I had never heard of illustrator Stephen Kroninger. It's a little embarrassing considering he's had a solo show at MOMA, and currently illustrates for a number of major magazine's. You know like Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and The New Yorker to name a few, and that is just the beginning of his bio. I realize there no way I haven't seen something he's done, I just didn't know his name and thanks to MIAD now I do.
So, I clicked on a link from a tweet @MIAD_edu (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) of all things that mentioned an artist talk for the exhibit, Kroninger! Experimental Collage Art from the 1980's. We can all give thanks to curator Patrick JB Flynn, who had the foresight to bring his long time friends work out of storage and into the light of the MIAD gallery for this rare, if not first time, appearance in a gallery setting since the 80's.
Even more fantastic than seeing the work itself was getting to hear a very fast talking Kroninger speak to a small group of people. His talk about his influence, process and experience of living in the east village during a time that I could only wish I would of been old enough to be a part of. He told us he has a very "obsessive personality" which I think is pretty apparent when you look closely at his work. You would have to be a very patient, non-obsessive artist to create these pieces made entirely from materials and magazines found on the streets in New York.
"I used to say I recycled more than the city [of New York]" -S. Kroninger
If I would of not seen the specific image of Kroninger's collage from the 1980's, when I clicked that twitter link, opposed to his current work, I don't think I would of gone to the exhibit. His is current work, totally relevant and politically important, is and should be totally different. We are talking a span of 30 years since this work was created. The thing that drew me to it was the visual parallel to these "peel away" collage pieces (pictured below) I own by ex-Milwaukee, now living New York writer and artist Randy Russell. Randy is actually making a special trip to Milwaukee to participate in Art vs. Craft next weekend. He always has some of the most unique strange finds at the show, I can't wait to see what he's made.
Randy Russell, collage detail
Randy Russell, collage detail
During his talk there was a lot of famous and non-famous names tossed around. Most I can't remember, or read my writing in my notes (this happens a lot) but mentions of working with certain musical influences that I love stuck with me. There was a story about doing a collage for a Talking Heads book. Kroninger was assigned to illustrate the song "Psycho Killer". As a part of his creative process he listened to Hasil Adkins song "No More Hot Dogs" over and over while creating that piece. Anyone familiar with the Hasil Adkins and the lyrics of that song can appreciate the dark humor in that story.
There were also continual stories of going to early hip-hop shows and how that music was a steady constant. Then there was the impressive mention of writing the treatment for a Public Enemy video and creating the "live collage" featured in "Shut em' Down" (video stills below).
This is a great opportunity to see work from early on in a career, before the artist even knew it was going to be a career.
Kroninger! Experimental Collage Art from the 1980's runs through December 11, 2010
Additional photos from the show are here.