KIM KEEVER‘s spontaneous and expressive large-scale abstract photographs are created by pouring pigments into a 200 gallon tank of water, producing billowing blossoms and explosive clouds of color that he must quickly capture with his large-format camera.
Name: Kim Keever
College: Old Dominion University
Favorite Color: Maroon
Favorite Book: life and Earth Through Time (a 600 page geology book)
Favorite Movie: The Great Beauty
Favorite Food: Dark Chocolate
Favorite Quote: Life is like a cookie, easy crumb easy go. Kim Keever
Why are you an artist, and when did you first become one?
I am an artist because I love to make art. I realized at age 5 that art was something I could do well compared to the other kids. My father told me I would starve as an artist but I kept making art anyway. Eventually, after getting most of my Masters degree In Engineering, I realized that becoming an artist was my true calling.
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start?
The work I’m doing now consists of dropping paint and ink into water and photographing the results through the wall of a 200 gallon aquarium. I try not to be too concise as to what I’m looking for. I generally reach across the table I have my bottles of colors on and start pouring the paint into the water, slow at first and gradually building up to a crescendo. Though there are colors I tend to gravitate to, I’m always trying new colors and colored fluids to see what happens.
The real concept takes place in the tank as the paint moves through the tank in a relatively random manner.
What’s the best advice anyone gave you?
The best advice anyone ever gave me was to go to New York. It was Walter Chrysler Junior that said that to me many years ago. Though, in general it’s a great struggle living in New York, this is where you can see great museums, great gallery shows and meet great artists. All this has been very influential to me on a psychological scale. 100 years ago one would have gone to Paris. New York has been the place to go as an artist for well over 60 years and it still is.
Do you suffer for your art?
Since it was always my choice to stay in artist, perhaps I can’t say I suffered. I always felt like if I ever ended up on the street, I would have been able to tell myself that I had lived the life I wanted to live. Most people can’t say that. But in terms of deprivation and hard times, yes I have suffered for many years. For the last couple years I’ve been doing very well and it all seems to be getting better.
How would you define yourself as an artist?
When I was a little kid everyone would ask me what I would like to be when I grew up. At the time, I felt like I would just one to be myself. Why would I be anyone else or something else? Eventually I learned to just say, I want to be a fireman so that people would stop asking.
What inspires you to work?
It’s totally the challenge of trying to make something new and unseen before. I’ll go back to a lesson my father taught me when I was six. I was very good at copying things but not so good at inventing things as I made drawings on pieces of paper. My father convinced me, and he was right, that it’s much easier to copy than to do something new. It was then that I realized I must do something new.
You seem to use a lot of symbols in your work. Does your works tell stories or are they simply decorative elements of the project?
There are definitely some stories in the landscapes and figurative work. They are not meant to be absolutes but more about general dream stories in a somewhat nonspecific way and timeless fashion.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how?
I would have to say there is only one specific artist and that would be Picasso. I even went through various periods of cubistic work. Mainly I was influenced by the extraordinary amount of work that he made and the many different kinds of work that he made. Add that to a general sense of happiness I see in later photographs and I am still very impressed.
What other interests do you have outside of art?
I love movies. I admit I even go to a lot of bad movies just to see the action and the visual effects along with the colors. My guilty pleasure would be playing chess online with random people around the world. It’s a little embarrassing because I’ll never be a Grand Master and I’m too stubborn to take classes. I must say it is fun and challenging.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today?
Though I’ve never taken an art history course, I do love art museums. Whenever I visit another city, the first thing I look for is the art museum as soon as I have a chance. Though most people think my constructed landscapes underwater are missing chapters from The Hudson River School, they really aren’t. Though I love those paintings, I never intentionally tried to make one. Whenever the materials I used came together to make a photograph, they just seem to have always turned out that way. Conceptually, I really liked the idea that I was making work that looked like a very specific period in history but was made of plaster, model railroad materials, and paint flowing around in water.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
That’s a scary question. I assume by not being allowed to make art that you mean in terms of a physical malady or illness. I would have to say, that would be beyond depressing. For me, it’s a passion I will never retire from. Oddly to my way of thinking, a successful artist I know said that he was thinking about retiring. I was truly shocked. It seemed like such a strange thing to say.
What are your next projects?
Right now I am loving making the abstract forms and photographing them in the water. For me the beauty of it is that I never know what I’m going to get. Sometimes they look like landscapes, other times figures, and often just pure abstractions. That’s also true for the color combinations. I pour in different colors but I never know what will dominate and what combinations will appear. I generally take 20 to 100 shots per session so there are a lots of possibilities. It’s a little like imagining what you see in a cloudy sky.
KIM KEEVER is also well-known for his large-scale landscape photographs, which are created by meticulously constructing miniature topographies in the empty tank, which is then filled with water. These dioramas of fictitious environments are next brought to life with colored light filters and the dispersal of pigment, producing ephemeral atmospheres that he must quickly capture with his large-format camera.
Keever‘s painterly panoramas represent a continuation of the landscape tradition, as well as an evolution of the genre. Referencing a broad history of landscape painting, especially that of Romanticism and the Hudson River School, they are imbued with a sense of the sublime. However, they also show a subversive side that deliberately acknowledges their contemporary contrivance and conceptual artifice.
Keever‘s staged scenery is characterized by a psychology of time and timelessness. A combination of the real and the imaginary, they document places that somehow we know, but never were. The symbolic qualities he achieves result from his understanding of the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. However, rather than presenting a factual reality, Keever fabricates an illusion that conjures the realm of our imagination.
His “Eroded Man“series of Giacometti-like face formations and “Shell Man” series of submerged heads encrusted by the sea and lost in time seem to represent how the eternal effects of nature have washed over worn expressions of the human condition.
Kim Keever lives in New York City and has exhibited extensively in galleries throughout the United States and abroad.
Sources: © Kinz + Tillou Fine Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
New England Museum for Contemporary Art, Brooklyn, CT
Nassau County Museum of Fine Art, Roslyn, NY
Patterson Museum, Patterson, NJ
George Washington University Gallery, Washington DC
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, KS
Elgin Community College, Elgin, IL
2012 Tillou Gallery, Litchfield, CT
Lafayette College, Easton, PA
2011 Charles Bank Gallery, New York, NY
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA
David B Smith Gallery, Denver, CO
2010 Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago, IL
2009 Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC
2008 Kinz, Tillou + Feigen, New York, NY
Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago, IL
2007 Kinz, Tillou + Feigen, New York, NY
2006 Kim Keever, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago, IL
2005 Suspended States, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI
Feigen Contemporary, New York, NY
2004 All I Ever Knew, David Floria Gallery, Aspen, CO
2003 New Work, Cornell Dewitt Gallery, New York, NY
2002 A Raining Day, Fotogalerie Wein, Vienna, Austria
Photographs, Fassbender Fine Art, Chicago, IL
2001 De Chiara/Stewart, New York, NY
1999 De Chiara/Stewart, New York, NY
Fassbender Fine Art, Chicago, IL
1997 Art Space, Raleigh, NC
1992 Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY