Saturday, June 30, 2012


Untitled (squares #13), 2012, acrylic and oil on muslin and canvas, 33 x 33 x 2 1/2 inches

Robert Hoerlein is one of the Midwest's best kept secrets. A long-time resident of the small town (or more appropriately, art colony) of Fairfield, Iowa, Bob has been doing his own thing far below the radar of most of the art world. I had the chance to visit Bob at his studio, a small railroad freight depot shed that he recently renovated. It was great to see his work in progress which consisted of paintings, along with experimental pieces made of wire, muslin, and paint.

Just some of the artifacts on Bob's studio wall.

Some of Bob's newest pieces made with wire and layers of muslin and paint.

Bob sometimes places text on his walls as he works.

The exterior of this studio still resembles the railroad freight shed that it used to be. With Bob's carpentry experience, the interior was transformed into this bright working space. He even modified the rafters to allow for more room above.

The artist with chunks of walnut that will someday become table legs.

This is exactly how close the studio is to the rail line. The picture of the car that's pinned to the wall shows a piece by Hada (formerly known as Don Potts). Hada had moved to Fairfield some years back and had been an integral part of the art community here. He died of lymphoma on 1/7/11. That same sculpture, "My First Car" appeared in numerous art history textbooks and magazines over the years. 

Painter's Bread Interview with Robert Hoerlein:

PB:  How do you view the role of painting today?

RH:  Painting with actual paint seems old-fashioned. Today, so much work is created and shown in newer media—particularly electronic digital media.

So why paint with paint now? Consider why painting came about in the first place. Drawing, usually (mostly) monochromatic, immediately expanded into painting by including color. Painting was always the quickest, least mediated way to represent something from the mind, an object, or an abstract idea or a feeling—as quick as thought, nearly.

Now, in this century, a photo is quicker than a painting; but much more mediated by the technical devices involved. And in some sense dependent on an external subject, or setting, or light condition, or computer program.

Some of the electronic work is like painting, just with different tools and techniques. Purely computer-generated art can be exactly painting, with the added elements of time and motion. Very exciting.

The magic of plain old painting is that you can do it right now, right in this moment, almost anywhere, and with very little between you and it. And personally, I like what messy liquids do when you push them around.

PB:  What kinds of things inform your work?

RH:  Embedded in my paintings is always some reference to the natural world and especially the interactions of people with nature. Natural processes and working processes leave traces—these are the building blocks of my paintings.

PB:  Tell us a little about your painting process and the different supports that you work on and how you build them.

RH:  I make all kinds of things to paint on.  I regard the painting first as a physical object. Then I paint on it. I usually seek the point where the physical object just gives way to an illusion of some painterly space.

I’m currently building totally three-dimensional objects to paint on—built out of fabric, wire, wood, foam, glue and acrylic polymers. Newspaper, plastic wrap, plaster –anything that helps me get the shape. I'm also building some shaped slabs of laminated fabric over foam.

PB:  Who do you view as inspiring or important when looking through the history of Art?

RH:  So many, at so many different times of my life............Michelangelo, Titian, Cellini, El Greco, Bellini, Zurbaran.........Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt.......Turner......Manet, Malevich.......Bierstadt, Church, Moran.

Pollock, Newman.............Warhol, Freud..........Basquiat, Bleckner, Clemente, Kiefer, Hodgkin, Paladino, Salle, Schnabel, Twombly...........Kapoor, Neshat, Richter, Hirst, Laib, Ai Wei Wei.

So many more that I can't think of right now.

PB:  What kinds of future projects do you have planned, painting and otherwise?

RH:  I always continue my search; it seems like I circle around the same things year after year, where the material just starts to become illusion. Larger slab-like paintings this year, large hanging objects in groups, and the newest "humanlike" series of floor-mounted painted sculptures.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Filters, 2012, oil and enamel on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

Kafka, 2012, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

Blinds, 2012, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches

PB  You're doing painting and sculpture, how does one affect and inform the other?

CK  That's a good question, my recent return to painting was not an easy one; I struggled with it for about 3 years before it felt comfortable.

In the beginning I was strictly a painter, (harboring a secret love for plein air painting), but this was the late 90’s and sculpture was coming back with superstars artists like Barney and Hirst at the forefront. Coincidentally I began assisting the installation artist Ann Hamilton at this point, so I was slowly being overwhelmed by sculpture. Around that time I remember being influenced by Wolfgang Laib and Arte Povera, so naturally I became attracted to the seemingly endless possibilities inherent in material and became engulfed in sculpture just before receiving my degree in painting.

In sculpture I found my voice, approaching it at first from the context of pure materiality, which developed into a kind of raw objectivity. To me each material/object had a solid state, and I often worked with a material in a ‘natural way’ letting the object and material ‘just be.’ Working in this way I developed sensitivity and a lightness of touch. This later grew into a highly spontaneous/intuitive approach that naturally adapted to painting, by this time the relationships between material and object became increasingly relative to the viewer.

I worked in sculpture for nearly 8 years before rediscovering painting, What came out of this for me was the realization that one practice directly and deeply informed the other, although painting is an additive process by nature it is reductive when seen in context to my overall artistic practice.

PB  What kinds of influences are at work in your paintings?

CK  I spent the last 4 years working on and off as a draftsman for the artist Sol LeWitt. The way that variation played out as a logical conclusion (the exhaustion of possibility) was a revelation.  This approach to art-making led me to explore a new set of parameters. Previously my practice was wide open, enough so that I explored this extreme opposite, to my surprise applying restrictions (size, time, color etc.) freed me from what was feeling more and more like a deflated expansion (sculpture). This progression was both liberating and full of potential; in this way painting itself has become my newest influence.

As for artists, I rediscovered Richard Tuttle a few years back and recently found B.Wurtz, as for younger artists, Richard Aldrich and Nikolas Gambaroff have also caught my attention. On a lighter note I find the vague and rambling weirdness inherent in art-tumblers such as to be inspirational as well.

PB  What's been on your reading/listening list lately?

CK  I just finished Marie Louise von Franz’s book The Grail Legend; the hero’s journey is an interesting subject.
I’m Currently reading Baudrillard's Agony of Power, which is very relevant to the current social economic condition, and The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. A book about how thoughts can change brain structure.

According to iTunes my most listened to music of the last 30 days is:
The Weekend
The Feelies
Joy Orbison’s BSRkR01 mix

PB  Tell us a little about your recent work that's currently in the Alter Minimal show at Parallel Art Space.

CK  Rob de Oude and Enrico Gomez created a very fine space to host their first show. It was in fact their own unique visions that lead to the two different bodies of work being displayed for this show. Rob spoke of the way the paintings work in context of the Alter Minimal theme, voicing interest in the method and the display/arrangement of the paintings. Enrico took particular interest in the political implications in the reductive Art Forum collages. While speaking with both of them we discovered interesting connections between the works and their individual ideas, enough so that they invited me to represent them in the recent Bushwick Basel where I showed a new series of slightly larger paintings, the works looked good and the project was a success.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Time, 2012, oil and wax on canvas, 100" x 75"

Steven Erickson, now showing at ICON, Fairfield, Iowa, June 1 - August 11.