String Theory…Up Close!

Paul Kolker is pleased to present String Theory…Up Close! at the PAUL KOLKER collection from September 17 through December 1, 2015. The exhibition is based on Kolker’s curation and production of his art as an experiment testing perception. It is the natural segue from the art historical perspective of other artists who used their works as an experiment; as Marcel DuChamp did in his Three Standard Stoppages, 1914, in which strings are glued onto canvases. This fiftieth solo exhibition of the artist is also the continuation of a body of early expressionistic string and drip works which Kolker produced in the 1960s, but are now viewed retrospectively up close with an ultra-high definition lens.

Paul Kolker: String Theory...and Painterly Up Close! - © 2015 Paul Kolker. All rights reserved.

Paul Kolker: String Theory…and Painterly Up Close!, op. 7, 2015
ultra hd 4,356 dpi c-print on styrene (unique) — 20×20 inches

Kolker’s imprimatur, or his recognizable voice which distinguishes his works from others, has been his iconic dot-gridded pixelation transmutations of imagery as we view it on our television and device screens. When viewed up close, the dot matrix is very apparent. Today’s display screen technology is ultra-high definition (UltraHD); approximating 4K, or 4,000 dots per inch squared. Kolker’s new works in the exhibition are of this UltraHD format resembling those new display screens. Each square inch is fractionated into 4,356 dots in a 66×66 grid.

In 1961, as a doctor serving in the US Air Force, Kolker was already an accomplished medical illustrator, air brusher and a photorealistic painter at age 26. Influenced by the then abstract expressionists and having learned to conglomerate paraffin, beeswax with oil based paints, he overlaid his photographic paintings with dripped strings of encaustic paint to abstract the image. This exhibition links those primordial drip and string paintings with the current UltraHD dot pixellated works.

In a scientific world explained today by particle physics and string theory, the iconography of dots and strings as a component of his works seemed to make a lot of conceptual sense to Kolker because those lines and dots were in clear view everywhere on television, computer and message screens as well as on printed pages. To test the materials and methods of painting on stretched strings, as an experiment does, Kolker has transported the Duchamp string stoppages experiment into the venue of Kolker’s plein air laboratory in the backyard of his Long Island studio, as depicted above.

Strung for hundreds of feet between trees were lines of jute twine, each painted in primary colors and black and white acrylic. Having been cut into equal strips, each were glued onto a single stretched canvas panel. The painting, cum sculpture, has become Kolker’s standard for his art experiment…about how our perceptual faculties autonomically see things differently when up close. As a physician, Kolker has long ago learned and relied upon recognizing that the fingerprints of the abstract are the fractals of the real; like reading an X-ray or imaging scan as a molecular or microscopic construct which references the real. Mandelbrot’s jagged-rock coastline viewed from space is the same, geometrically speaking, as the solitary jagged-rock, the fractal of the coastline, when viewed up close.

To further clarify how seeing things up close comports with that coastline analogy of fractal geometry, microscopic cellular structures which may appear to us as abstractions up close, tend to replicate into the anatomical morphology of the view from afar; like leaves becoming trees… which form the forest. The only difference is the zoom apparatus and the perceptual understanding of the viewers who have been educated like Kolker in the disciplines of both gross and microscopic anatomy; i.e. learning to see from afar and up close. Please note, String Theory… and Painterly Up Close! op.7, 2015, depicted above in its fibrillar glory, is an ultra high definition 4,356 dpi metallic C-print of the digitally enhanced close-up cropping achieved by using a macro lens to photograph the magnified details of the the original acrylic on canvas painting, String Theory… Up Close!, 2015.

As a material component of his works, jute is not new to Kolker. His early encaustic and drip paintings of the 1960s were painted on burlap, made from jute fibers. Unlike cotton, or flax, wherein the fibers for cotton and linen canvas are short…jute fibers are very long and behave as long fractals resembling string. The adhesion of the paint tracks along the length of the fibers as strings of color. The fiber is similar to the collagen that provides the strength and infrastructure for biological tissues such as skin… holding us, as well as the universe, together in accordance with gravitation and other force lines described by modern theoretical physics and its so called string theory.

Paul Kolker (b. 1935) is a New York based artist with doctorate degrees in medicine and law. He is Emeritus Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at North Shore/ LIJ Glen Cove Hospital, having practiced cardiothoracic surgery on Long Island from 1969 to 2013. In October 2001 Kolker moved his Long Island studio to his current address in the Chelsea art district so that he could produce his works and curate his exhibitions as an experiment in perception. His studio and gallery have together become his laboratory in which the viewer is the measuring instrument for Kolker’s art as a perceptual experiment. String Theory…Up Close! is Kolker’s fiftieth solo exhibition.

In Paul Kolker: String Theory… Up Close!, thirty-six paintings, prints and sculptures are on view at the PAUL KOLKER collection from September 17 through December 1, 2015 at 511 West 25th Street in Chelsea adjacent to the High Line between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. For further information please call 212.367.7300, or email

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