FlyOver: May 2009 Archives
Richard Kinnaird Retrospective at Lee Hansley Gallery
13 January - 21 February 2009
Richard Kinnaird " A Red Space" acrylic on panel (courtesy Lee Hansley Gallery)
Area painter Richard Kinnaird is a lion (though a rather under-recognized one) of the Triangle's art community. Argentinean by birth and trained in art in the American Midwest (receiving his MFA from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 1958), Kinnaird moved to the Triangle area in 1963 for a teaching post in Chapel Hill. Throughout an academic career spanning some 39 years Kinnaird literally taught thousands of aspiring artists establishing their own career paths through UNC's art department. Currently an emeritus faculty member, he is also a longtime devotee of abstraction and the rigor necessary for sustained, in-depth work in that mode of painting.
Kinnaird is also committed to making paintings that explore a fundamental modernist concept: namely what the physicality of paint on canvas or panel can embody. A quick look at his canvases and you realize that many of the issues he is involved with are still so essential to the medium that they have never really gone away (though relegated at times to the storage bins of past styles and tastes.) Notions such as surface and flatness of the picture plane, gesture, texture, collaged composition, and harmony of line and color have proven to be longtime preoccupations. A primary interest is materiality and Kinnaird has been consistent in his fearless adventurousness and experimentation with materials. Laser cut metal, burnt paper, and polycast resin are but a few of the various media which have found their way into his palette over the years.
The 64 works in this show are a veritable clinic for painters. A rigorous vitality of paint application, optical effect, subtlety of surface and shape, and the qualities of edge and line are all probed in skillful fashion. Kinnaird has a particular affinity for repetitive, rhythmic linework and collage, both of which continually reappear throughout many canvases in the show. He also has an empathy for Op Art as many of his paintings since the late 1970's utilize a system of overlaid, multi-color parallel lines to produce striking, yet graceful, swirling compositions of arcing lines and underlying geometric shapes. Works such as "Asylum" and Penache No. 1" are signature works in this vein and convey a delicate balancing act of vibrant pinks, greens, yellows and blues all applied with layered bravura. An interesting sidenote is that many of these paintings have been produced with the artist's own self-designed compass device which he uses to draft his signature arcing lines onto unstretched canvases laid out on the floor.
Richard Kinnaird " Penache No. 1" acrylic on canvas (courtesy Lee Hansley Gallery)
The show's installation is compendious and I was
particularly struck by the middle gallery which synopsizes a few of Kinnaird's working
methods. Here the Miro-like paintings
"Shapeful Lineage" and "A Red Space" converse with the double panel "Ground
Cover" in which a plethora of fiery autumn like colors are circumscribed with those
trademark line series - as if freshly announcing a hint of things to come. (All
be told, this retrospective's timeline is somewhat enigmatic as the artist does
not date his works and in fact often considers them to still be
unfinished.) An adjacent wall showcases
two polycast resin works aptly titled "Convex Form" and "Concave Form." These high relief works, reminiscent of the
forms of contemporary 'blob' architecture, nudge the boundaries of painting
beyond the picture frame to sculpturally occupy the viewers' space. Their overlapping of material experimentation
and elemental form walks that line which all of Kinnaird's work and indeed
abstraction itself eventually somehow transgresses: that the paint itself and
how it occupies that thin space on the surface of its support can become transcendent.