When we look at the paintings of Robert Kulla we see not only urban landscapes with their moving parts – subways, bridges, taxis – we see the shapes they form. When creating a composition Kulla finds the abstract in his framing. In Queens Plaza, Kulla uses the green painted train tracks to guide our eye to the turning subway car, but he is also exploring the angular and rectangular shapes implicit in the construction.

Queens Plaza depicts just that – Queens Plaza. It a large intersection in New York City where trains rattle above you and trucks rattle beside you. Here it is depicted as if we are looking up at the elevated subway rails, a subway car bends on the corner heading north, while a skyscraper in the background reminds of us how the borough has changed in recent years. Hyperrealism is the style. Kulla depicts each bolt, wire, and speck of dirt on the streetlights and signs.

While this work is a landscape, the human touch is everywhere. Kulla states that “Although people are not the direct subjects of my work, they are integral to it. The structures stand as proxy for human experience. I create places and moods that invite the viewer to enter into the work and form their own relationship to it.” From the subway to the streetlights, this work depicts a crossroads, a path where people come together and then separate. Even if we do not see them we know they are indelible to the urban experience.

Kulla started his career as a social worker, and contributed to that field for more than 30 years. While he was pursuing artistic endeavors on the side he did not begin to pursue exhibiting his work until 1994. Since 1998 he has focused his work on feats of engineering in cities, first by painting bridge structures in Chicago, and more recently branching out to Boston, Pittsburgh and, of course, New York.

He is represented by the George Billis Gallery in New York City.

– Sarah McMillan

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