Art Basel Hong Kong

24 - 26 March 2016

Joel Kyack 

Circle of Hell / Ringer of Bell



Art Basel Hong Kong

Discoveries Section

Booth 1C48


For the Discoveries section of Art Basel Hong Kong 2016, Workplace will exhibit a new solo project by Los Angeles-based artist Joel Kyack.  Drawing from its rich contemporary and historical context, Kyack will produce a new sculptural installation that explores the conflicts and parallels between the intense consumerism, cultural conditions, and traditions of Hong Kong. 

Kyack will spend a period of time in residence in Kowloon region of Hong Kong prior to Art Basel Hong Kong researching and making work from objects and materials that he will collect throughout his time there. Combined with a suitcase of specific items brought from Los Angeles (masks, hollywood prosthetics, images, texts), these components will be transformed into provisional water-fountains, kinetic and static sculptures, and wall pieces. Though discreet objects themselves, they will combine in this presentation to form a complete, fervent grotto.


Improvisation and working with materials-at-hand are cornerstones to Kyack’s practice. Circle of Hell / Ringer of Bell will harness his ad-hoc, urgent, and pragmatic methodology revealing comic impropriety and moral ambiguity. As a ‘foreigner’ who has never travelled to Hong Kong or Asia before, Kyack’s unique perspective and particular vision will produce a body of work that creates an anthropological collision with a cultural past and present that is simultaneously at odds and in step with one another. Kyack’s black comedic strategies will be pushed to the extreme in this context, to create a sculptural pantomime that explores the vulgarity and profanity of ‘the tourist’ alongside the Post-colonial realities of Hong Kong as existential metaphor.


Symbolic objects such as bells, vessels and tapestries found in Hong Kong will provide starting points for sculptural and two-dimensional work that establish conceptual and formal relationships between common, inexpensive products that define contemporary culture. Conflating the extremes of wealth and poverty in places like Kowloon with the shocking depictions of purgatory found in some Taoist and Buddhist temples, Kyack’s installation will employ the Circle as both opening and orifice, entrance and exit, where the bell is rung for both the sacred and the profane. Circle of Hell / Ringer of Bell will attempt to bring together the grotesque polarities of human experience through the filter of a Western artist working in Hong Kong.


Kyack’s practice brings together a combination of unlikely elements, often purchased from hardware stores, health care industries and Hollywood prop-houses to create surreal, darkly humorous objects and paintings that evince a dysfunctional and chaotic social context as their origin. Kyack maintains a Dadaist anti-bourgeois position rejecting ‘taste’ and traditional aesthetic sensibilities. He instead finds pragmatic yet subversive relationships between functional objects to achieve an outcome that relates back to the body and to the abject absurdity of the individual in relation to a disturbing and complex social world, always with the potential for violence and the grotesque.


Joel Kyack was born in Born in 1972 in Pennsylvania, USA. He received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995, studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine in 2004, and received his MFA from the University of Southern California in 2008. Recent solo projects include The Very First Day at Workplace Gateshead, Old Sailors Never Die and Escape to Shit Mountain at Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles; Point at the Thing That’s Furthest Away at Praz-Delavallade, Paris; Superclogger, a public project produced in collaboration with LA><ART and The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and The Knife Shop at Kunsthalle - LA in Los Angeles. Joel Kyack lives and works in Los Angeles, California. 


For further information regarding the work shown at Art Basel Hong Kong please contact: