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ChRis KahleR auGust 31 – octobeR 9, 2010 Bio-Dynamic 1


Front Cover detail: Dynamic Hybrid C-1, 2010, 3' x 6' Acrylic and oils on canvas right: Dynamic Hybrid c-1, 2010, 3' x 6' Acrylic and oils on canvas


ChRis KahleR auGust 31 – octobeR 9, 2010 Bio-Dynamic

GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger

130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com


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Left DETAIL: Dynamic Hybrid C-2 2010, 3' x 6' Acrylic on canvas

FoReveR   Now by David Pagel

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Back in 1952, the art critic Harold Rosenberg

to turn away from painting, many going so

coined the term “Action Painting” to describe

far as to declare it dead and many more

a sea change that was taking place in Ameri-

turning to assemblage, installation, perfor-

can art. In his eyes, the most exciting works

mance, video, photography, and all manner

being made were not polished products

of hybrids that eventually gave rise to the

executed by artists according to carefully laid

polyglot mélange of Postmodernism. Paint-

out plans, after all the kinks had been ironed

ing, particularly abstraction, was left out of

out in preparatory sketches and preliminary

the supposedly anything-goes free-for-all

studies. On the contrary, they were wildly

because the objects its actions produced

improvised extravaganzas in which anything

seemed to get in the way of free-wheeling

could happen, the less expected the better.

activity: too many viewers felt that that

This is how Rosenberg, in “The American

Action Painting had become nothing but

Action Painters” put it: “At a certain moment

Apocalyptic Wallpaper.

the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which

Chris Kahler’s new paintings bring these

to act—rather than as a space in which to

issues to mind because they play fast and

reproduce, re-design, analyze, or ‘express’

loose—and very intelligently—with the oppo-

an object, actual or imagined. What was to

sition between action and apocalypse, as well

go on the canvas was not a picture but an

as between painting and wallpaper, which

event.” The action—of making the painting—

have been in the background of discussions

is what mattered. The result of that activity—

about art for more than a half-century. Born

dried paint on canvas—was only worthy of a

in 1969, Kahler belongs to a generation of

viewer’s attention if it captured the urgency

artists for whom abstract painting was not

and uncertainty with which it was done, con-

intrinsically off-limits, the kiss-of-death for

veying, to viewers, the anxiety, engagement,

artists who wanted to be taken seriously by

and release that accompanied the struggle in

a critical establishment committed to avant-

the studio to do something that was not fake

garde experimentation and opposed to any-

or false, but authentic and real. “Apocalyptic

thing that seemed conservative, middleclass,

Wallpaper” was Rosenberg’s term for Action

unadventuresome. Kahler stands out among

Painting gone bad: for works in which nothing

this generation of rebellious, try-anything-

was discovered because the artist was stuck

once painters because his works make their

in a rut, churning out formulaic renditions of

way out of the impasse between authentic

his signature style as if the only goal were to

action in the studio and finished painting on

cover the walls with tasteful products.

the gallery wall, which drove many artists and viewers away from painting in the 1960s,

One of the oddest things about Rosenberg’s

’70s, and ’80s. His works do so by shift-

articulate defense of abstraction was that

ing the emphasis away from the artist, his

it marked the moment when artists began

biography, psychology, and inner sentiments,


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and toward the viewer: his past, present, and

events that have not yet transpired and will

point of view, as well as beliefs, dreams, and

not take place without the active participation

desires; anxieties, conflicts, and concerns. At

of a viewer, constantly responding to these

the same time that Kahler paints himself out

stimulating works by making seat-of-the-

of the picture to make room for viewers—and

pants decisions based in intuition, hunches,

the unpredictable freedoms art sometimes

and barely perceived inklings. More dedi-

makes possible—his abstract images of flow-

cated to potential and possibility than past

ing and fusing pigments promiscuously mix

actions and completed activities, Kahler’s

terms that were once unlikely bedfellows.

present-oriented paintings invite and demand face-to-face engagement: scrutiny

Think of Kahler’s densely packed yet expan-

that is up close and personal and requires

sively open-ended canvases and panels as

viewers to reveal as much about themselves

Time-Release Action Paintings. Rather than

as the works before us. They are apocalyptic

taking viewers back to a series of self-defin-

in the sense that if you fail to lose yourself in

ing discoveries made in the studio, his pains-

them—only to find yourself somewhere else:

taking, labor-intensive works demand that

renewed, refreshed, redeemed—you lose out

viewers re-make them in the moment, each

on a valuable opportunity for growth, devel-

and every time that any one of us lays eyes

opment, and discovery, at a deep, existential

on them. Kahler’s uncanny abstractions are

level. Where Rosenberg articulated the terms

particularly difficult to remember, much less

by which artists could fail (or succeed) in

describe. Their superabundance of detail,

their works, Kahler does the same for view-

profusion of unnameable shapes, complexity

ers, transferring what is at stake in the studio

of organic forms, multilayered compositions,

to the ongoing present that his invigorating

whiplash shifts in scale, and electrifying

art inhabits. The act of viewing his paintings

rainbows of phenomenally nuanced tertiary

is essentially creative, with all the risks and

colors insure that the more one looks, the

responsibilities that implies. Kahler’s paint-

more one sees, and, moreover, that the path

ings are far less egocentric than those that

and the pace of one’s trip through any one

follow old-fashioned models of art-making.

of Kahler’s works is never the same twice.

They are also more social, contextual, and

Surprise and discovery are built into his jam-

flexible, not to mention unpredictable, open-

packed constellations of visual incidents,

ended and moving.

which aim for amazement and deliver its spine-tingling, mind-blowing pleasures with

For centuries, artists have sought to stop

stunning frequency.

time, to make works so powerful, momentous, and all-consuming that they seem

Think, also, of Kahler’s supercharged abstrac-

to occupy their own reality—a world unto

tions as Apocalyptic Wallpaper In The Pres-

themselves, next to which reality pales in

ent Tense. His swirling maelstroms of oil and

comparison. Kahler takes a different tact.

acrylic are not the lifeless byproducts or evi-

His art is engineered on the principle of fold-

dentiary records of events that have already

ing time back on itself, of overlaying vari-

happened in the studio and are, for all intents

ous moments not so that the past and the

and purpose, over and done with. Instead,

present collapse into an impossibly fulfilling

Kahler’s paintings put the highest priority on

crescendo that dazzles and dominates, but


DETAIL: Hybrid Suspension 2009, 3' x 4' Acrylic and oils on panel

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so that the moment in which they are seen

others obliterates them completely, or trans-

expands to include an inconceivable number

forms them significantly, not really starting

of moments that preceded it and even more

fresh, but starting over, with all the emo-

moments that follow. His technique bears

tional consequences such endeavors imply.

this out. Kahler’s paintings are multilayered

His works do not stop time or freeze it in

constellations that allow viewers to catch

single, razor-thin instants—like photographs

fleeting glimpses of layers otherwise cov-

or movie stills—but open fleeting moments

ered over by opaque and semi-translucent

to various “befores” and “afters,” increasing

coats of paint. By dripping, splashing, and

the mystery by acknowledging and cultivat-

pouring brush-loads and buckets of acrylic

ing myriad possibilities.

and oil atop one another in a single painting, Kahler sometimes builds upon previous

Kahler’s impressive repertoire of painterly

layers that have dried or are still wet, and at

moves is all about making paintings that


DETAIL: Dynamic Hybrid c-6 2010, 24" x 30" Acrylic on panel

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get viewers to experience them as paintings

the tenor of the trip. Others embody a potent

within paintings within paintings, and so on,

and corrosive beauty, a sublime combination

and on, and on. Another way to put it is that

of breakdown and growth, disintegration

his art allows us to experience singularities

and accumulation, creation and destruction.

as multiplicities, transforming resolved com-

Think software viruses gone organic, or the

positions and autonomous wholes into open-

birth of techno-bacteria. This gives you an

ended journeys with no ends in sight. Some

idea of the uncategorizable mutations that

of his works are hallucinatory, while avoid-

take place in Kahler’s wild hybrids and rogue

ing the narrative sentimentality typical of

mongrels. Sometimes it seems as if he paints

standard Surrealism. Imagine what the world

pictures of a world of effervescence, in which

would look like if the Ben-Day dots of Pop Art

solid substances dissolve into roiling gases,

were on acid, everything melting and mutat-

steamy atmospheres, and gravity-defying liq-

ing, gorgeous and terrifying, depending on

uid clouds. In his work, it is almost impossible


to distinguish between the microscopic and

applies one or more layers of paint, pouring,

the cosmic, and everything is richer for the

dripping, and blending freely. When he tears

confusion. Many of Kahler’s paintings appear

off the masking material, a previously buried

to give shape to digital ruins or to electronic

layer of the painting is once again visible.

impulses that have eroded, their crisp clarity

The past, which had vanished, comes back.

fogged over and their streamlined swiftness

Kahler repeats this step many times in a

encrusted with integrity-compromising impu-

single painting, creating a labyrinth in time

rities. As an artist, Kahler makes a virtue of

and space. The colors he uses add to the un-

glitches in the ordinarily seamless transmis-

certainty about which part preceded which:

sion of digital information, throwing a mon-

brighter tints leap forward, darker ones re-

key wrench into the machinery that makes

cede, no matter which step in the sequence

instantaneous communication possible while

they belong to. This further complicates the

upsetting expectations of instantaneous grat-

temporal relationship between and among

ification. Information overload never looked

layers, adding figure-ground ambiguity to

better, especially in the paintings that appear

the mix. This makes Kahler a stranger in his

to be solar systems overcrowded with plan-

own painting, which allows him to get out of

ets, their orbits impossible because of inter-

his comfort zone, to steer clear of facility and

planetary traffic jams.

virtuosity and the formulaic cranking out of what Rosenberg would call Apocalyptic

Despite the worlds-within-worlds-within-

Wallpaper. Constantly responding to an

worlds density of Kahler’s physically resplen-

ongoing accumulation of marks, drips, and

dent paintings, they do not diminish accord-

spills, Kahler creates largely unanticipated

ing to the logic of infinite regression. Instead,

and wonderfully improvised palimpsests

his complex orchestrations of color, shape,

that open onto endless possibilities.

and texture maintain focus, clarity, and crispness, their vivid components colliding and

Viewing his paintings takes time. It is an

colluding with one another as they create jar-

activity that cannot be done quickly. All of

ring, collage-style disjunctions and animated

Kahler’s works have the dazzling, knock-

compositional rhythms. The centrifugal and

your-socks-off impact of images unafraid

centripetal forces at work in Kahler’s images

to compete with everything out there, will-

generate mental conundrums that enliven the

ing and able to hold their own in the image

mind as a viewer strives to put together the

glut of modern life, whose capacity for swal-

seemingly shattered fragments, to discover,

lowing up subtlety, nuance, and delicacy is

amid the compelling chaos, an improvised

well known and relentlessness. This is where

cartography or ad hoc archaeology.

Kahler’s art works its magic, bringing the deliciousness of details, the subtlety of sensual-

The secret ingredient that allows Kahler to

ity, the mysteriousness of the unknown, and

shift his paintings into high gear, so that they

the beauty of ordinarily overlooked incidents

seem to move at warp speed, is masking

to the forefront, where viewers are invited to

fluid, an acrylic medium he applies like paint

savor them and to share them, over and over

and then, long after it has dried, peels off,

again, and never the same way twice.

like masking tape. Between the application of the masking fluid and its removal, Kahler

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BELOW: Duality A-1, 2010 Diptych 6' x 8' (each half 6' x 4') Acrylic and oils on canvas

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DETAIL: Duality A-1, 2010 Diptych 6' x 8' (each half 6' x 4') Acrylic and oils on canvas

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DynamicDynamic DETAIL: Hybrid c-1, Hybrid 2010A-1, 2009 3' x 6' 6' 8' Acrylic on andcanvas oils on canvas

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Dynamic Hybrid c-6

Dynamic Hybrid c-8

Dynamic Hybrid A-1

2010, 24" x 30"

2010, 24" x 30"

2009, 6' x 8'

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic and oils on canvas

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Biotectonica, 2010 3' x 5' Acrylic and oils on canvas

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DETAIL: Dynamic Hybrid C-3 2010, 3' x 6' Acrylic on canvas

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Dynamic Hybrid C-2, 2010

Dynamic Hybrid C-3, 2010

Dynamic Hybrid c-1, 2010

3' x 6' Acrylic on canvas

3' x 6' Acrylic on canvas

3' x 6' Acrylic and oils on canvas

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Hybrid A-1, 2010 5' x 5' Acrylic on canvas

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detail: Hybrid A-1, 2010 5' x 5' Acrylic on canvas

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Rhomb B-1, 2010

Rhomb b-2, 2010

Dynamic Hybrid A-3

24" x 24"

24" x 24"

2009, 4' x 5'

Acrylic and oils on canvas

Acrylic and oils on canvas

Acrylic on canvas


Detail: Dynamic Hybrid A-3 2009, 4' x 5' Acrylic on canvas

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DETAIL: Rhomb c-8 2010, 30" x 30" Acrylic and oils on panel

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Rhomb c-3, 2010

Rhomb c-8, 2010

Rhomb c-6, 2010

Rhomb c-9, 2010

30" x 30"

30" x 30"

30" x 30"

30" x 30"

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic and oils on panel

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic and oils on panel

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Dynamic Hybrid C-5

Hybrid Suspension

Dynamic Hybrid C-13

Dynamic Hybrid c-4

2009, 3' x 4'

2010, 2' x 3'

2010, 3' x 4'

2010, 2' x 3'

Acrylic and oils on panel

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic on panel

Acrylic on canvas


DETail: Dynamic Hybrid c-4 2010, 3' x 4' Acrylic on panel

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C   hRis KahleR 24

Chris Kahler received his BFA at Ohio

Kahler has been awarded numerous honors

Wesleyan University in 1991. Within his junior

including residencies at Painting’s Edge Res-

year of college, he spent a semester abroad

idency in Idyllwild, CA and two Artist Grants

at Parson's School of Art And Design and

for the Vermont Studio Center. His work has

the American University in Paris, France. He

been reviewed and profiled in various art

then went on for an MA at Eastern Illinois

magazines and newspapers. The most recent

University in 1992 and an MFA from North-

include Art in America (Feb 2010), reviews

western University in 1995 where he studied

in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (2009) and

with Ed Paschke, James Valerio and William

numerous reviews in St. Louis ranging from

Conger. He has been teaching at Eastern

the West End Word to The Riverfront Times.

Illinois University since 1999, where he is a

Recent catalogue essays include: James

full Professor, Graduate Coordinator and

Yood for Hybrid Dynamic and Joe Houston

head of the Painting area.

for Viral.

Since 2002, Kahler has had six solo exhibi-

His work can be found in various public

tions in Chicago and St. Louis and numerous

and private collections including the Daum

thematic exhibitions throughout the coun-

Museum, Cortex Building in St. Louis, Wash-

try. Recent exhibitions include Synchronous

ington University School of Medicine in

Events- The Works of Chris Kahler and Charles

St. Louis, Bradley University and numerous

Schwall at Purdue University, New Paintings,

private collections.

IL+MO at the Edwardsville Art Center, Paper Now at I-Space Gallery in Chicago, Biennial 24 at the South Bend Regional Art Museum, Le Papier at Gescheidle Gallery and The (In) Visible Body at NIU Gallery in Chicago.


Back Cover detail: Dynamic Hybrid C-1 2010, 3' x 6' Acrylic and oils on canvas

Photo credits: Richard Sprengeler and Chris Kahler: Paintings Yuki Kahler: Portrait of Chris Kahler

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ISBN 978-0-9827872-2-9 Price $10.00

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130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com

Chris Kahler "Bio-dynamic" catalog  

Bio-Dynamic, a solo exhibition of paintings by Chris Kahler. Bio-Dynamic is potent and colorful; more cellular and molecular than astral. Ho...

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