In the mid-1970s, at the height of his celebrity, Leo Kenney counted among his fans Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, and Tom Robbins. Influenced by Surrealism as well as by Northwest painters Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, Kenney captivated audiences with his meticulous gouache technique, luminous color, and imagery that uniquely reflected the times. Kenney quit high school in 1943, on his 18th birthday, to devote himself to painting. Just two years later, the Seattle Art Museum bought its first painting by Kenney for the permanent collection. The gifted young painter rapidly developed into one of the Northwest's premiere artists, touted by Robbins as "heir to Tobey and Graves." However, constrained by ill health and a snail-like work pace, Kenney was unable to meet the demands of his growing fame. After his Seattle Art Museum retrospective in 1973, his output dwindled. After the 1970s Kenney had no gallery exhibitions. Now for the first time, the full range of Kenney's extraordinary oeuvre is revealed. Spanning nearly 50 years, the paintings illustrated show the systematic, disciplined progression of an artist whose work developed in synchronicity with the spirit of the times and, in the end, transcended it. From his dark early paintings executed under the sway of Andre Breton's theory of "psychic automatism" to the radiant mandala paintings of the 1960s to the final series of shimmering "geometrics," the works strike variations on a theme. Kenney paints the dualities of human nature, the vastness of the universe, and the microcosm of life on earth - in a spectrum of color as dazzling as any jewel. With a foreword by Museum of Northwest Art curator Barbara Straker James and a comprehensive essay by poet and art critic Sheila Farr, this book establishes Leo Kenney's rightful place in the history of Northwest painting.
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