Time: it's always on your side, except when it isnt. From where I sit, I am minutes from finishing this article. You could be using a little spare time to read it. Either way, we're both on the clock. But after watching the above documentary about the work of artist Dylan Kraus, my understanding's a bit different. At any moment, I might look over at the ticker on the upper-right hand corner of my screen, and with the right amount of lucidity, even if only for a moment, it stops.
Deep inside his New York studio, Kraus has been hard at work dismantling the clock—not "breaking it," per sé, but rather, pulling apart what it means. Using a technique similar to that of Rorschach Inkblot tests, Kraus creates Clox, ink-on-canvas mandalas that do everything but tell time. "I want to create a moment of space between seeing and knowing," Kraus tells The Creators Project. "The Clox are half-correct—the other half is a symmetrical reflection of the first half. I like to imagine that they are submerged and reflecting to appear whole. Time is such a powerful construct. By playing with it, I hope plant the seeds in the viewers experience that time can be flexible and is not rigid."
In the documentary from Shane Gambill, above, Kraus discusses his work with former muse of Mapplethorpe, Jack Walls. Kraus is in preparation for his upcoming show at New York's Vision Inc gallery, which opens Friday, March 4th. "I first noticed Dylan’s work through a mutual friend who had one of Dylan’s clocks hanging on his wall," Gambill tells The Creators Project. "There was something so simple about it but also there was a complexity to it, it was rough around the edges, it was in the beginning stages of the series, but immediately I knew that I needed to pay attention to it. […] The beauty and simplicity of these off-kilter clocks, what they represent, how they are made using symmetry and geometry really made me think and reflect."
"Initially it was kind of anti clock. It was this notion of, 'I want to mock the clock,'" Kraus continues. "But pretty soon after working with the idea, I realized, that, actually they’re a great marker of sanity. Any time in my life where I’ve had no clock, like institutions or something, you really go kind of nuts. So now I see it, on the one hand, like a rock, something you can really grab ahold of; in another way, I see it as a construct that definitely affects and limits our perspective."
Thus, Kraus' Clox are like magical symbols, runes that at once disorient and repurpose the viewer. The effect is a lot like the opposite of what happens when you read a sentence—instead of understanding something whole based on the context provided by its pieces parts, the unfamiliarity of these clocks pulls you into a place with rhyme, but without reason, not unlike the worlds populated by Kraus' major inspiration, Dalí. "It was his melting clocks that made me take it on, I initially called them Dali clocks. Even though they’re different from what he did it is sort of a riff on his work," Kraus continues.
"The best thing that can happen for the viewer of the clock is to go through that in-and-out between understanding and not understanding, because in that very place is created a crack where a new idea can be born. That disruption, that confusion can be fertile ground for an alternative perspective—because really, all the artist can offer is perspective, and I would like to do it through experience."
Kraus is something of a shaman, then, forming a bridge to an out-of-time place for his viewers. "I think these clocks aim to feel that part of us that was forgotten when standardized time and alphabet and all these things came into the construct of reality," he concludes. "For some people it’s a psychological reference, the Rorschach obviously, it's the technique. […] It gives the mind space to invent its own construct of a thing that has no “thingness”, no name. I wanted to kind of have that vibe of like a newsroom, or like you’re a child in a newsroom with all the clocks from every city in the world. It preserves an innocent, sort of childlike view of the importance of time, and being late and being on time and here and there. I want them to appear as unavailable to your understanding, I want to encourage that."
Dylan Kraus' Clox show opens at Vision Inc gallery on March 4, 2016. Click here for more info.