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Larry Krone: Here I Am at PSTL Gallery

[uds-billboard name=”krone”]Larry Krone has packed out the small space of the PSTL Gallery with the stuff of everyday life, turned on its side: promotional mirrors, etched shot glasses, and yarn hay bales are on the list, to name just a few. His enthusiastic engagement with painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and performance pervades the space, with various explorations of cultural and socialized identities. A St. Louis native, but now working in New York, Krone had a large retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum just down the street in 2006. For this pared-down exhibition six years later, Krone shows mostly small works, but with a visual and critical punch.

The central piece of the exhibition sits on the floor at the center of the gallery. Titled Then and Now (Latch Hook Hay Bale #1, 2) (2009) and #3 (2012), the work consists of three yarn hay bales, naturalistic in color and texture, with a daintily placed throw draped over the top of them that gently commands, “don’t touch.” The yarn, acquired from thrift stores and senior centers, is a collection of needs, wants, and intimate desires of anonymous contributors that Krone has linked together by latch-hooking the pieces into complete works.

Much in the tradition of Pop Art, Krone has a way of taking something commonplace, like a beer logo, and transforming it in unexpected ways while still maintaining its identity as a mass culture object. Heineken/Praise God (2011) and Miller/Indian (2011), for example, are screen-printed promotional mirrors for their respective beers, themselves hand-held, kitschy items, but when overlapped with color-complementing, found embroidery, they are given a child-like, comforting aspect—the opposite of an adult, cold beer. Perhaps Krone is leading us to see the similarities between beer and embroidery, both of which can act as creature comforts, boredom-repellers, and private domestic activities to engage in when our minds need to rest elsewhere. There’s a depth to these works, which are of course fun and tactile at their core, but offer some perspective on the things we put our idle hands to—and why.   

The two postcard-esque ink on paper works, Love is in the Air (Covered Bridge Autumn Scene) (2005) and Love is in the Air (Crashing Waves) (2010), are the kind of over-the-top, clichéd images we bring home with us from vacations as emblems of our imagined, perfected settings of repose. One, a typical Northeastern, historic covered bridge, and the other, a dramatic, white crashing wave, immediately reminded me of British artist John Stezaker and his postcard works of overlaid images, in his recently closed show at the Kemper Art Museum. But rather than a collage of images, Krone has printed “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” in black ink over and over again in the background, almost obsessively. The phrases act as an insistent emblem to the love of place, often deep and misconstrued in our memories, and the people we have brought and met there.

Krone’s work is deeply steeped in his engagement with popular culture is a lighthearted entry into his engagement with cultural identity, memory, and the oh-so-attractive world of kitsch. Krone has a knack for making the intimate and personal feel present and teeming with energy—and fun. Case in point: a photographic self-portrait, shirtless, posed ‘50s pin-up girl style with a cowboy hat on amidst his hay bales, is the image that greets you as you enter the gallery. Here he is, indeed.

Larry Krone: Here I am continues through 26 May at PSTL Gallery, located at 3842 Washington Avenue, Saint Louis, MO. PSTL is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-5. Visit http://paceframing,com/PSTL_Window_Gallery.php for more information.

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