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The Colorful Perspective of Anna Kunz

Interviews
Kunzkey

By GINNY VAN ALYEA

Artist Anna Kunz creates art across a colorful, creative spectrum, seeking to immerse her viewers into her works on a sensory as well as intellectual level. Her art, from works on paper, paintings, sculptures, installations, and other projects, goes beyond physical limits and changes constantly, depending on existing light and other environmental factors. Her work often takes time to see and to experience. Her latest exhibition, Anna Kunz: Color Cast, after three years of experimentation and careful execution, is on view now at the Hyde Park Art Center. 

Kunz’s work has been included in numerous national and international collections. Anna has had exhibitions in Los Angeles, Houston, Brooklyn, San Antonio and the UK and Poland. Recent exhibitions include at LVL3 in Chicago, TERRAIN the outdoor community exhibition space run by Sabina Ott,“Luminae” at White Box NYC- also featuring the work of Louise Fishman and Alexandra Phillips, curated by Juan Puentes, “Color: Fully Engaged”, curated by Jamilee Polson Lacy, “Spectral Landscape” at Gallery 400 UIC, and “The Banner Project” at the Smart Museum on the University of Chicago's campus. (She also once worked at CGN for a time, where she was the most fun co-worker ever.)

Following is a transcript of a recent Q&A about her current exhibition. – GV

 

You’ve been an artist and teacher here for most of your career. How did you get started, and what were your early artistic explorations like?

I got started on things pretty early during my time as an undergraduate at SAIC, and I was involved with places like Links Hall, MoMing Theatre, and The Contemporary Art Workshop. At Space Gallery on Division St., which was run by FITZ, an SAIC grad student, I had some shows when I was still in school. One day art dealer Thomas McCormick visited my studio at the generous suggestion of artist Wesley Kimler, who lived in a space below us and who was working with Tom at the time. Tom ended up offering me my first commercial show.

Our studio building on Western and 26th was home to a lot of creative people who were into performance and sculpture, music and collapsing life and art. I was working on performance, painting and printmaking with young ideas about transference, reflection, the haptic and emotive parts of art, poetry, comedy, and using the body as a tool or armature for painting, really. Color was always a key element in my work.

Teaching happened after my Graduate School days at Northwestern.  I don't know how I would ever have met the people I know if it weren't for teaching. It's helped me to cast a pretty wide net and it's kept me up to date. I can't believe that social media is becoming the new Art History/Visual Culture text book.  My early explorations would have been very different if I were making the work now. I'd be much more aware of the camera persona of everything I was making. 

What is different about your current work, and this series?  

My work has been moving in the direction of this current installation at HPAC for the whole time I've been working as an artist. A striking difference here, I guess, is the scale. I wanted to make this work a 360° experience. Embedded in the work, though are the many relationships to painting, performance and printmaking. My more conventional paintings are a distillation of older work. This time it's coming from more personal places, with a more direct and pure approach, I suppose one that is riskier or a more raw approach, maybe, as well striving for a deeper understanding of color and its associations and relationships.

Talk about the various materials and experiences that are part of this show that may make people think about ‘painting’ differently.  

This show includes a 30 x 30 foot floor painting that has transducers embedded into it. The painting is made into an instrument, with the sound created by Beth Bradfish, and it is intended to pull sound up through the viewer's body and doesn't require the sense of sight to have the experience. Other elements are large, suspended paintings that take their proportions from the space of the gallery and are positioned to be visible through each other so they engage the changing light and shadow in the gallery. I think of the piece as a volumetric painting, but viewers might think about the piece in other ways: low relief sculpture, architectural, set-like, giant monotype-like, etc.  

We have created a few tangential experiences during the run of the show. Mwata Bowden and his University of Chicago Jazz X-tet performed a piece inside the installation on April 8.  

I want the piece not to serve as a set for performance but an inspirational space for new, improvisational art. I'm very excited to see how that happening turns out. I am also going to be teaching a workshop on color and memory for the 65+ group of artists at HPAC, and I am excited to learn how rich life experiences inform those artists' color choices. 

The exhibition description mentions that colors talk to each other – please elaborate.

I've positioned the colors and sight lines to be choreographed, positioned in such a way as to move the viewer through the space. Some of the colors are in harmony with each other, and some of them disagree and are more discordant. The relationships change depending on where you are moving, or what your point of view is; it's not unlike conversations.

What is a walk through painting?  

Come see it at HPAC. 

Would you ever do a series just in black and white and gray?

The wealthy taste for the demure is alive and well in gray. I think that gray is very decorative and safe. I do think that your question is an interesting idea, but I'm not there at the moment. There is no time for gray or the divisions of black and white in my mind. Perhaps some chromatic gray piece will happen at some point. 

You’ve been working on this HPAC show for months – what’s coming up next?

Anyone close to me knows that I have been walking around with an architectural model of HPAC for about three years. The shown view now could have been about 20 other shows that I have ready to go, I just need the space :)

But next I'm going to go and make very small paintings, sculptures and works on paper this summer in Upstate New York during a residency that will undoubtedly be informed by my recent experience with this show. 

 

Anna Kunz: Color Cast is on view at the Hyde Park Art Center through June 24

To view a video walk-through of Kunz's installation, visit annakunz.net