Sunday, 29 January 2017

Curatorial 101: Kent Jones retrospective

Baldy and Nipper by Kent Jones, acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Earlier this month I had the great pleasure to open a 45-retrospective exhibition about the career of Kent Jones.  He is a very modest guy but enormously talented and works in prints, paintings, drawing and film.  As part of my duties as a curator I took the opportunity of giving a presentation in the gallery about curatorial practice.  I figured why make people look at photographic representations of the work when they have the real thing.

One of my big challenges in putting together an exhibition is not only selecting the work but deciding about the context for the work.  Next, I need to create a visual experience that supports that context.  The Kent Jones show was going up at the Grenfell Campus Art Gallery that is home to Memorial University's Visual Arts Program.  Charlotte Jones and her staff were a dream to work with and agreed to all my presentation concepts.  For example,  a room was built out of temporary walls just to house the print section of the show that was organized chronologically. 

A special pedestal was devoted to an art book of poetry illustrated by Kent.  Each day a new page would be displayed to encourage visitation.  This is ideal with a gallery in a building filled with students and faculty who are frequently in the building.

There is a dedicated room with seating and earphones so that visitors can experience Kent Jones' work in video.

A pair of paintings are strategically placed to greet viewers, one with a air-streamed locomotive and the other with a pair of farm workhorses, named Baldy and Nipper, are in fact dedicated to Kent's parents.

When I was lecturing about my curatorial practice I realize that three key ideas were operating.  One, was my subject:  Kent Jones; two, was the concept of drawing, which Kent always maintained was the seminal artistic activity; and three, was the idea of the retrospective–as a curator I needed to express the scope of this impressive artist both in terms of themes and technique.
Wyoming For My Mother by Kent Jones

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