Paul Kos

23 Nov 2012 - 19 Jan 2013

Allegories and Metaphors (1968-2012)
23 November 2012 — 19 January 2013

Before the inauguration of his solo show at Galerie Georges-Philippe et Nathalie Vallois by Paul Kos (born 1942), this Californian artist has been known in France essentially through a few emblematic pieces seen in group shows, and because of his presence in collections such as the Fondation Kadist and the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Lorraine. In Europe he is perhaps best known for his influence on the Bay Area conceptual scene, as observed by those who travelled to San Francisco, and for his contribution to American conceptual art in general, as well as through the considerable critical literature that has grown up around his work since the beginning of his career in the late 1960s.

The catalogue of his major retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in 2003 makes clear the important role played by Kos in relation to other artists of his generation, to whom he was close (Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Bas Jan Ader, Joseph Kosuth, Larry Bell, to name but a few), and to younger artists who now recognise him as one of the most influential teachers on the West Coast over the last three decades. Among them we find Julien Berthier, who took his classes, and who is taking over the Project Room in parallel to Kos’ exhibition.

Kos has a historical role, too, by virtue of his close involvement in the creation of MoCA Los Angeles by Tom Marioni as an independent exhibition space, and also in that of the legendary magazine Avalanches.
This is the first time viewers in France will be able to properly experience Kos’ work. The show features a truly representative selection of his art from 1968 to 2012.
It will articulate both the contextual forces in play (at the centre of which, of course, is the artist) and the paradoxes on which the work is founded. By way of an introduction, we might somewhat arbitrarily begin with the antitheses East/West, Ying/Yang, Give/Receive, Form/Content, Seriousness/Humour, Ephemeral/Permanent, Ordinary/Extraordinary.

The important thing to understand is that this notion of paradox is used for its dynamic properties. It is by juggling with such antitheses that the artist can hope to find equilibrium.

In Kos, this may take the form of the serious or joking defiance of universal laws, whether physical (for example, the Equilibre series very openly subverts gravity), chemical (Kinetic Ice Block) acoustic (The Sound of Ice Melting), or all those things combined.

Manifested in the form of performance, installation and video, Kos’ works are not about making objects. Their common theme, broadly, could be the concerns of sculpture. Each piece poetically and humorously attacks and dwells on the elements and data that may constitute sculpture: materials, objects, processes, actions, duration, symbolism and even ritual.

Leslie Compan

Tags: Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Larry Bell, Julien Berthier, Paul Kos, Joseph Kosuth, Tom Marioni, Bruce Nauman