Kim McCarty, Maroon Tips (2010)

Kim McCarty, Maroon Tips (2010) 22h x 15w in

Kim McCarty: Watercolors

535 West 22nd Street
October 25, 2012 to January 12, 2013

Morgan Lehman Gallery presents “Boys & Girls”, a solo show of new watercolors by Kim McCarty. This is the artist’s first solo show with the gallery.

After working for many years in oil paint, McCarty began using watercolor when her California studio was destroyed by wild fire. Since then, McCarty has embraced it as her primary medium and has set out to execute her works on a larger-than-life scale.

McCarty uses a wet-on-wet technique, saturating the form with water before applying pigment with a loaded brush to the paper. When the pigment hits the water-laden paper, it creates soft ripples of color and gradations of value, expressing both flaws and perfection, and the dichotomy between uncertainty and focus.



Kim McCarty, 3 Figures Darker

Kim McCarty, 3 Figures Darker, (2012) 22h x 30w in

McCarty’s imagery and compositions are derived from personal photographs.

She uses these images as specific references to develop a particular pose or composition. The figures or “beings” all seem related, familial – perhaps a human subspecies.

They are capable of communicating a feeling or a mood that is universal, yet deeply intimate and personal.

Some figure’s express longing, others seem sexy and intriguing, some innocent and unaware of our voyeurism. In these boys and girls we see our emotional selves reflected, and catch a glimpse of the fragility and tenuousness of the human experience.


Kim McCarty, Alex (2010) 76h x 45w in

Kim McCarty, Alex (2010) 76h x 45w in

Kim McCarty: Statement

“I have always been interested in identifying an expression that suggests both longing and loss. My work has gone through stages of subject matter from images of adulthood to the recent exploration of adolescence. I’m interested in the adolescence expression of fragile vulnerability and their knowing and questioning gaze.

By using a “wet into wet” watercolor medium and without specific subject, I wish to convey the transitory and emergent state. The figures heads become too large for their small, narrow bodies, their hands too large for their arms. The watercolor is so translucent that the medium expresses both flaws and perfection.

The process is extremely fleeting and an image is either created or lost within seconds. It can sometimes take weeks to create a watercolor that has the delicate balance of realism and abstraction. In many ways this watercolor process feels much like the immediacy of childhood and adolescence itself. By this process I attempt to explore the dichotomy between uncertainty and focus, and the emotional state that lies beneath the surface.”



Kim McCart, Single Strand (2012) 74h x 45w in

Kim McCart, Single Strand (2012) 74h x 45w in

Girlcrush Interview — Kim McCarty

FP: The organic medium of watercolor is so fitting for your ethereal style and for the delicacy of both children and flowers. Have you always used watercolors? And are there drawings first or just paint to paper?

KM: “When I was in graduate school and for sometime after I only worked in oils. I was searching to create a more aggressive, painterly effect. I was also influenced by the figurative expressionism of Julian Schnabel, George Baselitz, and David Salle. It wasn’t until our house burned down in a Malibu fire and I lost my studio that I primarily concentrated on using watercolors. By coincidence it was also during a time when I was ready to explore other art materials.”

“With the transparency, immediacy and unforgiving qualities of watercolor it continually forces me to dig deeper into my subjects. I use a wet and wet technique that is impossible to control so I’m continually starting over. By trying to keep the work fluid, there’s no way to prepare for the resulting image. The work is lost or gained within minutes. Needless to say it’s a very, costly pursuit. I go though reams of paper before I get anything that I might partially like. Everything goes into the trash. Oils are much easier to manipulate and much more forgiving, but unfortunately watercolor creates the effect I wish to achieve.”


Kim McCarty, Brown Eye (2012) 22h x 15w in

Kim McCarty, Brown Eye (2012) 22h x 15w in

Review: Huffington Post

“If Marlene Dumas‘ subjects had a ghostly doppelgänger, we imagine they’d look something like Kim McCarty‘s watercolors. Her portraits of youth are both innocent and unsettling, suffusing the unexpected qualities of humanity with an alien radiance.

The pale bodies, swirling with washed out pigment, resemble the fragile identity of an adolescent, pushing and pulling in infinite directions at once. Her boys and girls are barely held together at all, their tie-dyed interiors threatening to gush outside their thinly-drawn outlines.

McCarty invites strangeness to permeate personal portraits, which are inspired by photographs. The young subjects, fading away before your very eyes, embody the uncertain futures awaiting us in our youth. There is a noticeable hint of sexuality to the works, amplified by the exhibition’s title, “Boys & Girls,” and yet the gender of her subjects is arguably fluid. The works, light in texture and hue yet possessing darker undertones, ask us to look closer at those uncertain moments of adolescence.”


Kim McCarty, Installation, Boys and Girls

Kim McCarty, Installation, Boys and Girls


Kim McCarty Installation, Boys and Girls

Kim McCarty Installation, Boys and Girls


Kim McCarty studio

Kim McCarty studio



Like blurry afterimages drifting past closed eyelids, Kim McCarty’s watercolors hover between presence and absence, innocence and wisdom, and past, present, and future. Working rapidly, at times using only a single color and at others a haunting, bruise-inspired palette of acid yellows, greens, and browns, McCarty’s portraits evoke the sense of uncertainty, ambivalence, anxiety, and loss with which we view today’s generation. A graduate of UCLA (MFA) and the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (BFA), McCarty has upcoming solo exhibitions with Morgan Lehman Gallery, and David Klein Gallery. Past exhibitions include Kim Light Gallery; Cherryandmartin, Los Angeles, Briggs Robinson. Recent group exhibitions include, Sex Sells, Showstudio, London, Eve, Subliminal Projects, Los Angeles, LA Emerging Artists, at the Dominique Fiat Gallery. Liquid Los Angeles: Contemporary Watercolor, Pasadena Museum of Art. Erotic Drawing, Aldrich Museum of Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut. McCarty is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Hammer Museum and the Honolulu Academy of Art.

Filed under: exhibits