Kim Van Do and Rotating Viewpoints

Kim Van Do and Rotating Viewpoints

Hyperallergic has a piece on Kim Van Do, an Asian-American landscape artist whose vision transcends so much of what we expect. 

Kim Van Do is a New Yorker by upbringing, and Vietnamese-Dutch by heritage. For a long time, he was part of a design group that met on a weekly basis and included such luminaries as Jack Beal, Rudy Burckhardt, Joe Giordano, Eric Holtzman, Yvonne Jacquette, Marjorie Portnow, and Altoon Sultan. This weekly group was committed to creating their art from direct observation. 

Do, now in his mid-60s, is largely unknown in the art world, even though many artists know him 

As Hyperallergic reports, Do recently concluded his debut exhibition, Kim Van Do: Light and Air of Summer, at Blue Mountain Gallery. 

This is his first solo exhibition in New York in a quarter of a century. When you look at his work, it’s just amazing that he has remained hidden for so long. Yet, given the decline in popularity of observational drawing and painting, it is, nonetheless, predictable. 

Do really comes into his own when painting scenes that show those shifts in perception as we turn from one scene to another. He was inspired by the work of Rackstraw Downes and Neil Welliver and developed Downes’s understanding of rotating viewpoints

Do’s exhibition features 21 paintings which can be grouped into three sets of paintings. There are paintings on saws, rectangular canvases, and round canvases. The paintings were made between 1993 and 2020, a period of 27 years. Geographically, they were painted in the Hudson Valley, upstate New York, and the coast of Northern California. 

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the oil painting, “Our Backyard” made in 2001. It depicts a farmhouse behind a porch, with someone reading to the right of the painting, and a treehouse in urgent need of a local tree service to the left. 

The painting is struck through by a diagonal clothesline, inviting us to follow it, from the edge of the painting on the left, to the edge of the farmhouse on the right. The clothesline manages to make us more aware of the spatial aspects of the painting. 

There are just two things hanging on the clothesline, one of which is this green, semi-transparent poncho. The poncho is the heart of the painting, giving it a vibrancy and life which is quite surprising. 

The green of the poncho, darker than the green of the grass, and the oil tank just outside the farmhouse, draws the viewer in, enticing the viewer with the changefulness of the colours, and the play of the sunlight and the shadows.

This incredible poncho is also, in a sense, a kind of barrier between the viewer and the reader sitting on the porch. The reader seems somehow connected to the poncho because she is wearing a dress that resembles the poncho. 

This painting encapsulates so much that is good in Do’s painting. His mastery of the rotating viewpoint, this skill with colour, even where he limits himself to a few core colours, and his use of space. Do is certainly an artist that you should take time to enjoy.

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