sunrise it crystallize
An ad plays on the radio.
Remove the noise. Remove the texture. The details. The assault of colour. Leave your glasses at home! Let the edges blur and sink into the bliss of repetition! Now for a limited time only…
The world and its constant bombarding of stimuli has become harder to parse, this is where Marlon Kroll’s abstraction comes in handy. It takes the contours of the world and translates them into simple shapes for us to better understand.
Kroll’s paintings aren’t unlike the optical illusions we looked at as children. The vase that was really two faces. Or, the two faces that turned into a vase. A bunny morphed into a witch and back again. You had to make your eyes go slightly out of focus to see the hidden figure and then once you did, it could not be unseen.
These ambiguous images taught us how to look, that binaries can be complicated and undone. That whatever we see on the surface can easily be something else if we look hard enough. They taught us that shapes repeat, making up multiple versions at once. What is a butterfly could also be an ear.
When I first saw Kroll’s work in real life, I thought they were oil paintings. I continued to think this until Marlon corrected me with a gentle laugh at my shock—I imagine this is a conversation that repeats often in his life. In reality, Kroll’s paintings are compiled of thousands of lines of pencil crayon. Just as I first looked at two faces and saw a vase, Kroll’s paintings—drawings?—aren’t what they first seem, the medium of his work is ambiguous. The forms present in his paintings also necessitate a closer look achieved through a blurring of the vision, something that seems counterintuitive but results in a surplus of riches. The gift that Kroll’s work gives us is the ability to see a reality that’s just outside our field of vision.
Kroll’s paintings are uncanny in their ability to be two things at once. Is the apple morphing into an ear or a butterfly? Or simply an abstract invention? All three? None? Look long enough and hidden figures will emerge. A crumpled sheet takes the same form as rolls of tummy fat.
Recently, I began to listen to pink noise—a signal frequency not unlike white noise, except that it’s smoother—almost constantly as a way to remove the noise. By eliminating one of my senses, I can better navigate the world. The manufactured sound isn’t unlike the buzzing of a fly, the cry of the cicada, or the constant stream of traffic outside my window. Let the edges blur and sink into the bliss of repetition! The cars drive past all night, seemingly never sleeping. For Kroll’s show at Parisian Laundry in Montreal, the room is full of yellow noise. The indistinct noise fills the viewer’s ear, allowing them to see better.
Kroll’s work feels intrinsically linked to the writer Franz Kafka; the Odradek, Kafka’s porous creature in Cares of a Family Man, seems to resonate throughout the exhibition. “At first glance it looks like a flat star-shaped spool for thread, and indeed it does seem to have thread wound upon it; to be sure, they are only old, broken-off bits of thread, knotted and tangled together, of the most varied sorts and colours. But it is not only a spool, for a small wooden crossbar sticks out of the middle of the star, and another small rod is joined to that at a right angle,” Kafka wrote. Kroll’s paintings shift from one form to another to create oblivion. His sculptures, too, come together to form an Odradek. The foraged pieces of scrap Kroll finds on the side of the road are given new life in the form of a nondescript assemblage—3D Rorschach tests.
Headphone wires, bits of loose string, a broom handle, all assemble together in Kroll’s work to create an abstraction of everyday objects. In a Frankenstein twist, we discover that Kafka’s Odradek can speak, it’s aliivveee. Kroll’s paintings and sculptures are likewise alive and impossible to definitively identify.
I think of all the things Kroll’s work are a metaphor for: words that sound the same but mean different things, doppelgängers, production lines that pump out the same product on repeat. The repetition alerts us to the absurdity of a shape in the same way that words lose their meanings when said over and over again. Kroll’s paintings are both serious and fun. It just depends how you look at them.
Text by Tatum Dooley
Marlon Kroll (b. 1992) is a Canadian-German artist based in Montreal. He holds a BFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University. Kroll has recently presented his work in the solo exhibition Thirsty Things at Clint Roenisch, Toronto (ON). His work has also been included in several group shows including Gesture of Comfort, Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montreal (QC); Whose line is it anyway?, 8eleven, Toronto (ON); Summer, Galerie René Blouin, Montreal (QC); Hopping The Twig, Calaboose, Montreal (QC). Kroll’s work is currently exhibited in the group show Red Sky at Morning presented by Calaboose at Interstate Projects, New York (NY). Kroll is one of the nine laureates of the Darling Foundry’s 2019-2022 Montreal Studio Program.