“Fun. No Fun. Kraft Duntz featuring Dawn Cerny” at the Henry is three-quarters Cornish College of the Arts alumni. The Seattle-based artist/architect team of David Lipe, Matt Sellars ‘93, and Dan Webb '91, in collaboration with Dawn Cerny ’02, have created an installation for the Henry’s lower level gallery that will be on display through September 10, 2017.
David Lipe, Matt Sellars, and Dan Webb make up the artistic team known as Kraft Duntz. It’s a mix of art and architecture with plenty of Cornish connections. Their latest work, in collaboration with another Cornish graduate Dawn Cerny, can be seen at the Henry Art Gallery this spring.
Sellars and Webb answered a few questions about their latest collaboration and how the art scene keeps changing in Seattle.
How did you come up with name Kraft Duntz?
Dan Webb: Kraft Duntz really came about in a very organic way. Dawn and I were co-curating a show at the Greg Kucera Gallery, and we decided that what we really wanted to do was to alter the space of the gallery itself. Dawn suggested that we ask Dave to help us with that, because he is an architect as well as a carpenter. At that point, we realized that asking Matt to join us was the logical next step, because both Dave and I had worked with
Matt in one capacity or another for years, as carpenters and fellow artists, without really all of us working together (except once…briefly). The result was something that we all really loved. We thought that was going to be it, until we got an email from the Henry asking us to expand on that idea for their space. We said yes, of course, as did Dawn, and the band got back together.
Matt Sellars: Kraft Duntz refers to a number of entendres. First is that the three of us come together on this after years of working construction together and on our own, pursuing a living but also taking a certain pride in the craft itself regardless of how good or bad the pay was. It also refers to the band Kraftwerk. We're all big music fans and feel it is essential to who we are as artists. It also refers to Victoria Haven's and Dawn
Cerny's art collective Daft Kuntz, which in itself is a triple entendre. So multiple layers of meaning!
What's the meaning behind title "Fun. No Fun”?
Matt Sellars: “Fun. No Fun” refers to the series of the good and bad choices we are confronted with in life that can and do determine paths taken throughout. We wanted this to reflect both life in the greater sense but also within the experience of the museum experience/institution itself. This manifests itself in the ramps being a conveyance to different but similar conclusions, the domestic chaos and generosity of Dawn's sculptures, and the way that each of the spaces refers to the next but also contrasts the previous ones.
Dan Webb: The title really describes how things that outwardly seem fun and rewarding very often have difficulty baked deeply into them. Spectacular results are not the product of non-stop spectacular moments -
the lows exist right along with the highs. We were really trying to acknowledge that phenomenon as clearly as we could, because the piece itself makes Fun really clear. But behind that is a lot of work, both physical, mental, and emotional. If a real commitment is made, and real risk is taken, then something incredible can (occasionally) come out of that. In our case, it was important that we trusted in our partnership in order to make it all work, which was a huge risk. I think the results speak for themselves.
Why is Kraft Duntz described as an artist/architect team?
Dan Webb: Dave doesn’t really call himself an artist. He is trained as an architect and has worked extensively as a carpenter. Matt and I went to art school, but really feel that our lives as carpenters were every
bit as formative as our formal art education. When we do things together, the goal is more of an intersection between a habitable space, and a sculpture. No client would ever ask us to make the things that we make, because we are happy to jettison pure utility in favor of a more experiential quality. The result really is a hybrid.
What do you remember about Cornish College of the Arts?
Dan Webb: I studied sculpture there, and I remember having really great instructors: Ed Wicklander, Jeffry Mitchell (who was my senior advisor), Ken Kelly, and Gary Hill (who I leaned on for advice). Along with all of the great instructors were some really great students, one of whom was Matt Sellars, a future Duntz.
How did you hear about Cornish College of the Arts?
Matt Sellars: . I heard about it because recruiters came to my high school in Spokane. I also grew up in the arts because my mom has been a curator and has worked at museums her entire working career, so art has
been very central to my existence. I had a very rewarding experience at Cornish. Dan and I attended at the same time. He was two years ahead of me and was always something of a mentor to us younger squirts in the shop. I'm still friends with and in connection with many of the friends and teachers that I went through my Cornish experience with. They provided my base and introduction to the art scene in Seattle. Teachers like Ed Wicklander, Amanda Fin, Preston Wadley, and Greg Skinner were super informative to my education there. I look back on my college experience as it being a very high energy place because of all of the creative energy of fellow students and young good teachers who were working artists brought in from the community.
How would you describe the visual art scene in Seattle today?
Dan Webb: I think the visual art scene is changing, not only in Seattle, but everywhere I go. There are less galleries now then when I graduated, and probably more artists. The paradigm that we took for granted for
so long (graduate, get a gallery, show in galleries forever) is definitely changing. I think living a creative life can mean a lot of different things now, with or without a gallery.
Matt Sellars: As far as the Seattle art scene goes, I think it is and always has been a very strong scene because we have loads of great artists here. Seattle is forward thinking place that has always had a vibrant gallery scene. Unfortunately the gallery scene is struggling to find its place now. There seems to be a reshuffling of some sort going on. There are lots of really cool projects going on with pop-ups, installations, performance, and alternative spaces. There is lots of money here, especially with the tech and bio research sectors but there is definitely a gulf that needs to be spanned between those communities and the gallery scene. The galleries are a commercial model. Say what you like about that union, but some of the most formative shows for me have been shows that I have seen in galleries. They are and have always been a vital chunk of the ecology here. I hope that they can make whatever the next step is to continue being a part of that. But I do always take solace in the fact that Seattle is a vibrant place. It always has been and will continue to be so. And it will always attract creative energy regardless of the political direction of this country. Probably even more so.
Catch Dawn Cerny’s take on “Fun. No Fun” at a special reading on April 27, 2017, at the Henry Art Gallery. For more information on this and the gallery show, see the Henry’s website.