Remembering Bruce Bickford

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of animator Bruce Bickford on April 28, 2019.

Remembering Bruce Bickford (1947-2019)

Bruce Bickford was the most original person I‘ve had the good fortune to know. He was a brilliant, dedicated artist in the purist sense, his entire life revolving around the act of creation. His was the most potent and fertile of imaginations, and he breathed life into his astonishing visions with delicate skill in every medium he pursued. Some of my favorite pieces were masks he had crafted from wet, freshly cut grass!

 His sculpted, animated, and illustrated worlds were wild, magical, surreal, mysterious, absurd, hysterical, dynamic, and often violent streams of consciousness. Paradoxically, Bruce himself was a quiet soul, a gentle pacifist who believed wars, violence, and all the ills of the world could and should be solved artistically. He knew this because he had battled his own personal demons, the same ones we all face in one form or another, and exorcized them through his art.

 He loved nature and was a courageous defender of the environment. He was deeply principled, believed in karmic forces, and possessed a fine-tuned moral compass. With an unyielding sense of justice, he fought for the underdog, the “little guy” in every facet of life. In his animations, the bullies always received “their comeuppance, and quite swiftly,” as he put it.

He was an iconoclast, an autodidact, and an original thinker who was self-educated in myriad fields of knowledge, from mythology to cinema, from conspiracy theories to world history. He had a near-photographic memory, was an attentive listener, and could instantly recall conversations – verbatim – he had witnessed decades earlier.

 He eschewed materialism, hypocrisy, greed, and waste. He cared nothing about the acquisition of wealth or material things, only about creating them, and usually, from next to nothing. Never a person of great means, Bruce could stretch a dollar further than most people can even imagine. He performed most of his creative activities sitting upon a sturdy, comfy chair he made by gluing together many layers of cardboard!

 He was also the most honest person I’ve ever known. If you asked for his “honest opinion” on anything, you knew you were going to receive just that. If he wasted one of his precious moments on this planet, I’m not aware of it. Bruce lived with intention, undertaking each daily task and choosing each word he spoke with careful, thoughtful deliberation.

 Every conversation, interaction, and outing I enjoyed with Bruce over our three decades of friendship was an adventure unto itself, an unpredictable journey to a place where standard rules no longer applied, where time ceased to exist. I’ll miss that mischievous twinkle in his eye, our long phone conversations in the middle of the night, ranging in topics from Big Foot to Attila the Hun, from an incident he witnessed in junior high school to a scene from a favorite Kubrick film. I’ll miss sipping Yerba mate and eating fresh cherries together, and I’ll especially miss his deliciously dark and wicked sense of humor.

 Bruce inspired me, motivated me, and taught me much about art and life. He will be profoundly missed. The world is a much duller place with his departure.

 May our dear friend rest in richly deserved peace.

 Brett Ingram

Director, Monster Road

 

Kuhler solo show at Ricco/Maresca Gallery opens May 9, 2019


RENALDO KUHLER: ROCATERRANIA

On view: May 9 – July 3, 2019
Opening Reception: May 9, 6:00 – 8:00 pm 

Ricco/Maresca Gallery

529 W. 20th Street, New York, NY 10011

In his thirty-year career as a scientific illustrator, Renaldo Kuhler (American, 1931-2013) created hundreds of plates for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, illustrating diverse flora and fauna for scientific journals, reference books, and exhibits. Unbeknownst to family, friends, and coworkers, Kuhler was also a prolific self-taught artist.

The only son of German-born Otto Kuhler, a renowned industrial designer of streamline steam engines during the Art Deco period, Kuhler was bullied and ridiculed as a child by classmates, teachers, and headmasters simply for being “different.” When the family moved from upstate New York to a remote cattle ranch in the Colorado Rockies in 1948, teenaged Kuhler found the isolation unbearable, seeking solace in fantasies of becoming a famous violin player.

He built a makeshift violin from scrap wood and laminated paper, taught himself to play, and envisioned himself performing in the fictional Schwartz Opera House alongside two imaginary friends, violinist Augustine Walthoven and cellist Hallock Jenkins. He began writing a novel based upon his imaginary exploits but quickly scrapped it in favor of an illustrated story. Ciudad Eldorado, “sort of a pocket-sized Paris,” in Kuhler’s words, grew around the opera house and eventually became the capital of a nation he called Rocaterrania. From this small kernel, a vast and richly detailed world and a significant collection of art would develop over the next sixty years.

Situated on the border of New York and Canada, settled mostly by Eastern European immigrants, Rocaterrania is a tiny sovereign nation with a unique government, alphabet, language (Rocaterranski), homegrown religion (Ojallaism), economy, social programs, architecture, railroad infrastructure, metro tube system, movie industry, prison system, and a fully mapped geography of cities, mountains, lakes, rivers, and farmlands. It also has a political history fraught with intrigue and turmoil, one that mirrors Kuhler’s lifelong endeavor of self-realization.

Kuhler populated his world with scores of characters, including a royal family, politicians, religious figures, tyrants, scoundrels, sex symbols, neutants (androgynous humanoids), heroes and heroines, many with colorful backstories and dramatic character development. Self-described as “urban Amish,” Kuhler eschewed modern technology, as reflected in Rocaterrania’s Victorian-era transportation systems, architectural elements, clothing styles, and infrastructures.

Rendered with exquisite draftsmanship in a variety of media—pencil, ink, colored pencil, gouache, acrylic—the illustrations themselves demonstrate Kuhler’s tremendous powers of imagination, especially considering many of them were drafted without the aid of reference imagery. He had conceived a richly textured amalgam of cosmopolitan cultural and aesthetic tastes while living on a barren cattle ranch in the boonies of Colorado with a handful of history books, a radio, and an occasional trip to the movies in Denver for inspiration, and having never traveled beyond Mexico or Canada.

Even more impressive was Kuhler’s gift for analogical thinking, as evidenced by his reimagining and repurposing of personalities, places, and events from world history—especially Russian history—organically dovetailed with those of his own life to form a cohesive, fully-imagined world. What had initially begun as an escape then became a secret lifelong quest to illustrate the history of Rocaterrania, simultaneously creating an intricately coded, metaphoric account of his own struggles to break free from a family and society that had consistently rejected him. He systematically isolated the myriad internal and external forces in his life, the same ones we all grapple with, and fleshed them out with voices, settings, and backstories in order to make sense of them, sublimating his despair into an astounding body of work.

Rocaterrania began as a monarchy when Kuhler was a teenager, trapped on the KZ Ranch and dependent upon his emotionally neglectful parents. As he gained independence and freedom by leaving the ranch, attending college, changing his name (from Ronald to Renaldo), and building a career, a succession of tyrannical regimes were overturned in Rocaterrania, eventually settling into a democratic socialism when Kuhler’s personal transformation was complete. The artist himself provided perhaps the simplest and clearest lens through which to view the meaning of his creation: “Rocaterrania is not a utopia. It is not a fairyland or dreamland. What it is, it indirectly tells the story of my life and my struggle to become what I am today. I am Rocaterrania, and my troubles within me and everything else, the events in my life.”

The depth of Kuhler’s immersion in Rocaterrania was reflected in his daily personal attire, a National Labor Service uniform of his own design, comprised of a sleeveless suit jacket, matching vest, tight-fitting knee-length shorts, and a fleur-de-lis Boy Scout neckerchief. His decorative epaulets and neckerchief slides were hand-carved from wood and laminated paper. Gold wire-rimmed spectacles, white knee socks with Scottish garter flashes, black wingtips, a black baseball hat and shoulder satchel completed his daily ensemble.

Rocaterrania is curated to reflect a range of the styles and media in which Kuhler worked, representing a few of the characters, locations, and storylines in the history of this remarkable imaginary microcosm. A 2009 documentary film by the same title, and an illustrated volume, The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler (2017, Blast Books), explore Kuhler’s creation and biography in detail.

– Brett Ingram

Renaldo Kuhler works at 2019 Outsider Art Fair

The work of the late Renaldo Kuhler made its commercial gallery debut at the 2019 New York Outsider Art Fair which took place over four days - from last Thurs. (Jan. 17th) through Sun., Jan. 20th. Nine Kuhler illustrations (including two “neutants” framed together) were presented by Ricco/Maresca Gallery which represents the collection.

(Gallery owner Frank Maresca is pictured with the Kuhler works at the fair.)

* A big shout out to Russell Scholl for photographing this event for Springwood Laboratories!

Ricco/Maresca is planning a extensive solo show of Kuhler’s work for later this year. Stay tuned for updates.

Renaldo Kuhler collection represented by Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York!

We are pleased to make this exciting new announcement:

The Renaldo Kuhler collection is represented by Ricco/Maresca Gallery at 529 W. 20th St., New York. Please direct all acquisition inquiries to Kylie Ryu (kylie@riccomaresca.com) and/or Alejandra Russi (arussi@riccomaresca.com). 

  • Frank Maresca (pictured), part-owner of the Ricco/Maresca Gallery, is one of the leading experts on and collectors of outsider art in the country.

Oct. 14th Ingram Retrospective Screening at Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn

The Spectacle Theater in Williamsburg is hosting a retrospective screening of the films of Brett Ingram on Sunday, October 14th, starting with a shorts block at 4pm. Many thanks to Ben Tuttle for the invitation and for putting it all together!

Schedule:

4:00pm - Short films (documentaries, music videos, animated & experimental films)

6:30 - Rocaterrania (2009, 74 min.)

9:00 - Monster Road (2004, 80 min.)

Address:

124 S. 3rd St.

Brooklyn, NY 11249

http://www.spectacletheater.com

Rocaterrania to Screen at Grail Moviehouse in Asheville, NC on July 21, 2018

The documentary film Rocaterrania(Dir. Brett Ingram, 2009, 74 minutes) will screen at 2pm on July 21, 2018 at the Grail Moviehouse, 45 S. French Broad Ave., Asheville, NC.

The screening is presented in partnership with Malaprop's Bookstore/Caféand the Asheville Art Museum. Tickets $10 at the box office or online at: grailmoviehouse.com

Director Brett Ingramwill be in attendance for Q&A following the screening, and to sign copies of his book, The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler.

Nice mention on Design Bridge website

Design Bridge: "We combine a healthy dose of intuition with intelligence to bring brands to life through great ideas that reach out, engage and emotionally connect with people."

Design Bridge is a highly awarded brand design agency. They have studios in London, Amsterdam, Singapore, and New York.

They noted The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler for its content and design in a nice mention in their Friday Favourites.

 

Feb. 23rd Book Event at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

I will be doing a book event for The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh starting at 7pm sharp on Friday, February 23rd. I will give a brief prevention/reading, followed by a book signing. If you are in Raleigh or nearby, come on out to support your local indie bookstore (and a local indie author)!

A big thanks to Quail Ridge Books for hosting me, and to readers and supporters!

Brett

 

Set your GPS:

Quail Ridge Books:  North Hills, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh, NC 27609

 

Jim Knipfel interviews Brett Ingram for The Believer

Writer Jim Knipfel put together a splendid, thorough, and insightful article about The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler and an interview with author Brett Ingram, published by The Believer on January 22, 2018.

Read the full article here:  A Tourist’s Guide to Rocaterrania: Jim Knipfel on Outsider Artist Renaldo Kuhler

Jim Knipfel is the author of SlackjawThese Children Who Come at You with KnivesThe Blow-Off, and several other books, most recently Residue (Red Hen Press, 2015). His work has appeared in New York Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Village Voice and dozens of other publications.

Great article by Tom Patterson in the W-S Journal

Here's the final paragraph from writer & curator Tom Patterson's insightful and thorough article about Renaldo Kuhler and The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler in the Sunday, Jan. 13, 2018 issue of The Winston-Salem Journal:

"Anyone who happened to cross Kuhler’s path would have quickly sized him up as an odd character. Many of us have been socially conditioned to dismiss and steer clear of such individuals. Fortunately, Brett Ingram didn’t let social prejudices override his persistent curiosity about his eccentric co-worker, and thanks to his efforts, Kuhler’s extraordinary work won’t go unappreciated."

Read the full article here.

Excellent Book Review in Raw Vision by John Foster

The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler received another great review, this time by John Foster for Raw Vision magazine, the premiere international journal devoted to art brut, raw art, also known as outsider & visionary art. Here's the final paragraph:

The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler is a beautifully-designed book by the renowned Laura Lindgren, illustrated with over 400 of Kuhler’s imaginative drawings. Skillfully written by Brett Ingram, who knew Kuhler for 17 years, the private world of Rocaterrania is finally available for enjoyment and study.

          - John Foster

 

ARTNET names TSWoRK one of the 15 most beautiful art books of 2017

The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler is listed at #6 on ARTNET's list of the 15 most beautiful art books published in 2017. Check it out here.

artnet writes:

Outsider Art fans will want to meet Renaldo Kuhler (1931–2013), who for 60 years worked in secrecy, creating the fantastic world of Rocaterrania, inspired by his hometown in Rockland County, New York. His fictional kingdom—replete with its own religion, government, and language, as well as an Olympic Games, prison system, railroad lines, and richly detailed history—comes to life in this new book by Brett Ingram. Most of the expertly drafted illustrations, done in graphite, ink, acrylic, oil, gouache, and watercolors, among other mediums, are being published here for the first time.

 

It must be said here that most of the credit for the book's beauty goes to Renaldo Kuhler, the illustrator, and Laura Lindgren, who designed and edited the book itself into a work of art.

The Secret World of RK Featured in It's Nice That

Illustrations and an excerpt from the introduction of The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler was recently featured online at It's Nice Thata London-based publisher.

About It's Nice That:

It’s Nice That believes passionately that creative inspiration is for everyone and by championing the most exciting and engaging work online, in print and through our events programme, we want to open up this world to the widest possible audience.

Founded in 2007, It’s Nice That has grown across many platforms and reaches over a million people each month. These include the website which is updated daily, a bi-annual magazine Printed Pages, a summer symposium Here and the monthly Nicer Tuesdays talks series.

Steven Heller writes on Kuhler for Print magazine

In this delightful article for Print Magazine about the late artist Renaldo Kuhler and Brett Ingram's new book, The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler, Steven Heller interviews the incomparable designer and editor, Laura Lindgren.

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

Wonderful article in Hyperallergic by Edward Gomez

Edward Gomez wrote a wonderfully insightful article in Hyperallergic about Renaldo Kuhler, his brilliant talent, and Brett Ingram's newly released book, The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler.

In the article, Gomez includes comments and excerpts from an interview with the book's designer and editor, Laura Lindgren, who deserves way more credit than she will ever receive for having designed such a gorgeous book, a treatment of Kuhler's work and his creation that would have made Renaldo very proud.

Glowing endorsement from Drew Friedman

The brilliant cartoonist & illustrator Drew Friedman, whose work has appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Time, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The New York Observer, RAW, The New Republic, The Village Voice, and Mad (to name a few), just today gave a wonderful endorsement of The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler:

"What a delight it is to discover an artist you were completely unaware of, an artist whose work is graphically intricate, strange, and beautiful, and an artist who has actually invented his own world, or, at least his own country. I love everything about this book and I didn't want it to end. Sixty years of Renaldo Kuhler's work is just not enough! But, it will have to do. It's the publishing event of the year."

- Drew Friedman