This week we meet painter Forrest Kirk, whose anomalous style merges a storytelling impulse with gestural abstraction and an old-school studio painting education in Paris. Moving fluidly between realism, figuration and pure color and texture, Kirk also incorporates elements of found objects, mixed media and collaged segments culled from his own original images. The result is an optical and spatial push-and-pull that keeps the eye from resting, in a poignant corollary to the unsettling narratives in the sociopolitically fraught scenes from literature, history and experience that he depicts, from James Baldwin to modern-day Los Angeles.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
FORREST KIRK: Since as early as I can remember, I always drew. I still remember those days sitting in my room drawing and creating worlds on the paper. I didn’t consider myself an artist until high school. I went to an art and graphics magnet high school, which is where it all came together for me as an artist.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Mainly, I tell people my work is about current social narratives, but it’s also about creating beautiful work. My work has to be visually appealing, before I drop the narrative into the work. It’s the whole “attract more with honey than vinegar” approach.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I love to create and build things, so if I weren’t an artist I’d be an engineer. I’ve always been good at math, so engineering and building would also fulfill my desire to create.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I most recently exhibited in the “Protest: Noun” show at the Torrance Art Museum. Currently, I am in a group show, “Behind Face” at Roberts Projects in Culver City that’s up until April 27; and I’m also in a fun group show at Serious Topics in Inglewood with tons of other artists. We all made 4-by-4-inch paintings that are arranged on the walls of several doll houses. Next up, I’m planning another show at E.C. Lina Gallery here in L.A., plus a show in New York, and two shows abroad.
What artist(s) living or dead would you most like to show with?
Kerry James Marshall or Gerhard Richter.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Most of the time I listen to movies. I could probably recite the lines to each of the Jason Bourne movies, Atomic Blonde, or Beverly Hills Cop verbatim.