Born in County Down, Northern Ireland, Kennedy has been a resident in the US since 2003.
Educated in the UK and Ireland with a Bachelor of Arts from the Royal Scottish
Academy and an additional two Post Graduate diplomas in choreography and architectural design.
In 2006 he co-founded Surface Library Atelier + Gallery with ceramist Bob Bachler.
Their studios are now located in Long Island City.
Much of the artist’s early work is rooted in landscape and its various abstractions. Since 2007 he
has been exploring the placement of shape and form within those pre-existing frameworks. From
this exploration the “Spatial” series originated followed shortly thereafter by “Architectures and
These paintings address a fascination with essential structures and arrangements, whilst exploring
the linguistics of music, mathematics, dance and architecture. Pattern recognition and manipulation
are common themes, and involve the resolution of space within his own abstract vocabulary, in
essence, solving spatial equations through paint. The layouts are not premeditated, but affected by
the colorfields serendipitously formed in the background washes. It is the considered dissection of
these tonal zones that builds the core structure of each work.
Represented by :
Mindy Solomon Gallery, St Petersburg. Melissa Morgan, Palm Desert
Art Bridge, London Galerie Werner, Pittsburgh
Corporate Clients and Collectors include:
Mahinder Tak, Henri Barguirdjian, Judy Linhart, Barbara Barry, Edward Albee, Sisti Collection,
Vivaldi Partners, David Scott, Frederick Schmeltzer, Corcoran, Saatchi + Saatchi
Forthcoming exhibits : "Balance" Jeffrey Leder Gallery
“ Constructions and Compositions “ , Mindy Solomon Gallery
Art Miami 2012, December 4th
"A Fine Line - Kennedy and Koenigsberg" at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich ,
opening March 2013.
Spaces for the Mind and Eye by Miranda McClintic
Written for the debut of Architectures + Choreographies Scope Miami 2012
The paintings of James Kennedy are intriguing, dignified, and beautifully crafted.
Formal but never predicable, their subject is space. With training in modern art,
dance, and architectural design, he has created a personal language of form
and color. Kennedy’s approach is both deliberate and intuitive. He
experiments with painting materials, choreographs relationships among
eccentric hard-edged shapes, and builds diagrams of incised lines and small
black dots to achieve complex surface and spatial interactions.
As well described by the artist, “these paintings address a fascination with
essential structures and arrangements, whilst exploring the linguistics of music,
mathematics, dance and architecture. Pattern recognition and manipulation are
common themes, and involve the resolution of space within my own abstract
vocabulary, in essence, solving spatial equations through paint.”
Neither representational nor referential, Kennedy’s paintings are exactingly
specific in appearance and endlessly suggestive in affect.
Kennedy’s complex process results in a rich visual experience that is orderly,
balanced, and rhythmic. Human in scale, with dimensions such as 64 x 64, 37
x 60, 64 x 52 inches, they are comfortably approachable. The white or black
frames and over-layer of varnish emphasize the physicality of the painting, but
the forms remain elusive, never coalescing into a single identifiable picture.
The paintings remain engaging because they are based on four apparent and
interdependent systems of image making. Their character reflects the unique
process of their making rather than a preexisting idea or external object.
James Kennedy sees himself in the artistic traditions of both alchemist and
master craftsman. With no preliminary drawings, he begins by covering
masonite with washes of acrylic paint. The backgrounds are customarily a
mixture of titanium white, medium gray, titanium buff, and yellow ochre. Next,
Kennedy seamlessly applies emulsions, glazing, and scraping to build up
individual planes. Varying hues, tints and values of tertiary colors are subtly
modulated by density of pigment, dilution, and overlay to create a tonal
structure across the surface. The absence of visible brushstrokes gives each
work an ethereal quality.
Kennedy’s distinctive palette features ochre over azurite, sienna and medium
orange over ochre, raw umber and graphite powder over white, cerulean and
manganese blues, and gray greens made up of medium grays, green oxide, buff
and terra verde. The blacks that provide dramatic incidents throughout the
composition are often mixed with deep violet to increase their intensity. These
unrealistic colors are used to define non-repetitive shapes and spaces that are,
alternatively, linear, curved, jagged, and straight edged.
Knowledgeable about the art of the past and his own history, Kennedy says that
the color and blending techniques that he developed to modulate dark and light
in his Moodscape series (2006-2009) help him create the “tonal space” that his
“systems inhabit.” He explains that “the serendipitous convergence of space,
color, and the lines that dissect them, form the core structure of the work.”
Perfectly straight lines are scored (in keeping with the artist’s interest in dance
notation) into the masonite, creating trajectories and constellations whose
patterns complement, complicate and enliven the arrangement of colored
shapes. The lines serve as edges that redefine the painted forms, create
architectural scaffolding, and provide directional energy.
Precise vector dots of black gouache, acrylic and varnish are added at the end.
These accents multiply the relationships among the colored planes and incised
lines, as well as creating rhythmic signals that lead the eye across the
composition. The light touch and relatively random placement of the dots
provides a relief from the obsessive cuts into the masonite.
All of James Kennedy’s recent paintings are based on these four systems,
articulated differently in terms of color, surface, spatiality, regularity, complexity,
density, geometry, and tone. Positive and negative space, as well as light and
dark are evenly distributed. .
Sum of Parts is comprehensive in revealing Kennedy’s means of handling paint
through overlap, scraping, solid pigment, and veils of color. Different kinds of
distinct shapes, painted lines, nebulous space, and unexpected colors are
carefully displayed, horizontally and vertically. There is little regularity of
arrangement, but an asymmetrical balance is maintained with the disparate
notations and painterly passages.
Several works that share a basic palette of greys and browns – highlighted with
white and black – reveal the impressive range of Kennedy’s language. In
Reciprocal Arrangement, the curvilinear shapes at first seem to dominate the
rectangular, the lighter larger areas of pinkish tan look more prominent than the
dark, light and medium grey planes bordering them, and the painted horizontal
lines are more obvious than the incised vertical lines, but, over time, you see
that all these elements mutually determine the space Kennedy has constructed.
Multiple levels of paint give spatial depth and color resonance, while glazing
brightens paint that is more thinly applied. Dilution Diagram is a virtuoso
demonstration of flowing tonality, syncopated by curvilinear silhouetted forms
that echo one another like shadows.
Kennedy explains: “The light and shade in this respect are directly proportionate
to the thickness of media sitting on the
surface of the masonite. So the dilution is in control of how much background is
revealed, and for me that is the most important
part of my paintings....the "landscape," the tonal changes across the surface
….[This is] the emotional side of the paintings, and the application of gesture
and positioning of the non-specific foreground graphics is the whimsical and
less serious aspect.”
In Flybywire, which is a vertical rectangle rather than a square, the incised lines
hold attenuated forms in a state of suspended animation. Upper Level
Hierarchy is a spatial construct that is blocked off in the center by five horizontal
planks of opaque paint. This work, which was made after the death of
Kennedy’s father, is measured and meditative, where Dilution Diagram is witty
and Flybywire is daring in spirit.
Telegraph and Blue Print to an Open Sky are the most high key of James
Kennedy’s 2011 works, constructed of mostly rectangular planes, thin irregular
lines and hard-edged flat shapes. In Telegraph, transparent and opaque layers
of aqua and grey suggest depth, anchored by strips of red, brown, white and
black spread out at measured intervals across the surface. These are joined
and dissected by the incised lines that, in turn, are punctuated by painted dots.
The space vibrates with the play of forms in space like the crackle of a telegraph
message through the air. Blueprint to an Open Sky – blue, grey, black and white
-- is more architectural, with angular shapes and schematic linear elements
framing, in a disjointed fashion, a rhomboid of aqua reminiscent of a view from a
Retro Rhapsody is bold and expansive in off-key green, puce, mauve, olive,
ochre, steel blue, four shades of tan, and eight greys. It has the widest variety
of curvilinear and geometric planes, quirky linear details, a plethora of vector
dots and scored lines that are curved, as well as straight, going in all directions.
The artist says that the painting “alludes to the aesthetic of Art Nouveau,” but it
also attests to the exuberance of its invention and execution.
James Kennedy’s paintings are suggestive not definitive. They are not intended
to convey particular information, nor look like anything but themselves. Created
by imagination and technical artistry, these spaces for the mind exist as
independent presences for visual contemplation.
There are many kinds of abstraction, removed at different degrees of separation
from external reality. Looking at James Kennedy’s work, I am reminded of a
statement by Wassily Kandinsky “Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most
difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened
sensitivity for composition and for colours, and that you be a true poet. This last