New comics-inspired exhibit starts a dialogue

Two lovers embrace, their eyes closed. Before their lips meet, they exchange words. But what are they saying?

Chas Ray Krider thinks he might know.

“It's either, ‘We're talking and not communicating,' or, ‘We're talking and I'm totally on to you,'” Krider said in an interview at his Clintonville home. “They're both kind of clueless. Or maybe they're very clued in. I don't know.”

Whether Krider's 20-plus panel exhibition, “she said, he said,” on display at Rivet from July 1-15, is a series of one-off vignettes or a full story, and whether the characters are recurring or isolated archetypes is up to the viewer, Krider said. The exchanges are pithy and punchy, at times ironic and at times matter-of-fact.

“One [person] is saying something and the other gives kind of a slap back,” Krider said. “I just take a phrase and then turn and twist it at the end. It's a classic film noir treatment, with a sentence negated at the end. People will identify with some of [the panels] because they've probably experienced that in a relationship.

“There could be [an ongoing narrative between two recurring characters], but I'd rather leave that to people's imagination and interpretation, to let people read into it what they want. The continuity comes from it being the same couple. I tried to be equally divided between who gets the upper hand. Nobody dominates.”

Krider was quick to say that, while the characters are clearly comic-inspired, “she said, he said” is not a comic art exhibition. He's using a found image (albeit one he reworked) and isn't claiming full originality on the one-line exchanges, either.

“I'm appropriating comic-book style, not doing comic-book art,” he said. “That's a genre where people have strong opinions about how the medium is presented. I'm just using that style as a vehicle, appropriating the visual language.”

“I don't know how much is original and how much is borrowed. It's all an appropriation to a degree. What makes it original is how I juxtapose what she says and what he says [and] the switching of the voice,” Krider continued. “The comic book thing has been done. Roy Lichtenstein did it in the pop-[art] era. I'm just bringing my ironic twist to it.

“It's not like I'm breaking new ground. I'm amusing myself.”

And, hopefully, his wife, Ellen. Krider said she functioned as his editor while he constructed these brief dialogues. Krider said he would often rework the exchanges, looking for just the right dynamic or twist.

“I saw the image and I began spontaneously to say the things I thought they were saying to each other. It became a running joke,” Krider said. “I had one where one said, ‘It's not you. It's me.' But it wasn't working. So I switched it up to, ‘It's me. It's not you.' And the response is, ‘You got that right.'”

Another one-liner — “Is this reality or movie?” — is met with the reply, “It doesn't matter as long as I'm the star.”

“Everybody wants to be the star of their own little movie,” Krider quipped.

A self-taught artist, Krider has been making work in various media for 40 years. He is most well-known for his erotic-noir photography, his distinctive style developed through years of street and studio work. Collections of his photographs have been turned into three books (with a fourth potentially available by the end of the year) by a German publisher. He compared those works to “she said, he said” in the way he applies a particular visual style to his work.

“[The books are] basically narrative and cinematic, meaning the images could have been lifted out of a movie. But I'm not a filmmaker. I'm just using that visual language,” he said.

In between photography projects, Krider works in collage and other mediums. He said the work keeps him engaged and amused, and, as with “she said, he said,” provides an opportunity for a rare art show.

“People always remember the sexy work, so I think it's good for me to surface every once in a while to show that I'm a broader person — at least I think I'm fairly broad in my work,” Krider said. “I don't exhibit very often. Facebook (where some of the images in “she said, he said” were first made public) is an outlet for whatever I happen to be working on at the moment, and I can treat it as an art-presentation venue, but every once in a while you want to see [the works] fully realized.”