Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Revival, an exhibition of mixed-media assemblage sculptures by Kansas-based artist Kris Kuksi. This will be Kuksi’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery with works ranging medium-in-size to some over five feet-tall and five feet-wide.
When encountering Kuksi’s work from a distance, these ornate sculptures resemble something of the Belle Époque-or certainly representative of that period’s ethos. A cursory glance gives the impression of decorative frills and ornamental beauty. At times, the central figure appears serene, omnipresent. However, upon closer inspection, the sculptures reveal a dark underbelly. Rage, conflict, tragedy, and mournfulness are prevalent in the dialogue among the smaller, less dominant figures.
Film Director Guillermo del Toro has critical eye for the artist’s work:
“A postindustrial Rococo master, Kris Kuksi obsessively arranges characters and architecture with an exquisite sense of drama. Instead of stones and shells he uses screaming plastic soldiers, miniature engine blocks, towering spires and assorted debris to form his landscapes. The political, spiritual, and material conflict within these shrines is enacted under the calm gaze of remote deities and august statuary. Kuksi manages to evoke, at once, a sanctum and a mausoleum for our suffocated spirit.”
Del Toro articulates some of the touchstones of Kuksi’s work. These inanimate, individual pieces once married into a sculpture create an animated conversation of the universal theme of light and dark, commentary on our past, present, and future. And from this comes Revival. In consideration for his fourth exhibition’s title, Kuksi ruminates, “Ancient Rome is our history teacher and our ghost for the future. Revival is about re-hashing, re-mixing, reinventing, and re-creating.” The artist is inspired by society, history, and human psychology.
In Unveiled Obscurity, Kuksi explores notions of “the self” and the different faces we display, the hidden parts of humanity, and our sense of consciousness. Seraphim at Rest is inspired by the Pčre Lachaise cemetery in Paris-a collection of some of the most talented, well-known deceased-creating a visual expression of a guardian at a grave. Biblically speaking, the seraphim were constant worshippers of God. However, here we have one of these guardians at the employ of someone deceased. The incongruous nature of this imagery is a part of the artist’s religious commentary. Also on view during the exhibition will be a new rendition in the artist’s Churchtank series. Kuksi explains:
“Later in life, I realized that the church was against many other ways of life, cultures, other religions, and beliefs and that instead of spreading peace and love, it often promotes hate and discrimination. […] I realized that I had become friends with the people that these institutions were against, or at least had directed motives and were loaded with ultimatums. And so my Churchtank was an inventive way for me to express the aggression of these churches in a rather serious but satirical way.”
The Churchtank-a steepled church structure fused to the base of a tank-gives the immediate impression of powerful religious organizations working over the military-industrial complex. But for however much the artist integrates these challenging themes into his work, there is also a wistful, romantic quality that comes with the amalgamation of these tiny, independent elements, coming together to create a whole.
Kuksi sometimes works from the focal point outward, other times creating a framework and working in. One common thread is that once the process has begun, it is the sculpture that speaks to the artist, giving him clues as to where to go in terms of theme, imagery, narrative, and finally giving the work a name. Kuksi is a hunter-gatherer, scouring the globe-both in person and virtually-for model parts, collectables, craft parts, jewelry. The procedure is lengthy and curated, such that each item is precious and plays an integral part in the visual storytelling.
Born in 1973 in Springfield, Missouri, Kris Kuksi earned his BFA and MFA in painting at Fort Hays State University and works in Hays, Kansas. Solo exhibitions of his work include Triumph (2012), Beast Anthology (2009), and Imminent Utopia (2008) at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York; Go West at Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City (2012); The Strange and The Fantastic, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Kansas City, MO (2004); and The Within, Fraser Gallery, Washington, DC (2003). Selected group exhibitions include Miami Project, Miami, Florida (2013); SHOWcabinet curated by Iris van Herpen at SHOWstudio, London, UK (2013); Hey! Modern Art & Pop Culture, Halle Saint Pierre, Paris, France (2011); Paradise Lost, Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Brooklyn (2008); and Flights of Imagination, Museum HR Giger, Gruyčres, Switzerland (2006).