Born in South Dakota John Kempton (c.1921-1996) was a World War II technical illustrator. Kempton was largely self-taught with formal training at UCLA and Art Center School, Los Angeles. In 1948 Kempton studied with Ed Kaminsky, Rico Le Brun and Hans Hoffman. “I have been greatly enriched by insights gained from conversations with Rico Le Brun, Stanton MacDonald Writht, Nick Brigante, Phil Cornelius and Masami Teraoka.” –John Kempton

Kempton’s compositions (1970-1975) included figurative acrylic paintings on canvas or paper; repetitive cartoon images he referred to as his “Banana Period.” The paintings are richly colored, exhibiting minimal modulation, shading or brushwork; contain elements of collage; (1976-1978) consisted of a further exploration of humorous cartoon imagery in ink and watercolor on paper. The repetitive and varied images are arranged in small square images, either in rows or staggered, hence the title “Comic Strips”; (1979-1984) encompassed figurative and abstract paintings which were looser in style. “His imagery sees women as frustrated seekers after an unattainable idea.” The works were primarily executed in charcoal and acrylic on paper; (1985-1986) incorporated Greek mythology into his charcoal and acrylic paintings; (1989-1995) he continued to work furiously on his painting during his recuperative periods after several operations. John Kempton said, “I always paint very well when I have strong emotions. I work my way out of it [feeling poorly] this way.” During the sunset period of his life Kempton turned his attention increasingly inward, expressing his private thoughts and emotions through his final acrylic pieces. (1989-1991) The emotions he painted into his stylized compositions became of far greater importance than his images; (1991-1994) and his small, but satirical, jazz artist works gives the viewer a glimpse of the offbeat humor Kempton wove into many of his pieces during his lifetime

“… Kempton continues to churn out vividly colored paintings that look like the work of a manic cartoonist raised on modernist art history. Picasso, De Kooning, and Matisse are all present in Kempton’s wacky pictures of women. He forces bodies into bright planes and faceted forms of acrylic or watercolor and outlines them in slashing strokes of charcoal. Hair fans out like brooms, undulates like rivers, or curls like that of classic statues. Faces are jerked upwards, in positions like those of Picasso’s abstractions.” -Suzanne Muchnic, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1980

John Kempton’s work has been exhibited in Southern California and Hawaiian galleries and museums such as the Aarnun Gallery, Pasadena; Rose City Gallery, Pasadena; Wolf-Moon Gallery, Kona; the Palos Verdes Art Museum. His paintings are found in private collections in the United States and Europe. Collectors include: Joe Cornet, CA; Mr. & Mrs. Terry Cannon, CA; Mr. & Mrs. Ed Nunnery, CA; Peter Wilson, CA; Mr. & Mrs. Betty Dore, CA; Mr. & Mrs. Robert Free, WA; Carol Schneider, WA; Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Corker, Hawaii; Masami Teraoka, Hawaii; Else Hole, Norway; and Kurt Wenner, Italy.

John Kempton, 20-year graphic arts manager and technical editor for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, received national awards for his innovative design from the New York Art Director’s Club, Communication Arts; and accepted numerous Presidential Design Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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