Critics’ Picks

Paul Kos, Beethoven Piano Sonata #13, 2009, video projection on paint, canvas, wood, 74 x 98”.

Paul Kos, Beethoven Piano Sonata #13, 2009, video projection on paint, canvas, wood, 74 x 98”.

San Francisco

Paul Kos

Anglim Gilbert Gallery
14 Geary Street
May 4–June 11, 2011

Paradoxically, the very name recognition that establishes one’s right to creative existence sets a permanent benchmark that one must continue reaching in order to remain both relevant and recognized. Paul Kos’s fifth solo exhibition at this gallery successfully places his recent work within a selection of older objects. It offers a subtler and less polemical side of the veteran Bay Area artist than what is usually seen.

Kos’s well-documented retrospective held at the Berkeley Art Museum in 2003 gave viewers an ample chance to consider his creative evolution. The current show completes the picture by presenting the latest chapter in the artist’s decades-long quest to produce works that engage his ideas via intimate materials, which has lately taken the form of whimsical conceptual renditions of light and sound. Two of the three new pieces on view are video projections on paintings, Aspen and Beethoven Piano Sonata #13, both 2009; the third—Diminuendo/Crescendo, 2011, is a kinetic interactive wall installation. All three are meant to function synthetically—the sounds find confirmation through visual means (shapes, colors, light) and perhaps synesthetically (simultaneity of light and sound is conducive to mingling of the senses). All incorporate a temporal dimension: in Aspen through the continuous wrestling of foliage; in Beethoven through the performance of a piano sonata; in Diminuendo/Crescendo through the acoustic journey of a ball and its encounter with a bell.

Kos is no stranger to incorporating sound and video into sculptural installations. One of his early pieces is The Sound of Ice Melting, 1970, features multiple microphones, recording the titular action. But unlike the artist’s old works that indexed larger political and social contexts, the new pieces appear to give more value to formal concerns. The continuous motion of aspen leaves projected onto stationary spots and blotches of the support painting suggest bifurcated randomness—a formally sophisticated concept that while continuing the trajectory of Kos’s trademark engagement with nature also goes beyond them.