Kirk Hayes (b. 1958, Fort Worth, TX) lives and works in Fort Worth, TX. In 2008 the artist received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Grant. The artist is represented by Horton Gallery where he made his New York solo debut in 2009 and has been featured in three solo shows, two group shows, and a solo presentation at the NADA Art Fair, Miami.

On the surface, Kirk Hayes' compositions appear to be collages of torn paper, corrugated cardboard, yellowing masking tape, or scraps of plywood, however these illusory scenes are created by the artist's hand through a self-taught process of using oil paint to imitate collage. Although Hayes' method of painting is distinctly contemporary, the artist draws reference from thousands of years of art history, from Renaissance masterpieces to Roman mural painting, through both his trompe l'oeil technique and through his historical allusions. In a contrasting vein to First-Style Pompeian frescoes, in which Roman painters sought to create the illusion of expensive marble with lesser materials, Hayes seeks to create the illusion of lower-grade materials with the use of oil paints, duping the viewer’s eye on the surface.

Hayes' paintings are lightly sinister; the scenes and actions represented are beautifully simple, such as a Monarch butterfly landing on a knife's edge or a man dancing on a chair, yet they often portray a darker tone. Five cartoonish, smiling worms crawl through a decaying skull in Happy Worms, where Hayes refers to the classic vanitas motif, reminding us that death is inescapable. Napoleon In The Russian Snow, shows the infamous French general slumped over his white stallion, buried deep in a stale field of bloodied snow. In contrast to Jacques-Louis David's idealized portrait of the French Emperor crossing the Alps, Hayes imagines the portrait after Napoleon's unsuccessful invasion into Russia, veraciously portraying a defeated, lifeless body rather than the triumphant hero that is traditionally recognized in art history.

Notable Exhibitions:

Kirk Hayes, Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, OH (forthcoming)
Oppenheimer Collection @ 20, Nerman Museum, Overland Park, KS
NewNow: Building the Museum Collection, Nerman Museum, Overland Park, KS
Solo Presentation, New Art Dealers Alliance Fair, Miami, FL (with Horton Gallery)
The Sirens’ Song, Arthouse, Austin, TX; Galveston Art Center, Galveston, TX; University of Texas at El Paso, TX
Natural Deceits, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX
Odd Realities, Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington, TX

Press Mentions:

"Kirk Hayes paints in oil and enamel to produce the illusion of multimedia collage. Hayes’s trompe l’oeil effects are so convincing that only a careful inspection of the works themselves reveals the artist’s visual legerdemain. In 40 Watts Warmth is Still Warm, Hayes depicts a seated male figure in strict profile, his body reduced to its simplest elements, his torso the same width as his single visible leg, a torn blue shape standing in for a foot, his arms short, feeble and handless. The faux-plywood chair supporting the figure is rendered in a skewed perspective that seems incompatible with the rigid flatness of his body. A black shape beneath the body and the chair reads as an ominously solid shadow, but could also be a hole in the pink floor, waiting to swallow the figure. He cranes his pink-blotched head to stare directly at the exposed bulb of an overhanging lamp, the only other object in the barren room. The figure appears to be imprisoned in the desolate space, tortured, as is the surface of Hayes’s scuffed and scarred composition. Hayes’s painting mimics the battered condition of his central figure and confronts us with an image of startling loneliness and suffering." - Katherine Garner, Oppenheimer Collection, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012.

"Kirk Hayes is known for his extremely convincing pseudo-collages, which often feature images of violence leavened by a tone of mischievous subversion. All of the textures in Gravity, from the torn paper pieces that seem to make up the central figure, to the raw plywood in the lower half of the composition, are actually composed of paint. Hayes weathers his paintings both physically and illusionistically, peppering them with pushpin pockmarks and smears of dirt, which lend them and their subjects an added dimension of physical presence. Hayes has inscribed the title of this work across the top of the composition in an informal blue script that suggests it was made with a ballpoint pen. Hayes deliberately employs a diverse palette of muted hues that seem to have been chosen from a range of leftovers in a box of construction paper scraps. While seemingly playful in its childlike aesthetic qualities, Hayes’s work ultimately proves disturbing. The pathetic central figure of Gravity appears barely human, prostrate on the plywood ground, face down on his deformed, porcine, pink head. " - Katherine Garner, Oppenheimer Collection, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012.

"Kirk Hayes is a find…Bearing titles like “Float for the Cynically Melancholy” and “Rule by Fear,” Mr. Hayes’s works are more than just feats of clever craftsmanship. With their flat areas of muted color, varied textures and rectilinear designs, they are handsome formalist compositions. And while intimating bittersweet, obliquely autobiographical narratives, they slyly comment on modern art’s love of the raw and the naïve." - Ken Johnson, "KIRK HAYES: Launched To Sink", The New York Times, October 23, 2008.

"Hayes' oil-on-signboard paintings present themselves as collages of torn paper and cardboard on plywood or metal supports, and the trompe l'oeil effects are so convincing that many viewers leave his exhibitions assuming that that is just what they have seen. The often humorous tableaux are populated by characters that obey the rules of modernist assemblage; we easily read their roughly "torn" components as arms, legs, bodies and heads. Hayes favors matte, dry colors, and he makes great use of pink, foamy green and gunmetal blue. Each false tattered edge, painted shadow, smudged scrap of paper and rusted piece of sheet metal is a visual delight." - Charles Dee Mitchell, Art in America, March 2000.

"Hayes' trompe-l'oeil is instead a droll mockery of artistic media. You may think you're looking at the raw wood of his signboard surfaces, but Hayes has covered the real surface with smooth paper before deftly re-creating the same texture in oil paint…And from there, you can trust that nothing is as it seems -- not the look of metal, of fluid, of anything. He's not hiding the technique of painting, but highlighting the illusionary character of art itself and driving his angst-ridden points home by doing so. Hayes' version of tromp l'oeil owes more to graphic design and pop art than to older aesthetics, in the end looking like collage and packing the extra wallop of emotional baggage." - Christina Rees, "Master of Illusion", The Dallas Observer, October 14, 1999.

Notable Collections:

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
Fort Worth Modern, Fort Worth, TX
Hudson Vallery Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS
Oppenheimer Collection, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS
The Progressive Collection, Cleveland, OH

Photo: Courtesy of the artist


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