Christina Kruse: Plasterheads
May 19 through July 30, 2021
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, July 2021
The small environments German-born, New York-based Christina Kruse makes look like a mostly white postmodern installation of diminutive sculptures. They create a complex, crowded environment rising from a flat platform on a pedestal. In Lunapark (2021), many of the white objects are made of plaster and soapstone; they are small and round and command sculptural interest in their own right, as well as being part of a general collection of miniature works that are carefully placed in relation to each other. As self-contained entities, these intricate installations develop complicated visual relations from one small object to the next, so that the density of Kruse’s intelligence is matched by the density of the work she is making. Lunapark might be a geometric model of the mind. At the same time, she has, in the second room, Will o’ the wisp (2021), a much simpler arrangmente, which is random in its placement of discrete objects, large and small. They are meant to call attention to the individuality of the articles this abstract landscape is composed of, including a substantial wooden spike rising from a square pedestal, several wooden dowels laid by chance on the floor, and a plaster sphere, much like a head. The last sculpture is supported in Brancusi-like fashion by a white wheel of stone laid flat, on top of which is a slate blue square sitting between it and the ovoid head.
The craft in the art is considerable and demonstrates Kruse’s penchant for establishing an interplay between the works’ many components and the sum of their parts. Much of the strength of Kruse’s art comes from the mixture of specific placement and the dynamics of chance. The many variables in the small constructions the greater works are composed of are interesting small sculptures in their own right. Although they are not stylistically similar, certain precedents in art come to mind: Giacometti’s work The Palace at 4 AM and the small figurative forms found in Calder’s Circus. Both these works cannot be said to have influenced Kruse directly, but they both consist of individual smaller sculptures that contribute to the experience of a larger, more complicated world, as happens in Kruse’s art. In Lunapark, the piece is dense with components that hold their own as creative works despite their diminutive size. The piece is as dense as a small city, filled in all manner of making by undersize spheres and various other geometric forms. The articulation of the work rises some two to three feet from its platform, set on a pedestal that lifts up the sculpture a good way from the floor. If Lunapark edges slightly toward design, we can also recognize how design has enabled a very complex sculpture to cohere.
The Directionalist (2021), made of plaster, wax, and alabaster, is a free-standing abstract work made up of differing planes, all very light in color, that may suggest the head of a person. The title sheds little light on the meaning of Kruse’s visual intentions, but that hardly matters--it is a work of unusual subtlety, with the flat surfaces of the sculpture, which is rectangular and vertically aligned and resolutely nonobjective, moving upward from the pedestal situating it several feet above ground, Seen from several angles, the work maintains a hieratic abstraction; the tension between the abstract forms and the suggestion of figuration results in a sculpture that is powerfully mixed in its affiliations Kruse is best described as an abstract artist; her command of form, for its own sake, is cogent and smart. And her skill, understood from another angle, presents a coherent view of abstraction, indebted to the modernism of the previous century, In a time when social rhetoric is dominating expression, the artist articulates a vision in which her forms are self-sufficient, free of a stance. They construct a world in which the visual advances according to its own priorities, without conceding a lot to the actual world. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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