drawing

Roger Kukes: Many stories

The retrospective of work by Roger Kukes deftly invites us into the unsettling narratives that whirl around us

One way that art inspires recognition is with inklings of the real, counterbalanced with the unreal. The work of visual artist Roger Kukes is emphatically clever and clear. His oeuvre is characterized by an esthetic sense that resounds with the whirling of the world, the tale of it all as he’s come to know it. Like all of life, it’s a beautifully controlled chaos.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay is excerpted from the much-longer introduction to the 25-year retrospective of the work of Portland artist Roger Kukes. That retrospective is in the Augen Gallery, 716 NW Davis Street, through November 2. 


Kukes works between the modes of acrylic, watercolor, and gouache painting, lithography, graphite and ink drawing. His work comprises medium- to large-format works which—like the best of our poets and experimental filmmakers—juxtapose the illogical with the utterly clear, the wryly comical with the tragic, the architectonic with the haphazard.

Roger Kukes, “Second Drawing” 1986 Ink on paper 8 1/2×14 1/4” 

This method allows the artist to move beyond intellectual or conventional narrative themes. Kukes shows the understanding that life’s indeterminacy can be a virtue when harnessed to imagination. His manner of rendering is that of the seasoned draftsman, with the facility of the magician behind a movie-camera, the poet taking you to far-off places.

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