Saturday, June 28th, 2008

David Kinast: The ISM

Winkleman Gallery
637 West 27th Street, Suite A
New York City
212 643 3152

June 6 – July 3, 2008

The definition of -ism, as a suffix to a noun, is an act, practice, or process. Looking at David Kinast’s relentlessly busy paintings, one is constantly made aware of the laborious, focused, and repetitive act of drawing lines by hand and the process of filling the void of a blank canvas. This awareness introduces the presence of the artist into the viewing process, and the act of perseverance needed to make these paintings is considered by the viewer and in some way becomes the subject matter of these paintings.

David Kinast The Vatican Tapestries 2008, ink on canvas, 72 x 96 inches.   Courtesy Winkleman Gallery, New York
David Kinast, The Vatican Tapestries 2008, ink on canvas, 72 x 96 inches. Courtesy Winkleman Gallery, New York
detail from The Vatican Tapestries, above
detail from The Vatican Tapestries, above

They are palimpsests in that they consist of two or three distinct yet overlapping all-over layers of intricate line drawings, for the most part a lighter background layer and a darker foreground layer, and in the case of “The Vatican Tapestries,” (2008) there is a distinct middle one. These layers interact with one another in a very tightly compressed space. The illusion of foreground and background planes found in paintings utilizing one point perspective or the modernist versions of such, where three dimensional space is suggested through the use of complimentary colors and/or overlap, is rejected and a radical horizontality, an anti-decorative and somewhat obsessive filling-up of pictorial space is favored.

Repetitive marks, networks of short and crisscrossing lines that form simplified and abstract flower forms with eight petals blanket the entire surface of each painting from top to bottom and side to side. A variety of accents; splotches and scribbles, darker fragments of cross-hatching, dark outlines of the recurring flower forms that suggest the presence of a new or emerging layer of them, and tiny and dark filled in areas, which all appear to be intuitively placed, act as a counterpoint to the all-over pattern. The fact that none of the straight lines that make up the pinwheel like flower forms, are parallel to the horizontal and vertical edges of the rectangular canvases, keeps the viewer’s eyes moving across these surfaces. They also suggest that these patterns will continue beyond the edges of the canvas.

The horizontality of Kinast’s paintings does not correspond to our visual field, which is vertically oriented. The blank spaces within these compositions are so small, fragmented, and evenly distributed over the surface, that the sense of depth suggested by the artist’s mark making is greatly reduced. When one makes a singular mark on a blank canvas a foreground and background is immediately conjured, but these overqualified surfaces inhibit that phenomena. The act of drawing in these paintings is not done for the sake of representing forms either symbolically, realistically, or abstractly. It is a stand-in for the passage of time in the physical world and in the mind of the artist and viewer. Since it is not clear whether or not the overall impact of these paintings would be diminished by the addition or removal of more or less abstract flower shapes, it might be the case that the artist made a decision about when a painting would be considered complete based on the amount of time he spent making it. Thus, drawing marks the passage of time and the clarity of Kinast’s asymmetrical patterns acts as proof of the artist’s extended and focused state of mind.

There is an element of horror vacui with Kinast, but the fullness of the paintings, rather than suggesting a mental disorder, resolves itself into a state of endless continuum. This is especially true if you consider that these paintings have no clear subject matter, obviously they aren’t about flowers, and avoid the typical formal issues of the medium. There is no breathing room, no medium to large blank spaces in these compositions for the eyes to rest upon before diving back into the busy sections. The tightly interlocking abstract flower forms lose their sense of individuality and become part of a larger visual movement that undulates across the entire surface of the painting. The light and dark layers of interlocking abstract flower shapes tend to cancel one another out and drive the viewer’s attention back to the whole rather than to any individual part of the composition. This vacillation between equilibrium, a consistently busy surface that can be read as a singular gestalt, and the disequilibrium caused by the dark and sometimes opaque asymmetrical highlights that disrupt these linear networks, creates unpredictable rhythms within the iterations of abstract shapes.

The colors used in each of these paintings are minimal. The color schemes of each painting are blue, black, or red. The color scheme of “The Vatican Tapestries” is the most varied. These paintings are really large scale drawings. The intricate asymmetrical linear patterns that cover the entire surface of each painting are the products of controlled hand wrist movements typical of the drawing process, and are not the result of sweeping arm movements. So the emphasis is not on the gesture but on pattern and repetition, and visual complexity is derived through layering.

These fields of sinuous and tightly controlled lines, the result of repetitive hand gestures that relate to the hand movements that occur when we write out words, create a space where various visual effects occur. The effects occur when a painting is viewed from a distance and can be taken in at once. The intricate linear patterns begin to suggest textures, a cloud-like expanse of spongy and bulbous clumps. So these paintings are also about the transmogrification of matter.

The creation of abstract geometric patterns occurred as far back as Neolithic times. The habit of doodling abstract geometric patterns while talking on the phone is all too familiar. Kinast taps into our genetic predisposition to create patterns, to make worlds that echo the natural world but are also different from it. By drawing simple forms over and over again, Kinast creates complex relationships. The accumulation of individual shapes leads to change and the formation of something that is completely different from what was used as the basic building block.