On Artist Val Kilmer by Steven Meyer

Woodward Gallery
May 17, 2017 2:02PM

Kilmer opens his NYC Fine Art debut at Woodward Gallery, NYC

Val Kilmer’s figurative work explores identity, reproduction, and American mythic archetypes.

His choice is not of himself as a subject, but of himself as a character, rendered as an instantly recognizable Icon through the use of stencils. These are not self-portraits (just as the roles he’s drawing from are not self-portraits). They are self-referential only as a stepping-off point to explore these Archetypes.

His choice of characters (certainly as a Painter and, perhaps as an Actor) are Mythic, and particularly American ones – The Superhero (Batman), The Cowboy (Doc Holliday), The Rockstar (Jim Morrison), The Writer (Mark Twain – “The First American"). The film references in these choices is their least important element.

Despite the stencil base, they are not simple. Paint layers and blotches sometimes obscure the lines indicating that these Mythic Characters are literally colored by a individual human hand that’s bringing them to life.

In a similar way (particularly with the G-O-D panels, and 16-panel installations) Kilmer invokes the word GOD as the ultimate Icon. Naming God and parsing that name out in laser-cut multiple panels invites the viewer to abstract and examine the word and ones own relationship to the word itself.

Recontextualizing iconic items is at the heart of the sculpture pieces, A Golden Macintosh, Gandhi rendered in neon. These take familiar images and their attendant references and create a conversational space around them that redefines the Icon and the viewers perception of it.

It’s interesting to note that Kilmer’s Abstract work is Iconic as well, but more in the spirit of a Russian Icon, replacing (in most cases) wood with metal. The Portrait orientation of the pieces and the depth of the layers encourage the viewer to fall into the frame. The infinite shoreline edges reference the fractal notion of zooming/falling infinitely into the image. Kilmer himself has noted the “Black-Hole” nature of these pieces. They are windows into another world.

Val Kilmer brings to all these works the same kind of depth and flourish that he brings to his best roles and makes a powerful comment on the artists’ role within the frame of role-playing and celebrity.

Woodward Gallery