FRoNKenstein, iconoclastic artist Robert Fronk’s current show, is a diverse sampling of the many avenues down which Fronk’s talents and inclination have taken him. The show combines stained glass works which have been painstakingly re-assembled to create new holy/profane images, industrial found object science fiction and fantasy sculptures, and exquisite oil paintings which layer cultural meaning with an ironic wink toward cultural appropriation. Clearly, Fronk is not concerned with limiting himself to any artistic or commercial norms in the pursuit or satisfaction of his creative impulse.
“Fish-bug” is a sculpture and installation which portrays the skeleton of an imagined creature. Taking advantage of the symmetry of wooden foundry patterns salvaged from a derelict valve factory, Fronk creates a pre-historic fantastically imagined skeletal remain which has a pleasing and endearing quality without any of the sophomoric flourishes associated with modern fantasy.
A dramatic, wall sized expanse of images overlaying images, “3/5 Moonscape” combines three large masonite panels in which all of the negative space exists as a cover and stencil to reveal figures created by obscuring portions of the primary layer of patterns below. Added third dimensional elements include faux fur and other tactile features of the panels. The title refers to the fact that the work originally comprised five rather than three panels and the work was at one time a collaboration. The figures are collages themselves and fall on the kitsch rather than macabre spectrum of disturbing.
The most recent and perhaps most engaging work within FRoNKenstein is a reclining golden Buddha (which Fronk captured in a Venitian storefront) commanding a painting of quadrilateral symmetry and dense cultural references depicted with photorealistic technique and digital graphics-like layering. Persian winged beings float and ascend around the reclining Buddha. A North Sea harbor is dotted with sailboats and swans, which each rest on the symmetrical gradation of every blue hue to give a horizon as well as an underworld and paradise stratification for the busy foreground. Depicted are mortals praying, angels ascending and a faceless deity amid butterfly wings and sea birds soaring over the North Sea.
To imagine the viewer even beginning to unpack the spiritual and religious meanings of the Buddhist, Chinese, Persian and Western Christian iconography may be the underlying humor of the work. Heaven, Hell and Apocalyptic/Messianic themes compete with what would otherwise be an quotidian seascape to shock one into surrender to the beauty of the images rather than analytical morass perhaps.
It is far too easy to say simply that FRoNKenstein is a show sewn together from the disparate arms and legs of a decades long career; more appropriate is to see FRoNKenstein as a sampler that barely scratches the surface of a body of work which is clearly growing, and ahead of which its best additions may lie.
September 28 through October 4