I got a review on KQED.
He likes the work but thinks I'm too much of an optimist! Pretty cool and thoughtful review of my work.
Kenney Mencher Renovates Reputations at the Art Museum of Los Gatos
Constance Noring Elementary, Kenney Mencher.
On the surface, Kenney Mencher's portraits, sketches, and
paintings are traditional, modest affairs. Now on view through January
6, 2012, at the Art Museum of Los Gatos, many of the pictures in his
show titled Renovated Reputations
are just eight by ten inches, not all that far removed from their diminutive photo-booth and passport-photo sources.
In style, Mencher's art is mostly loose, sometimes evoking the hasty
accuracy found on the covers of pulp fiction novels, or perhaps the New Yorker
if illustrator Owen Smith's been given that week's assignment. Other
paintings suggest the slow-moving, gray grainy monotone of film noir.
For his show in Los Gatos, each gallery, regardless of which style
prevailed, was outfitted with thrift-store couches and odd pieces of
occasional furniture, so his paintings of mischievous school kids, stoic
adults and smiling couples felt like family portraits in a home
setting, albeit ones with dangling paper tags bearing their titles. To
add to this atmosphere at the opening, anyone who cared to could duck
into a vintage photo booth to have his or her picture taken (a hat rack
crowned with fedoras was available for those who felt like getting into
The props and contrived staging were all part of Mencher's quest to
make artworks that tell stories, even if, especially if, those stories
are pure fiction. In a social media spin, some of the yarns printed in a
newspaper that accompanied the exhibition were written by visitors to
Mencher's website, where he invites strangers
to pen tales of the people in his work. Winning contributors are rewarded with a sketch or watercolor.
The contest aspect of Mencher's art is a tad gimmicky, but this is
not just another cynical ploy to extract free content from writers in
exchange for a fleeting bit of fame. Mencher appears to be sincerely
energized by the serendipity that results from his online
collaborations. Indeed, after his first foray into this new terrain last
spring at the ArtHaus in San Francisco, he lined up this second show in
Los Gatos and a third in January, 2012, at Santa Clara University. Two
more incarnations of the exhibition are scheduled for February, one at
Ohlone College in Fremont, where Mencher teaches, another at the Elliott
Fouts Gallery in Sacramento.
Memory Game, Kenney Mencher.
At their best, Mencher's paintings defy the tropes of their conventions. Memory Game
for example, looks like a scene swiped from 1930s film noir, in which a
pair of detectives (think a young Kevin McCarthy and Robert Mitchum)
pumps the night clerk of a local boarding house for leads. For all I
know, that's exactly the painting's source, but Mencher keeps this old
chestnut fresh by giving us a double vision of the scene, seamlessly
splitting the canvas into two halves so that the trio of men is
presented from different perspectives. Swapping the positions of the
detectives makes you think Mencher has merely mirrored his protagonists,
but cleverly he has not.
Evan Tually, Kenney Mencher.
Other paintings, like the oil on Masonite of a young man unfortunately named Evan Tually
are paired with Mencher's fiction, a predictable story of a kid whose
father pushes him to confront the bully in his life even though he's no
match for his cactus-hurling wife. A sketch of dad smoking a pipe hovers
like a ghost behind Mencher's oil of the lad, while a collaged page
from a comic book, chronicling dark discoveries late at night in the
family bathroom, echo Mencher's melodrama.
Beyond Mencher's pun-hobbled titles (there are simply too many bad
jokes here, even for me), I wearied of this world of smiling handsome
people in hats, while the sexpot pin-ups that populate some of his
canvases feel a long way from his work's Ash Can aspirations. Given the
feedback he's getting to his work right now (art is usually a lonely
affair), I get why Mencher probably views the world as a particularly
sunny place, where, as the faux weather report on his newspaper's front
page puts it, the morning promises to be beautiful, extending throughout
the day. That's fine for one's life, but his art would benefit, I
think, from a bit more messy menace and less cliché. Only a grouch could
find nothing to admire here, but at the risk of raining on Mencher's
parade, I'm hoping for a doozy of a thunderstorm. In this guy's capable
hands, that would be something to see.
runs through January 6, 2012, at the Art Museum of Los Gatos. For information