Kline found his muse—the city of Venice—in a rather roundabout way. He studied Italian Renaissance painting and trained in studio art before moving to New York in the 1980s. After developing his abstract style, he traveled to Venice, where he would return again and again in the two decades that followed. Like great painters before him, he was awed by the unique quality of color and light there. And the task of properly expressing it, working long hours in his studio in upstate New York, has turned out to be one of the more satisfying challenges of his career to date.
Installation view of “Dreams of Venice,” Gallery Naga, Boston. Courtesy Gallery Naga and the artist.
Looking at the pieces in the “Dreams of Venice” exhibition, it’s fair to say that the Hudson Valley has informed Kline’s style as much as Veneto. It was there that he took notice of local flora and natural organisms, incorporating them as motifs in his work; he started to work in encaustic, dripping or painting with wax to form textural layered reliefs that he often re-casts in steel or bronze.
As Douglas Hyland, Director of the New Britain Museum of Art, said of Kline’s paintings during a recent retrospective of his work, “Almost all have an organic quality which tethers them to the tradition of landscape painting. But, instead of a panoramic display, Kline concentrates on a slice of nature magnified and thus examined intensely.” It’s an apt description of his Venice-inspired works: instead of looking at the city’s bridges, churches, and canals from a distance, as in a traditional landscape, his paintings examine these elements close up. The show’s title is fitting: as in a dream in which faces are blurred and outlines are difficult to distinguish, Kline’s Venice is a quick capture, not of the form or shape of water and light, but of its character.