In an exhibit opening May 6 at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, N.Y., entitled Postscript, Connecticut artist Karen Vogel summons the symbolism of print, typography, and architectural and organic forms “to explore the monumental shifts that have emerged from the breakdown of social cohesion—the infrastructure that supports social structure and communication that links us as social beings.”
The painter and printmaker has developed her own personal language of visual cyphers that point to the erosion of once valued formal systems of communication and social interaction. Vogel’s strikingly graphic works, which exalt paper, begin with the structure of hand-cut text stencils, and evolve through layers of multiple forms, textures, patterns, and processes. Forms are printed or painted, removed, covered, uncovered, overlapped, deleted, repeated, built-up and broken-down.
The resulting interplay of positive and negative spaces generates tension between cohesion and disorder. In the process, Vogel manages to create the feeling of wave-like movement and a sense of musicality to that flow. “I’m tying to create some order,” says the artist, who lives in Darien and maintains a studio in Norwalk. “The letters don’t mean anything. There are no words. I’m interested in the shapes.” How they intertwine and interact embodies the essential bond between order and chaos—the bond being dissolved by the discontents of Digital Age technology.
Taking inspiration from Stuart Davis, the artist’s works, with a whisper of homage to Charles DeMuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold,” and a sense of Mondrian’s particular boogie-woogie, also indirectly reference the brilliance of poet Wallace Stevens, who cites “the maker’s rage to order words of the sea” in the poem “The Idea of Order at Key West.”
Vogel artistically “rages” in ordering elements signifying the importance of the structured communication and social cohesion that held society together in earlier eras. It’s a quietly powerful rage that shows reverence for formal elements—and one that might suggest a mental soundtrack for viewing Postscript, the chorus of Led Zeppelin’s hit song “Communication Breakdown”: Communication breakdown/It's always the same/I'm having a nervous breakdown/Drive me insane!
Society’s had the nervous breakdown, and Karen Vogel is using her talent as an artist to try to restore some order.
Vogel has studied painting and drawing at The Art Students League, The Corcoran College of Art and Design, The San Francisco Art Institute and The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk. Her prints and paintings have been featured in museums and galleries across the country, including the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, the Center for Contemporary Printmaking, Fairfield University and the Brooklyn Front Gallery.