Boston Globe review

"At the Griffin, photo shows that visit the animal kingdom” written by Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe, November 15, 2018 >>

Writes Feeney:

R. J. Kern’s “The Unchosen Ones” shows a domesticated nature, one that humans and animals symbiotically share. It consists of 31 large color photographs taken at Minnesota county fairs. In front of a dark-gray background, Kern poses young people with a farm animal or two that he or she had entered into livestock competitions at the fairs. The animals are sheep or goats. None of the contestants won, hence the title: They weren’t chosen.

So the title is descriptive. It’s also ironic. Looking at what is clearly an emotional relationship between the creatures, one recognizes a different kind of choosing, of each other. Maybe accepting would be a better word. It’s telling that Kern’s captions usually give the animal’s name as well as the young person’s. There’s a mutuality here, maybe even a duality. This makes for a surpassing sweetness (not sentimentality) and seeming simplicity. Why seeming? There’s an unmistakable, if not clearly articulated, sense of fellow feeling. That fellow feeling finds an ideal counterpart in the combination of respect and curiosity that Kern brings to bear on it.

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Culture Feature

The Winter issue of Culture features fine-art work from The Unchosen Ones and Out To Pasture series. Lots of goodies in this well-designed magazine devoted to cheese lovers. I’ve enjoyed exploring new ways to engage audiences with my subject matter. 

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"The Unchosen Ones, Out to Pasture” exhibition review

"The Unchosen Ones, Out to Pasture” exhibition review at the Griffin Museum of Photography was reviewed by Elin Spring on “What Will You Remember” in her article, “Exalting the Ordinary.”

The solo exhibition is on view through December 2nd, 2018. Click to read >>

 Feature Image: “Kennedy and Palamino, Anoka County Fair, Minnesota, 2016” and “Palamino and Friends, Anoka County, Minnesota, USA” © R. J. Kern, Courtesy of Burnet Fine Art & Advisory, MN and Klompching Gallery, NY.

Feature Image: “Kennedy and Palamino, Anoka County Fair, Minnesota, 2016” and “Palamino and Friends, Anoka County, Minnesota, USA” © R. J. Kern, Courtesy of Burnet Fine Art & Advisory, MN and Klompching Gallery, NY.

Critical Mass 2018 Top 50!

Thumbs up! I honored and humbled to be chosen for Critical Mass 2018 Top 50! I appreciate the support of Photolucida and the jurors for this oportunity to share my work. When I began this project, I never had sights on the critical-acclaim that would follow. I couldn’t have done this alone and appreciate the support mentors, my gallerists, and the trusting participants from “The Unchosen Ones” project, many who I reconnected with this summer, including Gabe at the MN State Fair two weeks ago.

>> See Critical Mass 2018 Top 50 winners here.

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MinnPost Feature

"The Minnesota State Fair’s Fine Arts Exhibition celebrates the art of the state" written by Pamela Espeland of MinnPost on August 29, 2018 >>

Writes Espeland: "The large, lovely portrait of a young woman and her goat may stop you in your tracks. It’s an image from a series Kern calls “The Unchosen Ones.” Taken from the sidelines at 10 county fairs across Minnesota that lead up to the state fair, they show animals and their young handlers – but losers, not winners. These are not the pairs that will go on to glory at the big fair in the cities. Photographed against a simple gray backdrop, the subjects – children and teenagers, sheep and goats – are lit like old masters. They are luminous and dignified. If this is what losing looks like, maybe it’s not so terrible after all."

 R. J. Kern with “Kenzie and Hootie, Anoka County Fair, Minnesota, 2016”, MinnPost photo by John Whiting

R. J. Kern with “Kenzie and Hootie, Anoka County Fair, Minnesota, 2016”, MinnPost photo by John Whiting

“The Great State of Minnesota” Award

The Executive Director of the Minnesota Citizen's for the Arts (MCA), Sheila Smith, selected me for the “Great State of Minnesota” Award at the 2018 Fine Arts Exhibition held at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN opening this week. I'm honored and humbled. When we met, I shared with her my enthusiasm for the art grants in Minnesota which have generously supported my fine-art career. MCA was the first independent organization to give a cash award to artists at the Minnesota State Fair that "honors an artist depicting Minnesota subject matter in a highly skillful way." I'm proud to grow roots in this great state!

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Communication Arts Photography Annual 59

On newsstands now, the July/August 2018 of Communication Arts magazine features work from my series, "The Unchosen Ones." The Photography Annual 59 issue is dedicated to featuring images that received an Award of Excellence 2018. Five images that appeared in the self-published book, The Unchosen Ones, were published from the same project featured in National Geographic magazine (November 2017). I'm grateful and honored for the recognition! I've admired the magazine since my high school art classes!

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Awarded: MN Artist Initiative Grant

The Minnesota State Arts Board awarded me a 2018-2019 Artist Initiative Grant to showcase the series, "The Unchosen Ones" to the county fairs where the work was created in 2016 (also grant supported). I've been busy working on this project over the last few months, interviewing many of the participants in my project (some featured in National Geographic magazine), asking them life skills-related questions about their efforts raising their animal. My grant proposal included the construction of banner displays that would be exhibited at 6-8 fairs in Minnesota. 

In addition, I built a website that showcases more about the project >> The Unchosen Ones.

I have successfully exhibited the book four times: first at the Hennepin History Museum, and then three fairs.

Click here to view full 2018 calendar >>

 "The Unchosen Ones" community exhibition of photography at the Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN.

"The Unchosen Ones" community exhibition of photography at the Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN.

 Cass County Fair, Minnesota, 2018.

Cass County Fair, Minnesota, 2018.

 Mahnomen County Fair, Minnesota, 2018.

Mahnomen County Fair, Minnesota, 2018.

 Cannon Valley Fair, Minnesota, 2018

Cannon Valley Fair, Minnesota, 2018

One of the most meaningful highlights so far from this project was reconnecting with kids from featured in the project. Thumbs up!

 4-H kids at the Mahnomen County Fair with R. J. Kern at the travelling community exhibition supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant.

4-H kids at the Mahnomen County Fair with R. J. Kern at the travelling community exhibition supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF REPRESENTATION: Burnet Fine Art & Advisory

I’m pleased to announced my fine-art prints are now available through Burnet Fine Art & Advisory in Wayzata, Minnesota. Before moving to their new Wayzata location, the Burnet Gallery showcased contemporary art for 10 years in Le Méridien Chambers hotel in Minneapolis. The space celebrates art addressing contemporary issues.

My first solo exhibition with the gallery will open July 11 and run through September 1, 2018 and will feature works from all three of my series: Divine Animals: The Bovidae, The Unchosen Ones, and Out to Pasture. Opening reception July 11 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM.

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The Most Beautiful German Books 2018

I’m honored to share my monograph “The Sheep and the Goats” has been awarded "The Most Beautiful German Books 2018,” by Stiftung Buchkunst, the most popular book prize in Germany. This competition dates to 1929, making it one of the industry's first competitions to award the “exemplary in design, conception, and workmanship” as awarded by an independent jury. The book will be shown on several exhibitions and fairs in Europe including the Frankfurt Book Fair.

 Hei! (Wow!). 24 jurors, 9 juror days, over 900 submissions. The "most beautiful German books “ announced today! And my first monograph was one of them!

Hei! (Wow!). 24 jurors, 9 juror days, over 900 submissions. The "most beautiful German books “ announced today! And my first monograph was one of them!

 The golden award sticker on "The Sheep and the Goats" monograph. Photo by Maximiliane Hüls  (designer).

The golden award sticker on "The Sheep and the Goats" monograph. Photo by Maximiliane Hüls  (designer).

For perspective, the "first jury" of the 2018 competition had 729 entries in total. Of those, 247 were narrowed down by the "second jury" to 247. Of these, 25 were awarded. 

“The Sheep and the Goats” published by Kehrer Verlag was among awarded in the Top 25. With introduction by Lisa Volpe, Associate Curator of Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; essay by George Slade; interview by Stuart Klipper. Designed by Kehrer Design (Maximiliane Hüls).

Commentary from the jury panel:

JUSTIFICATION FROM THE JURY: "Inside title literally"

"Many people are well aware of this indefinable feeling of coziness that sets in at the sight of a sheep. If that's the case, you can not always drive to the country for reassurance.Two full-page series of images now provide a remedy: one of sheep, one of goats. Sometimes in small groups, often as individual portraits, animals can be viewed patiently. The book starts in the middle, because the inside title actually stands between the two groups of pictures, and the shortened pages with explanatory texts form a natural fugue in the book block. 

The photographs are ideal pictures of real landscapes. The animals in it are among the oldest companions and beneficial partners of humans. Through the atmosphere of Arcadian innocence, one dreams of the primordial harmony of man and nature. It overlooks all too easily the extent of the millennia-long cultural achievements that have shaped such landscapes with goat hunger and sheep's wool. 

On the precise prints the animals appear as individuals, even as beings with personality. The scarce picture legend calls region and country, and: the name of the animal. Even if ironic tones are echoed in the photographic staging, she is serious in that she acknowledges the magical and long-lasting connection between the little ruminants and their habitat. Pan, the god of the shepherds, would greatly enjoy this volume."

The 25 finalists:

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A perspective from the judging process: 

 © Stiftung Buchkunst, Frankfurt am Main.

© Stiftung Buchkunst, Frankfurt am Main.

Exhibition and Book Signing at Klompching Gallery

I'm pleased to announce this very special exhibition at Klompching Gallery, New York. Located in the hub of arts district between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, this art space is intimate, beautiful. This gallery has established itself a solid reputation for providing guidance on the acquisition of contemporary fine art photography. Darren Ching & Debra Klomp Ching will welcome you with the same delicate care I approach my subjects.

I welcome you to join me in person in two opportunities:

  • Opening Reception Thursday May 10, 6 - 8 p.m.
  • Book Signing Saturday May 12, 1 - 2 p.m.

Be among the very first to see the COLLECTOR'S EDITION of the The Unchosen Ones fresh off the press and The Sheep and the Goats (Kehrer Verlag, 2018).

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Lenscratch reviews "The Unchosen Ones" book

Aline Smithson features "The Unchosen Ones" book and project along with an interview on April 27, 2018. In the article, I share tips on navigating the fine art waters, lessons I’ve learned, perspectives into my working process, what I learned from my subjects, why I decided to self-publish, what a perfect day looks like and more!

View article here >>

 Aline Smithson reviews reviews "The Unchosen Ones" book along with an interview with R. J. Kern.

Aline Smithson reviews reviews "The Unchosen Ones" book along with an interview with R. J. Kern.

New acquisition by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston acquired the first COLLECTOR'S EDITION of The Unchosen Ones (ed 20) in pre-sale this week. The project features photographs by R. J. Kern and a cloth clamshell box and print folio created in collaboration with Keith Taylor in Minneapolis, MN. The Artist Book Edition includes essays by independent curator Alison Nordström, PhD and Joe Scapanski, Minnesota State Fair Board of Managers. The pre-sale began on April 15 and books will ship May 2018 in conjunction with a solo exhibition at Klompching Gallery in New York from May 9 - June 30, 2018.

Pre-order details here >>

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This is the second acquisition of work created R. J. Kern by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The first included the COLLECTOR'S EDITION of The Sheep at the Goats in 2017.

Communication Arts Award of Excellence 2018

"The Unchosen Ones" book received an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts magazine and will be featured in the 2018 Photo Annual issue on newsstands June 2018. In the editorial and advertising photography world, this is HUGE! I remember thumbing through back issues of Communication Arts in high school art classes looking for creative inspiration. I'm honored and humbled to have my work featured along of some of the best photographers in the world!  

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"The Unchosen Ones" Pre-Sale

"The Unchosen Ones" artist book and COLLECTOR'S EDITION pre-sale has begun. I’m proud of every piece of this project including it being all made in Minnesota, USA.

Details HERE >>

The Artist Book Edition includes essays by independent curator Alison Nordström, PhD and Joe Scapanski, Minnesota State Fair Board of Managers. Designed by Matthew Steaffens. Publisher: Author. 2018. Softcover, unbound. 12.5 x 15.5 inches (31.6 x 39.4 cm). 76 pages, 65 color illustrations. Printed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. First Edition, 200 copies. Retail price: US $35.

The COLLECTOR'S EDITION features:

  • SIGNED Limited Edition PRINT (11 x 14 inches) from a choice of two images (1/10)
  • 20 numbered copies + 4APs
  • Clothbound, embossed clamshell box created by Keith Taylor
  • Custom “The Unchosen Ones" rosette ribbon, inscribed by artist
  • Hand-signed book, “The Unchosen Ones" 
  • Includes all Artist Book Edition details
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Pricing to increase as edition sells out. Available May 2018.