Words/Reviews

ART IN AMERICA      October 2003     by Lance Esplund

Carl Plansky has an enviable facility with oil paint. A single work may be thickly encrusted in places and bare in others, with both running drips and transparent washes. At first sight, his canvases resemble palettes and drop cloths rather than finished compositions. His first one-person show in New York since 1994, "Still Life," consisted of six new easel paintings depicting vases of flowers. In these works, entangled, wet-into-wet swirls struggle within impastoed surfaces, keeping them alive. For Plansky, color is never merely descriptive; it is a whirlwind, whiplash, hell of a ride.

The artist, it seems, always has a story to tell. In his paintings over the years, some of which span 12 feet, enormous figures appear to erupt like volcanoes, and landscapes seem to dissolve into abstractions. This small show offered a taste of what the artist is capable of, but was not representative of his full oeuvre. I would have preferred to see these still lifes in the company of his recent large, ambitious figure paintings.

Sheer physicality--of color, of violent strokes--is the first experience one has when confronted with Plansky's larger-than-life-size flower paintings. I sense that the artist concerns himself with tearing down his compositions as much as with building them up. There is always a tumult beneath the surface. In Peony for B. (2002, 48 by 36 inches), as in others, the flora resemble open wounds; the pulsing mess of the background recalls a stormy sky. The violent twist of the vase has the emotion of a crucifixion and brings to mind Soutine's dead fowl rather than fresh-cut flowers. I wondered, "Is it me, or does each bouquet conjure up St. John's head on a platter?"

Artcritical,  October 5, 2010

 Carl Plansky, the man who loved colors, went beyond the call of duty implied by the term “painter’s painter.”  For besides his authorship of rich, effulgent, exploratory, expressive landscape paintings, floral still lifes, and raucous self-portraits dressed as his favorite operatic divas, Plansky was a master paint maker whose products, marketed as Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors, are revered by countless painter addicts.  He founded his company when the painter Milton Resnick gave him a mixing machine in exchange for his own private supply.  Since 2000 the company was managed by Carl’s sister Beverly, allowing Carl full time in his studio – with unlimited paint supplies, needless to mention.

Plansky died of a heart attack in the last week of his show of “Divas” at the New York Studio School: the final day of the show served as his memorial.

In June of this year, the redoubtable Golden Artists Colors, whose acrylic paints are held in similar affection by its users as Williamsburg’s oils are by theirs, acquired Plansky’s brand.  They are now celebrating the event with a sumptuously oil-filled show of Plansky and friends, including Resnick, Resnick’s widow Pat Passlof, and customer-friends Jake Berthot, Susanna Coffey, Cora Cohen, Bill Jensen, Margrit Lewczuk (working in acrylics), Judith Linhares, and Mary Jo Vath.

The exhibition, which continues at the Sam & Adele Golden Gallery in New Berlin, New York through November 20, is curated by artist, long-time Golden employee and director of the SAGG Jim Walsh.

Murderers and Metaphors
And other shows worth seeing in New York's galleries
 
By LANCE ESPLUND for The Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2009
Carl Plansky: Oil Paintings
Fischbach Gallery, 210 11th Ave. NYC
Through April 25, 2009
Expressive full-frontal assaults, Carl Plansky's paintings of flower bouquets -- some nearly seven feet tall -- threaten to leap from the canvas and strangle the viewer. Looking at his exhibition of a dozen paintings of bouquets, a hard maple tree and a life-size, nude self-portrait, "Poseidon" (all 2009), is to be immersed in a colorful garden, as well as a pit of writhing snakes. Born in 1951, Mr. Plansky, who claims "the more I see contemporary painting distrust feeling, the more feeling I put into my painting," has feeling enough to spare. And he spares none of it.
For Mr. Plansky, who wrestles every form into being, a rose is a leaping flame or a serpent on Medusa's head -- but, a realist at heart, his rose is, ultimately, still a rose. I am not completely convinced that Mr. Plansky's flowers -- his glass vases of wildflowers, roses and lilies, his flurries of brushwork reminiscent of Joan Mitchell's abstractions -- need to be blown up to mural scale, dimensions that compete with their naturalism. The artist, obviously, is of differing opinion. And he may be right. Although his smaller, life-size bouquets may be more manageable and believable, they are also more conventional. The mammoth bouquets, beautifully strident, are more daring, convincing and engulfing as works of art.

 Mr. Esplund writes about art for the Journal.

  Carl Plansky as reviewed by Brice Brown
Survey exhibitions draw their strength from being the better porridge: not too hot and not too cold, they contain just the right amount of work representing an easily digestible cross-section of an artist’s output. For this reason, these shows have the unique ability to provide an overview of an artist’s development sufficient enough for the viewer to discern larger, more general aesthetic trends and patterns –– as well as ideological or theoretical agendas ­­–– while simultaneously sharpening the viewer’s focus on the specific nature of each piece and how it relates one-to-one with the other works on view. It’s a recipe ripe with the potential to bat away preconceived or too-comfortable notions of an artist’s work, unveiling newfound ways to experience its multifarious layers.
 This survey of Carl Plansky’s work is both revelatory and deeply consoling. On the one hand, witnessing the tenacity of Planksy’s nervy, unwavering dedication to the craft and history of painting –– often in opposition to the ever-shifting trends declaiming it as old news –– imparts a warming sense of comfort in the knowledge that old-school notions of willful purpose, the heroic gesture, and salvation found through brave individualism (ideals for which Abstract Expressionist artists like Willem de Kooning vehemently championed) still have a place in contemporary art and are still worth fighting for. On the other hand, being afforded the chance to see and assess a range of Plansky’s work has the delightfully unexpected, though confusingly counter-intuitive, effect of providing an escape from the seduction of the lush surfaces of his paintings.
The crusty, juicy mounds of pigment, the ballet of facile mark-making, the curious luminosity of light and the vividness of color are all deeply essential components of the work, and indeed few artists can pull off such satisfyingly frenetic tornadoes of materiality like Plansky. But moving beyond these seductive come-ons clarifies the paintings’ subject matter in the viewer’s mind, opening up the work to reveal the kooky narratives, hidden worlds and life lessons which add rich textures to the viewer’s overall experience.
For Plansky, the triumvirate of the traditional motifs of still life, landscape, and human figure has been a lucrative source of inspiration. When he uncomfortably overextends a rose’s stem –– stretching it out to its maximum reach and then flash-freezing it in space so it hovers, jittering like an agitated cartoon –– Plansky is not simply taking compositional license. He is exposing the animated life of things. Each petal, leaf, stem and vase has its own distinct personality and identity, hinting at the interconnectivity of all living (and non-living) objects.
In Plansky's landscapes we see a portrait of our complex relationship to nature, one that is equal parts awe, terror, claustrophobia and love.  The paintings' tightly sprung compositions reveal an understanding that in the blink of an eye nature can turn from a sleepy idyll into a destructive, unstoppable force, only to return back to a state of rest. These landscapes not only embody timely metaphors for how our actions can and are adversely impacting the environment, but they bring us face to face with the fragility and unpredictability of our own life.
Plansky's paintings of figures are smart hybrids of refined 19th century academic figure studies with portraits decumenting the very genesis of human life. Limbs posed in classic stances are at once liquid and solid, seemingly unsure if they are supposed to remain flexh or dissolve and transmute into another state of being. With these paintings, Plansky shows us in a very visceral manner how the body is strong, sensual, handsomely proportioned and pleasing to the eye, and yet is forever destined to rot, decay and cease to be. It's a beautiful, if slightly melancholic, challenge to the viewer to fully occupy and enjoy their coporeal selves, and by extension to fully embrace their day-to-day existence.