Feature

Vance Kirkland: Portrait of a Modern Man

October 2001

In 1929, New York City was the center of art in the United States. Artists flocked from across the country to study in the city’s gritty cosmopolitan community, push the boundaries, and change consciousness. But one artist chose a different path and that made all the difference.

Vance Kirkland was born with the confidence to take on the world, shake it up, and record the results in paint. He was a true pioneer, one who turned not East but West – to Denver – where he spent almost his entire artistic career creating groundbreaking images uninhibited by the trends of the art world. Throughout his life, Kirkland painted pieces that vibrated with color and vitality and his later work – unique and sophisticated variations on Op (short for optical) art – continues to fascinate as it tricks the viewer’s eye, commanding one to follow its undulating motion.

Kirkland never liked to explain his work, preferring that each viewer form his own opinion. He even hated to sign his finished canvasses for fear of limiting the ways they could be hung and enjoyed. In an interview that occurred towards the end of his life, Kirkland said, “It takes a different kind of mind, someone who could attempt to visualize, with me, what I am want-ing to get across. I am hoping people can find something exciting as far as the relationships of color are concerned and the abstractions I have made.”