Written by Kevin Heffernan
Kenyon’s genius is how rapidly a simple piece turns incredibly complex
Big Orbit Art Gallery on Essex Street (Home to No Boundaries magazine #6 release party in fall 2019) is hosting the latest from Buffalo artist Matt Kenyon. Kenyon has installed his work all over the world, when not teaching at UB.
Big Orbit is not a massive gallery, and at first glance, there’s just a few installments from Kenyon to check out. But I was fortunate to visit when Kenyon was able to walk me through each piece and talk about his motivation and point out the minute details I may have missed. Some teasers of the show are available below, but I HIGHLY recommend going to see it for yourself while on display through November 14.
At first glance, it’s simply the opulent image of a champagne glass tower. Get closer and see that inside each glass is a model of a home that disappears from view when underwater. A very slow drip from the ceiling does not overflow evenly upon all the houses. Some are left dry while others have water up to their roofs. Tide shows how our climate crisis is disproportionately affecting homeowners, putting some under water and leaving others alone. Go for yourself to see the custom models that Kenyon carved to represent familiar Buffalo city and suburb styles.
A little magic happening here that hypnotizes the viewer as the oil comes up from the earth and back into the cans labeled with the world’s largest energy companies, largely responsible for the crisis we are facing today. Kenyon was originally using real oil, but now uses water mixed with color and scent for the same effect.
Kenyon went so far as to learn locksmithing so that he could produce some additional meaning and practicality in this piece. You’ll see upon zooming in, the keys cast a shadow of a person’s profile. The point is to talk about evictions, especially fresh in our minds from 2008-2010 and now all over again amidst the economic duress of the COVID crisis. “As houses change hands, so do keys.” Kenyon’s work allows for locks to be reset to fit these keys, so that evicted tenants and owners can live in on the homes they were removed from.
Ummm that sink is on fire? Well, the water is actually. Sometimes we forget that the fracking ban in New York State has proven to be a blessing, not a curse, despite whatever short-term benefits may have come from it. Across America, residents are experiencing the slew of chronic health problems that are traced back to air, water wells and surface water contaminated by oil and gas drilling.
Once again, Kenyon dazzles as the sound you can hear from the sink is not coming from a hidden speaker, it’s coming from the flame, acting as a plasma speaker. That flame, shining black in prior exhibits since 2016, voices a collection of media from frustrated residents talking about the problems they’re experiencing thanks to this industry’s damage.
Approach what appears to be a simple student desk with a notepad used by 1st and 2nd graders learning to write out letters and short sentences. As with everything else in this show, look closer, the blue and red lines are microprints of names of every child killed in school by guns in the USA since Columbine, and the dates they were murdered. It’s a protest piece, and a powerful one.
Get to this show. See something new. Understand our world differently, and step away from the chaos that is your doom scroll on social media for a little while. Remember that cynicism gets us nowhere.