As children progress through the stages of development, they reach a point just before preschool in which they engage in something called parallel play, or parallel activity. "In parallel activity, children are playing alone, but near to other children. The child may use toys that resemble those that the children around her are using. There is no attempt to control the other children." 1
Sometimes working artists can be childlike in their methods, working independently, working similarly, but not attempting to influence or manipulate each other. Such is the relationship between Ted Kerzie and Joyce Kohl. During their thirteen years rubbing elbows as faculty members at Cal State Bakersfield, some exchange of ideas, whether subconscience or conscience, was bound to occur.
They have enjoyed preparing for this exhibition, and have accomplished successful collaboration, something that few artist ever do. Therein lie the hybrids, a group of works shown for the first time, which combine strong elements from both artists.
This exhibition is itself a hybrid. Bakersfield Museum of Art executive director Charles Meyers approached Kohl and Kerzie separately and asked them to consider mounting solo exhibitions. With the turmoil involved in the major remodel of the museum's facility, a decision was made to merge these two artists' shows and create a new entity; thus this exhibit was born.
Ted L. Kerzie received his bachelor's degree in art from Washington State University. He then served as an officer in the Air Force during the Vietnam War in the Philippines. After his stint in the service, he enrolled at Claremont Graduate School, earning an MFA in art.
While in graduate school, the matrix of the television influenced and inspired Kerzie to develop his signature method of painting through a matrix of dots. He discovered his unique process after studying a television screen closely with a magnifying glass. Seeing the matrix inspired him to try an abstract colorfield painting made entirely with dots. "I saw all those dots moving with primary colors. I was really excited, but I didn't want to repeat Roy Lichtenstein's representational dot pieces... I wanted to work with the dot in an abstract manner." 2
"Over the years, I've gone from large scale to small scale, I've gone from a real 'color field' kind of attitude to much more vigorous colors. I've even used images. Now, in earlier paintings the edge became very important. Right now, I'm doing a different type of work, I'm changing all the time; and you can see the changes in my work over the years; but they're subtle changes. I'm still known for, you know, doing the dot thing." 3
Ted Kerzie began his art career by working on massive unstretched canvases. His materials were that of a contemporary painter: acrylic and canvas. He continued using those materials until a few years ago. "About 1996 I started making paintings on doorskin, and I really like working on that kind of a surface. It allows me to layer more. It has a firmness, a permanence, I could really weight the paint down, if that makes any sense. I could layer it with a lot of clear acrylic medium. On canvas, you can do that too, but, you can get cracks and problems later." 4
Kerzie is making yet another change in material. He's beginning to paint on steel. Many of the pieces in this exhibition were executed on his steel canvases. "I decided that I wanted to work on steel, because I can make really interesting shapes on steel. I started rather simply, I made a painting on a long horizontal steel bar, and everybody really liked it. Like the first pieces, I've still got an edge, I still have all this, but now I'm painting on just a whole different form. But I still use the dots, still use the tape." 5
Joyce Kohl earned her bachelor's degree from Empire State College in Saratoga, N.Y., and a master's degree from California State University, Fullerton. Her emphasis while a student was sculpture and ceramics. Her post-graduate work was primarily large adobe pieces. She has a number of public art works of concrete and steel on permanent display on the west coast and internationally.
Kohl was raised by environmentally conscience parents. Her family enjoyed camping and hiking, and she grew up with an appreciation of the great outdoors. A reverence for nature, and a concern for the environment, strongly informs her work.
In the mid 1980s she began using adobe, concrete and steel. She started using "angle iron, because the pieces seemed to be craving a skeleton." 6
Then something happened in 1987 to further expand her portfolio of materials. She accepted a teaching position at Cal State Bakersfield. The junkyards and salvage operations in the central valley began to provide a rich source of material for Kohl, who found herself working with the materials in an assemblage manner. She often adds the adobe/concrete mixture to the steel assemblages.
About her current work, Kohl states: "Much of my work is assemblage, involving a juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary. These sculptures and wall pieces utilize steel parts from farm and industry, collected from the San Joaquin Valley, and often reassembled with stabilized adobe. Many of these pieces are designed to encourage interaction between the viewer and the sculptures, needing the viewer to start them in motion." 7 Her work acts as as a metaphor for the unknown repercussions of our actions.
Kohl's travel to such far flung destinations as Peru, Bolivia, and South Africa have a profound affect on her forms and sense of time. She alludes to primitive and contemporary architecture and artifacts, often ambiguous as to usage. "I want the viewers to bring their own interpretations, and consequently to reflect on the artifacts that we leave behind for future generations to ponder or trip over." 8 Thus, her subtext is man's impact on the environment. Kohl wants us to consider the wisdom of our disposable society. Her wish is for us to be jarred out of thinking that we are the end of a timeline.
Connecting the two
The work of these two artists may seem worlds apart at first glance, but a closer look will yield similarities as well as differences. They both make use of spontaneity in the creation of their art. Kerzie says "you make the work, you let it happen, and that's it." 9 Kohl says she makes no drawings, and tries not to overplan. "I play directly with
the materials, I let the work evolve without preconceived ideas. I try to
keep the creative process open-ended as long as possible." 10
A positive and upbeat attitude is another strong link between the work of these two. Although Kohl's theme is primarily the environment, she presents the information in a lighthearted and entertaining manner. Likewise, Kerzie's work is neither dark nor brooding. His underlying theme of aerial photography - soaring with eagles - is joyful and expansive.
They both rely strongly on specific media to express themselves. This dependence on industrial materials connects them both to the realm of process art.
Repetition, another characteristic of process art, is also present in both Kerzie and Kohl's work. Kerzie repeats his signature dot repeatedly on each layer of each canvas. Often Kohl makes use of perforated steel, or patterned ironwork grids, which presents repetition as a theme. She then meticulously fills each opening with her adobe/concrete mixture.
Additionally, they both share a love of teaching, and find working with college students to be a positive experience.
While examining the work of these two contemporary artists, consider what they have to offer the viewer. Recall landscapes of the earth from a bird's eye view, which influence Kerzie. Decipher the environmental message in Kohl's assemblages of discarded steel and stabilized earth. Or, just allow the beauty of these diverse artworks to take you into the artists' worlds.
David M. Koeth, Curator
1 Kerzie, Personal Interview, June 1999
2 Kerzie, ibid
3 Kerzie, Personal Interview, June 1999
4 Kerzie, ibid
5 Kerzie, Personal Interview, April 2000
6 Kohl, Personal Interview, May 2000
7 Kohl, ibid
8 Kohl, ibid
9 Kerzie, Personal Interview June 1999
10 Kohl, Personal Interview, May 2000
Return to Joyce Kohl Essays
Return to Joyce Kohl