As It Happened: Works by Sanit Khewhok

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July 08, 2010 - October 10, 2010
The John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery (29)

Exhibition Overview


Catharine E.B. Cox Award Exhibition
Sanit Khewhok is the 11th recipient of the prestigious Catharine E. B. Cox Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts. Born in Trang, Thailand, Khewhok received his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts: Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking from Silpakorn University in Bangkok. He was then awarded a Masters in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts of Rome with a specialization in painting and restoration techniques. For 30 years, he has worked as a curator, collections manager, and a conservator at museums in Thailand and Honolulu.
A practicing artist for more than 34 years, Khewhok is known for his small-scale works that invite us to engage with them on a personal level.
“I have felt comfortable with smaller sizes because when you look at the small-scale works there is an intimacy—the work is more personal,” says Khewhok. “A large-scale work for me seems heroic and monumental. I am not interested in that.” His statement speaks to the humble, soft-spoken Khewhok as a person and an artist.
Academically trained, Khewhok references art-historical traditions—especially from the Italian Renaissance—in his subject matter, style and handling of media. Artists such as Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), Francisco Goya (1746-1828), and Edvard Munch (1863-1944) are major influences, and some of his pieces directly reference well-known masterworks. For example, two paintings in his Envelopes series borrow from Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) and Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863), juxtaposing a Marilyn Monroe postage stamp with Manet’s Olympia to draw a visual analogy between the two iconic women. He also draws upon contemporary history and prominent cultural figures, such as the the Vietnam War or President George W. Bush.
Khewhok's personal experiences and inner circle also inform his art. For example, Untitled 2-4 are composed of fish bones collected on a walk along the beach, and Untitled 1 incorporates two fish that he ate for dinner one evening. Humor and personal stories underlie Khewhok’s art, whether as inside jokes or something more overt. Sharp-witted and always playful, his works will catch you off guard, mysteriously drawing you in.
A turning point in Khewhok’s artistic career came when he was ordained as a monk in 1985 and spent 100 days at a Thai monastery. As a traditional rite of passage into adulthood, all Thai men were expected to become ordained at the age of 21; however, Khewhok was a little older when he entered the monastery. There, he learned and practiced meditation. One afternoon, while walking in the woods to clear his mind, he absentmindedly picked up a stick and created a sculpture. Prior to this moment, Khewhok had felt confined and restricted by the academic training he had received in Thailand and Italy.
Through the simple act of creating a sculpture out of a stick, he realized he had taken his next step as an artist.
As It Happened embodies Khewhok’s past and present and invites viewers to witness his evolution as an artist. His work eloquently synthesizes the various cultures and traditions he has straddled so far in life.—Rui Sasaki, Assistant Curator Special Projects, Department of European and American Art