Kurt Wenner, the master of 3D street art, far more than a master artist he is a lover of knowledge and exploration. With more than 30 years of highly influential work under his belt there is no slowing down for Wenner.
Wenner is attributed by many with bringing the anamorphic 3D chalk artworks into popular culture. Producing many of the most amazing 3D chalk art installations, bringing the pavement to life. Wenner has also inspired many artists to produce their own 3D chalk street art. More accurately described as a re-discovery, Wenner’s genius was to combine the ancient art of perspective illusion – trompe l’oeil – with modern geometric theory to produce Wenner’s hyperbolic perspective, in-turn modernizing an ancient art form. Combining his love of classical artists of the Renaissance period he modernized and returned the ancient knowledge of illusion, a style originally demonstrated by the great European artists of the past. Giving their works a visually stunning sense of dimension, leaping from the pavement the effect is stunning.
Artists such as Julian Beever, Manfred Stader, and Edgar Muller as well as others can trace their roots back to his innovations in the early 1980s. By using computer programs or a simplified geometry to create their illusions they are able to approximate the effect of Wenner’s three-dimensional illusion.
Wenner’s hyperbolic perspective corrects the geometry of the artwork when viewed from oblique angles. While many artists also produce anamorphic artworks using forced perspective they are generally best viewed from a single angle. Wenner’s hyperbolic perspective allows for viewing from all angles.
Wenner The Artist
Wenner painted his first commissioned mural at the age of 16. Later attending the Rhodes Island School of Design and the Art Centre College of Design, Wenner is well grounded in the modern artistic techniques. Working his way through college as a graphic designer NASA scooped him up as soon as he graduated and put him to work as a scientific illustrator, producing incredibly accurate interpretations of alien landscapes and futuristic space craft.
The Wenner Journey
In 1982 Wenner sold all of his belongings, quit his job at NASA and started his journey of discovery.
Driven to always improve his own skills Wenner become interested in the ways of the classical artists. Realizing there were many techniques ignored by western teachings of modern art. Believing there are skills demonstrated by the masters 500 years ago that were far superior to those currently taught he set off.
Traveling to Italy Kurt immersed himself in the teachings of the past. Studying the classical masters and finding himself heavily influenced by sculptures, fresco and the wealth of artistic heritage. Living in central Rome near the pantheon he found himself engrossed in the works of the Renaissance masters.
Developing a fond appreciation for the Mannerist period, a period of classic art that is known for its monumental scale and sophisticated decoration, something he had already demonstrated a strong ability for, thinking big. Experimenting with various mediums, tempra, fresco and oils Wenner continued to evolve his own style and techniques.
As with many of the great artists Wenner quickly learned to that exploration is an expensive journey. During his exploration of classic techniques in Italy he began putting his new skills to work supporting himself by becoming a madonnaro, a chalk street artist and all it involves. A tradition also shared by many of the Renaissance masters.
He quickly began to win awards and capture people’s attention. Loving the instant feedback of situation Wenner quickly built a name for himself on the streets. Within a few years awards had started to stack up and in 1985 he was the subject of Nation Geographic’s award winning documentary ‘Masterpieces in Chalk’.
Wenner ”I am continually challenged to rediscover, transform, and share neglected ideas of the past. When creating a large work at a public event I am able to evaluate the reactions of large and diverse audiences. This information has provided me with invaluable lessons in human perception. While lecturing on my work or other art-related topics to professional and amateur artists, as well as art educators, I have had the opportunity to engage a vast number of people in a dialogue that has shown me that while my ideas about art, education, and classics are often markedly different from established views they are nevertheless welcome. I believe that while the patrimony of great masterpieces from the classical tradition belongs to history, the artistic process it proposes is eternal.”
Wenner lived in Rome for 25 years before returning to the United States. His work has been seen in 30 countries, and he currently creates work for clients all over the world. His latest major work the book Asphalt Renaissance documents the history of street art and his role in re-invigorating the art form, the book is now available on the internet and at book stores worldwide.
Wenner continues to expand his skills and interests having been commissioned to produce sculptures, decorative stucco relief, ceramic murals, architectural designs, and numerous images for publicity and advertising.
Wenner The Lecturer
Wenner believes that the language of classicism is a critical tool that has been overlooked for far too long. Passing this enthusiasm for classical artistic techniques on through his lectures Wenner wants the knowledge he has gained to be carried on and passed down by those he has taught.
Dedicating one month every year, for 10 years, Wenner taught more than 100,000 students, from elementary through university. Teaching students to work with chalks and pastels. For his dedication, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Medallion for his outstanding contribution to arts education.
Heavily influenced by his love of the masters of the renaissance period Wenner is far more than an artist, he is a man who thirsts for knowledge and constant evolution.
Commissioned to create an original composition during the Pope’s 1991 visit to Mantua, Italy Wenner composed a 15 foot by 75 foot street painting based on the Last Judgement. Taking 10 days for 30 artists working under Wenner’s direction the art work was signed by the Pope himself on the tenth day, thus officially sanctioning pavement art as an official form of sacred art. Also making him a master by implication.
During 2010 Greenpeace called for a ban of genetically modified crops ,presenting EU members in Brussels with 1 million signatures along with a 22 meter by 22 meter 3D Wenner image. The giant composition set a world record for the largest image of its kind drawn by a single person.
The Beauty Of The Street Gallery
Here at Highpants we all unanimously agree that street art, including chalk, is our favourite form of art. Some of us love the democratic nature and some love the risky temporary nature of the medium.
In many ways street art could be considered the busking equivalent for the visual fine arts, simply asking for donations for your work is the most honest way to receive direct feedback from your audience. A gutsy and risky medium, in full view with an audience that always has somewhere else to be.
Talk to any gallery owner and they will tell you that one of the greatest challenges for any gallery is traffic, getting people through the doors. Street art removes this barrier completely and opens art to every man or women on the street. This is the ultimate mechanism for making art available to the public.
His works have appeared in more than 30 countries around the world, his skills in architecture, design and decorative artwork are still in high demand to this day. Now living in Michigan Wenner still keeps himself busy, working for clients on many commissioned pieces. Popular amongst marketing companies he can often be seen recording the entire process of creating a work on the pavement, to later be included as part of the media campaign.
His influence stretches past re-invigoration 3D street art but also, as a lecturer, he has influenced an entire generation of new budding artists, winning acknowledgement from the White House along the way.
Kurt Wenner, an incredible artist, lecturer and inspiration to a generation. With his passion for the Renaissance Wenner took what was great in the past and built upon it. Bringing it back to life, with a modern twist. Responsible for more smiles and happy moments amongst the general public than any other modern artist Wenner’s art literally and figuratively reaches out and touches all those who pass on by.