Edward Koren: The Capricious Line

Edward Koren: The Capricious Line explores the full range of art that Edward Koren has produced during the past five decades: original drawings for cartoons and illustrated books as well as prints and independent drawings, many of which have never been displayed before. The show examines Koren's continuing experimentation with ideas and forms through a variety of finished drawings, many surprisingly large.

The artist's "capricious line" consists primarily of short strokes that create incredible worlds. Koren brings us into a realm of fantasy based firmly in reality, such contradiction being one source of its humor. One section of the exhibition is devoted to inventive and whimsical sketches in the grand tradition of the capriccio, a group of theatrical figures offering an idiosyncratic variation on the venerable characters of the commedia dell'arte. Another section explores Koren's fascination with the natural world and its inhabitants, creatures generated more by the momentum of his graphic imagination than by laws of Darwinian evolution. Four dramatic panoramic drawings, inspired by dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History, introduce audiences to new and majestic species in Koren's bestiary. In the series Hôtels de Paris, he populates imagined architectural spaces with his own fantastic creatures, furry beings scuttling along on two or more legs, their movement suggesting an indeterminate sociability.

A primary focus of the exhibition is, inevitably, on Koren's drawings for cartoons, which highlight his role as observer of contemporary society and as a gently acerbic critic of a cultural scene that seems to demand his graphic commentary. The artist himself has defined his objective intimacy with that world: "Clichés or ritual acts that annoy or amuse me or intrigue me are points of entry that allow me to construct small dramas, frozen in time and space, that people will laugh at (because they might have recognized themselves), and that I do laugh at (because I have recognized myself)."

A 1957 graduate of Columbia College, Koren was editor of Jester of Columbia, the college's humor magazine.

To accompany the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery is publishing an illustrated catalogue with essays by the curators and by Koren.

Concurrent with the Wallach Gallery exhibition, the Luise Ross Gallery will host Edward Koren: Parallel Play, Drawings 1979 - 2010, from Tuesday, April 27, through Wednesday, June 2. The Luise Ross Gallery is located at 511 West 25th Street in Manhattan.