Paul Kos
Kinetic Landscape(s)
25.01.2018 — 03.03.2018

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Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie
Vallois is pleased to present Kinetic
Landscapes (1969-2016), the second
exhibition dedicated to American
artist Paul Kos following Allegories
and Metaphors (1968-2012) in 2012.
Desert and mountainous landscapes from
the American West provide the backdrop
and inspiration for this new survey,
which includes an ensemble of kinetic
sculptures and video installations, as
well as a selection of photographs and

A prominent figure of conceptual art in
the Bay Area since the 1960s, Paul Kos
is known for his dynamic use of natural
substances and his overall predilection
for simple materials or objects in
relation to a given site. Whether they
are indigenous to the environment
within which he chooses to create, or
they relate to its folklore in a
broader way, these elements always
playfully animate and sometimes even
complete his artworks ranging from
performance-based films, videos and
photographs, to kinetic sculptures and

At the crossroads with Land Art and
Arte Povera, his practice is also a
quintessence of the wittiness that
distinguishes conceptualism on the
West Coast from its rather austere yet
historically dominant counterpart in
New York.

Whereas salt was the very first natural
substance Paul Kos worked with, it was
soon followed by ice, which has since
become one of the most recurrent motifs
performing, and often literally so,
in his art. Such is the case here in
The Sound of Ice Melting (1970), which
consists of eight microphones encircling
and amplifying the faint moan of a big
ice cube melting on the gallery’s floor.
Although the artist obviously couldn’t
predict at the turn of the 1970s the
current battle against global warming,
many of his artworks, and particularly
this one, appear today as if they had
been portending it all along. A more
recent example included in the show is
Kinetic Ice Flow (1969/2013) another
ice block slowly deliquescing between
two long wooden boards and eventually
replaced, about every two days.
Next to this minimalist, almost
imperceptible ice-skating spectacle,
real, wild and hazardous landscapes also
have pride of place, for instance in the
video installation Donner Pass (2015)
representing a romantic sunrise over the
eponymous mountain lake that was once
the frosty theater of the Donner Party
and its cannibal ordeal during the gold
rush. And while the photograph Seracs
(2016) further crystallizes toy figurines
of alpinists inside little ice cubes,
the temperature more or less fortunately
rises back along with the other artworks
on display.

Among them, the floor installation
Condensation of Yellowstone Park into
64 Square Feet (1969/2016) presents a
continuously bubbling, geothermal-like
mixture of sulfur and mud; the video Ice
makes Fire (1974) documents a young Paul
Kos successfully carving a piece of ice
into a makeshift lens so as to start a
fire in the snow; and last but not least,
the life-sized projection Roping Boar’s
Tusk (1971) shows him this time doomed
to failure as he attempts to catch with
a lasso a volcanic plug on the distant

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