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Greg King’s spiritual illuminations


Post by Rob Matthews
Greg King “Instilled”

The DIAlogue lectures at Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church (22nd/Mt. Vernon) brought Gregory King to speak this week. Greg has worn a few different art hats over the years. He started off as a painter (but who didn’t?) and has shifted away from that over the years. Now he creates videos, films, drawings and plays with the band called Rachel’s. The way I would best describe Rachel’s would be as an indie/experimental chamber orchestra. The band performs with films and videos King assembles for the music. They also have worked with theater and dance groups combining music, stage performance and film.

Greg King “Three Constants”

King’s talk showed the transition from his work as a painter entering Hunter College for his MFA to his current film/video work. His examination of space has changed as he has shifted from one medium to the other. His paintings were influenced by Kiefer (large scale infinite landscapes and cavernous interiors). See Three Constants, Timeline, Dialectic as examples. His palette shifted to a rich examination of blue at one point and those paintings were really satisfying even as a projected image.

Greg King “Cache” detail

Drawings such as Cache (2002), Gate and Excavation demonstrate his use of line to allude to architecture and his chops with perspective.

Greg King “Gate” detail

The use of buildings and city space took on a greater weight in his work when he moved from Kentucky to New York and now figure heavily into his film work. He’s also used the opportunity of travel to borrow from a variety of architectural periods in European history. See photographic works such as Continuum Paris and Continuum Hamburg as examples.

Greg King “Continuum Paris”

Diegesis (2003) was his bridge from painting to video. The painting was used to create the video (film stills of the individual rectangles in Diegesis were turned into a kind of animated video).
As King shifted from painting to video and Super 8, the space of his work became compressed. Part of this is the limitation of Super 8 to convey depth. Another reason seems to be the shift from creating singular painted statements of space to the use of time and traveling through the infinite rather than attempt to paint it in one shot.

Greg King “Diegesis”

King’s videos start with a solid concept but randomness also figures heavily into his practice. One film was the result of King walking the longest north-to-south stretch available in Manhattan shooting one film still at the corner of each block. He filmed walking both north and south directions. The film was exhibited with two projectors side-by-side to give it a somewhat symmetrical composition. The majority of King’s film works off this symmetrical format but with varying results. Some remain recognizably grounded in the city skyline seen from a low vantage point. Others become more ethereal and less recognizable.

Greg King “Duomo Frame by Frame” detail

Not being well-versed in video, my mind went to the end of 2001 with the mirrored used of landscapes as “special effects.” I won’t embarrass King by suggesting that was his intention. Pop culture has rotted my brain over the years.

He has also taken that dialogue between the painting and video of Diagesis and turned it to the combination of print and film. Duomo Frame By Frame takes every film still from a video made at the Duomo and combines them into one print. The same method is used from a video he made shooting the landscape of Italy from a moving train as he traveled from Rome to Florence. Eileen Neff’s Locks Gallery show with her photos of the whizzing NJ landscape came to mind.

Randomness occurs in such works as Blackout (2003) in which King captured a lot of footage from the blackout in NYC that year. The accompanying score by Rachel’s lends the Super 8 footage a Depression-era quality that enhances atypical shots of Times Square completely darkened and a lifeless, unlit skyline.

Thematically, King talked about his work in terms of physical vs spiritual- taking what is considered to be a cold idea of architectural space and examining the metaphysical potential. Light seems to be the element used to convey that sense of mystery and unknown. He also related personal information (how his work shifted after 9/11, etc) and how that personal relation to space affected his work.

I gauge the success of a lecture by how many questions are asked at the end. For instance, I rarely get a lot of questions. This means that I usually bomb. King could have fielded questions well into the night but he was saved by Dayton at the end. As with all DIAlogue gatherings, there were open studios that followed the lecture.

The next DIAlogue lecture is February 17th and the lecturer will be NY-based photographer John Silvis.
If you have any questions or if anyone wants to be put on the mailing list for announcements concerning this, write to

–Rob Matthews is a frequent Artblog contributor. You can see one of his “Word Made Flesh Made Graphite” drawings in “Fine Line” at Adam Baumgold Gallery.