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Exhibit of David Korf’s artwork at SC4 explores links between solidity, color and eternity

Photo courtasy of Jim Bloch One of David Korf's collages in his memorial art show at SC4.

By Jim Bloch

The artworks gain color as one moves through each of the three galleries devoted to the precise, bountiful imagination of David Korf now on display at St. Clair County Community College.

It’s akin to shifting from the linear, colorless world of the here and now to the bright, warm world of a near-death experience.

The show is called “Timelines: Progression of a Vision.”

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Start with Korf’s pen-and-ink gallery and the 14-pieces entitled “Soul Beneath the Rock.” Korf makes good use of his drafting skills as he fills portions of each picture with line drawings of scattered rocks, scree and broken boulders. The stone work is interrupted by dense vertical lines suggesting shadowy pitfalls and chasms. Ghostlike apparitions of rock and stone often seem to levitate, soul-like, from the darkened cliffs and canyons.

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch
One of David Korf’s 10 “Sedimentary Colors” at SC4.

The second gallery showcases 10 watercolors entitled “Sedimentary Colors.”

Where the pen-and-ink drawings of “Soul” were contained by their frames, the rock-like lines in the second gallery seem like close-ups; the formations continue in the viewer’s imagination far beyond the boundaries of Korf’s paper.

Hugging the mainlines of each composition are cell-like sediments of varying sizes, which Korf has colored with reds, oranges, pinks, grays, browns, purple and blues. The colors are often muted. But against the white space that dominates each picture, the colors pulse vividly. Sometimes the works seem to suggest flight; sometimes an arm skinned to reveal muscle and tendons or a drone-captured photo of agrarian property; sometimes a face struggles to surface from the lines and color-filled compartments. Looked at more generally, it’s as if the colorless world is coming to life one brilliant cell at a time.

The third gallery contains Korf’s full-color collages composed of small hand-torn hotdog-shaped pieces of multi-colored paper.

The first eight or nine collages, the ribs of color remain largely horizontal, but full of strange energy. In ninth and tenth collages, the hotdog-shapes coalesce into rectangles — like colorful sections of snow-fencing struggling to stand upright. In the remaining collages, the vivid linearly-banded sections rise to fully vertical, perhaps fighting the elements and gravity — and temporarily winning.

All of the pictures in the first gallery were entitled “Soul Beneath the Rock” followed by a number. Ditto for the second gallery in which all the watercolors were called “Sedimentary Color” followed by a number. But they were not hung in numerical order. In the final gallery, each work was entitled “Collage” and followed by a number. The works were displayed in numerical order.

Why?

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch
A drawing from David Korf’s series “Soul Beneath the Rock” at SC4.

Does the world of lines and shapes become more colorful and numerically organized as life nears its end?

The answer eludes us.

We do know that Korf dedicated his life to art. For years, Korf chaired the art department at Lambton Community College on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River. He followed that with a long stint as the chair of the Visual and Performing Arts at SC4.

“He was a huge part of this place,” said Gary Schmitz, a longtime English professor at the Port Huron college and friend of Korf. “He really thought art was central to life. He taught it. He lived it.”

Korf died in January 2021, a decade after he retired.

All of the pieces in the show are for sale: The collages are $475 apiece; the sedimentary colors are $350; the soulful rocks $250. 

The show opened in the Fine Arts Building on Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 17.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com. 

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