Klaus Enrique is a New York based photographer whose work echoes that of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, with some surprising twists. For one, the subjects of his portraits—made from fruits, vegetables, and yes, even raw chicken—are captured in real time, in the glorious moments before they inevitably began to decay. The photographs are stunning commentaries on the fleeting nature of life and the complex beauty of living things. Enrique’s upcoming solo show at Rebecca Hossack Gallery will showcase such artfully constructed subjects as Princess Diana, Gandhi, and even Darth Vader.
Kinsey Robb: First of all, congratulations on your upcoming solo show at Rebecca Hossack Gallery!
Klaus Enrique: Thank you. I am very much looking forward to the show.
KR: Given the obvious parallels between your work and that of 16th century mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, can you recount your first experience with Arcimboldo’s work and how it affected you?
KE: At the time I was very excited about this “new” idea I had just come up with of making portraits entirely out of leaves, and I was online researching what other artists had done along similar lines. I immediately came across Arcimboldo’s work, and to be honest, I was really disappointed because it immediately became clear that my new idea was not new at all. As with so many things, somebody somewhere had already thought about it, and in Arcimboldo’s case, he had executed this idea incredibly well.
KR: What led you to re-create Arcimboldo’s famous portraits? Why the focus on 16th Century mannerist painting?
KE: After finding out that my idea was not so new after all, I kept on researching Arcimboldo’s work and the artistic tradition of depicting faces with organic objects and I realized that he had not been the first nor the last artist to use this particular technique. But because of his superb execution, Arcimboldo had become the master of this style. I still believe that photography is a perfect medium for this artistic tradition, but if I was going to go ahead with this project, I was going to have to master Arcimboldo’s work. That’s why I used his work as the starting point of my own.
KR: At first glance, it could appear as though your work is digitally created through the use of Photoshop, but your work is far more complicated than that. Could you elaborate on your technical process?
KE: Well, I think that to some people it might, simply because we live in a world full of digital effects. But to the trained eye it should be very obvious that these are photographs of real sculptures made out of real organic objects.
KR: For your upcoming show at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in NYC there will be some additional Acrimboldo-esque pieces, however the subject matter draws from pop cultural icons—Ghandi, Princess Diana, and Darth Vader. Can you comment on your decision to shift from the16th century to modern day?
KE: As I mentioned earlier, for me this project was about creating my own images and Arcimboldo was simply the starting point. Once I felt that I had a good understanding of what made Arcimboldo’s work so great, I decided to create what I had originally envisioned, including some of these iconic images that I have been exposed to throughout my life.
KR: For me, there is a darkness in your work. On one hand, there is an appreciation for the perfection of each branch, flower, piece of fruit etc…and yet I can’t help but think of the rot, spoil and decay that will come. The photograph allows us to capture and freeze time, but simultaneously makes us aware of it. It becomes all the more eerie when viewing your portraits of princess Diana and handy. How do you process this?
KE: I love that you see that darkness in my work, because that is one of the conceptual layers that I want my work to convey. The word for “Still Life” in Spanish and other romance languages is literally “Dead Nature”, which I always thought was very macabre. Here you had some pretty apples and some flowers, and yet there was this inescapable fact that they were dead. Soon they would be eaten, or wilt, or rot, and they would be no more. We as humans are just like that. Just because we wake up every day we forget that one day we will not.
These photographs were taken in one hundredth of a second to capture something that will wilt in minutes or at most hours, and at the same time make a historical reference to a painting that is more than four hundred years old by a painter who is obviously dead, but whose work is still very much alive. In a subtle way, these photographs should hint at our own finite place in time.
Most people realize that these works have a great sense of urgency. Of a frantic rush required to get the piece done, which is in complete contrast to the deliberate, precise and delicate nature of the finished work. I think our lives should be like that.
KR: What do we have to look forward to…any upcoming projects on the horizon?
KE: For sure. I am trying to create a new piece every month, and I have a list of about 30 pieces that I want to make. So that is the next three years of my life, if I am still alive!
The Reaping opens at Rebecca Hossack Gallery on Wednesday, October 16th. A reception will be held from 6-8PM at the gallery on 262 Mott Street.