KEVIN WIXTED: AT PLAY IN THE FIELD
a micro-interview with Elaine Sexton
Elaine Sexton: Your new paintings, the subject of an exhibit at the American University of Paris Fine Arts Gallery earlier this year, show a dramatic shift from grids and abstract patterns to the tropical and ecstatic, composed of leaves and vines. The new work is drawn from nature, all the while keeping and expanding upon your signature color palate. What spawned this move to the outdoors, and not just the outdoors but to the jungle, to be literally At Play in the Fields there, as title the Paris show suggests? If it is possible to say, what is your thinking in choosing a particular shape as a container for a color?
Kevin Wixted: Part of my practice is making on-site watercolors in the landscape. I’ve been doing this for a long time but have very rarely shown this work. I think of it as a way to more fully experience the place I’m in, and capturing light effects and color combinations I wouldn’t think of. The watercolors are small notebook size, and recently I began projecting them larger and drawing out the shapes on canvas. Then I start painting them without any notions of local color, and begin playing with color and shape relationships in an abstract way.
This has brought an organic drawing element into the oil paintings that were primarily hard edge before. I’m really enjoying this way of working because everything begins with observed phenomena. I like this because, this sounds funny, but I want to make paintings that look like the world and not like art. A residue of the experience I had making the image outdoors follows me into the studio, and I can remember the specific conditions of each location. Many of the new paintings are based on watercolors done in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where I spend several months each year. The overwhelming quality of the low-lying jungle terrain is fascinating, difficult to make sense of, and a bit scary.
Kevin Wixted’s paintings and drawings have appeared nationally and internationally in over twenty solo exhibitions. His shows have been written about in Artforum, Art in America, ArtNews, The New York Times, Boston Globe, New York Observer, and the Hudson Reviewamong others. His work is represented in public collections including the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Mississippi Museum of Art, Chase Manhattan Bank, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Noruma Securities, Societe Generale, and Time Warner. Wixted’s awards include a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts Grant, Cite Internationale des Arts Residency/Paris France, International Faculty Development Fellowship-Alfred University, Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Residency, MacDowell Colony Residencies, Patrick Allen Frazier of Hospitalfield Residency/Arbroth Scotland, and Excellence in Teaching Awards from Alfred University. He is Professor of Drawing and Painting in the School of Art and Design at Alfred University. kevinwixted.net