Legendary artist Gronk stages his first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles in more than three decades at the Craft & Folk Art Museum.
The Craft & Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) presents Gronk’s Theater of Paint the first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles of legendary artist Gronk in more than three decades. Curated by CAFAM Exhibitions Curator Holly Jerger in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition delves into Gronk’s extensive work in theatrical set design, exemplified by a newly commissioned site-specific theater installation in CAFAM’s third floor gallery. The exhibition also includes site-specific paintings, original set pieces, artist drawings, photographs, and ephemera documenting his past productions, beginning with East L.A. multimedia art collective ASCO up to his recent opera productions with director Peter Sellars. CAFAM members will be invited to a special, behind-the-scenes tour to see Gronk installing his exhibition on May 19 and 24 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Gronk’s Theater of Paint is on view from May 29 – September 4, 2016.
“Gronk is a seminal Los Angeles artist, long overdue for a museum exhibition in this city. We are thrilled to recognize his work and shine light on his unique contributions to the world of theater and set design, both here in Los Angeles and worldwide,” says CAFAM Executive Director Suzanne Isken.
“Set design is a significant component of Gronk’s multi-faceted practice, and this exhibition is an important opportunity to explore that aspect of his work more fully,” says curator Holly Jerger. “Gronk shares CAFAM’s commitment to making, collaboration, and public interaction, and this presentation encompasses all those elements.”
Though he is known mostly as a painter and muralist, theatricality and collaboration are consistent hallmarks of Gronk’s artistic practice, demonstrated in his early experimental performances with queer artists Mundo Meza and Cyclona, as well as through ASCO’s iconic public art, performance, and multimedia works. In the early 1980s, Gronk turned his attention to painting, eventually extending it towards creating scenic design for local theatrical productions with Los Angeles Theatre Center, East West Players, LA Opera, and Cornerstone Theater Company, among others. Over the last decade, Gronk has partnered with experimental opera director Peter Sellars to realize monumental backdrops and settings for the operas Ainadamar (2005), Griselda (2011), and most recently for the international presentation of The Indian Queen (2013).
Gronk’s installation at CAFAM merges his love of the low-budget aesthetic of B-movies with the grandeur of opera. Gronk has always drawn parallels between opera and B-movies, as both genres share archetypal characters, tragic themes, and overstated performances. In conceiving Gronk’s Theater of Paint, Gronk envisioned the installation as the theater set for an imaginary opera production based on a book of absurdist, science fiction poetry called Tomorrow You’ll Be One of Us (2013). Written by Gail Wronsky and Chuck Rosenthal, the book contains poems constructed from sci-fi and horror B-movie dialogue and was illustrated by Gronk.
As Gronk subverts the traditional parameters of theater by elevating lowbrow pop culture to a grand stage, for the CAFAM exhibition he also breaks the “fifth wall” of the theater by allowing the audience to take action. Visitors are invited to interact with the theater set using Gronk’s handmade props, their participation marking the completion of the installation. Gronk has also developed a soundtrack to envelop the visitor experience.
“The exciting part that will pull this show together is that experience of being in a different environment and creating,” says Gronk. “Each time I have done an on-site piece inside of a museum situation, each ones dynamics are so different. The room, the shape, the way the light comes in plays into the direction the piece will go. That’s one of the things I don’t have a pre-plan or sketch of, I want to experience the space and let it inform me.”
The space will also provide a dynamic setting for performances and public programs throughout the course of the exhibition, including a prop making workshop with Invertigo Dance Theatre, B-movie screenings with Gronk and writer Marisela Norte, science fiction poetry readings, and artist-led gallery walkthroughs.
GRONK’S THEATER OF PAINT: May 29 – September 4, 2016.