Tuesday, January 23, 2007

collection (Ken Butler)

The first time I met Ken Butler was when he was making some kind of slide presentation at The Earth Tavern on NW 21st. I don’t know what the occasion was but he showed images of the major Dadaists and the Russian Avant-Garde. He also showed a lot of Moholy Nagy, whom I later found out was his Main Man.

Like Moholy, Ken did everything and most of it quiet well: he made experimental abstract films, built kinetic sculptures, made all kinds of beautiful photograms and diazo prints and collages. His house in the NW was a treasure trove and we became friends. I’ve known Ken since that evening in 1978 and we’re still pals. He will have a major show this year at the Marylhurst Art Gym and I am looking forward to it.

At the time we met, he was just getting into the art form which he would be most closely identified with: musical instruments made of found materials. These pieces stand on their own as aesthetics objects, but they also make interesting sounds. He was able to teach kids all over the country through the Young Audiences program about found sound and found sculpture and has formed all kinds of bands based on these instruments.

The piece above is from 1974 and he gave it to me when he was cleaning house one day (!). The piece below is very similar to a what he showed in A Century of Collage at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in December, which he gave us about a decade ago.

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