Kenny skillfully combines his classical training with the energetic use of line and color from the latter half of the 20th century, creating oils that walk the line between naturalistic light studies and gestural descriptions of space with brilliant light and reflections.
Born in 1974 in Palo Alto, Kenny received his B.A. in Fine Art from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. During his junior year abroad, he studied in Florence, Italy, immersing himself in Renaissance Art History and classical figure drawing at the atelier of Charles Cecil. After living and painting in San Francisco for a period of time, he moved to New York, where he studied under Frank Mason at Art Students’ League.
In the spring of 2001, Kenny left New York for Central America, painting his way through Honduras and Guatemala, and eventually staying in the Yucatan where he focused on still life and the landscape of Mexico. He ultimately landed in Venice, California, where he has been based since 2001. Of course, an active travel schedule, which has included trips to Brazil, Italy, Cuba, Argentina, Chile and Peru, has helped him maintain a fresh artistic eye through the years. And now at the young age of 34, Kenny skillfully combines his classical training with the energetic use of line and color from the latter half of the 20th century, creating oils that walk the line between naturalistic light studies and gestural descriptions of space with brilliant light and reflections.
And I’m willing to bet that while admiring any number of Kenny’s oil paintings – which, incidentally, may star the textured wood floors of an otherwise almost empty room or the weathered walls of a shadowy hallway – you will experience a deep longing to emotionally dwell within the space depicted. But take note. Kenny’s style uses an expressive, yet unassuming “sweet-talk”. The artist reports that when he started oil painting, he went after the one thing that it is so good for: capturing the effects of light on surfaces. “I wasn’t looking for just a technical effect, mind you, but the feeling of a place or personality of a texture – be it water, hardwood, or the mist in the air…” It makes sense then that to draw you into his world, Kenny doesn’t automatically depend on the seductive portrayal of a female figure, the sensitive eyes of a child or even an opulent floral arrangement. Rather, his skillful method tends to wrestle your guard to the ground by way of a graceful, solitary quality – one that ironically owes much of its strength to a power that transcends any feeling of isolation that might normally be generated from a scarcely decorated and typically people-free setting. Kenny explains it this way: “I’m drawn to certain conditions of light and space, which usually contain elements of isolation, reflection, or atmospheric perspective. These come together in various genres – the spare interior, the figure in contemplation, the atmospheric landscape or cityscape. Within these, I try to articulate the feeling I get in transitional low light conditions. The light is the focus of the paintings, creating mood but with a lively, varied surface."
I second what he just said. Moreover, I am here to confirm that it is with a steady ease that Kenny’s interiors satisfy a person’s desire to be the sole recipient of the distinctive experience an artwork has to offer. Each of us likes to feel as if the story within a frame is being told directly to him. With Kenny’s works, the stories are revealed with a true intimacy that gives way to an alert stillness, the type seemingly only available in the deep recesses of a meditative state. This is no accident. The artist shares, “I think my paintings are often about the mood I’m in when I want to paint them…It is that feeling when you’ve been sitting in a chair at home reading a book by natural light, and in time, you look up and realize it is twilight, and the room holds this kind of still energy – no direct sun, no artificial light.” You can experience this type of energy in Kenny’s Isolated Chair, an oil painting he finished while in Cuba in 2005. The work, which uses the character of light to deliver a subtle and yet extensive story, is quintessential Kenny.
For more information on Kenny and his work, visit littlejohnnygallery.com.