Honors: Armin Mühsam

The Kansas City Artist, Known for Works Employing References to Architecture, Will Open a One-Person Show, “Archipeinture,” at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in March

On the heels of an exhibit of small collages at Haw Contemporary last November, Kansas City artist Armin Mühsam is poised to open a solo museum show.

“Armin Mühsam: Archipeinture” opens March 23 at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph.

The exhibit, of small sculptures and paintings on paper populated by geometric motifs, was organized by the museum’s executive director, Brett Knappe.

Knappe said he initially was drawn to the works for their overall aesthetic.

“They reminded me of the work of many European and American artists of the inter-war era, which is one of my favorite artistic periods,” he said. “Yet, at the same time, he incorporated references to contemporary factories, architecture, transportation, etc.”

“Over time,” Knappe added, “I found his personal journey as an artist equally compelling. He has slowly stripped illusionism from his work and it is increasingly composition and geometry that drive his art. The idea was to take the next step of that journey in “Archipeinture,” which is exactly what he has accomplished.”

Colorful squares and rectangles appear in many of the paintings, enlivened occasionally by grids or wallpaper-like patterns. Perusing this body of work, the numerous quadrilateral shapes do indeed convey a sense of being surrounded by miniature buildings.

Architecture has long been an important touchstone for Mühsam, as he related in a recent email: “If you look at my work over the past 20 years, utilitarian architectural forms are almost always present in my paintings, because they stand in for the way our society works (capitalism, materialism, logistics, control over nature, etc.).”

In many of the works he will show at the Albrecht-Kemper, Mühsam painted on the pages of a book on French Impressionism written in Czech. It was a gift from his parents many years ago.

Mühsam turned to the book on Impressionism as a continuation of research and development that he began in early 2016. At that time, he stopped painting and started making collages to push himself in a new direction. Collage offered a way to generate new ideas quickly and efficiently, as the reproductions of Impressionist works triggered him to respond with form and color. His goal is to return to painting on canvas with a newly expanded visual language.

Mühsam has shown in Kansas City since 2001 at venues such as Rockhurst University’s Greenlease Gallery, the Kansas City Artists Coalition and Leedy-Voulkos Art Center — in addition to his recent show of collages at Haw. New works, like “Franciscan Stack,” demonstrate the close relationship between the book-page paintings and the collages. Quadrilateral forms overlap each other like pasted pieces of paper in front of an amorphous blue ground, while the word “Impresionismus” floats near the top of the composition, an artifact of the book page beneath the painting.

Since 2000, Mühsam has taught art at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, where his now retired colleague, Martha Breckenridge, introduced him to Knappe. Mühsam is now a tenured professor of painting at the school and commutes there from Kansas City, where he lives and has his studio. His work can be found locally in the collections of Sprint and State Street Corporation. He has also shown in numerous U.S. locations outside of Kansas City and in Germany, where he was born.

Visitors to his upcoming exhibit will see works like “Scottish Stack.” The composition harks to Mühsam’s much earlier paintings, where one might find a sculpture-like form placed atop another form that resembles a pedestal, all placed into a painted but unpopulated landscape. The artist’s flat colors, even lighting and simple forms bring to mind stage sets.

“Scottish Stack” seems compellingly fictional, as if the artist has fabricated a mesmerizing echo chamber to ask: ‘What is the art here?’ Is it the red form on the concrete-like slab? Or is the art the placement of these forms in an illusionistic space? Or is it this object hanging on the wall in the gallery?

But the seeds of Mühsam’s artistic future may lie in “Bathing Stacks.” The red and pink form on the left resembles a sculpture sitting on a pedestal. On the right, two yellow-green forms with red stripes appear to be stacked one atop another, but the shapes are so flat that they can also be read as modernist paintings. This experimentation with art forms anticipates the artist’s next phase: making 3-D works.

As he explained in a recent email, “I want to eventually paint on architectural forms (fabricated by me) with the new pictorial language I’ve developed over the past 18 months or so (hence the title ‘Archipeinture’ for the AKMA show).”

“Armin Mühsam: Archipeinture” opens March 23 and continues through June 10 at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, 2818 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, 816.233.7003 or www.albrecht-kemper.org.

About The Author: James Martin

James Martin

James Martin is an independent consultant, curator, educator and writer based in the Kansas City area. Most recently, he served as guest curator of “Chromaphilia,” an exhibition of Kansas City Art Institute ceramics department alumni, on view at the KCAI Gallery through June 4. Since 2001, he has focused on working with art located outside of typical art venues, such as public art and corporate and hospital art collections.



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