Robert Kinmont was born in Los Angeles in 1937 and grew up outside Bishop California. He received his BFA from San Francisco Fine Arts Institute in 1970 and his MFA from University of California at Davis in 1971. After a brief stint of travel through Europe and the United States, Kinmont has lived and worked predominately in northern California. His career has been on his own terms, taking a thirty year break to open an art school, study and practice Buddhist meditation and work as a carpenter. In a press release for the 2012 solo exhibition, Wait, at Raebervon Stenglin in Zurich, the artist’s practice is described as follows: “For Kinmont, art is secondary to living, yet is all the richer for that. His practice contains attitudes and subtleties rarely seen in contemporary art: an ambivalence towards making things and an acceptance also that much that is worth communicating may go unseen.” Prior to checking out of the art world, Kinmont had an active and impressive exhibition record, including Lucy Lippard’s exhibitions Idea—Document and 557,087. Lippard also included Kinmont’s Eight Natural Handstands and My Favorite Dirt Roads in her book, Six Years. It was in this seminal text by Lippard that curator/artist Julie Ault came across the photograph of Kinmont precariously perched in a handstand on the earth’s edge, ultimately prompting her to include him in Mirage, a 2005 group exhibition curated with Martin Beck at Alexander and Bonin gallery in New York. Establishing his contributions and impact early in his career, Kinmont was included in State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, and End of the Earth: Art of the Land to 1974 at LA MOCA as part of Pacific Standard Time, the 2011/2012 Southern California celebration of the historical birth of the L.A. art scene.
127 Willow Forks (This is Who I Am)
“I accept art to be evidence of human existence. I have found that we are able to make a very small amount of all the pieces we think about. So it’s a little bit like leaving footprints just occasionally. And the footprints we leave have been chosen. It is very telling but never conclusive.” Robert Kinmont
127 Willow Forks (This is Who I Am), 2010 is comprised of three rows of forked willow branches cut to various lengths and gently attached to the wall. The forks are accompanied by a maple, pine and birch plywood case containing the surplus willow forks with “127 Willow Forks” lightly stenciled in pencil on the front of the box and “This is Who I Am” stenciled across the top of the box lid. The press release for Kinmont’s solo exhibition Evidence in 2010 at Alexander and Bonin gallery states, “For Kinmont these forks bring to mind a reference to one’s life as well as to the variety found in any single category in nature. The arrangement of the forks functions as a metaphor for structure and diversity in society.”
In where is the power, 127 Willow Forks (This Is Who I Am) occupies and holds the south wall in the front space of the gallery. Seventy-three of the 127 forked willow branches confidently take their places in ordered lines on the wall, while fifty-four remain in the box from which they all came, as if this exquisite display was inevitable. There is a sense of solitude and patience in 127 Willow Forks (This Is Who I Am) that brings to mind a comment by Merleau-Ponty in his essay on the painter Paul Cezanne, “the truth is, for that work to be done called for that life.” In learning more about Kinmont through the writing of Julie Ault and others it seems probable that Merleau-Ponty’s observation does in fact apply to much of Kinmont’s work.