Ken Wood at beverly and and Peter Pranschke at fort gondo compound for the arts
Each to Other
Encapsulating the strongest contradictions, both visually and metaphorically, Ken Wood’s elegant relief prints present themselves with a nonchalant and overwhelming harmony that seems to have been pulled off effortlessly in his recent exhibition at beverly in St. Louis. Looks are deceiving here, since careful calibrations, endless test runs and hyper design skills are the generators of these powerful, and at first glance, simple works. Much like contemporary life, these prints encompass endless dichotomies. The colors are indeterminate – cool, even when warm – unnamable, hypnotic colors that transform and layer before your eyes. Large bands and swerves of clementine ink turn to rust, Malibu aqua and then absinthe green, while St. Louis-Arch-greys overlay and subdue the mix. Space is flat but not flat, as layers of ink situate spatially on the paper’s surface yet simultaneously draw you to an interior depth. Orienting yourself inside these prints, you are both lost and found, immersed in Wood’s created universe while still consciously present in the gallery.
Complex and simple, subtle and bold, smooth but subtly textured, expanding but contained, serene but agitated, static but in motion, fast yet slow, these prints present themselves as possible abstractions of indeterminate things. Sometimes there is a sense of cropped letters, a giant partial alphabet, while in another moment convoluted expressways of infinite exits and entrances seem suggested. More than anything, these prints present interactions and relationships using the vocabulary of opposites. Wood switched to a smaller, more intimate scale for this series that transforms the tracks and traces of a printer’s plate into a compelling, alternative universe where nothing can quite be pinned down.
Watch Out: This Might Hurt by Peter Pranschke at the neighboring fort gondo also presents an equally compelling personal universe, but one that could not be more different from Wood’s orderly, restrained presentation next door. Instead, Pranschke, with no clear hierarchy or seeming structure, crowds the gallery with an overwhelmingly impressive mass of small sketches torn from multiple sketchbooks or drawn on found papers such as yellow legal pads, envelopes and medical receipts, along with quirky figurative sculptures he made of painted pill bottles.
Similar to an artist’s studio wall casually covered in sketches and ideas, Pranscke’s installation has a vast, unfiltered range that is honest, stream-of-conscious, autobiographical and fantastical all at the same time. And although at first look these distinctly rendered drawings seem clear cut, ultimately their complexity makes them impossible to pin down, except literally by the pins holding them tentatively to the walls. Arranged by group into communities or even collectives, you sense this art as an entity that is diaristic – a personal history interrupted by and complemented by imaginary beings and events.
Pranschke’s work is highly detailed, stylized, hyper-illusionistic, ranging from extreme polish (to the point of seeming to actually shine) to sketchily unfinished and is, taken together, as skilled as drawings can possibly be. His tools and techniques switch from pencil to ink, marker, colored pencil, crayons, gouache, collage, ballpoint pen and more, showing real virtuosity with each. Unpretentious and poignant, he makes public what is personal, both in his experience and in his imagination.
Flying super heroes, people immersed in their daily activities, floating text (‘evil’ and ‘smack’ show up), aliens, ice cream, cute porn, and lots of cars appear; these are characters and objects with agency. But most of all we see interactive relationships, especially Peter’s, as he deals with, among other things, spending his days on dialysis. Levitating pills appear, a comical pink kidney and lots of quizzical or threatening characters and situations. Notes and text add to the drawings: the phrase ‘Watch out: this might hurt” delivered by a tiny pie-throwing creature seems to be a portent. The world in Pranschke’s drawings is in the process of forming and dissolving; dilemmas and cacophony dominate. And the use of torn, stained, erased paper with missing cutouts adds to the feel of both a creative battle and a battle with life. It looks like Peter is up to both.
This exhibition was the basis for a book published by fort gondo compound for the arts available here.
Images courtesy of fort gondo compound for the arts.