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The Objects Themselves — Maybe: David Klarén’s “At Rest”

David Klarén’s exhibit of two and three-dimensional works on display from June 3 to July 7, 2017 at the Whitney Center for the Arts on the Sheridan College campus is both a presentation of everyday objects and an homage to the beauty of tools and technology.

For his show, Mr. Klarén has produced representational though not photo-realistic drawings and sculptures of tools associated with household use or the construction trade — screws and fasteners, a plumb bob and awl, a carpenter’s plane, a tape measure and vice grip, drill bits, scissors, buttons, a clothespin. Other pieces present objects linked to technological production — car keys, a battery, matches, sunglasses, a light bulb. In the sculptural pieces objects are made much larger than life to lend weight to their presence — a double A battery that is over a foot tall, a drill bit also a foot tall, an equally large lipstick, and a massively oversized electrical wall switch like those we see in every room to turn lights on and off.

The few nods to the non-human, non-manufactured world end up being a part of our technological vision. A two-dimensional image that I at first thought was a horse carrying not a rider but a large hoop was in fact a representation of a charm such as one would wear on a bracelet. Two oversized acorns darkly burnished to the point of appearing to be made from shining metal were imagined relics of an ancient tree that no longer exists — a kind of archaeological trompe l’oeil joke.

This photograph of the gallery exhibit provides a scale for the three-dimensional works. (David K. Klarén)

The materials from which Mr. Klarén has made his work also reflect a fascination with and love of technology. His two-dimensional pieces are black and white reverse-silhouette drawings on yupo, a category-five recyclable plastic paper extruded from polypropylene pellets. Yupo was developed in Japan in the late 1960s when technological development fueled an economic boom that led to concern about resource management. Noting the rapid increase in the demand for paper and fearful about the availability of wood pulp while optimistic about the future of the petrochemical industry, Japan’s Science and Technology Agency began in 1968 to encourage research into and production of synthetic paper. The result was yupo.

Yupo is waterproof, extremely durable — it won’t tear — and very long lasting. For an artist’s purposes it has many attractive characteristics. It’s intensely white and so has little influence on pigment colors. It’s shockingly smooth — ink seems to float on it and a graphite pencil slides across it with almost no resistance. It very readily accepts metallizing processes.

David K. Klarén, “Epona’s Charm” 2016, ink on Yupo, 26″ x 40″ (David K. Klarén)

Mr. Klarén has taken advantage of these attributes by brushing on India ink diluted in various proportions with water to create a variety of tones and effects sometimes like the effects produced in marbling, a process in which an image is transferred to paper that has been laid down on oil pigments floating on water. Marbled paper has a lively energetic quality and Mr. Klarén’s background areas have this same lively energetic feel. This is in contrast to the images themselves which are largely untouched parts of the yupo that look like paper cutouts mounted on the black swirling backgrounds.

It’s a funny contradiction — as if the objects rendered are not really at the center of the work. This image-as-absence quality is tempered by the inclusion of gold and silver leaf that has been brushed on in several places — the lenses of the sunglasses, the shaft of the pushpin, the pivot arm of the vice grip, the dots on dice. A similar sensibility is revealed in the sculptures that are burnished in glossy dark tones and, like the drawings, are highlighted with gold and silver leaf.

What I loved most in both the two- and three-dimensional works was the careful attention brought to everyday tools. I was especially drawn to the plumb bob and awl sculptures. Both are basic carpenter’s tools with elegant and dramatic forms. And these forms are a direct outgrowth of the tools’ uses — their functions. Mr. Klarén’s rendering of the objects many times life size signals his devotion to them.

David K. Klarén, “Divine” 2016, wood, graphite, 24k gold leaf, 5.5″ x 24″ x 5.5″ (David K. Klarén)

Each drawing includes a single image — scissors, sunglasses — or group of images — buttons, screws. The sculptures, too, are of a single object or group of the same object — matches in varying sizes, a pushpin and a tack, two acorns. One might imagine the pieces to have titles such as “Stapler,” “Vice Grip,” “Matches,” “Plumb Bob.” Instead the titles are metaphors. The stapler is titled “Conjugate.” The vice grip is “Seizure,” the matches “Potential,” and the plumb bob “Omphalos.”

When asked why he chose such titles, Mr. Klarén answered, “Calling the scissors ‘Scissors’ or the plumb bob ‘Plumb Bob’ would be redundant. I like language and want to make use of it — these titles feel more poetic.” Notwithstanding the straightforward presentation of each image, the central purpose of this work is to imply and suggest leading the viewer beyond the presented surface.

David K. Klarén’s “At Rest” can be seen at the Whitney Center for the Arts, Sheridan College, 3059 Coffeen Ave.,in Sheridan, from June 3 to July 7, 2017. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, closed Saturdays.  The exhibit is free and open to the public.

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David Romtvedt most recent book are the poetry collection Dilemmas of the Angels and the novel Zelestina Urza in Outer Space.  He plays dance music of the Americas with the Fireants and Basque music with Ospa.  His essays and reviews have appeared in various magazines including Strings, The Old Time Herald, Ceramics: Art and Perception, and High Country News. Romtvedt served as Wyoming’s Poet Laureate from 2003-2011.

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