Kim Keever’s new abstract works for his next solo exhibition “Across the Volumes” will be opening at Waterhouse and Dodd in early April 2014, and Juxtapoz contributor David Molesky headed to see Keever in Manhattan. 

Up a set of old marble steps, I reached the studio/home of Kim Keever, who has created microcosmic romantic landscapes for the past 3 decades in his lower east-side double apartment. Several cameras and half a dozen lights encircled and faced the center stage, an enormous fish-tank filled with 200 gallons of water set high on a metal stand. As I looked around the room taking in the pigment dust on the floor and noticing various diorama props lying around, Kim Keever’s torso suddenly emerged high above the other-side of the tank. From his ladder perch, he pointed out the mirror hanging at an angle just above his Hasselblad camera. And then to my great surprise, it was show time! Squeezing repurposed dishwashing soap bottles; he dropped colors into the tank, made from a mixture of industrial paint-tints and water.

Drop after drop, color descended the volumes. A couple small transparent green drops were followed by a darker blue, which dissolved and dispersed and disappeared as it was overtaken by other colors. Kim affirmed that he was laying down a kind of atmosphere first. Each pigment has different properties that effect how they are pulled by gravity through the molecules of water.

Squirts of varying volume and color density bloomed jellyfish and mushrooms of vibrancy. Never before seen forms came into existence for a brief moment amidst an otherworldly storm. I observed with awe as clouds of color slid and pulled each other in a dance of turbulence. In a few short minutes, the show was over, and everything settled into a muddy haze.

Keever’s first professional job was at NASA where he was testing “nozzles” in a futuristic laboratory designed to muffle all sound. At the time he was also pursuing a PhD in Thermodynamics until he decided abruptly to end his engineering studies two courses short of a Masters Degree. Making art had always been a major aspect of Keever’s life, and this shift opened the floodgates allowing him to fully delve into his creative visions. As it turns out, the engineering background provided Keever with a great set of problem solving strategies that has proven invaluable in his art making.

This past July, Keever started a new series that focuses on the exploration of color and suggestive abstract form. These photos are a departure from his previous landscape works. So far he has not used the dioramas and props at the bottom of the tank to help create a sense landscape. Also, unlike the landscape works, he turns the abstracts images upside down, so that the plumes of color expand upwards.

He typically does one shoot/pour per day and gets about 7 shots per pour. From these digital captures, he will zoom in and crop to accentuate compositional elements within the larger collage of cloud forms. Keever acknowledges that most of his time is spent editing and adjusting the images. After processing hundreds of images he will then select a few favorites, which will become print editions, generally in an edition of 5 in a large and small size.

Kim Keever adds, “I think another important difference between the landscapes and the abstracts is that the abstracts allow for a real exploration of color, all be it rather random. Even more random is the distribution of the paint as it falls through the water. These forms coalesce, break apart and wither as other paint clouds form.” —David Molesky

Best of 2013: Kim Keever's Water Tank Diorama Photography