The abstract paintings of Harriet Korman are far more than celebrations of color. Her compositions of intersecting shapes, filled in with dynamic hues, challenge viewers to adopt a whole new way of seeing. Her brilliant quadriptych, Can Be Joined Any Way (2002), takes this notion one step further. The piece comprises four square canvases that can be arranged in hundreds—if not thousands—of different ways. “I love how abstraction means different things to different people,” says the Forest Hills native. “My paintings are very philosophical that way. If someone purchased this painting, they could change it as frequently as they wanted to; they can participate.”
Korman’s creative process is organic and improvisational. “I paint multiple pieces at a time, moving back and forth between them,” Korman says. “A painting has to grow. You change it, modify it. The best thing is when a surprise occurs. It happens all the time.” She has taught drawing and painting at FIT for nearly 20 years, which could be described as mutually beneficial: “Teaching makes you more immediate and more spontaneous—those things really help an artist,” she says.
Her renown has continued to grow. She has appeared three times in the Whitney Museum of Art’s Biennial and once at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, and she showed her most recent work this year at Lennon, Weinberg, the Chelsea gallery that represents her. A review by Ken Johnson in The New York Times placed her work in the company of Klee, Miró, Kandinsky, and Mondrian. It concluded, “To sit and gaze at [her work] is to remember that one of art’s purposes—and not the least one—is visual pleasure.”