A talk between Caitlin Haskell of SFMOMA and Berkeley surrealist smokepainter, Kevan Jeson
Caitlin Haskell is associate curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). She has curated or co-curated numerous exhibitions at SFMOMA and elsewhere, including René Magritte: The Fifth Season (2018), Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed (2017), and Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA (2015). Following her doctoral dissertation on the critical reception of Henri Rousseau, she has published on modern and postwar artists such as Alexander Calder, Donald Judd, and Walter De Maria, among others.
Kevan Jenson's works are collected in the Centre Pompidou and the Gerald R. Buck collection at UC Irvine, as well as privately. He Frequently produces film projects for video artist and art world provocateur Hito Steyerl. Kevan is a noted Duchampian, and worked for many years with best-selling author and psychologist, James Hillman, on relating the work of Marcel Duchamp to depth psychology. Kevan believes a reconnection of Duchamp to the practice of painting is long overdue.
Setting the Scene
Caitlin and Kevan's talk will take place at The Pauline Kael - Jess Murals House and is hosted by Gibson Art Projects. Jenson's Carbon Sequestration exhibit is currently on display and works from the show will be referenced in the talk.
Exhibition of Jenson’s mystic surrealist smoke paintings illuminates the relationship between his imagery of ecological change, and his process of working with a burning torch as a brush.
This gallery is a private residence and arts salon. Aside from events such as this reception, which is open to the public, visits must be coordinated with Gibson Art Projects by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
(BERKELEY, CA) - From March 24th, 2018 through May 19th, 2018, Gibson Art Projects presents Kevan Jenson’s Carbon Sequestration. In Jenson’s G.A.P. expo in March, entitled Carbon Sequestration, the idea of being held captive by a host of contemporary problems (global warming, an oil economy, the loss of our natural landscapes to deforestation and amplified natural disaster like wildfires) is conflated with notions of how good paintings capture viewers and hold them enthralled. In Jenson’s paintings we are held by the swirling imaginal field of the works AND understand that they are literally made via combustion. The works also sequester carbon in the paint layer. The process explores the perils of our ecology, but in an ironically beautiful way. The presentation features a selection of smoke paintings on canvas such as “Pip” (image below). Jenson’s smoke works are collected in the Centre Pompidou and The Gerald Buck Collection at UC Irvine.
Aesthetics provide a path of engagement with the world, especially a world in crisis. Kevan follows on the processes and ethics used by Surrealists to keep Western culture moving forward during the darkest years of the 20th century - a free engagement with the imagination, in particular “automatic” imagery. He believes that artists will keep the inner flames of inspiration lit during the dark passages lying ahead as we negotiate our way through another era of upheaval. If we place Jenson’s work in this context, they begin to open up as omens, visions, and harbingers of danger, or opportunity, and as places of contemplation. They reveal a mystic vision for our times.
Kevan Jenson is in a lineage of American magician / alchemist painters such as Frederic Church, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Like them, he paints “landscapes” that probe our imagination and reveal a realm that elicits beauty yet whispers and ebbs warnings. Famed art historian Peter Selz claims “he knows how to make magic.”
Jenson came from a family of artists, writers and musicians, but at 17 started at UC Berkeley in math and science. He quickly abandoning that field at 18 and headed for a career in art after discovering and idolizing Marcel Duchamp. At Cal, he studied with sculptor Harold Paris and became his assistant and mentee. During his time with Paris he experimented with smoke, yet it was an image of Yves Klein with a flamethrower that pointed out a path. After Paris died, Kevan packed up and left Cal to embrace the NYC art world where had a studio in a post-punk musician’s building in Chelsea in the early 80s while working as an NYC cab driver.
Kevan did some initial smoke work in NY, but when he came back to California in ‘85, he was immediately inspired by the landscape, ecology and psychology of fire and started fervently working with smoke on canvas.
The fire culture runs deep in California and started with its native peoples who were in touch with this cyclical aspect of the landscape. The hills in California are constantly burning. The native word Temescal, which is a neighborhood just a walk away from this exhibit, comes from smoke healing ceremonies and preventative fires. Kevan says, “There is a ritualistic part of using fire as a tool. I got into smoke upon arrival back in California… and haven’t stopped.”
Jenson has a resume that reads like many lifetimes packed into half a life. Jenson studied and worked with a California master, cut his teeth in the New York art scene in the 80s, worked as an artist in LA while simultaneously working as a video engineer and film producer with folks like David Lynch and Hito Steyerl. Jenson even spent nine years working with the best-selling psychologist James Hillman on the links between Marcel Duchamp and Depth Psychology.
We find an artist embraced by legends of the past and present. Peter Selz, one of the most influential curators and art historians of the 20th century, curated a 20-year retrospective of Kevan’s work at Meridian Gallery in SF in 2008 as well as highlighting him at Rocking Horse Gallery in 2017. At the same time, we see Jenson working with and supported by Hito Steyerl, whom Art Review dubbed “The Most Influential Artist of 2017” on their Power 100 list.
It’s easy to see the visual magic that Jenson creates in his smoke paintings, but what’s even more important is what is underneath or upside down in the way that Kevan has used his diverse palate of experience to comment on our most fundamental western ideas, and his Californian identity.
Kampmann's paintings are about the interaction of the human and divine addressing the underlying unity of all creation. Light and manifest spirit are the protagonist of his work. Kampmann's work is also about painting itself, making references to biblical imagery, artworks and artists that share his intent and history. Dogs play an important role as key subjects, characters and love itself. This show combines the iconography, influences and spiritual connection that are shared between mankind, God and Dog.
You and your friends are invited to a special exhibition:
Artists from the Art Collection of Robert Duncan and Jess
The Pauline Kael - Jess Murals House
2419 Oregon Street
Berkeley, CA 94705
Saturday, May 13, 4:00 - 7:00pm
Friday, May 19, 7:00 - 8:30pm, there will be a screening of a portion of Jess's 12-hour collage film Peekaboo Flicks, along with a short documentary on Robert Duncan and Jess's San Francisco home.
This exhibit brings together rarely seen works by artists whom the poet Robert Duncan and the artist Jess encouraged and collected for over thirty-five years. The works are being lent by the Jess Collins Trust and a number of Bay Area collectors.
The Pauline Kael House, where the distinguished film critic lived and worked from 1955 to 1963, features a remarkable series of murals and tableaux by Jess (1923 - 2004), which will be available for viewing during the exhibition.
A one-time $25 donation is asked for preserving and restoring several of the murals.
Paul Alexander, Ronald Bladen, Brock Brockway, Lyn Brockway, Robert Duncan, Ernie Edwards, Norris Embry, Landis Everson, Tom Field, Madeline Gleason, George Herms, Fran Herndon, Harry Jacobus, Gina James, Jess, Lawrence Jordan, William McNeill, Claire Mahl, William Brodecky Moore, Nata Piaskowski, Philip Roeber
Saturday, May 13 - Sunday May 14, 1:00 - 4:00pm
Friday, May 19 - Sunday May 21, 1:00 - 4:00pm
The Pauline Kael - Jess Murals House is two blocks north of Ashby and one half-block east of Telegraph, Berkeley.
R.S.V.P. & Further Information
email@example.com or 510.848.4609
Sponsored by the Committee to Preserve the Kael/Basart House and Jess Murals, a non-profit 501(c)3, and Reuben Gibson of 2419 Oregon St.
This spring event is dedicated to Harry Jacobus in his ninetieth year and to the memory of Pauline, Robert, & Jess.
We look forward to seeing you!
Gibson Art Projects proudly announces its first exhibition of the 2017 season with the exciting and dynamic work of Beijing based artist, Feng Jin, who has left behind 20 important pieces he created in Oakland, which will be exhibited between February 26th and March 30th.
Born in Harbin, China in 1966, of Korean descent. Jin's creativity was forged, much like his metal sculptures, with the pressure of growing up Korean in China and being alienated on the playground, forced to find solace in alone time and crafts.
Jin Studied at the Central academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China’s number one art institute.
Jin says “my sculpture is an intimate dialogue between human and the boundless strength of metal, an expression of thoughts, emotions, dreams, passions, destinies and desires that are constantly bounding out of my mind.”
Jin takes the ideas of ancient Chinese culture and forges a contemporary identity through the strengths of his hands, heart and mind.
Refreshments and light snacks will be served. Viewings after the opening are by appointment only. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a private viewing during the month of March.
Tickets to this event are free, however we'd love for you to make a donation to help us preserve, restore and uncover the Jess murals. Learn more about the house and its history at www.gibsonartprojects.com.
The Committee to Preserve the Jess Murals & Kael-Basart House is as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Your donations are 100% deductible! Your tax-deductible donation will help cover the costs of preserving the murals and developing the house as a center for educational and cultural activities. No donation amount is too small, donations are tax-deductible and our tax ID number is 47-1636422.
Free street parking is available and the lot at 2855 Telegraph Ave is open on Sunday and is also free of charge.