The Surreal Thing 

“Fragments” brings a new kind of beauty to the Visual Arts Center.

click to enlarge art04_art_fragments_vow_200.jpg

After more than 20 years of dynamic collaboration, two famous Richmond artists show us that they may actually be inside one another's heads.

Robin Kranitzky and Kim Overstreet have worked together since the early '80s, creating jewelry and combining found objects. Their partnership has produced work that's internationally known and exhibited in permanent museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They've also been exhibited in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery.

With a new body of work, “Fragments of Our Imagination,” at the Visual Arts Center, Kranitzky and Overstreet continue their collaborative tradition.

Talking in the language of surrealism, Kranitzky and Overstreet develop small, confusing scenes within each of their pieces. Disjointed narratives caused by the irregular combination of found objects combine true memory with fantastic invention. The works act like tiny therapists that give you a scattered view of a feeling you're searching to find. They hold the aura of Faberge, yet in their complex arrangements, also work like inner components of a thought machine.

Each of their works is contained within a glass viewing case. The delicate nature of the objects is evident when art patrons stand and glare through special magnifying glasses provided for the show. Each piece is unique to itself, only sharing the theme of illustration and a few similar materials. Yet each one, despite its size, provides great depth of discovery. The components of the work replicated are the inclusion of found objects, postcard images, copper, micarta and silver.

The use of found objects into the overall design of the duo's work is similar to the assemblage boxes of Joseph Cornell, a self-taught artist who worked to create what he considered “white magic,” art pieces that set themselves apart from the darker-themed “black magic” of other surrealist artists of the time. His pioneering combinations of found objects delivered messages absent of language with a focus more toward instinctual understanding and beautiful wonder.

The works of Kranitzky and Overstreet are not wholly surreal. The irrational elements of the work are strongest in their execution and their baffling attention to detail. The act of combination has been achieved, but it's the masterful skill of a jeweler that adds new dimensions to each piece. Their skill doesn't limit them within the boundaries of just the found materials they acquire. Essentially their ability allows them to invent what might not already be. These fragments of the imagination are evident in the treads that tie each individual object together. 

In “Fragments of Our Imagination,” Kranitzky and Overstreet have developed a prolific body of work. Each piece viewed allows for a new feeling, a new question, even a new discovery. Without explanation some images might cause uncomfortable reactions while others provide a wonderful fantasy. In the end, however, mystery can make even the most grotesque of visions beautiful again. S

“Fragments of Our Imagination: Narrative Jewelry by the Collaborative Partnership of Kranitzky and Overstreet” is on display at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond at 1812 W. Main St., and runs through March 21. For information call 353-0094 or visit



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