“I accept art to be evidence of human existence. I have found that we are able to make a very small amount of all the pieces we think about. So it's a little bit like leaving footprints just occasionally. And the footprints we leave have been chosen. It is very telling but never conclusive.”
RaebervonStenglin is delighted to present Robert Kinmont’s first exhibition in Europe. WAIT will feature early and recent pieces by the American conceptual artist, spanning from the late ’60s until the present day. The works bridge a 30 year hiatus in which Kinmont, having achieved some success and recognition, left his art career to raise his family, practice Buddhist meditation, set up an art school and then work as a carpenter two decades before returning to art. For Kinmont, art is secondary to living, yet is all the richer for that. His practice countenances attitudes and subtleties rarely seen in contemporary art: an ambivalence towards making things and an acceptance also that much that is worth communicating may go unseen.
Kinmont’s art is extraordinarily grounded. His best-known work, familiar as an iconic photograph in Lucy Lippard’s ‘Six Years’ book, is his 1969 series 8 Natural Handstands, which show him doing handstands outdoors in diminishing contexts, the edge of a cliff, boulders, riverbed, forests and desert. Earth features again and again in his works: in his photographic series My Favorite Dirt Roads (1969/2008), which depicts exactly what it says; in the sculptural installation Home Sweet Home (2010–2011), which features three bed-sized wooden boxes filled with soil and laid with pillows; and even as a vital ingredient hidden from view, as in the hollowed out cottonwood logs Kinmont has made filled with such existential matter as dirt and children’s toys — all on show at RaebervonStenglin. These understated works relate the artist in a fundamental way to his environment and draw directly from his experiences. Thus ordinary things become surprisingly meaningful, appreciable precisely for being frequently used, as in the deadpan series Just about the right size (1970–2008), which sees Kinmont photographed straight on holding an everyday object — a rock, a bouquet of flowers, a ball, his own shoe, for instance — eschewing grandeur for art on a human scale.
For RaebervonStenglin, Kinmont is presenting a refrigerated text piece, STANDING HERE IN FRONT OF THESE MOUNTAINS IS SUCCESS, written in cursive with quarter inch copper tubing, which will become coated with ice. Requiring refrigerant equipment to be realised, the work summons sublime nature in order to celebrate modest human achievement. Rather than compete against each other, the two are bound together in Kinmont’s art, which with its philosophy of balance and understatement, nonetheless conveys exhilaration.
Robert Kinmont was born in Los Angeles in 1937. He received his BFA from San Francisco Fine Arts Institute in 1970 and his MFA from University of California at Davis in 1971. In 1966, his work was first shown in a group exhibition at the Berkeley Gallery in San Francisco. Between 1968 and 1981, he exhibited in galleries and institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Art; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; and the 1968 Sculpture Annual at the Whitney Museum, New York. During this time his work was also included in the 1976 Biennale of Sydney and two seminal exhibitions curated by Lucy Lippard: ‘Idea-Document’ at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (1969) and ‘557,087’ at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Seattle (1969). Between 1971 and 1981 Kinmont held teaching positions at Ontario College of Art, San Francisco Academy of Art, University of California at Berkeley, and San Francisco Art Institute. In 1976, he founded and taught at Coyote, a school in the small town of Bishop, CA. Between 1981 and 2005 Robert Kinmont studied Buddhism and worked as a carpenter. In 2005 his work was included in ‘Mirage’, a group exhibition at Alexander and Bonin curated by Julie Ault and Martin Beck, followed by solo exhibitions there in 2009 and 2011. He lives and works in Northern California.