Saturday, September 19, 2015

An Abstraction of West Coast Style

“I’m drawn to the use of hard-edged elements
because of the contrasts they create within a painting.
Alexander Couwenberg

The Los Angeles based hard edge abstractionist painter Alexander Couwenberg’s hand is involved in all aspects of the production of his work. From employing his carpentry skills to make his own stretchers to the varnishing of the finished painting he uses this DIY approach for his representations of the west coast American life style.

As he told Geoform’s Julie Karabenick “I was born and raised in Southern California. My paintings are personal investigations and interpretations of the Southern California aesthetic, including mid-century design, graphics and architecture, hot rods and car culture, surfing and skateboarding, music, fashion, and the landscapes of metropolitan Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. I come from a Dutch-Indonesian family and was exposed to the art and craft of those cultures from an early age. I spent my time at skateboard parks, at the beach surfing, and listening to punk rock music in between. The polished finish of surfboards, the multiple layers of varnish on a custom car, the fine lines and pin striping associated with their graphics all influenced me. Becoming an artist came naturally as I was already a product of the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to things—the main idea of punk rock philosophy.”

Over the years since the time he spent at California’s Claremont Graduate School, Couwenberg has developed a more painterly approach to his work.

“I used to begin my work with precise drawings that described in great detail the direction a painting would take and how it would work itself out. Over the years, I felt my paintings began to take on a “machined” quality, and I began to miss the organic process usually involved with creativity. Gradually, I began to rely less on drawings and notes and more on intuition. I’ve come to appreciate the nuances of the painting process. I’m doing more visual editing—making decisions and changes as the paint dries. I’ve learned to listen to what the painting is saying and pay attention to when it tells me that it’s finished… As I work more intuitively and without preparatory drawings, more random or unexpected elements occur —visible brushstrokes, transparencies, distress marks, happy accidents. Working in this more painterly style, I feel it necessary to create a balance by incorporating elements that I have more control over. This is where the hard edge comes in. It delineates areas within the painting and creates a balance between control and the random.” he says.

A point not missed by the art critic David M Roth who noted in 2013 “By recasting the orthodoxies of geometric abstraction and combining them with the tropes of SoCal car/surf culture, Couwenberg evokes the sensation of living in a region where exhaust fumes, sensory overload and subliminal connectivity have long been facts of life. In so doing, he pushes a decidedly retro sensibility into the digital era.”

Couwenberg’s current exhibition Revisited is on show at St Louis’ Bruno David Gallery until the 10th of October.

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