Artist Spotlight: Richard Keen

Our gallery Director Allyson Boli sat down with Richard Keen to learn more about his creative process. Not only is Richard both a talented painter and sculptor, but he also has three studio dogs! Read our interview below to learn more about him:

Allyson Boli: What was your initial spark to be an artist?  

Richard Keen: I can remember drawing and tracing a lot as a child. Throughout school, I also gravitated to art and music classes and fortunately went to a public high school that had a solid art program with four art faculty who were very supportive.  After high school, when it came time to decide between moving to LA to become a “Rock and Roll Star” versus going to college for art, something inside me must have known I would be a better visual artist – that plus a heavy parental urging to go to college.   

AB: What is your creative process like? Do you begin with an end result envisioned?

RK: My creative process generally starts with turning on music and looking around at what I did last. I often have at least 10-15 pieces happening at once and paints mixed up ready to go so that I can jump right in and get messy. Most of my work starts with putting down some light ground colors with acrylics to block out some simple shapes. Then, I start building up lines, shapes, colors and textures with my oils. Sometimes I have a sense of a basic direction that I want a painting to head in, or I try to capture elements of other paintings that I’ve completed, but I don’t typically have a vision for an end result. 

AB: So it sounds like you’re working on multiple pieces at once, how does that play into your overall process?

RK: Yes, I find that working on similar but different bodies of work at the same time keeps my work moving in interesting directions. I often find that one painting, or group of paintings, informs the other and helps me with color choices, textures and generally keeps me from getting stuck in a rut. 

AB: What inspired your sculptural and shaped paintings? 

RK: My current sculptural and shaped paintings come from within my “Form Singularity” paintings and through finding shapes that resonate with me. I’ve been exploring three-dimensional work as far back as I can remember, but I think that I would have to say that making shaped paintings could be directly attributed to my appreciation for Elizabeth Murray’s work. I can also say that walking through a boatyard in the off season, and seeing how boat hulls get sanded and repainted also stimulated my urge to make shaped work. I think I saw a rudder laying on the ground half sanded by the yard crew… that was a moment of inspiration for me too.

AB: What made you move toward the more minimal style of the Form Singularity series?  

RK: I’ve leaned towards simplifying, reducing, and minimizing the amount of information that I put onto the canvas all along my path as an artist. As far back as high school, I remember working with simplified shapes and amplified colors. My “Form Singularity” Series is, in a sense, my natural state of being, while my other series act as bridges for viewers to cross over into the way I see the world.   

AB: Are there any artists that inform your work?  

RK: Oh yes… I love so many fantastic artists. I mentioned Elizabeth Murray earlier, who I was lucky enough to meet a couple times. I’m a fan of Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and so many of the late greats. A few contemporary artists that I admire greatly are Julie Mehretu, Cadence Giersbach, Chris Ofili, Gary Hume and David Tremlett.  

AB: What are you currently working on? 

RK: I’m currently working on new “Form Singularity” paintings, new “Island Geometry and Sea Geometry” paintings, and several new sculptures while balancing out the demands of a couple upcoming three-person shows here in Maine. I’m also working on a Public Art Project through Maine’s Percent for Art Program. The multi-panel mural is an 8’ x 8’ abstraction made up of 6 geometric panels linked closely to my “Island Geometry” and will be installed in June of 2020.

View Richard Keen’s work in our exhibition Almost Exactly on view through June 16, 2019.

Artist Richard Keen in front of his work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Form Singularity No. 165, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 72 x 64 in., 2019

Can you name #5WomenArtists?

Since 2016—every Women’s History Month—the National Museum of Women in the Arts has challenged those active on social media to answer this question: Can you name five women artists?

This task should be simple. It’s just five artists . . . female artists. Unfortunately, many cannot answer this question, not without resorting to a quick internet search. 

#5WomenArtists is a campaign to support gender equality in the arts. Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is proud to answer #5WomenArtists this Women’s History Month with five modern and contemporary female artists, working across a range of media, on view in Boston this spring.

SAND Performers. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

1. Contemporary Performance/Interdisciplinary
Victoria Awkward (present)
is a Boston-based emerging interdisciplinary performance artist whose work combines dance, music, photography, and empowerment. Victoria collaborates with diverse groups and focuses her practice on considerations of individuality and self-realization. Her recent performance SAND is an evening-length dance installation combining dance, poetry, music, and visual arts that celebrates the inherent differences between women by highlighting each female dancers’ unique qualities and personal expression.

Recently, Victoria hosted SAND at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery and will host another performance at Fountain Street Gallery on April 26 and 27.

2. Contemporary Drawings/Public Installation
Joan Jonas (1936–present)
is an American performance and video artist who explores and reinterprets representations of time, space, and female subjectivity in her work. Jonas pioneered video art, and became one of the most important female artists to emerge in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Her work frequently questions portrayals of female identity in dramatic and contrived performances that draw on stories from many cultures, using theatrical gestures, masks, mirrors, and costumes. In 2017, she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Gardner Museum. 

Her solo exhibition I Know Why They Left and her public installation Blue to Blue are on view at the Isabella Gardner Museum from January 23–October 14, 2019, and January 22–June 24, 2019, respectively.

Isabella Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115

I Know Why They Left is a new series of drawings by the 2017 Artist-in-Residence Joan Jonas, Image courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

3. Contemporary Sculpture
Kapwani Kiwanga (1978–present)
is a Paris-based artist who investigates historical narratives, the global consequences of colonialism, and the pervasive impact of power asymmetries still present in society today. She examines marginalized and forgotten histories by juxtaposing them with present realities and future possibilities, using sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. Her recurrent reference to materiality and the economics of material production allude to how exploitation invariably manifests in politics and culture.

Her solo exhibition is on view at the MIT List Visual Arts Center from February 8–April 21, 2019.

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames St, Cambridge, MA 02142

4. Modern Painting/Print/Sculpture
Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) 
was a German artist, who worked with painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Kollwitz was a resolute pacifist whose son died during World War I. She is best known for her compelling anti-war graphic works—which emphasize the suffering and sacrifice of those on the home front and especially the female perspective of the war—and her art cycles which depict the effects of poverty, hunger, and war on the working class. Several of her works are currently on view at the Harvard Art Museum (with many more in storage).

Harvard Art Museum
32 Quincy St, Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Contemporary Photography
Cindy Sherman (1954–present)
is an American photographer and filmmaker who critiques contemporary stereotypes of gender and identity. Using herself as the subject of most of her work, Sherman examines and distorts the social constructs of femininity and the mechanics of their production. “I like making images that from a distance seem kind of seductive, colorful, luscious, and engaging, and then you realize what you're looking at is something totally opposite,” she explains.

Several of her works are currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

 Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, gelatin silver print, 1977, Image courtesy of the ICA Boston.

Honorable Mention: Contemporary Fashion Exhibition
Made Visible: Contemporary South African Fashion and Identity
is a female-forward fashion exhibition celebrating the identities of South Africans historically denied rights and representation, such as Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu communities; women of color; members of the LGBTQI community; and rural citizens. The exhibition explores how clothing communicates individuality, creates or erases cultural identity, and enforces class divisions.

This exhibition is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from February 2–May 12, 2019.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Written by Devon Engle

Sand: A Dance Performance by Victoria Awkward

Last weekend we had the honor of hosting local dance performance, Sand. They kicked off the weekend with notable press from The Boston Globe, The Improper Bostonian, and The Arts Fuse - so it came as no surprise it was sold out both nights.

Sand Performers at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

Sand is a dance performance organized and choreographed by visual and performance artist Victoria Awkward. It started as a trio and aimed to explore the nature of sand through dance. By interpreting “the loose, compact, and rocky textures of sand,” Victoria combines solo, duet, and full group dances to showcase the relationships between the dancers as well as their individual strong suits. Since the first installment, Sand has gone on to develop as both a film and a larger installment. It highlights five dancers; Joniece “JoJo” Boykins, a graduate of SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance; Tabitha Hanay-Reaves, who trains with the Boston Dance Theater; Michayla Kelly, a graduate of Goucher College in Mathematics and Dance; Kate Dube, a member of the Boston Dance Theater and freelance dancer; and Jessy Zizzo, an interdisciplinary artist focused in dance and comedy. This performance also features Tatiana Isabel, whose poetry contributes to the passionate narrative established in Sand.

With roughly forty people in attendance, Sand ran for forty minutes. Following the performance, Victoria Awkward invites audience members to participate in a question and answer session as well as an opportunity to meet the dancers. The purpose of the performance, as noted by Tatiana Isabel, is not only to explore the idea of sand in a physical way, but to “explore diversity and inclusion through the lens of a woman of color.” As an audience member, it was wonderful to see the way Victoria Awkward’s choreography was able to highlight each dancer as an individual, while also celebrating the importance of their movements as a whole and each member’s contribution to the narrative.

If you missed the performance this past weekend, you have another chance to view the show at Fountain Street Gallery in April, click for details. A huge thanks to Victoria Awkward and her team for putting on a wonderful show!

All images courtesy of Victoria Awkward. Blog post written by Kaylee Hennessey.