Gavin Kenyon, who spent his childhood in rural upstate New York, and still lives there part of the year, channels his background in his art. His last two shows at Ramiken were all about axes. (The most recent featured the head of a large ax violently crushing a monstrous, testicular form. Its title? Stud.) But now he’s allowing material (fur) and form (vaguely bestial shapes) to express his woodland sensibility. The semiabstract sculptures that result are surprisingly nuanced.
Though the works come across as considered and premeditated, the process relies mostly on chance. He pours wet plaster into bags made of fur, which are then wrapped with rope, like hostages, as the plaster begins to set. Once it does, Kenyon rips away most of fur, though he leaves some of it behind as a coating on the sculpture, thick in some places, thin in others.
A enormous, blood-red object—its backside resembling a scrotum—hangs in the middle of the gallery, and almost weighs the show down. But other works are more successful. Two floor sculptures navigating between repulsion and seduction assume the shape of females. One is turned to the side, with ripples of fat running from her midsection to her feet; the other (strongly reminiscent of Francis Bacon) is face down, its withered legs jutting from a bulbous behind.
Even more stunning are a group of elegantly executed, irresistibly pleasurable stumplike wall sculptures. With their top halves smooth and monochromatically dyed like leather binding, and their bottom halves softly covered in fur-speckled plaster, they suggest a sadomasochistic blend of Paul Thek and Robert Gober. Kenyon would do well to keep following this subtler approach: The outcome is far more provocative than his earlier efforts.—Nana Asfour