February 7-March 11, 2020
Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Paul Kremer: Layer Hooks, which opened Friday, February 7, 2020, with a reception from 6-8 pm at the gallery: 1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3.
In considering the body of work for this show, Paul Kremer stated: “When tossing around layered art files, sometimes things land perfectly. I imagine it’s like finding a good guitar hook. Layer hooks.”
At the core of Kremer’s practice is a three-part journey: inspiration and conception, exploration via digital experimentation, and execution through manual articulation. First comes an idea for how shapes can exist in unison. How relative geometries can conflict or harmonize with one another. How dimension and weight can override flatness. Then, digital “layers” are created, providing the opportunity for initial compositional layouts to be worked and reworked into varying networks of shapes and structures. Kremer utilizes technology to support an endless process of discovery and refinement. Trial and error with no limits. And at the right moment, as Kremer noted, “sometimes things land perfectly.” The prime arrangement of layered colors and forms, with arcing lines meeting hard edges in equilibrium. Art critic Raphael Rubinstein has written: “Kremer is also keenly aware that today the dominant model is neither Renaissance perspective nor Modernist flatness, but the virtual space of digital screens. Here, too–by sketching his paintings on a computer, then emphatically making them by hand–Kremer deconstructs binary thinking. What makes Kremer’s demolition of binary structures all the more impressive is that he is able to do so with such ebullience, such joy in the sheer facts of color and shape.” (1) Kremer’s process incorporates mental, digital, and tactile components. The possibility for a composition that ignites within Kremer’s mind at once meets a process of perfected, digital sketching, but ultimately becomes reinterpreted with subtle elements of chance bound to the human-enacted process of painting. Over the course of several years, Kremer has refined the ways in which he combines paint, canvas, and the use of specific brushes to form incredibly dry, but vibrant surfaces. With a sureness of hand, Kremer achieves a balance between the boldness behind his gestural, expressive stroke, and the precision of his meticulous draftsmanship.
In considering Layer Hooks as the visual equivalent of guitar hooks in music, where the right chord progressions sometimes mesh, Kremer seeks to achieve a balance both in each individual composition and in his body of work as a whole. Each work in this exhibition explores how resolute geometric forms can at once present as shapes in a vacuum, and, upon closer examination, can also unveil subtle architectural spaces. Shown in this exhibition for the first time is one in a series of “working sculptures” created by Kremer and his father-in-law Roy Kerstiens. These sculptures are realized from already-existing paintings, or series of paintings, and have the ability to be manipulated in order to be used as reference material for new painting variations.
As writer Katja Horvat has stated: “Kremer’s ingenious work cleverly blurs the line between abstraction and representation–a result that feels like one big optical puzzle.” (2) What first could appear as an entirely flat space within a Fold painting might transform in a viewer’s mind into a three dimensional space, where a floor meets a wall, and an object’s shadow is cast upon these planes. Art historian and curator Alex Bacon has noted: “Abstracting from familiar forms, even if taking them far beyond immediate recognizability, enables Kremer, as it did those historical artists, to harness the sensations that arise from our day-to-day encounters—whether the impressive profile of a boulder or the sensual curve of a hip—so as to imbue the heraldic forms that appear in their paintings with immediacy and an affective impact.” (3) Kremer also carefully considers how his own work will exist beyond digital sketches, and ultimately outside his studio. The curved form of a Dive painting might seem to extend beyond the limits of its canvas, and even into the path of another line seeming to escape its own boundaries from a neighboring Ascend. Couplets and even groupings of paintings form new conversations and invoke the elements of the space in which they are installed into their overall existence.
A self-taught artist, Paul Kremer was born in Chicago, IL in 1971, and now lives and works in Houston, TX. For twenty years he owned a graphic design studio, where he worked with such clients as Lou Reed, Tom Waits, PBS, and National Geographic. Kremer was a founding member of the art collective “I Love You Baby,” which was active from 1998 to 2008. He co-founded this group with Rodney Chinelliot and Will Bentsen, with regular participation from other Texas-based artists, such as Mark Flood.
Kremer is also known for having invented the now cult-followed Tumblr and Instagram accounts “Great Art in Ugly Rooms.” Just as its name would indicate, this work chronicles a series of 20th century masterworks that Kremer has seamlessly Photoshopped into shabby interiors, sometimes with outdated decor or dilapidated finishings, rendering iconic examples from art history surely out of place. As Hrag Vartanian relayed in an opinion piece published with Hyperallergic: “It amazes me that Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2’ (1912) looks surprisingly at home in a wood-paneled room, or that the Barnett Newman easily blends into the bargain store surroundings by visually being transformed into a generic super graphic. Some of the art does look out of place, like the work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is far too edgy and busy for a typical fast-food chain.” (4)
Kremer has had recent solo exhibitions at Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, Houston, TX; Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Eugene Binder, Marfa, TX; Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels; Pablo Cardoza, Houston; and Makebish, New York. Kremer has also exhibited with Marauni Mercier, Belgium; Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI; and Studio Cromie, Grottaglie, Italy.
Paul Kremer: Layer Hooks ran at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from February 7-March 11, 2020. The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please feel free to contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Raphael Rubinstein, “Paul Kremer: Color is Space” in Paul Kremer: One Way or Another, exh. cat., Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, Houston, January 19-February 23, 2019.
(2) Katja Horvat, “Calling Paul Kremer Fat” in Whitelies Magazine, June 2016.
(3) Alex Bacon, “Paul Kremer’s Legibility” in Paul Kremer: Wide Open, exh. cat., Idea (Institute for the Development of Emerging Arts), New York, November 7-December 6, 2015, p. 24.
(4) Hrag Vartanian, “The Pleasure of Great Art in Ugly Rooms” in Hyperallergic, May 27, 2013.