When we say something is grounded, we mean it’s firmly fixed and stable. That makes it something reliable and something safe – both desired qualities of many objects. When we say a person is grounded, however, responses can be mixed. For some, a grounded person is also stable and solid, immovable and without lofty ideals or conceit. While these traits are favorable under many circumstances, they can also be limiting – chaos, after all, is the breath of life.  When anarchy unearths and destabilizes, the world becomes exhilarating, even terrifying, and when one becomes untethered, the vast unknown can become known, and what lies ahead is neither predictable nor safe.

Stacy Davies (2014)
"Grounded" Essay
Read the full essay (PDF file) here.

 

Rock and Soul Bishop Al Green made the phrase famous when, in 1974, he penned his legendary sexual/religious anthem to being in love with an underage girl (a song he removed from his repertoire when he became a minister). Morality aside, “Take me to the river,” both in song and in spirituality, denotes the physical and emotional desire to be cleansed of one’s former self, and to travel the path of truth—either by organizational dogma or personal doctrine. Artists are as familiar with this concept as anyone else, of course, and could argue that they’re even more emotionally entrenched in the war of dismantling preconceptions of self and exposing that vulnerable inner light—or at least that they’re better at expressing it than, say, a corporate CEO.

Stacy Davies (2013)
IE Weekly Review
"Take Me to the River"
Quad Gallery, Riverside Community College
Read the full review (PDF file) here.

 

There’s no center to the larger than life-size “Seeing,” No edge, no modeling, no focal point. Nothing in the composition embarks the eye on some pictorial excursion. It is what it is what it is. Nothing is foregrounded: any difference between negative and positive space is not apparent. Everything pulses like stars in a desert sky (or like a morning moon adjacent to a midday sun), some closer, some further, all in motion, though not apparently so. There’s no entry point to the piece, just a surface ripple made up of roiling pictorial activity. Any discernible form - a roof, a window, a mesa, a person - is diffused by light, so we look at fragments that appear out of nowhere, some starkly realized, some relegated to the pictorial haze. There’s no transition from in-to-out, out-to-in. It’s like looking out through a gauze curtain on a brilliant sunny day. The color scheme (yellow, mostly, white, occasionally black), in fact, suggests a diaphanous veil which suggests revealing, which is what the work is all about.

James Scarborough (2009)
“The Rhapsody of Always-Is”, catalog essay
Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center Gallery

Read the full essay (PDF File) here.

 

Karen Kauffman’s paintings reawaken the raw vitality of Abstract Expressionism, but also acknowledge the structural soundness that underlay the expansive gestures of the Action Painters of a half-century ago. Kauffman builds up her own paintings out of many brushstrokes, some broad, more short, quick, and very deliberately placed. Even in her most open canvases, where black strokes course and swirl on white backgrounds like Asian calligraphy freed from its structures, Kauffman exercises a meticulous care, laying down the strokes in exactly the right places. In her more characteristic multicolor works, she accrues myriad little strokes into dense, flickering skeins of paint. These seem to congeal into urban jungles where vegetation and/or habitation multiplies uncontrollably. On occasion, figures seem to emerge from these impossibly intense webs of energy; but they don’t get far before the tulmult reabsorbs them. But, especially in her latest work, Kauffman makes explicit none of these apparent motifs. The viewer is left to find, or sense, or even project such subject matter. Kauffman herself is interested in conveying simply a surge of abstract sensation, one that ricochets around each painting.

Peter Frank (2006)
“ Ethereal”

Download PDF file of Peter Frank's Review here.


© All words and images: Karen Kauffman, 2006.
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