Philately Meets Portraiture

John Kaul

January 27–March 2, 2024

Philately Meets Portraiture

Groveland Gallery is pleased to announce a special exhibition of portrait paintings by Minnesota artist John Kaul. The exhibition will feature twenty-five finely rendered likenesses of individuals known for their influence on art, music, literature, history, popular culture, world politics and philosophy. The portraits are painted with gouache on 6 x 9” envelopes, each accompanied by postage stamps chosen in context with the subject, and a quotation of note from the individual. Kaul details each likeness with careful, accurate brushwork. The sum of these parts depends on the individual; the resulting artworks are poignant, reverent, scolding, or scathing. Each piece commands close inspection: how much commentary on humanity can fit on a 6 x 9 inch envelope?

Kaul has been a lifelong artist, creating kinetic sculpture, documentary films, photography, and painting, while also working as a lobbyist. His work at the Minnesota State Capitol and his artistic work share common traits: each is an indefatigable pursuit of possibilities. This series of envelope paintings started from Kaul’s photography project in which he asked important figures in lawmaking, policy making, arts and culture if he could take their portrait. Hoping to grab his subjects’ attention, Kaul began painting their portraits in bold gouache on the letters he sent them asking to meet. Kaul’s earliest subject to receive a request my by portrait-mail was US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marina Abramovic. Unsurprisingly, the envelope worked. She accepted Kaul’s request to take her photo, and later came to Minneapolis for a speaking engagement at John Kaul’s invitation.

Kaul’s database of quotations and volumes of stamps from a gifted collection further enriches an already eye-catching portrayal. The exhibition of these envelopes reflects Kaul’s ceaseless concern for the subtle and blatant world of policy making as he sees it.

Listen to John’s interview on MPR with Cathy Wurzer here.