seraphin gallery, philadelphia, art gallery, fine art, contemporary art, ken mabrey
Ken Mabrey’s work documents the American scene in the tradition of Bellows, Bishop, Hopper, Marsh and Sloan. Taking mundane, everyday events such as playing, driving and shopping, he translates them into joyous celebrations braced with irony and tempered with fantasy:
"My work is conceived from an automatic painting method in which I mark the canvas, the page, or the litho-stone at random. These markings stimulate my imagination into visualizing abstractions of a locale or a figure. The process then becomes a problem-solving situation. A conversation between the artist and work evolves as follows: How do I populate this space? How can I bring it to life? What is the pivotal point or image upon which this work turns? How should the light fall and how will it best support the narrative elements? Will a cast shadow create another figure? What does it imply in the story line?
After this drawing process is far enough along, the locale is established, and characters are delineated. Then that fifth wheel of color comes into play, deliberately throwing the drawing off. How do I change the scene to compensate for these color shifts? What is the proper color weight and intensity to make this work hang together?
It is a constant back and forth, check and balance of color and drawing until the piece is complete, revealing something about this strange dance we call life. I obscure to reveal. One must sort through these paintings little by little, watching out for the barbs. Enjoy!"
From all Compass Points
“Ken Mabrey was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved with his mother and brother at a young age to the northern region of Wilmington. He earned his undergraduate degree in the fine arts from Indiana University and a master’s from Yale University’s School of Art. He lives today in Arden, the historic, single-tax community established in 1900 in New Castle County. Although its residents once included Shakespearean actors and followers of the American Arts & Craft movement, Arden’s most famous association was with the socialist writer Upton Sinclair — a connection not lost on Mabrey, whose work is often centered on the failings of American society. Allowing his imaginative powers to take flight, he invents visual narratives he describes as “tempered with fantasy and braced with irony.”
Excerpt from 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley, by Catherine Quillman