23Sandy Gallery artist, Bryan Kring was an aspiring writer in his early twenties when he found that he had more pictures in his head than he did stories. The realization led to a decision: he would put his writing aside to pursue art—specifically, painting. Kring received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Shortly after graduating, he found his way into the world of printmaking.
Today, Kring has found success as a graphic designer, letterpress printer, and book artist. Living and working in Oakland, CA, he directs his creativity into paper sculptures and moveable prints. Kring explains, “The book arts and paper sculptures have allowed me to combine elements printed on the etching press, others printed on the letterpress, and water colored pieces as well. Whereas in the past it sometimes felt as if I was moving restlessly from technique to technique, now I am able to work within them all.”
Kring tends to work at a very small scale. Many of his pieces do not exceed four inches in width or height. Meticulously cut paper parts move seamlessly together or hover in layers, creating dimensional space. Kring’s tendency to blend painting and etching with letterpress printing allows him to achieve dynamic variations in texture and line quality as well as to combine text and image.
The joy Kring finds in art making is apparent in all of his work. He expounds, “The main reason that I like making moveable books and paper sculptures is because it’s so much fun. It’s fun painting and tinkering with the various little bits and pieces that are assembled. When you are constructing with paper there is no limit to the objects that are available for you to use. If you need a specific piece, a rusty propeller or a wooden bench for example, you just draw it, cut it out, and paint it. With just a few simple tools you can build a miniature world.”
Kring’s work is whimsical and mysterious. Undertones of both darkness and humor tend to surface in his art. He often explores the relationship between meaning and the meaningless through themes of adventure and nostalgia.
For instance, the book Dragonfly is based on a childhood memory involving the killing of a dragonfly. Kring recounts, “it was a very small event but for me it marked a passage and a loss of innocence. Both sad and utterly human.” Dragonfly is a book that unfolds into two panels and a diorama. The multi-colored paper dragonfly, surrounded by brooms and attached to a hidden “stem”, trembles with the movement of the book.
The Fall contains a tiny astronaut in a diorama book, eternally frozen in a steady plummet to earth. The astronaut hovers along with a bird amidst clouds and above city buildings. An unfurled banner in the bird’s beak encourages, “Carpe diem”, enhancing the satirical humor of the astronaut’s plight. In his eternal free fall, the astronaut is left to ponder the “unresolved tug of war between meaning, which can be found in the moments of life, and the meaningless, into which everything is ultimately rendered by death.” Like Dragonfly, the movement of the book causes the astronaut and the bird, both attached to the back of the book with “stems”, to shake.
Insecta Coleoptera is a small box containing a paper beetle specimen. When the lid, which contains a mysterious explanation of the specimen, is removed, and a tiny knob at the base of the box is pulled, the insect’s wings open to reveal a “hidden passenger.” Through Insecta Coleoptera, Kring considers our human tendency to observe, record, and catalog information as we attempt to make sense of the world around us, remarking, “Where there are holes, theories can be drawn to fill them—all in an effort to assemble a story that will light the void and give meaning to the meaningless. For without an explanation who could sleep peacefully through the night?”
Kring has come a long way from those days in his twenties when he dreamt of being “Ernest Hemingway with a bottle of rum in a grass hut on a beach in Cuba.” Through his journey in book arts, he has found his way back to writing and storytelling. His literary skill combined with his strong sense of design, precision, and creativity make his moveable books and paper sculptures unique, compelling objects.
This article was written by Erin Mickelson for 23 Sandy Gallery and first appeared in the quarterly newsletter of The Movable Book Society, an organization we highly recommend.