“Evocative and provocative” — that’s how local artist Rip Cronk describes a new exhibit that will be unveiled Friday at the Benton County Historical Museum.
Cronk, 72, of Philomath, produces the type of art that revolves around powerful imagery while using diverse artistic styles and mediums. The exhibit features reflections on culture, humanity, art history, nature and the human form.
Cronk has built a reputation for his murals and his diverse studio work includes pencil drawings, watercolors, acrylic and airbrush art.
“Several of my favorite pieces are in the show,” Cronk said. “A recent watercolor and ink painting, a parody of a Diego Rivera painting, was a break-through piece for me.”
The museum will host a reception with Cronk from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday. The exhibit will stay up until Jan. 11.
“In addition to recent watercolor paintings and a selection of photorealistic pencil drawings, the walls are dominated by large-scale airbrushed paintings — some are realistic and some are crossover pieces combining graffiti and cartoon art techniques and futurist and cubist compositional devices,” Cronk added.
Museum officials said some works may not be suitable for all audiences.
Cronk’s first mural went up in 1978 in Hawaii — a depiction of Princess Kaiulani. After completing several murals on the islands, Cronk moved to California, where he became known for his murals at Venice Beach, including "Homage to a Starry Night" and multiple Botticelli parodies. His work can even be found in Switzerland.
“From the late 1970s, my career focus has been on public mural art with the intent of producing iconic images representing the location of the mural,” Cronk said. “I have produced around 50 murals to that end.”
Locals may recognize Cronk’s murals that have gone up in the area. “The Athletics Mural” went up in 2017 at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany. In 2018, he produced “Eyes of the Wild” at Crescent Valley High School and “Cultural Transformation: The Teddy Bear Dance” in downtown Corvallis on Monroe Avenue between Second and Third streets.
Cronk and his wife, Lindy, have lived in Philomath for the past eight years. Last year, he participated in a group show, “Artists and Friends,” which also included the works of Ken Haines, Lee Kitzman, Earl Newman, Bill Siebler and Vince Zettler.
“Part of the retrospective is dedicated to documenting the highlights of the mural history through photographs,” Cronk said. “Mural art allowed me to explore the interface of fine art and the public. The career focus on public art allowed my studio work to be more private, visceral and edgy.”
Cronk, who mentioned that there are two studies for mural concepts included in the show, said he’d like to do some local work in the city of his residence.
“I am looking for the opportunity to put up a mural in Philomath on a public facing wall,” he said.
Cronk throws out kudos to the museum “for being willing to take on the challenge of hanging a show that is both evocative and provocative.”