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Gronk on the set he designed for Vivaldi’s “Griselda“ at the Santa Fe Opera House. He and opera director Peter Sellars will engage in a public creativity converstation Thursday.

Opera director and East-L.A. painter talk art philosphy, work

Are you unimpressed by the general public’s take on art and what it is?

If you’re on a self-improvement kick, or just want to become even more cultured than the shining beacon of culture you already are, know that the Albuquerque Museum of Art has free activities going on every third Thursday. It’s called “Third Thursday,” and the next gathering is called “Conversation: Creative Collaboration,” a panel discussion between two making-it-well-in-the-world artists.

They’ve got Los Angeles-based painter/performance artist Gronk, who will also be painting an onsite mural for the rest of July at the museum, and he’ll acknowledge you when you stop by.

“I’ll be painting museum hours so people can come in and watch the painting as it progresses or they can come by and offer me a doughnut and maybe have a cup of coffee with me,” Gronk said.

On the other side of the table will be opera and stage director Peter Sellars, an art philosopher of sorts, and museum curator Andrew Connors sounds like one of Sellars’ biggest fans.

“He says things you don’t expect,” Connors said, “but he also thinks about things so deeply and richly that no matter how removed an art form might be from our personal experience, and in our case he’s talking about opera, he can make the oldest, most antiquated forms of art reveal something real about our humanity … He is a realistic, so he doesn’t say things he can’t relate to.
He speaks to people’s reality and elevates reality.”

Sellars and Gronk have been collaborating at the Santa Fe Opera since April, putting together Vivaldi’s “Griselda,” which opened July 16. Gronk designed the set with lots of green and pieces of red.

As for Gronk’s mural, it will be finished July 30, and then the public can party down with him the next day at the museum from 1-5 p.m. His finished piece will be painted over in February 2012, but a chunk of the wall will remain in the museum’s collection to document the event.

Gronk said he doesn’t know what the mural will look like yet.

“It’ll depend on the reaction I have when I actually walk into the space,” he said. “There’s no structure. One of the guidelines for asking me to do this type of show is that the institution has to trust that I’m going to do something. That is the prerequisite — that element of trust. That’s an underlying pinning to what I do inside of a university or museum context. Sometimes people are fearful and they want a pre-sketch or pre-idea.”

Connors said Gronk’s work resonates with art snobs and people who may not know much about contemporary art.

“It’s because he’s willing to talk to anybody at any time about why he does the things he does,” Connars said. “He has got a wonderful sense of humor that at times is almost goofy and at other times very skeptical … He has dealt with so many major art museums and art curators and leading figures in American culture that he has heard it all. Therefore, when he hears something that doesn’t seem to make sense, he questions it.”

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