Various Small Fires proudly presents Eight Artworks by Los Angeles-based artist Kohshin Finley at its Texas gallery. The exhibition of recent paintings is the artist’s first solo presentation with the gallery and in the American South.
Eight Artworks features portraits of significant people from the artist’s community, including family and close friends. Equipped with a camera in hand, Finley captures candid snapshots of his subjects to use as source material for expressive works on canvas. He translates these moments of everyday life into scenes that suggest the heroic and monumental. Deeply interested in portraiture’s ability to construct one’s legacy, Finley creates an elevated platform for his subjects.
We find each subject within a moment of introspective reflection. Finley’s figures do not gaze back at the viewer but peer down or off into the distance, encapsulating a powerful vulnerability. In many of the works, less than half of the figure’s face is visible, reflecting the artist’s interest in capturing an aura rather than a qualitative likeness. The man in Portrait of Ron, With His Menagerie, 2022, has his back turned completely toward the viewer in a relaxed contrapposto. Finley leans into the compositional device of rückenfigur by compelling viewers to form a connection not through a visible facial expression but by observing the subject’s environment and objects like the gloves and garden shears that peek from his back pocket.
Finley’s stylistic choices mirror his conceptual ambitions. His use of grisaille recalls the use of grayscale paintings in art history to imitate marble sculpture. Like the symbols of prestige and care these sculptures stand for, Finley’s paintings emphasize the importance of attending to and upholding his community. In contrast to the artist’s early hyper-realistic work, the paintings in Eight Artworks are executed with expressive brush strokes that capture the immediacy of fleeting moments. Within each painting, tight renderings juxtapose gestural moments, as exquisitely showcased in Portrait of Delfin, in Reflection, 2022. Finley sharply captures the structure of the seated figure’s face which contrasts to the staccato marks that construct his jacket and the background of light washes. These oppositions are akin to the act of recalling a memory, when some details come into sharp focus while others remain blurred in the periphery.
The subjects in Finley’s work have often never had their portraits painted, providing each sitter with an unforeseen view of themselves. Eight Artworks establishes a meaningful legacy for them, extolling their importance to a wide audience and to each individual depicted.
Kohshin Finley (b. 1989, Los Angeles, California, lives and works in Los Angeles) received a BFA from Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. Finley has exhibited in notable group exhibitions, including Black American Portraits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, and Shattered Glass at Jeffrey Dietch, Art Basel Miami Beach, Florida. Additional group shows include Honolulu Museum of Art School, Honolulu, Hawaii; California African American Museum, Los Angeles; Brand Library and Art Center, Los Angeles; and Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, Mesa, Arizona. He has been profiled in publications including Cultured Magazine and The Cut. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas.