Val Kilmer: His Latest Role as an Artist in Gabba Gallery Pop-Up

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Most people know Val Kilmer for his film and theater roles, but there’s a new part in Kilmer’s dramatic quiver that is less familiar to his fans – that of artist.

“I’ve developed strong and nuanced themes in my art from acting and performance that relate to iconic images or ideas – so there’s a thread of the icon and the Iconographic throughout the exhibition,” Kilmer said of his four day pop-up at Gabba Gallery in late July.

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While the artist’s renown certainly piqued interest in the exhibition, the power of his work more than stood for itself. In Icon Go On, I’ll Go On, Kilmer creates a series of icons – iconic characters he portrayed; icon-like abstract images with a strong spiritual bent, and words representing and directed at the icon that is “GOD.”

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The exhibition title itself refers to lines in Samuel Beckett’s 1953 novel, Unnamable — “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Kilmer, who resides and has a studio in New Mexico, is making his own existential declaration, having survived and healed from a run in with oral cancer. While healing, he created art.

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Divided into three main sections, the work was highly spiritual in nature. Using metal panels as canvas for his acrylics and laser cut works, some images are representational, some abstract. All in all, there were over 100 works on display, including sculptural pieces.

According to gallery owner Jason Ostro, “There is a lot of meaning to his work. Val is a very deep guy.  Super kind and extremely creative, it’s been a pleasure to work with him,” he notes.

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First up were a series of representational works with himself as a character  – Doc Holliday, Batman. Using stencils, he depicts these mythic images in an easily recognizable way, yet somehow the images are deeper than what we see on the surface. There is something otherworldly about them, as if the person who was portraying these figures were hovering just beyond the visual frame.

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Kilmer’s abstract works were beautifully colored, evoking images of the universe seen through a telescope, the stuff of ethereal, vivid dreams. Painted on metal with a black background, the shiny base of these layered, richly colored works pulls the eye deeper into the painting. Described as having a “blackhole” quality by Kilmer, there is the sense of seeing into another dimension. If the artist’s depiction of his character personas felt as if another being was hovering “off camera,” here, the viewer feels as if a different spiritual plane was floating just out of reach.

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The third section of the exhibition featured large laser-cut metal panels of the word “GOD.” Individual panels were grouped together, inviting viewers to viscerally see and connect with the word and the meaning of God. Groupings of some sixteen of these panels were paired with individual panels; others featured personal, handwritten thoughts, meditative exercises.
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There was even a neon piece created by Kilmer, a kindly commandment.
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Ostro relates that the show came about when a patron of the gallery who loved the energetic vibe of the space brought the gallery to the attention of Kilmer’s staff. “One of Val’s ‘people’ came to initially see the gallery, and after a few hours of talking and laughing, they loved it. I was told if Val was interested, he would be at the gallery sometime the next day.  I opened the doors at noon, and he was standing there eager to check out the space.  After talking for a few hours he said he’d get back to me, and a couple days later, we were planing his art show for July.”
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Above, gallerist Jason Ostro.

Kilmer fans and art lovers take note: the new exhibition opening Saturday August 12th at Gabba, Cratedigger 2, features several works by Kilmer in the second iteration of a terrific show that pays homage to the art of the record sleeve. Over a hundred international and local artists will be exhibiting.

Ostro adds that a smaller, solo show of Kilmer’s is already being planned for 2018.

  • Genie Davis; photos: courtesy of Gabba Gallery and by Genie Davis

 

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