The Evolution of Kraft: Joe Kraft | Rudimentary Drawings and his time at Lillstreet
Joe Kraft received his BFA from Alfred University in 2012. His BFA exhibition was comprised of unfired wet earthenware. These structures (some would call them “beams”) were vast and impressive. The space changed into an immersive environment of subtle and strong lines. As the show progressed, the clay began to crack and break. Having not seen this show in person, the photographs are all I can go off of. The work of Richard Serra comes to mind immediately. Sparsely filled with amazing shapes that alter one’s perception of what kind of space one is in and make you tilt and look in different ways; Kraft’s installation was simply stunning.
After Alfred, Kraft was selected as one of Lillstreet’s year-long Artists in Residence back in 2013. This is one of the many footprints in his journey towards the body of work he has created. Both during and after his residency, we have watched him change his clay practice (pinched earthenware with terra sigillata and glaze to slab built earthenware and then to slab-built stoneware with glaze) to primarily functional forms. Coinciding with this push forward (and never looking back), Kraft took true advantage of the Lillstreet residency program and started taking printmaking classes. Within these classes, Kraft’s identifiable shapes and lines presented themselves in a new context, on paper and not on a ceramic form. True to who he is as an artist, this new body of work further informed his future work.
In the Fall of 2015, Kraft headed to Vallaruis, France for a month long residency. What happened next was impressive. As I mentioned to Joe after the residency, “I think you have turned the corner.” Strongly inspired by architecture, Kraft began to incorporate more architectural elements into his work. A longtime influence, Luis Barragon, started to empower Kraft’s use of color. Color became a bold and confident voice within this new body of work.
Kraft’s exhibition Rudimentary Drawings is the culmination of this entire journey. His level of investment in this exhibition is paramount: handmade frames, self mounted drawings, experimentation in crackling glazes, application of encaustic paint, and hand-mixed black clay. The sculptures in this exhibition are directly informed/inspired by the included drawings (and many that are not included). The lines of Kraft’s drawings are incredible realized in his clay extrusion sculptures.