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August 2011

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Features Works by Michael Kenna

The Columbia Museum of Art introduces English photographer Michael Kenna, through an exhibition of his extraordinary Venezia series. Featuring 53 black and white images photographed between 1980 and 2008, Kenna’s photographs provide an incredibly striking and unique portrait of Venice, Italy. The exhibit, Michael Kenna: Venezia demonstrates the photographer’s ability to produce highly atmospheric, eerily beautiful and almost surreal images that offer a fresh interpretation of the world’s most photographed city. The exhibit will be on view through Oct. 23, 2011.

An article in The New York Times stated, “Kenna has long taken advantage of the gifts that the late hours offer a photographer. Here he deploys the long exposure and the resulting spectrum of amazing blacks and grays to show the otherworldly, romantic appeal of night.”

Kenna’s work has often been described as enigmatic, graceful and hauntingly beautiful. Venice is a city rich in visual imagery and Kenna has captured the essence of Venice: its romance, its miraculous existence and its crumbling beauty.

“What strikes me most is the atmosphere surrounding the city, which is always visible in these photographs and it is damp, almost sponge-like. Michael Kenna chose to show us also Venice’s air, to make us see it and touch it, to prove to us that this is what the city is made of,” says Venetian novelist and art historian Tiziano Scarpa in the accompanying book of this exhibit.

Kenna’s photographs, often made at dawn or in the dark hours of night with exposures up to 10 hours, smooth over the surfaces of the canals, further emphasizing their street-like function in this floating city. With typically meticulous prints, Kenna distills Venice to its iconic, elemental characteristics of water and light. These photographs, at their most basic demonstrate Kenna’s ability to capture the unseen, but felt, through manipulation of the media.

“You can’t always see what’s otherwise noticeable during the day... with long exposures you can photograph what the human eye is incapable to seeing,” Kenna said.

Kenna’s quiet approach to the environment provides a glimpse into the provocative and subtle serenity of landscape photography. Kenna creates dream-like scenes by combining innovative and traditional photographic techniques. The results are soft, stark, enigmatic views of gardens, industrial sites, land, and seascapes. Water may become a sea of mist or the geometry of human intervention contrasted with a wispy cloud-filled sky. His photographs suggest contemplation and a poetic vision.

Kenna was born in Widnes, England in 1953. As one of five children born to a working class Irish-Catholic family, he initially aspired to enter the priesthood but his passion for the arts led him to The Banbury School of Art where he studied painting and then photography. Later he attended The London College of Printing and began working as a photographer and artist. He moved to San Francisco in 1977 where he was astounded by the number of galleries the city housed which allowed artists to showcase and sell their work. San Francisco has remained his home ever since.

Kenna’s prints have been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout the world with permanent collections in the Bibliotheque, Paris; The Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Kenna also does commercial work for Volvo, Rolls Royce, Audi, Sprint, Dom Perignon and The Spanish Tourist Board.

Michael Kenna: Venezia was organized by the Columbia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Joy of Giving Something, Inc. The exhibit’s Presenting Sponsor is Susan Thorpe and John Baynes, with Contributing Sponsor, Mr. Allen K. Anderson.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 803/799-2810 or visit (


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