Stephen Kroninger
MIAD exhibit
inviation designed by and all photos in this post by Patrick Flynn
 Kroninger! Experimental Collage Art from the 1980s
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
November 9-December 11

RECEPTION: November 11

Layton Gallery
273 E Erie St
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202-6003
Phone: (414) 276-7889
 This exhibit features work made between the years 1980-89. The title for the show highlights collage, but the exhibit will also include sketchbooks and drawings from the period. I have literally thousands of drawings and hundreds of sketchbooks from this time as well as a considerable number of collages. The exhibit focuses on a fraction of that work. The following images are roughly chronological.
  I grew up in Orefield, Pennsylvania surrounded by cornfields and wheatfields. I moved to New York City in 1979. For someone in their twenties, New York City was a great place to be in the eighties. The city was broke. It was our playground. It seemed everywhere you looked or listened someone was doing exciting and inspiring work.  As a recent art school dropout, New York City was my university. I lived in an SRO for a $150.00 a month. It had no kitchen and the bathroom, shared by ten residents, was in the hall. It wasn't an apartment so much as a compartment. My studio was a work table in the corner of the small room I shared with a friend. Every day I would sit in front of the window and draw the people passing by at tenth and Hudson. Philip Burke was my neighbor around the corner on Christopher Street. We used to draw together a lot. Sometimes he'd come by and I'd throw him drawings from my third floor window.
The East Village art scene was exploding. Galleries were often one-shot deals.  Landlords were having trouble finding businesses to rent their storefronts to, so to make ends meet they would rent the space to artists for a month at a time, and the artists would mount an exhibit. Most were centered on a theme. Art exhibits were also held in clubs. My work was included in a number of those shows. This was heady stuff for a kid from the sticks.

Pen and ink, pages from 1980 sketchbook titled, "A Coloring Book" 8 1/2" x 11."
I drew these shortly after moving to New York. They reflect a continuation of the kind of work I was doing in Pennsylvania. No underdrawing and just putting crowquill pen to paper with whatever popped into my head. I had a self-imposed rule at this time. Each time I bought a new sketchbook I wasn't allowed to go to sleep until it was filled. I didn't follow this rule for every sketchbook but did for many of them. It followed another rule I had since high school. I wasn't allowed to go to sleep until I had done at least one drawing that day.

 Music played a large part in the creation of this work. As in my attitude to the city itself, I was open to anything. I'd listen and work to punk, jazz, reggae, gospel, country, funk, r&b, minimalism, soul, rock, disco, soundtracks, great American songbook, rockabilly, rock n roll, garage, blues, Juju, classical ---- I could keep going on with this list forever but suffice it to say I was listening to just about anything you can name.
 My move to New York coincided with the early days of hip-hop. This recording by Grandmaster Flash had a huge influence on the way I began to rethink about my art. I began hanging out at clubs just to listen to the djs. A favorite was Afrika Islam (Son of Bambaataa) at the Roxy. Another was Dj Jazzy Jay of Run-DMC.  Later, on the larger collages featured at the end of this post, I was listening to a lot of Cecil Taylor and Public Enemy. Public Enemy's mixes were provided by Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad. The pinnacle of sampling as far as I'm concerned, though there are a lot of great ones.
George Grosz, 1920, "The Convict": Monteur John Heartfield after Franz Jung's Attempt to Get Him Up on His Feet. Watercolor, ink, pencil, and cut-and-pasted printed paper on paper, 16 1/2 x 12"

  In 1980, MoMa was set to close its doors for a three-year renovation. Their last exhibit was work from the collection that was headed for storage. The piece that most caught my eye was this one by George Grosz. He soon became a major influence on my work.

 To mention one more key influence, Picasso, in general, and this book of his variations on Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, in particular. It was published in 1962. It was given to me by a friend in 1981. As described by a bookseller, "hundreds of Picasso's meditations on some classic paintings, notably Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe, which Picasso examines, redraws, redefines, takes apart, toys with details, develops new general, the creative process at work on paper."
 As with the music, New York offered a lot to take in and I took in as much as I could from studio visits and tiny gallery shows to wheatpasted posters on city walls to major museums. It all found its way into my head and into my work one way or another.
Gouache, watercolor and ink on plastic trays, 5 1/4" x 7 3/4" 1982
 A friend's brother used to mail me these plastic chicken dinner trays to paint on. He lived in Philadelphia and he liked his chicken. I have about fifty of them. Patrick took half for the exhibit.

from a series of drawings with day-glo flourescent paint on black paper, 18 x 24 1/2", 1982.

unpublished Newsweek cover. Tape collage, 8 1/2" x 11"

Can't Buy Me Love, collage and ink on paper, 1984, 11" x 14"

President Ronald Wilson Reagan, tape collage, published in HIGH TIMES magazine, 8 1/2" x 11"

Street Scene, Tape Collage, 14 1/2" x 22"

Street Scene, Tape Collage, 19 3/8" x 16 3/4"

Street Scene, tape collage, 30 1/4" x  40"

 These are pages from a 1987 sketchbook filled with page after page of collage faces. I used to make these sorts of faces on my work table and then brush them off until my wife (then girlfriend) suggested it might be more prudent to glue them down to a piece of paper.

untitled, collage on paper, 15 x 22 1/4"

untitled, collage on paper, 15 x 22 1/4"

untitled, collage on paper, 15 x 22 1/4"

Untitled, collage on paper, 35" x 29"
 These collage were made by layering glued magazines pages one on top of the other much like the wheatpasted advertising posters seen all over the city. While keeping the paper wet I would then tear and slowly scratch away at the surfaces with my fingernails.

Vanity Fair, collage on masonite, 48 1/4" x 96 1/4"

Dirt & Germs Are Buddies, collage on masonite 48 1/4 x 48 1/4

untitled, collage on paper, 35" x 29"


 Cover art for a re-issue of Amad Jamal's 1958 classic "Poinciana." Art directed by Steve Byram. Steve came by my studio and selected the work he wanted for the cover. He now owns the piece as well. I don't know if any of you have ever worked with Steve Byram but he's just a fantastic man to be associated with. He was already an accomplished collagist when I met him, which is maybe we got along so well.

 Another piece design directed by Steve Byram. Promotional flyer for Public Enemy's 1988 single "Night of the Living Baseheads." Torn magazine paper glued to a shiny paper surface. The skeleton head was scratched out with my fingernails while the magazine paper was still wet.
 Not everything in this post will appear in the show; likewise, there will be pieces not represented here that will.

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