Sex and death are implied everywhere in Kim Piotrowski’s show “Beds and Guns.” Taking the eponymous objects as metonymies for overlapping spectrums of ideas—placidity, power, eroticism and violence; birth, decay and mortality—she creates mixed-media works on paper that range in scale and intensity from the intimate to the nearly overwhelming. Piotrowski’s paintings are rooted in Abstract Expressionism, but her innovative experiments with materials and photojournalistic source images make her paintings a thing all their own. The drag of the brush creates whorls and ridges that lend the paintings some of their intense surface action. Some contour lines are sharp; elsewhere, pools of color bubble and slide. Piotrowski’s techniques evince sober control, but their effect is kinetic, occasionally wild.
Working at the edges of representation, Piotrowski renders her subjects abstract but also particularized. Some of her guns appear as sites of emerging violent energy. In “Arm in Arm in Arm,” the weapon rises monstrously from a lava-like morass, all ensconced within a dense and ragged blue halo that radiates brutal strokes of green. Piotrowski’s beds are every bit as lethal—and seductive—as the guns. In “Love in Plasma,” the silvery sheen of a ruffled bedsheet in the lower portion of the painting stands out starkly against a white background, while above, amorphous shapes hover and give way to a frenzy of colors and strokes. Piotrowski is a gutsy colorist, employing bright, deeply saturated hues and coruscating pigments alongside earthy tones and textures, always to startling effect. The evocations of volatility and quiescence in Piotrowski’s use of color and brushwork speak to the exploration of controlled chaos in this body of work. Eros and Thanatos continue to make exquisitely agonistic bedfellows; the result of their convergence here is a multifaceted thrill conveying the precarious excitement of an artist enthralled by her own continuing technical, material and thematic investigations. (Jeremy Biles)
Through January 30 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell