In recent years, the work of David Klamen has used various visual images and processes to investigate the question of how we know our cultures and ourselves. In his most recent variation on this theme, Klamen has created a collection of paintings of paintings, or “meta-paintings.” This multi-canvas installation consists of an historically diverse set of twenty-four separate paintings, each inspired by a masterwork, carefully arranged together to create a unified installation.
David Klamen (American, b.1961) is a contemporary painter whose work grows in conjunction with his interest in philosophy and scholarship, centralized around the questions,"How do I know what I know?" and "How do I know myself?" Klamen paints figuratively and abstractly, sometimes combining the two by incorporating geometric lines or patterns atop his high finished landscapes. Says Richard Gray Gallery, "His current paintings test epistemological strategies as diverse as OP Art (and its implication that knowledge may be a purely retinal experience), empiricism (the idea that the sole source of knowledge is direct quantifiable experience), introspection, and others. In this investigation, Klamen plays with the history of art, utilizing modern and pre-modern conventions as metaphors for our communal search for meaning."
Consistent with his other works, "Untitled 2015 (Blue Meta-Painting)" overlaps multiple artistic traditions into a single work, combining the installation style of the nineteenth century salon with his trompe l’oeil meta-paintings. From a distance, the large oval installation offers an intricately composed play of fractured angles that suggest a nearly cubistic sense of space. Rectangular canvases depicting paintings at tilted angles ricochet our attention across the picture planes. From the sparkling gilded frames of the old masters to the punctuated color of Mondrian and Monet, Klamen compresses the scale of the originals into a carefully orchestrated intertextual performance. Like an art historical library, this meta-painting installation offers an experience of ongoing comparison, discovery and contemplation.
To put this work, and the work of David Klamen in perspective, please read this exerpt from the essay "The Solo Show as Group Portrait: David Klamen's Multifarious Paintings" by David Pagel:
"On first view, an exhibition by David Klamen looks like a group show. Depending upon the particularities of the installation, there appears to be works by as many as six artists present: 1.) a Realist, whose interiors and exteriors revive Photo-Realism by way of classic film noir and contemporary fashion, design, and architectural magazines; 2.) a Romantic, whose untrammeled landscapes are marked by the signs of Symbolism or the symbols of science, both of which are filtered through Minimalism‚s reductive geometry; 3.) a Miniaturist, who often packs more than 100 abstract landscapes onto a single sheet of watercolor paper and still leaves plenty of room for the imagination to roam freely; 4.) an Intimist, who arranges similar salon-style configurations of modestly scaled paintings on large walls; 5.) a Postmodern Stripe-Painter, whose offbeat bands of alternating color voraciously translate the Old Masters and Internet porn into a system that recalls bar codes and the Op Art of Bridget Riley and Julian Stynczak; and, 6.) a lowbrow Pointillist, whose indelicate, innumerable dots blot out handsomely painted representational scenes as they record the meditative activity of repetitive Buddhist chanting (or "daimoku")."
"On second look, it becomes clear that a Klamen exhibition is not group show. For one thing, there‚s not a curator out there who could bring together such a felicitous arrangement of wide-ranging paintings that made so much visual sense while looking so distinct. For another, Klamen's various bodies of work overlap and complement one another so harmoniously and with such integrity of purpose that they reflect too coherent, sustained, and organic an argument to be made by six different painters. As an artist, Klamen is a master of the double-take - that startled, sometimes jarring, and often emotionally loaded experience of snapping one‚s gaze back at something you have just seen because something about it suggests that it‚s anything but routine. Getting visitors to look - and look again (and again) - is the Chicago-based painter's speciality, and it marks the moment when his abstract images begin to do their most compelling work: setting us to thinking not just about the pictures before our eyes, but pondering our own abilities to know what we‚re seeing, and what that means for us as social beings - especially when we stop taking such activities for granted."
"Comprised of objects that embody a sharply focused set of intentions while demonstrating impressive, often virtuoso painterly facility, a Klamen exhibition is an event that is open to a potentially infinite range of interpretations. The artist‚s arrangements of paintings not only invite viewers to ask big epistemological questions, like "How do we know what we know?", but to explore the parameters of our answers by grounding them in the physical facts of experience, which is always incomplete, shaded by past events, and shaped by whatever perspective an individual happens to be under the influence of. By presenting a heady blend of curiosity and doubt, Klamen‚s constellations of styles, subjects, and strategies steer clear of both certainty and cynicism. In our unsubtle, all-or-nothing world, in which over-simplified sound-bites consistently win out over the messy complexities of big-picture views, Klamen‚s multilayered art occupies an uncompromised - and uncompromising - middle ground. Allowing doubt and conviction to be present in the same thoughts, his ambitiously uncategorizable oeuvre makes a virtue of ambiguity ˆ and makes human experience all the richer for it."
"A generous, look-for-yourself openness animates all of Klamen’s paintings. In his multi-part, mix-and-match installations, hard-and-fast distinctions between Realism and Romanticism dissolve, as do the ordinarily fixed boundaries between objectivity and subjectivity, abstraction and representation, intention and accident, high and low, East and West, past and present. As a whole, his art abandons the monotheism on which much modern art-making is based for the polytheism of the ancient Greeks. Klamen‚s oeuvre pluralizes the phrase "god-like creativity," transforming a fundamental component of modern art in the West into an ad hoc collaboration among contradictory figures, whose comic squabbles and tragic disagreements often result in down-to-earth wisdom for those of us who observe them. In Klamen's hands, the self and whatever it isn‚t take off on trips with no end in sight but satisfactions all around."
Klamen earned his Bachelor's of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana in 1983 and his Master's of Fine Arts in Painting at the School of the Art Institute in 1985. He is currently is a Professor of Fine Arts at Indiana University Northwest. Klamen is represented in the following public collections: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (CA), the Museum of Contemporary Art (IL), the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (CA), the Chazen Museum of Art (WI), and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea.
Additional images, video interviews and documentaries, past reviews, and information on this amazing artist are now posted on our website at: www.markmoorefineart.com