Stephen Kroninger
November 2010
A Box Of Magazines 21
Al Parker
Fred Otnes
artist unknown 1752 (front cover)
back cover
Al Parker
Fred Otnes
 André François (front cover)
back cover
Fred Otnes, uncredited, Gunnar Myrdal
Al Parker
Norman Laliberté (front cover)
back cover
Bernard Fuchs
Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, John and Martha Mitchell, Melvin Laird, Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham.
Sam Berman
Robert Hallock
Michael Mitchell
photo: Alan Fontaine
Virgin and Child, 14th Century. photo: Alfred Lammer
Bernard Fuchs (front cover)
back cover
Indian Archer made by "Deacon" (front cover)
Weathercock, 1850 (back cover)
"Two Sisters"
Fran Otnes (front cover)
back cover
Ravenna Mosaics, photo: Leonard Von Matt (front cover)
back cover
These issues of LithOpinion ran from '66 to '74.
late 80s early 90s Op-Ed

 In going through piles of work for the exhibit of my 80s work at MIAD I came across these tearsheets from my days on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. They brought back a flood of memories. Recently the Times has been celebrating the op-ed page but oddly neglected to include the Michael Valenti years. Michael was the art director I worked for on the page.
Michael knew my work from the Progressive magazine. He called me in for a job. I was pretty broke in those years. That day I had enough money to get me up to the Times and back with maybe a few dollars left over. Around the corner from the Times building, was a man selling vintage record albums. He had an original copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico with the Andy Warhol's "peel me and see" banana cover in perfect condition. I'd been looking for a copy of that for years. I mulled over my financial situation for half a second and then bought it. Now I had no money. I hurried up to Michael's office and handed him my work. He looked at it. It was done in a style that I thought was consistent with the New York Times Op-Ed style that was prevalent in the eighties. This was a new art director. He said, "No. I'd like you to do it like you do for the Progressive." Those words practically had me dancing on the ceiling. I had complete freedom at the Progressive. He needed the new piece that same day. As I headed for the door I remembered that I didn't have any money for the train. It took about a half an hour to walk home. A half an hour that I could have used for the piece. Sheepishly, I turned to Michael and explained about the Velvet Underground record and my present dilemma. Without skipping a beat, Michael said, "I understand" and handed me the fare for the train. I later learned that Michael was a huge fan of the Blanton-Webster Ellington band, a fandom we shared. He completely understood record collector mania.
 As anyone whose worked for the Times knows, the final say for all art rests with the editor of the page. The editor of Op-Ed at that time was Leslie Gelb. I never met him but we had a fabulous relationship. I never did sketches. I'd read the column and go straight to finish.  The next day I would go up to Michaels's office and hand Michael my work. He would always look at it, laugh and say, "They're never going to print this, wait here." He'd then take it to show Mr. Gelb for approval. I'd spend some nervous minutes cooling my heels until Michael returned. Back in the office Michael said the same thing, "Go home. He loves you." There was never the slightest change to my art the entire time Leslie Gelb was there. Things were to change, however. A new editor came in and my work was edited to the point of frustration. I decided it was time for me to move on from Op-Ed and Michael agreed. It was a great run for me and I thought an appreciation of Michael Valenti and Leslie Gelb was in order.

a native-American perspective on the "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus.

 The bags under the auctioneer's eyes are cold cuts.
  Michael wanted to know where the cleft in the Senator's chin came from. He thought I was trying to sneak some porno into the Times. When I explained to him that it was Liza Minelli's cleavage from an ad that ran in the Times Sunday Magazine he had no problem letting it go through.

Warhol Diaries

 In his profile of my work in New York magazine, Chris Smith wrote, "His distended, freakish, and playful collages pop off the pages...lately Kroninger has been getting more space on the Times op-ed than William Safire ."
 When SPY magazine did a sendup of the THE NEW YORK TIMES in '92 it was my work they lampooned for the illustration on their op-ed page.
 Several of the works in this post were included in my one-man show at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1992.
two MIAD sketchbooks

drawings from two of the five sketchbooks featured in the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design exhibit. The first set is from 1980. The second from '86. I've generally kept this sketchbook work to myself over the years. By the few who had seen them, I was asked over the years if I would make drawings for illustration assignments for various publications. Once I was asked if I'd be willing to draw for a magazine under an assumed name. I've always turned down the offer. My commitiment in print was to collage. I'm not sure why I've maintained such a purity of purpose all these years. I was born to sing the gospel but I don't believe singing an occasional blues will codemn me to the fires of hell.  Even Mahalia Jackson was known to sing a show tune now and again. I guess I've always thought of my sketchbook drawings as a kind of warming up, a way to keep loose for my collages. I keep sketchbooks to this day and in future posts I'll share drawings from some of the more recent ones.





 The influence of collage in my thinking is prevalent in the these drawings from 1986.  The playing with scale, line and shapes  often echo what I was doing with a pair of scissors.








 Again, a special thank you to Patrick JB Flynn for conceiving of and organizing this exhibit as well as for documenting the work shown here.
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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