Abstract artist Field Kallop is primarily interested in complexity—specifically, how natural forces such as the planets, seasons, and cosmos impact and augment our daily lives. At her studio on Second Street, in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, Kallop reveals a group of paintings that will be presented later this year at her solo show with the Voltz Clarke Gallery at the Marfa Invitational. Comprising symmetrical, grid-like structures, they are created with tessellated layers of thin paint, each composition so precisely calibrated that it’s impossible to imagine that a battery of rules and compasses was not involved.
Kallop grew up on New York City’s Upper East Side. As a student, she excelled in math and science along with art, but she settled on her métier early on, thanks to her mother, who began taking her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when she was a toddler. “I really fell in love with those paintings,” she recalls. After studying art history at Princeton, Kallop pursued a curatorial path, working at the Museo de la Nación, in Lima. Upon returning to New York, she decided to try her hand at painting. While assisting Chuck Close and interning at the Museum of Modern Art, she rented a studio space and began assembling a portfolio of work, which earned her acceptance into the M.F.A. program at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Kallop’s first paintings were figurative in style until Judy Glantzman, one of her professors at RISD, encouraged her to incorporate more abstract concepts into her work. “When I couldn’t just use paint to capture something like stars, I started thinking about ways to use gravity to make the image,” she says. She hung paint bottles from the ceiling like pendulums, coaxing them to spin around so that the paint would create elliptical patterns. “I could suddenly harness an invisible force.” Next, she began working with fabric, using mathematical folding patterns to create unexpected shapes.
These days, Kallop works primarily in acrylics on canvas, using mathematical grids, the golden ratio, and all different permutations of geometric shapes to create an intriguing amalgamation of art and design. Planetary vibes abound in Cocoon (2020), a bisected image of concentric circles that radiates with shades of fuchsia, orange, and yellow. “When the planets move around, each has a resonant tone, and together all of the tones create perfect music—the music of the spheres,” explains Kallop, who has achieved a similar sense of harmony in her work.
Kallop cites Agnes Martin, Hilma af Klint, and Emma Kunz as influences, and it’s no coincidence that these artists are women who have been previously undervalued in a landscape that was historically dominated by white men. “They were just hiding in their studio,” she says, “because the canon used to be a certain way.” Luckily for all of us, especially those who experience Kallop’s work, that is no longer the case.
Elena Clavarino is an Assistant Editor for Air Mail