Alex Kuno's "Children's Crusade": "They're kind of my version of Muppets"

Alex Kuno's "Children's Crusade": "They're kind of my version of Muppets"

The Saint Paul Art Crawl is here once again. This weekend, the lively event will offer open art studios and other fun happenings at destinations that include museums, bars and restaurants, and theater spaces. There will be many things to see and do, but you definitely don't want to miss "The Children's Crusade," a series of installations by Alex Kuno at Bedlam Theater, 262 Studios, the new Tilsner Art Lofts gallery space, and the MMAA Project Space. The installation includes Kuno's gothic paintings of creepy, childlike creatures as well as new sculptures. It should be a sight to see, and is a great way to get in the mood for Halloween.

Alex Kuno's "Children's Crusade": "They're kind of my version of Muppets"
Photo courtesy Alex Kuno 

A painter for many years, Kuno says he basically taught himself how to make sculptures by watching YouTube tutorials. One of the reasons he decided to move into three-dimensional work was that he noticed in his paintings that all of his figures tend to be the same size. When he imagined them in his head, they could fit into his hand. So, he wanted to get that same effect in 3-D.

Kuno uses polymer clay, which he bakes in the oven. "I'm interested in materials that hobbyists use," he says. Recently, he's become obsessed with model-train building, and has enjoyed hanging around in creepy hobby shops and railroad supply stores.

While Kuno has already been showing his sculptural work over the past year, he really wanted a narrative feel to each of the locations this weekend. So the sculptures live in environments of natural and synthetic materials, creating a story among the different works.

The narratives that Kuno creates comes out of a stream of consciousness. "I try to be as intuitive as I can be," he says. When sculpting, he carves the shape first and then figures out what forms fit into it. 

For the past seven years, Kuno has been working with these childlike creatures. In some ways, this came about from his obsession with drawing and painting as an adult. "It happened at a time in my life when all these preconceived notions of growing up weren't working out," he says. He'd just moved back from New York, and felt aimless. The Iraq war was going on, and somehow he was drawn to the idea of mocking fairy tales. 
Alex Kuno's "Children's Crusade": "They're kind of my version of Muppets"
Photo courtesy Alex Kuno 

Over the years, the characters have maintained their childish impulses, but they have also stopped being strictly children. "They're kind of my version of Muppets," he says, where they're not really children and not really adults. 

Kuno continues to draw inspiration from current political events, these days especially from NSA surveillance, conflicts in the Middle East, the attack on voting rights, and women's reproductive rights.

"The Children's Crusade" also takes inspiration from the secondary title of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. Some of the sculptural scenarios even include caterpillar-like creatures inspired by Billy Pilgrim's adventures to the planet Tralfamadore. 

Kuno will be speaking about his work tonight at the Saint Paul Art Crawl Kick-Off Party, where there will also be music from Hotdate and remarks by artists Ta-coumba Aiken and Schmidt Artist Lofts' Tom Nordyke at the MMAA. The party goes from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Friday. Kuno will also be leading tours of his work at 6 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, all of which start at the MMAA.  
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MMAA Project Space

141 E. 4th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101

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