San Francisco

Karl Kasten

Very often a graphic period is an experimental phase which sometimes completely alters subsequent work in an artist’s major media. Karl Kasten was working in a very painterly way when I last saw his paintings. I did see a show of his collotypes which I thought were both experimental and resolved, though a distant leap from the paintings. Now he is back to painting and the results are at the Bolles Gallery, this time with acrylic and metal leaf and hard-edged forms which tend to project themselves as solids in a void, though they do also lend themselves to being read as the inside warp of the form’s space, or one part solid and the other open. The relation of the parts to their space does not necessarily impart the information that one part is certainly in front of the other; they could be light years apart or contiguous. One line or edge comes out of one corner of each painting and the others are free of any references to the paintings’ edges or corners. The leaf (both gold and silver) is laid on over a painted surface with texture or emblem which shows up like an embossed or cast thing; sometimes the embossing goes in and sometimes it is raised, sometimes both within the same painting. The tonal equation is very dramatic. Those are the factors which persist and form the basis for the style. I expect more development of the colors; remembering some of the color richness of the looser and more Expressionist-oriented work, I anticipate more interesting color than he is showing us now. It is probably the dramatic tonality that tends to thwart the spatial variability, and vibrant color is the natural threshold for such changes.

Knute Stiles