As anyone who has visited the venerable Tillou Gallery here will attest, the shop has three floors full of fine American furniture, paintings, folk art and related accessories of the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. On December 1, however, all the action was on the first floor where a gala preview reception ushered in a large, convivial crowd eager to see the dramatic exhibition of the large-scale, dreamlike photographic landscapes created by Kim Keever and meet with the artist himself.
The show, which is up until January 6, features 15 of the monumental photographs that Keever summons from his imagination by constructing miniature topographies in a 200-gallon tank, filling it with water and then, with an alchemy of colored lights and pigment dispersed into the tank, produces ephemeral scenes that he quickly captures with a large-format camera.
In the words of gallery director Claire Simler, “These dioramas of fictitious environments are fabrications of reality, yet they are panoramas that evoke a continuation of the landscape tradition, referencing a broad history of Romanticism, the Hudson River School and Luminism.”
That was clearly evident in the majestic 49-by-72-inch work titled “West 91r” that drew admiring comments from the preview patrons gathered around it and the sumptuous Federal inlaid sideboard, circa 1795‱810, above which it was displayed. The landscape evoked craggy snow-covered peaks in the distance and a sunlit forest and foothills in the foreground, while a light show of clouds and sunlight swirled above.
So enamored of this artist’s work are gallerist Jeffrey Tillou and his father, Peter Tillou, guiding spirits of the four such shows the gallery has undertaken to show how antiques and contemporary art can create powerful synergies, that they purchased two of Keever’s works for themselves †Jeffrey the above-mentioned “West 91r” and Peter a fiery evocation called “Sunset 44d,” 2007, 31 by 48 inches.
“We are getting very strong interest in the works and anticipate additional sales to our clients,” said Jeffrey Tillou. Keever said childhood memories of growing up along the eastern shore of Virginia figure in the influences on his work. There he witnessed the natural beauty of the water, sunsets and cloud-filled landscapes that inform his artistic vision.
His first vocational pursuit, however, as an engineer †he left graduate school in the late 1970s to pursue art †is what provides the science he harnesses to create his artwork. A studio view of the water tank, lighting armatures, hoses, buckets of pigment and so on call to mind a scientist’s lab rather than an artist’s atelier. The engineering background also finds its way into Keever’s taxonomy of titling his works †”West 91r,” “Estuary 27,” “Forest 58e.”
Asked about the significance of the numbers and small letters, Keever said that they signify a stage in the process of creating a work in which so many “takes” of the same scene may be captured, much like a moment in time.
Keever lives in New York City, and has exhibited in many galleries throughout the United States and abroad. His works are part of several prominent museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. This is his first solo exhibition in Connecticut.
Tillou Gallery is at 39 West Street. For further information, www.tillougallery.com or 860-567-9693.