MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2011
"Sub-Text Collage at 163rd St."
"Bluefish with Tennis Player"
Palimpsest, the titular vein running through much of Kenneth Vick's body of photographs, is by no accident the most appropriate and most effective single word to illuminate our understanding of his work. A palimpsest can be described as a surface that has been used one or more times after earlier writing on it has been erased or covered over. Mr. Vick's pieces are deliberate in their fulfillment of this criteria.
In amassing this body of work, Mr. Vick took to the subterranean strongholds of the urban environment to capture what are most accurately labeled as "found collages". Layers of subway-graffiti, posters, ads, and political signs that have been applied and removed over time form a crust in which each leaves a residual mark or tone. Indeed, Mr. Vick could be seen as adding a layer of his own to these palimpsests by filtering the found images through the lens of a camera.
The perceived textures, luminosities, and semi-transparencies resulting from his choice of subject hearken back to the indirect painting techniques employed so masterfully by Rembrandt, while at the same time assuming the direct and confrontational abstract simplicity of Robert Motherwell, or Franz Kline. The upshot being images that are at once visually striking and infinitely nuanced, a sort of laboriously fought for spontaneity which can be admired and appreciated from a distance as well as under closer scrutiny.
The conceptual and philosophical layers of this body of work are as rich and variegated as the pieces themselves. In assuming the role of a cultural archeologist and so beautifully exhuming the visual dregs of a realm of society often associated with the outcast and reprobate, Mr. Vick repudiates our preconceived notions of artistic pedigree and pedagogy.
Where many have seen only the organic accumulation of urban detritus in spaces meant merely to be hurried through, Mr. Vick has taken pause and recorded his insights in a format that begs we reconsider our surroundings. With an unflappable sense humor and an unerring hand at design, Kenneth Vick teaches us to see beyond the peripheral superfluity that so often prevents us from recognizing the profound within the mundane.
Curator & Critic