Meticulous in approach, Katharine Kuharic fuses multilayered representational elements and vibrant colors in her socially charged paintings, transforming them into compelling, dream-like narratives about the contemporary condition. Almost radically faithful to a traditional medium such as painting in the digital age, the American artist reconfigures the canvas through her complex, detailed painting process and the choice of visual motifs that she reappropriates into the final image to assert a distinct queer, feminist aesthetic and pioneer the genre.
Grappling issues such as mortality, sexuality, and connection to nature, Katharine Kuharic's paintings overtake P·P·O·W in her fifth solo show with the gallery since 1994. Featuring early works from the 1990s and her most recent works, the upcoming exhibition The Foliated Room explores the evolution of these motifs in Kuharic's practice, highlighting how her elaborate process emotionally engages the viewer.
The Foliated Room
Katharine Kuharic's most recent works showcased at The Foliated Room draw inspiration from its namesake, the Sala a Fogliami or "Room of Foliage" at the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa in Venice, where she was in residence at the Emily Harvey Foundation. Similarly to Camillo Mantovano's rendering of the 16th-century sublime ceiling, Katharine Kuharic saturates the canvas with rich flora and diverse fauna to explore the battle between life and death.
Instead of photography, Kuharic references reality, searching for visual elements in the world around her, such as the Hamilton College Cemetery, where she was given a designated burial plot as a tenured professor. There, Kuharic focuses on invasive species like the echinocystis lobata or dead animals, including hummingbirds, cardinals, and finches, as points of departure for her studies on mortality. Evoking the works by Albrecht Dürer, El Greco, and Stanley Spencer, Katharine Kuharic investigates the transience of life in intricate compositions where she fuses the fragments of the natural world with memories of their lost lives.
Katharine Kuharic was first drawn to the complexity of life through life-changing experiences in the late 1980s and the early 1990s when she was confronted with the loss of friends to the AIDS epidemic while observing others having children. The paradoxical duality of life lost and life created drew the artist to investigate these ever-present contrasts in nature. Kuharic's untitled work from 1994 juxtaposes a baby clutching its foot with a pair of wrinkled hands, portraying the transience of life through the striking contrast of their skin.
Among the show's highlights is Katharine Kuharic's Parable, a luscious web of richly-colored intertwined foliage that draws its name from the New Testament. Aligning with Carl Jung’s definition of religion as a psychological response to the unknown, Kuharic approaches the laborious process of observation, contemplation, and the act of painting itself as "a devotional experience akin to prayer," becoming a transformational, enlightening experience for both painter and viewer to be able to find beauty when faced with death and destruction.
Katharine Kuharic at P·P·O·W
The exhibition The Foliated Room will be on view at P·P·O·W in New York from December 15th, 2023, until January 27th, 2024.
Featured images: Installation view of Katharine Kuharic's The Foliated Room, P·P·O·W, New York, NY, December 15, 2023 – January 27, 2024. Photo: JSP Art Photography. All images are courtesy of Katharine Kuharic and P・P・O・W, New York. Photo: JSP Art Photography.