DEATH OFFERINGS / TRANSFIGURATION
UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING ART MUSEUM
Material: bees wax, wood, natural fiber, lead, glass, honey
March - September 2002
Opening - March 15, 2002
|"Books of the Offerings"|
Beeswax, canvas, lead
Dimensions vary from 120 x 50 x 4 cm to 100 x 130 x 6 cm
click on image
Pavel Kraus approaches art as a cultural archaeologist might explore a newly discovered excavation site, sifting through ideas about mythology, ritual, material, order, and contradiction to create his site-influenced installations. His materials are a counterpoint of organic and inorganic resources: beeswax, honey, natural fiber, wood, and lead. At one extreme is the aromatic, pliable, impressionable beeswax that Kraus uses to encase many of his large architectonic forms or minimalist objects. The results have visceral consequences, both as an almost human skin-line luminescent surface and as a powerful, sweet aroma that pervades the gallery. At the other extreme is lead, a heavy grey metallic element that is infused with alchemical associations and is physically and conceptually inert and impenetrable.
Sex Death Offerings / Transfiguration is one incarnation of Kraus' ongoing Sex Death Offerings series. (The smaller installation Sex Death Offerings / Levitation was on view at the Richard Pardo Gallery, New York City in the fall 2001, and a large installation in on view at the Czech Museum of Fine Arts in Prague during the fall 2002). For the installation at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, Kraus included a variety of his sculptural components. The relationship of these objects, relative to each other and within the gallery context, suggests Kraus' exploration of human culture and artifice.
Sex Death Offerings / Transfiguration incorporates several sections, each with its own title. Using imposing geometric order and theatrical artifice as the structure on which the overall installation is conceived and presented, Library, comprised of six large wooden boxes covered in beeswax, is presented in an imposing row at the entrance to the gallery. Each box is equidistant from the next, and altogether they form either a barrier or a series of passageways. The visitor must decide whether to entry or not. Conceptually, the human-scale of the boxes suggests that these crates contain the history of human consciousness, knowledge, and intellect. On the opposite wall, several works combine to create an altar. It might be a place of worship or sacrifice. Remains of the Present is a re-configured presentation from earlier installations. Here, the 18 square sections of lead or beeswax on wood rise up the gallery wall toward the ceiling. Suspended on the right is Passage; a rectangular form covered in beeswax with the slightes presence of red. The colorŐs subtle appearance throughout the exhibition has implications of blood. One of the five Altars is placed beneath Remains of the Present and on which Essence, four glass jars of honey sealed with lead and string, is placed. Offerings, 43 bundles eerily reminiscent of decomposing bodies, are strewn along the floor.
Between these opposing elements lays Transfiguration. Comprised of eight geometric forms and placed in parallel and descending order on the gallery floor, this element is the transitional center of the gallery and the physical and conceptual center of the installation. Transfiguration directs the visitor through the gallery, simultaneously balancing ideas about the earthbound human being and the spiritual elevation of higher consciousness.
Along the gallery's peripheral walls are four additional Altars. Two are open, revealing what appear to be artifacts removed from their ancient archaeological origins and carefully suspended in a crate as if for transportation, perhaps to a museum for future study. Artifacts are the sources that reveal our history and evolution. On the remaining Altars are two books entitled Books of the Keeper. Presented closed and tied, we can only surmise that the contents within are written records of a personal journal or the record-keeping details of the pseudo-archaeological dig within which we are standing. We can further surmise that the "keeper" is the artist, Pavel Kraus himself, who has made this post-modern ruin as a play on fundamental human curiosity and activity.
Susan B. Moldenhauer
Director and Chief Curator
University of Wyoming Art Museum
from the Crossing Boundaries Catalogue, 2002
Sex Death Offerings / Transfiguration
Pavel Kraus is akin to a cultural archaeologist, digging through ideas of mythology, ritual, material, order, and contradiction to create his site-influenced installations. His materials are a counterpoint of organic and inorganic resources: beeswax, honey, natural fiber, wood, and lead. At one extreme is the aromatic, pliable, impressionable beeswax that, in Kraus' hands, is shaped into large architectonic forms or used to create an almost human skin-like luminescence that encases his minimalist objects. At the other extreme is lead, a heavy, industrial-age artifact infused with alchemical associations that is physically and conceptually impenetrable.
Kraus' collection of objects includes cocoon-like "offerings", containers, monuments, monoliths, and books. The offerings are eerily human without being readily identifiable as such. The containers vary with differing materials, sizes, and purposes, ranging from large enclosed wooden boxes to open crates with viewing windows to honey-filled glass jars. The monuments take on a variety of structural forms that include alters, shrines, or cathedrals, and the oversized books are documents of recorded activity and may be presented open or, as in this case, tied closed.
Using an imposing geometric order and theatrical artifice, Kraus has positioned his various objects to created the Sex Death Offerings / Transfiguration in the University of Wyoming Art Museum. Part of an ongoing series of site-influenced exhibitions, this installation includes an imposing series of human-scale wooden boxes that act as much like a rank of barriers as it does opportunities for entrance. This boundary offers a decision for the visitor-to enter or not. The human-scaled boxes are configured to create passageways through which one can enter the installation. The sweet aroma of beeswax and honey is pervasive. Standing within the work is reminiscent of standing within an archeological dig or, in this case, a kind of post-modern ruin.
has exhibited extensively on the East Coast and in the Czech Republic,
including Cathedral, Skidmore College; Archeology, OK Harris, Soho;
Codes and Signs and Remains of the Future, Czech Museum of Fine Arts,
Prague; Remains of the Past, Czech Center New York; and Remains of the
Present and Books of Lead and Honey, Joyce Goldstein Gallery, Soho.
A smaller version of Sex Death Offerings was recently on view at the
Richard Pardo Gallery in Chelsea and the next incarnation of the series
will be on view at the Czech Museum of Fine Arts in Prague during the
fall 2002. Sex Death Offerings / Transfiguration is his first exhibition
in the Rocky Mountain region. Kraus received his Master of Fine Arts
degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives in New York City.
OF WYOMING ART MUSEUM