Ron Kent "Organic Compositions"

Wendt Gallery

poster for Ron Kent "Organic Compositions"

This event has ended.

Thin oil-soaked, uplifted vessels turned from Norfolk pine are immediately recognized as his and his alone (though imitators appeared). No one else has his minimalist/classical sense of form. The wood itself is an important part of the content. Norfolk pine is ubiquitous in the Pacific; legend has it that Captain Cooke saw to it that this very straight tree was planted everywhere to provide masts for sailing ships.

Ron Kent, like the sage wood pioneer Wharton Esherick, seems to believe that all the wood you need can be found in your own backyard. Norfolk pine is local on Hawaii where Kent lives, renewable, and for the asking.

Kent has an eye for spalting, and since he lives in the tropics he now deep-freezes roughly turned pieces to halt the configurations where he wants them to stay. But translucency is Kent's miraculous innovation. Properly lit, his bowls glow. He can control the light by the thickness and the thinness of the walls so that the turned bowl shapes light. Kent turns light. There is one piece that only glows near the base. Others glow as if radioactive. The shadow of the artist’s hand can be seen through the wood.

Since he never took a single woodworking lesson, Kent says he "never learned the 'right' way to do things... I sort of evolved a lot of unique ways of working, which nobody else does."
He started woodworking in college when it was the only way he could afford furniture. His craft soon developed to the point that he was making creations better than those he could buy. "In 1972 my wife bought me a lathe for Christmas" he recalls, "which is a disappointment to a furniture maker because there is not much you can do with it--posts, gavels, banisters, croquet sets. But I didn't want her to know I was disappointed, so I went down on the beach and got a piece of driftwood and made a thing that looked like a wooden whiskey bottle. And I was hooked!"

The following years saw Kent continuing to enjoy the shapes he made from whatever woods he happened upon. He was happy to discover the beauty he could bring forth from the wood. Gradually, he says, his shapes got better and better. One day he looked at a bottle he had made fashioned like a genie's bottle and, examining it more closely, thought that if he worked with the flare of the neck, it might make an interesting bowl.

As delicate as his work is, Kent admits that he is a bit clumsy. He grew up in Hollywood, California. He jokes that the environment there may have been more of a hindrance than an asset to his later artistic achievements. "I was the clumsy kid who was chosen last on the team," recalls Kent. "I was part of the package deal, 'We'll take John and you can have, Ron, Ken, Harry and Joe."

Kent believes there is a definite distinction between artists and craftsmen, and he sees himself as more the former and as much of the latter as he needs to be. "There are technicians, people who are really good at what they do. Think of music--there is a composer, director, the soloist and the first violin," Kent explains. "I think I am more like the composer, enough of a musician to be able to play my composition and show you what it looks like. I suppose I could be the technician if that were my goal. If you look at my things very, very closely you may see little scratches and tool marks, places that aren't totally finished in the modem craft sense of the word. But I know how to do it--I could spend the extra hour or two getting those out-but it isn't part of my game. I have lost interest by then. For me, forming the piece, seeing the beauty of the wood, putting my ideas into shape and seeing if I could do it--that is the challenge."

[Image: Ron Kent "Turned Norfolk Pine Vessel]



from April 12, 2011 to May 12, 2011

Opening Reception on 2011-04-12 from 18:00 to 20:00


Ron Kent

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