Roland Kulla

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Several exhibits will keep me busy in 2017.

Continuing through March 2nd... The Bridgeport Art Center 5th Annual Competition, Chicago, IL

February 2017
I've been invited to participate in an exhibition titled Industrialism in the 21st Century at the Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston, Texas. Realist artists from around the country will be in the show. The opening is February 23. A catalog in planned.

August 2017
I will participate in a show featuring the built environment at the Olsen Gallery at the NIU school of Art and Design in DeKalb, IL

October 2017
I will have a solo show at the ZIA Gallery, Winnetka, IL. The opening will be mid-month. I will be presenting a suite of paintings with Chicago area subjects.


The New York Sun, June 7, 2007
Abstract Jewels of Modernism, by Maureen Mullarkey

Roland Kulla defers to the creativity of classical mechanics by painting testaments to civil engineering. "Bridging New York," his first solo exhibition at George Billis Gallery, opens this Saturday. It is an impressive debut.

The artist has been painting the structure of bridges in several cities for the past 10 years. Mr. Kulla is based in Chicago, the world's capital of movable bridges and the perfect city to begin a love affair with bridge forms. For this exhibition, he studied and photographed more than 40 New York bridges, from the iconic Brooklyn and George Washington ones to neighborhood viaducts.

Bridges have long had their uses in art to separate spaces and form frames. Giorgione used a trestle bridge to divide the near background from the far background of "The Tempest" (1503). Canaletto evoked local charm with the bridges of Venezia; Whistler bathed the Battersea bridge in London fog. Mr. Kulla, however, foregoes scenic possibilities, refusing to coax romance from urban landscape.

He is interested solely in the structural dynamism of bridge forms and the functional splendor inherent in their components: trusses, bolts, girders, railings, arches, beams, struts, ties, and cables. His hard-edged paint handling is as austere and rigorous as his subject.

Mr. Kulla abstracts structural elements from their context and works on a scale that highlights the monumentality of the forms and, in his words, "the creativity necessary for their existence." Typical of his approach are "Congress Street" (2006) and "Hell's Gate" (2007), each with its steep spatial rush and severely cropped giant lattice of steel. Consistent with the artist's vantage point, the sight lines plunge upward into darkened recess where tensions and compressions converge. Small windows of the sky appear between girders in compositions that emphasize the ingenuity of weight-bearing constructions.

The 6-foot-high "Queensboro" (2007) admits the surface effects of time and weather. Here, verisimilitude asserts itself ahead of abstract purposes. But, in the main, Mr. Kulla subjugates appearances, including plays of light and shadow, to pictorial design. The striking graphic beauty of crisscrossed structures viewed through one another and against the sky recalls the visual patterns Caillebotte created with balcony grills.

The New York Sun, July 20, 2006
On View: the Hubris of Our Metropolis, by Maureen Mullarkey

Every age loves images of the buildings that express its aspirations. While the painted cityscape was not an independent format until the 17th century Dutch showcased the satisfactions of civic space, an aerial view of Rome adorned a fresco in the Baths of Trajan. Today, however, the documentary authority of the camera creates a crisis of confidence among practitioners of the genre.

Representational painters worry that their craft has lost its old objective functions to the camera. As Rackstraw Downes phrased it, "We have other ways to make records of our buildings." True, but the cityscape – like representational painting itself – is more than mere record. Painters seek what they need in urban landscape no less than in nature. More precisely, they find there what they know and what they long for. While the cityscape does record the urban setting, it finds its purpose in response to the scene.

"In the City," a group exhibition of cityscapes at George Billis Gallery, succeeds in ways it never intended. There is much good painting here; individual works are intelligent and satisfying. Yet the force of the show lies in the cumulative expression of an involuntary fear: that the culture of modernity is inimical to the creation of urban beauty.

Viewed as an ensemble, the exhibition is an unwitting confession that New York has evolved without the benefit of shared convictions about the relationship of architecture to human well-being. The hubris of the metropolis and its bleakness are depicted with equal vivacity. And the camera, both tool and tyrant, insinuates itselft throughout.

...Roland Kulla ignores the incoherence of the city in favor of close-ups of the ordered steel tracery of the Willis Avenue Bridge...

Boston Globe, June 8, 2006
It's hard to believe that the work of painter Roland Kulla, whose show will be the last at Gallery Katz, wouldn't appeal to a conservative local crowd. Kulla is one of Katz's formalists: He paints bridges. A Chicago artist, he came here to photograph Boston bridges, and the paintings all show off local sites.

The works are at once representational – he identifies the bridges by name – and distinctly abstract. Kulla catches portions of each bridge at odd, sometimes precarious-feeling angles. He gives the viewer an ant’s-eye view.

He calls the show "elemental Boston" because each painting is, in a sense, elementary. The colors are primary, the shapes all triangles, squares, and circles. The negative spaces the lines of each bridge carve out of the bright sky have as powerful a presence as the steel and iron that frame them. "Congress," depicting the Congress Street Bridge, has us looking into a juncture in the span's underside, and it's like gazing into a dragon's maw. Kulla's works are lean and smart, and they have wide appeal.

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