Nestled in the niche neighborhood of Northside, Visionaries + Voices (V+V) is home to Kevin White, a contemporary and founding artist of the ability-forward hub. A solo-show of his work to date, Kevin White Retrospective catalogs the oeuvre of the prolific and present-day artist. Installations, paintings, and live-art comprise the show, as well as photographs and ephemera dating back to Kevin’s beginning years as a maker. As the viewer expends themselves in the gallery they’ll begin to pick up on personal cues from the artist, seeing what he likes (music) things he values (relationships) and how he spends his time (collecting and itemizing). Even more than a display of Kevin’s artistry, the retrospective is a celebration of his personhood and how the two are intrinsically intertwined.
Our Hours Are
Unique to V+V is the physical space of the building. Not only is it a public gallery but also the studio where the artists make their work. This sort of continuum equalizes the experience between artist and audience, bringing both into the same living and breathing space. Having access not only to the curated work but to the in-process work, as well, gives the viewer a more personal glimpse of the artist. It’s like seeing your co-worker in their pajamas or your mom without her make-up on. It’s intimate, raw, and very telling. This sort of exchange is experienced wonderfully in the context of Kevin’s retrospective and especially in the piece below.
When you walk into Kevin’s corner of the studio, what you will probably see is a seeming state of disarray: cans, cardboard, bottles in bulk, sprawling the floor, his desk, and even the wall. It’s lovely culmination of prudence and excess, how the forgotten has been salvaged but to the point of abundance. But look closely and you’ll find order; materials organized in columns and rows, objects stacked and balanced beyond belief. We see this paradox of perception represented in Pop Cans #17 Golden (White Cans), a collaborative piece with artist Bill Ross. Looking at the piece from far back you see a print, a two-toned pattern of white and gold. But step closer and you see the meticulous marks that make up the motif. The physicality of the piece brings you into the beauty of Kevin’s studio practice, being large in scale but small in detail. The cans are found or so we can assume by the occasional dings and dents that grace their surface, reminding us that the objects have meaning beyond their function; they have fingerprints. The wood encasing fixes the cans into a linear arrangement, drawing the viewer’s eye like a lattice: up, down, left, and right. Embodying both order and impulse, efficiency and feeling, its a lovely nod to the artist and the method to his making.
A Can is a Canvas is a Can
Working with the found, you will often see Kevin’s handiwork across varying surfaces, like cans and caps, floaties and funnels, past paintings and pictures that are re-worked and re-imagined. From this reformative practice, we learn that the artist has an amazing ability to turn the ubiquitous into something precious. But this principle extends beyond found objects and into more traditional art contexts like we see here.
An homage perhaps to his love of music and dance, Boogie Woogie is a dynamic piece visually and conceptually. Bright and contrast, it has a night-time energy, reminiscent of neon and noise. Opaque strokes layer transparent ones below while geometric forms are softened by coils and curls. His distribution of paint is generous creating both space and movement. Taking a more candid approach to the surface at hand, the canvas is no longer 2-dimentional but three. The supporting panels themselves are subject to the work that is impressed on the front, turning art forum into art object. The work is very optimistic, seeing every void as an opportunity and every inch worth a stroke of paint. This sort of economy brings a level of depth to the piece that makes it edgy and a bit ornery and one of my favorites of the show.
When showing work in a gallery setting, you’re guaranteed (or at least usually so) a controlled environment; set temperature, optimal lighting, and pieces hung X amount of inches from the ground. This sort of environment is thought to enhance viewer experience and leverage the work itself. But stability can be limiting and conventions can feel stiff and exclusive. Breaking down these barriers and diving deep into the land of possibility alongside Kevin, is friend and collaborator Julia Lipovsky.
Planted in the yard just outside the exhibiting gallery you’ll find a collection of their corrugated works. The compositions are comprised of lovely exchanges between the artists, flourishing in both form and color. They are public and in plain-sight, welcoming not only the gallery-goer, but the wondering wayfarer, as well. The sun and the wind are a part of the work, too, the acrylic and ply being exposed to the natural elements. In this transient state, the forms on the sign will shift, the color change, and the texture build or degrade. The artists make a playful prod, asking the future to be good to them and kind, bringing only the loveliest of abstractions their way.
Indicative of Kevin’s practice is this love and willingness to share in the creative process with others. We see that in his daily ritual of being a part of a communal studio but we also see that in many pieces throughout the retrospective. Maybe harder than being a successful independent artist (which Kevin is) is being a successful collaborative one. Not in terms of meeting the ‘works well with others’ quota but really thriving in the give and take that exists in that sort of relationship. Collaborations don’t happen over night – they’re involved and a lot of work but the end result can be something lovely and we find that here. To see more of his collaborative efforts, and independent ones, too, visit Visionaries + Voices now through September 13, 2019.