Karen Gunderson

MICHAEL BRENSON: The New York Times Weekend: Friday, March, 16 1984

Karen Gunderson: Karen Gunderson’s paintings of clouds are as far as they can be from the dreamy reveries one might expect of the subject. These are rigorous, ambitious and, at best, as in “Mountain Sky,” monumental works. Clouds are the starting point for compositional challenges that, when resolved tap the dramatic potential of the subject matter in an original way.

Gunderson’s Color contrasts are invariable basic-white clouds, blue or black sky. So is each governing compositional idea. Her clouds sit up and lie down, split and converge, rise up like a mountain peak or open beneath the visitor like the eye of a maelstrom.

The content of these works seems basic as well. In one painting, two vertical clouds suggest two standing women; in another, two clouds bring to mind Brancusi’s “Kiss.” I n “Grand Nova Nuage,” a white cloud in the middle of a dark sky seems to be pushing and pulling in a way that suggest the creation of the earth.

This show communicates a sense not only of integrity but also of courage. For one thing, although the white forms in the paintings may seem sculptural, they are in fact just concentrated air. For another, the point of view is not on the ground looking up, but the same level as or above the clouds in the sky, where there is no solid ground. To inhabit this point of view, as the artist has done, is to inhabit a space where inspiration and uncertainty are inseparable.