Arnold Joseph Kemp is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Artadia Fund for Art & Dialogue, Art Matters Grant, and Printed Matter Award for Artists. His artworks are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Berkeley Art Museum. Kemp is also a writer and he has read on street corners, in living rooms in Oakland, and in bars and bookstores in San Francisco, Berkeley and New York. His writing has appeared in Callaloo, Three Rivers Poetry Journal, Agni Review, MIRAGE #4 Period(ical), River Styx, Nocturnes, Art Journal, and Tripwire. Kemp has presented his writing at the Bowery Poetry Club, Banff Centre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Portland Art Museum, California College of the Arts, PDX Contemporary, San Francisco State University, Portland State University and New Langton Arts. He is the recipient of awards from Tufts University and the American Academy of Poets.

Personal Statement

The question of what it means for a painter to think has been one that fuels much of my own research and looking. Painting has demonstrated remarkable perseverance in the expanding field of contemporary art and the surrounding ecology of media images. However, it appears to have dispelled its own once-uncontested material basis: no longer synonymous only with a flat picture plane hanging on the wall, today painting tends to emphasize the apparatus of its appearance and the conduits of its circulation. Some painters are involved in projected images (Kara Walker, Luc Tuymans, Jordan Kantor); installation (Katharina Grosse, R.H. Quaytman); the production and distribution of forms of the multiple (Chris Johanson, Tauba Auerbach, Amy Sillman); performance and music (Kim Gordon, Mary Weatherford, Silke Otto-Knapp); theoretical writing and curating (Jutta Koether, Kristan Kennedy, Michael Krebber, Andre Butzer). My own practice happens in relation with some of the artists I mention above, as my practice is fairly open in terms of media, and includes printmaking, sculpture, writing, performance, artist’s books and curating.

In 2015 Brooklyn’s Soloway Gallery presented a solo exhibition of my new work under the title HEADLESS. I proposed that the sculptures and drawings, embellished with watercolors that I made from dried pigments, were an attempt to find the body. I imagined them as devices for a body that will navigate today’s and tomorrow’s increasingly mechanistic, efficient and brutal existences, in order to find the poetry of garbage, pesticides, ghosts, and cyber, astral and biological pollution. That is our world, isn’t it?

Some time in the 1990s, a study appeared about nostalgias elicited by aromas. It was determined that in the USA - for those born during the 1930s and 1940s - the strongest scent references were pine, roses, hot chocolate, just-baked bread and the ocean breeze. For those born during the 1960s, the smells were smoke, hairspray, nail polish, burnt rubber and old socks. Poised against the myriad senses and identities possible in our globalized situation, my latest work approaches the spirit of transgressing the LIMITS OF THE BODY. That feeling of suffocating? For how many years have we felt that feeling, and yet we continue to try to live gorgeously with constant irritation? My work seeks the possibility in these questions.


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.