Organized by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
, Susan Te Kahurangi King: 1958-2018 presents a survey of the New Zealand-based artist's work. This major exhibition brings together more than 60 of her drawings, along with memorabilia from the personal archive of her sister, Petita Cole. The exhibition includes drawings that span her output from her early colorful mashups of Donald Duck and cartoon imagery to her detailed graphite abstractions to her most recent gouache brush work created during a summer residency at the Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton, N.Y. The exhibition will be the first major presentation of King's work at Intuit and the first museum exhibition to include personal objects collected by her family.
Born in Te Aroha, New Zealand, in 1951, Susan Te Kahurangi King began making art as a young child. Her use of verbal language was well in decline by the age of five, and she stopped speaking entirely by age eight. In 1960, Susan's family moved to Auckland, so she could attend a special school. King continued to make drawings until the early 1990s, when she quit unexpectedly for around 15 years.
She resumed her artistic practice in 2008 and within a year of her comeback, had her first solo exhibition, in Australia. Since then, her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with major solo exhibitions in New Zealand, USA and Europe. The 2016-18 Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) was established to further study her work, which continues to garner public attention through gallery and museum exhibitions, including the recent Vestiges and Verse (AFAM, 2018). Her work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Folk Art Museum, the Chartwell Collection (Auckland) and the Wallace Arts Trust, New Zealand. King resides in Hamilton, New Zealand, and continues to make art.
King's intimate drawings (graphite, colored pencil, crayon and ink) reference imagery drawn from everyday life but reinterpreted: not literal depictions of her daily life but inspirations gleaned from her surroundings, thoughts, understandings and experiences. Figures such as Donald Duck and the Fanta clown appear prolifically in certain eras of her work, as do curvilinear forms and piled-on landscapes of imagery derived from human forms and popular culture.
The process of documenting King first began in the early-1950s in the form of detailed personal notes and letters written by both her mother and grandmother. In the mid-1950s, King's grandmother, Myrtle Murphy, began systematically recording her granddaughter's life experiences. This includes detailed notes about Susan's drawings and the contexts in which they were made.
Two and a half decades after the passing of Murphy, granddaughter Petita Cole picked up where Myrtle left off, not only with the organization, study and promotion of King's work but, also, encouraging the artist herself. In 2005, Cole embarked on a major archival project, as she began unearthing and cataloging the many stashes of King's drawings that had been stored for decades in the family home. Each discovery or revelation prompted further questions and a keen desire to gain a better insight and understanding of Susan's life and works.
Running in tandem with the cataloging, study and promotion of King's work, Cole has researched the various aspects of Susan's life through exploring the photographic records of Susan's father, Doug King, and of her grandmother, Myrtle Murphy. She has cataloged and transcribed a vast collection of handwritten records dating back to Susan's very early years. These include personal letters from her mother and grandmother and Myrtle's daily diary entries spanning at least 20 years.
Over the past decade or so, Cole has been working on what has now come to be known as "The Petita Cole Collection": items collected that relate to the life and works of her sister, Susan Te Kahurangi King. This collection includes not only written and photographic material but a wide range of objects and items.
King's drawings combined with Cole's personal archive help frame and offer insight into the unknown narrative of Susan's work by providing and suggesting connections, placing her in the context of a larger, connected world of shared visual imagery.
Through its Henry Darger Room Collection and archives, Intuit has long recognized the important role artistic source materials and the studio/living space play in adding depth to the understanding of artists and their work. With its exhibitions, including Susan Te Kahurangi King: 1958-2018, Intuit seeks to provoke dialogue about artistic, cultural and social issues of our time while bringing to light work by under-recognized contemporary and historical self-taught artists.