Kristof Wickman's exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, the first in its new Raw/Cooked series focused on emerging Brooklyn artists, runs from September 16-November 27.
How do you start a new piece?
It usually doesn't start with the idea so much, it starts with the object and the physical properties of the object. Usually, if I can figure out a way that one material yields to another material in a fun way or an elegant way, that's what drives me: how one or more things interact with each other, and what push and pull can occur.
Certain objects recur in several of your pieces; what makes you return to an object or a form?
I think it's a humorous quality to an object paired with an elegance that I like. And if something's crappy and falling apart I think maybe I could transform it and make it more solid by casting it, to keep that humorous quality about it. If something looks sad or crummy, or funny, or sexy—it would be awesome if I could find something that's a combination of all those things—that's what I'm attracted to: the overt physical qualities of the objects.
Is there any over-arching theme to this exhibition?
Yeah, it wasn't intentional, but there's a theme of seating: chairs, tables, feet, butts, and noses. And then there are some pumpkins, I don't know where those fit in. Maybe it's safe to say it's themeless, but there's a good number of elements of seating, tabletops wooden folding tables, chair bases, backrests of a love seat, and stools. I realized last week that there's a lot seating going on.
How do you use humor in your work without letting a piece ever become just a joke or a visual pun?
I think there are very few objects in art that are laugh-out-loud body humor funny, like when you see somebody fall on ice—maybe that's not funny, but it's funny to most people I think. Funny art is the type of funny that you just smile at and say, oh that's funny. It's just a different type of humor. I've done some really overt one-line punch-line types of things, and those I think only work in the context of other more austere or mysterious work. The tricky part is when those pieces are on their own. I like to think of a single piece as a joke or a little piece of humor, as a footnote to a larger sculpture or to a larger body of work. And with sculpture you can see something from one side and then see if from the other and it's a completely different thing, so there could a joke waiting for you on the back of an object that looks minimal or mysterious.
You once wrote, "my aim is to make a non-literal reality from literal parts"; how do you choose those literal parts?
I think that goes back to being attracted to the funniness of something. It's sort of like the formal elegance versus the fact that it's kind of funny or that it's anthropomorphic, or that there's something a little bit sad about it. That's a hard question because it gets back to: how do you say yes to one thing and no to another? and what has too much cultural baggage and what's cliché? But I like things that are universal, or moving towards the universal, but at the same time have a specific cultural meaning like pumpkins or a pilates ball.