MUSEUM OF COMIC & CARTOON ART
Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art
SoHo, New York City
The show primarily consists of prints on paper roughly 3 by 3 feet square, or should I say in many cases, diamond shaped. The art, much like comicbooks, is made out of black lines, in this case, straight lines, some razor thin, some massively thick, surrounding primary colors of red, blue and yellow. To describe Bob Kessel’s art in simple terms, his work is… simple.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace;
making the complicated simple,
awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
- CHARLES MINGUS
This remark provides a clue to an aspect of Bob Kessel’s work that his apparent iconoclasm and irreverence have tended to conceal. He has remained in an important way a classical artist. Along with the images of superheroes there is an abiding commitment to composition. The language of form is what guides him to what lies behind his trivialized subjects, whether they come from pop culture or the history of art. Like all great artists, he uses what is around him for inspiration, commentary, and, in Kessel’s case, a healthy amount of deconstructionist verve and wit. Like a jazz player, he takes a familiar tune and then uses that as a takeoff point to do his own original riffs on the theme.
Bob Kessel, born and raised in New York City, says about the show, “Historically, artists have always painted mythological figures, Hercules, Venus, Apollo. Superheroes represent the new modern myths, so it stands to reason that they should be the subject of our modern art.”
Those familiar with Bob Kessel’s artwork know that he works in series. Many are based on his extensive knowledge of art history with takeoffs on Picasso’s Minotaurs, Matisse’s Odalisques, or Cezanne’s Bathers. He mixes together different art styles to produce unexpected hybrids. Like Japanese Kaiju (monsters) with Italian Futurism, or Hello Kitty with Edvard Munch.
Now Bob Kessel has created a new art series where he turns his Fine Art sensibilities on the world of Comics. He describes this show as, “The Comicbook World meets the Fine Art World.” Neither one will be the same again.
MUSEUM OF YACHTING
Bob Kessel’s “Newport Nauticals” art series at
the Museum of Yachting in Newport, RI.
NEWPORT NAUTICALS: New Prints by Bob Kessel
At the Museum of Yachting in Newport, RI
Bob Kessel’s one man art show, “Newport Nauticals” in the summer of 2005 at the prestigious Museum of Yachting in Newport, Rhode Island, featured 65 original prints by the artist. It filled up the entire museum with a kaleidoscope of primary colors and geometric shapes.
The opening night reception drew hundreds of people from the cream of Newport society. They didn’t come just to look. Amid the swirl of drinks and live jazz music, sales of Bob Kessel’s artwork was brisk, with dozens of pictures sold.
Later that summer, several Newport Nauticals prints were purchased and then framed into plaques and awarded to the daily winners of the 2005 Rolex Swan American Regatta.
Cruising World Magazine wrote in it’s article, A New Nautical Perspective, “Bob Kessel’s bold and geometric work bespeaks so convincingly of nautical imagery that it’s turned up again and again in the winner’s circles at regattas, at marine fund-raisers, and at maritime-art exhibits throughout New England, from Mystic, Connecticut, to the Museum of Yachting, in Newport, Rhode Island.”
They went on further to write, “It’s certainly all right by Kessel that a salty type making the gallery rounds might mistake his ink-on-paper drawings for international code flags. The illustrator-artist’s main motivation is to evoke in viewers deep and resonant responses to his vivid colors and shapes; for those who know and love the water, those responses often resolve themselves into perceived representations of what is essentially, nautically, familiar.” “My work is more about eliciting memories,” he says. “For each person, it elicits an individual response. I’ve witnessed a hundred people see a hundred different things in the same print. It’s great.”
The art show was originally intended to run only two months, until September 18th, but the popularity of the Newport Nauticals show was so great, that in an unprecedented move, the museum extended the Bob Kessel show several months until the end of the year.
Laurence S. Cutler and Judy Goffman Cutler (founders of The National Museum of American Illustration) were among the guests at Bob Kessel’s art show at the Museum of Yachting
Zach Cutler organizer of the Bob Kessel art show shown here in the Museum of Yachting Store
POP GOES THE EASEL: New Prints by Bob Kessel
At the Hoxie Gallery
Westerly, RI– The Hoxie Gallery, located inside Westerly Public Library, is pleased to present an exhibition of new prints by Bob Kessel from June 7 through July 3, 2006. An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, June 7, 2006 from 5- 8 pm. The public is cordially invited to attend.
Bob Kessel has developed a distinctive signature style. The pictures are a Gestalt, with the positive and negative spaces given equal weight. Delineation has been removed to give objects, and their surroundings, equal significance. When asked about the use of his strong straight lines in his artwork Kessel said, “Oriental line is direct and purposeful, not the searching, modifying line of the west. Straight lines or biomorphic lines, both are just translations of reality. Like Chinese characters, that denote things in the real world, it doesn’t matter if the writing is cursive or block letters.” as De Kooning said, “After all, there really isn’t any object, just lines on paper.”
Bob Kessel’s art puts placement and design above over-anxious execution and difficult means. He reinvents the traditional pictorial genres with a knowledgeable affection for the high art of the past from the West to the Far East. His limited edition prints, which appear at first to be parodies of famous paintings, in fact, exhibit an astute knowledge of the genre and is, in fact, more of an homage to the Masters in the field of art.
“My art history series can be likened to a jazz musician playing a recognizable popular song,” remarked Kessel. “with just enough there that you recognize the song, but then the musician uses this a point of departure to develop his own original riffs. The art is in what you decide to keep and what to leave out.”
Bob Kessel’s ART HISTORY 101 series will be on view in the Hoxie Gallery as well as series that are extended “riffs” on particular artists with names like, SHOW ME THE MONET!, GAGA FOR DEGAS and HABLO PABLO about Pablo Picasso.
Also included will be Kessel’s Japanese genre series including- KAIJU (Japanese monsters), BIJINGA (Beautiful woman pictures), SHUNGA (Spring picture), and 100 VIEWS (an ode to Hokusai’s 100 views of Mt. Fuji).
Bob Kessel’s art historical self-consciousness keeps the past ever-present. By “raiding the icebox” of art history he can retrieve, when needed, the ingredients to whip up his delightful confections. Robbin Zella, Director of the Housatonic Museum of Art, commented that, “Bob Kessel’s bright, bold and over-sized prints are a new twist on the old, but widely loved, Pop Aesthetic. Bob Kessel brings a keen intelligence, educated eye and a sharp wit to his reinterpretations of iconic images gleaned from art history.” Roberta Waddell, Curator of Prints at the New York Public Library also noted that, “The ART HISTORY 101 series is strong and arresting whether or not the viewer “gets” the art historical references, and the scale transforms the inspirational sources once again, and dramatically.”
Not all of Kessel pictures are about art history though. Other series include, “NEWPORT NAUTICALS”, “LIFE’S A BEACH”, and “GIRLZ”. These series use a limited palette of primary colors- red, yellow and blue.
SUN, GALLERY, SOFA from the NEWPORT NAUTICALS series exhibited at the show- make up a triptych. SUN, at first glance, appears to be a simple abstract composition in primary colors of red and yellow, but then transforms itself into a seascape with the sun, not shown but implied, in the reflection in red waters.
GALLERY, the middle panel of the triptych, is a balanced composition of red, yellow and blue. In this panel, SUN is included in the image, this time as a discrete picture on a wall along with another picture partially showing across the implied gallery space. In the third panel, SOFA, which a predominantly blue picture, now includes the image of GALLERY, this time displayed on the wall of a home along with other pictures above a sofa with cushions. “Bob Kessel’s work is spectacular, beautiful and even erotic through his use of line and color. He even manages to evoke humor out of deceptively simple forms,” remarked Michael Gross, Guest curator, Oceanside Museum of Art in California. These three prints playfully render a picture, within a picture, within a picture as well as chronicling the journey of a work of art from creation, to exhibition, to display in a home, and underscore the insightful comments of Michael Gross.
Bob Kessel is a nationally known illustrator and his work appears regularly in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and many other national publications. He currently lives in Norwich, CT where he devotes himself to creating his art. His work is in numerous private collections as well as the Print Collection at the New York Public Library and the Housatonic Museum of Art in CT. His prints are sold through Mystic Seaport Museum as part of the “Great Illustrators of America Print Collection”.
MYSTIC SEAPORT GALLERY
“Illustrating the Sea” Mystic Seaport art show poster
Bob Kessel exhibited in the “Illustrating the Sea” art show featuring the top illustrators in America. Also exhibiting in the show was; Randall Enos, Lou Brooks, Brad Holland, Anita Kunz, Peter De Seve, Bill Mayer, Dugald Stermer, Gene Hoffman, Guy Billout, Wendell Minor, Bill Sienkewicz, R. O. Blechman, Seymour Chwast, Peter Hoey, Mark Stamaty, Ross Macdonald, Marshall Arisman, C.F. Payne, Elwood Smith, Joe Ciardiello, Bob Giusti, Bernie Fuchs, Jack Unruh, Bob Staake, Jack Davis, Clare Vanacour, Roxana Villa, Jordin Isip, Terry Allen, Bonnie Timmons, Barry Blitt, Greg Spalenka, Murray Tinkleman, William Low, Melinda Beck, Kinuko Kraft, Hal Mayforth, Steve Guarnaccia.
HOUSATONIC MUSEUM OF ART
Bob Kessel’s art was in the “Barbie” art exhibit at the Housatonic Museum of Art. Artists also included were Leika Akiyama, Kathleen Bitetti, Linda Carney-Goodrich, Crudo, Tom Forsythe, Joe Gibbons, Todd Haynes, Jeffrey P. Heyne, Gwendolyn Holbrow, Richard Leonard, Pia Schachter and Cynthia von Buhler, David Levinthal and Natalie Simon.
STONY CREEK GALLERY
The show was titled, “FARRAGO: A mess of new art by Bob Kessel” at the Stony Creek Gallery in Stony Creek, CT.
CITY LIGHTS GALLERY
Bob Kessel was a featured artist in the City Lights Gallery art show in Bridgeport, CT.
The Dryden Gallery in Providence, RI presented the art of Bob Kessel.
GREENWICH WORKSHOP GALLERY
The Greenwich Workshop Gallery in Fairfield, CT featured the art of Bob Kessel.
Bob Kessel’s art was exhibited at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, CT.
GREENWICH JAPANESE SCHOOL GALLERY
Bob Kessel’s art show at the Greenwich Japanese School was a big hit.
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