Korsmit and Chance
Chance….. slim or rotund? Round of edge or razor sharp?Does Chance have a texture or is it confined to temperature.. or is it just beyond description?Secretly (or not) we acknowledge Chance as that invisible variable, often unnamed, that ripples through our lives and shapes our fate, and if we are not careful capsizes our destinies.People have been gambling since round stones and numbers could be thrown together to separate one citizens property from anothers.
Chance in Art as a defining principle of production is, however, relatively new, not quite one hundred years old. Duchamps “Three Standard Stoppages” and Arps collages composed by Chance (gravity), both produced early in the second decade of the last century, actualized an aspect of Nature never before embraced as a creative principle. Since Chance has no firm shape, no assigned symbolic emblem, in its pure visual form it tends to reside in the realm of abstract painting and sculpture. Dadaists, Fluxists, and the Nouveau Realists took objects chanced upon or subjected objects to the vagaries of Chance by using the postal system and peeling billboards, but this is the theatre of Chance, a different enterprise.George Korsmit’s paintings are formally ambitious, edgy, optically humorous and foremost, without appearing to be so, the product of Chance. Ritualized Chance. In order to harness the creative potential of Chance a rigorous set of procedural steps must be established in order to have pure Chance appear. If one strays from the established equation and, there are many Chance will respond to, the result is mere subjectivity. Korsmit’s results are ambitious in the manner in which they extend certain painting philosophies and edgy in that they arrive at their destination using a manner wholly antithetical to the philosophy they invigorate…. de Stijl the school so important to 20th century Dutch visual identity.As a child of Dada, Korsmit arrives at this position, relative to the intuitive but labored approach of Mondrian, through humor and of course Chance. Unlike the creator of “Broadway Boogie Woogie” Korsmit’s paintings are as serious without taking themselves too seriously. This is their gift and by extension their importance to abstract painting and in particular Dutch abstraction born out of the philosophy of deStijl.
If Francis Picabia had ever become a painter in the manner of de Stijl, he would have probably cast himself as George Korsmit, if he, Picabia, could have mustered the discipline required to produce this body of work. I suspect Picabia would have failed to maintain the focus and procedural skill necessary to make a painting like “I’m Not Your Brother”.
One of the more unusual names associated with Chance is Ellsworth Kelly, the artist known for his spare compositions and purist sense of color. His work from the 1950’s in particular examined Chance using a modular grid system. His work lies somewhere between Arp and Korsmit in its approach to systematizing the procedure. Arp was simple and direct in his approach: take a set number of scraps of paper drop them from a certain height onto a larger piece of paper and affix them to the support paper where they land.
Korsmit’s invigorating compositions require a more complex system of approach. Using dice to determine the grid coordinates and spacing and a blind fold to select and place the individual colors that are drawn from a reserve of approximately 1600 chips placed in a box, the artist may take up to three days to complete a sketch that will be the blueprint for a specific painting.
Having given himself over to this task of netting Chance within a grid determined by Chance, the artist then proceeds to produce work that allows no room for Chance to play a part in its production. Mr. Korsmit is a seamless mechanic whose command of the medium results in paintings that are portraits of Chance as well as highly energized and successful abstract works.
The result as you can see upon visiting the exhibition is simultaneously stunning and puzzling. Stunning in the sheer optical power and poetics of color on such a robust scale. Puzzling because within these ambitious portraits of Chance lie the answers to how abstract painting on a grand scale could be awakened from its dormant state, all the result of a careful choreographed use of a blindfold and dice.
St Louis, November 2002