Coming from a commercial illustration background, his paintings, never nostalgic, depict a certain suburban zeitgeist: young women at home and on the beach, men in suits, such otherwise mundane imagery as mailboxes, fire hydrants, kitchens, lawn mowers and a boldly colored tractor that suggest a bygone era, all under the protective allure of a companionable light and shadow. A few of the images are portraits of solitude: intimate, sometimes even tense, private moments. Nelson is influenced by some of the goals and devices of surrealism, of the hyper-realist technique of Dali and the absurd juxtapositions of Magritte; he’s also aware of the influences of cinema, Edward Hopper, European advertising and propaganda posters of the thirties, forties and fifties, and contemporary American realists like Alex Katz.
As Hunter Drohojowska-Philip has written: “Kenton Nelson . . has manufactured his style by synthesizing aspects of the art of the past, specifically work by the American Regionalists and those employed by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression to paint murals and document the more hopeful aspects of American life.”
As Nelson has said in a recent interview, “ . . my objective is to idealize the ordinary, to take those mundane things that are uniquely American and to make them heroic and iconic . . I’m a guy who works in symbols, symbols from my lifetime . . I’m a child of the advertising age of the 1950’s. When advertising was all about hope and the promise of the future. The work comes out of that ideal distilled.”
Since the 1990’s, Pasadena native Kenton Nelson’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Europe.