Impressionism Steeped in American Vistas

David Korty’s energized paintings transport

the viewer with an evocation of master work

courtesy of Greene Naftali Gallery.

Painter David Korty transports us to a dreamy, hazy Los Angeles in his second solo exhibition at Green Naftali.

These are beautiful, complex paintings. Languid, nearly sweet from afar, veils of atmospheric conceit quickly reveal the true parts of these parcels—buzzing neon bits and energized, sometimes twitchy, brushwork. In this series of untitled paintings, the vistas, like the thick air, are definitely Southern Californian—each with a parenthetical description. Cars, garages, houses, and dense foliage are stacked upon each other depicting a colony of contemporary cliff dwellers in one. Sleek, open-eave architecture tops off a hillside dump, streaming with trash in another. Space is open, easy, and abundant. Distance is a possibility made real. And people, when they show up, are little outlined participants in a grander, cooler notion of cultural activity.

Each image, composed within the frame of filmic cropping, clearly begins with a camera shot. But that memory is useful only in providing context. Korty clearly loves to record gesture and material process, however small or seemingly inconsequential. The thinnest of pastel acrylic washes reveal the dark linen ground below, allowing us to track every splayed brush wiggle, every colored pencil shading and ruled line. Korty appreciates the eye’s ability to coalesce these fragments into light, space, and an observed reality. He’s been called a contemporary impressionist and is compared to optical master Seurat.

That premise is sound, but these works are perhaps closer to the patterned accumulations of Vuillard, not nearly in their intimacy and domesticity, but rather in their love of fractured decorative motifs and the potent relationship of the parts to the whole. The roots are surely European, but this is an American enterprise. Korty’s study of the Santa Monica Pier seems to intentionally upend a Prendergast New England waterfront scene. While retaining the watercolorist’s delight in wet, washy media, Korty tips the balance of propriety by delivering skeins of drips and bursts of white pigment, wet on wet.

Pulling out for a long shot, human forms turn into dim specks, marking the distance between east and west coasts, and a century of painting. Korty mixes the panoramic proposition of the Hudson River School with the conscripted Impressionism of Hassam and The Ten, and then drives it––fast––through the 20th century. Photo, film, and the exposure of Process Art splat on the windshield while painting drives off into the sunset.

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