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To Whom Keeps a Record | Arnold J. Kemp

May 25 - September 8

Arnold J. Kemp
May 25 – September 8, 2024

To Whom Keeps a Record features works by 2023 Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Visual Arts Fellow, Arnold J. Kemp. A generous and generative selection that provides a snapshot into an artist’s practice, this exhibition addresses persistent questions concerning artistic research and risk, ethics and politics, self and story. One of several propositions informing this exhibition engages Kemp’s dual interest in contemporaneity and historicity: not only is his cultural practice located in the past, but it’s an ongoing construction with a capacious reach. Born in Boston, MA to Caribbean parents, Kemp is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, writer, and educator whose work is at once, poetically lyrical and culturally informed. His work, which emerges from a personal archive, serves as a reminder of today’s socio-political landscape and its reverberations in the Black psyche. 

Sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, Kemp gestures through metaphors of the physical, imaginative and spiritual self. Such is the case with the photographic series Possible Bibliography in which Kemp’s hands hold books from his private library. This work sheds light on the larger network of thought in the possible sources of Kemp’s concepts while inviting audiences to imagine what could be added to the collection. Similarly Kemp’s newest sculptural work, Music Brings Goodness to Us All Unless One Has Some Other Motive for Its Use, invites the audience to interact with a selection of vinyl records from Kemp’s collection. These archival recordings from scholars, historians, theorists, and political figures such as Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Sidney Poitier, are presented alongside music from pioneering jazz artists such as Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Esther Philips and Ornette Coleman. This work exemplifies the multiple ways that Kemp creates entrances into ideas and information while suggesting persistence, Black interiority, Black resistance and Black imagination. Kemp’s use of language and abstraction in the large-scale wooden sculpture, Stage, embodies the use of historical and cultural references throughout his work. Spelling out the phrase; I WOULD SURVIVE. I COULD SURVIVE. I SHOULD SURVIVE, Stage is a sort of concrete poem which further investigates our relationship to self-making and personal agency. 

About the artist: 

Arnold J. Kemp (b. 1968) has been concerned with artists, writers, curators and educators working in art spaces founded by and in support of other artists for almost four decades. His artistic work and writing is rooted in research and process, and engages ideas about the permeability of the border between self and the materials of one’s work. His experiments in art making extend beyond the studio and formal gallery system by taking the form of talks, performances, limited-edition artist’s books, collaborations and art objects. For the artist, art production holds potential to spur new thinking about the requirements of creativity in a world where all bodies need to engage creatively every single day. Arnold J. Kemp’s works have been exhibited nationally and internationally, and are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Portland Art Museum, the Schneider Museum of Art, the Tacoma Art Museum, The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, the Hammer Art Museum, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar and The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection. Recent exhibitions include LESS LIKE AN OBJECT, MORE LIKE THE WEATHER, Neabauer Collegium, University of Chicago; TALKING TO THE SUN, M. LeBlanc, Chicago; STAGE, Martos Gallery, New York; FALSE HYDRAS, JOAN, Los Angeles; and WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD, Biquini Wax, Mexico City. 

Kemp, a Guggenheim Fellow in 2012, has received many other awards, including from the Ellis Beauregard Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Pollock- Krasner Foundation, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and an Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant in 2021. His writing has appeared in Art Journal, Texte zur Kunst, October, Callaloo, Agni Review, MIRAGE #4 Period(ical), River Styx, Nocturnes, Tripwire, Three Rivers Poetry Journal, and in From Our Hearts to Yours: New Narrative as Contemporary Practice.  He has curated many projects throughout his career, and was from 1993 to 2003 a curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Kemp lives and works in Chicago, IL, where he is a professor, and former Dean of Graduate Studies, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, having previously been Associate Professor, Chair of Painting and Printmaking, at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Chair of MFA in Visual Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art. He received a combined degree, the BA/BFA in 1991 from Tufts University in association with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a Master of Fine Arts Degree in 2005 from Stanford University, CA. 

About the curator:

Ashley Page, an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Portland, ME. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Page’s studio practice, independent curatorial projects, and teaching, act as a vessel for dialogue, representation, intergenerational exchange, and creative expression. Having obtained her BFA in Sculpture and a minor in Public Engagement from Maine College of Art & Design, her artistic framework is a vehicle for storytelling. In 2022, she was awarded the Amelia Peabody Award for Sculpture by St. Botolph Club Foundation, and has taught workshops at Waterfall Arts, Peters Valley, the University of Maine Orono. Her curatorial and studio practice has been seen in the Portland Museum of Art, Hunterdon Art Museum, Congress Square Park, the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, The Abyssinian Meeting House, Cove Street Arts.


Additional exhibition credits: 

Thank you to the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation, for supporting the Visual Arts Fellowship program. And special thank you to the 2023 Visual Artist Fellowship jurors: Kimberli Gant, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum; Aaron Levi Garvey, Chief Curator, The Andy Warhol Museum; Daisy Nam, Director and Chief Curator of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at California College of the Arts


Header image: Arnold Joseph Kemp, Possible Bibliography (detail), 52 black and white archival inkjet prints; unique closed edition, 2015 – 2020, The Fine Arts Collection, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis. Museum Purchase.


May 25
September 8
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