Pathological Chroma – Gavin Kenyon solo exhibition
Marlborough Contemporary New York presents Pathological Chroma, a solo exhibition of sculpture and quilted paintings by Gavin Kenyon. Known for his anthropomorphic explorations in cast concrete and ceramic, these new pieces continue in this vein while expanding the vocabulary of materials, formal strategies, and surface treatments.
Central to the show are a group of loosely figurative cast concrete works. These are made by filling manipulated articles of clothing, shoes, handbags and cast-off fabrics such as velvet and faux fur. These have been sewn into elongated, intestinal forms which are configured in scruffy conglomerations suggesting a deconstructed body. Typically, a central trunk emerges from the ground with the strident verticality of a figure, while deconstructed appendages sandbag the base. The result is at once heroic and intimate, a fact that is reinforced by the sculptures surfaces. Where the concrete is poured into the fabric molds, it achieves a taut hydraulic pressure—the satisfying plumpness that differentiates the living from the dead. These forms are then painted, tinted and otherwise glazed in vibrant hues from bubblegum pink to radiant yellow, the demented colors that give the show its title. Beyond creating an appealing counterpoint to the cold gray concrete, the paint also serves to highlight the varied textures, stitching details, and the residue of the fabric molds which give the startling impression that the sculptures are capable of growing hair. All of this serves to underline the evident personality that Kenyon imparts to each of this works.
The paintings in Pathological Chroma originate in another cast off fabric: painter’s rejected canvasses. Once acquired, these are cut into smaller shapes that form the Colonial-era pattern known as the “Gentleman’s Fancy”, and resewn, plumped with batting fill, into wall-hanging quilts. The painted original is more or less recognizable depending on the rearrangement of the cut sections and the disfiguration inherent to the sewing process. While these works originate in a destructive act, they emphasize Kenyon’s commitment to the handmade, and make a case for appropriation as a practice with a long tradition in line with quilting and iron casting.
Cast iron is present here in several works. A stylized depiction of a boar with a curious handle on its back appears in different colors and configurations: once in pink atop a painted pillow and once in washy green with a helium balloon attached. Modeled after what is thought to be a commercial weight measure from the doomed Roman city of Pompeii, Kenyon reconfigures the boar through the industrial process of an iron foundry adding another layer of more recent history to the object.
These solid cast iron weights, smoothed and colored, sit atop objects deformed under the mass of each boar. Just as gravity acting on the heavy liquid concrete produces the form and surface of the concrete works, the materiality of the boar (hinting at its historical source and disguised by the slick surface treatment) is tellingly highlighted by the illustration of force in the supporting object.
A culmination of Kenyon’s pan-historical, all-in approach to sculptural production is embodied in The Blight. The piece consists of a disk carpeted in a trimmed lawn of bronze grass. Supported by a stylized steel “root system”, a sinister wooden plant sprouts from the grass populating the disk with vines and curious ceramic fruits. It is tempting to see this surface as a palette or toolbox for the rest of the show, where natural systems meet fabricated artifice and ancient traditions are forced to deal with our moment of psychological trauma that gives the show its punning title.