Tim Kent: Between the Lines
June 30 through July 29, 2022
By GARY RYAN, July 2022
Tim Kent’s solo show Between the Lines, on display through July 29th at Hollis Taggart Gallery in Chelsea, NYC is a culmination for the artist marking an appropriate and significant mile post on his continued upward trajectory as a painter.
This is a mature and self-actualized show. This new work is subversive in the way that he varies, modifies, and augments interiors and figures. His bodies often morph from the easily recognizable into wispy and phantom-like semblances. His physical spaces simultaneously seem real-worldly and virtual; and even at times video game-like. His vanishing points feel at once familiar and manageable, while also at times feeling maddeningly innumerable.
That his work utilizes all of these strategies while also carrying and implying the weight of world history as it relates to his lived experience across each of his canvases, is what sets his vision apart. Kent clearly observes the news, and this brings a familiar unsettledness to the work. He also knows art history, showing his likes and affinities often, seen in his frequent references/homages to others. The work is open, wholehearted, and inviting: his canvases are partial studies of the multiverse in which we all now live, contained within a backdrop of august private homes, and amidst a larger, looming brutalist infrastructure, all of this then positioned within an expansive, and sometimes painfully beautiful, natural world.
The largest canvas in this show, Aftermath (2022) embodies all of the aforementioned ideas well. The painting suggests a hint of Mark Tansey’s Innocent Eye Test (1981) a painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection (though sans Tansey’s cow), as it is in the format of a painting-within-a-painting. Aftermath is a kind of survey of western landscape painting over the last 400 years; the work is presented within an old world landscape with references to Dutch master paintings in the upper left, ruined empires in the lower left and center, and perhaps a Crimean War reference in the lower right. With brutalist architectural references in the center and middle right, the sky is in the style of Hudson River School painter Frederick Edwin Church. The male attendant standing to the side is perhaps Kent? Or us? He stands holding it all, comprehending it all with a quiet, working-man’s grace. The frame-within-a-frame device giving it an overall gothic, shrine-like appeal, with just a flicker of whimsy.
Static Field (2021-22) is one of the few works in this show without a human form, though the high-tension towers which are its subject clearly are a human intrusion. The dots throughout, as an underlying layer, are reminiscent of a Damien Hirst dot painting, and the landscape is reminiscent of Bonnard, or Gainsborough. In the work Venus (2022), Kent intimately draws us into his painterly struggle. Museum technicians are focused upon a very specific task, moving and interacting with a classical work of art, but it is one that is fraught with importance—this seems to be a metaphor for the artist’s practice. How can the artist do what the artist must do when it has arguably been done long before? And to what extent are the artist’s actions dependent upon the artist’s own frail humanity, while also being captivated and driven by the siren call of “otherness” and desire? But this is only one possible interpretation of many.
In Ghost of an Idea (2021-2022) the artist himself labors at an easel in a large room with other rooms receding off in the distance, in the basement of an old world museum, the Uffizi perhaps—and before what could almost be a contemporary reredos altarpiece (by Frank Gehry perhaps, if he were to create such a thing). In The Appointment (2021-2022), the central figures could almost be cubist, or perhaps either proto- or post- Francis Bacon figures. Both of these paintings depict Kent’s proclivity for juggling differing styles and modes of visualization on the same canvas.
As one would expect, the other works in Between the Lines telegraph thematically Kent’s take on his and our world, distracted as he is, as we all are, with ceaseless and overarching world affairs, amidst a backdrop of the weightiness of all the creative voices that have come before this particular moment in time. His work is simultaneously informed by the physics of multiverses and augmented realities, with glazes of beauty and expansiveness, all the while permeated by his, and our observer-participant need to say and do something loud-and-clear in response to all of it. WM
Gary studied philosophy at Ole Miss and theology at Harvard. He has written for the Associated Press, represented the Archbishop of Canterbury at the United Nations, and taught chess in NYC’s inner city. From Mississippi, Gary lives in Brooklyn, writes poetry, short stories, loves art, travel, and fly-fishing. He claims New Orleans as his second cityview all articles from this author