The Rapidian

Jeff Kraus reveals new work at Gaspard, discusses process

Whether you see them as raw and admirably unfiltered gestures of colorful creation or meticulously constructed design pieces might just depend on your aesthetic preferences.
Part of Kraus's upcoming "Conditions" exhibition at Gaspard Gallery, opening April 4.

Part of Kraus's upcoming "Conditions" exhibition at Gaspard Gallery, opening April 4. /Jeff Kraus

See Kraus's "Conditions" at Gaspard Gallery.

Running from April 4 to May 31, "Conditions" will feature an entirely new body of work by Kraus. Located at 235 S. Division Avenue, the contemporary, commercial gallery Gaspard will provide additional open hours April 5 & 6 as well as 12 & 13 to coincide with the Avenue of the Arts event, Art.Downtown.

Part of Kraus's upcoming "Conditions" exhibition at Gaspard Gallery, opening April 4.

Part of Kraus's upcoming "Conditions" exhibition at Gaspard Gallery, opening April 4. /Jeff Kraus

If you like to go out for coffee in Grand Rapids then it stands to reason that you may have already actively or inactively viewed some of Jeff Kraus’s artwork.

Kraus is an artist very much on the scene, with recent shows at The Sparrows and Madcap. He is looking forward to a solo exhibition at Gaspard Gallery opening April 4.

The Grand Rapids based painter and printmaker has spent much of his time since graduating from GVSU in 2011 painting. His pleasing compositions contain echoes of almost too many artists to name- Franz Kline, Cy Twombly and Gerhard Richter, to name but a few.

“I consider my work as an extension and amalgamation of their previous success,” Kraus explains.

Brash but not too much so, the colors, symbols and shapes work together- converging into a neat visual symphony one can enjoy comfortably- but that doesn't fade entirely into the background.

New work going up at Gaspard this month is important because it marks a milestone in Kraus’s practice.

“This is my first actual attempt at creating a unified body of paintings," says Kraus. "This work serves as a place holder for a moment in time, reminding me what I have experienced both in my personal life as well as artistically.”

Indeed this newest body of work is arguably Kraus's most refined so far. There is a more decisive application of paint, a confidence in what appear to me as either expansive city or skyscapes.

The same symbols and shapes are are present- Kraus explains he has become "obsessed" with them.

"I now like to use these symbols as a way of portraying this inner narrative. Ladders symbolize this act of constantly climbing up and down, highs and lows. The towers and domes represent this idea of a cage, or vessel," he says.

These are paintings for the more astute suburban collector, abstract to a point that might make you feel a little risqué or spark a conversation, but harmoniously stylish enough to thrive above a fireplace.

Flat opaque pastels push the viewer’s gaze back towards them. This depthless dynamic is enhanced by the house paint that Kraus uses in much of his work, a medium he is extremely comfortable with.

“My Dad was a commercial interior/exterior residential painter, and I did this same job for most of my middle teen years,” says Kraus.

These pre-mixed colors- engineered to work best in a lounge or bedroom- give Kraus’s work an even greater dexterity as interior ornaments. The amiability of his work isn't something Kraus is uncomfortable with, but a primary trait he hopes to build upon in the coming years.

"I still have a lot to figure out and learn about the images I am creating," he says. "I hope one day that I can bring it all together and make some really successful works of art."

These paintings are what Kraus professes them to be: his reactions to the paint with which he is working. Whether you see them as raw and admirably unfiltered gestures of colorful creation or meticulously constructed design pieces might just depend on your aesthetic preferences.

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