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Interview | Jeff Kraus

Tell us about this body of work launching on Tappan.

This body of work his highly intuitive and experimental.  I was trying to find an archival way to use the spray painted plastic.  Adhering it to the panel allows me to explore the transparency of the plastic while also manipulating the textures I cannot achieve on canvas.  I have always gravitated towards collage in my work and this is just another example.

Describe your work in three words:

Aggressive, stirring, architectural.

What's one thing you still have from your childhood?

My hand made bug catcher for catching fireflies in the summer.

What is your creation process like? How are you conceptualizing and thinking about each of these pieces?

I am driven by process and experimentation.  I do little to no planning for my work.  I enjoy the anxiety and uncertainty that I go through in my studio.  Some pieces happen immediately, while some take quite a bit of time.  It’s about the exploration and performance in the studio environment.

When was the first time a work of art affected you? What was it?

I was taking an intro to painting class in undergrad and I saw a Cecily Brown painting for the first time (in a book), it blew me away.  I was immediately drawn to the energy of her work.

Other than the genre you work in; what other types of art do you most enjoy?

I have been drawn to sculpture lately.  I like the idea of being able to fully walk around a piece, see it from all sides.  It's different from painting for me  in that it has a stronger physical presence. It has a lot of visual weight which is something I try and explore in my paintings.

Do you have a favorite quote, or a phrase you think about often?

I recently came across this quote by Ninja from Die Antwoord and it feels relevant.

"People are unconscious, and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. Some people are too far gone. They'll just keep asking, 'Is it real? Is it real?' That's dwanky. That's a word we have in South Africa, 'dwanky.' It's like lame. 'Is it real?' You have to be futuristic and carry on. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from dull experience"

What’s your philosophy on life?

Trust your intuition and do what feels right, always strive to move forward.

An art collection celebrates the social & political world a collector wants to inhabit. Do you personally collect, and if so what and why?

I personally collect a lot of work.  I trade with my friends and hang their work with pride in my studio and home.  In my collection I have everything from paintings, prints, works on paper, and sculpture.  The work I collect brings me joy to look at and live with everyday.  Art makes me feel in a way no other thing can.

How would you define the role social media plays in art? Art making? Art promoting?

You can connect to society instantly, which can be good and bad.  I think sometimes too much of the mystery of art is given away through social media.  I often struggle with how much behind the scenes studio content I want to share.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

To be honest, I think making art.  I am a very shy person and it can be hard sometimes to create and be like look at this thing I made and care about it, aren’t I cool? I have a love / hate relationship with attention.

What’s one habit you wish you could break?

I get defeated easily in the studio.  If something isn’t going right I usually just want to call it a day rather then sticking around and trying to work through it.  I keep a drum pad at the studio to work out some  anxious energy on.  It helps me reset and get back to work. 

Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?

I have to listen to music while creating, it's what drives me.  There are specific records that will get played over and over again while working on a body of work.  I can look back at certain works and remember exactly what album or song I was inspired by.

Favorite new thing you discovered in 2016?

Spray Paint

What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Learning how to develop work outside of my studio in Grand Rapids, pursuing more residencies, making more installation / sculptural works.  I would like to brach out of just making 2-dimensional objects.

See all of Jeff's new work here.