Click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Artists' Rifles Uzi, 2000, Charles Wing Krafft
At first glance it would appear as if one might have stumbled into a NRA gun show held amid the refined splendor of an art museum. There are AK-47s, Kalashnikovs, Uzi pistols, Berettas, Smith and Wesson revolvers, even grenades and stilettos. It's very discomforting. Even more disconcerting, as ones eyes wander around the room, are the weapons decorated with Ming, Delft, and Meissen floral patterns. Over in another corner are plates and mugs decorated with sinking ships, murder, and mayhem, even a Delft teapot bearing the likeness of Charles Manson (below, left). It's called "Disasterware." Gradually you come to realize it's all disasterware, all ceramic, and far, far from your grandmother's china painting. It's the work of a 62-year-old painter by the name of Charles Wing Krafft. He calls it his Porcelain War Museum. There is an absurdity of fragile weapons, painted either with tromp l'oeil realism, or decorated with frilly, pastoral designs in a style Krafft calls "Combat Kitsch."

Balkan Bunny, 2000, Charles Wing Krafft.
The first reaction is, how cute, then...
Working out of Seattle, Washington, Krafft's art goes far beyond its obvious antiwar statement. He sees it as a war memorial having a sort of twisted sense of humor. The featherweight weapons are the way guns ought to be made, totally useless, totally benign, totally decorative, totally fragile. His guns are made by creating plaster molds from the real things, then slip casting the work in delicate porcelain, which is then fired, decorated, and fired again. Krafft has been at it now for almost 20 years. Before that he was a painter.

It's not all just about weapons, murder and
mayhem play a part in Krafft's work as well.
(There's a similar piece with Hitler.)
Krafft is not in it for the money. His china weapons are not big sellers. An Uzi machine gun brings about $1,800, far less than his still-life paintings of china plates which sell in the $5,000 range. As a painter, he got interested in working on ceramic tile as the result of a commission from Von Dutch Holland, best known for creating custom cars, the flying eyeball icon, and blowing up things in Steve McQueen movies. Krafft studied with the Northwest China Painters Guild as well as at the Kohler Arts-industry Center in Wisconsin, and later in Europe. He casts and fires all his own work, and his decorating style ranges from elegant Delft, to the whimsical, to morbidly grotesque. He has shown his work in museums and galleries all over the U.S. Quite apart from the fact Krafft has decided there's little money to be made in creating such works, he plans to return to painting eventually, but for now, Disasterware has put him "on the map," so to speak, plus he's having too much fun to give it up.

Fishing With Lefty Kreh, 1995, Charles Wing Krafft.
Even his traditional painting is not very traditional.

No comments:

Post a Comment