Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
Celebrating 32 Years
of 19th, 20th and 21stCentury American Art
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Frank Kirk

Contemporary Magical Realist

Susan Bush, Frank Goss, & Jeremy Tessmer

Sullivan Goss has very recently agreed to represent the Santa Barbara based artist, Frank Kirk. Having studied under Francis Criss in New York and then having gone on to develop a successful career in the commercial world, Frank Kirk left the advertising world to pursue a career in fine art 25 years ago. His paintings are intricately detailed and are embedded with mysterious narratives.




Table Of Contents

I. Biography

Frank Kirk, was born in 1933 and spent nearly all of his formative years within the five New York boroughs and Long Island. As a child in Valley Stream, LI, Kirk remembers a pack of “buddies” that did everything in a group: swimming in Valley Stream's lake, trips to nearby ocean beaches and frequent playground activities. There were a number of artists from his early years that influenced his development as an artist. First among those was his teacher at New York’s Visual Art School, the legendary Burne Hogarth (of Tarzan fame) with whom he studied drafting and anatomical composition. He also reports that another early mentor was Silas Rhodes (1915-2007), founder of the SVA. The final cornerstone of Kirk's early influences was the fabled American precisionist, Francis Criss (1901-1973) who also taught at SVA.

After driving a truck for Coca Cola for several years, he took his first job in advertising on Madison Avenue in the “bullpen” of Doyal Dane Bernbach (DDB), which was then and to this day, one of America’s most powerful advertising agencies. At DDB he worked his way up to Art Director including a major effort on the introduction of Volkswagen to America. Kirk then spent some time at the fashion house, Jane Trahey & Partners, where he focused on accounts like Elizabeth Arden. It was at Trahey that he was part of the team that pioneered the introduction of Carte Blanche, one of the earliest credit cards. From there he moved to Jack Tinker & Partners as a Co-Creative Director. His final stop on New York’s famous Madison Avenue, in the day of the real Mad Men, was as Head Art Director at Wells Rich & Green working on accounts like Benson & Hedges and Alka Seltzer.

In 1974 he moved across the country to Needam Harper & Steers in Los Angeles, where he led the introduction of Honda & Isuzu to the American audience. After working for others for 20 years he opened his own agency, Della Famino & Partners in 1975. Among his major accounts were Max Factor and Gallo Winery. His success in the “ad man world” allowed him to retire in 1983 at the age of 50. From then on, he reports that he worked “day and night” on his paintings, with an occasional golf game when the smell of “turps” became too much for him.



Night Stroll
48 x 72 inches
acrylic on canvas

Frank Kirk's paintings are cinematic in scale and yet intimate in their detail. Trees are not simply covered in leaves, they have a definite number of leaves. ... In some of his works, ten to fifteen square feet of canvas are covered by dense areas of carefully painted leaves.

II. An Analysis of the Artist's Work

Fastidious? Well, keen. Weird? More eccentric, really. Naughty? Perhaps a tad voyeuristic. Perhaps.

Frank Kirk’s paintings are cinematic in scale and yet intimate in their detail. Trees are not simply covered in leaves, they have a definite number of leaves. You can count them. Moreover, each one is modeled to show dimension. Each one reflects light a little differently. And yet, the trees and the topiaries in Kirk’s paintings can be enormous. In some of his works, ten to fifteen square feet of canvas are covered by dense areas of carefully painted leaves. Often the cinematic effects can be seen in the rhythm and gyre of the trees, shrubs and grasses. Trees sometimes weave, shrubs writhe, grasses roil.

For his paintings of interiors and his nocturnes, the lighting is often dramatic, another nod to his preference for the cinematic. Edward Hopper, an artistic father of sorts, reportedly loved the cinema, and incorporated the camera’s strange sense of remove, its preference for formal composition, and its dramatic lighting into many of his most famous urban scenes. While Kirk has never cited Hopper as an influence, the comparison is telling.

Kirk does cite the artist Francis Criss as influential, a painter prized for his Precisionist paintings of New York. As with the work of Criss, Kirk’s paintings are populated by figures whose placement seems more defined by compositional necessity than by their relationship as people. His figures often seem as separated from one another as the trees do from the buildings and just as marvelous in their formal complexity. Their remove excites a kind of frisson - a dramatic tension that can go from haunting to titillating from one painting to the next. It is as if the viewer has arrived in the middle of a story, the beginning unfathomable and the ending uncertain. The effect is to intrigue and involve.

And what icon more intriguing than the beautiful and remote woman? Beautiful and mysterious women are a pronounced and recurring theme. Young, middle-aged, and old – Kirk shows no prejudice except for beauty. Is he trying to arouse prurient interest? Who can say? Perhaps his years on Madison avenue taught him that remote and beautiful women make for powerful images. Perhaps.



Hedgescape #3
68 x 88 inches
acrylic on canvas
Beautiful and mysterious women are a pronounced and recurring theme. Young, middle-aged, and old – Kirk shows no prejudice except for beauty. Is he trying to arouse prurient interest? Who can say? Perhaps his years on Madison avenue taught him that remote and beautiful women make for powerful images.

III. Chronology

  • 1933 - Born in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY
  • 1950 - Graduates from Central High, Long Island, NY
  • 1951 - 1952 Drafted into U.S. Navy
  • 1953 - 1956  Graduates from New York School of Visual Arts (SVA)
  • 1956 - 1963  various odd jobs and under Silas Rhodes worked the desk at the SVA at night
  • 1964 - 1966 Hired by Doyal Dane Bernbach where Kirk worked on Volkswagen campaign
  • 1966 - Directs insertion of 5,500,000 pop-up San Francisco skylines in Sept. 8 issue of “Time”
  • 1967 - 1968 Art Director at Jane Trahey & Partners for Elizabeth Arden, Carte Blanche
  • 1968 -  Creative Director for Jack Tinker & Partners, NY
  • 1969 -  Marries Lynn Gottlieb
  • 1970 - 1971 Head Art Director at Wells Rich & Green, NY for Bensen & Hedges, Alka Seltzer
  • 1971 - 1974 Recruited by Needham Harper & Steers for Honda & Isuzu, moves to Los Angeles
  • 1975 - 1983 Starts his own agency Della Famina & Partners for Max Factor, Gallo Wine
  • 1975 - Travels to England and remarks at the “hedge culture” of the Commonwealth
  • 1984 - After 16 years as an Agency Partner, retires from Advertising to Paint Full-time
  • 1985 - Moves to Ojai, California to paint
  • 1995 - Travels to Far East
  • 1996 - Moves to Santa Barbara, California
  • IV. Exhibitions and Awards

    Group Exhibitions

  • 1961 - Art Directors Club of New York, 40th Annual Exhibition, Award of Distinctive Merit
  • 1964 - American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), three awards
  • 1966 - Art Directors Club of New York, 46th Annual Exhibition, Certificate of Merit
  • 1967 - 8th Annual Exhibition, Communication Arts, Award of Merit
  • 1967 - Art Directors Club of New York, 47th Annual Exhibition, Certificate of Merit
  • 1967 - Advertising Writers Association of New York, Merit Award
  • 1968 - Art Directors Club of New York, 48th Annual Exhibition, Certificate of Merit
  • 1969 - Art Directors Club of New York, 49th Annual Exhibition, Certificate of Merit
  • 1974 - Art Directors Club of Los Angeles (ADLA), 29th Annual Exhibition, Certificate of Merit
  • 1975 - CLEO Award, Certificate of Merit
  • 1975 - Andy, Advertising Club of New York, Award of Merit
  • 1977 - CLEO Award, Certificate of Merit
  • 1978 - Belding Award, Creative Achievement, 2nd Award
  • 1978 - Communication Arts Society of Los Angeles, 29th Annual Exhibition, Award of Excellence
  • 1979 - American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
  • 1979 - Art Directors Club of New York, 58th Annual Exhibition, Merit Award
  • 1979 - American Advertising Federation (AAF), First Award
  • 1979 - Andy, Advertising Club of New York, Award of Merit
  • 1979 - Belding Award, Creative Achievement, 1st Award
  • 1979 - Communication Arts Society of Los Angeles, 30th Annual Exhibition, Award of Excellence
  • 1980 - American Advertising Federation (AAF), Merit Award
  • 1980 - Andy, Advertising Club of New York, Award of Merit
  • 1980 - American Advertising Federation (AAF), Second Award
  • 1980 - Art Directors Club of New York, 59th Annual Exhibition, Merit Award
  • 1980 - Art Directors Club of Los Angeles, 30th Annual Exhibition, Award of Merit
  • 1981 - Belding Award, Creative Achievement, 1st Award
  • 1984 - Communication Arts Society of Los Angeles, 30th Annual Exhibition, Award of Excellence
  • 1986 - Art Directors Club of New York, 65th Annual Exhibition, Merit Award
  • 1987 - American Advertising Federation (AAF), Merit Award
  • 1987 - Art Directors Club of New York, 66th Annual Exhibition, Merit Award
  • 1987 - American Marketing Association, Gold Award
  • Solo Exhibitions

  • 1975 - Louis Stern Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • ???? - Small exhibition in Los Angeles, CA
  • 2014 - Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • V. Collections

    Private Collections

  • Elizabeth Arden
  • Bill Blass
  • Alain & Cathy Clenet
  • Mary Wells/ Harding Lawrence
  • Charles Moss
  • Howard & Leslie Russo
  • Carmine & Caroline Santandria
  • Jane Trahey
  • Pauline Trigere
  • Public Collections

  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
  • VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • 1. Nashua Telegraph “Financial Company Pops Up with New Ad.” August 30, 1966
  • 2. NH&S People. "A Day in the Life of Frank Kirk." July 1973. p. 1-4
  • VII. Works for Sale by this Artist


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    Country Inn
    Detour
    Hedge Cutters
    Kola
    Storm on the River
    Sunbathers
    Untitled
    Valley Stream, L.I.
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