In-Sync with… Karl Gerzan (interview)

AH Invitation 4x4

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Karl Gerzan.

Not long ago I met artist Karl Gerzan at 33 Contemporary Gallery after a few conversations over Facebook. Karl is an active artist whose passion for color is unmistakable visible in his body of work.  He is back in Chicago after many years of international travels and he is coming back to the Chicago art scene.  This Friday, his exhibition Rain or Shine opens at August House. Here is my interview with Karl. Check it out and enjoy!!!


SG: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?

KG: In 1996 I enrolled at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, (RMCAD), in Denver Colorado. My experiences there were invaluable in regards to my development as a professional artist.

SG: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

KG: Oh, yes. The foundation courses I took helped me hone my ability to communicate through visual representation. In the classroom, I learned how to draw. I learned about the chemistry of oil paint. I learned about the science of color. I learned about the psychology of two dimensional design. That being said, the most valuable lessons I received came from my professors outside of the classroom. Art school for me was not simply about completing the assignments in the syllabus.

In 1998, I was asked by Charles Parsons to assist him with the installation of one of his large steel sculptures. Charles was then the head of the sculpture department and this was a great honor. Especially so, given the fact that I was a painter, not a sculptor. Charles eventually became my mentor and encouraged me to persue my career and to forego the remaining classes I needed to earn my B.F.A. Through his example, he taught me the value of dedication to my craft and the determination required to accomplish what you set out to do. His application of diligence, persistence, patience and hard work inspired me then and still does to this day.



SG: What are you working on?

KG: It has been a very busy year for me actually. In February, I was commissioned by The University of Aurora to create a 25 foot x 5 foot painting for their new building, The Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action. The painting took 6 months to complete and has now been installed. I’ve titled the piece, “Heaven on Earth”. The painting is about grace. It’s about divinity. It’s about taking note of the individual experiences in life that when compiled make us who we are. The idea is that each section of color represents an experience. I systematically assembled these “sections” to represent Divinity. If you look just at one area of the painting you might feel the discord. You may even feel uneasy or unsettled. But if you are able to take in the entire composition a harmony arrises. Sometimes to comprehend something we need to take a step back and view it from a different perspective. Seeing the whole picture is key. That’s how real life works. It’s how real life works. It’s how nature works. I’ve found that that is how divinity works as well. Nature and Divinity kind of feed off of each other. They are kinda, one in the same.

On Saturday, October 5th I will be taking part in the building dedication ceremonies. “Art & Spirituality”, my lecture, will be at 1:00 and again at 2:00.

SG: What inspires you right now?

KG: Nature is my muse, always has been. This time of year especially gets me going.

These Autumn colors suggest a rebirth. I think Autumn is a season that is often regarded to as a the time when all of our spring and summer life die off and come to an end. To many people the Fall symbolizes the beginning of death and or a period of hibernation. To me this is all wrong. Sure the plants are loosing their leaves, but it is an effort to throw off their seeds. It is preparation for the next years growth. I am looking forward to this Fall and the impending Chicago winter as a time to examine and reflect. Its always been a significant stage in my creative process.

SG: Tell us about your upcoming show  Rain or Shine at August House?

KG: I’ve recently completed 7 new paintings that go on exhibition October 5th at August House in Roscoe Village, Chicago. The series focuses on the the color blue and the various contrasts of it that can be found in nature. From Monochromatic to Complimentary and everything in between. I’ve titled the show, “Rain or Shine”. All seven of the paintings are my interpretation of the skies over North America, mostly those of Mexico.

SG: Did your time living in Mexico influence the work you do now?

KG: Oh yes, absolutely! I’ve recently returned to Chicago after being abroad in Mexico and France for the better part of the last decade. Being from Chicago, I was exposed to a very muted and subtle natural color palate most of the year and my early color studies reflected this quite clearly. What I saw and lived in Mexico varied dramatically though. With the exception of 2 weeks of rainy season annually, Springtime really was eternal. In Mexico, the foliage is lush and the flowers are plentiful. I absorbed those colors and now they are part of me forever. Mexico’s has left a vivid impression.

SG: What is your website?




SG: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

KG: Trying to do to much. I find that often times I am to preoccupied with the business of being an artist rather than the process of creating my compositions. Marketing and advertising detract from my studio time.

SG: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

KG: I believe that gallery representation has always been important in the development of an artist career. It is an avenue we must travel in order for our work to be seen. Also, I’ve noticed an insurgence in the art scene. The 2008 world economical problems took the wind out of our sails, but it seems we are gaining momentum again!


SG: Book…

KG: Just finished, “Yes, Chef”, and I really enjoyed it. It’s the autobiography of Marcus Samuelson, an Ethiopian adopted by a Swedish family who went on to become a chef in Harlem.

SG: Art movie or documentary…

KG: “Surviving Picasso”. Picasso played by Anthony Hopkins. This movie centers on the women in Pablo Picasso’s life. How he affected them and how they affected his work.

SG: Place to be inspired by…

KG: The middle of Lake Michigan. I worked on the boats for a few years before art school. I’m still processing those memories. Maybe this winter I can coax them out into some new paintings?

SG: Chicago cafe/restaurant…

KG: Girl and the Goat. It is where animals go to become food. Delicious food.

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