On View through October 30
Large-Scale Abstract Mural on BAMPFA’s Art Wall Marks Kent’s First Site-Specific Installation on the West Coast
(Berkeley, CA) May 4, 2022—The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) has commissioned a site-specific mural from the Chicago-based artist Caroline Kent, which will occupy the museum’s entry space through October 30. Kent’s massive abstract mural The Sounds Among Us will fill the entirety of BAMPFA’s Art Wall, a 30-by-63-foot space that is dedicated to presenting large-scale work by leading contemporary artists. The mural marks Kent’s first major site-specific installation in a West Coast museum and is the largest work that the artist has completed to date.
Described by Kent as “a musical notation for everyday sounds”, the Art Wall installation invites visitors to experience the work as a visual accompaniment to the nuanced soundscape of footsteps, conversation, and street noise that intermingle throughout BAMPFA’s Crane Forum on a daily basis. Shadowed forms pass through veiled layers of black ground, never fully reaching the surface. The colorful geometric shapes that emerge hint at recognizable forms that skirt the edges of representation. These shapes are arranged to evoke a sense of rhythmic interplay, guiding the spectator’s eye in a variegated zigzag across the wall, interspersed with short poetic phrases like “...and should my words come back to me in another form from the deep…”. These inclusions mark the first time that Kent has incorporated text into her colorful abstract paintings with black backgrounds.
The Sounds Among Us features a notable break from Kent’s past work enabled by the monumental size of the piece: the mural’s base layer comprises a conglomeration of shapes in varying tones of black, which subtly interweave to add a new dimension of texture that deepens with proximity to the work. The mural is also unusual for Kent’s practice in its horizontal, rather than vertical, orientation, offering viewers an expanded horizon that calls to mind the visual layout of musical notes on a stanza.
One of the few Black Latinx artists working in contemporary abstract painting, Kent has described her work to the New York Times Style Magazine as “confronting” an abstract art canon that is “almost void of Black and brown voices.” Based in Chicago since 2017, Kent has exhibited at numerous galleries and museums in the Midwest and New York City, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago where an immersive installation of her work is currently on view through June 12. Her works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul Art Museum, and Walker Art Center, as well as the collection of BAMPFA—which recently acquired a painting by Kent at the recommendation of David Huffman, one of four artist-curators of the museum’s current exhibition The Artist’s Eye, who selected Kent’s A State of Suspension (2018) for inclusion in his curated selection.
In conjunction with Kent’s Art Wall presentation, BAMPFA will host a workshop for families on Saturday, June 11 at 11:30 a.m. led by the artist Marcela Florez, which will invite participants to create their own “sound pictures” inspired by the architectural features of BAMPFA’s building. BAMPFA has also commissioned an essay on Kent’s work by the Chicago-based writer Camille Bacon, which is available in printed form in the Crane Forum and as a PDF on the museum’s website. A video interview with Kent conducted by BAMPFA Director Julie Rodrigues Widholm will be posted online in the coming days; visit bampfa.org for the latest updates.
“It’s important for museums to offer artists opportunities that push and stretch their work in new directions and BAMPFA’s Art Wall is an exciting space for this,” said Widholm, who curated the exhibition with assistance from BAMPFA Chief Curator Christina Yang. “I’m thrilled to introduce Caroline’s work to Bay Area audiences. It’s simultaneously beautiful, conceptual, and critical in its approach to abstract painting with allusions to sound, music composition, and film set against a multilayered black ground. Her work rigorously enhances our ongoing exploration of the legacy of abstract painting at BAMPFA.”
The Art Wall is commissioned by BAMPFA and made possible by major funding from Frances Hellman and Warren Breslau.