Douglas Kolk   
Nowhere again, 2008, mixed media on paper, 200,7 x 213,4 cm

1963 – 2014
Born in Newark (USA)
Lived and worked in Boston (USA)

Douglas Kolk made his name as an illustrator. He first worked with small sheets of paper. The works in the Peters-Messer collection from the 1990s are characteristic of that. Later, he also tended towards larger formats and designed comprehensive collages. His early works usually contain individual memos that Kolk fashioned with his favourite instruments, the pencil and the marker. The linear contours, added sparingly, maintain the fragmentary character of the work, as do the colourfully washed shapes and surfaces. Some of his drawings remind the beholder of comic-book art, especially when words and arrows are sprinkled throughout. Influences from pop culture can also be found in the meticulously executed pencil drawing We hate ya World (1996/97), which presents its globe-shaped statement like an advertising signet.

Some exponents have pointed to Kolk’s closeness to Raymond Pettibon, but Kolk usually dispensed with the denser kinds of texts that often accompany Pettibon’s works like excerpts from some fantastical tales. In their deliberately artless nature, many of Kolk’s drawings remind the beholder of naive scribblings. Kolk’s pictures may seem to have been thrown together playfully, but they are always characterised by traces of very intimate and very personal emotion. Some allusions, at first incomprehensible, can be seen as painful confrontations with the drugs in his past and the fears and experiences that went with them. On the whole, his works live from their double nature as both public symbol and private record. They are notes that he must have intended to capture memories, make emotions visible and register present suffering. They open up a wide spectrum of associations. His drawings seem accessible because they are close to familiar concepts from pop art, advertising and even children’s paintings. On the other hand, however, they arouse our curiosity because, in their unfamiliar allusions, fragmentary design and unusual image compositions, they are disconcerting. They allow us to rediscover and reinterpret something that, at first, seems both artless and familiar.


Text: Guido Boulboullé