Karen Arm

Why modernist painting dissolved figures and objects into uniform fields is a question worth pondering. Karen Arm, a New York painter, doesn't worry about it, though; taking field painting as a given, she produces pictures that are beautiful if not especially thought-provoking.

Working on canvases in two sizes, medium-large and moderately small, she painstakingly builds up layers of translucent glazes and allover networks of fine mark making. She covers a grayed purple field with swirling red, orange and yellow lines, or a blue-green field with squiggly, meandering white and light-blue lines. Some paintings operate in the gap between representation and abstraction. Myriad, pinhead-size dots on near black suggest stars; red drops suggest blood; scalloped horizontal lines on jade green suggest rippling water.
It's the way the delicate mark making activates every square inch of the canvas, the glossy material sensuousness of the surface and the rich yet subtle color that account for the appeal of these works. They are formulaic, however, and one begins to wish Ms. Arm would try something less comfortably predictable.

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