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Petah Coyne: Above and Beneath the Skin
Petah Coyne, Untitled #634 (largest oil piece), 1989.
KANSAS CITY, MO.-With works ranging from tangled, pod-shaped forms made from everyday materials to dramatic, chandelier-like cascades, Petah Coyne is renowned in her ability to take sculpture to new dimensions. The public gets an opportunity to examine Coyne’s career in closer detail when the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art presents Petah Coyne: Above and Beneath the Skin, on view through November 27. This traveling exhibition explores key moments in Coyne’s development as an artist and features more than twenty sculptures—both suspended and floor-based works —and six large black-and-white photographs from the mid-1980s to today.

Combining both figurative and abstract traditions, Coyne’s works constitute a complex language that is decidedly individual yet surprisingly accessible. Her sculptures are made from a laundry list of familiar materials such as wood, wax, hair, baby powder, chicken wire, silk flowers, and ribbons, and often possess a strangely anthropomorphic quality that blends organic vitality with the beauty of decay. Objects such as roses and stuffed birds are encased in a drippy coating of wax, summoning a decadent Gothic elegance that is both beautiful and unsettling. “In her rich and nuanced embrace of dualities, Coyne gives us a glimpse of how it feels to live with and between the dichotomies that threaten to imprison us,” critic Eleanor Heartney writes in the exhibition catalogue.

Six black-and-white photographs created between 1992–2001 complement the sculptural ensemble in the exhibition, and reflect Coyne’s early training in photography at the Art Academy of Cincinnati during the mid-1970s. These images reveal Coyne’s interest in recording sensation and movement, and function as a sort of sketchpad for her processing of information and accumulation of ideas.

Petah Coyne: Above and Beneath the Skin will travel to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona (January 21–May 7, 2006) and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (June 9–September 17, 2006). Organized by the Albright-Knox, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by exhibition curator Douglas Dreishpoon and noted art critics Eleanor Heartney and Nancy Princenthal.





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