An exhibition of new mixed-media work by nationally acclaimed artist Kris Cox will be on display January 19 through March 18 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. An opening reception will be held Thursday, January 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The show will include more than a dozen pieces that continue the artist’s ongoing exploration of surface manipulation and the inherent physicality within two-dimensional surfaces. This new collection marks a shift in Cox’s subject matter from totally abstract content to figurative subjects realized as digital photographs whose surfaces have been affected by Cox to produce a heady patina and sumptuous inner luminosity.
Cox’s photographs vary in size, ranging from single images under two feet to a triptych that measures ten feet across. The series features nature-themed subjects shot near his rural Colorado home, including dahlias in the field and Highland cattle hairsnarled in barbed wire. The elaborate tangles of hair-left by cows rubbing repeatedly against the wire-represent for Cox nature’s process, and the life force within the creature and its surrounding world. “The delicacy and intricacy one observes in the hair left on the barbs belies the massive bodies of the beasts from which it originated,” he explains. “I think of these images as icons, as portraits. There is an animation that occurs, a singular presence to each. What began as general has taken on specificity.” Likewise, images of the dahlias denote nature’s constant cycle of budding, going to seed, and blooming once again.
The highly detailed macro images are printed onto paper that the artist has infused with beeswax and coated, incrementally, with pigmented wood putty and other imbedded hues to create an internal framing structure and physical depth. These augmentations work in concert to transform the otherwise opaque support into a succession of translucent planes with dimension and luster. After treating the paper, Cox works the area by hand, burnishing, smoothing, and refining it to reveal a multifaceted finish of light-engaging contrasts and values. The resulting surface comprises layers of visual and tangible textures that coalesce to form a deep, luscious picture plane that is both dynamic and refined.
Cox displays his mixed-media pieces without external frames or glass, highlighting the tactility of their surfaces and in effect removing any physical barriers between artwork and viewer. In addition to emphasizing the objectness of the work, such a presentation, he says, “heightens viewer experience” and reveals its “ephemeral quality of lightness.”
Cox cites living in abundant wilderness with his recent, heightened interest in nature and subsequent move to figure-based art. He has become more physically and mentally aware of his surroundings, and remains intent on communicating in his work “the real” that he encounters within his immediate environment. He remarks, “If I am not relentlessly experimenting in my work, with my focus, with my concepts, unafraid to fail, than I should find another line of work.”