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David Korty @ Michael Kohn Gallery

October 22, 2008 | 12:30 pm

Korty1womancellphone There’s a bit of Stuart Davis in David Korty’s sprightly new paintings at Michael Kohn, in their jazzy rhythms and self-contained patches of color. Richard Diebenkorn sneaks in there, too, in the overall flattening of space into clean, architectonic divisions. Korty’s paintings have their own look, however, a distinctive blend of emotional distance and formal engagement.

That emotional distance is not so much Korty’s style but his subject. The people in his paintings plug into their iPods, talk on cellphones in crowded public places, sit in the holding tanks of airport lounges, send text messages, tap computer keyboards. They are featureless, generic players in mundane environments. Korty takes these flat-lined scenarios and injects them with aesthetic adrenaline, a vibrancy of pattern, color and line, a toothsome texture.

An untitled painting of figures browsing behind a magazine rack Kortyinstall1 buzzes with unexpected energy. The periodicals spread across the shelves like an array of snappy handbills, each cover a jaunty little geometric or biomorphic abstraction. Korty, based in L.A., builds the plane of each painting out of smaller planes of chalky color — faded red, pale yellow, dilute orange, light coral, washed-out denim and lots of white. He outlines some of the sections and then sets his line free to define more amorphous rhythms and reverberations enlivening a scene.

The weave of the underlying linen often shows through, beneath layers of pigment that have been frosted on and blotted off. In Korty’s hands, the bland everyday takes on a raw, improvisational beauty.

Look for reviews of Takako Yamaguchi at Cardwell Jimmerson, Liza Ryan at Griffin and Dylan Vitone at DNJ on Friday.

-- Leah Ollman

Photos: Michael Kohn Gallery