The exhibition presents recent works by artist Kevin Kao through a series of gilded ceramic sculptures that combine the human form with the shape of air. Originating as an exploration of pneuma, an Ancient Greek concept for air and life, the sculptures manifest breath as a physical form bound to the human experience. Primarily constructed from clay, Kao transforms the pliable into permanent, positioning the role of craft and tradition as important influences. Air, unseen, is abstracted as biomorphic, suspension, and concrete. Through glazing and gilding, surfaces are treated akin to objects of reverence, such as reliquaries and Buddhist figurines, establishing a connection to the broad, universal appeal of gold.
Understood as “air in motion,” pneuma shares similar interpretations across the ancient world as life force, spirit, soul, and vitality. With the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition assumes new perspectives, amplifying the biological significance of breath as an integral essence to sustain life. What is air, but as evidence of language and lived experiences? Ideas of stillness and distance are imagined as defined spaces of memory, celebration, and remembrance.
Born and raised in California, Kevin Kao is a ceramic artist following a sculptural tradition. Having exhibited in over 50 exhibitions nationally, his work has been shown in several museums, galleries, and publications. He has received awards and recognitions, including the Warren MacKenzie Advancement Grant presented by the Northern Clay Center. He has earned a B.S. in Biology – Ecology, Evolution, and Animal Behavior from the University of California, San Diego; and an M.F.A. in Studio Art – Ceramics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Currently, Kao resides in St. Louis, MO and is an Assistant Professor of Art at McKendree University.