Established Seattle artist Charles Krafft has been quite successful in the controversial-kitschy ceramics genre. His work has been widely exhibited, collected and Tumblr’ed. He collaborated with Mike Leavitt on Pitchfork Pals — a series of Hitler, Manson and Kim Jong Il teapots. Very popular stuff.
Oh, and he’s a bit of a white supremacist.
Seattle’s The Stranger refers to some Facebook posts and comments, specifically to Krafft’s appearance on a podcast at the white nationalist website The White Network, tagline “Whites Talking to Whites About White Interests.” Specifically, to when the artist said, “I believe the Holocaust is a myth” that is “being used to promote multiculturalism and globalism.” Oh, dude, dude, dude… “The Jews have gotten white people to turn against themselves,” he goes on, that said Jews are “trying to replace us.”
So, those swastika and Third Reich insignia-laden cows and rabbits, Arabic-lettered grenades, cartoonish Hitler busts, machine guns and “brass” knuckles in Krafft’s signature blue and white ceramics aren’t that ironic. They’re still fucking ridiculous.
We’re not talking about Maurizio Cattelan’s Lil Hitler statue in Poland — that one specific piece from an entire body of varied provocative work that recent caused an unnecessary outraged hoopla. We’re talking about Charles Krafft, an artist who consistently, systematically bases a large part of his work around loaded Nazi imagery. The viewer can’t help but speculate intent when these allusions are made. If he wasn’t doing this to lampoon these historical signifiers of the Assholes of History and he wasn’t doing to counterintuitively imbue his teacups and tchotchkes with something heavy and dark… If he actually does read these books he’s name-dropping and enjoys talking about “doctored Holocaust photos” and the millions of Jews that “died from natural causes,” then he’s just a kid doodling dicks in his fifth grade notebook. Only they’re swastikas. But the instinct is the same. Maybe it’s unfair to define the artist by his prejudice, but he seems to be doing just that in his work himself: He’s stuck up on Hitler’s jock.
This is the most minimal piece on the artist’s website. It is a piece of soap. Past the initial ha-has, the rest of Krafft’s work is pretty boring and now pretty meaningless masturbatory kitsch, but this piece is suddenly stronger in a terrible, terrible way.