John Urho Kemp (1942-2010) graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1965 with a degree in chemical engineering and biochemistry. He worked as a chemical engineer for almost two years, then quit to study Scientology in England and Los Angeles until 1971. He spent the next decade operating an antiques business in Los Angeles. Amongst other interests, he traveled the world to witness solar eclipses and frequented hot springs of Northern California. Throughout his life he sought revelations through meditation, metaphysics, formulas, and numbers, recorded primarily in pencil and pen on the blank surfaces of scrap papers.
Much of his work was refined and compiled into compact documents that were then photocopied and leafletted as a means of sharing his findings with as many people as he could. An online archive of his work is underway, and includes poems, equations, drawings, and collages from 1979-2010.
We owe the rescue and archiving of his numerous works to his friend, the photographer Aram Muksian, namely thousands of pages, diagrams, sketches and numerical sequences, to the point of colonizing endless bundles of dot-matrix printer paper.
Daniel Baumann – commissioner, art critic and current director of the Kunsthalle of Zürich as well as of the Wölfli Foundation in Berne – dedicated an exhibit to him at the 548 Center in NY in 2014.
"brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies" from October 29th to January 16th 2017, Musées de Belfort, Belfort. curator Christian Berst; associated curator Brut pop.
"Cracking the code", Appleton Square, from October 7th to November 3rd 2016, Lisboa, Portugal.
"Art brut : a story of individual mythologies", oeuvres de la collection Treger Saint Silvestre, Oliva Creative Factory, 18th june until 28th february 2017, São João da Madeira.
"on the wire",by Jean-Hubert Martin, christian berst art brut gallery & Jean Brolly gallery, from April 9th to May 22th, 2016, Paris.
"soit 10 ans, états intérieurs" from September 12th to October 21th, 2015, christian berst art brut gallery, Paris.
"john urho kemp, a bermuda triangle", christian berst art brut gallery, from May 30th to July 11th 2015, Paris.
Outsider Art Fair, Curated Space by Daniel Baumann, New York, from May 8th to 11th, 2014.
exhibition's catalog brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies, ed. les presses du réel, Musées de Belfort, Belfort, 2017.
exhibition's catalog, On the Wire, by Jean-Hubert Martin, ed. christian berst art brut, Paris, 2016.
exhibition's catalog, John Urho Kemp: a bermuda triangle, (Paris, gallery christian berst art brut, 30 May - 11 July 2015), ed. christian berst art brut, Paris, 2015
Aram Muksian, John Urho Kemp : selections from the Archive: 1979-2010, auto-edited by Aram Muskian, 2010
selective press review
- à l’avant-garde : john urho kemp – sans titre – 2002 authors delphine neimon in the artchemists, june 6, 2017.
- de l'art brut art high-tech authors Stéphanie Lemoine in l'oeil, january, 2017.
- Une œuvre d’art a-t-elle toujours un sens ? authors Philippe Godin in diagonale de l'art - blog Libération, June 18, 2015.
- John Urho Kemp – Un triangle des Bermudes authors Benedicte Phillipe in Telerama Sortir, June 10, 2015.
- Abracadabrantesque authors Alain Berland in mouvement.net, June 1st, 2015.
- Les Jeudis Arty, la nocturne d'art contemporain revient dans le Marais le 4 juin authors Tania Brimson in Timeout, June 1, 2015.
- CHOICES PARIS 2015 authors Guillaume Benoît in Slash, May 29, 2015.