‘Sticks and Stones’ explores structure and symbolism in Snowmass
Art show opens Friday at The Collective
What: Opening and Cocktail Hour for “Sticks and Stones,” works by Alex Gabriel and Henry Kunkel
When: Friday, Sept. 10 from 6-8 p.m.
Where: The Collective Hall
More info: thecollectivesnowmass.com
For “Sticks and Stones,” a new art show opening Friday in Base Village, artists Henry Kunkel and Alex Gabriel looked to one another to plan what works they would display.
“As we put things together, things started to sing together. … (We were) finding common threads that sew our works together,” Kunkel said in a joint phone interview with Gabriel. “And so we both have representational work and less representational work, and so (we were) working out what kind of like different painted languages make sense together.”
The two met at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia a couple years back. Gabriel took a residency there in 2019; Kunkel is the program director and a former participant in the residency at the studios. Both have works infused with the colors of their Coloradan surroundings and the imagery of the natural world, though each takes a different approach in theme and material.
This is the first time the artists’ works have been shown together, according to Kunkel; collaboration on “Sticks and Stones” illuminated the similarities between the artists’ works, Gabriel said.
“What was magical for me about it was I had known Henry’s work a little bit, and I even have one of his paintings hanging in my house, but then, I actually wasn’t aware … how well our paintings would work together until we had like a studio visit about the show,” Gabriel said. “And then I was like, wait, these actually really click, and there’s a lot more themes connected to the themes I think about, even though we have quite different materials.”
What began as a discussion of logistics evolved into something far more thematic, Kunkel said.
“We started off by putting works together that would fit the gallery’s recommendations on size and structure, and just kind of looked at color … and then started to talk about themes, like the structure of building, thinking about like painting as a body or the object of the body, and then talking about different forms of expression,” Kunkel said.
So too were there “really nerdy conversations” about art history, Gabriel joked, and more exploration of the physical materials and how their structure plays into the work.
“It got kind of meta,” Gabriel added. “I remember us talking a lot about how a painting is even structured. … We build off of that as like the literal structure is important: what our stretchers are doing, or for me, what fabric I’m using, becomes really important.”
Structure is just one of those “common threads” that Kunkel said help stitch the two artists’ works together.
There are some physical similarities — two works each obtaining a deer, for instance — but symbolism and memory are part of the collection, too, Gabriel said.
The two artists take different approaches to their works: Kunkel uses anatomical references, mythology and botanical symbols as building blocks; Gabriel is more “material driven,” they said, with the idea of “the painting as a body.”
But there’s only so much of the artist’s ideas that can go into how audiences experience the collection. It’s up to the viewer to interpret and find their own meaning in each of the works, Kunkel and Gabriel said.
“Those connecting threads are like we’re meeting in the middle. … If we take this thread of memory, I’m following it from one side, and then Henry’s following it from the other,” Gabriel said.
“One of my hopes is that people who come to see it would then make those connections for themselves,” they added.
Kunkel agrees; the artist’s intentions and the viewer’s response both play into the work.
“The artist can only go so far in a piece, and they can … create understanding to read a painting if they are doing it well,” Kunkel said. “But ultimately, it’s the viewer that finishes a piece of art with their eyes, and what they get out is in their hands.”
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