Jerry Kunkel : RECON TEXT
Jan 11 – Mar 3, 2018
For “RECONTEXT,” a combination of the terms RECON and CONTEXT, (RECON as an abbreviation for reconnaissance – a noun that comes from the French reconnaître, meaning recognize and CONTEXT as CON-TEXT or simply, TEXT), Colorado/Kansas artist Jerry Kunkel expands on his on-going homage to great historical painters while offering an expressive side-glance at the nature of culture itself. Kunkel’s layered image and text paintings merge the contemplative with the terse – each presented as the individual works that they are and when in exhibition, each piece smartly amplifies the meaning of the other. Kunkel’s expertly-rendered representations, or as the artist says, his “re-representations,” mine clues from past paintings while they are reimagined as a contemporary insider-art commentary inserting themselves onto the well-vetted stage of the historically approved art masters he admires. While Kunkel may also juxtapose contemporary, historical or mythological images to revealing or humorous effect, as with his painting of an artist poised to kiss a clownishly-attired figure recalling the mythic Pygmalion, it is also apparent that Kunkel’s imposed block-lettered font and select phrases are also important vehicles that provide context with an always surprising twist. Future with its double-knotted rope superimposed over a swirling hurricane and declarative text stating THE PAST IS PROLOGUE, is appointed next to another visual-play work of a painted wood-grain knot hole with the word OKAY imposed. In association, the painting perhaps is meant to suggest that the current state of affairs are somehow NOT OKAY – or maybe, more simply, it is just a play of opposites, as Kunkel encourages all such interpretations.
In combining diverse aspects, Kunkel re-contextualizes each painted element from its more accepted interpretation to that of an unexpected context, as unrelated quips or directives are alternately bewildering and amusing. Kunkel also cleverly invites a way in which to both explore and playfully undermine the varied traditions of historical painting – by merging and contrasting past and present. The artist elaborates on how his paintings are realized by saying, “My paintings speak to our individual appetite for self-reflection, born of a collective and universal desire to comprehend, both physically and emotionally, the world around us. Initially inspired by focusing on a primary image, I begin to investigate how I may be able to weave a narrative in a poetic or humorous fashion. Alternatively, I sometimes construct the work with no apparent end in sight and allow the consequent juxtapositions of images to create a narrative that is often a surprise even to me. In addition, I frequently superimpose original or found imagery onto the surface in a less literal manner, often with the addition of text as an attitudinal descriptor, or as an additional, content-specific image. The frequent addition of the illusion of plywood or other non-precious surfaces adds the element of the everyday that has pervaded my work over the years.” In combining such diverse aspects so imaginatively and in fresh new ways, and through his impressive mark-making, Kunkel shifts each painted element from its traditionally predictable interpretation to one that only can be only be read from an ever-changing contemporary stance – offering the viewer with a seemingly endless sense of discovery.
Jerry Kunkel has a B.S. from Ashland College and an M.F.A. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado where he taught painting for three decades. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum, the Auraria Campus, Anderson Ranch, Snowmass, CO, Southern Illinois University, Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities, Kansas University Hospital and numerous corporate and private collections. Kunkel’s paintings have been exhibited at the Denver Art Museum, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver Biennial of the Americas, Mizel Center of the Arts and Culture, Akron Art Institute, Rochester Art Museum, and Indianapolis Art Museum. His first novel entitled The Phone along with a collection of short stories and observations, The Unmade Bed, were recently published.