From Concealed to Revealed
Octavia Art Gallery is pleased to present From Concealed To Revealed, a two-person exhibition for twin brothers Robert and Thomas Kelly. This will be the first exhibition at the gallery for both artists.
As most twins, Robert and Thomas share certain traits. One remarkable commonality is an intuitive poetic sensibility to shape, form, and color. Through photography, Thomas captures fleeting moments and the spirit within humans, while Robert, through painting, creates spirit through his use of line and form on canvas. Both artists are able to suggest that which the eye cannot see and have a certain reflection and absorption in the act of creating an image. They prefer to live with questions rather than answers, pointing toward greater mysteries. Inspired by the notion that sacred symbols are concealed and then revealed, each artist uses their respective mediums to express their ultimate concerns. They use creativity to find sanctuary, beauty, humility, focus and a voice.
Robert Kelly’s work investigates the idea of doubleness through images that reflect, oppose, and mirror each other. “Painting is how I started to find refuge, in terms of seeking private space and its allowance for a bit of separation from my brother,” Robert recalls. The play of positive and negative spaces often accents his interest in duality. Influenced by Bauhaus artists from Mondrian to Klee, Robert merges hints of the historical with the contemporary. Painting on a variety of mediums, his work explores mark-making that often incorporates materials from his travels, such as vintage posters and printed antique paper. Robert’s paintings have been likened to palimpsests and his method has been described as building “on inhabited ground, layering materials, documents, and signs, covering them, wiping out their beauty, nearly, but allowing something of the labor and their languages to persist.” 
At first glimpse, Thomas Kelly’s photographs stand in stark contrast to his brother’s profound abstraction, yet within the literalness of the photograph mysteries remain. Thomas’ first visit to Nepal was in 1978 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and he has since worked as a photo-activist documenting the struggles of marginalized people and disappearing cultural traditions all over the world. This exhibition focuses on a body of work that depicts the yogis of India and Nepal, and includes a series of color photographs capturing the extraordinary male sadhus and female sadhvi. Sadhus renounce worldly life, earthly possessions and social obligations to devote their lives entirely to the quest for spiritual enlightenment. The yogi’s body is not only an expression of his sectarian allegiances, religious discipline, and inner visions, but also his primary vehicle for achieving the ultimate goal of liberation. Thomas is personally acquainted with most of the sadhus he has photographed – which afforded him these rare and intimate encounters – but nevertheless they remain a enigma to him and to the viewer. A long time resident of Kathmandu, Thomas Kelly has become very familiar with the Nepalese city’s holiest shrines and privy to their most personal practices. His intimate portraits grant us entry into the mysterious world of the yogis and the sacred stories told by their bodies.
Robert Kelly lives and works in New York. He received his BA from Harvard University in 1978 and has exhibited nationally and internationally since 1983. His work is included in many public and private collections, including The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, Milwaukee Art Museum, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and The McNay Art Museum.
Thomas Kelly has worked extensively on a variety of subjects for organizations, such as UNICEF, Save the Children Fund (USA), DFID, Aga Khan Foundation, and the Institute of Child Health (ICH). His editorial work has been published in the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, and The Observer, U.K. Apart from photography, he has produced and directed films and videos on prostitution, violence against women, and esoteric ethnic practices for Discovery Communications, National Geographic, and the BBC.