Gregory Lind Gallery is pleased to present "Narwhellian," Seth Koen's new collection of carved wooden sculptures. This is Koen's fourth solo exhibition with the gallery.
Koen's practice includes commonplace materials such as yarn, thread, and needle in permutations that are at once unexpected and deceptively simple. His maple and basswood sculptures, which at times incorporate crocheted thread, utilize monochromatic combinations of balls, loops, lines, and other basic shapes and forms to suggest the rudimentary building blocks of children's toys. With restraint and subtlety, Koen's ambiguous forms defy utility and encourage novel spatial readings. He maintains an interest in sculptural line and the contrast and interplay between mass and line, much as a limb relates to a tree or a human body.
The title of the show is evocative of an ominous, foreboding Orwellian world counterbalanced by the primitive wonderment of the narwhal: a small Arctic whale that pushes the bounds of the plausible with its long, spirally twisted tusk. Like Koen's forms, "Narwhellian" suggests a transitional entity capable of embracing many identities. Accordingly, the works in the show are iconic images that are idiosyncratic and unspecific, suggesting a variety of possible functions and personalities through their gestures and forms.
Koen's rustic, homespun aesthetic is one that provokes faraway or forgotten histories, as well as the familiar lure of folklore. Given the artist's own childhood, spent by the seashore, the sculptures in the show are reminiscent of images and objects connected to men at sea: from mending nets to sharpening harpoons and carved bits of whalebone. "Sometimes I feel my studio tossing on the waves," says Koen. The unembellished nature of the images is one that lends itself to a gestural purity and spirit of exploration.
Seth Koen is originally from Maine. He received his BA from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA. He has shown widely in the U.S., including shows in the San Francisco Bay Area at The Lab, Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery, Richmond Art Center, Rena Bransten Gallery, Headlands Center for the Arts, and San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery; as well as at the Brewery Project, Los Angeles; Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Grand Junction; Chela, Baltimore; and Hafemann Gallery, Wiesbaden, Germany. Koen has been featured in publications such as Art in America, Sculpture, Artweek, and American Craft. He has been the recipient of the Cadogan and Trefethen Fellowships, and the Jay Defeo Prize. He currently lives in Sacramento, CA.