Malcolm Kirk arrived in New York, in December 1964 and commenced his career as an assistant to Irving Penn. ICONIC FIGURES began as a project to record notable artists then working in the city, amongst whom were Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem De Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselman, Jim Dine, Robert Whitman and Saul Steinberg. The portraits of Richard Feynman, Arthur C. Clarke, Claude Levi-Strauss and other prominent scientific figures and writers are from later magazine commissions. Malcolm’s iconic image of Warhol, subsequently translated by the artist into a series of silk-screened ‘self-portraits’, hangs in major museums throughout the world.
MAN AS ART: NEW GUINEA, Malcolm Kirk’s large-format hardcover book, documenting the islanders’ visually stunning tribal body decorations and carved masks, was the culmination of 13-years of travel in that area of the South Pacific. It was first published in 1981 in the USA, the UK, France, Germany and Italy, and subsequently reprinted in a smaller, redesigned paperback edition. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, referring to the hardcover version, wrote that she considered it “one of the most beautiful books I have seen in my life.”
Malcolm has shown his photographs and lectured before audiences at Kimbel Museum in Fort Worth and the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Hawaii. His work has also been exhibited at museums in Canada, Stockholm, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Rennes (France), Rovereto (Italy), The Australian Museum in Sydney, and at art galleries in London, Brussels, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
In 1987 Malcolm and his wife acquired a rare and magnificent barn in upstate New York, constructed by Dutch settlers in the late 18th century. Over the course of several years they had its massive timber frame dismantled, transported, repaired and re-erected as a residence on their hillside property in Columbia County, NY.
Malcolm began traveling extensively through northern Europe investigating the origins of these so-called ‘Dutch’ barns, which are distinguished by their central naves and flanking aisles, and discovered surviving examples dating back to the 12th century. His book, SILENT SPACES: THE LAST OF THE GREAT AISLED BARNS, published in 1994 in the USA, the UK and France, is the culmination of that research.
While the barn conversion was still under way, Malcolm turned his attention to the surrounding landscape. Although the hillside location afforded spectacular views, it seemed uncomfortably exposed to anyone in the valley below. Nature supplied the answer. Whenever threatened, the resident woodchucks retreated from the lawn and disappeared behind the long grass bordering it, from which vantage point they rose on hind legs to survey their surroundings. Hedges, walls, fences and trees, discerningly positioned, could provide similar sanctuaries for humans.
Over the ensuing years Malcolm photographed a number of exceptional gardens in Europe and North America, many in private hands, documenting both their external boundaries and internal subdivisions. PROSPECT AND REFUGE, the title for his future, as yet unpublished work, grew out of the realization that the essence of successful garden design lies in establishing a harmonious balance between a desire for prospect with the requirement for refuge.
ICONIC FIGURES (portraits of prominent figures in the arts and sciences), MAN AS ART (a record of tribal body decoration in Papua New Guinea), SILENT SPACES (a documentation of aisled barns dating back to the 12th century) and ENCLOSED GARDENS (a pictorial essay covering some of the world’s most magnificent gardens) were self-assigned projects, each of which involved years of research. Limited edition prints of all four subjects are now available for purchase.
In addition to these ventures Malcolm has traveled extensively in many other far flung locales, from Easter Island to Tibet and in a hydrogen balloon over the Swiss Alps, on assignment for magazines such as National Geographic, GEO, The Smithsonian, Natural History, Time-Life Books, Newsweek, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Harpers Bazaar, Discover, Omni, Penthouse, Quest, Venture, the Sunday Telegraph and The Observer (UK), Stern (Germany), Paris Match, and numerous other publications in the USA, Europe and Asia.