Joseph Kinnebrew is in touch with mysteries, the ancient and unconscious substrata that lies just beneath ordinary life. This inner world, where emotional truth is more real than time and place, is brought into the light of day in the form of his diverse and challenging art.
Kinnebrew is accomplished in a variety of modes of art making, and each reveals a different, yet interlocking facet of his artistic personality. His bronze sculpture is deft and witty, provocatively juxtaposing women’s legs, pears, and inanimate things, such as a roller skate and a bowl. Both sensual and titillating, these compound objects carry a charge of the forbidden given licence to celebrate its own desire for expression. There is a sense of ripe sweetness embracing the inherent dangers of erotic exposure.
In the Surreal Paintings, this exploration of the inner life made manifest assumes the form of dream-like encounters with a recurring repertoire of images including women, birds, chairs, checkerboard patterns, radiant light, and water. Entering into these highly charged paintings is an excursion into the space of sheer feeling, fraught with the tension, for both viewer and artist, of coming face to face with the unknown. In a sense these paintings are transpersonal, starting with the artist’s own narrative, but implying realms beyond it: the environmental, the existential, the psychic, and the spiritual.
In the Floral Paintings, the artist takes us into his imaginative vision of growing flowers-abundant and exuberant. Sensual in both shape and hue, the artist immerses us in fluid, gestural brush stokes and in a freedom of feeling, unencumbered by social decorum or notions of fidelity to nature. As in his sculpture and surrealist work, Kinnebrew allows us to see that which is beyond the conventions of appearance.
His work has an openness and directness that allows the viewer to become engaged in imagery that defies easy explication. Sliding into the depths of Kinnebrew’s imaginal worlds becomes like Alice’s descent down the rabbit hole-simultaneously smooth, disconcerting, yet full of unexpected delights. These delights are both visual, for we are immersed in form and color, and poetic, since here images are free-floating, allowed to find their true, if surprising affinities. As a viewer, one takes the same long, strange trip that the artist is making, down pathways where the meaning of the journey, and one’s life, is embodied in creative acts of self-discovery.
John Mendelson writing about Joseph Kinnebrew (January 2005)
John Mendelsohn has written articles and reviews on contemporary art for Cover Magazine, ArtNet Magazine, and The Jewish Week, as well as essays for exhibition catalogues. He taught at Illinois State University and the University of South Florida, and he currently teaches in the Studio Art Program at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He has contributed entries to the forthcoming book, A Dictionary of Symbolic Images, to be published by the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism at the C.G. Jung Institute, New York.