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Kitty Klaidman


"Natural Inspiration, Abstract Imagination"
Klaidman and Kaupp go beyond simple sea and sky in two D.C. shows

The Washington Post, Galleries C8
Friday, January 6, 2012
by Mark Jenkins

With the rise of abstract painting, landscapes went out of favor.  But that doesn't mean they went away.  Whether intentionally or not, the compositions of many abstract canvases evoked landscapes, and some artists intentionally suggested that their work represented, however loosely, traditional views of land, water and sky.  One example: The title of the best-known painting by color-field pioneer Helen Frankenthaler, who died Dec. 27, is "Mountains and Sea".

These days, many abstractionists are open about inspiration provided by natural vistas. Kitty Klaidman and Tati Kaupp, whose current shows are in galleries on the same Dupont Circle block, go so far as to identify the regions that informed their latest creations.  Yet the paintings' concerns are largely formal; like the first wave of Abstract Expressionists, Klaidman and Kaupp are constructing their own visual vocabularies, not simply executing cryptic variations on traditional landscapes.

A Czech-born painter who made many European stops on her way to making the District her home, Klaidman has been refining her style since the abstract Expressionism era; the first show listed on her resume was in 1966.  She's still exploring.  The paintings in "Salt Spring Island: Beneath the Surface" were sparked by a visit to that isle, an artists' haven off the coast of mainland British Columbia.  The trip was probably in the fall, since these pictures emphasize autumnal reds and oranges over the green and blue usually associated with the Pacific Northwest.  Klaidman writes that the paintings "abstract the richly textured surfaces and sub-surfaces that captured my imagination," an approach that echoes her earlier series.

All the works are mixed media on wood, and most feature multiple panels.  Klaidman applied areas of pigment, then incised them to create patterns that generally complement, but occasionally contrast with, the painted forms.  The wet-on-wet painting gives the image a liquid quality, which is amplified by glazes that provide a ceramic-like sheen.  The scrapings are generally circular, adding to the sense of natural forms.  But a few of the panels, all of which are identified only by number, are vigorously crosshatched with roughly straight lines and thus look more fierce.  They're "action paintings," although with a more refined skin than the 1950s canvases once called that.  Klaidman has made multi-panel works in the past, but the "Salt Spring Island" paintings are divided more dramatically, with a tension between the sections.  While some of the two-, three- or four-part works merely segment a unified image, others create a focus exactly where the panels meet.  These pictures don't just gaze beneath the surface; they stare right into the gaps between things, using slices of nothingness to framed their vivid hues and movements.

<...complete review...>

The Georgetowner, June 28, 2006, p. 26
Review, "Art Wrap: Klaidman's da Vince Code"
by John Blee

Leonardo is reported to have said that an artist could see everything in the walls of Rome. By observing the cracks, fissures, and stains in the walls a cosmos could be seen revealing landscapes, figures, and fantastic creatures. Kitty Kaldiman ( at marsha Mateyka Gallery, 201 R St., NW, Wednesday through Sautrday, 11:00 to 5:00 pm ) recently spent time in Rome and was inspired by its walls to recreate a semblance of their possibility in her work.

Overall there is a light in these works that is diffused and restrained. The sense of space in many of the works relates very much to the washes found in watercolor landscapes of nineteenth century Europe and America. Though " Rome Series #3", in particular, verges on Chinese landscape painting. It is almost literal in its relation to landscape. The surface of all the works is a paper that is so thick it is described as "board". Klaidman manages to bring out of her mixing of paint and paper a highly sensuous end result.

Klaidman uses a framing device on the very edge of some of the works that works as an architectural reference, opening up the space by creating tension. She also incorporates a pair of lines like a vector or insect antennae that float in the middle of the space. They act as a kind of sign within the space. Some works also have diagonal bar running through them as in "Rome Series #1". Here the surface is like the skin of a fruit, at the same time it is like dessicated land. Klaidman's light here is wan, suggesting diminuendo. These works are deliberately non-decorative; rather they are personally poetic.

"Rome Series #10" is also a diptych in tan and gray and is more obvious in its relation to the Western tradition of landscape. A kind of darkness is found in "Rome Series #4" having almost a sense of foreboding in it. These works are a series, but each piece very much has an individual identity.

It is not so much the walls of Rome that I see in "Rome Series #2", but those of the caves of Lascaux. I almost detect a pre-historic bison or two. It is the visionary aspect of painting itself. Through July 8.