At Waterhouse & Dodd, a New York Painter Captures his Changing City in “Color Maps”

May 17, 2016 11:59PM

There are artists and writers who venture to New York City in search of creative energy. Then there are artists and writers who, native to the city, need look no further than their immediate, dynamic surroundings to find inspiration. Charles Koegel belongs to the latter camp.

Born in New York in 1980, the artist earned his MFA at Pratt Institute; he currently lives in Brooklyn and teaches art. “I have always been intrigued by the city,” Koegel has said. “Its streets, homes, factories, offices and architectural marvels seem beyond calculation and provide endless exploration.” That constantly evolving urban environment is the subject and inspiration for “Color Maps,” Koegel’s new exhibition at Waterhouse & Dodd in New York.

Though these paintings aren’t exactly representational, one might guess by looking at them that Koegel is interested in architecture. They’re colorful and geometric, characterized by grids, planes, and textures that call to mind building materials like slate or wood planks. Many pieces feature organic forms reminiscent of climbing vine, as with In Bloom (2010). Others surfaces look cracked or peeling, like Here’s What’s Left (2010).

Each piece evokes, in one way or another, the city’s streets and walls, its construction beams and shredded fliers, the visceral experience of ambling down a lived-in city block. Koegel’s layering technique adds to the effect, to the impression that the surfaces are built up and fading in an endless cycle. Indeed, there’s an air of melancholy to many of Koegel’s works—what the artist has called “a sense of nostalgia for the city’s past life.”

Notably, “Color Maps” presents a welcome opportunity to see these complementary works together, as they form a neighborhood of sorts. While Koegel has participated in a number of group shows, this solo show offers a view of his world, his city, from his eyes.

—Bridget Gleeson

Charles Koegel: Color Maps” is on view at Waterhouse & Dodd, New York, May 19–Jun. 11, 2016.

Follow Waterhouse & Dodd on Artsy.