Monday, October 31, 2005

Artist of the Week (10/31/05)

It's very difficult to see Karen Arm's work in online reproductions, so I'll apologize in advance for the injustice done to them by these images. More than just about any painter I know, her work insists on slow, focused viewing. Epitomized best perhaps by her series of incense paintings (see a blue one from 2004 to right), what she's exploring is something so ephemeral you're not sure her paintings haven't changed before your very eyes. Again, like so many artists, I first discovered Karen's work in the flatfiles at Pierogi. She's represented by PPOW in Chelsea.

Karen definitely falls into that category of painters who seem to be arguing that the best way to deal with the barrage of information thrown at us these days is by structuring things granularly. "Systems painting" might be one term to describe it. Some artists invested in this approach focus on man-made systems, presumably attributing how overwhemled we are to technology, but Karen looks toward nature.

I would argue that, despite subject matter, this approach has as its goal one of two objectives: to let the artist disappear within a process so all consuming the outside chaos fades or to attempt to organize that chaos. Having done a few studio visits with Karen, I'd say she falls into that second category. She's organzing the bits and pieces, taming them through the strength of her patience. Here, in honor of the holiday, is one of her blood drop paintings:

Karen Arm, untitled (blood drops #2), 2001, Acrylic on canvas, 44" x 36" (image from PPOW website)

Her gallery describes Karen's process this way:

[Karen] develops her paintings from photographs used for scientific observation of natural phenomena that the unaided eye might fail to detect. She builds up layers of glazes on canvas and then applies marks to that ground that are abstractions of these phenomena: plumes of smoke caught in ambient air currents, concentric ripples of water, rhythmic crests of ocean waves, or outer-space star clusters. She applies another layer of semi-transparent ground over these marks, obscuring them and pushing them into the color field. Arm continues to alternate luminous grounds and accretions of micro-marks to create a seemingly infinite macro-world. Natural phenomena are abstracted and sealed into the canvas’s meditative illusionistic deep space.

What first impressed me about Karen's work is that illusion of space. You're drawn into these works. Karen explains that "My focus is with the intimate and the expansive -- setting up a tension between the two." For me though, whether blood or smoke or stars or abstract marks, this structure or web of familiar items, despite the implications of infinity they convey, seem comforting, nonthreatening, as if the artist is saying "It's OK...yes, there's a lot of them, but they won't hurt you." Here's one of "roots":

Karen Arm, Untitled (abstract root form #1), 2004, Acrylic on canvas 66" x 54" (image from PPOW website)

There are other images online of her work, but having seen just how exquisite they are in real life it pains me to put the ones with smaller marks up here (I have width constrictions that make it pointless). Here's one more where the marks form an image though:

Karen Arm, Untitled (green whirlpool), 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 30" (image from PPOW website)


Blogger AFC said...

Perogi must love you, that's two artist of the weeks in a row that have come out of their flatfiles! I'm all for tapping good resources...

It's hard to comment on the work without having seen it in person. The patterning looks a little devisive in reproduction, but who knows. The blood drip work is indeed a nice holiday choice.

10/31/2005 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


Given there are over 700 artists in the flat files, it becomes rather difficult to find NYC artists who are not in them (and yes, that does suggest I need to begin highlighting artists not in the NY area...working on it). I generally like to point out where I first heard about an artist or how I met them.

The patterning looks a little devisive in reproduction, but who knows.

It become so much flatter in reproduction that it appears in life.

10/31/2005 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

I like it :) even without seeing in person.

10/31/2005 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

OK, found a scary one. Abstract root form #1 looks like the parasites injected by the Tse-Tse fly (that's what I get for watching Animal Planet late at night)....

I love the smoke.

10/31/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Abstract root form #1 looks like the parasites injected by the Tse-Tse fly


the smoke is so much better in real life...not sure what she could do about the way these image fail, but after scouring the internet I found the ones on her gallery's site are really superior to others out there, so credit to them for that.

10/31/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger AFC said...

Edward: I have noted that about Perogi flat files. It's a strength and weakness.

10/31/2005 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous if beauty is our reality said...

They don't read flat to me, even though I do like flat--when in rare cases it can be achieve: There is another tension--explained by what happens on the surface of liquid, and by adding the word ‘cohesion’ to explain the properties of a droplet, capillary action, and bubbles.
When you consider that painters use liquids to varying viscosities, and brushes, or cloth that are used to transfer paint from one place to another, and also when you consider that sometimes paint escapes as it's released via a swift, or too slow transfer: 'surface tension' and 'cohesion' do explain much about what a painter does and how that appears to us--a space left that has the ability to transcend the physical limitation into another dimension.

The above is a 'cut and paste' of considerations on 'something else' but I do feel the splice has ice and is relevant and suitable here, indeed.
Karen Arm has a nice touch and offers a sense of things that are both tangible and not:)

10/31/2005 06:07:00 PM  

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