Jose Krapp installs his show, An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand, in the Staniar Gallery. November 2015.

Artist Jose Krapp exhibited his work “An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand” in the Staniar Gallery in Lexington, Virginia from November 9-December 14, 2015.

Using common construction materials and hardware — plywood, extension cords, nuts and bolts – Jose Krapp creates installations and sculptures that are suggestively utilitarian. His escape hatches, fallout shelters, and substations could be the paranoid preparations of a survivalist or a playful reflection on the absurdity of attempting to deny the inevitable by controlling one’s immediate surroundings. For this exhibition, Krapp also presents a series of sketches and drawings that map the artist’s process of building something out of nothing. Jose Krapp work has been exhibited at El Museo del Barrio and The Bronx Museum of the Arts (New York, NY), Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico), and the Dallas Contemporary (Dallas, TX), among other venues. Krapp lives and works in New York City.

Toolkit for Jose Krapp’s “An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand”

Created by Lindsay George

Jose Krapp, An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand, Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery, Lexington, Virginia, November 2015.

Jose Krapp’s art installations subvert traditions of art production by using common construction materials such as plywood, extension cords, and nuts and bolts as their primary composition. Krapp’s exhibition “An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand” suggests an almost utilitarian function for his work. Escape hatches, fallout shelters, and substations give the idea of preparation for a post-apocalyptic survival situation. His installations give the appearance of a practical function from this survivalist mindset.

Yet Krapp’s emphasis on the materiality of his work also highlights contradictions or ironies in this utilitarian function. He explains, “I am interested in contradictions and duality in work. Strong objects are precarious and become weak. Things that look like they have a function serve no purpose and objects that look dangerous are harmless.” Krapp’s installations create a visual duality that forces that viewer to reconsider aspects of its construction and function. This sense of uncertainty in Krapp’s work extends further as a commentary of the human condition: “The structures are pathetic to a degree, but this is not a weakness. I am interested in making objects that go back and forth between strong and pathetic, smart and stupid, playful and dangerous, like people.” Therefore, the process of meaning-making and understanding Krapp’s installations alerts the viewer to the same arbitrary inconsistencies that govern reality.

Jose Krapp, An exercise in pretending it doesn’t matter, 2011, mixed media installation

Jose Krapp, An exercise in egress the not so great escape, 2008. wood, steel, balls, tape recorder, gas cans, bullets and water bottles. © Original artworks copyright 2016 Jose Krapp. Reproduced with permission of the artist

Jose Krapp, An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand, in the Staniar Gallery. November 2015. © Original artworks copyright 2016 Jose Krapp. Reproduced with permission of the artist

Physics and Engineering

  • Consider the physical integrity of Krapp’s installations. Identify points where they are structurally strong and potentially structurally weak.
  • Are there points that subvert your expectations? Points that should be weak are in fact strong?
  • Consider the utility of one of Krapp’s installations. What purpose could this object serve in a real life situation? Could you see this work existing outside the context of an art gallery?

Jose Krapp, An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand, Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery, Lexington, Virginia, November 2015.

Philosophy

  • Identify the materials used in one of Krapp’s installations. Are these materials what you typically associate with a work of art?
  • What are some utilitarian functions for Krapp’s work?
  • How does Krapp’s choice in materials and subject matter complicate the classification of his installations as artwork? If one of his hatch pieces were located on an actual ship would it still fall into the category of artwork?
  • How do materials and context impact our reception and understanding of what is art?

Jose Krapp, An exercise in not perpetual motion/another last stand, Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery, Lexington, Virginia, November 2015.

Further Reading

About the author: Lindsay George’16 is a double major in Art History and English at Washington and Lee University. She assists Staniar Gallery director, Clover Archer. George is presently completing an honors thesis in art history in which she examines the adaptation of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s brand of muralism by Chicana and Chicano artists in the United States during the 1960s-1980s.

This lesson was created by Lindsay George, a student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. This lesson can be used or adapted by other educators for educational purposes with attribution to George. None of this material may be used for commercial purposes. Copyright of original artworks belongs to the artist. Reproduced with permission from the artist. Please contact Andrea Lepage for information about the lesson or the Teaching with UCAH Project: lepagea@wlu.edu or (540) 458-8305.

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