Monday, February 6, 2012

Project One Research - Sonny Kay


The work of the artist Sonny Kay is of interest to me because I find that it exists within the same genre and mode of work that I am currently exploring with this first project. However, it is interesting to me to see how his career in the art world has changed so drastically since his college years, as I find that it reflects my own constantly shifting interests. Kay attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he had intended to study painting, but soon became interested in and focused on printmaking (Hold Up Art). However, during his sophomore year he founded the record label Gold Standard Laboratories (GSL) and then began to devote himself to the art side of promoting a wide variety of bands through GSL (Hold Up Art). Even after the label folded his reputation and friendship with different musicians has led Kay to create and provide artwork for records from groups like RX Bandits, Omar Rodriguez Lopez and The Mars Volta (La Ruffa).
     Of course, one of the main reasons that I am drawn to Kay’s work is because of the overwhelming visuals. I say overwhelming in the best sense possible, as when looking at his work, the viewer is confronted by these scenes that come directly from some unusual dreamscape. These digital collages seem completely random at first glance, but upon looking at them for a longer period of time it seems impossible for such a scenario to not exist – everything fits perfectly into the world he has established through using a variety of image sources from, “… Scans from old postcards and charity store books as well as digital treasures sourced from across the internet (Hold Up Art). However, Kay does not force these varying elements to suit his creative whims, instead he begins each work with just a theme and lets the materials/images available decide what will happen with each work (La Ruffa).
Search Party (Megaritual II)

     Now looking at Kay’s own work it is somewhat difficult to discern exactly what the original thought or evolving concept behind the piece actually is. Kay is quick to point out this possibility saying that although the original thought/message behind a piece is important to himself, that same notion may be lost when a viewer looks at one of his images (La Ruffa). However, even if the original message is lost, the piece’s clean look and multitude of imagery installs in the viewer a, “…Hypothetical version of reality that we’re not really certain doesn’t exist” (Hold Up Art). For example, in Kay’s piece Adrift, as a viewer I cannot say for sure what the original idea for the piece was, but as a viewer I am convinced of this group of chimpanzees and birds seemingly lost at sea and without hope – the last remnants of some civilization. To the viewer they are doomed to drift some nether region on a pontoon of bananas and Maori statues.
     I think this aspect of Kay’s stand on the creative process is what I relate to the most in terms of what I am doing with this project. Specifically, I fully appreciate how the artist starts with a general theme, but the final outcome may be totally different from what he may have been initially expecting and it is all up to the images available and how they interact. But no matter what the outcome, the world depicted is eerily believable. Again, I think this flexibility in terms of the physical final product and the final idea/concept that is seen by a viewer is what is working well and is what I think relates to my own work; the whole working process is flexible and evolutionary and the quality of the final work reflects this.
     Finally, when looking at Sonny Kay’s work as a whole, I think that one of the major strengths of the work is the high quality of these “digital collages.” None of the work contains elements that seem disjointed or out of place in terms of that particular image. Despite little to no narrative elements in the works, the work of Sonny Kay can be viewed and interpreted in a multitude of ways by any one viewer.

Menagerie, 2007-2009


Kay, Sonny. "Sonny Kay." Interview by Evan La Ruffa. The Citrus Report. N.p., 29 May 2009. Web. 6      Feb. 2012.

Hold Up Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2012.

Adrift and Search Party -
Menagerie -
Higher quality images found at -

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