Robischon Gallery is pleased to present, “Mr. Blonde,” the third solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper by acclaimed, New York artist Gary Komarin. For Komarin, as a student of the major New York School abstract expressionist Philip Guston, the sense of “painting the unknown” and taking risks in the arena of the canvas became an early driving force in his work. Komarin’s nod to his mentor, Guston, led him to his own thoroughly authentic approach toward abstraction, furthering the movement’s ideals in a riot of off-beat contemporary hues and forms which freely engage automatic impulse. Artistic giant Philip Guston wrote supportively about Komarin’s work as, “plastic, sensitive and serious," stating, “Komarin’s feeling for line, space and form comprises an innate sense of structure.” Komarin humbly speaks to his own work by saying, “My paintings proceed without preconception. I think of myself as a stagehand who sets up conditions necessary for drama to unfold. Once a painting has achieved a life of its own, when it speaks back to me as a painter, this is a good place to be.”
In each work, Gary Komarin freely locates a myriad of painted gestural marks, drawn lines or drips to merge or overlap with pools of saturated color. Unexpected figural elements or objects may at times suggest a narrative as the viewer is additionally engaged or playfully confronted by titles such as Ipso Facto in Orange with Black, Who Is Hercules and Why Are You Calling Him? or most notably the exhibition title, “Mr. Blonde.” The interpretation of the images filtered through the intriguing titles rest solely on the viewer, but strict interpretation is unnecessary and off-point with this abstraction. Komarin recalls his mentor, Guston, saying: “I paint what I don’t know instead of what I do know” – which for Komarin, affirms his personal process to pursue his own natural inclinations with refined instincts. The resulting elements within certain compositions might appear somewhat recognizable, but by design, resist any precise label or naming.
With confidence and curiosity, Komarin is at home in utilizing common materials in uncommon ways. Industrial canvas tarps are often used in lieu of an evenly-woven traditional canvas and layers of latex house paint in a thinned-out sluice mixed with spackle and water to offer equal means for the artist’s direct manner. The resulting house-paint concoction offers unusual hybrid colors while the spackle creates a beautiful matte surface. Working passionately and using color energetically, the quick-drying materials allow Komarin to paint with a sense of urgency – his challenging mark mirroring both material and tension – further ignited by the spontaneous and the deliberate; the conscious and the unconscious and the familiar and the strange.
As a counterpoint to the free-form imagery, Komarin is also known for his various subject-driven series of works on paper. On view, a drawing series of improbable vessels convey the weighted meanings of a sense of the figural, as well as symbolic of the containment of something precious or vital. The artist states, “All cultures have had to find ways to transport water and other fluids from one location to another–water, milk, wine, blood – for practical and ceremonial reasons. I have long been fascinated by the structures and shapes of these traditional objects, particularly those of the most humble and demure variety. An early Egyptian, Mayan or Greek vessel has great poise and stature. Painting vessels is, for me, a very plastic activity that has allowed me a great deal of playful variation. One never knows how they will wind up.”
This quality of the uncharted and on-going territory of questioning beyond the surface propels the artist. The title, “Mr. Blonde,” echoes the search with its provocative reference to the highly-charged Quentin Tarrantino film, Reservoir Dogs. With this homage, Komarin extends the notion of the protective false or the concealed identity in order to address the juxtaposition of the ironic vs the heroic as it applies to his painting. A malapropism of Louis Malle’s Au Revoir les Enfants, Tarrantino’s Reservoir Dogs prompts Komarin to explore a self-referential meme for how artists misremember or knowingly appropriate from other artists and art forms while remaining true to their own creative process. The artist inquires, “How much is real? How much is fake?” Does the cloak of subterfuge allow for a kind of emergence - sinister or inspired - beyond what might normally be within a single repertoire? In consideration of “fakes,” Komarin’s ongoing and often exhibited series of painted cakes on brown paper sacks or stylized French wigs, augment the notion of altered reality as the artist “makes a cake” incorporating a paper grocery bag, and paints portraits with no definable features other than that of a head whose chief characteristic is a wig depicted in a variety of flipped, page-boy style hairdos. It is the artist’s call for the authentic that prompts the viewer toward the present moment as each is experienced and pursued past the surface. Revealing the deeply personal source of this call, Komarin states, “My parents had barely escaped the Holocaust and my brother died in his early twenties. His death freed me up a great deal to push my work, take chances and not be afraid of risk-taking in painting – whether on a metaphoric or physical level. Everything in Life is relative to the lens through which you see the world.”