Frye Art Museum

David C. Kane: Fiat Mambo

June 23 – October 21, 2007

This twenty-five-year retrospective showcases David C. Kane’s exceptional body of paintings, drawings, and prints from the late 1980s to the present. Born, raised, and educated in the Northwest, Kane is a master craftsman, skilled in a wide array of traditional techniques and surprising shifts in scale. His virtuosic figurative art has been underappreciated by all but a loyal base of artists and fervent collectors. This exhibition introduces his work to a broader audience.

Kane draws source material from the histories of modern art, including Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, and Socialist Realism. The artist’s early Neocubist paintings feature distorted, often faceless figures and fractured settings reminiscent of works by Pablo Picasso or Giorgio de Chirico. Kane abandoned this sharp, geometric focus in the early 1990s, but continued to paint strong delineated forms.

Other visual influences include film, particularly science fiction and film noir, popular culture, and the artist’s own restless imagination. As a result, Kane’s paintings are populated with a host of representational images: spaceships, 1930s- and 1940s-inspired characters (the gumshoe and the dame, for example), doomed lovers, classical ruins, failed technologies, and utopian dreams. His subjects overlap and cross-reference, creating a matrix of associations and an extended meditation from a variety of perspectives on our fears, fantasies, faiths, and frailties.

Kane’s paintings demonstrate a careful attention to formal compositional elements such as perspective and color. Exemplary of Kane’s skill as a painter is his adeptness at painting on different surfaces, including burlap, canvas, board, and panel. The artist’s burlap paintings include those from the series Suburban Souls (late 1998–99) and Garden of Cyrus (2003).

In Suburban Souls, Kane depicts suburbia as garishly illuminated, a sterile environment in which residents are disconnected from their neighbors and their surroundings. In contrast, works from the Garden of Cyrus are painted in grisaille, a technique by which an image is executed entirely in shades of gray and modeled to create the illusion of relief. Fiat Mambo includes examples from these series and others, including Holidays in Paint (1999–2005), 22 Instances of Spanish Somnambulism (2005), and Kane’s Book of Physiognomy (1998–2001).

Born in Bellingham, Kane earned a B.F.A. in painting at the University of Washington. He has received awards from the King County Arts Commission, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and Artist Trust, and has taught painting and drawing at Cornish College of the Arts and the School of Visual Concepts. This is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition.

David C. Kane: Fiat Mambo is curated by Robin Held, chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections.

Image Credits:
David C. Kane. Last Days of Atlantis (detail), 1998. Acrylic on canvas. 63 x 102 in. Courtesy of the artist.
David C. Kane. The El Greco Twins, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 27 1/2 x 39 in. Courtesy of the artist.
David C. Kane. Last Days of Atlantis, 1998. Acrylic on canvas. 63 x 102 in. Courtesy of the artist.
David C. Kane. Harvest Time from the series Garden of Cyrus, 2003. Acrylic on burlap. 36 x 48 in. Collection of Gene and Donna Baxter, Vashon, WA.
David C. Kane. Port of Call, 2005. Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 43 in. Courtesy of the artist.