio, laying flat so I can freely swing the brush, liberated from ideas about up and down, left and right) – it was appropriate that the photographer took pictures while i was walking the property and moving around the studio. The final shots selected showed me lifting a large red painting from the floor and a second shot, which became the cover shot, was intriguing as well. The cover shot showed me using a special long handled brush, pushing paint across the surface of large dirty white painting. Some thought it was a broom I was using to sweep up, but in fact it was a long handled brush designed to have greater reach across the surface of a larger painting. Plus, its length allows for the kind of playful and unexpected ‘accidents’ that occur when liquid paint (mixed to the consistency of melted Ice Cream) swishes and sloshes on the new weave of fresh cotton duck canvas. When the cover appeared,...
Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting

Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting

There is a very curious parallel between Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting. As an Abstract Painter who plays tennis nearly daily, I have noticed certain correspondences that neither Tennis Players nor Abstract Painters put into position, but nevertheless are present in both. A tennis court is a specified rectangle of a certain size with clearly remarked end points. Most abstract paintings are done on rectangular formats and not dizzy edged canvases or flobby pillow like surfaces. A Tennis Player is very aware of the edges of the court, just as an Abstract Painter is aware of the edges of the canvas. A Tennis Player is aware of the space between things: the space between ball and net, the ball and player, ball and Self and, particularly, if a ball is rocketing toward their head at 150 mph. An Abstract Painter is very aware of the space between things: aware of the center of the canvas, the edges of the canvas and the two and three-dimensional aspects of forms moving through space. Tennis players are forms who move through space; they know not where they may next move, though sometimes there is a several second awareness of where they should move if they can get there. An Abstract Painter has a similar built-in system of awareness of where they should move, or rather: where a form painted in free space should move and where the space around a form should move and shift in some fashion. Tennis is, in many ways, a very abstract set of agreements and circumstances. Players agree to abide by a set of rules. The court has...
The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip or the use of the Drip in Contemporary Abstraction is a complicated subject. It is natural for paint to drip. It is a liquid material, or can be made liquid to varying degrees and for anyone who has attempted to paint a house they will soon realize Paint will by its very nature drip. Throughout the world, in past cultures, the drip was not encouraged. It made little sense for a painter in prehistoric times, or the time of Christ or the Pre Renaissance or Post Renaissance to allow for drips in painting or a fresco or a mural. This diametric changed considerably with the beginnings of Abstract Painting in the early part of the 20th century. Painters began to see the drip as something with a certain ‘aliveness’ that might help to enhance the energy of a painting and this awareness of the drip came to center stage with Jackson Pollock in the later 40’s in New York, particularly when he moved from the warehouses of lower New York to the more open spaces of The Springs in East Hampton. Pollock had moved from painting with a brush to dripping the liquefied paint with sticks and brushes. He would lay the canvas flat on the floor and walk around the painting, losing track of inside and outside, top and bottom, east and west. There had been precedent for dripping paint amongst the Native American Indian sand painters earlier in the century, but Pollock took this dripping to new heights, in terms of complexity and scale, that had not been achieved before. The drip replaced the brushstroke:...