Three for the Show
“Creasing the Cusp” is a three person show with themes of queerness, realness, and anti-patriarchal ideas, but with humor.
Finding themselves caught in a blizzard, Krister Larson, 21, and Zach Hill, 22, hastily unload the various pieces of their art installation into The Netherlands, an art gallery space housed in the Milwaukee Fortress Building bordering Schlitz Park. Their only light sources are the streetlamps which cast a tangerine glow over the cars and buses slowly chewing their way through the slush.
The two strike a comical scene, slipping and sloshing into the building with armfuls of bizarre looking objects including a jet-black beach ball with CDs superimposed on its plastic, long pieces of intricately welded metal rods, large rolls of paper, miscellaneous fabric and art supplies, and a vibrant pair of lavender brogues.
In tandem, the rosy-cheeked pair lug their wares up two flights of stairs, down a winding corridor, and into the empty white-walled gallery. On Gallery Night (tonight), Larson, Hill, and their female counterpart, Kayle Karbowski, will transform the exhibition space for “Creasing the Cusp,” a collaborative art installation showcasing the trio’s sculpture, video performance, painting and drawing pieces. The show is described as a “maximal art installation” celebrating “queerness, realness, and f-ing the patriarchy.” All three are seniors at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and became close throughout the fall semester, and wanted to build on that relationship in a show which melds each individual’s talents and artistic interests.
Collaboration in visual artistry is somewhat rare compared to that seen in dance, performance art, and music. Many times these collaborations have created a bridge between different art forms and disciplines. Indeed, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali’s animated short film, “Destino,” did just that to much acclaim. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s series of collaborative paintings in the early 1980s, however, were widely panned by critics. In his diary, Warhol wrote about the pieces saying the “paintings we’re doing together are better when you can’t tell who did which parts.”
That’s what Hill and company are trying to do. “Essentially we are trying to confuse the lines of a singular artist, personality, or practice and delve into that grey area,” says Hill, donning a chunky plum-colored sweater and spiky pink hair. “Cusp is this idea of not being fully one thing. We thought about what would happen if you folded or creased that cusp, and what that space is.”
Larson, Hill, and Karbowski began the process of constructing their installation by producing a series of artistic prompts. Each artist chose two descriptions of a sculpture, video performance, and drawing they would like to see created, normally one with a personal meaning and these were then taken by each artist to individually interpret. The trio also abided by a set of metaphorical rules which reflect some of the show’s themes, the goal of which was to create limitations and push themselves creatively. However some are tongue in cheek: one rule says that an artist may not sneak out of the house unless it was to meet a boy.
“When I was little I used to put scarves on my head and do dance routines,” says Larson. “The scarf was acting as my hair and I was essentially putting myself in drag. My prompt (for one of his artworks) was to ‘perform a song out of character,’ whether that be putting a scarf on your head or putting some makeup on your face. In essence they are reinterpreting a part of my past.”
“Creasing the Cusp” was conceived and executed in a few short weeks, a tremendous undertaking for a show of its size and amount of work. For Karbowski, the process opened doors to her creative process.
“The work I make on my own I tend to mull over in my head quite a bit before I actually start making it,” says Karbowski. “Because we had such a small amount of time, I didn’t really have the opportunity to overthink things like I normally do.”
In order to fully immerse themselves in the space, Larson, Hill, and Karbowski also planned a sleepover, complete with their own makeshift fort. Rather than watching movies and gossiping however, the three intend to clean, mount their sculptures, cover the walls, and contemplate their pieces one last time before the show.
“The idea is that you are entering a space that feels less like a gallery space” and more like “a more weird art slumber party that had a bomb go off in it,” says Hill. The idea is to find “an alternative way of making and putting on an art show, different from what we have seen and been taught.”
Finishing touches to the space include Hill completing his giant inflatable ice cream cone sculpture, the idea being to make something fake look real and fake again. Using painted installation foam, Hill attempts to mimic ice cream that has melted into a puddle. A project Larson calls, “morbidly delicious.”
“I’m making this form which welded together looks like a pair of pants coming out of the ground,” says Larson. “The jeans hold memorabilia from my childhood like buttons, pins, glitter, and Sharpie marks. For me, the piece is about identity and having a physical attribute to your personality in the form of a commodity like blue jeans.”
Now, as fluffy snowflakes drift past their third floor window, the three collaborators start patching together their pieces, making sure each sculpture builds off of the others; creating one fluid artistic sentence. At the cusp of their gallery opening Larson, Hill, and Karbowski intend to fold together their individual art practices.
Opening night of “Creasing the Cusp” will be Friday January 16, 7pm-10pm at The Netherlands Art Gallery,100 E. Pleasant Street, Suite 3B, in the Milwaukee Fortress Building.