Monday, May 13, 2019

Retinal Poetry

Retinal Poetry

"Fourier" (detail - courtesy Canton Museum)

"Archimedes" (detail - courtesy Canton Museum)


"Boole" (top), and "Cachy"


"De Laplace"

By Tom Wachunas

   “The eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift. One moment, there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.”   - Bridget Riley

   EXHIBIT: Organized Ambiguity – Gridworks of David Kuntzman / On view through July 21, 2019 at The Canton Museum of Art, 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio / 330.453.7666 / Viewing hours: Monday – Closed; Tuesday - Thursday - 10am-8pm; Friday - Saturday - 10am-5pm; Sunday - 1pm-5pm /

   In the mid-1960s. the emergence of Optical, or Retinal painting (named “Op Art” after the first major New York show  by Cleveland-based Julian Stanczak in 1964) signaled a dramatic shift in thinking about the presence of the painter’s hand – the unique, expressively charged mark – on a two-dimensional plane. This new genre of abstraction essentially eschewed the visceral, individualized painted gesture in favor of smooth surfaces and tight compositional rigidity that often suggested associations with science or technology. More importantly, Op Art embraced the physicality and psychology of the very act of seeing. Op paintings are often quite hypnotic in their playfulness, their sheer illusionism, their delightful tendency to tease and disorient our perceptions.

   In that capacity, David Kuntzman is an inveterate trickster, a gamesman of the highest order. His acrylic canvases, named after mathematicians, are  multifocal gems of pictorial ambiguity rendered with alluring exactitude. These are elaborate, complex fields – at once dense and airy - of variably scaled grids that intersect, collide, or otherwise overlap in contrasting angles. Vibrant patterns that dance, tilting and teetering in elegant pirouettes.

  Kuntzman is a remarkable colorist. His fully saturated hues can produce a sensation of electrified oscillation. And for all their architectonic precision and geometric solidity, the repeated motifs have an uncanny life about them, a pulse. They breathe. All those intricate planes are joined into retinal matrices of fascinating rhythms. They seem to float in and out of focus in an implied infinity, as if carried on a cosmic wind. Even his monochromatic paintings are imbued with subtle vacillations in illusory light, reflected and refracted amidst indeterminate spatial depth.

   Despite appearances, I don’t think the ultimate goal of Kuntzman’s paintings was limited to something so prosaic as meticulously painted grids.  Beautiful as they are, the grids are simple portals to a more transcendent aesthetic experience. In the end, it’s an experience rising from an unfettered desire to be enthralled by the act, the event, of seeing. Kuntzman has articulated that experience with exquisite finesse.  

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