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final cat

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final cat

  1. 1. May 26 – June 25, 2016 KarenArm Light+Heavy
  2. 2. Karen Arm (b. 1962) lives and works in Brooklyn and Shelter Island, NY. This is her sixth exhibition with P·P·O·W since 1999. Arm received her BFA from The Cooper Union in 1985, and while there, spent a semester studying at the Tyler School of Art in Rome. Arm graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in 1989. Arm was the managing editor of The Book of Symbols (Archives for Research in Archetypal Symbolism), published by Taschen in 2010. In 2002 she received a New York Foundation for the Arts Award for Painting. Arm’s works were shown in the United States Embassy in Burma from 2012–16.
  3. 3. Darkness Within Light By Jamie Sterns What is five years? That depends on the context. It can be an eternity or it can be a blip. In the context of the universe it is a sliver of nothing. In the context of someone’s life it can change everything. Five years is how long it has been since Karen Arm has had a solo exhibition and in those five years she has lived life and has produced a new body of work that reflects and questions what time can mean. When looking at these new works one might not think too much has changed for Arm, as they are a continuation of her oeuvre. She makes paintings and drawings that cull from the elemental: smoke, earth, water, and stars. And her processes are extraordinary in the techniques used to create them. She layers colors and glazes – dozens of them – and builds an almost reptilian like skin, whose buried luminosity is only revealed with a final rubbing away of the accumulated layers. The results are transfixing, the themes subtle; but these are not just pretty paintings and drawings of the earthly and celestial. They are abstractions in the highest form as they contain the essence of their representation. Each line, each point of color, each mark, is both nothing and everything – both infinite and insignificant. This duality is what makes Arm’s works timeless and relevant, as they reflect the condition of existing in both its ceaselessness and its beauty. The focuses within this show are her ‘sun’ and ‘radiating wave’ paintings. They have no obligated title or description but can be categorized as such for thematic exploration. The suns are a mass of colored points that in their accumulation, and the way in which Arm creates them, are transformed into luminescent orbs. They radiate both inwardly and externally and feel suspended in zero gravity. Their density is dizzying and they produce both a feeling of the meditative and the ecstatic. They are alive and their light hits you in your chest and guts. They make the room quieter. They make you quieter and that calm feels both light and heavy. The scale of their effect is relational to the scale of the works. The larger paintings engulf you and you find yourself stepping towards and away from the painting’s surface in order to better understand what is happening within them and in turn you. The smaller drawings settle into your head and brain. Each dot is like a neuron and the luminosity being produced by them are like synapses connecting and firing. The radiating wave paintings create similar sensations. Produced by simple singular waved lines that meet at a central point, these works pulse and make concentric illusions that ripple out beyond the picture plane. Taking reference from Buddhist imagery of a radiating heart, these pieces are a new iconographic symbol for Arm. The relationship to the body is felt through the flesh in viewing these works. The feeling of the auric and the diffusion of energy create an echo like sensation. The pulsing is multi-directional, self-feeding and is both generative and devouring. This sense, of devouring and moments of darkness, is what complicates Arms paintings and drawings. These are undoubtedly beautiful, transfixing, and gorgeous works in their seduction of color and technical feats but they are also unnerving in what else they expose. The suns hint to this in the inclusion of dark points, moments within the cluster where there is an absorbing light source or a void. They seem insignificant but when you see how they unbalance the perfection of the whole, they become breaks in the tranquility. They create tears within the hallucinatory effects of the work but in turn make you realize that this is in fact a painting and that those marks are being made one stroke at a time. In the radiating waves, you sense the momentum of the unrelenting in the pulsations. They feel like sonic waves that absorb and emanate a never-ending sound. They consume energy as well as produce a Sisyphean loop. Both of these reveal that what you are seeing is labor and time but also that once they have been created they possess their own life force. The pieces in the show are also about nature and in turn the body. The way that they evoke feelings connects them with sensations within the body and in turn elevates and makes necessary their aesthetic and technical choices. The colors and forms are devices in producing these connections and make them internalized. Like nature, the body is a site of growth and of decay. The act of living is also the act of dying. Each body can be seen as a point of light whose glow does not necessarily
  4. 4. cease at its expiration. Seeing light/the body only has meaning in the context of darkness/living. One thing that differentiates and relativizes this existence is time. The time of living, the duration and time that light takes to travel within darkness. The line, the mark, and the dot are the sources of light in Arm’s work and the passage they travel is the volition of the life of that light. In this way, light equals bodies and in turn that equals life and in these works you can feel them breathing. You are in the presence of something that is alive. Five years is the amount of time Arm has lived while creating these works and they are invested with the energy and force of what that time contained. They exist because the artist does, but they go beyond just a practice, a new show, or a new body of work. They are extensions of this life lived but they are not biographies. They are universal but they are also abstractions of the symbolic. They are celestial but also about the flesh. When you look at these works, you do not think about the artist who made them, you do not think about the five years that have passed since you may have last seen her works en masse. Rather, you are reminded that life is deep and long and that time is relative and eternal. This is what makes Arm’s works complicated. They are both pushing and pulling, accumulating and flattening. They exist because they have to and because they must. They are reminders that without darkness there can be no light. Jamie Sterns (b.1981, Seoul, Korea) is based in New York City. She received a BFA from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and an MA from Goldsmiths University, London. She is a writer, blogger and curator and co-directs Interstate Projects in Brooklyn, New York. images front cover Untitled (Yellow and Red Sun on Blue) 2014 acrylic on canvas 48 × 40 inches inside front cover Untitled (Yellow-Orange Sun on Red) 2015 watercolor on paper 18 × 15 inches opposite page Untitled (Yellow Wavy Ray) 2016 acrylic and watercolor on paper 11 × 9 inches next page, left Untitled (Yellow Wavy Ray on Red) 2016 acrylic and watercolor on paper 18 × 15 inches inside back cover Untitled (Yellow and Green-Blue Sun on Black-Red) 2015 watercolor on paper 18 × 15 inches back cover Untitled (Green and Yellow Sun on Black Red) 2014 acrylic on canvas 48 × 40 inches inside back flap Karen Arm in her studio Photography by and special thanks to Christopher Gallo
  5. 5.  West nd St, rd Floor New York, NY  t 212   Copyright © 2016 by P·P·O·W. All rights reserved. Design by Phillip Niemeyer after Project Projects