"She learned shipbuilding techniques," says Gallery Director and artist Lauren Bakoin, of the Louise Kruger and her enigmatic art. (View in YouTube if this video is truncated at the right).
If you live in a tiny studio in Manhattan, you can't possibly entertain the idea of hoarding sculpture of any significant size - even tabletop pieces have to be carefully curated between your fruit bowl, magazine stash and cellphone charger. But on this occasion, I came close to dropping serious rent money on a Louise Kruger original.
Being a yoga teacher myself, I was drawn into Lori Bookstein Fine Art by this sculpture in the window depicting Pincha Mayurasana, or Forearm Stand:
Actually, it's somewhere between a forearm stand - the head should be off the ground - and a headstand - the hands should be cupped behind the head. Who cares? It's a fantastically dynamic piece, and I've been coveting it ever since. The decision to own it was mitigated by coveting practically every piece in the show.
Kruger's work - chunky wood figurines of people and animals as well as whimsical tapestries which could have floated right off the pages of a children's story book - has been described as "folksy" and "naive" and all these other words applied to art rendered with mallet, chisel and a large darning needle.
Yours-lowbrow-art-appreciator truly was captivated as much by the spaces around the figures as the works themselves. Oh, how I longed to reach out and grab the forearm of those rough-hewn gentlemen steadfastly frozen in motion - running, walking, raking hay. How she captured the tilt and weight of womanly hips, And the animals - the green glass eyes of the lion engaged and held your gaze, beckoning a serious stare-off (and he wasn't going to bite).
Kruger is an LA artist, now in her eighties and residing in New York. She studied woodworking and joinery with a ship builder in New Jersey, and traditional metal-working techniques at foundries in Pistoia, Italy and Kumasi, Ghana. In 1953, she was included in the “New Talent” show at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
There is certainly a global feel to her work. A piece featuring a woman with pinafore and hand raised behind her head, was reminiscent of reminiscent of "Fayum paintings," said gallery director Lauren Bakoin, herself an artist, i.e. Egyptian mummy portraits.
Lauren even showed how the jaw of one soldier with a brass pit helmet moved up and down like a traditional ventriloquist's puppet, a legacy of Kruger's shipbuilding training. Another women with a protruding hip, almost Picasso-like yet in 3D, stared out from eyes made of embedded bronze slits.
The works all date from the 60's and 70's, and compared with the über-now, flickering, humming multimedia installations in nearby galleries, it's a breath of nostalgic air. If you can't come up with the $6000 (as at June 2010) for a Kruger original, at least it makes you want to grab a hunk of wood or clay and the nearest chisel and do your darndest with it.