The Big, the Bold, and the Beautiful: Kessler and the Spirit of Modern Painting

Written by Victoria Kennedy, Fine Art Consultant

Michael Kessler

Michael Kessler

Michael Kessler and the Spirit of Modern Painting

In a world where the words “modern” and “art” can inspire anything from a canvas that looks like it was attacked by a two-year-old Jackson Pollack to a stuffed shark sitting in a tank of formaldehyde (thanks, Damien Hirst), myself, and many others, have become skeptical of the nature of modern art.  Does it require any raw talent?  Or simply a taste for ingenuity and a daring personality?  While perusing through contemporary galleries or auction house websites, I am often tempted to delete the page and find solace in the familiarity and talent of the “Old Masters”.  To return to a time where the painting technique was combined with the cutting edge of creativity to produce works that were, simply put, beautiful.

Perhaps I am biased, but the more I become acquainted with the artists at Gallery MAR, and the more I pour over our carefully chosen collections, the more respect I gain for modern artists.  And of those, in particular, Michael Kessler has caught my eye.

Michael Kessler, "Stand (3)," 40" x 96"

Michael Kessler, “Stand (3),” 40″ x 96″

How can I even describe his work?  Three words immediately come to mind.  For one: “Big”.  If you do not immediately notice a Kessler work by its size, you must be looking at the ground.  His panels are stretched, pulled, challenged, and taken, quite honestly, to their limits.  While speaking to him on the phone last week, Kessler said that he was looking forward to pursuing a 40 x 80 ft. piece.  Kessler is constantly changing the shapes and sizes of his works.  His Skyclips (25) stands at an impressive 25” x 114”, like a blue waterfall cascading down the inner walls of Gallery MAR.  Although their size is impressive, they are not overwhelming, but quite fitting.

“Bold” is another word that my mind evokes while standing in front of a Kessler piece.  While many modern paintings can be considered bold for the unruly disturbance of subject or technique upon the canvas, a Kessler is bold because it is confident.  His works do not seek unwarranted attention, nor do they make the viewer uncomfortable – it is quite the opposite.  Many are drawn to his works because they exude a striking spirit of liveliness and the harmony of nature and balance.  Looking at a Kessler feels, at least to me, like a form of meditation.  They are solemn, yet firm and thundering if given a chance to speak.

Michael Kessler, "Seabed (10)," 72" x 48"

Michael Kessler, “Seabed (10),” 72″ x 48″

Yet the colors on the canvas of a Kessler are what truly evoke the word: “Beautiful”.  Most often, Kessler choses to utilize primary colors or complementing, natural tones to drape his canvases.  These, in turn, summon moods, music, or recollections of nature.  The crashing of waves against a bleak, hard shore.  The raw, warm flames of a furnace.  The patterns of golden leaves in the fall.  Or the humming of an insect as it perches on a tree.  All these feelings are captures as separate, continuous moments, forever remembered in an instant.  Yet they are beautiful because they also recall something of ourselves.  It is not only the size of the canvas, nor his advanced and refreshing techniques, but the words and emotions that are conveyed by a Kessler.  For me, it is hope, and an answering challenge that today’s modern art will be relevant and revered past our time.

Making Magic — for Gallery MAR

We recently sent holiday gifts of handy door hangers that offer a reminder to our artists’ studio guests. “Do Not Disturb — I’m Making Magic for Gallery MAR”

Take a peek below at the photos we received from two of our artists. Keep them coming!

Glen Hawkins:

Door Knocker

Luis Garcia-Nerey (Kollabs)

Door Knocker

A Short, Slow Walk with Marina Abramovic

This piece has been re-posted, and edited for length, from Artspace to educate our readers.

Why I Took a Short, Slow Walk With Marina Abramovic

By Brittany Bailey

Dec. 14, 2014

Why I Took a Short, Slow Walk With Marina Abramovic

Brittany Bailey performing “Slow Motion Walk” at Miami’s National YoungArts Foundation

Earlier this month, I flew down to Miami to take a slow walk with Marina Abramovic. Let me explain.

Five years ago, when her retrospective “The Artist Is Present” was being developed for the Museum of Modern Art, Abramovic hired me to be one of the “re-performers” enacting her seminal performances in the museum’s galleries. During the year leading leading up to the show, Marina trained me and the other performers in exercises she had developed throughout her career as a durational performance artist. We were invited to her country home in upstate New York, where we fasted, slept in her barn, counted and separated rice, and took walks outside—always together, and usually in slow motion, taking the time to focus on every elongated movement. Then, during the exhibition, I alternately re-performed Luminosity, a 1997 piece in which Marina had suspended herself, naked and arms outstretched, on a bicycle seat mounted on a wall and made eye contact with the audience, and Relation in Time, a 1997 duet in which Marina had originally braided her hair together with that of her collaborator and lover, Ulay.

Viennale 2012: 'Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present' at Gartenbaukino

Viennale 2012: ‘Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present’ at Gartenbaukino. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Recently, while I was working on other projects, including a performance by the artist Christopher Knowles, Marina reached out to me again: during Art Basel Miami Beach, she was going to stage “Slow Motion Walk,” the exercise I knew well from training with her, and which had become part of the curriculum at the Marina Abramovic Institute. Would I like to help present the walk, which would be open to the public, and encourage visitors to join and slow down, focus, and be with their selves? Of course, I said. My main question was, “Will there be any bathroom breaks?” When I performed for Marina in the past, usually for three hours at a time, there were absolutely no bathroom breaks.

“Slow Motion Walk” took place on the third floor of a stained-glass-sheathed “Jewel Box” that Ignacio Carrera-Justiz designed in 1975 as part of the Bacardi headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard, and which now had become the campus of the National YoungArts Foundation—an organization I knew well from from my senior year of high school, when they awarded me a fellowship for my dancing. Today the “Jewel Box,” which contains colored-glass designs by the artist Johannes Dietz, is a sanctuary, and a registered historic site.

second view

“Slow Motion Walk” is not a performance piece—it’s purely an exercise from the Marina Abramovic Method, which is a regimen of drills that Marina believes in and performs herself. It is something you do, not watch; there is nothing to buy, only to experience. My role was to facilitate the exercise for six hours each day for four days, helping to guide anyone who wanted to participate through the steps.


On one special evening, to celebrate the collaboration of Moroso and the Marina Abramovic Institute, YoungArts hosted a “Silent Party” on their campus. I happened to be walking through so I sat down and silently awaited the arrival of Marina, who was late due to the protests against police brutality that had brought traffic to a standstill. The protests had started out silent, and we too were silent, at Marina’s request. Eventually she arrived and everyone was invited to speak.

marina walk

When “Slow Motion Walk” began, Marina was present—she said she needed to slow-walk, so she too took off her shoes and we all did the same. There were six or seven of us, and we began to walk one lap clockwise around the rectangular space, with Marina staying at the back of the group and myself in the front, though I eventually ended in the middle. This took about 45 minutes, and if someone had continued on the others might have followed—this seemed to be the pattern in the following days. Marina left shortly after the walk, giving me a kiss and hug goodbye. She still calls me her “baby.”

Over the course of the week, there were an average of 50 to 60 participants each day, sometimes with one person walking at a time, sometimes 10. In order to give the mind something to focus on, and to initiate a dialogue that could develop awareness, I explained that each step has four distinct movements: a lifting of the back foot, an extension of that leg, a touching down to the ground, and then a shift of weight before repeating. Then I established a rhythm and, after several steps, I would remind participants to see the space in front of them—which usually helped with alignment issues—to feel their breath move through their body, since slowing down breathing helps to slow down the walk.

The process is a bit like therapy. Sometimes therapy feels great right away, and other times it can feel shitty before it feels great, or maybe it never feels great. But I don’t think the point of “Slow Motion Walk” is to feel great.

Very few people stopped because they couldn’t physically handle the exercise, but there were some who would grab my arm because they were about to fall over, and others who didn’t wish to continue on after the first few steps. A handful of participants laughed hysterically at the idea of slowly walking around the space, and this I loved and viewed as a success in its own right. I pushed one wheelchair. There was one child who didn’t want to participate but watched her mother walk. A man and woman made two laps around the space, which took about two hours, and it was very beautiful. At least a third of the visitors were locals who came not because of Marina but because they wanted to see the space, which is usually inaccessible to the public. I enjoyed walking for as long as possible with the participants, and the only reason I would leave, slowly and quietly, was to welcome newcomers. It was a lovely way to get to know people I had never met before, and the time we shared together was delicate and sweet.

Holiday Gift Ideas from Gallery MAR

You know it’s going to happen.

December 24th will roll around and you… won’t… have… the right gift!

This year, plan ahead. Call Gallery MAR, and using your lucky gift recipient’s personality (and your budget) we will help you select the perfect work of art. Nothing is more personal than a piece that has been hand-crafted by one of our talented artists.

Below, a few ideas to get your own creative juices flowing. Please call the gallery for more information on any of these special pieces.


Joe Norman - Pressing Matters

Joe Norman

Bridgette Meinhold - Inner Peace

Bridgette Meinhold

Shawna Moore - Sky Divide

Shawna Moore

Mary Scrimgeour - Swim at Your Own Risk

Mary Scrimgeour

Pamela Murphy - Lagoon

Pamela Murphy

Alison Rash - Oliver All Over Again

Alison Rash

Laura Brzozowski - Up Swing

Laura Brzozowski

Nina Tichava - Lanterns (Geometric)

Nina Tichava

Cristall Harper - Friend

Cristall Harper

Antonio DiCola at Gallery MAR

We have just brought in a new designer to Gallery MAR, local to Utah bur originally from Boston, MA. He is a custom furniture designer and interior designer as well, and his new “Cirq Bench” is electric!

Cirq Bench - Antonio DiCola

Cirq Bench – Antonio DiCola

Enjoy a few photos of the custom bench, below. Antonio DC is available for custom design commissions as well, so please contact us for special orders or ideas!

Cirq Bench - Antonio DiCola

Cirq Bench – Antonio DiCola