Henry Klimowicz’s sculptures do not leave the viewer with any questions about what material he uses to make each piece. Collected from multiple grocery stores, hardware stores, and shipments from other artists, Klimowicz gives new life to ordinary single-ply cardboard. He makes no effort to hide or disguise the material’s past as small tears, box creases, and even printed product letters are visible on his sculptures. “It isn’t the material that gives something to the viewer,” Klimowicz said, “it is what I put into it — my vision creates whatever image the viewer takes away from the piece.”
Klimowicz's exhibit, "The Importance of the Unimportant," will open on Sept. 28 and will run until Nov. 17, in the Robeson Gallery on the University Park campus of Penn State. A public reception will be held in the gallery from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13.
Klimowicz has been working with cardboard as his primary material since 1986. Armed with a utility knife and a hot glue gun, he methodically transforms it into large-scale sculptures, pushing the material as far as possible. Working with cardboard allows Klimowicz to create a dialogue between art and the natural world, and the adaptable nature of his work allows him to work freely. When he begins his sculptures Klimowicz does not set out with a clear idea of how the finished piece will look. Instead, he lets the piece develop itself, making aesthetic decisions along the way and without consciously thinking about where a piece is going or if it’s going well.
“Cardboard is simple and straightforward,” said Klimowicz. “It is also a severely limited material. It has an ever-present cultural bias related to its past uses as a container or its present use as waste. I love it when the material transcends its cultural confines. If I can make something beautiful from cardboard, I have then said that anything can be made valuable, fruitful or hopeful. I see this work as very positive because of the lengths that have been traveled by the material from trash to beauty. It is a statement about the possible — that all things can be redeemed, often for more that what was deposited. Creativity can be that redeemer.”
Henry Klimowicz grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor in fine arts degree. He earned his master of fine arts from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and currently resides in Millerton, New York.