California artist Ken Auster studied for his BFA at Long Beach State University in the midst of the 1960’s surfing craze, and applied his talents to successful lines of silkscreen prints and T-shirt designs that became icons of surfer culture.
In the 1990’s Auster moved into plein air painting, capturing immediate scenes in a painterly realist manner, but maintaining a strong graphic sensibility from his previous experience. The result is painterly evocations of cityscapes, landscapes, interiors and, of course, beach scenes, that have an uncommon graphic and geometric strength.
Auster pushes up against the line of “just enough” to suggest his scenes and convey the light, color and textures of the place and time. He fills his geometric shapes with lush, textural brushwork, wonderful squiggles and blobs of thick paint that make their own drama within the larger image.
His interiors are often of restaurants and bars, finding patterns in walls lined with wine bottlers and glasses, visual texture in the kitchens, and value contrasts in the white shirts and dark vests of servers.
Some of his paintings include scenes in restaurants or bars that have noted works or art on the walls, like several of the paintings currently in the New Masters Gallery that show patrons in front of the Old King Cole mural by Maxfield Parrish in the St. Regis Hotel Bar in Manhattan (image above, bottom; see here for a closer view of the Parrish mural).
I particularly like Auster’s cityscapes, in which he reduces urban complexity to geometric simplicity with apparent ease, finding just the right level of suggested detail to carry the impression of place.
Auster’s own web site, though it features a variety of his work and subjects, suffers from images that are inexplicably small; so much as to be almost pointless, and certainly not large enough to get any appreciation for the textural qualities of his paint surface.
Fortunately, he fares better in the reproductions on the sites of galleries in which he is represented, New Masters Gallery and Jones & Terwilliger Galleries. There are also sources for reproductions of his work, though I haven’t listed them here.