I first became aware of Gary Kroman and his show stopping layered plexiglass art at the local centric art pop up Continuum which planted itself to electric, eccentric effect in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach’s hippest Clematis Street block. It all came together during Art Week coinciding with Art Palm Beach in January. The purpose was to attract local and out of town art buyers to a source of local art, and host a series of events and lectures to give even more depth to the scene.
I was drawn like a fluttering moth to a flickering flame to the piece by Gary Kroman, which had won an award. His multi-layered glowing lightbox was a real standout, with painted plexiglass, flickering LED lights, gorgeous decorative patterns and other things that make the object hang in the space like a beacon.
A New York City native, Gary Kroman began working independently as a freelance illustrator in 1972. Gary worked extensively for ad agencies and magazines, he created volumes of posters, magazine covers, album cover art and tee shirts. His posters are licensed and sold to various worldwide companies. In 1973, he teamed up with a new publication called Relix, and started illustrating the magazine. Inspired by Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, and the other San Francisco psychedelic poster and comix artists of the late 60s and early 70s, Kroman created volumes of magazine covers, posters, album covers and tee-shirt designs for Relix. His posters, most notably the “Grateful Dead 100 Song Title”, “Summer of Love 20th Anniversary” and “Sunshine Daydream” posters, are still sold today.
Gary Kroman has shown at the J. B. Kline Gallery in Lambertville, N.J. and was spotlighted at the Hard Rock Vault’s 30 Years of Grateful Dead Art exhibition at their gallery in Orlando. He has also been involved in higher end rock and roll auction houses such as Guernsey’s 40 Years Of Rock and Roll. He is well published and is featured in the Paul Grushkin book “The Art Of Rock” Vol. 1.
Kroman came to his current technique after seeing glass paintings and liked the “floating” aspect of an image. After some experimentation he began using plexiglass as it provides more dimensionality.
“I was painting what seemed like forever,” Kroman says by phone from his cool summer studio in the woods in New York. “And I realized everyone was doing it, it was all looking like the same thing. I’m not a sculptor but I had seen some art that was more like animation, with multi images painted on the front and back of glass. Glass is fragile and difficult to move safely so my daughter suggested I maybe use plexiglass and try this same technique to give it dimensionality. I liked how it looked and that it gave a sense of the images hanging in space. I don’t frame them in any traditional way, and when I added layers it created this wonderful space in between. The different angles and layering change the image, it’s not what you think it is but it’s about what it is for each viewer.”
Gary Kroman had been doing rock illustrations for a long time with The Grateful Dead so pop culture music icons were a natural subject for the first plexi artworks. His first one featured the in your face righteousness of Jimi Hendrix. He then started adding more layers and LED lights to really make the spaces glow and twinkle.
“I did the celebrity rock stars for a while – Jerry Garcia, John Lennon – and then started to change it up with other images – animals, cartoon characters, automobiles – to get away from it being so identifiable and recognizable. I’m thinking of even adding sounds now to make them really like a little world in one artwork – sight, sounds and lights.”
The pieces are quite mesmerizing as the LED colors change and pulse, background patterns of flowers, Art Deco motifs, paint splatters and stars give a richness to each layered surface.
“Kroman’s work continues to evolve in very exciting and dynamic way,” says longtime friend and curator Roly Chang Barrero. “Kroman’s seamless two dimensional collages began to jump off the plane with the addition of the multilayer pieces creating a three dimension illusion. With the addition of the kinetic elements to his pieces, Kroman offers the viewer a unique experiencial interaction with his art.
Photos of Gary Kroman through his works…
I have worked with many other artists in collaborative pieces, but working with Kroman on pieces such as “Libertad” has been the most rewarding.”
Gary Kroman is in New York preparing for a solo show at The Ripe Art Gallery in Huntington, NY. Influenced by comic book art, graffiti/street art, and pop culture, the Ripe Gallery represents a mix of emerging artists.
“I come up to New York every summer to see my family and get a break from the Florida heat,” he says. “I can’t really do artwork up here as the work has gotten so complex there’s too much to transport and they way I do each layer there’s a lot of drying time in between every step. I used to try and do a few at a time when I do work but then it got too confusing as to what the look was for each piece. But something that I can work on here is a new offer I got to do a Grateful Dead coloring book, that’s something different and fun. But I plan shows here to get seen in this area. I’ll be back in the fall and looking to do shows in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach if I have any work left after this summer show. I really feel I haven’t hit my stride as it continues to evolve.”
Keep up to date with Gary Kroman and his up coming events at www.garykroman.com