It is with great pleasure that Dolby Chadwick Gallery announces an exhibition presenting the work of painter Robert Kingston, opening on June 2, 2016. The artist's fourth show with the gallery will feature large-scale works in acrylic on canvas. Kingston's thoughtful and evocative paintings reference Abstract Expressionism in a lyrical, reflective vein, their energy pulling us inward—the viewer drawn deep into the expansive spaces of the work.
Kingston, born in Indonesia, had traveled widely as a child, and feels that this upbringing as a citizen of the world—rather than of one particular location—is an important component of his identity. “ It was a special kind of experience…I learned that there are a lot of different ways to think and to live.” Living abroad until the age of eighteen, when he moved to California to attend college, a somewhat meandering path led Kingston to the heart of a vibrant community of artists and poets in and around Venice Beach, where he grew interested in becoming a painter.
Working improvisationally, like a jazz musician, Kingston begins his compositions with broad gestural marks, later refining and editing in an intuitive process. Kingston's gestural impulse is grounded in Prehistoric cave paintings, the stylized drawings of horses, bison, and deer inscribed with power and grace on the walls of Lascaux, Altamira, and Font-de-Gaume.
Studies of classical art and literature, the works of ancient Greece and Rome, also inform his work, much as similar fascination with the classics inflects the works of painter Cy Twombly, to whom Kingston has been likened. Like Twombly, Kingston's layered painting process makes substantial use of scrawling and looping passages of marks, made with brush or pencil, in loose, washy grounds of subtle color. Twombly's Fifty Days at Ilium (1977-78), a massive painting cycle comprised of ten enormous canvases, was inspired by The Iliad of Homer. Kingston, in a similar vein, creates works with ties to myth, legend, and poetry, notably his I Do Not Know More Than the Sea Tells Me (2012) referencing a Robert Duncan poem, Achilles' Song.
Much as avant-garde poets such as Duncan, a member of Black Mountain College, combine disparate elements in formal yet unexpected ways, engendering images and connections that paint pictures in the reader's mind, Kingston's fields of paint and gestural marks combine to produce synergistic energies in the mind of the viewer. He thinks of his works as landscapes, or “dreamscapes,” feeling his work aims for a spot “somewhere between Twombly and Turner.” Certainly Kingston's atmospheric veils of Mediterranean color, with the blue of sea and sky, and blistering whites the color of sun-parched stone, share a kinship as well with Turner's light-filled vistas of steam and smoke, dotted with classical ruins.
In Dragonfly (2015), landscape references emerge, an irregularly-shaped large blue area, ranging from gray to Prussian and ultramarine, suggests a body of water, a pond perhaps, areas of lighter color acting as reflections. A wide, variegated band just above the halfway mark of the canvas, in blues, greens, ochre, and gold, evokes hills and foliage, while some enigmatic vertically-thrusting marks allude to cliffs. Oval and disc-shapes flicker, the subtle play of layering the washy colors conveying a sense of atmospheric depth, hinting at the passage of time and the editing process undertaken to arrive at his final, seemingly effortless, compositions.
Kingston's use of gestural marks draws from a kind of lexicon of his own invention, as geometric shapes and distinctive squiggles form a recurring cast of characters. Assorted spiky marks, or perhaps elongated shapes somewhere between musical notes and spermatozoa, may swim mid-canvas, joining looping whorls in varying modes. One such gesture, a particularly dense circular scribble—inspired by an image in a Kandinsky painting—acts as a surrogate for the human presence. Our human spirits, and the traces that they leave upon our earth, are continual sources of inspiration for Kingston's contemplative work.
Robert Kingston was born in 1955 in Sungei Gerong, Indonesia, and currently lives in Altadena, California. He earned his BFA from California State University Long Beach in 1986 and his MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 1988. In addition to exhibiting across the United States, his art has been reviewed in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Artweek, L.A. Style, L.A. Weekly, and Artscene. This will be his fourth solo show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.