Seduced by surrealism
What: Paintings and sculptures by Joseph Kinnebrew
Where: Cassera Gallery South, 26915 102nd Dr. NW, Stanwood
WHEN: Through Feb. 21
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
“Surrealism has been neglected,” David Cassera says. That’s why he chose to exhibit the works of Joseph Kinnebrew at his eponymous gallery in Stanwood.
The distinguished Kinnebrew has painted and sculpted in realist and expressionist modes, yet always has been seduced by the sinister magic of 20th century surrealists.
Kinnebrew recently relocated back to his native state, settling into a Whatcom County home with a spacious workshop. Always a prolific artist, he’s known to have completed a sizable acrylic painting in only a few hours.
The artist has been honored by inclusion in many international shows—the Florence Biennale, Art Toronto, Art Chicago, Miami, Hamburg, Osaka. His works are in the collection of 19 major U.S. museums plus numerous institutions.
The Cassera Gallery displays several of his bewildering sculptures—in particular, a splendid bronze pear, sporting green leaves and two lovely legs, complete with red high heels.
Kinnebrew’s paintings are unfailingly decorative, in rich, unmodulated colors. But the images can be incongruous and appear at unexpected angles. In “The Decline of Innovation,” a monkey holds a flower 20 times his size; a chair and a skull float in space.
As critic John Mandelson says, “Sliding into the depths of Kinnebrew’s imaginal world becomes like Alice’s descent down the rabbit hole—simultaneously smooth, disconcerting, yet full of unexpected delight.”
In the Cassera exhibit, Kinnebrew’s painting “Memory” features a luxurious blossom, upon which rest a skull, a strawberry and a pair of pharaonic statues. A tangle of branches intrudes on the left, a desolate canyon on the right. A checkerboard globe (Kinnebrew’s signature) floats above a rectangular pool, which reflects the indigo sky.
A croquet mallet swings suggestively between a pair of impossibly slender legs in “Croquet Anyone.” The red high heels—another Kinnebrew obsession—tread upon a fiendishly twisted checkerboard tablecloth.
Several of Kinnebrew’s paintings have historical antecedents. Compare his “Audience” to Italian surrealist Giorgio de Chirico’s 1914 “Mystery and Melancholy of a Street.” The receding perspective, the doorways, are very similar. In place of Chirico’s running girl with a hoop, Kinnebrew provides a distant, empty chair. In both paintings, there is an expression of profound emptiness.
It’s a tribute to his eclecticism that he would also paint the fleshy riot that is “Untitled.” At first glance the painting suggests the German expressionist Emil Nolde. But there’s none of Nolde’s despair. Kinnebrew is playing a trick on us! Can you find the two moons?
In “Place,” a lady in an elegant gown soars from a pier, her back turned, leaving a large puzzled goldfish behind. What is the message? Some secret or confession?
Red fish with slender legs and high heels dance across the canvas in “I. Everything.” They’re a background for the main event—a suspender holding up a slippery Earth. Does it imply that men provide support while ladies prance seductively along? (Kinnebrew has written about the unfairness of making women walk on their toes to appear glamorous while paradoxically selling them brassieres to disguise their individuality).
Is Kinnebrew’s every gesture serious, or is he a master puzzle-maker, secretly chuckling as we try to discover meaning in his work?
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