Daily Art Moment: Arnold Kemp

Day Dream Nation, Arnold Kemp, 9 3/8 x 9 ½ inches, graphite and Flashe on Chinese paper. An almost square work showing two upright rectangles, one black and one white, side by side. They are depicted on creamy, off-white ground that both separates and surrounds the two shapes. The black rectangle at left has slightly uneven, rough edges. Specks of white paper show through the graphite throughout the body. At right, the white rectangle is the same height as the black but is narrower and has sharper edges. The shapes are outlined faintly in a thin gray pencil line. The lines connect the two rectangles across the off-white background strip between the two.

Years previously to making this work, I met Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon of the band Sonic Youth. Ranaldo introduced his music to me by inviting me to a concert the band was giving in Boston. The band’s 1988 album “Daydream Nation” became a beautiful, resolute, and illuminating source of inspiration. I sought to sustain this feeling with a daily practice of painting and drawing that also was related to my reimagining of the political landscape of the US.

Arnold Kemp

Kemp balances the symbolic and the concrete in this drawing in compelling ways. The solid blocks of black and white color might read as a formalist abstraction. However, the two forms stand in opposition and they evoke idioms (black-and-white), binaries (black, white), and as Kemp asserts, a metaphor for social and political forces like partisanship and race relations in the United States. By borrowing the title “Daydream Nation,” Kemp is describing a country “deluded by wistful fantasy,” as critic John Motley writes. For me, the narrow strip of unpainted paper between the two shapes is also powerfully suggestive and meaningful.

Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art

Arnold Kemp (American, born 1968), Day Dream Nation (14), 2010. Graphite and Flashe on Chinese paper. Gift of Sally and Wynn Kramarsky, 2017.44.1 © unknown, research required

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