Kim Frohsin´s Abstract Nudes: Further Discoveries in Drawing

Kim Frohsin draws with absolute authority, every line precisely what it should be. She elevates drawing to a level of expressive accomplishment that makes the individual sheets of paper that happily bear her marks fully realized works of art. In this she is among the relatively few legitimate heirs of the Bay Area Figurative School. Among her predecessors are Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Nathan Oliveira, and Frank Lobdell, all admired for their draughtsmanship. Among the things she and her distinguished predecessors share in common is a complete control of line and form as means to construct anunmistakably individual personal world in their art.
Figure drawing is not merely an academic exercise. Working with a live model is a practice that has continued over the centuries uninterrupted by stylistic changes and even major shifts in the fundamental idea of what art is, or has become. The Bay Area tradition in which Frohsin participates is nothing less than an affirmation of the insuperable centrality of drawing to the continuity and historic underpinnings of visual art. Frohsin´s drawing-based practice is, however, “traditional” only in that it participates in what for centuries was understood to be the basis for depiction, and therefore comprehension, ofreality. With that in mind, she takes her position within a humanist tradition that seeks understanding of her place—of our place—in the world. Implicit in her work is an acknowledgment of the close relationship between representation and abstraction. This is a hallmark of modernism, an underlying concept in all figurative, or “realist,” art of significance.
The previous Provocative Poses series was the result of what Frohsin describes as an “epiphany”experienced during a group session with the model Eden. The resulting drawings (exhibited at Dolby Chadwick in 2003), in which female sexuality (model´s and artist´s) played a central role, werefollowed by a second and closely related group of works. With the focus remaining on the female nude figure, the artis´s preferred subject, abstraction (never carried to full non-objectivity) became the thematic goal. In August 2004 another model, Reyna, pointed the direction for the subsequent step in what amounts to an evolving pictorial and psychological investigation. Abstraction, a formal and philosophical concept, was adopted as the means to deeper self-discovery. The general was, once again, deployed in the service of the personal.
The idea of abstracting the figure is hardly new. But, the goal of abstracting an individualmodel—beyond the physical information provided by line, form, volume—is less common. And this is what Kim Frohsin has undertaken as her project in this series. Abstraction itself has an impersonal quality, typically understood as more universal than the particularities of an individual, which are the personal and human qualities that Frohsin seeks in her quest for self-understanding. Furthermore, she seems intuitively to combine an interest in formal (stylistic) issues with a willingness to confront something far more difficult to capture: the essence of a unique, singular, human being. This is what distinguishes Frohsin´s ongoing project and, most emphatically, the abstract figure series. The particular neversurrenders to the general.
To hear Frohsin talk about her models is to gain insight into their essential importance as individuals to her art—and, as I gather from our conversations, to her life as well. Reyna, Tami, Signe, Prudence, He­lene, Dayla, Barbara, Lea are all individual sources of abstraction. But they are also individual women, eager to collaborate in Frohsin´s latest artistic obsession. This confidence in the artist surely comes from recognition that, for her, life drawing is not simply a classroom exercise removed from the seriousbusiness of contemporary art based on ideas. It is the fundamental basis and means for her to develop her own thinking about the intersection of art and life, providing a vocabulary for her to communicate a personal worldview that insists upon the primacy of human interaction and relationship.

Paul J. Karlstrom, Former West Coast Director, Smithsonian Archives of American Art © April 2005

vintage sleep 2005 mixed media 30 x 30 cm