Washington, D.C. – Morton Fine Art is pleased to announce Second Nature, a solo exhibition of new paintings on paper and canvas by artist Vonn Cummings Sumner. First rendering Krazy Kat, George Herriman’s inﬂuential comic strip character, during the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumner returns to the wandering, curious avatar with Second Nature, escorting the titular ﬁgure through newly verdant, water-pooled landscapes, open spaces and art
historical-coded landscapes, longing for escape and a reconnection with nature. Genderless and endlessly depicted, Krazy Kat stands in for “everyman,” but rarely has their roaming path seemed to follow a strange inner voice that might be its own, but also Sumner’s—raising the question “who’s following who?” as both go about a grand tour of references, past and present.
Second Nature ﬁnds Krazy Kat (and Sumner) on a heavy, if much needed retreat, anxiety hanging about and lightened by the exhibition’s antithetical moments of enigma, color and joy. Sumner’s sixth solo exhibition with the gallery, Second Nature, will be on view from March 11 – April 8, 2023 at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space (52 O St NW #302).
Introduced to Krazy Kat by his longtime mentor and friend, the late artist Wayne Thiebaud, Sumner’s character has become a fertile prompt, both for working through existential atmospheres and more painterly notions of color, composition, control, gesture and mark making. Where Sumner’s ﬁrst body of work with Krazy Kat placed the internationalist “everyman” in horizonless, all-white backgrounds ripe with psychological references, and a subsequent 2022 exhibition watched Krazy Kat pass by inﬂamed trash cans and looming aerial anvils—partly a response to the time’s deep atmosphere of instability and loss—2023’s Second Nature features Krazy Kat back out in the open world, or perhaps removed from it, tramping through vivid, almost day-glo rendered deserts, forests, ﬁelds—and much of Western art history.
Returning back to color in full force, Second Nature revives Sumner’s ongoing balancing act between “cartoon” and “painting.” Colors surge with an agency of their own, sometimes running counter to the narrative elements of the works. The graphic boldness of Night Bathers’ (2023) rectangular blue and green landscape, touched by two black trees and deep orange moon, is contrasted by the painterly chevron brushstrokes depicting waves on Krazy Kat’s bathing pool. Destabilized by color, the work could reasonably be decoded as a night for day setting, turning the work on its head—or placing it back in a cartoon and cinematic tradition. Belonging to a series of “Bather Kat” works (River Bather, Green Bathers), these works are new explorations of acrylic paint on paper and may be read for a preoccupation with scrubbing oneself clean,
particularly in the aftermath of the past few years and in light of Krazy Kat’s previous adventures with Sumner.
But longer engagement with the works draws out Sumner’s expert, playful eye for form, color and history. Capturing the airy, open tactility of the beach—depicting clouds and a sandy bluﬀ in similarly rough, scratchy applications of paint—Beach Stretch (after Cezanne) (2023) is also a sort of pun, alluding to Cezanne’s famed bathing series. Horse and Rider (2023), drawing from Edgar Degas’ series of horse sculptures, is all speed and movement, the surface paint seeming to blur in fast motion. Grass, tree and horse alike are pulled and smoothed out—except for Krazy Kat’s tail, forever jointed in a “z” shape.
Like that zig-zagging tail, Krazy Kat cuts a pensive path, inviting us to join the existential reverie found in these unfolding spaces of rich forms and loaded marks, where Sumner oﬀers his painterly meditations.
Vonn Cummings Sumner grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the son of a picture framer and a school teacher. He attended the University of California, at Davis, where he earned both a Bachelor’s degree and an M.F.A. in painting, with highest honors. While at Davis he worked closely with celebrated painter and educator Wayne Thiebaud, both as a student and as a teaching assistant. Upon graduating in 2000, Vonn moved to New York City, where he painted and worked in museums, including the Guggenheim. In 2002, he moved to the greater Los Angeles area, where he currently lives and works.
Vonn’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally since 1998. He has been featured/reviewed in publications including New American Paintings, Elle Décor, Hi Fructose, San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Huﬃngton Post, L.A. Weekly, Art Ltd., Riviera magazine, The Painter’s Table, Boom magazine, and many others. His work has been the subject of two solo museum shows: at the Riverside Art Museum in California, and the Phillips Museum of Art in Pennsylvania. Most recently, Vonn was featured in the ﬁrst museum survey tracing the inﬂuence of Wayne Thiebaud on contemporary artists (Wayne Thiebaud Inﬂuencer: A New Generation) at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art on the campus of the University of California, Davis.
He is a Professor of Art at Fullerton College in Southern California and has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2010.
Morton Fine Art
Founded in 2010 in Washington D.C. by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a ﬁne art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to
museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a
welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice. Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African and Global Diaspora.