It is with a heavy heart that I learned of Kirk Stoller’s passing.
I remember well when I first met Kirk. Taro Hattori introduced me to him at the Annual Kala Art Institute Exhibit in Berkeley and described his work so well that I immediately thought of Imi Knoebel’s work. Kirk was very polite and kind, in a way that stood out.
He visited my studio and I very much appreciated his dead-on eye on art and the dialogue we shared. It is people like him, friends, peers with which you can share essential thoughts on art that make you want to continue down this tricky and often lonely path of being an artist. I remember admiring him going to so many openings and art shows, supporting artists, venues, posting about art and keeping us informed.
Kirk lived a bi-coastal life for many years, that started with a residency in New York. Back in San Francisco he started his c2c Project Space, where he paired an artist from the East coast with a West coast artist. His curation showed the same balanced and singular eye for contemporary art as his own work. Minimal statements, playful in either color or material and a secure hand for form put together in elegant dialogues within the space of his small loft. His shows were unusual in the Bay Area, in his modest yet daring way he brought us an international contemporary art view, a bigger view.
A few years back I was at the StartupArtfair in Chicago. There I visited one of the artists’ suite, a sculptor who put together porcelain WC-tank covers in such an astounding way, that it took a minute before you knew what it was you were looking at. I told that artist to contact Kirk and literally 5 minutes later I ran into him and we visited the artist together. Art-world serendipities.
His own art was suffused with a sensitivity for the mundane cast-away object, the artistry in our surroundings. With a painter’s eye he assembled unrelated industrial pieces left them in their tone or painted some of them. His pieces are of such formal contemporary stringency standing their ground in a poetic frailty. This equilibrium made his work so compelling.
“My practice is rooted in my relationship to found fragments,
disenfranchised detritus, and discarded bits. I am affected by the formal qualities, such as volume, surface, hue, and tone, of these otherwise overlooked objects. I see in them a visual vocabulary that can speak of both individual and social structures and offer potential insight into the human condition. I adjust and customize areas of these weathered materials with colorful gloss-coated surfaces as a personal lexicon. The resulting contrast between new and old allows for a type of dynamic to exist between past and present that may hint at potential future.” (Stoller)
When I was offered the opportunity to put together a group show at the Buck Institute in Novato, I wanted to show the strongest work in dialogue with each other within that space. Naturally I thought of Kirk and was happy that he accepted the participation. I am very grateful now, because it meant that we had the chance to work together not so long ago.
In social media, artists are pouring out their sadness about him being gone. Again and again people are using words like kind, gentle, supportive, encouraging, lovely, generous to describe him.
Kirk you gave us so many gifts and you will live on in our hearts.