of Ex Machina Gallery
Featuring World-Class Artists of the Upper Great Plains

Our featured artists:

HALL ONE: Thomas Shields
HALL TWO: Mark W. McGinnis
HALL THREE: Carl Grupp
HALL FOUR: Joel Strasser
HALL FIVE: Eyob Mergia
HALL SIX: Robert Aldern
HALL SEVEN: Jerry Aistrup
HALL EIGHT: Dick Krueger
Coming Soon: Mary Selvig, Richard Bresnahan

Self Portraint at 41

"Beyond Category"

No artist in the region is more prolific or master of more media than Carl Grupp. Known world-wide as a printmaker, Grupp has constantly expanded his technical facility -- to watercolor, oil, even sculpture. The image shown to the left,"Self-Portrait at 41," is one of several found in his complete work. The intense self-scrutiny displayed here is typical of his art. Moreover, he has cast himself in numerous roles in his prints, drawings, and paintings, so much so that aficionados seek his face in his work in much the same way that movie buffs look for the Alfred Hitchcock profile in his films. Not every piece contains a self-portrait, of course, but each is stamped with a highly personal vision, one that suggests a seeker after universal truths -- which can be found only in the specific. He draws himself often as a jester, a juggler, a magician, and there is found in these portrayals a wit and playfulness that sometimes belies the solemnity of the search.
Night, Death, and Devils
For larger view click on image.

Often, especially in his prints, Grupp displays a taste for the grotesque, even, sometimes, the macabre, and in some seems to be attempting to work out an elaborate myth, one that embraces not only his own experience, but also the experience of all humanity (see "Night, Death, and Devils," right). It is clear that he is guided by an fascination with the psyche, the Tarot of the mind, the allegory of the soul. It is no wonder that in recent years he has been drawn to Biblical parables, but his own mystery plays are not easily interpreted, and they seem increasingly to lead into abstract realms, out of allegory, past symbol, into elemental realms of the unconscious where shapes and colors suggest meaning rather than spelling it out.
For More Lithos and Drawings, Click Here.

Going to Chico For larger view click on image.

The tension between "artists from the region" and "regional art" takes an ironic turn in Grupp's series on mountains and streams, mostly watercolors. Certainly no work can be more accessible than this group of paintings, and anyone who has traveled along the Yellowstone River will easily recognize the locale in several pieces from this category (see "Going to Chico, left). Indeed, anyone who has tried to capture the place with snapshots -- only to be disappointed with the prints later on -- will see with what consummate skill Grupp has manipulated the medium to produce a perfect sense of the experience, while never sacrificing the "painterly" aspects or forcing the painting to do the work of photography. As the series progresses, in fact, the mountains become more and more stylized, even abstract. The devotees of "Western Art" might be hard-pressed to say exactly why these works -- so unlike the photographic and sentimental works they endorse -- should not be ranked above many famous practitioners of the genre.
For More Mountains and Streams, Click Here.

Blue Sonata For larger view click on image.

One of the most startling recent facets of Grupp's canon is this series of oils, undertaken as an experiment in the use of color to suggest depth and perspective. Only after several paintings were completed did Grupp try viewing them through clear prismatic lenses. The results -- giving the convincing illusion of three dimensions -- were amazing to all who tried the chromatic spectacles. (Contact us for sources.) Beyond the technical achievement, however, is the power, unity, and grace of the works, the sense -- felt frequently in the Grupp collection -- that technique has been used as a means to serve art rather than as an end in itself.
For More 3-D Oils, Click Here.

Sister Jane For larger view click on image.
Another series that brought delight to Grupp's numerous admirers was his display of fabulous fossils. All the Grupp humor and love of the grotesque find an outlet here. Intended initially as a series of colograph prints, the artist was struck with the notion that the low-relief plates themselves were more fossil-like and, really, separate works of art. Heaven knows what anti-evolutionists make of these fantasy remains or the witty names -- such as, for the image to the left, "Deinoshopper." Darwin, one thinks, would be pleased.
For More Fabulous Fossils, Click Here.

The Prodigal SonFor larger view click on image.

Although Carl Grupp's colleagues in the Art Department at Augustana College in Sioux Falls (notably the late Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple, along with Grupp's contemporary Robert Aldern) have been known for their production of public and religious works, many of them gracing churches and chapels throughout the region, he himself had not done much along that line until his "Parables," which now reside in the Gloria Dei Church in Sioux Falls. The subject is a natural extention of Grupp's allegorical work, and as with other pieces, the illustrations are intensely personal and idiosyncratic. They are set in a world both contemporary and ancient, and, as with his dreamscapes, the artist himself appears in them (see "The Prodigal Son," right).
For More Parables, Click Here.

Charismatic Carp For larger view click on image.

Those who know Carl Grupp personally recognize in his work not only his visage, his sensitivity, and his irrepressible humor, but icons of people, places, and things that mean something to him. His pets -- cats, dogs, fish (see "Charismatic Carp," left) -- his family, and the collection of fabulous objects that crowd his house, all find their way into his work. One can't help wonder about the mute, bald doll that pops up in several pieces -- the vases, skeletons, the funny hats, on and on. They seem to constitute a complex code, a shorthand for larger, deeper truths.
For More Color Prints, Click Here.

For larger view click on image.

Just when the Grupp canon is beginning to seem compassable, the artist comes up with another work that defies attempts to pigeon-hole or summarize. (See the monumental metal gate, right, which is to be found at the I-90 rest-stop at Chamberlain, SD.) One begins to suspect that Grupp may be avoiding analysis and easy judgments. Or perhaps he truly is, as Duke Ellington said of his own music, "beyond category."
For More Carl Grupp Works, Click Here.