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“sequentiality” exhibition video


Video shot from my solo exhibition “sequentiality” at The Asheville School, October-November 2015. “sequentiality” consisted of

Kotara’s new exhibit is ‘Secondary’ to none

Kenn Kotara’s new exhibit is ‘Secondary’ to none

When thinking of artwork, grids and science, structure and geometry might not necessarily be a person’s first thoughts. At first, they weren’t for local artist Kenn Kotara either.

“My background is really in classical drawing,” Kotara said. “I can draw you realistically. And I reveled in that. I reveled in the ability to be able to copy something. But I soon realized, to me, that was just copying something. I wanted to look into my own grey matter and see what I may be able to extract and extrapolate on. It evolved into adding abstraction” to his formerly photorealistic art.

“And adding abstraction became more conceptual,” he continued.”It’s more of my own ideas, instead of looking at something and copying it.”

Kotara’s unique mixed media artwork will be on display for the month of April at the brand-new London District Studios, which opened near Biltmore Village in March. This showing is a special treat for Asheville, as, while Kotara lives and works in the region, most of his shows and work are held or shipped out of state.

Drawing his creativity from a somewhat unusual place, Kotara talks about “the grid.” The grid is less about what’s off the grid and more about what’s on — or being connected by — it.

“The grid has always been prominent within the underlying structure and foundation,” he said. Think urban planning — “the way our streets are laid out. Oftentimes 90 degrees is much easier to deal with, but that’s only the starting point. And that’s what I was thinking about for the title of this show. The grid is the primary impetus for the work. Everything that’s secondary comes in afterthought — how I connect to those grids. I found that those strict parameters still allow for a great amount of creativity. I like the idea of starting with a very basic, closed-off system and opening it up to the possibilities.”

While living in Texas, Kotara would leave his home in the city and drive far out into the country — looking for shapes and colors that stood out from the grid.

“I would look at landscapes, and I would enjoy the way that farmers not only would fence off some of their properties but the way they would lay out the crops. They’d be creating these shapes and forms, and, if I had a decent enough vantage point, I’d use those forms to create the abstraction.”

It’s all about the way we, as humans, see and interact with the world. “Nature and human nature — the yin and yang,” he said.

But aside from picking up the abstract in the concrete, Kotara has also been experimenting with Braille to connect on more than just a visual level.

“Braille is a geometry; they’re circles,” Kotara pointed out. “I attempted to incorporate them for a different reason, and realized that I ended up loving that haptic, that touch, that sensory component as a language itself.”

Kotara takes excerpts from the works of important figures — Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau — and translates that into Braille to create a compelling, tactile work that’s more than just paint on canvas.

And some of his latest works take it one step further: “I’m sort of redacting Braille,” he explained. “Braille on a white background, covering certain things with black paint.”

These pieces of the text may, visually, be censored. But, for those who read by touch, the words are still there. “So what does that mean for us?” Kotara asked. “Do we still recognize that as a redacted document? Oftentimes that’s what really strikes us” — the black rectangular boxes shielding the public’s eyes.

Not everyone “gets” abstract art, and Kotara said he’s OK with that. “You see an abstract piece of artwork and (you) say, ‘What in the hell is this?'” Kotara explained. But, as an artist, he said he finds a lot of joy in the different ways people interpret his art — “it becomes something else, entirely different,” he said. “Some people find a rusty truck door beautiful and they want to hang it on their wall. It isn’t just because it’s a door. It’s the emotional ties, this family member, this old story, this narrative that’s a thread in each and every one of us.”


What: Opening reception for Kenn Kotara’s “Secondary” exhibit

Where: London District Studios, 8 London Road, Asheville

When: Friday, April 8, beginning at 5 p.m.

Intersection of Atoms

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2014
Contact: Mary Tomas Gallery, Dallas TX

At the intersection of atoms

Solo Exhibition featuring noted artist Kenn Kotara

49 artworks including braille, paper, canvases, suspended screen structures

DALLAS – March 14, 2014 – At the intersection of atoms, Solo Exhibition by Kenn Kotara at Mary Tomas Gallery, 1110 Dragon Street, Dallas, TX. Opening reception April 5, 2014, 6 pm – 9 pm with the artist in attendance. Showcasing the latest works of Louisiana native and nationally-known artist Kenn Kotara this solo exhibition, At the intersection of atoms, includes an astonishing 49 artworks of Braille, works on paper, canvases, and suspended screen structures, The exhibition, which runs through May 11, 2014 is also featured at the DADA Spring Walk on April 19, 2014, Noon – 8 pm.

Kenn Kotara, an Asheville, North Carolina based artist and a Louisiana native, holds a BFA in Graphic Design and an MFA in Studio Art. His architectural background and Louisiana roots permeate his abstract paintings and works in mixed media which are structured based on a grid system with layers of circular and linear shapes and color. His curiosity with space and form led Kotara to examine the Braille system of communication, perceiving the language of dots as geometry in miniature and bearing a natural relationship with the grid. Kotara’s work has been included in over 100 exhibitions internationally and is in numerous private, public and corporate collections.

At the intersection of atoms presents the harmonious and symbiotic relationship between a seemingly diverse body of work The exhibition content initiates and responds to various inspirational catalysts, all while capturing and organizing bits of abstract information.  The use of the word atoms is derived from the fixed matrix of Braille dots and from the adjacency of dots, or points on a line. Fascinated with nature, form, space and connections between people and their environments, he explores theories of natural and physical science and the entire cosmos through his two- and three-dimensional work. “ I think of what it is like to possess perfect vision, yet the junction of one’s philosophies and ideologies creates impairment, comments Kotara. When we can’t see beyond our own ideas, we accept them as sufficient.What if we were to shift, even slightly?  Might a glimmer recalibrate our optics, our perceptions?”

Mary Tomas Gallery has generously pledged a percentage of opening night sales to benefit the Reading & Radio Resource center in Dallas. The mission of Reading & Radio Resource is to create specialized audio content for children and adults with unique reading and learning needs. The programs they offer enhance education, advance careers, and strengthen community involvement for people who experience barriers to reading.

For more information on Kenn Kotara, the exhibition, and Reading & Radio Resource center in Dallas contact Mary Tomas at Mary Tomas Gallery (214) 727-5101mary@marytomasgallery.com www.marytomasgallery.com


# # #

Photo attached:  “El Rio/The River” Hand-punched Braille dots of transcribed poem by Nobel prize winner Octavio Paz in Spanish and English.  Braille copper on wood panel, 6’ x 6’ x 3”.

Media contact:  Karol Wilson, K. Wilson Communications (214) 321-1971 or karolwilson526@aol.com

Please visit www.marytomasgallery.com


Bold Life

February, 2011

Bold Life. Western North Carolina’s arts and culture monthly

“Square Roots” by Joanne O’Sullivan, Photography by Rimas Zailskas

On the surface of it, the curving lines in Asheville artist Kenn Kotara’s paintings and sculptures are abstractions, lyrical studies in the division of space.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that at its roots, the work is grounded in observations of nature and the current of math and geometry that runs through all natural forms.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kotara studied architecture as an undergraduate. He moved to Western North Carolina in 1997 to work as a graphic designer with a friend’s company, but soon started experimenting with painting and pastel drawing on paper and eventually went back to school for an MFA in Studio Art.  Work as a graphic designer did not allow him to have free time. While transitioning from graphic design to fine art, Kotara retained a designer’s affinity for pattern and abstract form, an architect’s grounding in geometry and line, and his own fascination with the natural world, from microscopic forms invisible to the naked eye to the swirl of a hurricane seen from a satellite far above the earth.

Kotara’s distinctive works on paper, canvas, Mylar, and screen have gained attention both nationally and internationally, and his work has been included in over 80 exhibitions and is housed in the permanent collections of museums including the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge and the Asheville Art Museum. Locally, his work can also be seen at Gallery Minerva.

Kotara’s Barbe espagnole (Spanish moss) series evokes the swaying motion of the iconic moss familiar to all Southerners, but interprets the form and movement in a range of media, a spectrum of color and varying degrees of density. While a hint of the original inspiration may still be detected, the work is just as likely to suggest to the viewer entirely different, but equally iconic forms – plumes of smoke, strands of DNA under a microscope, ripples on the surface of water. By taking a single image – the graceful, curved line – and rendering it in such a variety of ways, Kotara focuses attention on how media and technique can re-articulate it. It can be obscured under layers, called to the forefront with vivid colors, blurred, sharpened, dissected or clustered. Rather than appear repetitive, the image becomes infinitely mutable.

“What I love about him as an artist is that he’s always pushing himself, taking his ideas and looking in every direction and trying every media,” says Nancy Sokolove of the Asheville Art Museum.

Kotara’s recent three-dimensional work is a perfect example of his boundary-pushing in action. Kinetic sculpture created from strips of window screen connected with wire and hardware, the pieces are meant to be suspended from a ceiling in a space where they can be observed from all sides. Kotara says that while doing a home addition that included a screened-in porch, his attention was drawn to the rolls of window screen used in the process. “I don’t fabricate my own materials, so I’m interested in how I can use what’s already out there,’ he says. Fiberglass screen, he discovered, had many appealing qualities that lent itself to the kind of work he was doing: it’s translucent, it holds paint, it’s flexible, and best of all, it can be layered.

Kotara experimented with different ways to manipulate strips of screen – cutting into and painting on them – then different ways to layer and display the screens, from attaching them to wire with clothespins to dangling them from hangers on a coat rack to suspending them at equidistant points on a wire-and-hardware base he created himself. There are even a few pieces built using tomato cages as armatures. At first, Kotara says, he anchored the screens on the top and bottom, but now he lets the lower end move freely, allowing the screens to respond to the environment they’re in: the rush of air as a viewer walks by or the swivel of the wire on the hardware from which they’re hung.

The sculpture is something of a departure from the sometimes dreamy, sometimes pulsing nature of Kotara’s paintings and pastel works on paper, and yet there are common threads between the two lines of work: the undulating, circles painted onto the screens, the complex layering that draws the viewer in but doesn’t dictate any clear conclusions.

“As any sculpture should,” says Sokolove. “It changes as you turn with it and your perspective changes.”

Sokolove selected one of Kotara’s screen sculptures for inclusion in the Asheville Art Museum’s upcoming Homage 2, an exhibition dedicated to artists’ interpretations of the square (and a nod to the influence of Black Mountain College professor Josef Albers and his work of the same title). Despite the seemingly limiting construct of the square, Kotara explores curvilinear forms within its confines and depth through the successive layers of screen, inviting the viewer to look closer, through and in between each layer.

That ability to dig deeper is part of what makes Kotara an exciting artist, one Sokolove says, we can expect to continually push the boundaries of his work.

Kenn Kotara will co-host a lunchtime tour of the Asheville Art Museum’s permanent collection along with artist Steven Seinberg on March 11 at noon. Homage 2 opens October 1 at the Asheville Art Museum’s Gallery 6. Visit kotarastudio.com for more info.


Rapid River Arts

Rapid River Arts, November, 2011
Expressions of Inquisitivity:  The Art of Kenn Kotara by Janiece Marie Meek

               profile     crepuscular image    orange rapid river

When Kenn Kotara speaks about his art work, he engages your intellectual curiosity.  “In the creation of abstract art forms, I am both initiating and responding to various inspirational catalysts, ranging from diverse issues that we humans must deal with on the one hand, to romantic notions of nature that were prevalent in days past, on the other.”  Fascinated with nature – of form,  space, and connections between people and their environments – this Asheville artist explores theories of natural and physical science, and the entire cosmos as he responds to creative queries, such as: How does form come into being?

Responses to these queries unfold through Kotara’s works on canvas, paper, Mylar, and Polaroid photography.  Another media, Braille, typically on paper, straddles a line between two and three-dimensions, with suspended screen structures occupying their space wholly in-the-round.  He has also realized several site-specific installations incorporating multiple media, transforming viewer into participant.

Grid–based systems – layered, connected and interlaced by way of organic circulinear lines floating through them – recur in Kotara’s art.  This imagery often suggests patterns found in nature and mysteries of his native Louisiana bayou.  Closely related, his Mylar works shift toward nature’s fractals and number system, the Fibonacci series.  Here, his fascination with units both organic and mathematic guides iterations of graphite polylines on Mylar substrate.

“Flowers were the initial inspiration for this work but as I continued examining various shapes, I altered the individual element such that instead of being circular, it morphed into variants as it repeated.  I realized that the variety of repetitive shapes seemed to be somewhat like people.  People naturally strive for connection to community, and simultaneously long for distinction based on our unique qualities.  So, the individual component – a person, an organic fractal – is a cosmos in and of itself.  And when these units are composed – together and moving in rotation – we, like organic fractals, fashion complex universal systems.”

With his suspended screen structures, a troupe of dynamic and responsive structural networks break free from the two-dimensional plane.  In motion independently, the screens create moiré patterns of connection and oblique veiling.  They are activated by invisible energies within an exhibition space – people moving about, air manipulated by handling systems – and respond much as the as barbe espagnole (Spanish moss) of his home place, rarely in full repose.

This past spring, Kotara’s art appeared in the second season of the HBO series “Treme” about post-Katrina New Orleans.  Through March 4, 2012, one of his suspended screen structures, “Echo,” can be seen as a part of the Joseph Albers-inspired “Homage Squared” exhibition at the Asheville Art Museum.  And, in April 2012, he will exhibit in “Waking up with Van Gogh” at the Hickory Museum of Art, and in “Today’s Visual Language: Southern Abstraction, A Fresh Look” at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Alabama.  In Asheville, Kotara is represented by Gallery Minerva and his canvas and paper works can be seen there.

Kotara knows that in the end, his abstract contemporary artworks speak for themselves. “Perhaps the internal push-pull that is not necessarily revealed in my art forms, but without a doubt leads me through them, is that I find the whole notion of chaos fascinating and yet want to somehow make sense of it.  I believe that it all alludes to an underlying universal harmony that is hopeful. And, this hope is about democracy, unity and coming together.” Kotara Studio, LLC website: www.kotarastudio.com.

Exhibition Review

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
, 2007 Review, Debra Wolfe

“New Paintings: Tania Becker” and

“Stratum: Kenn Kotara”

Tania Becker and Kenn Kotara offer enticing approaches to abstraction, layering and underlying geometries.

Becker presents vivid reflections of Earth inspired by images taken from space. The simplicity of a single circular form and stunning use of color and energy achieved through layering and brushwork make her mixed-media paintings fiery and beautiful.

Building her surfaces with sculpted bits of tinfoil, salt and acrylic, Becker achieves a textured and luminous effect. She uses a selective palette of brilliant blues and touches of green and golden-yellows, washed and dripped through foreground and background.

Each painting offers a variation of planetary happenings. In “Running of the Map,” the circular form is broken, gaseous and swirling. Cool blues are singed with flecks of burning orange. “Salt of the Earth” is a seductive circle of watery blue, with a lick of flame that moves through its middle.”Tectonic Collision” grounds its highly active planes with a horizontal band of minutely patterned black, like a lunar surface from which we glance up.

Three small paintings on paper hang in a horizontal grouping, each suggesting an explosion of creation or earthly terrain. Filled with cobalt, cerulean and sapphire tones, these are delicate gems in a body of work that is wholly pleasurable.

Kotara’s collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures expresses his fascination with circular motifs, architectural marks and layering. Spirals tumble like a tangle of curls across two large canvases. Grid lines and coils fill a dozen pastel and pencil drawings on paper, installed cleverly in a grid on a single wall. Executed in restrained oranges, yellows, soft greens and blue, Kotara’s palette is similar to Becker’s but more contained. Entanglement and clarity coexist in his space.

Kotara’s hanging sculptures are a natural progression to three-dimensional work. Fiberglass screening is cut to varying lengths. Each piece is painted in a vertical scrolling design. These
meshlike panels are arranged into pleasing sets and assembled with plexiglass and common hardware.

“Autoportrait” consists of seven such panels. In a metaphor for human complexity, it moves from a densely designed center strip to simpler forms in the outer panels. “Moon Cloud Blankets” experiments with panels of graduated lengths, an effect resembling visual chimes. “To Tame the Ocean at Its Source” adds fluid, stencil-like cutouts on every panel. Each sculpture spins gently with the slightest passage of air. Patterns shift and ripple.
If Becker captures the uncontrollable forces of nature, Kotara offers a serene counterbalance, conceptual and cerebral. This pairing makes for a show that is smart, sensual and satisfying



Arlene Winkler Review

March, 2006
WNC Woman Magazine

Profile: Kenn Kotara

“Left foot, right foot, heart beat. Otherwise it gets too complicated.”

The music of Philip Glass greets me as I enter an enviable painter’s studio in North Asheville.
Light enters through high clerestory windows, beneath a ceiling that must be at least 16 feet at its peak. As usual, I don’t know where to look first. A large painting in process almost obscures one wall, tantalizing 3 dimensional works hang suspended from their own metal racks, and the completed canvases stacked on shelves hint at a many-yeared progression of ideas, styles and concepts. But my interest is even more piqued when Kenn Kotara tells me he comes from a nonart family.

“If that means it wasn’t part of your development, then this is amazing,” I reply, looking around me. “What was it that opened your mind to the idea of art?”

“My first visit to a museum in Dallas at the age of 28. Music, the sound of Kansas because it’s so orchestrated and complex and exacting; Philip Glass because it’s repetitious, like mowing the lawn one blade at a time. Now I only listen to music about half the time, I prefer the sound of the brush on canvas, pencil on paper, my own breathing. Left foot, right foot, heart beat. Otherwise it gets too complicated.

“Hold it, hold it! Let’s get back to the museum visit. You were 28? Seriously?”

“I started to draw well at a very young age and by the time I was ready for college my parents didn’t know what to do with me. So I started out in architecture school. As my Dad said, “That way you can make a living and paint on the weekends.” But in the fourth year of a five-year program I quit?It just wasn’t for me. After that, I roamed around Louisiana for a while, and at the advanced age of 28, came back to school and finished with a BA in graphic design. Right after I got my degree, an advisor mentioned there was an opening for an assistant in the graduate MFA program and I leapt at it. Who could pass up a chance to go to art school and get paid for it? To my amazement they accepted me and I enrolled in my first ever drawing program.”

“1990 to ’93 were the most enlightening years of my life. In the first year, at my first review, my professors tore me apart. 45 minutes of it, one after the other, all saying the same thing, “Sure you can draw?but you don’t know how.” I went home and did what anybody would?drank a lot of beer and fell asleep feeling sorry for myself. But at 7:30 the next morning my advisor called with the dread question: “What are you going to do?”

(I do a quick reality check: fabulous studio, hundreds of canvasses, a member of the Asheville Public Art Board whatever he did, it must have been right.)

“You’re going to take two weeks off,” his advisor said without waiting for an answer. “And you’re going to think about allowing yourself to fail at drawing.” He smiles in rueful reminiscence. “By the time I came back to school, I understood for the first time that by playing it safe, all I’d managed to do was the same thing I’d always done. By allowing myself to fail, I was able to open the door to new possibilities.”It strikes me as a perfect time to look at the artwork and talk about the present. His work is clearly abstract, done in varying combinations of pencil, pastels and acrylics, (delete the) but his deep connection to the landscape of his native Louisiana is undeniable. I sense more than see the influence of rivers, bayous and lush vegetation?especially Spanish moss or “Barbe Espagnol” one of his recurring motifs. In his most recent work, there is an underlying theme of the emergence of organic images out of the strict order of geometric shapes. The result is evocative, a deeply personal embrace of chaotic transition. I am particularly delighted with his three dimensional interpretation of the “Barbe Espagnol” iimages. Here he has translated the trailing curves onto a series of fiberglass screens, closely hung so the viewer experiences them both as unit and individually.

Thirteen years after graduating from Louisiana Tech University, with a growing interest on the part of collectors, Kenn has trimmed his life down to the essentials, his art, his family and a passion for public art; and here we have a true meeting of the minds. As an active member of Public Art Board, Kenn believes the obstacle to art in Asheville is the lack of education. He considers it his mission to take the show on road. “People have such confused notions about art and artists,” he texplains. “It’s hard to know what to talk about first; that art is really a profession, that we have an artistic history in this country, or how we can use public art to bring together a community and take pleasure in our differences.”

“It’s amazing how few people, know about the rich heritage we have right here. We have the Black Mountain legend to show us what American art can be. If not for Albers, Cunningham,
Motherwell, Buckminster Fuller? Where would American art be today? ”

“Well where is it?” I ask, thinking of a hotly contested public sculpture that ended up in pieces in a scrap yard near where I used to live in Brooklyn. At the same time that it broke my heart to see it there, to this day I believe it was an honest reaction on the part of people who had to live with it every day, who didn’t understand the artist’s intention, and who were never part of the decision process for a purchase that was made with their own tax money? not unlike Asheville’s reaction to the acquisition of Ida Kohlmeyer’s Conversation Piece. The good news is, everybody knew about it, everyone was talking about it. With a little more education, the conversation can turn to the value of art that inspires controversy.”

“The point is to offer a new way to think about it,” he replies. “I did a presentation to a church group recently and showed slides of the Paley sculpture. Like many people in Asheville they didn’t like it, didn’t get it. Then I showed them a view from across the street, with a tree in the foreground, and pointed out the similarity between the pointed shape of the maple leaves and Paley’s forms. Several people came up to me later and told me that I had shown them a new way to look at art. I figure if we reach a few people each time we can make some progress, open some minds.”

I believe him. It’s about mowing the grass one blade at a time, left foot, right foot, heart beat. Kenn Kotara has shown extensively including solo shows at Gallery C in Raleigh NC, Sandler
Hudson Gallery in Atlanta, GA and the Upstairs Artspace in Tryon NC. His work, which has been reviewed in numerous publications, is in corporate and private collections from Asheville to Las Vegas to Sumisho, Japan. To see more of his work please visit: www.kotarastudio.com



Depth Perception

WNC Magazine

Depth Perception. The many dimensions of Kenn Kotara reveal order amid chaos.

Article by Caroll Leggett, Photography by Jennifer Haynes



Abstract artist Kenn Kotara had a difficult time finding his path. “I started drawing as a child, and it always was a passion for me. But my father was very pragmatic,” recalls the Asheville artist. “He thought I should have a profession, a nine-to-five job that paid well.” After a short stint studying architecture, Kotara took his first drawing class at 28 and emerged with a master’s in fine arts from Louisiana Tech University.

Kotara wasn’t happy until painting became his sole occupation. Today at age 52, his home studio is tidy, and he describes his art as “making orderly systems out of chaos while I create in phases and categories.”   

The category that makes up his largest body of work involves curvilinear lines that seem random, spontaneous, and even aimless. However, every twist and turn is calculated. He begins each painting by creating a grid on the canvas and using the same dimensions for each circle. Kotara creates with a continuous awareness of positive and negative space, believing that empty space is important to composition.

Given the artist’s desire to work with pencils, ink, charcoal, pastels, oil pastels, acrylic, and oil paints on canvas, paper, and Mylar, he is wed to no one medium. “I have many temperaments,” he says, “and the fact that my work tends to fall into categories is illustrative of that. I move from one to the other as my inner need requires.”

A fan of transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, Kotara read On Walden Pond and then created artwork on paper for each of the 18 chapters. Each is comprised of two stacked color panels imprinted with braille.

These braille pieces reveal the thoughtful, multidimensional side of Kotara who has deep frustrations concerning the U.S. social and political systems. He chooses words and phrases from documents that are fundamental to the American political experience, such as the Magna Carta, and from the writings of persons he admires, such as Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. 

“I create on my own terms, and I love the moment of discovery when a viewer looks at something I have created and connects with it,” muses Kotara. “In my opinion, a good piece of art keeps you coming back for more.”                            


On View

Kotara is represented by Gallery Minerva in Asheville, Flanders Gallery in Raleigh, and Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.