Arnold J. Kemp

Arnold J. Kemp

Fellow: Awarded 2012
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Pacific Northwest College of Art

The work of Arnold J. Kemp emerges from his enduring interest in combining aspects of identity-based art with post-minimal and conceptual strategies.

He states: “My work is open in terms of medium and it leaves room for laughter, as, in our current cultural moment, perhaps that is all we have. My emphasis is on process, experimentation and content where the end product is a by-product of experimentation that continues outside of the studio in how the work meets the public. This often happens outside of the formal gallery system in the form of lecture/performances, limited edition artists’ books, and art objects. At the heart of my process of probing issues of personal and collective realities is a desire and potential for locating imagination, thought and emotion in objects, images and texts.”

Kemp holds a combined B.A./B.F.A. (1991) from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He also has an M.F.A. (2005) from Stanford University. He has been making and exhibiting regularly for twenty years, while concurrently writing and publishing critical and creative texts. Significant works of Kemp’s are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Berkeley Art Museum, The Tacoma Art Museum, and the Fine Arts Collection at the University of California, Davis. He is the recipient of awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2001), Artadia Fund for Art & Dialogue (2001), Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2003), Art Matters Grant (2009), and Printed Matter Award for Artists (2009). He has also been awarded an artist residency from Cité Internationale Des Arts, which allowed him to live and work for seven months (2005–2006) in Paris, France. This preceded a major residency, commission and exhibition supported by the Portland Institute of Contemporary Arts (2008–2009).

From 1991 to 2006, Kemp lived and worked in San Francisco, California, where he participated in four significant solo exhibitions and many groups shows while also working as a curator for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (1993–2003) and serving on the board of the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito (2000–2004) and consulting for the Luggage Store/ 509 Cultural Center, San Francisco (2005).  A major shift in his professional development came in 2001 when he showed work in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s groundbreaking exhibition Freestyle, curated by Thelma Golden. This exhibition identified a generation of black artists who felt free to abandon or confront the label of “black artist,” preferring to be understood as individuals with complex investigations of blackness in their work. Kemp’s work became associated with a stance in a transitional moment in the quest to define ongoing changes in African-American art, and ultimately became part of the perpetual redefinition of blackness in contemporary culture. After Freestyle, Kemp had his fist solo show in New York City at Debs & Co. (2001), and the Studio Museum in Harlem purchased a significant work in 2005. Since then he has shown regularly, and has developed a practice that foregrounds research and experimentation that reflects on the self hybridized by and mingled with our culture of contradiction and uncertainty.

Kemp’s solo exhibitions include ESP, San Francisco (1998), Debs & Co., New York (2001), Quotidian Gallery, San Francisco (2002), Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco (2006), TBA Festival/ Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon (2007), Envoy, New York (2008), Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco (2009), and PDX Contemporary, Portland, OR (2009 & 2010).


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