New York

David Korty

David Korty is quickly gaining a reputation for paintings imbued with the woozy atmospherics of Los Angeles, city of smog and sunshine. Recently, however, he has branched out to include scenes from Chicago and New York, for his first solo show in the latter city—calming compositions, notwithstanding their Day-Glo colors and hallucinogenic vibe.

The first, busiest painting, Museum of Natural History (all works 2001), is set in the New York landmark’s Hall of Biodiversity. Two blue-shadow human figures stand out against a splendid tapestry of life forms (yet are separated from the display by a railing, subtly reinforcing their position at the top of the food chain), while the foreground’s reflective floor becomes an abstract fugue of squiggles and spots in blue, yellow, and purplish red. Nightscape, in contrast, is a dreamy blizzard of white spatters on a gray background, magically conjuring the glittering outlines of several New York skyscrapers. Here Korty’s approach recalls Turner’s late landscapes, limning the barest suggestion of representation from abstraction. The upwarddirected perspective was perfect, highlighting the buildings’ hugeness (and the city’s), but their towering luminosity also evoked a now-poignant sense of comfort.

Three paintings on another wall were linked by their focus on the effects of blinding sun and haze. Dept. of Water and Power shows an ugly landmark of ’60s urban renewal, the facade’s relentless grid of acid yellow, blue, and orange interrupted by a cluster of palm trees in the left foreground. In Capitol Records, the titular building (another iconic LA institution and a kitsch standard of sorts) was placed slightly off-center, giving a pair of floodlights on the left, a mechanism supposed to draw attention to the structure, almost as much presence as the building itself. These works flanked Tree, with its brazen Klimtesque dazzle, its blue trunk and branches extending upward and outward to abstracted, confetti-like bursts of leaves and blossoms. As if to counter the subject’s quasi-spiritual Tree of Life energy, a rigid gray office budding lurks dully in the distance.

Circle Line shows another New York institution, the Ellis Island ferry, festooned with streamers; the hazily painted boat itself recedes somewhat, blending with the blue and white of the sky above and water below. The show ends as it began, with some human figures, here lounging in an urban meadow in Chicago under a sky that shifts from a pale pink to the lightest of blues at the top. Hyde Park is a Sunday on La Grande Jatte for the twenty-first century, a quietly utopian scene that stands in stark contrast to the buildings and smokestacks in the distance.

With its colored-pencil details lifted from underlying acrylic washes, Korty’s work stands out from the vogue for the latter-day Pop stylings of precise taped-off forms and cheerful superficiality. His is a more languorous vision, with a well-honed sensibility for light and temperature that carefully distinguishes, say, the milky haze enveloping the Capitol Records headquarters from the harsh sun on the Department of Water and Power building. Though Korty takes off on traditions ranging from ancient Chinese landscape painting and nineteenth-century Impressionism to Ed Ruscha’s mystical urbanism, the result feels fresh and of its time: modem pleasures rendered with postironic romanticism and old-fashioned technical panache.

Julie Caniglia