Alex Ebstein visits Kyle Kogut’s Studio at MICA
Kyle Kogut, a 2016 Mount Royal School of Art MFA candidate, makes multidisciplinary work that deals with mortality, manual labor, and family history. He invited us into his studio to ask a few questions as he prepared for a group exhibition at Current, Devil May Care, curated by fellow Mount Royal student, Selina Doroshenko, and an installation for his upcoming thesis.
Tell me a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Kyle Kogut and I’m a second year student in the Mount Royal School of Art interdisciplinary MFA program. I’m originally from a small town outside Philadelphia, PA and got my BFA from Tyler School of Art. My practice is rooted in painting, drawing and printmaking but since I’ve been at MICA I’ve expanded into sculpture, film, and installation.
How would you explain your art practice to a stranger?
That it is very interdisciplinary. I would say that my work is heavily autobiographical and explores personal histories of my family, with the ultimate goal of allowing the viewer to identify with the universality of the human experience. I see my works all existing in the same realm, weaving narratives together through reoccurring materials and imagery. I’ve been translating these themes through an occult guise of personal symbology, often set against a backdrop of an Americana working class identity.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?
My current body of work inspired by my father’s life experience as an auto mechanic in conjunction with the anxieties I have had towards death since I was a child. Serving as a platform to scrutinize my mortality and the seemingly pointlessness of life, my work explores existential and nihilist philosophies and the indifference of nature. I’ve been contemplating the futility of labor and attempting to connect symbols of toil and death. Other stimuli include rediscovering Schopenhauer’s ‘Studies in Pessimism’, researching the depiction of peasants in the Northern Renaissance, and studying the history of occultism.
If you could go anywhere in the world for your art career, where would you go and why?
I hope that I get to travel across the US. I’ve only ever lived between Philadelphia and Baltimore, so it would be exciting to see more of the country. I feel like my work has a lost sense of Manifest Destiny so I think traveling West would be extremely beneficial to my work and a lot of fun. I would also love to make it to Poland someday to explore my heritage. Ultimately, I’m hoping to land somewhere new after graduating from MICA.
What artists are you interested in right now?
Contemporary artists that I have been looking at include Tom Holmes, Eric Yahnker, David Hammons, Allison Schulnik, Jeremy DePez, and Mika Rottenberg, among others. I also constantly reference art history; the Northern Renaissance masters, Picasso’s Vollard Suite, Odilon Redon’s drawings, and everything Guston did are also staples.
What was the last exhibition you saw that made an impression on you?
I saw Trenton Doyle Hancock’s retrospective Skin and Bones at the Studio Museum last year and was blown away. It was my second time seeing a large body of his work, but with the combination of wall painting, sculptural elements, and installation it really struck a new chord with me. You can spend hours exploring the details of his drawing so it was great to experience.
What do you do when you’re not working on art?
When not in the studio I enjoy being in nature, visiting my family and friends in Philly, and reading. I’m always trying to get out and see more art in Baltimore, Philly and New York. I also love to watch films, especially art house horror.
What are some recent or upcoming projects that you’re working on?
I’m excited to be in an awesome three-person show Devil May Care at Current Space, opening March 5th from 7-10. The show includes myself, Phaan Howng, and Joe Crawford Pile, and is curated by Selina Doroshenko. The show is going to be filled with doom and insidiousness. I’m also planning my thesis exhibition, which is going to be a larger installation including sculpture, painting, and a new video. MICA Grad Show III opens April 15th.
What are you listening to right now?
Recently I’ve been into the new Grimes album, Silver Mt. Zion, and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. I’ve also been returning to long time favorites like Black Sabbath, Sleep, and Father John Misty.
How has your graduate program changed or affected your art practice?
My experience at Mount Royal has been amazing. Our director Luca Buvoli has installed a sense of exploration and commitment to my practice while bringing in unbelievably talented visiting artists. I really wanted to come to a program where I was surrounded by fascinating people making amazing things in every kind of media. All these things have shaped and progressed my work more than I could have imagined and I’m so thankful for the community I’ve found in Mount Royal.
Author Alex Ebstein is a Baltimore-based artist, curator, and professor.
Devil May Care opens at Current on Saturday, March 6.
MICA Studio visits are part of an ongoing collaboration between MICA and BmoreArt.