At the beginning of the 1970s, around the time he turned 30 and just as people were picking up on his droll, low-key work, Robert Kinmont decided to stop making art and retire to upstate California. Here, he lived a rural life surrounded by the wilderness he loved, raised his kids...oh, and built his own school, called Coyote. Legend has it that he taught his students at Coyote about human creativity by cooking breakfast for them over a camp stove set up on the floor of their art school classroom. Then in 1978 he closed the school and moved to Santa Rosa to be a carpenter, a trade he pursued for the next 20 years. About 5 years ago he went back into his studio and started making art again.
He makes whimsical sculptures from natural materials which reflect his love of the American wilderness – logs, twigs, wooden boards – but its his irreverent, personal photographs from the 60s which have the real charm. The series 8 Natural Handstands shows the artist in different outdoor settings doing handstands; the one at the top of the page in particular is a standout image, with Kinmont balanced on a rocky outcrop with a sweeping landscape behind him. Then there’s My Favourite Dirt Roads, which shows exactly that: the artist’s favourite tracks, captured on square format black and white. Seen out of context as individual images they might seem nothing much, but when you know the title of the series and appreciate Kinmont deadpan ways, they make perfect sense. Just About The Right Size is another series, this time of self portraits showing the bearded artist, not long before he went on his extended sabbatical, holding various everyday objects…which are, naturally, the size they really should be.
All images © Robert Kinmont/Alexander & Bonin Gallery