Black Book Gallery is pleased to announce Spirit Club, an exhibition by the artist duo KeFe, opening Saturday, May 29th from 7 – 10pm. The artists will be present.
KeFe builds imaginary worlds of mischievous characters and otherworldly spirits. The artists who comprise KeFe — Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock — began working together under their shared moniker in 2006. Since then, their work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Mexico City, Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Spirit Club will include works by each artist, as well as collaborative paintings by the duo.
Based in San Francisco, KeFe’s art reflects the Bay area’s rich artistic heritage — from the 1960s poster art of the Haight’s psychedelic heydays , to the skaters, punks and graffiti artists of the Beautiful Losers movement. These subcultures each developed their own aesthetic, which Tunstall and Plock remix into a new visual lexicon. The duo’s signature is their menagerie of hyper-stylized characters, inspired by anime, manga, pop surrealism, and the myriad personas of California’s lowbrow art scene, as well as recomposition and elaborations based on the physical form.
Tunstall and Plock’s paintings combine graphic elements — dense patterning and technicolor palettes — with whimsical figures reminiscent of forest nymphs, spirits, and the woodland creatures of folklore.
“Spirit Club ” is a light hearted double play on the spirit realms, and spirit (as in enthusiastic school spirit), into which KeFe’s characters share a communal space- at once somber and celebratory.
Kelly and Ferris see their characters as sacred beings — suspended between two realms, they embody ancestral spirits as well as earthly emotions like joy, hope, and youthful naivete. Even in the heaviest of times, KeFe’s work is light-hearted and reverberates with optimism.
For the artists, the creative process behind this new body of work has been more meditative than in the past. Normally, KeFe begins their process by developing their characters alongside a narrative arc, which provides structure — a set of parameters — to their collaborative studio practice.
With this series, however, the artists allowed each scene to develop more organically. During the pandemic’s numerous lockdowns, KeFe turned to these paintings as an emotional release, and as a way to conjure acceptance of the unknown — in an increasingly unpredictable world.
While San Francisco’s skies turned red from wildfire smoke, a historically contentious presidential election dominated the newscycle, and the pandemic raged on with no end in sight, KeFe channeled their energy into their art. They sought refuge — and found it — in these dreamlike, floating worlds of benevolent spirits. Created during one of the darkest years in human memory, KeFe’s playfully surreal artworks are triumphs of imagination, and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.