Kris Kuksi Talks Sculpture

Empty Lighthouse is a reader-supported site. This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other sites. We earn a commission on purchases made through these links.

Kris Kuksi's intricate eye for detail is what drew me in to his work. His complex assemblages have garnered attention from all over the art world and have inspired other artists like Rondle West.

Kuksi's sculptures have an almost haunting nature to them, similar to the feel of an abandoned altarpiece in a baroque chapel. By merging contemporary imagery with classical ornate style, Kuksi is a force.

Beyond sculptural assemblages, Kuksi is also an accomplished painter, with portraits hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. He continues to create work that beautifully reflects human society, and his contributions to the art world and beyond are vast.

Kuksi is currently showing at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York City, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

How do you construct your pieces? Which are your primary go-to tools, and how much of the work appears in your mind before you begin, and how much appears to you during the process?

They are made from wood, plastic, resin, metal, and paint. I use mostly pre-fab materials from the kitsch world of overpriced collectables and a lot of hobby model kits that are to some degree augmented, re-arranged, to suit the look I want.

I sort of give a new identity to the objects with such a technique that is mostly an additive process.

The frames or wall bracket forms they are affixed to are built and designed by myself using such things are crown molding or frame stock along with ceiling medallions or just sources from other pre-fab 'stuff' like one finds at an antique store.

What would you consider to be some of your artistic influences

The Baroque is a big influence both in sculpture as in the architecture of that age. But the modern industrial world is a huge influence as I try to blend the old world Baroque imagery and the new. I work to make for a more 'timeless' feel.

Human psychology and sociology are also very important to me in terms of subject matter regarding what fuels my work.

I spent lots of studio time working and listening to documentaries and absorbing knowledge about various subject in the world. It is just a great thing for my left hemisphere to process while the right side plays and creates.

The intricate nature of your sculptures are very exquisite and ornate--would it be fair to say that their creation requires some anal retentiveness? About how long does it take for you to complete a piece?

Haha, anal retentiveness is such a bad description for anything relating to attention to detail. Freud really bombed the modern world with that one. I don't think anything 'anal' should be use in describing the technique and craft of making art. But yes, they do take a long time--how long?--I have no idea.

I can't measure every moment working on one piece as I work on many at a time. But I can get them done in time for a show and that's all that matters.

And if a predisposition of unresolved issues from the anal stage of early childhood development really helps, then so be it. I hope I could qualify for disability to argue that one.

A beautiful aspect of your work is the dichotomy you've created within several of your pieces.

I'm thinking specifically of pieces such as the Churchtank Type[s], or Lust and Self-Abuse in which a skeleton--human remains--becomes not something that is discarded (you know, outside city walls), but something that is exalted.

What drew you to make such interesting connections and comparisons?

What I've always admired about art from the Baroque to the 19th century is this sense of working with and around a prominent or stoic form. You have to bring life into dead objects when you make art, therefore placing objects in a way that make them relative to each other is crucial. You have to have a "life" presence in art or life area. I like to use scale difference in my work to relate that, a larger central form surrounded by figural examples several scales of lesser size helps to depict a hieratic scaling of importance and attention.

But this tool also helps to bring unity and just enough suggestion for the viewer to make his or her own fun translation of the story created in each piece. Churchtanks came about from my distaste for the harm and economic indifference that religion has toward any one person or thing they wish to convert.

The image is powerful enough for the viewer to get it, yet it could be looked at as a very neutral form as well.

There are different perspectives that include a critic of religion laughing at the overall humor in it or a very "gung ho on God" believer who thinks it is a badass machine of terror and subversion.

Color is used very sparingly in your sculptures--the medium itself gives off such a rich, ivory tone or subtle metallic like tones that I'm not really left wanting for more in the color department.

But the few instances in which color is used, such as Portrait of Neo-Roman Empress or Propaganda Am-Bush Machine leave me curious as to both how you obtained such vibrant colors in the medium, and what made you decide to incorporate color.

It goes back to that life thing; a successful work of art must have a life or soul center for people to respond and relate to it. Color of course is a tool to do so, and for those particular works, I really wanted some emotional weight present.

The Empress piece was more for a calming feeling, an ease of female energy.

As for the Am-Bush machine I wanted a more directive reflection of politics in the contrast of colors.

Not to go too deep into the political spectrum, but I felt a polarity should be considered in choosing the colors which represent both major parties.

I have gone on about your mixed media assemblage (sculpture) pieces, but I do also want to mention that you both paint and draw.

And in these works too, the attention to detail is phenomenal, even if the paintings aren't as ornate as the drawings or sculptures--there is absolutely a strong sense of craftsmanship there.

What made you decide on the subject matter of your drawings and paintings, and which aspects of your work do you find transcend mediums and which aspects do you find specifically relate to drawing, or painting, or sculpture work?

Oh boy, painting is a whole other world and sometimes, rarely do I feel that I want to paint something. Most of the time it is a floral work where I can really get into the detail and challenge of capturing the texture of a flower's pedals and stem. So getting away from the intense moments of the sculptures, I like to run away in another direction to do a little painting.

Yet, it really has more to do with the "mood" to do so. I would guess I am at least three different people in one when it comes to making art, really the extreme from nice flower paintings to grotesque drawings and wind up in a 3-D world of complete abundant detail and emotion of the sculptures.

With so many identities, there must be a surname for each lurking about that relates to each medium. We'll see when that rears its ugly presence!

What types of work do you have up and coming?

I'm working on some micro tiny works at the moment but also working on about 12 different pieces at once. It is like being a be-headed chicken running amuck from one to another. I'll add hundreds of parts per day to one piece while another piece gets two pieces added and 10 pieces receive no love or affection from my dexterous hands. It is constant composition and placement.

Tilting the head and squinting the eyes to see if a part will 'look good' added to the whole arrangement or not. Some works never make it finished--some have even been thrown across the room in a rage--while most do find themselves finished and headed to a gallery.

And speaking of galleries, I have a solo show in NYC in November where I'll have a lot of new works and surprises.

It will be held at the Joshua Liner Gallery in Chelsea so please drop in to any of you reading this, I promise I won't be a snob and would like to talk with you!