Columbus, Ohio USA
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Marcia Evans Gallery
Katherine Kadish's expansive art transforms small gallery space
By Ann Starr
July/August 2012 Issue

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Water Lilies

The Marcia Evans Gallery on Lincoln Street occupies a small space: Three people in the front gallery would need to move carefully to avoid intruding on one another, and two would do nicely in the back room, being mindful to remain separated by the large viewing table.

So how is it that these small spaces actually feel enlarged rather than overwhelmed by the presence of five large paintings and twelve framed monotype prints, closely hung, each rich in color and bold in form, each the sort of work that calls out to the viewer and demands attention?

These are new paintings and monotypes by Ohio’s well-know veteran artist Katherine Kadish. Her reputation certainly precedes her to Lincoln Street. Over the years she’s had solo shows from New York to London, Seoul, and Nanjing. She’s been in group shows in many great museums, including the Philadelphia Art Museum, The Whitney in New York, and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

Kadish spends her time between Yellow Springs and New York City. Over the years she made one state or the other her home. As a citizen of Ohio, she has won an Ohio Arts Council Fellowship, been recognized by the State Senate for her contributions to visual arts in the state, and has had her work collected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The woman has a big reputation.

When you see Kadish’s work at Marcia Evans, you will understand both her reputation and how a large exhibit of her work can transform tiny rooms into an experience of spaciousness.

Most artists work in more than one way, and it’s always exciting to see their related work in different media, as here we see Kadish’s paintings and monotypes on the same floral subjects. Some would argue that monotype is simply another kind of painting, which is partially true: It’s a mixture of painting and printmaking.

Instead of painting on canvas or paper, the monotype artist paints on a sheet of non-absorbent material, such as Plexiglas. The slick, hard surface takes the paint very differently than porous surfaces do, and the paint moves fluidly. The work is printed onto paper in a press. Only an impression can be made, for the paint is all taken up by the paper. The artist can use the plate again, to add further layers of paint to the image, but ultimately there is only the one resulting work. It’s produced like a print, but like a painting, there is a single result.

Monotype is a particularly free way to work. Monotypes can be executed quickly; they tend to bring out an artist’s intuitions. Painting on canvas, on the other hand, thought to be the “queen” of fine arts, allows the artist to take lots of time – to conceive, plan, revise, and to let the paint and the evolution of ideas lead her through a time-consuming process. Paintings on canvas can take a week or a month or years to complete.

For that reason, drawings and monotypes – quickly made works on subjects similar to an artist’s paintings – are usually thought to be either preparatory or “lesser” works than the paintings, which are considered the artist’s “mature” or “fully realized” expressions.

In Kadish’s “New Works,” I find this relationship of painting and monotype to be reversed. Her paintings, which dominate the front room of the Marcia Evans Gallery, are expressed in tinted colors. Kadish likes to pair dark secondary colors (greens and reds) with dark primaries (red and blue), but to lift them by blending all with white. She places these against yellows, violets, greens, and russets that are tinted such that they appear neutral. Her painting pallet, then, has an earthy, ripe-fruit color appeal with sorrowful undertones created by washed-out tints. In her painting, the colors never achieve full intensity. Among and by means of large floral forms on sinuous stems, she creates a world in which nature is slightly fallen. There is an elegiac feel to her paintings in which flowers (and one Blue Ladder) float against ambiguous backgrounds of misty space or, in the case of Diptych, against an infinite garden of similar shapes receding, ironically, from darkness into light.

Kadish’s monotypes are where the ambiguities and open-endedness of the paintings turn into decisiveness, rigor, and boldness. The tinted colors give way to saturated ones. The smaller sizes of the prints yield stricter compositions with tighter focus: The works are succinct in the way that suggests that painting allows her to refine her big ideas until they become hard and gemlike. Then, through the directness of the monotype process, she delivers everything straight: brilliant color, precisely edited form, and high impact – all of which comes naturally for perhaps having been examined at length and leisure, through painting.

Highlights of Kadish’s new work include the painting Water Lilies which showcases her ability with nuanced composition. She foregrounds three dark flat flowers that float near the top of the canvas, each trailing a long ghostly white stem. These are placed against a background of magnified floral shapes, giving us the illusion of seeing the (small) whole superimposed on extravagantly large details. The warm colors and simple shapes of the lily pads neutralize the uneasy effect of the white stems – yet those white forms can’t be overlooked, remaining like slightly sinister slices through a lovely bouquet.

The viewer will instantly compare this painting to the monotype Lilies 2, which incorporates the same shapes, but in layers, with stems staggered across and through the picture rather than running parallel. Kadish lets her red and blue remain undiluted so that they pop brilliantly from the paper. Each color, in fact, creates its own zone of power while still admitting other colors through, and inviting relationship to its neighbors. In this, as in all Kadish’s monotypes, I have a strong sense of her having digested and refined subject, color, and form to their essences to deliver us the satisfying Last Word.

As for the size of Evans’ tiny gallery?

It feels big, filled with Kadish’s work, because the monotypes, especially, draw one into spaces of their own making. We step through literal boundaries into new landscapes of both microscopic and vast proportions, where color and form transform us to fit.

“New Works by Katherine Kadish” continues through July 30 in Marcia Evans Gallery, 8 East Lincoln St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment. Call 614-298-8847.

If you enjoyed this article, visit Ann Starr’s blog where she reviews and muses about her experience with contemporary fine art and music.

© 2012 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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