Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Hunter Thompson" by Loren Kantor

The artist and writer Loren Kantor contacted me to check out his woodcuts. (You can check them all out at his blog Woodcutting Fool.)

At first glance his style and subject matters are fairly conventional. He does a lot of portraits and illustrations of famous landmarks and places, and his black and white images are always centered with a neat frame.

Kantor doesn't employ a huge variety of mark-making. Instead, his images display a simple interplay between planes of solid black and white, with minimal use of uniform line-work and occasional small fields of texture, usually with stripes or dots.

There is huge potential for expression within such limited stylistic and technical parameters, particularly with portraits.

Take this image of one of my favorite writers, Hunter S. Thompson. The cigarette casually dangles out of the edge of his mouth, a mouth slightly askew, slightly frowning. Three parallel lines of smoke rise up, balancing the mildly confrontational tilt of the Gonzo journalist's head. The lines of his receded hair frame his prominent forehead, emphasizing the two lines in his brow, which in their expressive meandering show more than age. They show wear, and add to an  overall look of mundane contempt.The lenses of his glasses read like black holes. Instead of a barrier blocking entrance to the soul, they become a portal into a dark psyche.

Loren Kantor's woodcut portraits remind me of the portraits of Alex Katz because in both, so much is stripped away that only something essential, eerie, and difficult to describe about the subject remains.

After looking at Kantor's work, I started searching for images of Katz's work, and discovered that in addition to being a famous painter, he is a prolific printmaker. I found this linocut titled Sharon, which has much in common with Kantor's portrait of Thompson. Here is a subject wearing sunglasses, portrayed in black and white with scant and simple linework, but the tone is completely different. The gesture of the woman's smile alone convey enjoyment. Strange white shapes float all around her and in the flatness of the whole image seem as if they will bump or meld into her. The lenses of her glasses are white, and seem to connect her more with the white shapes that surround her. She is turned away from the viewer, engaged by something else, and we are merely onlookers.







1 comment:

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