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Joe Karlovec (1986 -)

Titles: Read all Over, Cover to Cover, Drum Solo each 2018

Materials and dimensions: silicon, latex, joint compound, and paper on canvas, each 24" x 24"

Location at Summa: Arch Street entrance to Akron City Hospital, left of information desk.

These works have been generously donated to the Summa Collection by the artist.

About the art and the artist:

These three panels are great examples of totally abstract painting: There is nothing here that emulates anything that we would identify as a representation. Instead, they are about as non-referential as a musical composition by J.S. Bach - we just have to immerse ourselves in the flow, paying attention to the painting as painting itself, primarily as a physical object created by an artist. So Joe Karlovec wants us to observe the traces of the strokes left in the material (not necessarily made by brushes), the colors and how they relate to one another, the textures on the surface and suggested in the polychrome (color) parts, the sense of depth going into the canvas and then layered upon it, the sense of movement and how it is created, and then our individual responses to what we're experiencing in the process of seeing.

Modern abstract art is now more than 100 years in the making: The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky is usually credited with having created the first Western abstract painting just before 1910, although non-representational pattern and texture had dominated art in much earlier non-Western cultures (we think of textiles, ceramics, and architecture in Persia, in India, in Africa, in China, among others). It's also important to note that the recently "re-discovered" work of the Swedish painter Hilma af-Klint is now credited as an abstract body of work simultaneous with Kandinsky's, in the first decade of the twentieth century.

So, our Western appreciation of abstraction in subject-matter and style has recently undergone big changes as we put it into a larger context. Joe Karlovec sticks to the more recent Western tradition, which favors intuitive approaches to form and color, and ultimately involve gesture (the best-known American practitioner being the "action painter" Jackson Pollock- there are many, many others right up to the present, including quite a few in the Summa Collection (see below).

Karlovec complicates his process by painting, perhaps ironically, with something familiar but emphatically not a traditional painting material: joint compound. Also known as "mud" and used in construction to fill in the joins between drywall sheets, joint compound is thick, heavy, and usually applied with a trowel. It appears that Karlovec again participates in a trend by American artists since the 1950's, of exploring new, often counter-intuitive, materials in painting and sculpture: To name just two, sculptor Eva Hesse pioneered the use of latex, while feminist performance artist Hannah Wilke used chewing gum and erasers to make body art. Artists acknowledge that often they are compelled by limited opportunities or economic resources to "make do" and to experiment with less conventional materials. Their attainments, which can also be serendipitous, then are emulated more widely. Even geo-political circumstances, such as the collapse of Soviet support for Cuba in 1991, can impel artists to improvise materials: Wine, coffee, even blood was used to make paintings during the "periodo especial". And we also recognize that other artists, who choose to work within the traditions of indigenous cultures, incorporate materials that have always served multiple purposes, including artmaking (for example, in the Summa Collection, see the paintings by Claire Heldman).

Joe Karlovec uses the "mud" in both painterly and sculptural ways. He has mostly obscured the bright abstract colors below, on canvas, with monotone layers that are thick and vigorous, all of the impact of his strokes (made with some type of palette knife or scraper) right there on top, creating relief, as in a sculpture. He wants us to pay attention to differences signaled by those relief layers, as we see across the three titled works: At left, in Read all Over, the artist emphasizes horizontality, but the vertical in Cover to Cover, the central painting; and finally, a tilting, diagonal motion livens up the surface in Drum Solo. And that the "mud" is (an off-) white that mostly obscures the colorful latex paintings underneath, with their deliberate palettes and even some intricately patterned areas, is another ironic note.

Exploring materials and working with the vulnerability that comes with incorporating that which is incidental/accidental pleases the artist. Having studied interior architecture at the Cleveland Institute of Art as an undergraduate and then painting to earn the M.F.A. at Kent State, Joe Karlovec describes his current work as "industrial woven photo-collage". We can see in these slightly earlier paintings some of where he was headed, as the irregular and intriguing surface impasto can feel like it wants to be a grid, a woven layer. Certainly, even without any representational features, these densely finished canvases give us much to pay attention to - we immerse ourselves in the "thing"-ness of painting and come closer to the processes of the artist.

Joe Karlovec now lives and works in Palm Beach, Florida but was born in Columbus and has worked in architecture- and art-related positions across the U.S. for many years. He has designed and installed exhibits, served as an art handler, and has designed user-experience ("UX") programs for galleries, museums, artists and other arts professionals. He photographs extensively and uses photos as the basis for digitizing elements that become part of his hand-cut, post-industrial woven collages.

Where you can see more of this artist's work:

Joe Karlovec maintains an online portfolio that provides a comprehensive overview of his education, interests, and professional activity in the arts.

He has exhibited his work in South Korea, in Toronto (Canada), and in San Francisco, as well as throughout Ohio, in Florida and in South Carolina. A recent show at Al-Tiba9 Contemporary art,


Where you can find more works like this at Summa:

There are multiple types of abstraction, many of which are represented in the Summa Collection. See if you can find any common characteristics among works by some of these artists: Natalie Petrosky, Diana al-Hadid, Russ Vogt, Ruth Bercaw, Lainard Bush, Stephen Tornero, Marianne Hite, John Pearson, Terry Klausman, Eric Rippert, Nancy and Ned Seibert, and Andrew Reach.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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