A new exhibition at di Rosa explores the work of seminal Bay Area conceptual artist Paul Kos and reflects on his long-standing engagement with landscape.
On view since April 16, “Equilibrium: A Paul Kos Survey” features sculpture, film, video, photography, and works on paper, many drawn from the artist’s personal collection and the di Rosa holdings, including works that have not been shown for over 40 years.
A complimentary public reception takes place on April 23 from 4–6 p.m. The exhibition is on view in di Rosa’s Gatehouse Gallery through Oct. 2.
Based in San Francisco and the Sierra0, Kos began his artistic career studying painting in the 1960s at the San Francisco Art Institute, but soon began working in sculpture and a diverse range of media. Considered a leading figure of Bay Area conceptual art, Kos was among the first artists in Northern California to create performance-based film and video works as well as participatory installations.
“Equilibrium” begins with Kos’ artistic breakthrough in the late 1960s when he was commissioned to create outdoor sculptures on the di Rosa property in Napa.
The experience signaled a major shift for the artist toward working with materials in relation to a site. For his ephemeral installation “Lot’s Wife” (1968–1969), for example, Kos erected pillars of salt blocks on di Rosa’s upper property for then-roaming Jersey cattle to slowly lick away. Documentation of this work will be on view, in addition to Kos’ “rEVOLUTION” (1970), a double Super 8 film and video installation last exhibited in 1971 that documents a shotgun-based performance by Kos at di Rosa.
“Kos’ history with the di Rosa property has become influential in shaping the organization’s commitment to supporting the production of new site-oriented and performance-based work by contemporary artists,” co-curator Amy Owen said.
Recent site-specific commissions at di Rosa include works by artists such as Desirée Holman, Floris Schönfeld, and Richard T. Walker.
“Early on, Kos found a freedom in making art in relation to where he went and his own life activities,” said guest co-curator Tanya Zimbardo. “His use of simple materials and openness to chance discoveries has served as an inspiration to many others.”
Kos’ lifelong affinity for the land stems from the artist’s early experiences in the desert plains and mountains of his native Wyoming. Annual trips in the late 1960s and ‘70s to revisit Wyoming, and later the Sierra Nevada, offered an outdoor studio space where Kos recorded several performances and began exploring natural materials, such as salt, fire and ice.
As seen throughout the exhibition, Kos often balances or pairs opposing elements, such as in the video “Ice Makes Fire” (1974/2004), where Kos spins a block of ice in the lid of a cooking pot to form a convex lens, catching the sunlight and igniting the kindling below.
Additional works by Kos spanning several decades are accessible by guided tour of di Rosa’s permanent collection, including the recently restored site-specific installations “Zizzi Va” (1994), a pétanque court.
“Tunnel/Chapel” (1997, with Isabelle Sorrell) is an underground structure showcasing Kos’s video masterpiece “Chartres Bleu” (1982–1986), a re-creation of the passage of light through a stained glass window from Chartres Cathedral in France using 27 television screens.
“Equilibrium: A Paul Kos Survey” is on view April 16 to Oct. 2 at di Rosa (5200 Sonoma Highway, Napa). Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5 suggested donation. The exhibition is co-organized by Amy Owen, curator at di Rosa, and Tanya Zimbardo, guest curator and the assistant curator of media arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
— Saturday, April 23, 4¬6 p.m.: Opening Reception, featuring a wine and cheese reception. Free and open to the public.
— Saturday, May 21, time TBA: Curators’ Walk-through and Pétanque Tournament with Paul Kos.
Join curators Amy Owen and Tanya Zimbardo for a walk-through of the exhibition, followed by an opportunity to accompany Paul Kos and guests in a public tournament activating Kos’ recently restored pétanque court on the di Rosa grounds, Zizzi Va (1994). Also known as boules, pétanque is an outdoor game that originated in France and is similar to bocce. Ticket information will be announced.
— Saturday, June 25, 2016, 4-6 p.m.: Curators in Conversation
“Equilibrium” co-curators Amy Owen and Tanya Zimbardo join Constance Lewallen, adjunct curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, in conversation to discuss Paul Kos’ diverse body of work and engagement with the natural landscape. $10 general/$5 members.