This exhibition explores William Kent’s (1919-2012) calamitous life through his art, highlighting his skill and creativity as well as the paradoxes that drove him, bringing his erotically charged work back to New York for the first time in nearly 50 years. From rising art star to recluse, self-taught printmaker and sculptor William Kent in many respects embodied the title of his semi-autobiographical 1964 print, My Life Ruined By Sex.
While Kent’s first foray into the formal art world in New York in 1962 was met with positive reviews, with the New York Times declaring him a “definite discovery” in 1963 and noting that Kent was an artist “with one eye on old carvings of the cigar store Indian type and the other on Pop art at its most saucy,” these positive reviews could not protect him from the censorship of the time and the detrimental impact his political critique would have upon his career. His 1965 exhibition of sexual-political prints at the Castellane Gallery in new York City entitled Sex and Violence, Or Erotic and Patriotic Prints! turned out to be the last straw and following its opening, and Kent was dismissed from his post at the John Slade Ely House, in part for creating “sick” works in its premise.