Week 11 Artist Interview : Gerardo Pena and Kyle Kruse

Art 110

When people think of art, they probably think of museum exhibits and stark white walls lined with oil paintings. But, as times have changed, not only has the content of the art changed, but also its mediums, styles, and presentation. This week, Gerardo Pena and Kyle Kruse’s instillation was one such work which seemed to break through the boundaries of the traditional gallery setting.


Though their work may look haphazardly placed compared to the rigimented museum shows most viewers are used to, from talking to the artists I found the placement was actually quite thought out. For instance, the car bumpers acted as a frame to their unordinary collection, creating an ‘ending’ to the work as viewers exited the gallery. Pena and Kruse said they wanted to truly create the environment of the room, which required more than merely containing the context of the street within the gallery. Creating a realistic setting for their work required much more than just an abstract frame and cans of spray paint, so they scattered trash and tools like ladders across the floor. The large sign piece in the back acted as a resting point for the eyes, breaking up the mass amount of content in the room.

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Things that seemed random at first glance actually served a purpose within the work. The ladder and bumpers framed the work, while the clearer back wall broke up the heavy content of the room. Trash added to the ambiance, and Pena said he even ripped an art history test he failed and threw it in one of the piles (which seemed somehow connected to their views of traditional arts slowly becoming obsolete)

As evident in their show, they were both highly influenced by the urban settings they grew up in, Pena coming from North Long Beach and Kruse coming from San Francisco. They’d both loved art and creating things since they were young, but typical art forms had seemed a bit boring and rigid. So, they’d turned to the streets to create works of art and their interests in graffiti began. Though they seemed like old friends, their meeting almost never happened. Pena started school as a Psychology major, while Kruse was undeclared. But, after a while they both realized, as Kruse put it, they might as well do what they loved, and both changed their majors to art. They met in their intro art classes and though they originally practically hated each other, their competition eventually sparked a friendship and their current gallery collaboration.

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With their  similar backgrounds and highly competitive work ethics, the pairing seemed perfect, a fact which could easily be seen throughout the work. Though they used different mediums and styles (Pena focused more on print, Kruse more on sculpture – though Kruse did say drawing/printing and sculpture were very closely related), their individual pieces seemed to flow together effortlessly and created a seamless entire work.

Though their work’s content is very street-focused, they do have experience with and hint at these influences from traditional art as well. Many of the classes they’d taken together were more classically based, and the framed prints around the room hinted at their newfound experience with the traditional styles. Kruse said these actually furthered the graffiti idea; taggers often cover each others’ work over and over, and the new teachings were like the traditional format of art tagging over their original styles. While this meshing may seem impossible with such opposing styles, the product was truly amazing.

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Their background helped them create the genuine feel of a “living” street culture that Kruse said people couldn’t feel in a manufactured piece. They even warped the normal artist statement into the walls of their work to further that genuine experience. The title of the instillation, 5620, was the gate code for (and they said, really the only identifying aspect of) where they worked on their collaboration. Creating the pieces for the gallery took around 3 months, and installing the finished artwork in the gallery took them about 30 hours (including a pizza break) 

Pena and Kruse are both currently working towards bachelors degrees and plan to pursue art after college. Pena said he was hoping to move more toward the Los Angeles art scene, since he’d been living in the same area most of his life. Hopefully even after they part ways, they’ll continue to do collaborations together and create even more great, living work.


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