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 Allan Winkler  (1954 - )

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Lived/Active: Missouri/Illinois      Known for: paper and metal cut outs, ceramics

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Allan  Winkler
An example of work by Allan Winkler
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kansas City Star 2009

"A whacked-out, cut-out world, brought to you by artist Allan Winkler"

Special to The Star

It's Allan Winkler's planet, and the rest of us are just living on it. Fortunately, it's a whacked-out, fun place to be, and often quite rewarding.

San Franciscans found that out in the 1970s, when Winkler received an Art in Public Places grant to transform the display windows of an abandoned building at Market Street and Fifth.

What was to be a three-week installation on one of the busiest streets in San Francisco turned into a three-year phenomenon, as Winkler's hand-painted landscapes, giant papier-mâché animals and plants, and life-sized ceramic people and monsters gradually took over an entire city block.  He got lots of newspaper coverage, while passersby contributed gifts and letters (including one signed "Madonna").

Many in Kansas City are familiar with the 55-year-old artist's metal and paper cut-outs, which have hung through the years in such restaurants as Venue and Shiraz (both now, unfortunately, defunct), as well as in community centers and other public places. His calendars have sold at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and his T-shirts at the Reading Reptile bookstore.

And people regularly drive by his house on the West Side, with its code-breaking assortment of bottles and artworks that sprawl on the front porch and beyond.

But even if you think you know Winkler's immediately recognizable art, his latest exhibition of new work at the Epsten Gallery in Village Shalom is a marvelous installation with some real surprises. It's as if this seasoned veteran has gotten a second wind and has risen to a new level of inventiveness.

Which is saying something.

In many cases Winkler has upped the scale of his work, to great effect.  Five-feet-tall collaged heads made from boxes of consumer products hover on one wall, and in that scale their wide-open eyes have a trace of menace that adds to the overall intensity of the art.

Winkler has always been a master paper-cutter, but for the first time he is making cutouts in a variety of colors, and Epsten Gallery curator Marcus Cain has done a superb job assembling a mural-sized grid of multicolored faces, moons, animals and abstract forms together, creating a mosaic of pure energy.

On some of Winkler's newest cutouts, different colors of paper are layered together and then cut open to form three-dimensional starbursts of various sizes. These forms could be flower petals, or they could be bullet holes; Winkler always manages to keep his work from being saccharine, which is what gives it staying power.

Another gallery wall is covered entirely with metal cut-outs of people and animals on objects ranging from mailboxes and cans to wheelbarrows. Once again, as inviting as these creations are, more than a few have teeth that resemble fangs.

Three paper collages of double-headed men lined up next to one another are a mesmerizing ensemble, but one wonders if they haven't all been institutionalized for some bizarre disorder.

Winkler has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and has received numerous grants and commissions over the years. He also has been an artist-in-residence at various schools and has taught kindergarteners as well as university students. He is an accomplished drummer who plays with various bands.

Still, his work is distinguished by a genuine outsider art quality. Artist Garry Noland, who curated an exhibit of Winkler's work 10 years ago at the Writers Place in Kansas City, observes: "I can't tell if Allan is a naive sophisticate or a sophisticated naif."

Winkler grew up in Chicago.

"In high school I was a real outsider and a horrible student," he said in a recent interview. "I got straight F's."

His childhood, he said, had been difficult.

"At 5 I had an undiagnosed illness that caused me to lose weight," he said. "I would pass out and hallucinate."

His father ? "not a nice man" ? was a brassiere salesman who stashed mannequins wearing bras all over the house, Winkler said. His mother sold motorcycles, and there were visits from Hell's Angels. At 14, he lived in Berkeley during the Bay Area's notorious 1967 Summer of Love.

Fortunately, Winkler's high school English teacher, Richard Gragg, liked him enough that he arranged for the art department to give the failing student a big, empty room with a potter's wheel where he could do what he wanted.

"The only stipulation," Winkler recalls, "was that I had to have exhibits in the windows." Winkler taught himself to make ceramics and produced batches of drawings. "At least I got D's after that," he says. "They finally just let me graduate."

During his senior year, scouts from the Kansas City Art Institute saw his "art room" and offered him a scholarship.  He moved here. At KCAI, he wheedled his way out of the Foundations Department to move to the legendary ceramics department under Ken Ferguson.

Winkler excelled there, but as Ferguson wrote in an exhibition catalog in 1983 that featured Winkler's work, "I never knew what to do with Allan.  He worked a lot ? was easy to talk to and we let him make what he wanted.  The hand-built figures were so wonderful I saw no reason to give him assignments.  He loved his work and he enjoyed making his 'friends.' "

Besides ceramics, Winkler wanted to work in a variety of media.  Upon graduating, he made an animated film, "Stars and Dews and Dreams of Night," which features his paper cutouts.  It is a truly marvelous mix of whimsy and surrealism, for which he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since then, Winkler has worked in textiles and glass, as well as paper and metal.  He is a serious student of folk art and lived briefly with the renowned Rev. Howard Finster.

Now Winkler has a family with Leslie Neff, who is a teacher, and two children, Emma, 16, and Eli, 13.

"Originally, (with my art) I was creating friends and family for myself because it wasn't really working in real life. Now I have this wonderful family.  And can you believe it ? both my kids are getting straight A's."

Biography from P&M Artworks:
Allan Winkler's talents flow from a deep and winding river source, whose branches seem to have no limit. Besides cutting paper and metal images, he is a ceramic sculptor, a painter, a quilt maker, a clothes designer, a batik artist.

He has played drums for jazz groups and rock-and-roll bands, acted in plays, made prize-winning films and videotapes, taught art in college, written articles and lengthy literary journals.


2009     ALLAN WINKLER: FRESH CUTS   paper and metal cut-outs, Kansas City Jewish Museum  - Epsten Gallery

2009     ALLAN WINKLER - NEW YORK, Blueblue Café and Bistro


2006     ALLAN WINKLER: RECENT METAL CUT OUTS, Shiraz Restaurant, Kansas City, Missouri

2005    Allan Winkler: a Retrospective    Pi Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

2003    Consumer Portraits, Chiro Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

2000    Allan Winkler, Dodge City Community College

1999    Jewish Community Center Gallery, Overland Park, Kansas

1997    Joanne Rapp Gallery - The Hand and the Spirit, Scottsdale, Arizona

1992    San Jose State University, San Jose, California

1990    University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama

1990    The Alaska State Museum, Juneau, Alaska

1989    Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1989    Allan Winkler's Metal Cut Outs, Pro Art Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri

1989    Allan Winkler's Paper Cut Outs, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center

1988    Allan Winkler:  Recent Ceramics, Dorothy Weiss Gallery, San Francisco, C

1988    Allan Winkler, New Work,  Leedy-Voulkos Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

1987    Allan Winkler: Clay, Paper Cuts, Paintings,   Objects Gallery, Chicago

1986    St. Louis Design Center, curated by Pro Arts Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri

1985    Allan Winkler: Recent Art, Objects Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

1985    Allan Winkler, Dorothy Weiss Gallery, San Francisco, California


2009    "Eyes of the World" Paragraph Gallery, Urban Culture Project, Kansas City, Missouri

2009    Telephonebooth Invitational "the 2009 Summer Salon"  "cifras de muchos mondos"  Kansas City, Missouri

2009    Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, Nebraska, art auction

2009    UrbanSuburban, Kansas City Jewish Musueum, Epsten Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

2008    Rock, Paper, Scissors?.Allan Winkler, Mark Pharis, Andrew Martin, Pottery Northwest, Seattle, Washington

2006    "How Did I Get Here?"  Elastic Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

2005    UrbanSuburban, Kansas City Jewish Museum, Epsten Gallery

2004    "Declare Yourself" Pi Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

2004    "We Buy Art" Urban Culture Project, the Bank Gallery, selections from 6 Kansas City Collectors:  Bruce Bettinger,  Dr. Loretta Britton, Todd and Carol Haenisch, John Holland, Anne Winter, Tonya Witmer & Ben Hansen

2005    Kansas City Flatfile Show, H & R Block Artspace, Kansas City Art Institute

2004    Paper Cuts: The Art of Contemporary Paper, traveling exhibit, Exhibits USA

2003    "The Art of Aging" traveling exhibit organized by Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, New York City, curator, Laura Kruger

2003    "Ceremony In The Dessert" Sylvia Plotkin Judaica Museum of Temple Beth Israel, Scottsdale, Arizona

2003    "30 Years of the Archie Bray Foundation" Halter Museum of Art, Helena, Montana, Traveling Exhibit

2003    "Mary Jo Dawson & Allan Winkler" Dawson Gallery, Indianapolis, Indiana

2001    Kansas City Flatfile, Pierogi Flatfiles, H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City

1996    Lill Street Art Center Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

1996    Ann Nathan Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

1995    Joanne Rapp Gallery - The Hand and the  Spirit, Scottsdale, Arizona

1995    Mia Gallery, Seattle, Washington

1994    Ceramic Group Show, Ricciardi Gallery, Astoria, Oregon

1994    Leedy-Voulkos Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri

1993    "The Legacy of the Archie Bray Foundation" Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington

1992    Dorothy Weiss Gallery, San Francisco, California

1991    Bumbershoot Arts Festival, "The Artist In The Art"  Seattle, Washington

1991    "Close To The Bone: The Day of the Dead Ceremony" Pro Art Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri

1990    "The Playful Object" Objects Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

1987    "Urgent Messages" Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois

1985    Helen Drutt Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1984    Heath Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

1983    "Distinguished Alumni Ceramic Show" Kemper Gallery, Kansas City Art Institute

1982    "Imbued Clay Figures" Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, California

1975    Group ceramic show, Fairtree Gallery, New York City

1974    "David Dumlap, David Saunders, Allan Winkler"  Kansas City Art Institute

1973    "Kathy Marchant, Stan Welsh, Allan Winkler"  Kansas City Art Institute


1985-1886        Alternative Worksite:  Bemis Foundation, Omaha, Nebraska, one year residency

1979-1980        Fort Mason Art Center, studied Batik, and Art Business, San Francisco

1978                 University of Utah Summer Art Institute, Snowbird, Utah

1977-1978        Archie Bray Foundation, one year ceramic residence, Helena, Montana

1971-1975        Kansas City Art Institute, B.F.A. Ceramics, Kansas City, Missouri

1972                 Art Institute of Chicago, Printmaking Class

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