Kin (Ken Little catalogue essay)

Kin by Hills Snyder Ken Little, raised in the Texas panhandle, where wordlessness is born listening to the wind, tends to pin language and image together in ways that let the word disappear into the image. It is a sly maneuver — the chosen single-syllable words often read simultaneously as verbs and nouns, multiplying meaning while maintaining a simplicity that allows for the disappearance. Case in point is the large charcoal drawing, Fly, which features an image of an airplane nose up, tail down with eye-holes on top of the fuselage near the nose, giving it a fish-like presence. The tail of the plane, as much fin as flap, only emphasizes this. This hybrid being bears no evidence of ears, but clearly listens as it hangs on the wall. We will know what it’s been hearing when the walls start talking. It is more the noun “fly” than the verb — it is stationary, stuck as it were, to paper. An armature shaped like a pair of pants is covered with one dollar bills glued to its surface. The horizontal stripes of dollar bills form leg-wrapping stacks like bricks, suggesting the sturdiness of pillars, the legs of Atlas, or in this instance, Oz, the invisible one that is said to possess power and clairvoyance and may grant heart felt wishes. These pants, 8.5 feet tall, float footless above the floor, towering and suggesting a number of interpretations, all having to do with making you realize your position when you choose to trust various invisible entities — a case of the clothes having no emperor. Other works in this series, besides examining the relative value of sixteen square inches of art supplies (the area of a dollar bill), take on other images that human beings sometimes invest in to their peril: Gown, Father, Cross. The bronze heads — Hare, Gorilla, Deer, Wolf, Bear, etc. appear as in a wax museum of images derived from Ken’s drawings. Silent, hollow, expressionless — yet they have a kind of leering assumption — an awareness, perhaps, that they will be here after we are not. Their presentation on elegant, but seriously sturdy, welded steel tables only emphasizes their status as severed heads and reminds us once more that we are made of more perishable stuff. Ken’s neon works, also derivative of his simple drawing style, bring the images nearly to evaporation. These lines are made of trapped gas, while the welded support structure, transformer and wiring rig, though materially more present, fade in the shadows behind the bright light. The animals made of taxidermy models covered with shoes, belts, holsters and other discarded leather items (which have spawned cast bronze versions with empty space where the model used to be) come across as Arcimboldoesque gestural sculptures which mock their supposed function as hunter’s trophies, while simultaneously turning their knowing grins on art collectors, some of whom can be as predatory as hunters. The titles for these (as do the titles of the bronze heads) tend to diverge from the word-play strategies previously alluded to, bearing only descriptive information: Black & White Longhorn, Blue Belt Buck, just to name a couple, but once again, one is tempted to wonder in the face of these mute beasts, as in some country song, what if walls could talk?

< < < < B A C K