OLEK Queen of Crocheted Expressionism – With Balloons

Crochet and knitting used to be for girls only. They would learn how to knit early in their training for their married life. Some girls were trained at finishing school while others learned it in an arts and crafts class.  Often the trades you learned were split by gender – Mr. Arbunk, the Shop teacher, was teaching the boys how to make bird houses or hammered metal ashtrays while across the hall Miss Fortune, the Home Economics teacher, was showing the girls how to calculate the amount of dry pasta per person to put into the pot. Meanwhile your friends, who were skipping  school, were at home calculating how much pot per person to put into the brownie mix.

These days crochet and knitting is no longer for girls only and is out for all to enjoy and there are actual knitting and crochet classes and clubs for the D.I.Y. generation.  Just take the L train on an average Wednesday and you’ll see one or two young pretty boys and girls busy with their needles or hooks and their Ipods.

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Maybe that is why the last decade has sprouted knitted art in new ways, and in recent years a handful of Street Artists have been using crochet and knitting as the the medium for their art. Two of the most prominent names, Olek and Knitta Please! have been industrious on the streets of New York, leaving large and small pieces, frequently full of color, their implicit humor lightening our heavy daily routines.

Olek favors covering practical objects that you use on a daily basis such as bikes or shopping carts or baby strollers.  She also likes to make big statements by taking over large iconic monuments and giving them a poppy camouflage coat, literally covering entire sculptures with her art, like the cube at Union Square or the bull at Wall Street.

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Currently Olek is teaming up with sculptor David Peterson for a new show at the Krause Gallery on the Lower East Side entitled “Synthetic Nature“. Mr. Peterson created a series of boxes/machines to simulate synthesizers and Olek, using balloons this time instead of yarn, interprets the movement of the sound that might emanate from those boxes.  The entire installation is a cacophonic celebration, a sort of kinectic African folk expressionism in neonic color and neo-punk energy.

Speaking of music, if you put Olek’s pieces on and dance you’ll be transformed. In recent exhibitions, Olek has costumed actual people onto the street – 3-D installations with an organic rhythm and movement – balloons and mutlti-colored tentacles bobbing from her form fitting sculpture skins. The movement might recall for some the 1990s nihlist costume rockers Slipknot, minus the Aryan overtones and extended middle finger.  It’s conceivable, even knittable, that this kind of handmade expression could take hold of the popular imagination and spread through the streets of Occupy Nation, given the enthusiasm of this professor.

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Olek and David Peterson “Synthetic Nature” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Synthetic Nature” By Ian Sklarsky

“Synthetic Nature” is currently on view at the Krause Gallery in Manhattan. For further information regarding this show click here.

 

 

 

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