Drawing closer to uncertainty — Kit White at Andre Zarre

[Andrea examines why painter Kit White has recently radically changed his style–perhaps it’s a reflection on his environment. — the Artblog editors]

In his recent paintings, on exhibit at Andre Zarre Gallery, New York through May 10, 2014, Kit White has pared his palette back to black, white, and gray. Each of the ostensibly abstract works has a horizon line, so that thinking of them as landscapes doesn’t seem overly interpretive. The artist sometimes drags a thick gray band of paint below the horizon, sometimes bringing it into the upper register as well, where several paintings have a light staccato of pale grey strokes that suggest atmosphere.

Reading between White’s lines

Kit White, “Clash,” oil on wood panel, 23″ x 27 1/2″., © the artist.

The paintings are the product of two distinct campaigns of work. The first is a modest drawing in pale gray, while the second and dominant stage is a series of inky black lines–drawings with paint that have some of the anxious quality of Philip Guston’s late work. Some of the gray, drawn forms have the rectilinearity of man-made structures, but most of White’s forms are either biometric or craggy, and some list in the manner of Tatlin’s “Monument to the Third International,” or icebergs about to sink. Smudges across the surfaces are artifacts of the painting process.

Kit White, “Chambers,” oil on wood panel, 23″ x 27 1/2″, © the artist.

White’s earlier work employed a broad palette. A guest at the opening, noting the change, thought the current paintings might reflect a cataclysmic event. That seemed a bit too strong to me; the scenes are stark and unpopulated and some of the forms suggest instability, as if they are about to topple, but others imply a slow movement of masses, evoking geological formation. They might be visions of formation rather than records of destruction.

The drawn lines, with faint evidence of earlier iterations, certainly betray effort and perhaps struggle, but no more than one might expect from any thoughtful painter who asks himself why he spends so much time and effort spreading colored mud in a sticky substance (John Brealey’s memorable description of paint) across a flat expanse. Nothing about painting is a given today, and White’s austere landscapes reflect the uncertainty of the times and the challenge of equitably supporting an increasingly interconnected world population, within a natural environment polluted in the interest of short-term goals.



Kit White: Recent Paintings is on view at Andre Zarre Gallery through May 10, 2014.