Paul Kos, A Retrospective
April 2 through July 20, 2003
Major museum retrospective of leading figure from the early
Bay Area Conceptual Art movement
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is proud to present a major museum retrospective of influential artist and teacher Paul Kos, one of the leading figures of the early Bay Area Conceptual Art movement. Everything Matters: Paul Kos, A Retrospective opens at BAM/PFA on April 2, 2003 and features more than twenty works spanning three decades of the artist's career. Kos is recognized as a pioneer in the genre of video, performance, and installation. In step with such peers as Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman, he was among the first artists to incorporate video, as well as sound and interactivity, into sculptural installations. Witty, thought-provoking, and challenging, Everything Matters presents Kos's explorations into paradoxes of faith, war, and nature in works that often demand the viewer's participation.
The exhibition, curated by Constance Lewallen, senior curator for exhibitions, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. After BAM/PFA the exhibition will travel to the Grey Art Gallery, New York University; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. In conjunction with Everything Matters, the Pacific Film Archive presents Sympathetic Vibrations, a program of videos by Paul Kos, Tom Marioni, Terry Fox, and Howard Fried, on Wednesday, April 16. Details of this video program are included in this press release.
One of the major figures of the early Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Kos moved to San Francisco from Wyoming in 1967 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received his M.F.A. Already defined by cultural change and political activism, the Bay Area at that time was an important center for the revolutionary spirit in art. Kos's work evolved in the direction of video and sculptural installations determined by natural materials and processes. Earth Art and Arte Povera were strong influences on works such as The Sound of Ice Melting (1970), in which ten state-of-the-art boom microphones recorded the sound of the disintegration of several large blocks of ice; and Sand Piece (1971), which transformed a two-story gallery into a giant hourglass as a ton of sand yielded to the pull of gravity, sifting slowly through a minute hole in the upper level to form a perfect cone on the floor below.
Although not overtly polemical, many of Kos's later works question the rigid national divisions that lead to conflict, or quietly advocate for human understanding across cultures. A 1989 installation, Tower of Babel, is a spiral ramp with twenty video monitors, each showing a person speaking a different language. From afar, the sound is chaotic and indeterminable; only as viewers approach each monitor can they distinguish what is being said.
Many of Kos's pieces engage the viewer in the paradoxes of belief. The ritual and imagery of the Catholic Church are recurrent themes, and the bell a frequent metaphor. The artist's best-known work, the sublime Chartres Bleu (1983–86), recreates in full scale a stained-glass window from Chartres Cathedral. Each of twenty-seven vertically stacked video monitors duplicates an individual leaded-glass panel. The brightness of the images simulates the light changes in a normal day, twenty-four hours accelerated into twelve minutes. Depending on the light, the narrative scenes can be clearly read or, when brightly illuminated, dissolve into abstraction. In Guadalupe Bell of 1989, the viewer seems to produce the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the wall by sounding a large bell.
Kos has also made public artworks that reflect his lifelong interest in the natural landscape. These include Poetry /Sculpture Garden (2000), in downtown San Francisco, a collaboration with former U.S. poet laureate and UC Berkeley professor Robert Hass. The urban garden's primary component is an eighty-six ton boulder Kos brought down in sections from the Sierras and then reconstituted on site.
One of the defining characteristics of Kos's work is a sense of play-indeed, many of his pieces refer to and are organized around games such as pétanque, pool, and chess. But even more fundamental is the synthesis of his life and work. His love of nature, his teaching, travels in Mexico, France, and Switzerland, his concern for humanity (tempered with a sense of the absurd) are all present in subject, symbol, or metaphor as Kos seamlessly integrates form and content into provocative and visually stunning works of art.
Everything Matters: Paul Kos, A Retrospective by Constance M. Lewallen, with essays by Charles Desmarais, Ron Meyers, and Rachel Teagle. $35, paperback.
Thursday, April 10, 12:15 p.m.
Lewallen, who curated Everything Matters and authored the catalog, offers her insights into this artist whose work she has followed for over twenty years.
Public Programs continue over…
Saturday, April 19, 2 p.m.
Design is not necessarily the mother of great inventions. Paul Kos will lead a walkthrough of his exhibition giving fortunate accidents their due.
Process and Belief: The Work of Paul Kos
Constance Lewallen, Senior Curator for Exhibitions
Ron Meyers, artist
Anne Wagner, Professor of Art History, UC Berkeley
Saturday, April 19, 3–5 p.m.
Two art historians and an artist will explore the radical and elegant work of Paul Kos-its significance, historical context, and influence. Curator Constance Lewallen will offer an overview of Kos's work and a perspective on the artist's first museum retrospective. Ron Meyers, artist and writer, who studied with Kos at the San Francisco Art Institute, will discuss Kos's teaching and influence. An international context for Kos's work will be provided by Anne Wagner, whose current research and teaching focuses on art of the 1960s and 1970s.
Following the slide-illustrated presentations, a conversation among the panelists will touch on the many facets of Kos's groundbreaking video and installation work.
Tours of Everything Matters will be offered on selected Thursdays at 12:15 and 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Graduate students in UC Berkeley's History of Art department will illuminate the work of this influential Bay Area Conceptual artist. Please call our recorded-information line for details: (510) 642-0808.
Paul Kos in Person
Wednesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.
Pacific Film Archive Theater
In the early 1970s, when Paul Kos was emerging as a vital proponent of Conceptual Art, a group of like-minded Bay Area artists was gaining prominence. This loose-knit group, counting within its ranks such artists as Terry Fox, Tom Marioni, and Howard Fried, was amassing the critical weight needed to advance Conceptualism from a practice to a movement. In conjunction with Everything Matters, the PFA presents a video program that draws together rarely seen works from the seventies in an attempt to recreate the "sympathetic vibrations," as Kos might say, that resonated within the Bay Area Conceptual movement. Short tapes and excerpts by Richard Alpert, Terry Fox, Howard Fried, Paul Kos, Tony Labat, Tom Marioni, Dennis Oppenheim, Irv Tepper, and others will be complemented by a selection of works by a newer generation of Conceptualists, Kos's recent students at the San Francisco Art Institute.
In addition to a new version of Paul Kos's Pilot Butte/Pilot Light (1974/2002), works in the program include: Turgescent Sex (Terry Fox, 1971, 40 mins, excerpted). Solo Flight (Tony Labat, 1977, 30 mins, excerpted). 1979 (Tom Marioni, 1979, 8 mins). Grounding Gel (Dennis Oppenheim, 1974, 30 mins, excerpted). Excerpts from the omnibus work A Tight 13 Minutes, created by Tom Marioni (1976). Plus works by former students: Charles Gute, Bull.Miletic, Kathleen Quillian, Patrick Rock, Will Rogan, and others.
• (Total running time: c. 90 mins, U.S., Video, From the artists and BAM/PFA Collections)
For additional information on any BAM programs, please contact Rod Macneil, Deputy Director, Audience Development, at (510) 643-6494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.