To say that artist and instructor David Klamen has shared gallery space with some pretty prominent figures over the course of his career might be putting it mildly.
In past exhibits, Klamen’s works have been shown alongside the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Mattise. Additionally, he was part of this year’s International Art Exposition at Chicago’s Navy Pier, which showcased world-renowned galleries and artists, and is also currently part of “Muse,” an exhibit at Chicago’s Richard Gray Gallery, which finds his creations shown alongside renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, William de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein.
While honored to be included amongst the past and fellow present art greats, Klamen is more concerned with the here and now when it comes to his place in the art world.
“In the end, I find myself working in the studio alone, and every day is a new challenge to explore my ideas and to do the best work that I can,” he said. “It doesn’t really come into my consciousness at all that I’ve exhibited with artists who are some of my art historical heroes. I’m still doing the best I can to make my work and am met with the same challenges that I had when I was a student.”
Showcasing a series of recent works, “Meta-Paintings,” at Indiana University Northwest’s IU Northwest Gallery for Contemporary Art starting Nov. 5, Klamen was born in Dixon, IL in 1961.
In 1983, Klamen received a Bachelor’s degree in Art from University of Illinois in Champaign and earned a Master’s degree in painting from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago two years later. He began showing his work professionally as a student, showing his paintings and drawings in galleries throughout Illinois.
Over the course of the last near-three decades, Klamen’s creations have been shown in individual and group shows throughout the States and in exhibits in Italy and Korea. Additionally, his art can be found in permanent collections at esteemed venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
In 2004, Klamen published a tome featuring a selection of his art, titled “Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings.” When it comes to selecting which of the three abovementioned mediums he will use for a piece, Klamen described his process as trial and error.
“The jump (between mediums) usually takes a considerable amount of effort and some failed pieces along the way, where I’m learning aspects of each different medium,” he said. “It is an advantage to use different approaches, but there is a steep learning curve that comes with each one of them.”
“Whereas watercolors may resonate with a spontaneous and more intimate experience, acrylics are often more durable and physical by comparison, so I choose the medium that works best to embody the idea that I’m exploring with that work.”
After graduating from the School of the Art Institute, Klamen made his way to IUN, where he started as an assistant professor of fine arts. Today, Klamen is a professor of fine arts at IUN and is teaching intermediate and advanced painting and art theory classes this semester.
“When I think of the most talented people I’ve ever met, some of the first names that come to mind are students who’ve shown up in my introductory classes, who just out of the blue would come in and be just brilliant,” he said. “It’s always fun and unpredictable, what will happen in each class. And it’s always exciting to see their work and to help them to get where they’re hoping to go with it.”
In addition to occupying studio space in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, Klamen also creates his art on campus at IUN.
“The good thing about having the studio (at IUN) is that it allows my students to have the chance to sort of eavesdrop on my own work and see me working and see how things progress and see how I struggle with some of the same challenges that they’re dealing with as well,” Klamen said.
“Meta-Paintings” is made up of nine pieces– eight large paintings and an installation piece consisting of more than two dozen smaller paintings - created by Klamen over the course of the last year. The pieces that make up the show find Klamen creating paintings of renowned paintings using the Trompe L’oeil style.
As defined on ASKART.COM, the Trompe L’oeil style is “a painting that deceives the spectator into thinking that the objects in it are real, not merely represented. To successfully fool the eye of the viewer, Trompe L’oeil artists choose objects, situations and compositional devices using as little depth as possible.”
“Two of the paintings depict impressionistic paintings by Monet, so my paintings give a Trompe L’oeil representation of Monet, which includes mimicking his brushstrokes at an angle receding back into space. So there’s a kind of overlap between the two seemingly incompatible ways of painting.”
“Meta-Paintings” is scheduled to run at IU Northwest Gallery for Contemporary Art through Dec. 7.
“I want them to be visually entertained and I want them to be intellectually challenged,” Klamen said of his show. “And I hope that their imaginations are jarred and inspired by the work.”
IU Northwest Gallery for Contemporary Art is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.