Ken Luce: On Target

In 1984 Ken Luce made his first trip to New York. On that trip he saw many things, but none more important than “Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” at the Museum of Modern Art. Inspired by this iconic exhibition, he returned to his studio on the Houston Ship Channel and began making found object sculptures. By 1986, Luce had built a new studio and started producing a surge of new art, particularly a body of collage works on 60x40 Arches paper. Starting with two snowmen works, both titled “Van Gogh on acid,” the snowman became a recurring theme for Luce and a metaphor in his work for a white man in the late 20th century.

These pieces eventually expanded to include the black and tan targets from which the title of the show is derived. Always an outdoorsman, Luce was at a shooting range in South Houston one day practicing with his .38 snub nose revolver, shooting what he called full body targets. Having recently been involved in an armed robbery and having a .357 pointed at his face, he became enamored with them and took 10 home. Once these 9 collages were finished, Luce put them in a portfolio and stored them under his large worktable for over thirty years. He only recently rediscovered them after a studio visit with Alison De Lima Green, the Modern Curator at the MFAH. Upon rediscovery, he felt them to be prescient of current discussions around gun violence.