September 11 – October 26, 2019
Opening Reception: September 11, 6 - 8 PM
Tilton Gallery is delighted to present
Antone Könst: Love & Fear
For his first solo exhibition at Tilton Gallery, Antone Könst will present a new series of paintings and sculptures. This body of work, aptly titled Antone Könst: Love & Fear, taps into the artist's uncanny ability to find humor in otherwise trepidatious moments. In Könst's work, the conveyance of fear is frequently boiled down to the isolated facial expression of an animal or even, as in the case of some distraught flower vases, inanimate objects. The paintings are focused on a lone figure surrounded by a spare ground that barely surrounds or contextualizes each protagonist. A sense of expansive space underscores the quivering uncertainty of that which is the unknown. In each painting the creature’s body is the main portal through which we begin to understand their world view and in turn our own. 

Könst finds inspiration for his sculptures and paintings in found images, which the artist frequently sources from the archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the internet, and the community of farmers, artists, and gardeners he grew up in. These images cut across a range of historical epochs, drawing together various examples of prevalent archetypical creatures and figures that include parrots, monkeys, frogs, pigeons, vases, jugglers, and birthing women. The images are a starting point for Könst, whose process includes the extensive refiguring, recoloring, and reshaping of unique figures and forms.

In Parrot (2019), a colorful bird inches away from the trunk of a sturdy tree. It wavers on the edge of a branch, toes elongated and torso leaning ever-so-slightly into the empty air that surrounds him. Emptiness is depicted here as a green screen abyss, signifying the slipperiness of context in our cut-and-paste world. And as with many of Könst's paintings, we are asked to question the validity of that which appears to be so. The main protagonist in Frog in the Fog(2019) emotes a similar sense of apprehension, the source of which is unknown. Cowering under a large lily pad, it shakes with uncertainty. Of the works in this series, which include a flower vase that has been painted in ode to Matisse, a bashful monkey with Cubist undertones, and a crouching, red juggler, there is only one that clearly defies this overarching sense of unease. Baby Catcher (2019) depicts a woman with a large protruding belly who is crouching happily with her crotch open to the sun. She is about to release a crowning blue moon egg through her birthing portal, and reaches out with an upturned hand to catch it upon release.

This orb of blue follows us through the show. It is echoed by Könst's moon sculptures that are made of glass and wall-mounted like masks. These emit an emotive glow, reminding us of radiant light from the sky above. It follows that the artist has invited us to cast a glance outside, into the gallery garden, where he has installed a neon sculpture reminiscent of the birthing baby catcher, only this time she is kneeling on all fours with her breasts hanging down. Made from unadulterated mercury the color of cobalt blue, at certain times of day she shines a blue light back into the gallery's rooms.

Upstairs, there is an eight foot tall sculpture that acts as doorway. It is a dusty blue, as if hints of lavender-grey moon rock were mixed into the blue paint before application, dulling the hue, but making it sparkle in equal measure. Visitors can see through the five carvings or trellised circles that comprise the sculpture. It is through this lens that we first see the remaining works on view, including Bird Song (black) (2019), Könst's large sculpture of a person playing saxophone. Made from terraced foam heavily coated in birdseed, the instrument is much larger than the figure who plays it. She is playing her heart out and this heartbeat appears discretely throughout the exhibition (hidden, for example, in a pigeon's nose). It is the final destination, at the core of it all.
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