Kori Newkirk, Multimedia Artist– Most mornings Kori Newkirk takes the bus to his studio in downtown L.A., making him one of the few established artists not reliant on a car. “I haven’t had a car in a year,” he says. “With so much of the art world imploding lately and funding changing, I figured that when my car died I really didn’t need it.” There is something of this scrap-the-past-and-start-over mentality about the 40-year-old artist’s own career, which has already experienced several distinct progressions in the last decade: from this former New Yorker’s rising-star status as a “post-black” artist making decorative paintings to his more complicated media-driven installations in recent years. Now Newkirk seems to be undergoing another creative metamorphosis. “I’m trying to figure out again what it means to be an artist,” he says. “It’s a re-investigation. I’m playing around in my studio.” Most artists of Newkirk’s generation have been boxed into specific mediums or motifs, but Newkirk has always resisted easy classifications. At a recent solo show at the Schindler House, he added black circular magnets with jagged edges to windows, which had the sense of sunspots. “I’m really into science fiction these days,” he explains. “But I also realized that if I lived in a house like that one, it would be all shot up, and the windows would be riddled with bullets.” Another piece in that show was a circular pattern of T-shirts arranged on the floor, covered in sweat and dirt. One day at the studio he realized that his own shirt stains looked almost like tie-dye. Tie dye is traditionally a hippie symbol, but Newkirk says, “that sculpture had to do with labor. My parents might have wanted to enjoy the Summer of Love but they couldn’t. They were working. ‘I’d love to be outside with you but I have to be in here scrubbing floors.’ ” Let’s hope Newkirk never gets stuck in classifications.
Kori Newkirk at his downtown Los Angeles studio, October 2010. Shirt: D&G. T-shirt: Newkirk’s Own.
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