the life and work of william kent

Static1.squarespaceMatthew Spellberg at Music and Literature:

William Kent’s career took place underground, only occasionally bursting up onto the surface world. His biggest explosion occurred in the early 1960s, when his strange sculptures and prints garnered some attention. It was thought they were like pop art, and they were, although they were doing something other than pop at the same time, something that made the connoisseurs of pop and op and concept quickly turn their backs. Kent had an upstart Madison Avenue gallerist, Richard Castellane, whom he depended upon and hated, and in whose gallery he showed alongside early pieces by Robert Smithson and Yayoi Kusama. He had good notices in the Times and Art News (“Largely of wood, sometimes hewn from a single block, they have the spooky air of horrible statements coolly made”), and he was dismissed by Arts Magazine (“By sheer repetition, these shapes should denote what used to be called ‘obsessive imagery,’ but they remain quite leaden and unevocative”). He was honored on the radio during the 1963 newspaper strike by the critic Brian O’Daugherty (“An original American eccentric, the kind that comes about only once in a great while”). The abstract expressionist and UFO-chaser Budd Hopkins went to one of Kent’s shows and reported that it was (and this in New York in the 1960s) absolutely wild.

In 1964 Kent exhibited a print at the Brooklyn Museum and in 1966 he showed the same piece (LEAVE THE MOON ALONE!) at the Whitney. Since 1961 he’d been the curator of the Slade Ely House, a small gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, which had flourished under his influence. He was financially secure enough to leave the basement where he’d been living and buy the barn in Durham, the first house he had ever owned.

more here.