Joe Caroff: The Liberated Line / The Painting Center, New York
March 27 - April 21, 2012
The Painting Center is pleased to announce the opening of The Liberated Line, an exhibition of recent work by Joe Caroff. He was attracted to the creative freedom possible in book jacket design, and worked with many publishers. His first jacket design was for Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead. His first film poster was for West Side Story. In 1963, Joseph Caroff designed the iconic 007 logo for United Artists and launched a long and distinguished graphic design career. When he observed the widening grasp of the computer and its inevitable descent into homogeneity in graphic design, Caroff sold his commercial art studio and began to paint. In his current work, the spontaneity and control that describe his world, coupled with the urge to manipulate form away from surface eventually matured in works where the flow of linear gesture continues on in independent space. In this thrust to “escape the canvas” he has consistently sought three-dimensional expression that challenges the canvas without abandoning its critical relationship. In his Terni series of 1986, three abstract shapes were produced with overlapping wooden sheets extending beyond the canvas. In the Iconic Metaphor series of 1990, he created works on 30 x 30 inch hollow core wood panels using leather, heavy paper and wood to construct illusionistic figures.
For the past 30 years he has devoted himself to painting with insight and originality in response to, and frequently in reaction to the fashion of various endeavors currently popular. His interest in perception - both his own and that of the audience to the juxtaposition of flatness and three- dimensionality, has been a major focus; most recently in the works currently exhibited at The Painting Center. These reflect his previous investigations yet are pushing his thoughts forward, sparking ideas that he seeks to pursue.
Caroff’s color is either subdued or theatrical depending upon its support of his linear choreography. It is either in complete contrast to the ground, or echoes one or other of the colors behind it. In these paintings, the lyrical quality of the line expresses the joy of liberation, declaring itself free of the gravity of the canvas. In pulling the line away from the surface, and turning it into a three-dimensional entity, another critical linear element follows: shadows that link the line back to its source on the surface and provide a bridge between the two. These are not airbrushed shadows as can be seen in some James Harvard paintings. These shadows are real and are integral to the final composition.
Caroff has never been complacent. He is always inventing. In August, he turned 90.