|While artist David Kastner’s paintings, photographic prints, light installations, and wall sculptures have the swirling energy of many abstract works, they also suggest something quite different: the murmuring of numerous voices beneath each layer. The artist’s work has changed greatly over the years, and is seldom truly abstract. He courageously goes beyond the given and familiar, pioneering new techniques and materials in order to expand his own vision. The works on display at his recent solo exhibition at the Broadway Gallery in New York were no exception. Experiencing life feels like inhaling fresh air. It’s not like you take a book, read a chapter, and you’ve gained this or that.|
While artist David Kastner’s paintings, photographic prints, light installations, and wall sculptures have the swirling energy of many abstract works, they also suggest something quite different: the murmuring of numerous voices beneath each layer. The artist’s work has changed greatly over the years, and is seldom truly abstract. He courageously goes beyond the given and familiar, pioneering new techniques and materials in order to expand his own vision. The works on display at his recent solo exhibition at the Broadway Gallery in New York were no exception.
A minimalist whose economic use of geometric shapes elicits a vocabulary of the nuance, Kastner is a brilliant colorist with a penchant for vibrant shades of crimson and violet. An abstract artist whose subject matter is anything but abstract. Kastner is an artist who inhabits the discreet space of the in-between, a logic of the a-logic, where essential orders or arrangements speak to the viewer. A horizontal line of several smaller works on one wall of the gallery reflects Kastner’s interest in working serially; each of these works repeats a set of compositions that allude to an enigmatic universe where science and aesthetic collide. While the serial nature of these works implies repetition of the same, imperfect lines and shapes, overlapping edges, and variations in shade, emphasize the unique. Space contracts and expands as an arrangement; random juxtaposition, anomalies, and irregular shapes introduce patterns and relationships that are unpredictable. Each work, each line and form becomes an inscription of the temporal moment of creation.
Discreet, colorful geometric forms—constellations of egg-shaped forms, thick lines, and rectangular pillars in shades of orange, red, and blue or fleshy pinks, eggplant, and gray—emerge like organic accidents from saturated monochromatic grids. Deep ebony, midnight blues, and shades of green offer parallels between art and nature, or art and nature as a work of art, while elements such as the grid, possess a metaphoric power capable of linking, for example, fields, terrains, and empty sheets of lined paper. Kastner’s cosmological conceptions marry the context and knowledge of years of work with explosions of lush color that creates sensual atmosphere. Their illusionism is tempered by viscous light and color, applied in subtle, rapid strokes and lustrous pools.
In the case of Consummate Embodiment of Skill, it is a shock of spatial swirls, aquamarine blue and antique white with flecks of chartreuse that dominate the painting’s left side. The composition suggests an avenging presence hurtling toward slates of midnight blue and black, which culminates in an apocalyptic void at the painting’s center. The arrangement suggests an artist who has always blended a proclivity for visual drama with a keen interest in the physicality of paint. Recent works, specifically A Solution to Self and Origins of Cohesion, reference the cosmological phenomenon of dark energy—a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to increase the expansion of the universe. These layered universescapes express a creative force within—and beyond—the physical constraints of the canvas, where each ripple and crack acts as an internal explosion.
Kastner’s works spell out a classical theme, time, and place of observation and creation. The results often suggest nature and humanity—from sunlight flickering amid the surface of a deep and threatening ocean to an epic cosmos. The use of vibrant and spatial colors suggests a positive sense of humanity, an effect that is uncompromising and thought-provoking. In order to achieve the kind of density he wants, the works undergo several molecular transformations, where it is necessary to build the surface in a traditional way by superimposing layers, exploiting the transparency and opacity. This working process also acts as a metaphor. The repeated building up and breaking down of form and color is similar to a dig, making his artistic process an archeological excavation—as though the image was unearthed, soon brought to light. Kastner employs an open composition, frequently building around a free-abstract central image, while also stressing the picture edge. These motifs float within the image edge, suggesting a threshold or portal at the center of the painting that opens up a defined depth of gesture and color. Building form from within, he contrasts the saturation and density to create a rising and swelling motion that relates to his own unique aesthetic. Each of these reductive compositions suggests an infinite space illuminated by hazy light. This risk has proved to be the decisive catalyst to the development of his style.
Although recent works appear to have evolved toward a whole new territory for the artist, they actually represent a distillation of themes and ideas that were already evident in his earlier work. Key to these works is the tension created between description and the desire to suggest or evoke generalized, symbolic forms. Overall, these works represent a new confidence and maturity in the artist’s handling and evocation of his subjects. Kastner’s ambition for painting as a carrier of meanings that are accessible to all is evidence of his own immersion in the culture of painting, print, and its potential for transformation.