Kenneth Tam

BFA, Cooper Union. MFA, University of Southern California. Core Residency Program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program, 2017-2018. Solo exhibitions at Night Gallery and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, and at MIT’s List Center for Visual Art. Participated in the 2016 Made in LA Biennial at the Hammer Museum and will have a solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2018. His work has been written about in Artforum, Los Angeles Times, Frieze, Modern Painters, Contemporary Art Review, LA, T Magazine, and ArtReview. Recipient of a grant from the Art Matters Foundation, the California Community Foundation Fellowship, and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant. Taught at Rice University and a faculty member at Bard’s Avery Milton School of the Arts. SLC, 2017–

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

Visual and Studio Arts

The Tool and the Staff: Sculpture and Ritual

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

This one-semester class will look at sculptural practice through the lens of ritual. How does sculpture influence the social space in which we live and come to aid in the way we move through life? How can objects bridge the gap between profane and sacred space and serve as a marker for various points of transition and uncertainty in human existence? In this class, we will try to answer some of these questions through projects that will use object-making and discussions about contemporary sculpture as our primary points of reference. Wood, plaster, metal, and casting techniques will be introduced as ways of working sculpturally. Students do not need experience with any of these disciplines to take part in this class, though a high degree of curiosity and self-motivation will be required to do well. As part of the class, we will look at various texts that speak to the way ritual creates meaning and richness in life while, at the same, comparing it to canonical writings on sculpture in order to look for potential overlaps between contemporary art and ritual studies. Students should expect a rigorous semester that combines artistic experimentation and critical thinking skills. Some artists at whom we will be looking include Nari Ward, Doris Salcedo, Mike Kelley, Cildo Meireles, Ana Mendieta, Jason Rhoades, Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, and others.


Previous Courses

Wood, Dust, Nail

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong class gets its name from the materials list for a sculpture by the artist David Hammons. What can these three things tell us about contemporary sculpture? How can a wall, dust, and a nail work together to produce sculptural meaning? Hammons was an elusive figure and made artworks that reflected his belief that sculpture could function within the space where the poetic overlapped with the absurd, where absence was just as important as visibility, and where the mundane could reveal profound truths. In this class, we will use this artwork as inspiration as we take a broad look at what it means to make sculpture against the backdrop of contemporary art. We will focus on sculpture’s ability to act as commentary, critique, or even perversion of the existing physical world. Assignments will deal with all aspects of making, including, but not limited to, technique, materials, textures, scavenging, sleep, Metamucil™, omelettes, Amy Winehouse, the state of Georgia, thirst traps, a semicolon, dirt. We will spend time really LOOKING at things and trying to unpack all the ways in which objects in the world can produce complex ideas. The act of looking informs how we think and how we feel, and this class will dwell at length on this. Experimentation will be highly encouraged, as students learn to work within sculptural language and realize the way it can produce meaning on a material, emotional, and even psychological level. The fall semester will focus on assignments aimed at getting students familiar with basic concepts. The spring semester will work toward more individualized projects geared toward students’ interests. In addition, studio demonstrations, in-class presentations, related readings, and field trips to galleries and museums will supplement class time, as we absorb contemporary sculpture in all its possible forms. While this is an open-level seminar, students should expect a demanding class. Be prepared to bring a strong work ethic, along with a desire to challenge yourself. This class is ideal for students with some familiarity working sculpturally and who have ideas they already want to explore.

Related Disciplines

Sculpture and Play Redux

Open , Seminar—Spring

Please bring images of any relevant past work or ideas for possible future projects to the interview.

In this semester-long course, students will learn to play. This is not the innocent play of the schoolyard but one where ideas about sculpture and object-making are understood through constant physical experimentation coupled with thoughtful reflection and critical thinking. The class will use play as a principle from which to approach artmaking and will emphasize the way “playing” can inform creative activity through artistic, material investigations. This class will introduce students to various fundamental techniques and principles related to sculpture and to contemporary art in general. The course will consist of in-class demonstrations and presentations, assigned projects, readings, and field trips to galleries and museums. Assignments will culminate in a group critique, which will give students the opportunity both to engage with each other directly about their work and learn from one another and to value divergent opinions from the class as a whole through critical dialogues. This class will look at a wide range of artists that work within and at the edges of the contemporary sculptural field and will give students a basic familiarity with contemporary sculptural practice in its many forms. Students will learn to work with standard sculptural materials, as well as those of a less conventional nature. Throughout the semester, students will be encouraged to consider how sculpture can act as a mode of physical and even conceptual play and how this sustained play can become a way of thinking creatively. They will not only learn how things are made but, more importantly, how they can come apart and be expressed differently. Students are not expected to have prior knowledge about contemporary art or sculpture. Rather, they are asked to bring a fearless and adventurous attitude to both the classroom and their projects. The goal of this class is to further one’s appreciation of sculpture as related to contemporary art and to give students the opportunity to re-imagine the physical world by way of the creative act. Students will be expected to challenge themselves through their work, enrich the in-class dynamic through their active participation, and, most importantly, play.


Sculpture and Play 3D

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this class, pupils will play. This is not similar to your frivolous playing of schoolyard days past. In contrast, our group will study and absorb various critical notions of play and approach artmaking with similarly mirthful inclinations. Our class will instruct pupils in ways of artmaking that favor innovatory and idiosyncratic paths of thought. Sculptural missions will strain and push you to spin away from familiar orbits; and on many occasions, such labors will call for working conjointly in pursuit of mutual goals. I will instruct you on how to work with many forms and flavors of sculptural stuffs, in both orthodox and atypical fashions. In addition, throughout our class various writings, films and sundry productions will highlight ways in which past artists and savants brought forth artworks with a similar spirit. As class tutor, I will ask you to think on how sculptural activity can function playfully and how play can allow us to summon, in thought and in application, that which is unfamiliar, risky, and supraordinary. Lack of past qualifications will not bring a look of low opinion upon you. All I ask is for you to show up with a thoughtful, curious mind and a daring spirit to invigor our classroom and my instruction. Look into a void, and what fascinations will turn up?