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James Kiberd A major work honors
life’s opportunity - life’s fragility
in a series of 18 panels

60" H x 48" W; oil and wax on board - 1997

(click on art works to see larger image with more detail)

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“One should rid his work of all fiction save one: the Supreme Fiction.
  - Wallace Stevens

James Kiberd has been working assiduously for many years towards a “Supreme Fiction”, which is at once a shout, a dance and a chant. Each work is a swath of improvisational sound and irrepressible silence winning visibility by its own force. Loving thoroughly and in detail the forming of a work as an unravelling of the intricacies of subject and matter, James Kiberd finds the visual equivalent for an intensest set of feelings: these are offerings made in the air, eventually made of nothing - like a dewdrop’s ascending becoming the air. Who knows how? Like prayers and celebrations.
  James Rosen, Professor
The Meyer Shapiro Program
Augusta State University
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James Kiberd

by Alan Gussow, Piermont
- 1997 -

Bernard Berenson, in writing about Piero della Francesca, talked about the “art of the ineloquent”. For Berenson, it was as if in a della Francesca painting everything and everyone was set up to act, to begin; all it would take would be the arrival of the viewer to set events into motion. Think of della Francesca’s Flagellation of Christ, in which three figures stand poised to converse while others, in the background, are ready to begin the whipping of Christ. It takes our arrival as viewers to begin the action.

When we enter a room filled with paintings by James Kiberd, we know that the action has begun long before our arrival. The pent-up energy, the springing forms, the dizzying, animated spirals - all charged, shooting off sparks in every direction. It takes a brave soul to enter this chamber and confront such high spirits, to confront the electricity which sizzles in every direction. As a child, I recall getting an innocent box labelled “Treats” which, when opened, allowed a compressed and coiled snake to spring out and jump across the room, even as I and my friends squealed with delight and fear. Kiberd’s paintings are like those innocent boxes - except that the wrap has been removed. They jump from the canvas, they leap across the room. If we allowed the child in each of us to be present, I suspect we would also squeal with delight.

Kiberd claims his work is intended to “give form to the celebration of life and its processes”. He seeks “places of renewal” and insists “culture needs images to feed itself”. This new series, titled A LOVE SUPREME, began with images of both gaiety and sobriety. His forms are not anthropomorphic - no arms, legs or heads here. They are definitely organic, reminding the viewer more of geography, grasses and vines. Kiberd’s pallete in the series is restricted, yet the color is never arbitrary. He coaxes endless variety out of such color limits. In one piece (#6), the last in what he terms the “Acknowledgement” part of the suite, Kiberd has two hanging currents coming near each other, creating an almost palpable energy flow, like two live wires about to touch and give off sparks.

Beginning with the “Resolution” phase, we are introduced to a cast of characters, more joyful than what we have seen before. They behave like musical notes, moving up and down. The architecture becomes more pronounced, the bending more obvious. In others which follow, Kiberd veers close to cartooning, saved by his integrity and the importance the forms have for him. As we reach toward the conclusion of this series, the icons become more visible, the weight of forms increases, the linear elements thicken. In the final few, we witness a calming, a seeding, a feeling of profound fertility, greater balance and harmony.

Kiberd is an artist of great intelligence, yet he fearlessly welcomes the exuberant and the irrational. He is willing to risk raucous failure and energy out of control, waiting until the very last moment to bring his forms into a cohesive and purposeful order. His work asks our surrender. The rewards of yielding are an increase in our own energy, a sense of release and a feeling of bouyancy created by the interaction with good art.

Alan Gussow
(1931 - 1997)
Artist, Curator, Author, Teacher,
and a Pioneer in the Environmental Movement
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Bio & Artist's Statement black and white drawings Catalog
Unicef New Works and Current Exhibitions Acquire Art Work

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copyright ©1998-2000 by James Kiberd