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Art Sat Jun 07 2014
Painters and paintings: this is a special relationship because there are so few relationships we get ourselves into where we cannot hide one little aspect of ourselves. Paint sits on the canvas looking back at us, as painters, mocking our attempt to run from the ugliness, shame and overall lack we carry with us day in and day out. That mocking sits in the studio for years, staring back at us telling us, in full color, what steps need to be taken and what changes need to be made. This is a conversation being had directly with us in full Dolby surround sound, around the clock, and it is still the hardest work as a painter to hear it, follow it and trust it.
If you are not a painter, this might be difficult to understand, but know that when a painter puts a mark on a page it says something. No matter how controlled or meticulously the painter works to hide their hand, there is always something there screaming back at us that we didn't intend. That's a message directly from a part of us that we do not have deliberate conscious access to. As painters we look to describe our work, in writing, to others, but because we don't have direct access to that information the paintings are telling us we go straight to what we, as painters, think we are offering the world.
I, as a lover of painting, want to see the artist's work beyond what they believe they are offering to others. I want to see the artist's conversation with their work because it is always so much more interesting than what we are told the intent is.
Okay, so that was the prerequisite.
William Eckhardt Kohler is a painter; there is no way around that. On Monday he is a painter, on Tuesday he is a painter, when he eats he is a painter -- it's astounding how much he carries that with him. Full disclosure, I have known Willie for 20 years. Over that time I have seen his work change, but more importantly I have seen him change.
His current show at Linda Warren Projects, Portals, Passages and Vessels, is a very difficult show to talk about, because it is not simply something you walk into and leave saying something that makes no sense to anyone outside the art community. This show is a total experience. At times it feels like a playground and you can't help but smile, sometimes its traffic, sometime you feel alone but surrounded. As an experience this show is a must see.
Are all the paintings hands down amazing? No. Is there one piece that everyone should see because it is going to change the art world forever? I don't see it. But what is here is a conversation between an artist and his work. And that conversation is being driven by the artist looking inward at his relationship to the world. This show doesn't only show us pretty pictures, which it does, or tell us stories, which it also does. It builds a world around us. And whether we like it or not, William Eckhardt Kohler is not painting for us, and because of that we get a much wider experience with more depth and discovery than we would have otherwise.