Krone Rides High as Urban Cowboy Artist
Larry Krone grew up in University City then trekked to Manhattan to become the ultimate urban cowboy artist. Trust me, that’s a good thing, as evidenced by his current exhibit at William Shearburn Fine Art.
In the wrong hands, Krone’s mix of kitsch and folksy nostalgia might be cringe-inducing. In fact, the mere act of taking country quilts and tacky bar mirrors as divine inspiration could prove aesthetically fatal.
But Krone is one clever hombre, a gifted manipulator of materials – from cloth to mylar to human hair – who is by turns witty and touching. The title of this exhibit comes from a classic George Jones tune, “The Grand Tour,” and Krone’s art might best be described as ranging from that great country singer’s rollicking tunes, such as “White Lightnin’,” to his sublime ones, such as “The Grand Tour” or “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Krone’s output is a Jones record come to life – albeit one a bit warped and slightly scratched.
Take his “Forever and Ever,” the exhibit show-stopper. Draped across an entire wall of the gallery, the mylar and tape concoction is a shredded tapestry that depicts a silhouetted Krone surveying a vast landscape, a la the Marlboro Man. The futuristic materials and iconic imagery never quite mesh, but that appears to be the artist’s point: The urban cowboy’s life is by nature a great big oxymoron.
At the other end of the size spectrum, Krone fashions tiny 4-inch dolls from pulled wisdom teeth, his delicate little costumes transforming them into jesters and devil dolls. Here he’s captured the essence of those outsider folk artists removed from modern-day society and culture. That he’s done so from the heart of the Lower East Side is quite a feat.
When he occasionally rights himself from his usual tilted view, Krone can be downright precious and beautiful. In “Untitled (Rose),” he covers a cotton handkerchief with layers and layers of sewn colored thread. The end product is a wonderfully crafted example of faux flora, a wall flower that is anything but. Similarly, in his “Love is in the Air (Lake Taneycomo, Missouri),” he takes an old scenic postcard and reinterprets it as a love letter by writing the phrase “And I will always love” repeatedly by hand. Simple, but effective.
The key to understanding Krone is realizing that his art really is a part of his life – and vice versa. Highly biographical, the artist’s work touches on the music and style he loves, the odd little things that catch his eye. A major aspect of this comes across in his performance pieces – one of which recently took place at Blueberry Hill – which combine country music, creative costuming and family participation.
In “The Grand Tour,” that biographical element emerges most effectively in a series of self-portraits that appear to be bar mirrors, but are in fact acrylic paint on aluminum foil in plastic frames. The three works are essentially the same: Krone, in drooping mustache and cowboy hat. But while the first has no text, the second reads “Sometimes Someday Just Never Comes.” In the third piece, the artist’s name appears in big, bold letters. As a body of work it’s a strange but affecting narrative, one that captures a certain lonesome pathos that Krone must certainly experience in a large, anonymous city.
But that’s life as the urban cowboy artist – ridin’ the trail alone, even if it is the Number 6 train uptown. Fortunately for us, Krone finds enough happy trails to keep things smartly entertaining.
Larry Krone: The Grand Tour
William Shearburn Fine Art
4740A McPherson Avenue
St Louis, MO
Sunday, June 16, 2002.
Copyright 2002 St. Louis Post-Dispatch