Kevin Umaña was born in 1989 and grew up in El Salvador and Los Angeles. He received a BFA from San Francisco State University in 2014 and lives and works in Kansas City. Umaña’s early practice focused on geometric paintings and has since expanded to include ceramics. His recent work investigates the history of the Pipil people—the Indigenous group of his family ancestry—native to the western and central areas of present-day El Salvador. Umaña’s recent works, “hybrid paintings,” combine glazed ceramics on painted canvas and fuse together conflicting styles—mess and order, biomorphic and geometric, thin and thick, matte and sheen. These abstract representations evoke specific places from his childhood, memories of nature, beaches, plants, construction materials, food and religion.
Umaña is the co-founder of The Ekru Project, an artist-run Kansas City gallery focused on contemporary, emerging, and underrepresented artists. In 2017, he created a permanent installation at The United Nations Headquarters in New York City. He has completed residencies at Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, Helena, MT (2023); The Center for Book Arts, New York (2019); Plop Residency, London, England (2018); and SIM Residency, Reykjavik, Iceland (2018). His work was featured in “Pattern Recognition,” curated by Amy Lincoln at Sperone Westwater in 2022. Institutions owning his work include The United Nations Art Collection, Fidelity Mutual Funds Collection, Center for Book Arts Library, and The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.