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Surreal dreams and ideas to ponder at two Salt Creek Artworks' shows by Steven Kenny, Kirk Ke Wang

BY LENNIE BENNETT

Times Art Critic

ST. PETERSBURG

Steven Kenny and Kirk Ke Wang's art could not be more different and curator Lance Rodgers didn't even try to make a gratuitous connection between them. Instead they're billed as two separate shows at Salt Creek Artworks.

What both Kenny's "Layers of Intention" and Wang's "Last Meal" share is provocation. Both take time to understand. And both are visually compelling.

Kenny's paintings are done with High Renaissance bravura on canvases and a few wood panels of exquisite technical beauty. The subject of almost all of them is the human figure, their classical modeling mitigated by surrealist and fantastical additions, as you can see in the paintings shown. There is one very fine exception, Man at Night, which has only a man and night sky in which Kenny manages to wrest a lot of tonality out of darkness.

The references sometimes seem obscure, but remember that Salvador Dalí's surrealist symbolism, as well known as he is, usually has to be explained, too. These works, with their sense of mystery, dreamlike quality and elusive truths, are seductive.

Wang's "Last Meal" is one of the most delightful head-scratchers I have seen in a long time. The elaborate installation fills the entire back gallery at Salt Creek and seems to work on multiple levels with ideas about responsible use of resources, in this case meat.

On each side are dozens of stuffed animal head blankets (designed by Wang and similar to those used by children) hung from the ceiling. Each has a letter on it so each side is a giant crossword puzzle. I puzzled out a few words but the artist tells me that the words on the left side describe bad things about eating meat (murder) and on the right are "good" words such as delicious. The heads look to the middle of the gallery where a giant "plate" is filled with several hundred ceramic wontons forming a spiral. In the center of the plate is a video projection of real wontons boiling in a pot.

Another wall projection shows toy dinosaurs (extinct animals) positioned on a ledge in the Grand Canyon and at a beach with food dye resembling blood swirling in the water. It's one of those works you just have to see for yourself.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lbennett@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8293.

. fast facts

Steven Kenny

and Kirk Ke Wang

"Steven Kenny, Layers of Intention" and "Kirk Ke Wang, the Last Meal," Salt Creek Artworks, 1600 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg, through March 31.

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tue. through Sat. Free. (727) 894-2653;

saltcreekartworks.com.

Surreal dreams and ideas to ponder at two Salt Creek Artworks' shows by Steven Kenny, Kirk Ke Wang 03/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 4:30am]
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