Mona Kuhn’s photography practice centers around explorations of the figure, juxtaposed and layered with abstract takes on the built and natural environments. Forever seeing the human body, especially the nude figure, as a conduit for poetry and shared experience, Kuhn’s work speaks simultaneously to isolation and connectedness. Her classic, vintage-inspired palette is often earthy and cool, amplifying the meditative aspects to the images, even as radiant light and her empathetic treatment of the bodies speaks to intimacy and narrative. A new exhibition surveying decades of Kuhn’s career opens April 10 at Galerie XII in Bergamot Station.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
MONA KUHN: In many ways, I am still figuring this out! I can tell you that the first time I started dreaming about becoming an artist was the moment I felt a certain levitation while staring at a work of art, which felt as if I had an out-of-body experience. I was 14 years old and that feeling has lingered ever since.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about capturing a sliver of who we are as human beings. I’m most comfortable representing the nude as minimal and timeless. I like to cherish the body as a source of inspiration and as a platform for metaphors, for intimacy and the complexities of human nature. It is my way of investigating the deepest questions about life.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I love the Arts and Humanities so I would want to remain involved in some capacity. If I wasn’t an artist, I would try to become a curator and support many other artists, which would be great, too!
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I first got my Bachelor in Arts and Sciences, because in the beginning I was more interested in the broader humanities subject. Later on, I furthered my studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and these days, I continue to study and research on my own at The Getty Research Institute.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
Los Angeles has great light and a certain sizzle that inspires many artists. I live here because I enjoy the art scene, the outdoors and the sense of freedom.
When was your first show?
My first solo show was in Berlin in 1997. I was in my twenties and the city was sizzling with young artists from all over. In the US, my first solo was at Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea in 2001. Both events opened new doors that I could not have imagined back then.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I have had online exhibitions this year with my New York and London galleries but I am very excited to be having a physical exhibition here in Los Angeles with Galerie XII, which will be open to the public! The solo show is called Mona Kuhn: Works and it coincides with my new retrospective book Works that is published by Thames & Hudson. The show opens with a book-signing session on April 10 from 2-4pm at the gallery’s new location at Bergamot Station Arts Center.
The timing could not be better as it is exactly at the moment the museums are opening up again. It will be amazing to see friends and collectors. I have missed everyone so much and I plan to stop by often throughout the run of the exhibition.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Yes, I love music and I am married to a composer. Right now, I am listening to “Stars” by Boris Salchow.