Monthly Archives: May 2012

Arthur Kraft Gouache on Paper “Kansas”

Title: Kansas, from the United States Series
Container Corporation of America
Date: ca. 1946-1949
Gouache on paper mounted on paperboard
Dimensions: 9 3/4″ x 8 3/8″
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Container Corporation of America


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Arthur Kraft “Craftsmanship Award” Skylines Magazine – December 1960

Skylines Magazine – December 1960

“Craftsmanship Award”

Board Of Education, Kansas City, Missouri

Public Library and Administration Building
12th and Oak
Kansas City Missouri

ARCHITECT: Tanner & Associates

FOR: Installation of Mural Tile Sections At Children’s Library Entrance.

CRAFTSMAN: Walter Goosman
EMPLOYER: Slater Tile & Mantel Company

ARTIST: Arthur M. Kraft

 

The Artist’s Conception of His Mosaic Design…

“My chief approach was to create a colorful lure that would attract the light hearts of children. After due consideration it became apparent that I had to deal with all the elements in the animal world that children know. I very carefully selected the most obvious animals which would be easily recognizable in an abstract form. This gave me the freedom of mobility to design the shapes that would indicate movement from left to right, which is as you know, a habit developed in children when they learn to read English. It was also necessary to create a rythmatic pattern of verticality to echo the vertical lines in the building itself as well as the Court House building in the background, hence the use of the red and white stripe running throughout the entire mosaic. This circus tent background is relieved with three scallops to add to the movement and put the central figure of the harlequin on the horse in dead center of the design.“

“The two apertures in the tent are an invitation to the child to enter into the fanciful land of an enchanted forest where all things are possible, as they are in the imagination of all children.”

  – Arthur M. Kraft

 

Unfortunately the current condition of the Arthur Kraft mural is not good and treatment is needed. The mural is in dire need of repair due to large vertical cracks and tiles that continue to fall off the mural. Plus it is in need of a good cleaning due to years of water draining down the mural from the roof.

 

Article from the Kansas City StarApril 8, 1989

Arthur Kraft’s Mural

Right between the kangaroo’s face and the horse’s tail, the mosaic on the outside wall of the Children’s Library is cracked from sidewalk to ceiling. A little farther down the circus scene, another large crack reaches from bottom nearly to the top.

These didn’t happen yesterday. They will get worse. They need to be corrected immediately.

The lively mosaic by the late Arthur M. Kraft once was a thing of beauty. It was something that made children feel at home and gave library patrons pride. The city pointed to it as representative of Kraft’s talent as a “superb colorist.” It is art on Kansas City’s streets. Letting the small chips loosen and fall and the piece of art decay like a discarded political signboard is an insult to Kraft’s memory and to the people of Kansas City.

It’s wasteful. It is also a familiar attitude showing a lack of care about much property in the district. Tight budgets are one excuse. But they’re not always the reason.

It’s reported that a school employee recently joked that the best solution to the mosaic problem is to paint it over. Perhaps it is, if the alternative is to let it crumble and fall in front of everyone.

This is also symbolic of the deferred maintenance the Kansas City School District has practiced on buildings it owns. In recent years, property has been treated like old clunker cars: Nothing is done as long as it runs, no matter how poorly.

The mosaic isn’t the only major item that needs upkeep. The floor in the old Missouri Valley Room is so warped the boards are popping up like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t fit. Apparently a roof leak lets water run under the room or condense so that the lovely hardwood floor is systematically coming apart.

Moreover, the large room, which could be a superb public meeting area, is empty and unused.

It is wrong to let the building continue to run down. Maybe if the district spends a little now, it won’t have to spend a lot in a few years.


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Arthur Kraft 1954 “This Week Magazine” Article Announcing New Detroit Northland Shopping Center Super-Sculptures

The Milwaukee Journal article by Emily Genauer – September 5, 1954

Super-Sculpture – A Detroit shopping center sets a surprising art style.

Twenty-five years ago a U.S. Customs official provoked a furor by ruling that modernist Constantin Brancusi’s “Bird In Space,” a piece of bronze vaguely resembling a five-foot-long cigar, was not art and so had to pay a tariff.

Since that famous ruling (subsequently reversed), what has happened to popular art taste in America constitutes a revolution. A good illustration of the surprising sophistication the U.S. public has developed is shown on this page. The huge Northland Shopping Center, outside Detroit, designed to serve 15 million people a year with the latest in marketing conveniences, might seem the last place in the world for modernist sculpture. But 13 examples of this most rarefied art form, mostly the bristling, praying-mantis barbed –wire type, have been strewn through the 161 acres of shops, gardens and plazas.

A 12-inch replica of a 24-foot-tall work has become a best selling souvenir item. A restaurant uses photographs of the sculpture on its menus. Shoppers identify various areas of the center with its art. “Meet me at the Peacock Terrace,” they say. (The peacock, by Arthur Kraft, is a network of bronze rods welded together with an acetylene torch.)

Peacock sculpture by Arthur Kraft
Peacock Terrace, Northland Shopping Center 1950's

The art was the idea of architect Victor Gruen. He says the public’s warm response is due to the fact that the sculpture injects “an emotion element” into the gigantic $20,000.000 project. The one condition Gruen laid on the six artists, chiefly of the Midwest, commissioned to execute models for the project, was that their work be light and airy. He needed pieces, he told them, that would be modern, “but fun to look at.”

His orders have been followed to the letter. Not even Gruen could have foreseen the trouble mothers would have dragging children off a big stone bear by Marshall Fredericks (see cover). Chances are even that the crusty customs official of 1929 would enjoy this art.

“The Cat that Swallowed the Canary” by Arthur Kraft and Gwen Lux
This sculpture is now part of the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum collection since 1988.


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Arthur Kraft – Patient Art Postcard From The Glore Psychiatric Museum

Postcard from The Glore Psychiatric Museum
featuring the artwork of Arthur Kraft, a former patient.

The postcard is available online from the St Joseph Museum Online Store.

Glore Psychiatric Museum, 3406 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph, Missouri

www.stjosephmuseum.org

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