Karen Gunderson

GERRIT HENRY: Art News: Karen Gunderson: Fischbach: April 1988

The element of wonder has always played a large part in Karen Gunderson’s work. Her subject is clouds-seen from a bird’s eye perspective- and the deep blue skies in which they float.

In this show, Gunderson deployed her clouds strategically. The artist used a floor plan of Fischbach’s main gallery to pin-point exactly where the could paintings- some turning corners, others extending to the ceiling- should be placed in relation to an enormous (114 by 96 inches) painting of a sunset titled The Source. The title refers to the sun, and the paintings, in their various positions, gave the effect of picking up its light.

The large Regina’s Journey, a corner-turning piece, consists of blue skies and exotically purple and peach clouds, heavily incised with black outlining- stylistic departure for Gunderson. Apotheosis features pink clouds that climbed the gallery wall to the ceiling. Smaller paintings followed getting darker the farter away they were positioned from the sun but no less brilliant in hue. On the wall opposite The Source was Memory, a horizontal triptych with blackly roseate clouds in one panel and magnificently parting clouds in another. Backtracking from darkness to light, one came to Babylon, turning a left-hand wall with its paint and black clouds, and, finally, to Her Becoming, a sunny array of cloud-form and color.

Its been a long time since we’ve been treated to a conceptually and visually exciting “environmental piece” in New York- one that consisted not of bales of hay or metal floor plaques or audio tapes, but consummately achieved paintings. Gunderson’s wraparound exhibition was totally engaging, and one hopes that it will be reinstalled soon.