Shady Characters: Harmony Korine at the Frist Center

Shady Characters: Harmony Korine at the Frist Center
Detail of Harmony Korine's "Burst Manga" (2014) and "The Kotzur Gift" (2014)
(© Harmony Korine. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever)

“My work has more to do with a feeling or energy. I want it to have a physical effect on someone,” says Harmony Korine, whose first solo US museum exhibition, “Shadows and Loops,” is on view in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts through January 16. Best known as the gritty provocateur behind the films "Kids," "Gummo," and, most recently, “Spring Breakers,” Korine has been painting since high school, and in recent years has shown with Gagosian Gallery. The Frist exhibition focuses on some of the artist’s more recent work, created since 2014.

Not unlike his films, Korine’s paintings have a disorienting quality that is as surreal and unnerving as a lucid dream. It’s easy to draw connections between some of the shady characters in his movies and the ghoulish forms in his more representational works, but painting isn’t merely an extension of his cinematography. “It’s not a direct reference. It’s more instinctual. I don’t know where these things come from; they’re just in my head. I work from impulse,” he says. Up close, his canvases murmur of violence and tension since he often distresses them by hitting, walking on, and throwing things at them, sometimes layering and repainting them several times.

“I like mistakes and fingerprints,” says the artist, who still lives in Nashville. “I think the texture has some type of meaning. I try to stay away from flatness. It’s like I make lots of paintings on top of one another — even if you can’t see what’s underneath, maybe you feel it. Maybe it seeps through.”

A version of this article appears on page 26 of the Winter 2016/17 issue of Modern Painters.