Kurt Wenner's 'Armchair Traveler'Legendary sidewalk artist Kurt Wenner has been creating sophisticated perspective illusions on public streets for the past thirty years, and is credited with sparking the artform's current wave of popularity. We asked him a few questions about his influences and his process.
What drew you to anamorphic art? Who are some artists who have influenced you?
Anamorphism is a term that describes a diverse set of pictorial geometries, which sometimes have little in common. Artists that have utilized it include Hans Holbein, Andrea Pozzo, and Samuel van Hoogstraten. Pozzo was the most influential for me, especially because I was able to study his works up close in Rome. The geometry I employ is not the same as any of these artists. I needed to develop a new approach because of the wide viewing angle necessary for pavement art.
Can you describe your process? Do you use aids (lenses, projection, computers, etc.) to create the distortions? What is your technique for mapping the distorted images onto the sidewalks where you paint them?
In early works I only had access to a string, and my technique is based on this reality. I have experimented with designing lenses and utilizing computer programs, but nothing I do depends on these technologies. In the end, the geometry should be understood as the outward projection of an idea as it forms on the back of the eye rather than a simple distortion of one planar image to another.
About how long does it take to produce a pavement painting? What's the quickest one you did, and the one that took the longest time?
A "quick" 3D pavement work could be done in a couple of hours, but this would have little impact today. In general, I prefer to spend 5-7 days on an image, which measures about 15 feet square. I find this to be optimal for 3D pavement art. That being said, some images are much larger, and I have spent as much as six weeks on a single image. I have created images up to 380 square meters.
What materials do you typically work with?
Pastels are the traditional medium for pavement art, and I like to stick to this medium for the 3D street art. Today, parts of the image are often reproduced digitally in order to survive the weather or allow for the public to interact by standing or sitting on top of it. I have done 3D anamorphic illusions as murals in private homes and public venues in paint as well, but I try to avoid paint for outdoor venues, as it ultimately does not have the durability of the digital works, nor the traditional look of pavement art.