The dancer and the dance

July 14, 2007 § Leave a comment


Some artists we admire for their formal skill, and others for their quicksilver spontaneity. But there’s a third, rarer type as well. I mean the artist for whom mastery and intuition are inseparable, fused. Kim Frohsin is this kind of artist. Her work reveals a gorgeous braiding of form and process.

Drawing from the model, she captures a range of emotions as they uncoil their way through the body, seeking expression in the resulting gestures. “How can we know the dancer from the dance,” Yeats asked in one of his most famous poems. Kim Frohsin’s art brings us to that same moment of wonder.

In her series, “Two Minutes and Counting,” her project has reached a new intensity. As the title suggests, Frohsin worked on each picture within self-imposed time limits, intended to encourage immediacy. There was also an element of acrobatics involved, both for the models, who often held difficult poses, and for the artist herself. Talking with me in her studio, she described the process of making these pictures: “They became very physical. There were little wrestling matches going on.”

That feeling of resistance creates so much of the life of the series. You can see Frohsin grappling with, and through, her media. Gouache slips over into ink; watercolor and watercolor crayons trade off with dry pigment. This engagement with materials entails a spirited exchange with the tradition of art itself: Traces of Bonnard or Degas appear for moments only to be transformed beneath Frohsin’s confident hand. And there’s also a tension between the motif and the abstract identities of the pictures.

Like many of the great Bay Area painters from whom she’s learned, Frohsin wants both the representational image and its abstract, imaginative energies. She has both an uncompromising feeling for shape and color and an unstinting respect for her models as individuals, as women who inspire her.

Few of her contemporaries have her ability to capture the barest and strongest energies of bodily movement and expression, and to bring them to such compelling form. Kim Frohsin is an artist of supreme vitality.

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