Born Detroit, 1967 / Lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
Nostalgia is a loaded term, often associated with a sense of whitewashed reminiscence and a safe contemplation of a past effectively stripped of any alienating realities. But in the work of painter and sculptor Andy Krieger, nostalgia is a tool which leverages a personal wellspring of emotion that translates from artist to work and transmits back to the viewer, creating an enchanting body of work that evokes a sense of connection and half memory of events outside individual experience, a kind of collective ur-history. Much like the films of Richard Linklater, Krieger is a master at the transformation of the personal to the universal.
Krieger acknowledges this mechanism of nostalgia as part of his own process of connecting to his art-making—a relationship that became estranged during art school. “They taught me how to think critically,” Krieger says, “and then I left.” Following that exodus, Krieger defaulted to a carpentry and art-fabrication career that, while ostensibly off the track of his personal vision, unexpectedly provided and honed the skills that have made his return to art so unique and powerful. For Krieger will not be confined to two dimensions, creating instead sculptural paintings that play tricks of perspective and feature subjects leaping, literally, off the surface plane.
These figures are, in many cases, surrogates of some kind, placeholding for characters in Krieger’s memory that will be deployed as many times as needed to satisfy his vision. Krieger says of the subject rendered in the charcoal drawing Leaping Man (2013), for example, “He looks a lot like [but is not] my father,” and he’s had a dimensional painting of the same subject as a work in progress for some time now. Ava (2014), which depicts a friend’s child tumbling midair on an outdoor trampoline—and was iterated in massive scale for the Big Paintings at the Factory group show in the summer of 2014—doubles as an encapsulation of Krieger’s childhood ambition of being able to execute a backflip. Much like a writer of comic books, Krieger employs characters in the pursuit of achievements that have eluded him in the plane of reality.
In fact, comic culture is a clear influence, both in the overall playfulness of Krieger’s body of work and in specific series, such as his 2012 Big Andy Action Figures—bottle-cap “action figures” influenced by folk art and the Johnny West action figures made by Marx Toys in the late 1960s. These depict important characters, such as wife (Big Debbie) and buddy (Big Clint). If there exists a layer of abstraction to some of his subjects, there is no doubt that Krieger’s work is deeply personal, and some of his most heartfelt pieces are those depicting his closest family, including his wife and two sons. Executive Briefcase: Pride and Joy Edition (2012) is a two-sided construction, an exquisitely rendered wooden facsimile of an executive briefcase that features portraits of Krieger’s sons, Ian and Karl, on each side. The iconic struggle of work-life balance is encapsulated perfectly—family as motivation for a time-consuming day job portrayed on the very device that requires the briefcase holder to be absent from their company (not the type of job that Krieger holds, in reality). And far from a rarified art object, Krieger says he would be happy to see someone carry this briefcase to work; in fact, a number of his pieces seem to dare the viewer to engage them in a process that would be ultimately destructive to the artwork, for example, his Paddle Ball Portraits.
One gets the sense that given unlimited means, Krieger would be producing fully animate works, striving for ever-greater involvement with the audience—and in fact he cites the immersive tableaux of Disney World rides, such as The Haunted Mansion, as examples of what paintings and installation art could be. His 2012 installation J. C. Hudsears is an attempt to construct a kind of art-rendered department store of yesteryear, and featured numerous points of interaction with its viewers. Ultimately, Krieger defies constraints of time, dimension, art-viewer relationships, and even the basic sanctity of his finished products, valuing above all the process by which he arrives at a given point in time. With results so compelling, there is a strong case for following Krieger on whatever journey he may next endeavor to take.
Sarah Rose Sharp, March 2015
Copyright Essay’d 2015