Kip Deeds goes on a boundary-breaking artistic expedition at Second State Press

Arts / Article

Take a journey into the basement of the Crane Arts building to visit Second State Press, and you might find yourself on yet another expedition: into the artistic process of Kip Deeds. Outside of the Second State workshop, “Prints + Process: The Alasktic Series” is currently on display, providing a trail of prints, proofs, notes, drawings and watercolors infused with the meandering brand of historical fiction and thought experimentation that the artist weaves together to construct his idiosyncratic world.

Kip Deeds, “Alasktic #6.” Image courtesy of the artist

One wall contains 14 prints, in numerical order, which lay out the notion of “Alaskticity.” Deeds explains this fabricated scientific law as similar to elasticity; a push and pull that draws us to uncharted places. Following urges like wanderlust or merely a meandering imagination, the idea of the Alaskan wilderness seems to act as a starting point for musings about self discovery and all things ineffable.

Kip Deeds, "Alasktic #6." Image courtesy of the artist

Kip Deeds, “Alasktic #6.” Image courtesy of the artist

Along the way to these constantly changing non-destinations, Deeds takes us to some real ones: the Yucatan, the Mississippi, and the Four Corners (the imaginary point where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). The latter is described as a place both arbitrary and very specific, a meeting of four imaginary lines belonging to four political entities. We picture Deeds traversing a slope of objectivity, where the concrete facts of the world slowly degrade into something more indistinct. Suddenly our journey has taken us not only on a geographical exploration, but a philosophical one as well.

Evidently feeling quite at home with the paradoxical, Deeds does not shy away from that which he does not understand. In fact, the enigmas of the world seem to be his impetus for creating, not a reason to stop bending the worldly and self-imposed boundaries he encounters. The droves of text here tell us as much, and there is no shortage of writing to accompany the images. In one print, Deeds speaks of “stretching sight and insight” and “getting the most out of the grand tour” as he bounces from place to place, thought to thought in his distinctive cursive handwriting that looks as though it were peeled straight from his journal.

Kip Deeds, "Everywhere In-Between."

Kip Deeds, “Everywhere In-Between.”

Facing his 14 black-and-white prints, we find a number of ink and watercolor works across the way that are more detailed compositions, or at least compound visions that connect the sometimes remote ideas of one work to others. In one we find a fence and cinder block barrier constructed between map illustrations of Mexico and Alaska. The center of the border fence transforms into a copy of the adjacent artwork, its flat form stretched out in place of a portion of the wall. These divisions between sides are revealed to be just as manufactured as the art that attempts to defy them, and we are left with a self-referential menagerie of distinctions that exist only in relation to one another.

Kid Deeds, "Planet Making."

Kid Deeds, “Planet Making.”

Deeds even goes about building his own world in “Planet Making,” an image that pushes the limits of where his body of work dares to venture. Often met with faces, places, objects and historical references that we are likely to recognize (even here he includes a sphere containing images of presidents and civil rights leaders), the central portrayal is ‘Planet Claire 2.0,’ a mythical planet labeled as if appropriated from a textbook. Additional planets, including our own, float around the edges of the work while circular holes cut directly through the paper leave blanks for us to fill with our own interpretations. Certainly, Deeds would not be one to deny his audience a chance to join in on the action.

Sometimes suiting up for an arctic excursion or collecting artifacts in Central America, other times concocting his own words, definitions and even planets, it becomes obvious that Deeds draws from wide swaths of information for artistic inspiration. Whatever boundaries we encounter in life – be they social, geographical, or personal – it would help to bear in mind the ingenuity and “Alaskticity” of Kip Deeds. The show will be on display through April 4.

Second State Press is located in the basement of Crane Arts at 1400 N. American St., Philadelphia; 215-232-2120; secondstatepress.org.