Ceramics by Charles Krafft
A self-taught painter, Krafft is best known for his "Disasterware" ceramics series, which combines delicate and kitschy porcelain objects with images of destruction, including rifles and Hitler's bust. Another collection, dubbed "Forgiveness," consists of replica soap and perfume adorned with Nazi swastikas. Krafft also has incorporated human crematory ash into his ceramic clay. For years, the works were assumed to be darkly satirical; one piece, the "Idaho Hitler" teapot, was even purchased by a Jewish collector. Allusions to Hitler and the Nazis in his work, which permanently hangs in the Seattle Art Museum and has been featured in major publications, were perceived for years as ironic.
Yet after barrage of anti-semitic Facebook rants and podcasts, questions are being raised as to whether Krafft had a genuine allegiance to the right-wing imagery. As former gallery director Tim Detweiler says in The Stranger story, written by Jen Graves and published Feb. 13, now that Krafft's works are selling to "the highest-priced stores and at galleries all over the country," what are we to think?
Graves' investigation into Krafft's political beliefs led her to a podcast he participated in for "The White Network," whose tagline is "Whites Talking to Whites About White Interests." In the online podcast, which aired July 28, 2012, Krafft said, "I believe the Holocaust is a myth."
On Jan. 11, Fred Owens, a friend of Krafft's for more than 30 years, posted a lengthy comment on Krafft's Facebook page describing evidence that "Charlie has become anti-Semitic." Krafft responded the next day with a long explanation of his historical beliefs.
On MySpace, the artist messaged a blog called "Black Nerd Network" after it promoted his "Disasterwear" series. The blog posted Krafft's message:
From: Charles Krafft
Date: 30 Apr 2009, 22:11
Subject: You're kidding!
I'm approving Blacknerdnetwork as a friend because I've never met a black nerd. I'm trying to get with the diversity program here in Seattle, but it's kinda hard when the black kids on my bus won't give up that extra seat they're always sprawled across.
In a response to Graves' piece, "The Persecution of Charles Krafft," self-proclaimed white nationalist Greg Johnson defines Krafft as a "believing and practicing historical revisionist," though not necessarily a white nationalist. The interviewer's take on the artist's views:
"Charlie is one of an increasing number of essentially liberal whites who are awakening to the fact that multiculturalism and non-white immigration are threats to the things that liberals hold dear: environmentalism, support for the arts, respect for women, kindness to animals, high wages, safe workplaces, social tolerance, safe, inviting public spaces and facilities, walkable communities, etc., none of which are conspicuous in Latin America, for instance."
Owens said his Facebook post put a spotlight on Krafft's beliefs. "I wrote that, maybe like two months ago, and then I unfriended Charlie," he told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. "I didn't want to initiate a debate, I wanted to end the conversation. Then a number of his other friends e-mailed me and said, 'Yeah, I feel the same way. I got tired of Charlie's crap.'"
When asked about whether he considered Krafft's artwork satirical or genuine pieces of right-wing propaganda, Owens refused to comment. "That's the question that I no longer want to consider. He is very clever. As soon as you say it's right-wing propaganga, he says it's ironic. And he goes on to talk like he really means it. And after a while you get tired of all this back and forth."
"People who have known him since prep school have talked about his casual use of racist language," Owens recalled when recapping his years of friendship with the artist. "Nobody's perfect. I'm not on a crusade."
Krafft is abroad and did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Zoya Tommy, who formerly showed Krafft's work at her gallery, Zoya Tommy Contemporary (Formely PG Contemporary) said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post, "I'm deeply troubled by the revelation of this story and have not been in touch with Charles."
What should become of Krafft's works with this new knowledge of the artist's intention? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.
See the worst art moments of 2012 in the slideshow below:
So this eighty year old woman walks into a church in Spain and takes it upon herself to restore a crackly old Jesus fresco. The result looks like an electrocuted ghost monkey and the art world goes wild. The culprit gets famous, makes money and earns the title of "worst restorer in history," and Beast Jesus becomes one of the most recognizable and beloved works of contemporary art.
Sometimes you get drunk and make regrettable decisions. Like Carmen Tisch, who rubbed her butt and urinated against a $30-40 million Clyfford Still painting. It happens, what's your question? Oh, also it was at 3:30 pm, aka five o'clock somewhere.
Many artists flirt with the boundary between high and low, art and entertainment, culture and celebrity. Domingo Zapata is not one of those artists. The star-crazy Mr. Brainwash wannabe (does that make him a wannabe wannabe?) churns out C-grade portraits of Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Sophia Vergara that go for around $100K. Can a washed up starlet start dating the man already so he will stop making art?
Who would have thought one of the most controversial artists of the year would be conservative pundit Glenn Beck? Beck took a hint from Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" for his own pièce de résistance, "Obama in Pee Pee," an Obama bobble head in a jar of "urine" (beer). Beck's jab at the art world's equation of scandalous art and good art hit a little close to home.
Super hip vandal alternative artist Vladimir Umanets made headlines when he scrawled the message "a potential piece of Yellowism" onto a Mark Rothko painting worth at least $8 million. Umanets attributed the act to his artistic movement Yellowism, which he described as "not art or anti-art." Confused? So was the court that sentenced him to two years in jail.
The awards for best-dressed art thief and least climactic art thief both go to the polka-dotted Dali caper, who strolled up to an $150K Salvador Dali work, casually dropped it in his tote bag and walked out of an art gallery at 5 pm. Surveillance guards are still kicking themselves. In their defense, they were blinded by the polka dots!
This year Richard Prince took a break from his normal artist duties to team up with AriZona iced tea and craft the perfect lemon fizzy beverage. The commercial endeavor was made all the more bizarre by the seriousness Prince attached to the project, best exemplified in the black-and-white, hot-and-bothered head shot adorning every can. *Full disclosure, we did try the drink at Art Basel Miami Beach and it was quite refreshing.
This year the prestigious learning establishment that is the University of California decided its 144 year old logo had gotten a bit stale. The revamped logo garnered comparisons to a flushing toilet, loading symbol and cheesy health care ad. After an onslaught of fury from students, alumna and people with eyes, the university agreed to suspend use of the new logo.
Two art thieves probably experienced extreme nausea when they realized the Ford they had chosen as their getaway car was too small to fit their stolen loot. After breaking into a house and stealing the hefty Carl Larsson work "Clair-Obscur," the criminal masterminds tried to squeeze it in the car, failed, and threw the $500,000 painting to the side of the road. To all future art thieves: just go with the standard white van.
You know Damien Hirst? The world's richest artist whose fortune estimates at about $346 million? Yeah, well turns out he can't really paint. His 'Two Weeks One Summer' show at White Cube was truly "Guy Fieri-ed" from all angles, from Jonathan Jone's comparison to the delusional works of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to our personal favorite tweet: "Insult a three year-old child's painting by saying 'Damien Hirst could've done that.'"
Really though? It's 2012, guys.