Kevin Daly is a cool, contemporary artist whose work is so fresh and exciting. I met him on LinkedIn and when I saw his website www.kevindaly.us, I wanted to chat with him. He says some very important things below about art and how we should view it.
MICHAEL: Hey Kevin. I LOVE your work. It's very fresh and contemporary. Straight lines, squares and rectangles among other shapes are nothing new, but you seem to be breathing new life into them. How do you feel about the work?
KEVIN: This is a little bit of a difficult question for me to answer concisely. The way I think about the work and its possibilities is changing a lot. The short answer, and what I tell someone who hasn't seen it, is that it is like a cross between Mondrian and Andy Warhol. There is an obvious formal affinity to modernist abstraction, but there is also an element of humor and irony like pop art in the work.
MICHAEL: I like your work because it really seems to combine art, design and architecture with the way you connect the canvases. It's sort of like a cross between a painting and an installation. You could totally go 3-D with that.
KEVIN: Yeah, I think you're right. The work is definitely starting to invoke the architecture more explicitly. It's always been there to some degree, but it's becoming a more conscious consideration. I'm not really interested in the work becoming outright sculpture or relief though. I'm really interested in how the image itself can affect physical space. To me, part of what the paintings are about is this interesting dynamic between their conceptual and physical aspects. Even with the single canvas paintings the image rarely fits in the frame. The frame seems like an imposition, like it can't contain the image. The image wants to extend out onto the wall. I think this makes the paintings seem more alive and more interesting. The same thing is happening in the multiple canvas pieces, it's just a lot more complicated. The lack of harmony between the image and the support is much more obvious. Recently I've been having the images printed as decals which can be adhered around corners or onto the floor. The canvas is removed and the architecture acts as the support. To me, this is exciting because it opens up so many possibilities and directions that the work can go.
MICHAEL: It must be cool working with images that in theory can't be contained. That's definitely a hallmark of pop art, I think. It can easily spread to other mediums and other ways of engaging people.
KEVIN: Definitely. I think pop culture tends to co-opt anything that's new and reduce it to convention. It was a strategy of post-modern art to re-contextualize the conventions themselves to create new experiences and meanings. In grad school, I worked with Robert Morris and one of the things I remember him saying that what we all, as artists, were essentially doing was making images. Artists make images to generate meaning. Pop culture takes something meaningful and reduces it to an image. I think this is interesting and you're right, it could be explored through almost any medium. I've always been connected to painting, I guess, because I've liked being involved with the process and feeling like part of a history or tradition.
MICHAEL: Many people who don't know much about art often feel that there's some mysterious meaning behind all of the art they see. As a result, they're intimidated by art. What do you think about this?
KEVIN: I think part of why people find work difficult to engage with is because they come to it with preconceived notions of what art should be. If it doesn't look like what they expect or can't be experienced in a way they are accustomed to it seems too difficult. In most cases, it's probably not. A viewer needs to be motivated and open to the experience. Art should be challenging. It's supposed to take you someplace new or make you think about things in a different way. Also, meaning is not static. There is no grand meaning. Every viewer will experience a piece in a different way and bring a little bit of themselves to it. None is any more or less valid.
MICHAEL: I love that. Given what you've just said, it seems to me that being an artist is tough. It's so easy to be misunderstood, misinterpreted and no matter how talented, many artists are struggling.
KEVIN: I guess I feel like art should be understood as being an experience, whether it's aesthetic, intellectual or emotional, more than being about dispensing meaning. I don't think there really is MIS-understanding or MIS-interpretation. It's like a musician can write a piece of music that's very bright, upbeat, and generally understood as happy sounding, but he can't control how every person will dance to it.
MICHAEL: Do you have any affinity for Britain? Looking at your work, it also makes me think "Cool Britannia." It's very hip and "high street" in almost a European way. In other words, it has a European sophistication, I think. I could be wrong.
KEVIN: I don't know. It's funny that you would say that. I had someone say something similar about the work recently and I've heard a number of times that it seems very European. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I take this as a compliment, so thanks.
MICHAEL: How are you making your life as an artist in New York work? Where's your studio? So many artists still believe that NYC is the place to be if you want to be a successful artist. What do you think?
KEVIN: I actually live right outside NY in Connecticut. I teach high school art and do some adjunct work here and there. So, I don't have to rely on my artwork to make a living. This is good and bad. It would certainly be nice to be able to commit full time to my work, but not having to rely on it as my sole source of income, I think, gives me freedom to experiment more. I've had studios in Long Island City, and in New Haven. Right now, I keep a studio where I live, which is nice. It enables me to work on the days/nights that I have my son. I do think that NYC is still the place to be as an artist. However, I think that's changing. Galleries have moved out into the boroughs and other cities are developing really exciting art scenes as well. I think the emergence of social media, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have also given artists access to a much bigger audience. Their work is more accessible and less dependent on a location and dialogue amongst artists is completely decentralized. You mentioned that my work seemed European. It could be because a great number of the artists that I converse with, who I'm inspired by and who are involved with similar ideas are actually in Europe and Australia.
MICHAEL: What do you think it'll take to get more people turned on to art?
KEVIN: I think a direct result of the art world becoming more decentralized is that more people will have access to the art. As more and more cities develop vibrant art scenes, it will become a bigger part of people's lives. The various social media outlets are becoming very important platforms for artists. They are reaching more and more people. Curators are seeing work by artists that they wouldn't otherwise come across and are including them in their shows. I was recently invited to participate in a show in Italy (maybe the work really is European). This gallery would not have encountered my work had it not been for Facebook. Most artists now have websites which are easily accessible and giving more people access to their work. There are also lots of great blogs, like Sharon Butler's Two Coats of Paint, popping up. I think things like what you're doing and other alternative ways of presenting and talking about art are helping reach greater audiences and getting people excited.
MICHAEL: Thanks. I totally agree. The art world is changing for the better.
KEVIN: Getting back to something you said earlier about people often feeling alienated from a lot of contemporary art. This is primarily because it's something new. It's not something that has been a part of their lives. We need to re-evaluate the role of art in education and recognize its importance. In this economy, art programs are cut and students are being deprived of a substantial and, I believe, critical part of their education. This needs to be recognized and addressed. So, it might not necessarily be about turning people onto art, but keeping them turned onto art; keeping art an important part of our lives. I also think our society as a whole needs to recognize the importance of art in our lives and more funding made available for art in general; for exhibitions, non-profit art centers, public art, even for assisting individual artists. I think people would value this more than another war.
MICHAEL: Finally Kevin, what are your hopes and plans for yourself?
KEVIN: Right now, I'm involved with a bunch of different things which will hopefully pan out. A couple of colleagues and I started a non-profit in hopes of purchasing this old factory in Connecticut and establishing an art center there. It's an enormous undertaking and there are a lot of issues that need to be dealt with, but we've met with people from the state and town governments, as well as a number of members from the community and there is a lot of enthusiasm for the project. I hope we can pull it off. It would be a really exciting place. I'm also working with a partner to open a contemporary art gallery in New Haven sometime this year. New Haven has an exciting and developing art scene and we're hoping to be a part of it. As far as my own work, I'm hoping to just continue to find the time for it. I have couple of different bodies of work that I'd like start working on. I'm also hoping to get the work out there more. I feel like I need to be showing more than I did the past couple of years.
MICHAEL: Thanks Kevin. Here’s hoping your dreams will come true.
Check out Kevin’s website at www.kevindaly.us.