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.
kiesler2
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