Brian Kokoska @Galerie Valentin
Exhibition from September 5th to October 10th, 2015
For his first exhibition at Valentin gallery, Poison IV, Brian Kokoska offers an installation that unfolds like a monochromatic total environment, home to a set of new paintings and sculptures. Initially limited to the plane of a painting, and then gradually extended to the exhibition space, the coloured tonality chosen for each series of paintings—in this case a pale green and an ultimate-black—spreads its colour over the walls, carpet and ceiling, but also through sculptures and assemblages created from found items. The elements that make up this environment are merged and homogenised by an all-over chromatic, plunging the viewer into a layout whose spatial informations—depths, perspectives, scales, thickness, volume—are partially reduced and flattened.
On the same principle as his previous projects, Poison IV treats the exhibition space like a three-dimensional image in which the viewer circulates more visually than physically. These spaces can by turns evoke the simplified and schematic codes of 3D modelling, TV scenery, or the reassuring, playful symbolism of a child’s bedroom, as well as the psychological conditioning strategies of rooms used for testing or detention. This tangle of references defines a fluctuating emotional context, stimulating childhood memories or perceptional constraints, revealing a space that is simultaneously magical or traumatic, warm and/or chilly. These antagonisms cancel each other out to give the feeling of a space that is generic, muted, and anti-nostalgic.
The painted figures that populate (haunt) this environment proceed from the same type of composition strategy, the artist using a repertoire that is just as reduced and schematic: spontaneous gestures, primary shapes, distorted symmetries, monochrome backgrounds and a deliberately limited lexicon. Tears, flowers, numbers, spiderwebs and crescent moons for example are so many motifs equivalent to eyes, mouths and bodies that attempt to form a “persona”. The unity of any identity representation or meaningful interpretation is de-coordinated by the proliferation of possible combinations between contradictory and fragmented signs, motifs and emotional registers. Derived from an effect of interlocked screens, these figures ceaselessly switch between divergent iconographic codifications—male, female, animal, vegetable, when combining registers of abstraction, caricature, cartoons, diagrams or psychograms in a morphing structure.
With the aim simultaneously stimulating and arresting viewers’ projective automatisms, like their natural tendency to anthropomorphise shapes or translate them into emotions or gender attributes, Brian Kokoska’s painting draws its efficiency from its ability to imitate the breakdown of the identification process, to dismantle the attributes of the personality while at the same time redistributing them.
In Kokoska’s work, human figure is treated as a “serial object”, that could embodies the reign of post-mirror society, and its dysfunctional narcissism. If contemporary societies produce identity standards fit for measurement and statistics, drawing us into a vulnerable permeability, by facing/defacing the figure as a set of signs that cannot be harmonised nor formally or symbolically, Brian Kokoska’s figures deal with a state of simultaneous destruction and perpetual metamorphosis. They define a kind of sensitivity that the artist conceives as “post-human”, one that shows us our own poisoned reflection.
Text by Clara Guislain
Brian Kokoska (b. 1988, Vancouver, Canada) graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. His work has been shown in numerous solo or two-person exhibitions in USA, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, including Preteen Gallery, Mexico City, East Hampton Shed, NY, Ohmydays, Singapore, American Medium, NY, Brand New Gallery, Milan, Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York, and a futur show at Smart Objects, Los Angeles. “Poison IV,” at Valentin, is his first show in France. Brian Kokoska lives and work in New York, USA