New York

Katherine Porter

David McKee Gallery

Katherine Porter’s early work resembled the design esthetic of Micronesian textiles where an overall pattern in large geometrics is established by the weaver and is then interrupted by inserts of smaller versions of the larger design. The inserts in Porter’s paintings differ frequently from the textiles in their ultimate effect. They rend the flatness of her edge-to-edge painterly zig-zag system, breaking down the textilelike quality of the surface, and allow an illusion of space passing through sections of her canvases.

Imitating Agnes Martin spiritually if not actually, when Porter moved from Boston to New Mexico in 1972, she also moved away from her hot colors and zig-zags, without wholly abandoning them, and began to utilize grids and a more subdued palette while retaining her brushy application of paint. Her grids, such as the type she calls Palimpsest, are fibrous and animate as if they were conduits of energy like an electrified fence. At their most mechanical, it is as if Porter is a cartographer marking out the painting surface in a way similar to a surveyor’s measurement of the land, for future development.

Deliberate disruption is the key concept in Porter’s new work. Just as breaking down the zig-zag system was an important element in her earlier paintings, she now attacks the grid. First, she merely imposed painted squares, generally in pairs, on top of the grid. Next she began to cross out the grid (and by extension the painting) by placing large strongly drawn x’s on top of the squares. The x’s carry the usual connotation of x-ing something out, repudiating the material, that is the paint underneath. The x’s also signify a personal-ownership type of marking, such as brands or graffiti, which declares, “This is mine.”

Porter’s 1975 paintings such as Grey Square and September 11, 1973 come back from a stark gestural marking to a more complicated painting surface which combines an underlying ghost-grid, the x’s, and a system of overlapping rectangles operating within an internal border which manipulate space in a Hans Hofmann, “push-pull” manner. The layering of the composition seems typical of a direction art is taking away from the unitary, single-take image toward denser, more complex structures.

Ann-Sargent Wooster