Kronschlaeger, Kiesler, and the Endless

“All ends meet in the ‘Endless’ as they meet in life. Life’s rhythms are cyclical. All ends of living meet during twenty-four hours, during a week, a lifetime. They touch one another with the kiss of time. They shake hands, stay, say goodbye, return through the same or other doors, come and go through multi-links, secretive or obvious, or through the whims of memory.”

–Frederick Kiesler

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Alois Kronschlaeger, Untitled (Basin and Range), 2013.
Photo by Marc Lins.
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Frederick Kiesler, Endless House, 1950-60.

Alois Kronschlaeger’s studio, and home, is also the place where we meet to speak about objects and process. The space where our conversations take place is warmly lit and longer than it is wide. A wooden table extends the length of the room and recedes into the back wall, where one of his wall sculptures (a Polychromatic Structure) hangs; I find myself straining my neck to look up at it intermittently during our conversations. The discovery that I kept looking at it as if it were going to change is an organic response to the artist’s work, in which the viewer transcends the role of the spectator to become an active participant. I become convinced that my position vis-á-vis the object does not simply impact my view of it, but actually has a transformational effect on the object itself, and I long to see the work again in search for this feeling that I have presence—and influence—on something that is outside of myself.

“What do you see here?” asks Alois, holding up a small model of what will be a large-scale, site-specific private commission. Vertical rods, at first glance parallel but in actuality slightly skewed, extend from a solid wooden base. I immediately think of Jesus Rafael Soto’s Penetrables, aptly named to evoke the way they invite the viewer to enter the sculpture, to physically inhabit it. What the artist is trying to get me to see, though, is not so much the possibility of the spectator’s insertion into the space but rather her ability to intimately interact with it from the outside. Each side of each rod is painted a different color, and when she walks around the work the faintly angled lines produce something like a moiré effect—an optical illusion whereby two or more patterns of lines are superimposed, creating a semblance of movement.

The position of the spectator changes relative to the first row of lines, which in turn also changes relative to the second row, and so on, in such a way that the visual impression of the work is dependent entirely on the viewer’s vantage point. What is unique about these objects is that they lay dormant in an empty room, but they come to life only in presence of the spectator or participant. The aesthetic and conceptual drive from which they operate is precisely this summoning of the viewer—a longing for his or her undivided attention. Something happens when you are surrounded by Kronschlaeger’s sculptures that’s similar to the effect of switching off the lights and watching otherwise still forms become animated under the veil of darkness. You become the center of gravity, toggling with the potential movement latent within each work as the shifts and displacements of your body pull the strings.

Alois cites the work of Austrian artist and architect Frederick Kiesler as an inspiration for his own constructions. Sometimes the evocations are very apparent. Kiesler’s Raumstadt (City in Space), a hovering support structure built for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925, recalls the stacked and slanted grids that rose out of the ground for Kronschlaeger’s 2013 work 30° at Untitled in Miami. And Endless House, Kiesler’s famous design for a home that was never built, is dominated by the same swooping curvilinear forms that defined his Basin and Range in Tucson, Arizona. Still, the strongest point of convergence between the artists lies in their urge to introduce a human element into their work: while producing structures that are definitively architectural in their separation from the body, they are profoundly concerned with the viewer and his or her pure physical presence. Kiesler incorporates the human form by emulating it and adapting the material to its shape; Kronschlaeger does so by devising a system where the work and the viewer are mutually stimulated by nature of being in a shared space, a communicative relationship that echoes Kiesler’s provocative assertion: “…all ends of living meet.”

 

Kronschlaeger, Kiesler, and the Endless

Valentina at the blog

There is something about writing that’s much like inhabiting a space. When I thought about what it might mean to inhabit Alois Kronschlaeger’s blog, like a newcomer who just landed in a country that is not my own, but where I can imagine the possibility of one day, in the near future, feeling at home, I struggled most with the preposition. Am I writing in Alois’s blog, for him, with him? Each option carries with it a distinct relationship to the artist and a different mode of being within the body of work, a degree of closeness and immersion. I decided that I liked the idea of at, a word that denotes a precise location and a specific time, so that as a writer I come not so much to a place—a blank page—but to a moment: the artist’s immediate present.

Alois’s preposition is on. His architectural sculptures work on the space. While scale varies, from the Wall Grid Structures that jut out just past the wall to the colossal Allotropisms, the genesis of the objects is always their ability to intervene and act upon their surroundings. This is self-evident in his site-specific works, where location (and accompanying factors, such as light) precede and determine the structure from scale model to completion, but it’s also patent in those works that were not conceived with a place in mind. The Russian constructivist Gabo distinguished what he termed the “volume of mass” from “the volume of space,” pinning one against the other: a solid cube represents the former, while a carved cube illustrates the latter—“the space in which the mass exists made visible.”  In concrete terms Gabo was defending space, reclaiming the sculptural quality of the area that is unoccupied by mass.

I can’t help but think of the swaths of aluminum mesh that sinuously interrupt the schematic structure of the grid in Alois’s works. These material interceptions rupture planes and lines, collapsing our geometric belief system and making way for randomized instances of beauty in the space: sensual shadows fall upon walls and floors, breathing new life into the surfaces; streams of light render a strip of paint suddenly transparent, revealing a concealed element. To borrow Gabo’s language, the artist carves into the space itself, and the action of carving suddenly shifts that space into our view. The forms that cut into the grids make us acutely aware of our position in space and time—one that is as transient as an optical effect.

It is curious and a little frightening to write about an artist’s work. Critics and art historians are often guilty of looking at an artwork so intently that it becomes something else entirely, like when a word loses meaning from repetition; artists are also guilty of this. I want to arrive at this project recognizing that I will be carving the space, drawing attention to the mass of what was there before, and that my words too will create haunting shadows that contract and stretch as the days elapse. But my presence as a writer also borrows from another operation at work in Alois’s sculptures: site-specificity. I recognize that I need to discover what is feasible, take measurements, make blueprints, because the subjects I will be writing about—artistic process, product, challenge, and concept—are not limitless vacuums but rather well-demarcated areas. The relationship of an artist and a writer is akin to the mutual respect and interplay between an object and space.

At is my introduction to the reader. It evokes my arrival here, now:

at present
at first glance
at full strength
at random
at intervals
at it
at once.

Valentina at the blog

Polychromatic Structures at Cristin Tierney Gallery

Tonight is the opening reception for my second solo exhibition at Cristin Tierney Gallery, entitled Polychromatic Structures. If I compare the work of my last show with Cristin, Allotropisms, with the work I’m producing now, I’m really pleased to see the different ways my sculptures have explored positive and negative space, color relationships, scale, phenomenology and the representational possibilities posed by the cube over the years.

I have been working on the sculptures in Polychromatic Structures non-stop since returning from Mexico in February with Florencia Minnitti and interns Sandra, Jaime and Young, and I couldn’t be more excited to unveil them to the public for the first time tonight. I hope to see you all at the reception this evening, 9 April, from 6-8pm. The show will also be on view during the gallery’s normal hours through 16 May. Below are a few photos from the past few months, which show the preparations for Polychromatic Structures; please enjoy!

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Polychromatic Structures at Cristin Tierney Gallery

The First Stainless Steel Spinning Cube, Loma Cantabria, Mexico City

Earlier this year, I finished an incredibly exciting commission that took over six months to complete and pushed my work into totally uncharted territory: I produced my first stainless steel spinning cube. Commissioned by Desarrolladora del Parque in Mexico City, the cube is housed in the lobby of their Loma Cantabria building. Each side of the steel rods is a different color, and the cube features six colors total: red, yellow, blue, green, purple and silver. As the cube spins, the colors gradually shift to create a shimmering optical effect and sensations of expansion and contraction. It is displayed on a diagonal access, which gives the work an added dynamic energy and maximizes the viewer experience of the changes in color.

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As this was the first time I had ever worked in stainless steel, there was a lot of research and design that went into the cube’s production. First, I needed a fabricator. Anne-Marie Russell of MOCA Tucson and the Sarasota Museum of Art, with whom I worked on my first major institutional exhibition at MOCA in 2013, recommended Dave Lewis, an artist and fabrication specialist in Brooklyn. With Dave Lewis on board, the next step was designing a screw that could be used in the cube’s assembly. We needed 3,000 very small, special screws in order to fasten the rods together, which were eventually fabricated by US Micro Screw in California.

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Dave Lewis produced a primary version of the cube that measured 10 5/8” on each side and was colored silver, blue and yellow. Once he completed this prototype, we were ready to begin on the larger piece. We used 300 stainless steel rods to construct the 2-foot cube. GT Machine & Tool Company in Long Island City drilled holes in each rod using a CNC router machine, so that the rods could be screwed together. Dave Lewis then applied color to each side of each rod in Tom Lendvai’s wood work studio in Bushwick, in what was a laborious and painstaking process.

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The motor for the spinning cube and the fork to attach the cube to the motor also needed to be built to exacting specifications. Jarred Metz, in Red Hook, fabricated both of these items with an astounding level of precision and skill. With 3 rotations per minute, the motor’s cycle is perfectly timed for the most visual impact.

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Once we had all of the pieces in place, we were ready to assemble the cube. It took Florencia Minnitti, Eduardo Abraham and myself 70 hours to screw the rods together, and the resulting cube weighed 40 pounds. Enrique Macotela, architect and partner at Desarrolladora del Parque, designed a mirrored base for the artwork, and local engineer Javier Torices fabricated the base. I installed the completed cube and the base with Florencia Minnitti in February during the ZONA MACO art fair, and it remains on permanent view at Loma Cantabria.

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It was absolutely fabulous to work with Dave Lewis as the fabricator and also with Jarred Metz, who designed several generations of motors in service of this project. A very special thanks also goes to the fantastic Enrique Macotela, Enrique Tellez, Enrique Enciso and Jorge Henriquez of Desarrolladora del Parque both for their continuous support, and for hosting the initial cocktail party with Raiza Larios during which I first proposed the kinetic sculpture. This project was a major accomplishment for me, and it represents an exciting new direction in my practice. Now that the cube has been unveiled, I’m looking forward to continuing to work in steel and metal and to see where else these materials will take me. There were many photos taken over the realization of the cube in order to document the project, and I hope you will enjoy perusing them below.

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The First Stainless Steel Spinning Cube, Loma Cantabria, Mexico City

ZONA MACO 2015 in Mexico City

Last month, I was honored to be able to present my work at ZONA MACO in Mexico City. I have visited this wonderful city many times over the past few years, and consider it to be one of my homes in the world. Joining me in Mexico and supporting my endeavors was my gallery, with Cristin Tierney and Candace Moeller, as well as my wife Florencia Minniti and my good friends Enrique Tellez, Carol and Carlos Césarman, Aldo Chaparro, Paul Amenta from SiTE:LAB and Enrique Macotela and Raiza Larios, who generously lent me her studio to work in.

This trip, and the art I produced during my stay, represented the culmination of a lot of time and hard work. For the booth at ZONA MACO, I created an entirely new series of sculptures that showcase my continuing engagement with color relationships and interest in art as a phenomenological experience. Given the strong influence that modern Latin American art has had on my practice, it was a treat to be able to present my work in the rich artistic and historical environment of Mexico City. At the fair, I was also very pleased to be able to show my sculptures alongside the drawings and painting of the amazing Chilean artist Jorge Tacla. I hope you enjoy the photos of the booth!

Cristin Tierney Gallery at ZONA MACO 2015

Cristin Tierney Gallery at ZONA MACO

 

 

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ZONA MACO 2015 in Mexico City

Introducing the Wall Grid Structure Series

I’ve recently begun working on a new series of wall grid structures in the studio. They represent an exciting development in my work and a deepening of my understanding of my main materials, basswood and ink. I’m continuing to engage with color relations, spatial perception and the architectural structure of the cube, but with these new structures I’m now also exploring how I can project my sculptures into 3D space by co-opting the wall: a place largely reserved for flat works.

I am very pleased to be presenting these new wall grid structures at ZONA MACO in Mexico City next week, where I will be showing with Cristin Tierney Gallery in Booth E-212. I will also be attending the fair, so join me in Mexico to see them in person, and please feel free to take some photos! We will be using the hashtags #cubosdecolores #cubosycuadernos and #interioryexterior at ZONA MACO, and we invite you to tag your photos on social media at the fair.

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A wall grid structure in progress
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Wall grid structure (detail)
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Wall grid structure (detail)
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Eduardo working on a new cube
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Raiza Larios has been generous enough to let me use her studio at Plaza Carso in Polanco as I’m preparing for ZONA MACO
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None of this would be possible without the dedicated Florencia Minniti, my partner in life and work
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Works in progress with a new wall structure in the background
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An aerial view of works in progress
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Cubes and clothespins
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We have taken our mission to always be surrounded by art to heart in Mexico City
Introducing the Wall Grid Structure Series

Towers at EXPO Chicago

In addition to Grid Structure #1 at EXPO Chicago, I installed a site-specific piece in Cristin Tierney Gallery’s booth. I placed two separate works entitled Tower B/W and Tower Color perpendicular to each other on a small pedestal at the corner of the booth. The works – both 8 feet tall – played off the booth’s existing and nonexistent architecture, creating their own infrastructure. From below, the pieces worked nicely against the backdrop of the exhibition hall’s ceiling. I also enjoyed how the works interacted with the artworks hung on the walls. I found that it was an interesting dialogue between my work and Richard Galpin’s, with whom I will be showing at UNTITLED Miami this December.

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Towers at EXPO Chicago