Kenny + Citizen Firefighter
Conner Contemporary Art welcomes leading Scottish sculptor Kenny Hunter with his first one-artist exhibition in the United States: Chase the Devil.
Hunter´s work is well known in the U.K. and Europe at venues including the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh; Modern Art, Inc. of London; and Liste 99 in Basel. His sculpture is also featured in the Hamburg collection of Wolfgang Joop. The artist´s trans-Atlantic debut showcases glass-reinforced plastic castings based on his most celebrated works such as Citizen Firefighter (2001) and Man Walks Among Us (2000).
Hunter´s innovative sculptures have been lauded as "anti-monuments" which challenge the normative meaning of monumental public statuary. The artist posits that "in a world of different values these might be the monuments." In his formal critique of the glorification of individuals and empires in historical statues the artist transforms conventions of neo-classical memorial sculpture. Hunter´s figures possess their own brand of magnificence by virtue of their volume and clarity of form - characteristics which reference popular visual culture and prompt reevaluation of the meanings commonly attached to standard formats of figural monuments and portrait busts. He simulates the seductive surface quality of polished marble by smoothing his cast plastic works through hours of sanding and finishing giving them what he describes as "a look of virtual reality" like "seamless plastic toys." Hunter observes that his sculptures "look as if they have just popped out of a machine or a Kellogg´s cornflake packet - yet they are monumentalised and subversive."
The works in this exhibition challenge complacent notions of cultural history through their unifying themes of time, death and collective memory.
For example, in What is History? (1999) the artist presents a pair of portrait busts of Osama Bin Laden and Monica Lewinsky which function as bookends. This ignoble pairing raises doubts about the precept that history consists of the deeds of great individuals. Hunter explains that "at the time Lewinsky and Bin Laden were colliding in the pages of the newspapers in an anti-linear fashion that presented history as without meaning." Infamy is replaced by anonymity in Citizen Firefighter (2001), a work unveiled at the Strathclyde Fire Brigade´s central station in Glasgow in June 2001, as the first commission of its kind in Scotland which pays tribute to those who serve and protect their community. Hunter´s glass-reinforced plastic cast of this larger-than-life hero is reminiscent of Michelangelo´s David in its grave presence and vigilant pose. But instead of glorifying individual anatomical strength, the artist emphasizes the heaviness of the gear that covers the figure whose head and face are concealed in a helmet and breathing mask. Hunter´s firefighter looks like a colossal plastic action-figure, but one whose demeanor is characterized more by selfless, steady resolve than by individualized, athletic motion. The universal identity of this everyman-hero was attested to last September when Glaswegians placed flowers around it in spontaneous tributes to firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
We are pleased to introduce American viewers to the extraordinary work of this acclaimed artist.
There will be an opening night reception on Friday, May 3rd from 6 to 8 pm, at Conner Contemporary Art Gallery. The artist will be in attendance.