Contributed by Sharon Butler / Spending summer in the city means that each weekend, in neighborhoods far and near, street traffic is rerouted to make way for lively festivals featuring food, music, facepainting, games, dancing, and more. Peter Krashes, a political organizer in Prospect Heights, makes paintings based on snapshots he takes during these neighborhood festivals. The gouache-on-paper paintings, on view at Theodore: Art through Saturday, May 25, feature cropped figures, rendered with confident brushwork applied in the uniform angularity of a felt-tipped marker. The tight framing of the images combined with the rigorous brushstrokes creates a sense of claustrophobia and urgency. Krashes’s neighbors appear as though they might be engaged in a protest rather than a summer celebration.
Indeed, from the press release, we learn that the neighborhood has been under attack for years. The Barclays Center and Pacific Park, a 22-acre real estate project, are at the center of an ongoing battle between the local community and powerful real estate development interests. In his paintings, Krashes explores how humans interact in the presence of the fences, walls, and police that accompany the upheaval of grinding real estate development.
Like many of the projects in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Krashes’s approach is unapologetically earnest. Snark, slapstick, and wit, exemplified at the Whitney by “Procession,” Nicole Eisenman’s much-loved ascent-of-man parade piece on the terrace or Brian Belott’s hilarious freezer paintings, have been the refuge of artists with privilege for many years. A new strategy, particularly among artists in underrepresented communities, involves heartfelt sincerity and a willingness to share personal experiences. Krashes, too, is drawn in this direction.
Like so many artists in the Biennial, he isn’t kidding around. He is concerned less with what divides us than with what binds us together. When all citizens begin to apprehend that their concerns aren’t being taken seriously by government decision makers, when fiscal issues are continually prioritized over quality-of-life concerns, how long will it take for those affected to fully unleash their anger?
We keep protesting because sometimes community organizers like Krashes win. Amazon buckled under local pressure in Queens. But on both the national and the local level, in an age of abject corruption and greed, we seem to be reaching the boiling point. Unlike more conceptually-based political artists, Krashes isn’t explaining the issues in his work. He is assuming we understand them and pointing out, vividly and astutely, that perhaps we have all had enough.
Artist bio (from gallery website): Peter Krashes lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford (1987) and Middlebury College (1985). Along with the James Gallery, CUNY Graduate Center, solo exhibitions include University Galleries, Illinois State University, Normal, IL; Theodore: Art, Brooklyn, NY; Coop, Nashville, TN; Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY; Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY; and White Columns, New York, NY. Group exhibitions include He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China; Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York, NY; and Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris, France. He has taught in numerous places such as Cooper Union School of Art, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and American University. Krashes is a recipient of a Marshall Scholarship and a Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant. Reviews of his work have appeared in the New York Times, Time Out New York, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, and the New Yorker.
“Peter Krashes: Contact!” Theodore: Art, Bushwick, 56 Bogart St., Brooklyn, NY. Through May 25, 2019.