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Peter Krasnow

American
(1886–1979)

Untitled
circa 1938

American black walnut wood
78.5 x 18 x 17 in. (199.39 x 45.72 x 43.18 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
1993.47

In the lumberyards where Peter Krasnow found the material for his sculptures, castoff pieces of wood often caught his eye that were too small for his full-scale works, yet whose shapes, colors, and grains appealed to him. To make use of these pieces, he developed what he called “demountable” sculptures, consisting of separate parts joined together with precisely fitted, hand-carved grooves. Krasnow stressed that these demountables were aggregates consisting of individual sculptural components; he stated too that the parts were not interchangeable: “Each functions in a fixed orbit, so that the basic concept of the original composition is never lost.”

They are handmade assemblages, distinct from the collage assemblages created later by Robert Rauschenberg, George Herms, and Bruce Conner. Krasnow wrote that he was intrigued with the process of assembling and disassembling the components, which allows both artist and viewer to discover new facets of the sculpture’s form. Contemporary sculptors Charles Long, Roxy Paine, and Chris Finley have similarly explored the role of process in the assembling
and disassembling of their interactive sculptures.

This demountable of black walnut consists of a zigzag stack of loosely rectangular puzzle-piece shapes that defy any notion of sculptural frontality. A segment toward the bottom of the stack resembles a seated figure; one toward the top evokes an hourglass. Contrasts in shape, orientation, and coloration give the overall structure rhythmic variation and, paradoxically, a segmented unity.

Krasnow left nearly all his wood sculptures untitled, wanting to dissociate them from the “borrowed platitudes” and “storytelling” of figurative and allegorical statues. In the totemlike demountables, Krasnow constructed a grove of aesthetically conceived specimens, art-trees nurtured by the artist’s hand into towering abstractions. Since the conjoined, component pieces are made from different shapes and colors of wood, their individual features are emphasized. Hitched together vertically, they appear to be hoisting each other up, united—despite diversity—in a common cause.

Michael Duncan


Keywords
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This object has the following keywords:
  • sculpture
  • walnut - Wood of several trees belonging to the genus Juglans, ranging in color from grey-brown to purple brown, used in making cabinetwork, veneer, butts and rifle stocks.

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