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506 Warren Street

Ken Polinskie: Then and Now

Nicole Fiacco | Modo Gallery announces a Fall solo exhibition with Ken Polinskie, an artist who has remained wholly committed to the art of hand papermaking throughout his career.  The solo exhibition will survey landmark art on paper from the last thirty years and introduce a recent body of work that is a culmination of the hand papermaking techniques and compelling subject matter that have preoccupied the artist for three decades.


Recognized internationally as a significant figure in the field hand papermaking, Ken Polinskie was one of 17 artists recently invited to create a portfolio for Hand Papermaking Magazine’s “The Art of Pulp Painting”, the seventh in a series of portfolios recognizing the innovative use of paper as a medium.  His Renaissance Fly editions portfolio continues his special interest in innovative printmaking through the use of handmade paper combined with compelling narrative content.

The following exhibition essay was contributed by Helen Frederick, a distinguished artist, curator, educator, coordinator of international projects, and founder of Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center in Washington, D.C.:

Ken Polinskie contemplates the self referential through the emotional relationships he establishes with nature as a metaphor, his figurative subjects, and by creating companions for us that authenticate a personal visual folklore. The animals in this exhibition are us. They represent complex predicaments of the human condition and as subjects they truly burst forth and they have no master. Instead they are drawn from interior landscapes and rely on Polinskie’s observation, evidence of myths informed by sentiment, and a deep longing for emotional release.

It makes sense that the fluid medium of hand papermaking and pulp painting allows Polinskie the release he is longing for. As a master of this papermaking medium after some twenty years of practice, the artist is able to control and build informative and painterly washes while expecting accidents to occur along the way. He structures the image by employing systems acquired in the continual pursuit of a vast number of drawings from life.

Bu the outpour is also scrutiny. The underlying meaning of the images emanates from their own knowledge and devices. Ken fully trusts his intuitions as he pursues works in several modes-drawing, watercolors and poured pulp paintings. At Pyramid Atlantic studios, to create a pulp painting, the artist first forms a magnificent white or colored sheet of wet paper by dipping a papermaking mold into the vat of pulp. He then moves on to applying a drawing, in reverse, of colored shapes and lines, with thin pulp onto the surface of the same papermaking mold. This is “couched” or released by pressing the painted pulp into the base wet sheet. The wet “ground” accepts the drawn elements and they fuse to form a dynamic image, after being pressed under thousands of pounds of pressure. Painted contour shapes, calligraphic marks and atmospheric specs around the main figuration all miraculously fall into place – Polinskie’s masterful understanding of the locus and discipline of hand papermaking guide the work. His application is a model that constitutes the artist’s veteran hand in structural soundness, combined with knowledge of proportion and color interaction.

With a tender kinship to legendary comic book creator Jack Kirby, painters Charles Burchfield and David Hockney, and Renaissance master drawings, this artist is a persuasive and analytical enabler allowing us to sense our own movement towards heroes and symbols because they are close within all of us. Ken provides a safe haven for us to enter his or our own internal layers of narration.

Polinskie has earned critical praise internationally and regionally for his highly charged and interpretive work. This exhibition establishes the nascent concentration of his accumulated moments of accomplishment. From a path mostly privately traveled, the artist reveals his own domain and dazzles us with his passion, puns, homage and keen narrative observations that assemble his vision. He not only touches our hearts but also demands that we look further into ourselves for ethical answers.

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