Margaret Lanterman


Art Kleinman, Tumbleweed, Acrylic/canvas
40×40” 2021

This must-see exhibit can be found at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago. Seventeen of Kleinman’s large abstract acrylic paintings fill the main gallery with a welcoming presence. The first glance is deceptive, in that one might be tempted to think of straight forward color abstractions of a cheerful mien. These preconceptions quickly evaporate upon a closer look, and the layers of subtlety begin to reveal themselves. The exhibit does shout color, but the hues are fluid and not harnessed by any pre-ordained schedule of combinations or systems. There is a robust sense of life in the interacting, jostling forms that are held together by the artist’s over-riding understanding of the structural elements of art, and by an ever present but often quiet sense of geometry.
The artist notes that he is influenced by Minimalist Bryce Marden, Cubist Pablo Picasso and Early Flemish artist Roger Van der Wey Den, but Kleinman’s work does not fit into any one stylistic category. Rather, it is a unique personal expression, the language of which is contained in the singular path that the artist projects – his personal style. There are no guerrilla attacks of social comment or alerts to environmental danger, but rather a pure and hearty exploration of some historically unresolved questions that artists have struggled with through the ages. For example, how paint can communicate in its purest sense; how an artist can make a mark that has real significance, and how work can be massively personal and grandly universal at the same moment. In the painting Tumbleweed, a static state is overlayed with a sense of vigorous motion in the four spinning discs. There is a sense of systematic structure, but we also see the gesture of the artist’s hand in this image that tumbles from flat space to three-dimensional illusion. The symbols chosen by the artist are definitely very personal, but also trigger thoughts and emotions in the viewer as well. Instead of a clear timeline there is rather a transcendence of time. The colors are pleasing but not predictable.
There may never be a finite answer to any of these metaphysical questions about art, but the paintings of Art Kleinman make inroads towards understandings if you remain thoughtfully in their presence. It is part of our nature as a human being to communicate in many forms, and so we love to speak of and write about art. Yet, there is undeniable satisfaction with art that can make its truest communication in its own contained visual language – like finding a treasure.

@ Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art
2320 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL, 60622 on view until June 18, 2023.