January 2010: New York Painter Adam Krueger Talks Tradition with Noah Becker

   Adam Krueger, A Fly in the Ointment, 2009, oil on canvas. courtesy Coleman Burke Gallery, New York, NY.

My recent series of New York studio visits yielded a young artist for us to get aquainted with, I speak of the great Adam Krueger.

Noah Becker's New York activities consisted of taking the musical genius Emily Braden for a visit to Michael Anderson's Harlem Collage Shop. Emily is a brilliant singer who happens to live near Mike's studio on Striver's Row at 180th street. Then the next day a visit to Ned Smyth's incredible studio compound on Shelter Island. I kept going and chatted with Mary Heilmann, Michael Halsband and Bob Colacello at Salomon Contemporary then attended the party and opening for Steven Charles at Marlborough Chelsea.

Tom Butter and Lucy Pullen cooked me a fantastic dinner at their sprawling Brooklyn studio. Eventually I took Tom and Lucy for Paella at El Quijote next to the Chelsea Hotel. That place has fucking amazing food and is totally historic, I'm going back there for sure. Some Whitehot writers arrived later that night and we were all buzzing about the forthcoming WM interview with Bill Viola.

 I had commissioned Alissa Guzmann to write it and she was asking me questions about how to proceed with the questions for Mr. Viola. Dinner would be interrupted by WM editor Kyra Kordoski texting me with the latest news about the content we were finishing for Whitehot Magazine.

Needless to say it was a week long party and I was exhausted but not finished. So after going to Brooklyn, Harlem and East Hampton, I was geared up for something a bit closer to the East Village. My friend the TLC television personality Mark Montano

author of "The Big Ass Book of Crafts" is located in The East Village, so I was in that area. Whitehot's Kofi Fosu Forson was living in the LES and we were hanging out a lot.

Adam Krueger was painting for his solo show at Coleman Burke in Manhattan when I dropped by for some quality conversation after a week of New York mayhem.

NOAH BECKER: Adam, this work is great. What are your influences? I'm curious about how you arrived at the process of cutting out parts of the canvas to use as collage elements?

ADAM KRUEGER: My influences in the sense of my process go back to the good ol days of single serving containers of milk and nap-time...kindergarden. My mother is a kindergarden teacher and during christmas break my first year at graduate school, I visited her classroom. I saw all the projects and “artworks” the kids had made the previous month and it made me smile and took me to happier , less stressful times. I remembered how when i was a child, i always carried a box with me wherever i went filled with paper, crayons, scissors, glue, etc..I used to make drawings then cut them, glue them,whatever. There were no rules, just a lot of play. Im not saying that my work is total play and rid of rules and boundaries, because i still hold on firmly to the tradition of old school painting, but I found a way to pleasure my obsession with anal retentive painting while allowing myself to remember play time. I just don't want to be bored when i walk into my own show. After the visit home I started making hybrid paintings/sculptures with realistic painting cut out along with construction paper, and found objects, and then hung them using string within a canvas stretcher. I realized two things, 1. the string would eventually sag, making it kinda, pretty much not archival, and 2. I was doing too much within a single piece, a sensory overload in a senses. Then I decided to limit the amount of varying objects/materials within a piece and then built them on the wall, “bringing them into our world”, as my thesis advisor said. I still allow myself to change materials from piece to piece, just not within the same painting.
I guess i also need to note the reason why I even started painting. Of course it was becuase of the old masters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello.

  Adam Krueger, Coquet, 2007, oil on canvas mounted to PVC plastic, human hair, hot glue, spray paint, make-up

BECKER: Yes excellent, I've often thought of the Ninja Turtles when making my paintings. Now that you have exhibited with Deitch Projects and have an upcoming show at Coleman Burke, how does living in NY as a visual artist feel? How does the scene change once you are a breakout talent with exhibitions and popularity?

KRUEGER: Ha, ha, second question first...I don't feel that I’m quite there as a breakout talent, still a ways to go on that one. Also I don't hang out in the scene so i would not know. I'm so obsessed with painting that I rarely wander out, and when I'm not painting, I’m getting out of my head/art in some shitty bar getting drunk with my non artist friends. The only people within the “art scene” I hang out with are my painter buddy Ron. Otherwise I associate with my old RISD boys who are all in fields outside of “fine art”. Now for the first part of the question, how do i like living in ny after being in a show at deitch. I used to hate New York. I’m from the friendly midwest and New York has made me a much meaner person. I was also bitter that I have worked my ass off for years even after grad school, and I had to put up with this over priced city. But then things started picking up and i was in a couple group shows and cool galleries such as Deitch, Marlborough, and Zwirner and that made me feel a little better. I just needed a bit of reinsurance to myself that what I have dedicated my whole life to so far might eventually pay off , even if it is just a little bit, not that I would ever stop making art otherwise.

BECKER: What is the work about? there is a lot of humor in it as in your self portrait fucking a nude model. I would say "having sex" but the treatment of the two nudes is quite banal. Its something that reminds me of the grandiose gestures of koons and his porn star girlfriend. But your work is highly aware of all that logic in a way that makes it less serious than the koons idea. The figures are painted on board and stand up as wooden painted cut outs. There's a hole in the head of the female for the viewer to put their face in. This is more "high art" via the carnival or farmer's market as opposed to heterosexual porn references. Maybe you don't like this grandiose comparison to Koons I'm laying on you?

KRUEGER: Well, the painting of me with the nude woman is in a series that is the polar opposite of my main body of work, at Coleman Burke Gallery in Chelsea NYC. As for the the series that includes the painting of the woman and myself, that is called “celebritising”. In this multidisciplinary series, I deal with not only my fascination of celebrity, but modern day culture's obsession with it. The overwhelming desperation of people, who desire to be famous or be loved by a celebrity, if only for a night, sparked the idea for my series. I have often questioned why fine artists, such as myself, cannot gain fame in the pop world without being considered "low brow". I have fabricated an alternate reality in which art world celebrity and pop world celebrity are one in the same, where an artist like myself is a star. My work explores what drives people to chase fame at any cost or humiliation and why people choose a lifestyle with such baggage in which they are constantly in the spotlight and continually objectified, only fueling the objectification of other "common" people who aspire to be with them.
Now for relaxed talk...I don't like or dislike the comparison to Koons. I was definitely aware of koons and his work prior to the painting, but like you said it is very different. This is an interactive painting. Its about people objectifying themselves. They pay a dollar to be fucked by me out of their own will, that is when the piece exists. I wanted it to be playful with my expression, the cheesy grin is kinda like , “yeah so what, how are you doing, arent these mismatched socks great?” Humor can be quite the mask. I love humor in art, sometimes I can let it come out when dealing with past fears, thoughts and feelings that I deal with in my work while at other times, the coldness cant be hidden.

  Adam Krueger, Audience (detail), courtesy Coleman Burke Gallery, New York, NY

BECKER: Your work is at once sculptural and painterly. How do you see this interaction in the paintings or are they more sculpted from your perspective?

KRUEGER: I agree that my work are kinda hybrids of painting and sculpture. Some “paintings” have actual three dimensional elements to them , others that may be flat on the wall still have that sculptural feel to them, I feel, because they are cut out, I am using negative space, kinda like a shaped canvas, like Elsworth Kelly. I feel since I cut out in order to find an image, it relates to how a sculptor will cut out and chip away at a block of marble. before I start a piece I usually have somewhat of an idea of what will be missing, but most of the time i paint more than the viewers will ever see, sometimes discarding months of painted work in order to make a better painting.

  Adam Krueger, Installation View, Audience, 2009 courtesy Coleman Burke, New York.

BECKER: Some of your work is in black and white some in color. Are you influenced by the camera in the sense of this color shifting?

KRUEGER: No, i wouldnt say the camera has any influence in the reasoning of my color choices, however I do rely on the camera to obtain reference images for my paintings. I wait to have photo-shoots with models until I have about ten concepts for paintings together. Then I get ten different models to pose for each of the ten different ideas. Then I find which model best represents each idea. Then, working with photoshop, I play with color to see what palette will create the right mood for each work.

To be honest most of my influences are outside of painting...

I like sweater vests. I like boobies. I like cereal marketed to five year olds. I like posable carnival cutouts. I like mismatched socks. I like the cheapest beer i can find. I like my parents. I like cheap paint brushes, but expensive paint. I like plastic fake food. I like garlic. I like starbucks gift cards. I like shitty pop music. I like movies that are made the year I was born or after. I like sleeping with my blankee. I like my ex-fiance even though she left me after ten years. I like toys. I like spending an hour in Hobby Lobby without buying a thing. I like Fedora hats. I like stickers. I like playing flip cup.

Adam Krueger's exhibition can viewed until Feb 27th 2010 at:

Coleman Burke Gallery
638 West 28th Street, Ground Floor
between 11th & 12th Avenues
New York, New York 10001

Editor-in-Chief: Noah Becker

Noah Becker is founder and editor-in-chief of Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art, a visual artist, jazz musician and writer.
Web: www.noahbeckerart.com       
email: noah@whitehotmagazine.com



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