A painted image can be at once blunt and ambiguous. That is its sometimes troubling power: a demonstration that what you feel and what you know may never be entirely in synch.At least until recently, Ansel Krut’s paintings have tended to exemplify this disquieting ambiguity in a very particular way: a heavy, dark outlining of forms seems to speak the candid, ingenuous language of cartoons and graffiti; but the richly layered, smokily atmospheric color, often dominated by earth tones and distinctly moody in character, shows that Krut is no Pop artist, and still less an eighties-style neo-expressionist, but an artist earnestly involved in the traditional craft of oil painting and its modern revisions.
With his most recent work, however, Krut may be preparing a transition of sorts. For the first time, many of the works have been made in acrylic rather than oil, a practice he began during a recent stay in Los Angeles. This brings several immediate changes, first of all because of the increased speed of execution that working with acrylic both enables and encourages but also because it favors ways of using color that come across as more strident and artificial, less finely interwoven and less restrained than we are accustomed to in this artist’s work. Krut’s deeply-held traditionalism takes a back seat in these acrylic works, and in a way that may be inciting him to revise his way of working with oil paint as well—accepting ostensibly “cruder,” more forthright effects. At the same time, his use of outlining to establish his forms has receded somewhat: More often, lately, he draws the contours in lively color, and sometimes he does without the defining lines altogether, letting colors butt up against each other and, often enough, clash.
There is an aggressiveness to much of Krut’s new work that accords it a different kind of impact from the more pensive style he’s long cultivated—more immediate, you might say, but no less lasting. Has the painter had a change of heart? Not entirely. I note that already nearly a decade ago he spoke of his ambition to make his work more “challenging and direct,” to find out “how crude you can make an image and still carry it off in other ways.” Now he is pushing himself even further in this direction. Sometimes you just have to overthrow your habits to pursue your desires.