Kenneth Graves received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. For the past 30 years he has taught photography at Pennsylvania State University (1977-2009). He is currently living in the Bay Area. During the mid-1980’s his work took a dramatic turn away from the traditional documentary photography to one that was more controlled and studio-based.
His work has been widely exhibited and both collages and photographs are collected in major museums, such as the New York and San Francisco Museums of Modern Art., Brooklyn Museum, Houston Museum of the Arts, the George Eastman House, and the National Library in Paris. Kenneth Graves is a recipient of the Guggeneim Fellowship (2001). The collages have been exhibited in 2011 at the Paule Anglim Gallery.
The collages reflect his training in photography and a fascination with image building. Graves's collages splice together photographic images with thread and occasionally feather, offering incongruity, humor and light social parody. His small framed compositions picture figures in unlikely settings. They employ a keen sense of the unique reality a photo image communicates, by incorporating images culled from popular culture with a view to dissect American idealism as it has been characterized in popular visual histories. They pay homage to surrealism and Victorian paper collages, embarking on related fantasies while offering deadpan absurdity and impossibility. Images are appropriated from magazines and medical journals, dating from the 30’s through the 50’s, and are re-contextualized to highlight the body’s potential to fascinate and threaten, and to explore gender constructions. True to the medium of collage, he has engaged in this seductive illusionism, while trying to thwart it at every turn by revealing the flatness of the surface as a reminder of the ease with which myths may be built or in some cases, dismantled. The boxed collages further extends the medium, introducing objects in three dimensional space.