The Center for the Humanities, Graduate Center, CUNY
Peter Krashes' studio painting over the past decade stands as one complete body of artistic research growing directly out of his other practice as an unpaid community organizer in the Dean Street area of Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.
As Peter says, "My work as an activist and my work as an artist extend from the same set of values. All of my works are derived from meetings I attend or events and initiatives I help organize. There is no room in political or governmental processes for many of the activities we involve ourselves in, but perhaps none more so than painting a nuanced image in the studio. As a result, the paintings are the last step in a process I have been engaged with from beginning to end. The imperatives I feel outside the studio are explicit so the outcome in the studio is particular and linked directly to the real world."
Linking the practices of painting and of activism points out the problematic of actions that can be consumed, ignored, and considered irrelevant by those in official political power. Their human scale and material presence as paint on canvas positions these paintings outside the processes in which decisions are made instead of seeking recognition in political discourses of power.
Taking a different approach to generating cultural power, Krashes has generated this body of paintings through working out questions that arise in his range of collaborative activist practices. For example, frustration with the narrow, sometimes apparently biased focus of the media has led Krashes to make paintings depicting the glare of cameras pointed in elected officials' faces or expansive interiors of government chambers with recurring images of empty microphones. He also paints the flipside of this equation, namely that individual voices speaking collectively can exercise power. Neighbors painting protest signs, children's face painting, Easter egg hunts, seed bombs tossed into empty lots, and block parties claim space—marking the presence of the communities willfully neglected by those in power.
Organizers Keith Wilson
Director, Center for the Humanities
Deputy Director, Center for the Humanities and Curator, James Gallery
Photo: Sam Drexler