Gronk’s Theater of Paint
May 29, 2016 — September 4, 2016
Gronk’s Theater of Paint explores legendary Los Angeles artist Gronk’s extensive work in theatrical design. Though mostly known for his paintings, murals, and prints, set design has been an integral part of Gronk’s varied artistic practice. This exhibition tracks his trajectory in set design, starting with his performative collaborations in the 1980s to recent international opera productions. Gronk’s theater sets are an extension of his overall body of work, which layers references to film, literature, philosophy, politics, and urban life into a distinct visual language. Gronk interweaves this visually dense abstraction with extensive research about each production, creating sets that embody the emotional landscape of each theatrical production rather than a specific setting.
Gronk is devoted to practice, process, and finding the “divine in the daily.” The concepts for his set design and other work develop from his daily drawings. These sketches exercise his conceptual and creative muscles and generate a reservoir of characters, settings, and narratives to draw upon in larger works. In his set designs, Gronk works with a minimal range of materials—staying true to the basic tools he has always used (paint, canvas, cardboard, wood) and priding himself on always coming in under budget. Gronk’s approach demonstrates his belief that great things can come from limited means when fueled by invention, skill, and passion.
This exhibition culminates with Gronk’s new site-specific installation, where he merges the grandeur of opera with his love for the low-brow aesthetic of B-movies. The basis for Gronk’s Theater of Paint is an imaginary production inspired by Tomorrow You’ll Be One of Us, a book of surrealist poetry written by Chuck Rosenthal and Gail Wronsky and illustrated by Gronk. Brought together by a childhood love of B sci-fi and horror movies, Rosenthal and Wronsky’s poems were constructed from the dialogue found in these films. Gronk’s Theater of Paint is the first time one of his sets has been made physically accessible to the general public. As you enter his theater, Gronk invites you to investigate the space, interact with the props, and make your own meaning. Your performance ultimately completes his production.
Curator: Holly Jerger
This exhibition is supported in part by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, and Astek Wallcovering Inc. The museum and artist would like to extend a special thank you to Luis Vazquez, Camila Sobral, and Ken Titley for their assistance on the exhibition.
Lead Image: Gronk in his studio, 2016.