‘Robolights’ artist Kenny Irwin Jr. gears up for his first gallery show

Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin Jr., best known for his vacation installation “Robolights,” is set to make his gallery debut with “Recycled Media” this week.

The Ren Gallery in Los Angeles will host the artist’s work from April 22 through June 11, and it will all kick off with an invitation-only preview on April 21. The following day, April 22, is the official VIP opening of the show from 5-9 p.m. The general public can view the collection from April 23. After this weekend, you must make an appointment to view the art.

Irwin has been shown in museums, but this is the first time the public can see and buy his pieces in a gallery.

“The show consists of six larger pieces that weigh up to four-by-fours and 200 pounds and a variety of smaller pieces,” said Brittany Sorrentino, Irwin’s director of business development and sales. “These are all new pieces made for this show.”

Sorrentino is also Irwin’s niece and her husband, Joe Sorrentino, hosts this show.

“With Kenny, everything is recycled,” she added. “You never know what you’re going to find, or what you’re going to see in one of his pieces when you dissect it.”

“Recycled Media” is a meditation on how everything gets recycled, including our entertainment. The pieces are made up of everyday objects such as video tapes, action figures and other pop culture references. As a society, we are all concerned about the reboot, the sequel to the prequel, Irwin said. He believes that people recycle anything, but we don’t focus on things that should be recycled for the sake of the environment.

The show’s gestation began last year when Sorrentino and her husband lived with Irwin in Palm Springs.

Like many other businesses, Ren Gallery has been closed for two years. But “Recycled Media” signals the gallery’s grand reopening and Irwin’s introduction to the Los Angeles market.

Irwin is well known in the Coachella Valley and recognized in Detroit since settling there, but Los Angeles is a whole new area to expand into. The hope is that through this exhibition at a highly respected gallery, Irwin’s work will be showcased in local museums and perhaps other galleries.

And yes, usually artists move from gallery to museum, not the other way around, but if you’ve seen Irwin’s work, you know he doesn’t do things the usual way.

“My art is driven from within. I know exactly what I’m going to do (before I put a piece together),” Irwin said. “They either come from ideas that I receive through dreams or from things that I think for myself.”

The many pieces Irwin uses in his art are given to him by neighbors, friends and family members. It takes things that would otherwise end up in landfills and uses them to create whimsical wonderlands that viewers get lost in.

“Joe (Sorrentino) is in the media and he had the idea to bring my found art into the media,” Irwin said. “The world needs a little joy. My idea inherent in my art is to create joy. It is an insatiable driving force behind what I do. art that I worked hard to create.”

Irwin enjoys seeing people’s reaction to his work. Watching people smile or laugh or have a visceral reaction to something he has created brings him unfathomable joy.

The artist works quickly, so the six to eight weeks it took him to create the pieces for this exhibition seemed long to him.

“While waiting for the paint to dry on one piece of art, I go to work on another,” Irwin said. “What’s left of one work of art, I use in another.”

Irwin is thrilled to bring his work to a wider audience with this LA show. He said he was also “honoured and grateful” to exhibit his work in such a “spectacular” gallery housed in an early 1900s building in the Arts District.

Jackalope 10 x 5 x 6 inches.  Resin, mixed technique inside.

Irwin’s excitement and joy are contagious. He hopes his art is a bright spot for people to enjoy, especially in these dark times.

“I am grateful to everyone who has helped, supported and encouraged my work, and to everyone who has enjoyed and will enjoy the work,” he said.

If you can make it to LA, the gallery is located at 743 Santee St. Unit B, Los Angeles and can be reached at (213) 293-4877.

Kevin Mann is a Desert Sun intern who writes about arts and entertainment. Email him at [email protected]

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