Lesley Heller Workspace is pleased to present Birdlands, the new series of paintings and watercolors by Ken Buhler. While reading through copies of Audubon Magazine that his son had collected, Buhler found himself transfixed and inspired by the peculiar and poetic bird names he encountered. Roseate Spoonbill. Antennae Satinbill. Superb Lyrebird. Rainbow Lorikeet. Responding to these, Buhler was able to tap into a rich world of color and form.While the natural world has always provided material for his abstract work, for the first time in this body of paintings, Buhler felt free to draw images directly from the outside world. Forms, often botanical or decorative in nature, which were once merely catalysts for abstraction, are now freely entering the lexicon of his painting.
An abstract painter since the 1980's, Buhler has always felt committed to a kind of purity accomplished through non-referential color and form. But small rubber stamps, initially incorporated only into the artist's drawings, became a gateway to the inclusion of more recognizable images and forms. These stamps and stencils, rooted in a tradition of engraving, evoke images of old maps and engraved books—objects from antiquity that spoke to Buhler's sense of the artist as chronicler of unknown worlds.
Now these stamps and stencils appear freely into the artist's drawings, watercolors, and large scale acrylic paintings. For the artist, allowing for this shift toward referential form has been liberating. In addition, the Birdland paintings offer a material departure from earlier work. Their shift to raw canvas allows for the use of transparencies and staining to create more open and lyrical spaces.
Ken Buhler is a professor of painting and drawing at Bard College. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and in Masonville, New York. Buhler is the recipient of many prestigious grants, residencies, and fellowships. These include the MacDowell Colony, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Ballinglen Foundation. Recent projects Buhler has completed include prints made with Oehme Graphics of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, VanDeb editions of NYC, and Jungle Press of Brooklyn.
Buhler has had solo exhibitions at Michael Walls Gallery, O’Hara Gallery, and Axel Raben Gallery. His work is part of many public collections including the Wichita Museum of Art, the Beach Museum, The Sioux City Art Center, the Ulrich Museum of Fine Arts, and the de Saisset Museum. His work is also part of many private collections inlcuding IBM, The Boston Company, Prudential, and the Maslow Collection.