November 8, 2010 / Art
In 1980 the young artist Jeff Koons presented his first major solo exhibition, a window …
For the past thirty years, I have been interested in the sculptural process of assemblage art. Assemblage is the three-dimensional equivalent of the collage techniques invented by Picasso and Matisse. In assemblage, the artist transforms found objects into sculpture by gluing, soldering, or welding them together. Assemblage creates meaning through the personal, unconscious association of juxtaposed objects.
Recently, I have become intrigued with miniature environments. There is a power in diminutive or altered scale. A miniature is a dubious twin of its giant counterpart. Doppelgangers of real life, miniatures can act out threatening or hopeful scenes without true danger or consequence. In my work, the miniature goes beyond the cute collectable; it threatens the difference between true and false, real and imaginary.
My process involves creating miniature sets or stages that one of my colleagues once likened to the morality plays and paintings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Like morality plays, my work hints of moral struggle and theatrical allegories, yet nothing is absolute or didactic. Instead, viewers embark on a multi-level journey where discoveries are left to be made rather than imparted.
The assemblage process demands interesting and unusual materials. Sometimes a piece will sit unfinished for a year or more, waiting for the right part to complete it. Some objects in each assemblage are found, whereas others are crafted. I try a variety of objects in various positions until I find the right combination of objects; objects and ideas are placed and replaced, mounted and then dismantled, until the diverse components fit together like an intricate puzzle, “a wonderful puzzle full of secrets” as stage designer Erich Wonder describes his own work.
Much like medieval Christian altarpieces, I rely on narrative qualities and storytelling. However, my stories offer only faint traces of familiar characters and circumstances. Recognizable elements surface like ghostly apparitions but never fully materialize. My works are purposefully ambiguous, derived from partially deconstructed objects that reverberate with meaningful archetypes. Therefore, the narratives I use come peripherally to the viewer, through metaphor and allegory.
Aesthetically my work is grounded in a gritty, lugubrious expressionistic style. My assemblages are filled with materials that have weathered time and are often in a state of ruin. I am drawn to things in the process of accelerated decay, things that generate a sort of eerie, numinous power by the sheer amount of age and use that is seen and felt in the object. These objects vacillate between their original created roles and the new roles they play in my theatrical, constructed worlds. Here the wishes and dreams of inanimate things come alive; the mundane and banal are allowed a chance at something greater. A new kind of life, a new essence, emerges, one that is only possible in the artist’s world.Click here to open Barry Krammes’s exhibit in a resizable browser.
Barry Krammes is a working artist in La Mirada, California, as well as a professor and chair of the art department at Biola University, La Mirada, California. He has exhibited his work regionally and nationally.
Christina Valentine received her MA in art criticism and critical theory at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. A former professor of art history at Biola University, she has contributed to many art periodicals including Flash Art International, Art/Text, and ArtWeek.