The first retrospective exhibition of one of midcentury America’s most innovative artists to occur in nearly sixty years, Adaline Kent: The Click of Authenticity features approximately 90 works that span Adaline Kent’s (1900-1957) entire career and chart major thematic developments in the artist’s work as it progressed from figuration to abstraction. Encompassing a diverse range of media, the exhibition includes drawings, original pictures incised on Hydrocal (a cement mixture), sculptures both large and small, and a collection of terracottas—many of which have not been seen by the public in over half a century.
The exhibition title comes from the artist herself; Kent often wrote down many of her ideas on art, filling notebooks with her thoughts. In one poetic note entitled Classic Romantic Mystic, dated April 17, 1956, Kent mused, “I want to hear the click of authenticity.” The exhibition title underscores the drive that propelled her forward in her work and life: to create art that expressed originality and a unique approach to timeless subjects.
Kent grew up in the shadow of Mt. Tampalais, and therefore with a love of the natural world that she shared with her husband Robert B. Howard. They often spent their summers exploring the High Sierra. Kent and Howard also spent winters skiing in the Tahoe region, often staying with close friend and fellow artist Jeanne Reynal, who had a house at nearby Soda Springs. They were among the first investors of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, and Kent’s brother-in-law, Henry Temple Howard, would design the first chairlift in California. Kent was a self-admitted “addict of the High Sierra,” and the landscape infused her work as she translated her experience of time and space in the mountains into aesthetic form.
Although Kent’s work is not widely known today, she was featured in key 1940s and 1950s exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Bienal de São Paulo, and she exhibited with the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York. She was a peer of artists such as Ruth Asawa, Isamu Noguchi, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. Kent was also a member of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most productive mid-century artistic clan, which included Charles H. Howard, Madge Knight, John Langley Howard, Robert Boardman Howard, Henry Temple Howard, and Jane Berlandina.
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