Robischon Gallery is pleased to present four concurrent solo exhibitions of formal abstraction featuring paintings by New York artist Don Voisine, Jason Karolak and Deborah Zlotsky, and sculpture by New Mexico artist Ted Larsen. Each distinctive solo artist on view engages in abstraction through an individual line of inquiry surrounding the question of spatial illusion. Varied vocabularies and applications are revealed as the artists investigate the nature of their respective two or three-dimensional realms by utilizing dynamic linear systems, exuberant color and the repetition of geometric or curvilinear forms. Through the specific means of each artist’s progressive practice, the expansive territory of Modernist thinking is further considered, re-contextualized and illuminated.
Dedicated to a reductive abstract vocabulary of hard-edged geometric painting, recognized New York artist Don Voisine mines the possibilities of his signature small scale works to create taut, architectural, and elegant compositions, activated by nuance and spacial tension. Writer Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times states, “Don Voisine has developed his brand of highly synthetic abstraction for more than 30 years with a process illuminating the rich fusion of Modernist sources with a meticulous exploration of the mechanics of painting.” Voisine’s hyper-focused abstractions executed in oil on panel explore the seemingly limitless possibilities of a standard format of overlapping geometric fields. These dominant, centralized fields of black are layered and articulated by directional brushwork, in both matte and glossy textures. Their bold forms are laid over neutral grounds ranging from cool whites to creamy, warmer tones and bracketed by bands of charged, or contrasting, unexpected color. Despite the amount of visual weight each painting accumulates, the compositions communicate a strong sense of contained space and underlying movement. Voisine states, “I’ve always strived for an “essence,” whether of place or of a specific space, that’s part of what initially appealed to me about abstract art.” Through shifting light or by proximity to each surface, the various elements in the artist’s iconic scale works, such as the white and the range of matte or glossy black, can often be read simultaneously as either positive or negative. The contrasting potent colored borders further ignite the black forms and allow for playful suggestion and the subjective as their boundaries are pushed. Writer Roberta Smith further states, “Within their prosceniumlike borders, Mr. Voisine’s dark geometries enact telling dramas of texture, shape, symmetry, color, edge and light – in effect, all of painting’s grand illusions – especially when given your undivided attention.”
Don Voisine attended the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine and the Rochester Institute of Technology, His work is in numerous permanent collections including: Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, University of Richmond Museum, Richmond, VA, Missoula Art Museum, Missoula, MT, National Academy Museum, New York, NY, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA and the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME. He was the recipient of the 2011 Purchase Prize, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Purchase Fund Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, 2008 Henry Ward Ranger Fund Purchase Award, National Academy Museum, New York and a 2006 Artist’s Fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, among others.
Inherent in the sculptural work of New Mexico’s Ted Larsen, is both the history of his salvaged industrial metals and a questioning of specific movements in art history. Larsen actively engages the eye of the viewer by generously allowing for a sense of history of his materials and revealing aspects of how his sculptures are built – exposed plywood support structures or riveted systems, the artist’s hand is always present. Intellectually, there is full engagement as the artist questions through form and manner, the accepted tenets of such art movements as Geometric Abstraction, Minimalism, Op Art or Constructivism. While Larsen’s work is located between the abstract and reductive, its expressive wit and use of materials such as scrap metal from junked boats, weathered cars and demolished architectural structures, playfully remove the restrictions of art theory. Simultaneously, the work can also be experienced as reflective of theory, depending on the desired depth of investigation. Larsen’s small and larger scale wall and floor sculptures are thoughtfully and beautifully made, often with equal intent to recall the improvisational – a method of process ingeniously summed up in the title of this solo exhibition: “Handmade Mechanicals.”
The artist states: “The works I create supply commentary on minimalist belief systems and the ultimate importance of High Art practice. An artist’s work usually adheres to the construct of a cohesive direction with the work illustrating a single theme or underscoring a didactic agenda. But such a logical order has no specific place in my studio practice. Introducing alternative and salvage materials to my own formally driven abstract sculpture, I hope to bring purist shapes and surfaces back down to earth. I quest for new materials, “non-art materials” to create my work. I am constructing bricolage works in order to re-purpose the materials and re-identify their meanings: to re-contextualize and re-label the idea of Ready-mades. It is my on-going experimentation with contexts, hybrids, and scale. The works keep possession of pleasing formality and visceral elegance while making fun of modernist purity.”
Ted Larsen graduated magna cum laude from Northern Arizona University. A recipient of the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant Award, the Edward Albee Foundation Residency Fellowship and an Artist Stipend Award, Wichita Falls Arts Council, Wichita Falls, Texas and the Surdna Foundation, New York, New York, Educational Travel Grant, Larsen’s work is in the collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, The Edward F. Albee Foundation, Proctor & Gamble, The Bolivian Consulate, Reader’s Digest, PepsiCo, The University of Miami, Krasel Art Center, Dreyfus Funds, JP Morgan Chase, Forbes and Pioneer Hi-Bred, Inc. Larsen was also chosen to be the United States representative at the Asilah Arts Festival, Asilah, Morocco in 2011.
Transforming linear mark-making into dimensional forms, New York artist Jason Karolak paints structures of repeating geometric and curvilinear configurations in networks of vivid florescent hues on rich, matte black backgrounds. The presence of the drawn mark is central to Karolak’s work, providing a tension between linear irregularities and a sense of the grid, whether in small, medium or larger figural scale arenas. Relating to the human body in space, the work creates illusory shifts as the eye follows each boldly-painted registration. Karolak recalls, “I moved to Brooklyn in 1994 to study at Pratt Institute. That was life altering, in terms of my exposure to the urban environment. My interest in bright color, fragments of the ephemeral every day, and sound and music came out of being in Fort Greene in the mid-1990’s. I was playing basketball (in the parks and on the team at Pratt), listening to hip hop, and painting. Ideas of sampling and fragmentation were a part of the conversations we were having. In our lives today, we often have to figure out ways to consciously be present in our physical bodies since the engagement of the body is an important issue in relation to technology and media and how we process images…I want my experience of the physical world to find its way into the work.” Karolak’s on-going examination is reflected in the alive pacing of each subtle and contrasting stroke of color or varied black, as his compressed or open armatures hover and glow within the inky darkness. The artist’s architectonic yet organic frameworks are further supported by the overlapping brushwork of their dark grounds, revealing an acute spatial awareness. With intent to puzzle the eye, the charged, intermittent color along the edges of the paintings, pronounce and purposefully undermine a clear reading of each artwork’s rectangular contour, as numerous abbreviated brushstrokes redirect both entry and exit. Such distinctive and divergent spatial perspectives explored in Jason Karolak’s work, embrace the expansive possibilities inherent in abstraction from figure/ground transitions to perpetually-conceived structural unfoldings.
Jason Karolak holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from Pratt Institute. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Art in America along with numerous recognized online art sources such as Hyperallergic, among others, while his teaching outreach encompasses both artist residencies and lectures at universities, print houses and exhibitions at galleries nationwide.
Deborah Zlotsky's boldly painted volumetric forms are paired with planes of bright, shape-shifting color. Densely layered and meticulously composed, the geometric elements which fold and twist inside-out across her canvases, emanate from the artist's keen observations of the commonplace – visually described by Zlotsky’s as similar to "a tangled pile of laundry or the way the light filters through my grandmother's apartment." Her painted elements feel equally activated – built, yet fluid - as they begin to deconstruct and reemerge in colors of saturated blues, flat grays, lush pinks or acid yellows. At the same time, elements of her graphite drawing practice of creating organic, interconnecting forms or inexplicable shapes occasionally merge with her colorful paintings where quirky pictorial structures connect and support the painted geometric elements. The artist states, "My process is discovering unintended proximities and relationships, of finding logic and meaning in the unique situation as it emerges. Accidents repeatedly redirect me, blurring my understanding of the difference between accident and intention. I look for anomalies as I rearrange, reassemble and make myriad adjustments. Eventually, the confusion of relationships slipping out of balance begins to create new structures and forms. These shifts and accumulations become a way for me to respond to the necessity of change and the beauty of and complexity of living. In my work, I am interested in systems and languages emerging from the accumulation of visual relationships in continual revision. For me, the daily anxiety of multi-tasking, absorbing new contingencies and having infinite access to information is acknowledged, but also mitigated by the adjustments and repairs I make.” Vibrant and immediate, structured and contained, is the condition of shifting opposites inherent in all of Deborah Zlotsky’s work. Each animated painting exuberantly rides the edge of abstraction while alluding to the nature of the world that surrounds.
Currently teaching at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Deborah Zlotsky has a BA from Yale University and an MFA from the University of Connecticut. She has received numerous residency fellowships including: New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Yaddo, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, VCCA, Ox-Bow, and Millay Colony for the Arts, Ragsdale Foundation, Weir Farm Art Center and the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts. Zlotsky exhibits across the country and has her work included in both corporate and private collections including the Albany Institute of History and Art, Nordstroms, Rutgers University and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, among others.