On View Now

Mel Kendrick: Seeing Things in Things

April 10 – October 3, 2021

This long-overdue exhibition assembles a full range of works that reflect Kendrick’s provocative, ongoing investigations into the fundamentals and possibilities of sculpture. Active since the 1970s, Kendrick (b. 1949) has produced a large, varied body of work that has inventively pushed the boundaries of sculpture. 

Presenting approximately 60 sculptures as well as a selection of table-top sculptural “sketches,” prints, and photographs spanning this adventurous artist’s decades-long career, this major traveling exhibition will explore how Kendrick exploits the essential properties of his selected medium, whether wood, rubber, or, more recently, concrete, to create sculpture that inherently lays bare the process by which it was made. By leaving visible traces of his trial-and-error process—marks, cuts, paint, oil stains—Kendrick endows his materials with a remarkable sense of immediacy and animation. Moreover, his meditations on the relationships between inside and outside, positive and negative, organic and geometric, nature and culture, sculpture and base, sculpture and sculpture, sculpture and print have led to infinite experimentation. 

A unique opportunity to study the artist’s unrelenting interrogation of the meaning of sculpture, this exhibition addresses Kendrick’s pivotal place in the field of contemporary art. Informed by the dynamic forms and methods of modernist predecessors such as Umberto Boccioni, Constantin Brancusi, and Pablo Picasso, and nurtured by the lessons of his minimalist mentors, the artist’s sustained commitment to object-making distinguishes him from current artistic trends in which sculpture often serves as one component of conceptual installations, spectacle, and new media. Retaining original sources, albeit drastically transformed, Kendrick’s works bear evidence of the decisions and actions that led to their self-contained and self-referential construction. While their forms change, the subject matter always remains the same—that of material and making. Like puzzles to be solved, viewers are encouraged to unravel the artist’s simultaneously intuitive and analytical process and reflect upon its connection to sculptural tradition—a link not readily apparent in much of today’s art practice, and one that makes this work worthy of public and scholarly attention. 

Kendrick’s sculptures often draw critical attention. Writing for the New York Times, Roberta Smith commends his postminimalist “emphasis on self-evident structure and process, while developing his own affinity for wood, hand-working, [and] eccentric form….” In his review for The New Criterion, James Panero praises Kendrick’s work for “an intense internal logic that at first seems fully laid out but becomes more mysterious the more you observe.” A three-time recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Kendrick has also received the Francis J. Greenburger Award and the American Academy of Arts & Letters’s Academy Award. Numerous museums have holdings of his works, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. ​

Curated by Allison N. Kemmerer, Mead Curator of Photography and Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, this comprehensive exhibition celebrates Kendrick’s h​ighly unique approach to artmaking—one that is fueled by a tireless inquiry into the seemingly limitless possibility of sculpture. The exhibition will also provide the occasion for the commission of a new outdoor work that will be available to participating venues. A fully illustrated catalog co-published and distributed by Rizzoli International will include an essay by Nancy Princenthal as well as a series of focused essays offering varied perspectives on Kendrick’s work by Kemmerer, artist Carroll Dunham, Kendrick’s longstanding aesthetic interlocutor and friend; Terrie Sultan, Director of the Parrish Art Museum, and Adam Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Generous support for this exhibition and publication was provided by the Michael and Fiona Scharf Publications Fund, the Sidney R. Knafel Exhibition Fund, Toby D. Lewis, Katherine D. & Stephen C. Sherrill '71, P'05, '07, '10, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Frank Williams and Keris Salmon, the Alice M. & Thomas J. Tisch Foundation, Raymond Learsy, The Fifth Floor Foundation, Dr. & Mrs. John Bassett, Gail Monaghan, Francis Greenburger, Wheelock Whitney III, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. K. Adler.

Tour schedule 

Spring/Summer 2021
Addison Gallery of American Art,​ Andover, MA 

Winter/Spring 2022
inquire for availability

Summer 2022
Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY ​