interview by MAURIZIO CATTELAN
in collaboration with MARTA PAPINI
portrait by BELLA HOWARD
photography by JASON MANDELLA
artworks courtesy of the artist and Ramiken, New York
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Your childhood in the woods: talk to me about this.
GAVIN KENYON — I had long blond hair, and I was running in the woods. In my memory, my childhood places are unspoiled green spots covered by trees and raw vegetation, dotted with farms, animals, rusty grandparents’ tools. And somewhere very far beyond the woods, there was the peaceful noise of a highway that would one day take me to the city.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — I know you’ve been living and working in Milan for long periods during the past two years. Have you noticed any change in your outfits after your stay in Milan?
GAVIN KENYON — Milan has been aesthetically inspiring for my outfits, especially for my shoe collection.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What about your relationship with sacred art?
GAVIN KENYON — I’ve always admired the density of symbols that sacred art can hold. I love visiting old churches to look and think about how they’ve been constructed. I thought a lot about working in such a space during the preparation of Lift Your Head, Give Me the Best Side of Your Face at the Marino Marini Museum in Florence, in the crypt of a deconsecrated church. In a place like that, you can’t position yourself and the work out of that holy aura, even if you are a nihilistic guy.
MAURIZIO CATTELAN — When I stand in front of your totemic sculptures, I often feel them to be just slightly bigger than my body. I perceive them as a combination of a menhir and a Greek statue. Do you have any specific reference to the ancient past in your work?
GAVIN KENYON — While I wasstudying in college, I spent some time in Italy, where I had the opportunity to admire the Renaissance sculptures and paintings, the ancient balance of the Greek gypsum based on Polyclitus’s canon and the “precise commensurability of all the parts to one another.” The clarity, balance, and completeness in those works and the proportions of those images, together with the perfect balance between tension and relaxation, created a visual image of harmony and resistance that I still seek during the realization of my sculptures. The slightly larger-than-life size of ancient sculptures — and the rules, codes, and canon the sculptors invented — lets us see the distance between the Human and the Pure. I don’t follow the ancient codes, but I need to set out my own rules to be able to structure my production and my practice. Each material has its own peculiar features that have to be respected. Working in a team, each person has a specific role in the production. One mixes concrete; another brings it from the mixer to the molds,...