New York

Kim Do

Tatistcheff & Co.

Kim Do, who works with the Hudson River literally in his backyard, has succeeded in turning the metaphysically toned objective style of landscape painting made famous by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Martin Johnson Heade to his own ends. Taking the winding creeks, mountainous terrains, and woods of upstate New York as his inspirations, he gives this “archetypal” picturesque scenery an intriguing contemporary twist, presenting icons that are at once emblematic of the awesome character of nature and problematic with regard to the idea of landscape as a form of symbolic representation.

In other words, while Do is clearly extending an invitation to enter into a colorful and atmospheric world of earthly delights, he seems also to be bent on exposing the sleight-of-hand artifice that supports this illusion. Do’s mode of description in a single composition can vary; the painting July, 1990, for example, is painterly in some areas and more meticulously detailed in others. In this idyllic summer landscape with a stream flowing through a lush, wooded setting, the vivid sensations of light shining on the water and flooding the countryside are particularly striking. In drawing attention, as he does here, to light’s role in illuminating form, Do also emphasizes the compositional aspect as it contributes to the illusion of spatial depth produced by the principles of perspective.

His passion for perspectival structures is especially evident in the paintings dealing with deliberate “big picture” formats such as the panorama. Empire Panorama (View of Olana), 1990, is characterized by Do’s masterful handling of the wide-angle vista, emphasizing the sky and rolling hills surrounding the famous house built by Frederic Church. The painting is a tour de force of perfect fit with respect to accommodating the size of the image to the shape of the support. Within this narrow horizontal format, Do suggests the great height at which Olana is perched above the Hudson River, overlooking the Catskill Mountains.

In another panoramic composition, The Confluence of the Westkill and Schoharie Creeks, 1988, the shifting shape of the meeting ground of these waterways is given dramatic expression in the curving planes depicting the swells and depressions of the creek beds.

Still, it is in the tondos that Do gives his architectonic impulses full reign, enabling a total reconstruction of the traditional window on nature idea of landscape. Circle Painting No. 2, 1990, a work with a 60-inch diameter, is a fascinating depiction of sky, land, and water including a part of the same terrain treated in The Confluence panorama. The illusion here of 360-degree orbital movement is positively dazzling, as nature’s splendors unfold in a never-ending and all-enveloping spectacle.

Ronny Cohen