Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

David Krouse


David Tanner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 27, 2004

Heads Up! This article is 18 years old.

For 45-year-old Fort Wayne native David Krouse –

the painter, sculptor, set designer, gallery

owner, teacher, father, husband, house painter

and all-around mensch – life is good.

Even if things weren’t exactly all right, you’d

never know it in talking with him. A decidedly

uptempo, the-glass-is-half-full-type personality,

art is a verb to Krouse, and everything he does

in his life reflects art. In other words, he does

everything as well as he can.

He’s not going to paint you a picture of some

false reality or direct you down some primrose

lane. He speaks, thinks and creates truth as he

sees it, scarce traits in these times, but ones

which have endeared him to colleagues, friends

and family.

Oh yeah, this affable artist also accommodates a

sense of humor that abides the cryptic and tests

the limits of political correctness. One never

leaves his presence without having enjoyed a

full-bellowed laugh.

Quick to realize the many ironies of life,

Krouse seizes every chance to portray hypocrisy

in all its forms in a variety of media.

Krouse the artist didn’t invent his

expressionist style in a vacuum, he’ll gladly

explain, as he did recently in a Fort Wayne

Museum of Art presentation. It’s origins are

traceable to Fort Wayne Art Institute professors

Russell Oettel, Noel Duschenchon and George

McCullough and his own admiration of the German

Expressionists Max Beckmann, Ernst Kirchner and

Emil Nolde.

“I think these artists were people who lived in

their times to the fullest extent,” said Krouse.

“They recognized the nature of human folly. Their

collective works are intense, some might say

extreme and allegorical. Later they toned down

some of the drama, but most definitely they have

been major influences in both style and subject

matter.

“Some people see Cubist-African elements in my

sculpture and they’re correct,” added Krouse.

“But I’ve certainly never limited myself to the

role of copyist. The times, new techniques and

various advantages won’t allow for that type of

repetition.”

After earning his BFA from IPFW after the state

had absorbed the older Art School, he applied for

graduate school. Though he was accepted at

several schools, only Bowling Green offered him a

teaching position as well as admission to the

program. By then he was married to Mary Rondot

and father of two daughters. For two years Krouse

commuted the 90 miles to and from the Ohio campus

while Mary worked as a nurse. Together they

raised the children while Krouse earned his MFA

in 1994.

Krouse began showing his work locally and

regionally at a number of venues, including IPFW,

Artlink, the Allen Co. Public Library, Fort Wayne

Museum of Art, Chamber of Commerce, Henry’s, the

universities of Evansville and Saint Francis, and

he designed stage settings for the Fort Wayne

Dance Collective. Many of his works are held in

private collections.

Almost seven years ago Krouse, with the support

and encouragement of Mary, plunged into the arena

of gallery ownership and purchased a two-story

brick building that formerly housed a metal

fabrication shop on South Calhoun Street near the

Oyster Bar. After nearly a year of restoration

and reconstruction, he opened the 1911 Gallery

fronting a spacious studio where he could

work.

The space quickly earned a reputation as an edgy

place to be shown and seen, and Krouse’s efforts

attracted a considerable following. Among the

shows he either produced or help promote were a

solo exhibition of sculptor Dale Enochs, Dongo’s

Curb Feelers, the glass works of Richard

Fizer and several group shows, including the IPFW

senior show, works by the E4 collective and group

gatherings for Michael Poorman, Suzanne Galazka,

Don Kruse and Bill Snyder. The 1911 was a

perennial on the Trolley Art Event.

All during this period Krouse continued to

create his own pieces while earning his living

working as an artist-in-residence at elementary,

middle and high schools throughout the area and

occasionally returning to a trade he learned as a

youth, house painting, inside and out.

A survey of Krouse’s work – like the grouping he

used for his recent FWMOA presentation – can be

viewed as perplexing, provocative and

enlightening. Nonetheless, certain themes –

magic, ritual and manipulation – are nearly

always in focus. Other favorite notions, like

power, gamesmanship, pride, love gone stale,

motherly protection and self-discovery, are often

interwoven into his canvases canvas.

Sometimes, like in his large canvas, Robert

Bly Weekend, he offers us a sarcastic take on

the self-absorbed poet’s man movement of the

1980s, with a gathering of guys, drums and fire

all gone amuck with one fellow running hard stage

right to escape the event. To tell another

reoccurring subject, that being his childhood

recollections of Catholic church ritual and

mystery, Krouse selects a rabbit-out-of-the-hat

magician and a levitation trick. In both cases

the artist places his characters under

cabaret-type theatrical lighting and assigns them

cheesy expressions. In other pieces Krouse uses

shell-game motifs or clusters of people he refers

to as skeptics.

In his black-and-white monoprints Krouse draws

upon his life-long love affair with photography.

They emote raw strength and power in their

simplicity and could have come directly out of

the era associated with his friends Beckmann,

Kirchner and Nolde. Very precious these pieces,

especially some of the smaller ones.

In his latest paintings Krouse has reached for a

more bold and colorful palette to create homages

to Van Gogh or later Beckmann pieces. His

Garden Girl captures the colors of a

sunlit garden and more than a hint of his wife

Mary whose gardening instincts have become

legendary in the couple’s South Side

neighborhood.

As much as Krouse enjoys talking about and with

other artists, he also likes his music, which can

go from the subtle and driven sounds of Miles

Davis and John Coltrane to the vibrant rhythm and

blues of Jimmy Hendrix and Tom Waits. In terms of

film, Krouse likes his classic Euro-cinema heroes

Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Wim

Wenders.

Today Krouse himself is poised like one of his

subjects to exit at least partially from the art

business scene.

“I’ve put the gallery up for sale,” explained

Krouse. “I have and still enjoy most every minute

of it, but it does take so much time and effort

to run things properly, and that subtracts from

my own time in the studio, something I miss more

and more. Certainly the economic environment

we’re experiencing has affected the business of

art collecting in recent years, but that’s not

the sole factor that has influenced my decision.

I need my own kind of downsizing.”

That’s downsize, not disappear.

The 1911 Gallery remains open and Krouse can be

reached at 260-745-8468 to schedule an

appointment.

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