Wien Kunst

Shake-up Environment

Devin Kenny, who was invited by curator Pia-Marie Remmers to install a show in collaboration with one of Galerie Thoman’s artists in their luxurious project space [tart vienna], selected Franz West to share the stage. “West is funny, impactful, vibrant, and I’m drawn to that,” says Kenny, an American artist currently splitting their time between New York City and Oxford, where they are pursuing a practice-led DPhil in Art. Showing for the first time in Vienna, Kenny sets up an off-kilter live/work-like situation in “Shake-up Environment.”
Portrait of Devin Kenny. Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /
Portrait of Devin Kenny. Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /

Kenny is good at dividing up open-ended mental space into digestible units, as I learned and was awed by in recent conversations we shared about our work. Their interest in ideas of repurposing, semi-permanence, and the double come clearly into view as Kenny confidently works in conjunction with West. Yet, the show’s conceptual weight is balanced by a sense of playfulness, as Kenny skillfully juggles multiple sensibilities at once.

Moments of warmth and intimacy hit against a cool-to-the-touch boundary, evident in Kenny’s material choices for the sleek print edition on aluminum panels, where metallic inks bleed into cold, gently sparkling silver. You’ll also notice upon close inspection, the iridescent “pixie dust” leaking out of the black graffiti-ed letters Kenny sprayed backwards all over the gallery’s floor-to-ceiling windows. “I’m interested in the dichotomy of direct-writing (graffiti for example) with a story that wanders and meanders,” they say. Kenny’s use of the written word reads as attempts at full sentences strained through a cloud-like reservoir of dripping thoughts.

On the floor in a corner, a West lamp glows a dim yellowy-green, as if one might cuddle up for a read. And across the space, his desk and chair set covered in crisscrossed colorful adhesive tapes reminds me of a seventh grader left alone too long in detention with some bands of Scotch. “West was ahead of the times, before co-working, before creative professionals in repurposed commercial spaces,” says Kenny. “Repurposing of things is something that’s important to me, has historically has been a necessity for me, so when I see different versions of that spirit, I’m interested.”

Installation view. Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /
Installation view. Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /

Viewers are allowed to take a seat at this table, where Kenny has placed a laptop equipped with a mouse, lumpy and disproportioned, as though made of playdough by a child. Oddly, in this “shaken-up” world, it functions, and whoever I imagine inhabiting this “workplace” is surely putting in long hours before the screen. Playing a game of cat and mouse in grayscale perhaps, or Checkers against the computer, getting paid in smushed pennies.

Devin Kenny. ongoing, individual adaptability - 05, UV-Print on Aluminum, 40 x 40 cm, 1/3+1A.P.
Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /
Devin Kenny. ongoing, individual adaptability – 05, UV-Print on Aluminum, 40 x 40 cm, 1/3+1A.P.Photo Credit: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /

These rooms present a strong tension between dysfunctional stability and functional instability, and that is what gives this show its delightful edge. “Two languages, approaches, smashed together creates an interesting dialogue,” says Kenny, who in collaboration with West and Remmers, broadcasts a “clash of spirits” with expert execution.

Shake-up Environment curated by Pia-Marie Remmers
May 18 – Jul 28 2023

Address and contact:
[tart vienna]
Seilerstätte 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria

About the writer: Lauren Nickou is an American artist and writer living in Vienna.