Ellen Kozak and Scott D. Miller River-Rising

David RIchard Gallery

Jan. 10, 2024 - Feb. 8, 2024

508 West 26th St, Studio 9E
New York, 10001
PHONE 917 853-8161


David Richard Gallery is pleased to present River-Rising an exhibition of Ellen Kozak and Scott D. Miller’s collaborative 4-channel video and music installation, as well as a series of Kozak’s night paintings created in 2022-2023. This exhibition is the second time Kozak’s paintings and work in video have been shown together. The first was her solo show at the Katonah Museum of Art, which commissioned a single channel video in 2009.

River-Rising is filmed from the shorelines of three river estuaries, the Garonne River in France, the Bilbao Estuary, and the Hudson River. Also, interspersed throughout the channels are recurring rhythmic passages of nighttime illumination filmed along the Venice Lagoon.

River-Rising is comprised of intimately observed and gradually changing images that inspire an identification with the river as a living organism. Abstract in their appearance, the images convey the movement and luminosity of rivers without offering views or realistic representations. Kozak uses the surface of the river as a giant aquatic lens and synthesizer that assimilates reflection, color, movement and pattern.

The video channels and musical score vary in length; they play as non-synchronized loops, so that viewers experience ever-evolving configurations. In continuous play, any composition of all four channels will not repeat for more than 11 years.

Embedded in this lyrical work is deep unease about the ecological damage that we continue to inflict upon our living waterways. Close observation deepens our connection to the environment. This connection is viscerally underlined by Scott D. Miller’s musical composition. Miller’s score is written for 11 wind instruments—a singular ensemble of clarinets, trombones and tuba. It is conceived as a series of larger and smaller wave forms.

Each note lasts the duration of one long breath, in most instances between 12 and 16 seconds, and consists of a gradual crescendo followed by a gradual decrescendo. This languorous phrasing mirrors the slow transitions of Kozak’s imagery. Ever-shifting pitch relations are evoked through the emergence/dissolution of distinct instrumental groupings and their associated dynamic profiles. Microtonal tunings and an absence of vibrato create eerie, almost-major, almost-minor tonalities. At times, ominous ascending phrases suggest the sea-level rise that we have provoked. The music is performed by Miller’s Tilted Head Ensemble, conducted by Carl Bettendorf.

Kozak’s paintings take visual inspiration from close study of the surface of bodies of water. While her primary source has long been situated in the landscape, Kozak’s work is chiefly abstract. Working only from reflections in the river’s lens-like surface, her paintings do not have views and they include no horizon. Although we may not recognize the specific motif (landscape, river, sky) the authority of perception in her series of night paintings is tangible.

At the time Kozak began this series, she was mesmerized by the reflections of the illuminated nighttime river traffic, the barges, tugs and tankers passing her studio on the bank of a narrow stretch of the Hudson River in upstate New York. Responding to the drama of the silent radiant reflections, her paintings focus in a reductive way on the phenomena of color, light, and a sense of pulse and meter. Working in an intimate scale, the paintings compress the monumentality of her subject and linger between weightlessness and gravity. Both water and oil paint share the property of viscosity. Exploring paint as a mimetic medium, Kozak uses its physicality to perform in ways that are similar to her subject.

About Ellen Kozak:

Ellen Kozak (b.1955) is a painter and video artist living and working in NYC and the Hudson River Valley. She received a MS in Visual Studies from MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, where she worked primarily in video and in 1979 created “Information Space”, her first 4-channel video installation. Kozak continued as a Center Fellow. She received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art. Between 1982 and 1984 she worked in Japan and studied shod? (traditional Japanese calligraphy).

Kozak has had twenty solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in the US and abroad including the Hudson River Museum; the Katonah Museum of Art; the Osaka Contemporary Art Center and the Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Art, in Japan; the Elizabeth Harris Gallery and Katarina Rich Perlow Gallery in NYC and Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties, NY.

Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hudson River Museum, the Museum of Fine Art Boston, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, among others. She serves on the Board of Directors of Riverkeeper, Inc. This is her second exhibition at the David Richard Gallery.

About Scott D Miller:

Scott D. Miller (b.1956) is a New York City-based composer and Artistic Director of the Tilted Head Ensemble, which he founded in 2016. Miller studied composition with Milton Babbitt and clarinet with David Krakauer. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, Miller also earned an MFA in composition from Princeton University and an MA in music education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Miller has written extensively for various classical ensembles and has long explored diverse genres. He has composed electroacoustic music, experimental jazz, structured improvisation and works in collaboration with poets, dramatists and visual artists.

Miller’s works have been performed at MISE-EN, La MaMa, Symphony Space, The Knitting Factory, Roulette, CBGB, P.S. 122, Lincoln Center Library, The DiMenna Center, the Hudson River Museum and many other venues, as well as festivals including the NYC Electroacoustic Music Festival, SpreadSpectrum (Moscow), La nuit de l’instant (Marseille, France) and 10 ans de créations au Moulin a Nef (Auvillar, France).

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