[ART REVIEW] Kamil Franko At New Release Gallery

by Adam Lehrer

I went to Paris for the first time when I was 16-years-old on a student trip. It was my first time in Europe, and the whole time I was in something of a transcendental lull. I was already heavily into art, music and history, and I remember the whole time being taken into a state that wasn’t quite awake but certainly wasn’t sedated either. I did the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I ate baguettes and drank booze for the first time. It was one of those experiences when the reality lines up perfectly with your imagination and a specific tranquil state is elicited. And then, I was on the subway when all of a sudden my eyes burst with tears and I fell to the floor violently ripped out of the bliss. I later found out that the police used tear gas to stop a thief. This is all coming to mind as I am looking at the formidable paintings by Copenhagen-based artist Kamil Franko at the opening of his show ‘Love and Violence’ at Erin Goldberger’s new gallery New Release Gallery. Franko’s paintings appear to be marked by tranquility as they are moments of sharp violence.

The lovely and brilliant Goldberger is best known amongst the New York art world as director of Bill Powers’s Half Gallery. The opening was packed with young art kids in a way that I haven’t seen in New York in years. It feels like Goldberger found the perfect time and the perfect Chinatown location to open a downtown gallery that could serve as a new Ground Zero for the new generation of artists in the city.

Kamil Franko’s work, while paying heed to the traditions of great painters, has a style that feels explosive and fresh. Franko piles paint on top of one another forming a thick and physical void separating the viewer from the imagery. The imagery contained within those paintings is at times both tranquil and violent. “I don’t think it’s about being between good and evil,” says Franko. “I think it’s a borderland between two polarities.”

Franko’s paintings are as much about creation as they are about destruction, and that dichotomy lives within his technique as much as it shows within his content. “I added paint carefully in creating the canvas, and at the same time I demolish it or remove it,” he says. “The motif is in the method. For example, I took a drone as a symbol for some destructive elements with an ominous presence of both beauty and ugliness.”

Franko is, for lack of a better term, a “painter’s painter.” He created the works contained with ‘Love and Violence’ during a period of isolation he underwent for three months in Budapest. He wasn’t even creating these paintings for the sake of a show, as there was no such show to be making them for. He literally paints just to paint. How many artists are like that are out there these days? Goldberger then contacted him via email to discuss putting together a show for her brand spanking new gallery. Franko credits that isolation with propelling his work forward. “After three weeks you’re asking yourself what the fuck are you doing here,” he says. “When you are alone in your head it seems to calibrate clearer ideas. You can focus when not disturbed by your environment.”

Franko’s work, at times both dark and hopeful, speaks to a bright future for art and proves a most appropriate show to open Goldberger’s new gallery. The time is right for a young gallerist to show off work by young artists, and I think I can speak for all of the young art community of New York when I say, “We are ready for this.”

Adam Lehrer is a writer, journalist, and art and fashion critic based in New York City. On top of being Autre’s fashion and art correspondent, he is also a regular contributor to Forbes Magazine. His unique interests in punk, hip hop, skateboarding and subculture have given him a distinctive, discerning eye and voice in the world of culture, et al. Oh, and he also loves The Sopranos. Follow him on Instagram: @adam102287