“I think of my paintings as pre-linguistic. Forms travel and co-mingle through time
and space, free from the order of tyranny and reason.”
Gary Komarin returns to Robischon Gallery in his fifth solo exhibition, “Swiss Positions.” Komarin’s widely-recognized visual language stems from an informed, intuitive process which allows the artist to take dramatic and uncommon risks with composition, line, color and a variety of surface applications. The artist’s unique mark and color palette, as Dean Jenson wrote in the New York Times, manages to, “resonate with so much poetry” while the paintings themselves try “to fool us into thinking that they were produced without the slightest fuss or guile.” Komarin’s vast experience reveals a connection to Late Modernism and specifically to Komarin’s mentor, notable Abstract Expressionist pioneer, Philip Guston. Komarin’s sophistication and confidence allows him the freedom to acknowledge late modernist principles while embracing the future to adeptly cast off perfection, permanence and the planned composition while diving into the language of the provisional. The artist’s signature work features drips, scribbles, cartoonish forms and line work, along with a variety of pigment applications, including translucent washes of a thinned-out sluice to create a sense of impermanence and mutability.
Komarin’s process often begins with improvised drawing, using mostly crayon, but sometimes with charcoal or pencil. The artist calls these shapes and lines “drawings of nothing,” a “series of marks... to open up the canvas.” Komarin places these “open” canvases on the floor and pours paint – often a humble mixture of spackle-laced or turpentine-thinned latex-acrylic house-paint – directly onto the surface. At this stage, his actions with long-handled brush are quick and automatic, as he says, “moment by moment, second by second. I make choices about what to touch and what to leave alone.” The canvases then are returned upright, and Komarin continues his process adding paint and blotting it away with torn paper; building up and obscuring while creating unexpected surface qualities and structures. Each painting has visual evidence of the various stages of his process. The initial crayon drawings are often painted over, but never quite completely, and a record of each painting’s first layers - often found in the edges - providing a glimpse into how the surface was built
These stages of process are essential to Komarin’s finished paintings as layers allow for a sense of the artist’s hierarchy illuminating which areas of space were reclaimed or which remained from the start honoring his instinctive manner of painting. The overall dominant color in his work varies widely from piece to piece - a chalky grey to an electric green to an intense disquieting pink – all operate in tandem to accentuate the drawn aspects of a work as well as those larger comprehensive passages which remain unobstructed. While it is typical to read open space or background as secondary to the line or forms that share the canvas, in Komarin’s vision all is equal. It is also of note that the artist challenges the usual perceptions regarding color. In Swiss Positions, the sweetness of the pink is upturned by bold, unrecognizable peripheral forms while in The Far Field, the highly charged, vibrant green becomes contemplative in part due to the nuanced surface quality of its open space and activated surrounds. For The Vicar’s Wife in Grey with Orange, the additions of color and the cartoon-like encroachments ignite the otherwise monochromatic grey palette. This sort of balance within Komarin’s work creates the opportunity for free association and interpretive engagement unique for each viewer.
The artist’s connection to the self-cancelling or unfinished mark of provisional painting, which considers the potency of imperfection and the state of being incomplete, leads to unexpected visual collisions. Questioning conformity and the usual perceptions of seeing gives way to Komarin’s irreverent brand of poetry while challenging the viewer to abandon the familiar for the unfamiliar. Komarin’s titles such as The National Sizing Survey or the Principles and Practices of General Anesthesiology, also give insight into this same manner as they suggest a kind of implausible narrative. The titles are not intended to signal anything specific; rather, they hold the mind open to another way of entering the work. Komarin recalls his mentor, Philip Guston, saying: “I paint what I don’t know instead of what I do know” – a sentiment that rings true for the artist and serves to affirm his natural self-defining inclinations.
Gary Komarin’s authenticity prompts the resistance of labels and inherently discourages the narrowing of perceptions; a kind of philosophy to be applied to art or the experience of the world around.
Gary Komarin has an M.F.A. from Boston University, a B.A. from Albany State University along with additional studies at the Brooklyn Museum School and the New York Studio School. Awarded the prestigious Joan Mitchell Prize in painting, Komarin has also received the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship in Painting, New York, Elizabeth Foundation Prize in Painting, New York, Benjamin Altman Prize in Painting, National Academy of Design Museum, New York and The New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Painting. His work can be found in museum collections including: Denver Art Museum; Musee Kiyoharu Shirakaba, Hokuto-city, Yamanashi, Japan; Musée D’art Mougins, Mougins, France; Museum of Fine Arts, Corpus Christi, TX; Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX; Boise Art Museum, Idaho; Montclair Art Museum, NJ; Noyes Art Museum, Oceanville, NJ; Zimmerli Museum, New Hyde Park, NJ; Arkansas Museum of Contemporary Art, Little Rock, AK; Boston University Art Museum; Yoshii Foundation Collection, Tokyo, Japan, as well as many significant private and corporate collections. Komarin maintains an expansive world-wide exhibition schedule with many solo exhibitions in Zurich and Basel, Switzerland, London, England, Kiyoharu, Japan, Dubai, UAE, and New York, among others. Gary Komarin is featured in the documentary film entitled Still, directed by Colorado filmmakers Amie Knox and Chad Herschberger which relates Clyfford Still’s contribution to American art and the influence of Abstract Expressionism on generations of distinguished artists like Gary Komarin.