Country Gold Lamé

Larry Krone fuses Americana and a wild imagination to yield some of the weirdest artworks around

May 22, 2002 at 4:00 am
When you see some of the fascinating art that Larry Krone has created, it's hard to pick your favorite piece: Is it the parody of a "crazy quilt" that uses ever-smaller pieces of fabric to insinuate that that the seamstress may well be insane? The series of country-music lyrics spelled out in cursive with his own hair and affixed to the wall of an art gallery? The tiny clown dolls with painted heads made from his own wisdom teeth? What about his alcoholic America show a few years back, featuring valentines made of crushed beer cans?

At Krone's forthcoming area show, guests will enjoy about 15 works of sculpture, drawing, video art and installation, including Krone's latest large-scale endeavor, "Forever and Ever," consisting of slim strips of shiny mylar in different colors that work together to create an image in the same way that a curtain of beads does, explains Krone. The 15-by-8-foot result, depicting "a silhouette of me looking over a mountain range," says the artist, is "on the scale of old, American landscape paintings, like with the Hudson River School, but in my style -- big, glittery and flashy."

At no time is University City native Krone more glittery and flashy than when he puts on the wild cowboy costumes he's created to perform concerts that go hand-in-hand with his quirky artistic vision. He and his sister Janet Kennedy occasionally sing country standards by such musicians as George Jones, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker while strumming on a pair of ukeleles. The outlandish lame-and-sequined country finery that Krone wears during these bizarre episodes of performance art, combined with the bathetic emotion of country lyrics, somehow comes across as both tasteless and precious. The shows are "like a makeshift Grand Ol' Opry," says Krone, until his over-the-top finale, when he rips off his outerwear to reveal a pink spandex dress and sings K.T. Oslin's "'80s Ladies."

Krone was recently invited to exhibit at a five-person show at New York's prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art, where the artists were asked to create a tribute to a piece in the museum's permanent collection. He chose a piece dear to his heart, an assemblage of old clothes, rugs and stuffed animals stitched together by artist Mike Kelly. Krone created a "costume made from vintage dresses torn up and put back together and with a huge train," he relates, and had his sister wear it while she sat on a swing suspended from the gallery ceiling. Perched on her swing, Kennedy sang and played an original song on the ukelele in front of Kelly's art.

Krone's description of the Kelly piece offers a workable defense of his own style, too: "I had never seen art that was so skanky and so sweet at the same time."