criticismExhibitions
Friday, October 31st, 2014

Jewel-Pure Color: Harriet Korman at Lennon, Weinberg


Harriet Korman: Line or Edge, Line or Color at Lennon Weinberg

September 18 to November 1, 2014
514 West 25th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, 212 941 0012

Harriet Korman, Untitled, 2014.  Oil, Gamsol and Galkyd on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

Harriet Korman, Untitled, 2014. Oil, Gamsol and Galkyd on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

Rigorous, flat, unpredictable, startling, deadpan, funny. These are all descriptions that can apply to Harriet Korman’s paintings. Among painters, she is esteemed for integrating in her abstract work a wide range of qualities from the clumsy and odd to the most gracious unities of jewel-pure color. Her first exhibition since winning a Guggenheim fellowship in 2013, composed of works from the past three years, feels like an exuberant engagement with the animating aspects of her work from the past two decades.

Essentially a suite of themes and variations, this exhibition of 10 drawings made with oil stick and 10 paintings are meditations on painting’s potential for unexpected encounter. They certainly compel and reward a meditative look.

The works avoid assuming any sort of posture — high-tech, ironic, romantic, or post-this or that — drawing upon honest studio experimentation. Colors, in their variety, combinations and sequences, reference lived experiences from garishness to mysticism, and it is this range that is key to their depth of feeling.

Installation shot of the exhibition under review, courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

Installation shot of the exhibition under review, courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

Most of the works on display differ from the output of Korman’s last few shows in that they include areas of plain white paint, as well as hand-painted linear elements. In the previous two shows, Korman’s paintings were constructed exclusively of highly saturated color areas. The colored lines in the new work let Korman respond to the optical activity at the edges of adjacent hues. Drawn lines and clusters of colored outlines are used to orchestrate color vibrations where areas of color meet.

Entering into the simple composition of each work it is possible to become engaged in contemplating mandala-like geometries. Untitled (2014) is symmetrical in layout but not in the weight of its colors. The central diamond creates a restrained color hum, while the surrounding four diamonds advance and expand. Some white areas are under pressure, while the corners are open. Many kinds of edge co-exist.

The new paintings originate in corresponding drawings. One can study ideas as they transform from the very personal oil stick works to the more austere, painted realizations, noting that they do so without loss of intimacy or immediacy. (The drawings are also beautiful on their own.) Compositions are built on simple layouts — diamonds intersecting cruciform shapes — but it is the complicating of these geometries through color that make the paintings happen. Color skews the symmetry of the layouts and sparks a dynamic, optical experience that takes us to a more complex, active order.

In this visual process, questions arise: how do those varieties of green differ? How are those glowing contrasts on one side of the painting offset the other? Are those oranges all the same or subtly different, and if so, and why? Structure is established, then repeatedly contravened by color, the visual impact of specific hues creating tension and imbalance. As we gaze, geometric configurations give way to sequences of extraordinary color, radiating, playing hopscotch, building glow upon glow.

Harriet Korman, Untitled, 2012. Oilstick on paper, 16-1/2 x 23-1/2 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

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