Charles Krause spent most of his career digging for stories. Now he’s finding—and exhibiting—artists whose work impacts the world. 

©2013 The Pennsylvania Gazette


Charles Krause C’69 is sitting in the cool, curving, contemporary condo that functions as his home and his fine-art gallery. His expression is somewhere between serious and worried, though truth be told, his wooly-bear eyebrows make him look kind of anxious when he’s just making a pot of coffee. But Krause has had his full share of real things to worry about over the years, and he does now, too.

True, he’s no longer getting shot in places like Jonestown, as he did when he was the South American bureau chief for The Washington Post, or covering the breakup of the Soviet Union for PBS’s NewsHour, or crossing the Kuwaiti border in a tank with the Desert Storm troops during the first Gulf War. These days his concerns revolve around his Washington gallery, Charles Krause/ Reporting Fine Art—things like how to cover the costs of transporting art from Estonia (he can’t go to Russia because the Putin regime took away his visa), planning the minutiae of receptions and openings, and figuring out which art magazines give the biggest advertising bang for his buck (none, so far). Underlying it all is the larger question of whether he can make any money at this new and risky endeavor, which he has undertaken at an age when most of his peers are either retiring or trying to beef up their 401(k)s in the safest manner possible.

Which is not to say that he’s turned his back on world events. Part of Krause’s self-appointed mission is to showcase artists “whose work has influenced, or has been significantly influenced by, the great social and political upheavals of the 20th and 21st centuries.” The other part is to “change the way their work is seen, understood, and valued by museum curators, art collectors, policymakers,” and policy-conscious citizens. 

“I’m trying to introduce art that hasn’t been seen in this country before, by artists whose work I think merits international recognition,” he says. “I’m also trying to redefine the values that go into aesthetics.”

Those are ambitious goals. They have also been roiling inside him for years. If journalism was his career—one that brought him his share of awards and plaudits—art has been his passion. Ever since he was a teenager from an art-loving family in Detroit, he saw himself opening his own gallery one day. (His high-school graduation present was any work he wanted from a local gallery; he chose a Calder lithograph.) That the gallery would open in his Logan Circle condo may not have been part of the original vision, though it does offer certain advantages of economy and convenience.

“What I’m doing now is an extension of the one career and an extension of something else that I have always also been interested in,” he says. 

After his journalism career wound down, he took a hard look at the work he had gathered during his travels. By the standards of Serious Collectors, he concluded, his collection might be deemed scattered and unfocused—everything from an 18th-century oil portrait of the last Inca by an anonymous Peruvian artist, to the works of Soviet Nonconformist artists, to a Chilean abstract expressionist named Joan Belmar. But then he looked at it again, from another vantage point.

“And I thought, ‘The art of social and political change—that’s valid. And it has an impact that hasn’t been recognized,’” Krause says. That idea was worth exploring, he decided, though he had to be careful that it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the work being shown. “It still has to be great art,” he emphasizes. “Just because an image has an impact doesn’t mean it’s great art.”

He thinks about that a little more, then says:

“I guess what I’m saying is, ‘Here we are in the 21st century. We’ve been through abstract expressionism. We’ve been through postmodernism. We’ve been through all this stuff. How about art that actually impacts what happens in the world?’”

Unconventional "Carmen" Photos Take Center Stage at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art

February-April, 2012:  DUVA DIVA: DuvTeatern's Glorious Carmen: Photographs by Stefan Bremer

By Mark Jenkins
Source: The Washington Post, March 8, 2012

The people in Stefan Bremer’s large-format photographs wear sumptuous costumes, hold exotic flowers and are sometimes bathed in pink light. Yet these aren’t conventional glamour shots. The performers portrayed in “Duva Diva: DuvTeatern’s Glorious Carmen: Photographs by Stefan Bremer” have Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. They’re members of the cast of a 2011 production of “Carmen” by Helsinki’s Duv­Teatern, a company founded in 1999 to stage classic plays (and later, operas) with unconventional casts.

The photographs, on display at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, have not previously been exhibited outside Finland. Bremer and the theater’s director, Mikaela Hasan, were in Washington for the opening and discussed their work. “These people are artists,” Hasan says of her actors, dancers and singers. “They’re very aware of what they’re doing. No one tricked them into doing this.”

Although DuvTeatern bases its performances on classics, the texts are open to collaborative changes. (For “Carmen,” the actress playing the title role didn’t want her character to die at the end. So she didn’t.) The “Carmen” portraits were made early in the process, Bremer explains, and helped shape the show. 

There’s a lot of red in these photos — it’s “Carmen,” after all — and Bremer used Goya and Velazquez paintings as models for the poses and compositions. Most of the photographs, all solo portraits except for two duo shots, depict the actors in character; a few observe them getting into their roles, with costumers and makeup artists at work. But all show the actors being transported, entering a realm of imagination that pleases them. The images are full of smiles and laughs.

Bremer’s photographs might make some viewers uncomfortable. The subjects don’t fit customary standards of beauty, and the contrast between their unconventional faces and Bremer’s high-gloss style is strong. But the pictures echo what Bremer says is the goal of the production. “It asks, ‘Who has the right to take the center stage?’ ” If that question can be answered with a joyous grin or guffaw, the answer is clear: These performers do.

From Foreign Correspondent to Curator: Charles Krause Opens a D.C. Gallery for International Political Art

The Graphic and Fine Art of Poland's Jerzy Janizewski: The Artist Whose Graphic Design Changed History


Source: BLOUIN ART INFO International

The very first "Solidarity" (1980) imprint by Jerzy Janiszewski, signed by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa (Courtesy Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art)  

The very first "Solidarity" (1980) imprint by Jerzy Janiszewski, signed by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa
(Courtesy Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art)


As a foreign correspondent for CBS News, the Washington Post, and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Charles Krausereported on many of the great political conflicts of the 20th century, including the U.S. invasion of Panama, the liberation of Kuwait, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Now, he’s hoping to use the same investigative acumen that won him an Emmy for his coverage of the 1996 Israeli elections to promote underrecognized international artists whose work deals with political themes.

Krause’s new gallery, Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, opened last week in his converted Washington, D.C., apartment with an exhibition of Polish graphic artist Jerzy Janiszewski. Krause has six more shows planned in 2012, including one of contemporary Finnish photographer Stefan Bremer. “In a way, you had to be a reporter to find these people,” Krause told ARTINFO. “They were largely underground. You had to dig and ask questions and find your way to them.” Most of Krause’s exhibitions will focus largely on art made from the 1970s to the present, and most of the artists he plans to exhibit — among them Polish, Finnish, and Estonian artists — have never shown in the United States.

Krause first became interested in art when he was growing up in Detroit as the son of collector parents (his high school graduation present was an Alexander Calder lithograph). When his job as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post in the 1970s took him to South America and Eastern Europe, he met artists — like Roberto Favelo in Cuba — whose work challenged the established regimes.

“What I'm trying to show is not exactly political art,” he said. “The subject matter may not be overtly political. Sometimes artists are able to express opposition to or advocate political change simply by doing art that doesn't conform to whatever the ideology of a particular regime or government.” Artists like Vladimir Nemukhin, a prominent figure in the Moscow art scene in the '70s, painted abstract compositions with playing cards, but his refusal to conform to the official Soviet style was in itself a political statement. 

The gallery’s first exhibition features 20 works of art by Janiszewski, whose logo for Solidarity, the independent Polish trade union, became an emblem of the struggle that led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. (The image is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.) The very first imprint of the logo, signed by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, is included exhibition, though it’s not for sale. A signed and numbered early Solidarity poster — buried underground for seven years to keep it from being confiscated by Poland’s secret police — accompanies Janiszewski’s more recent work, which is exhibited here for the first time. His delicate mixed-media collages are made from cigarette boxes and metro ticket stubs, the only materials he could afford while in exile. The works in price from $2,700 to $15,000, and Krause reported three sales by opening weekend.

Despite the fact that Washington does not have a reputation as an art-market hub (its latest effort at an art fair, (e)merge, premiered this fall with mixed results), Krause believes the capital is an ideal showcase for this kind of art. “I think that people in this city who make policy decisions need to be much more sensitive to cultural issues and the importance of visual images and artists’ importance in creating conditions that lead to political and social change,” he said. Still, he acknowledges that many of his customers may come from outside the beltway. “There’s no way I’m going to succeed in terms of making enough money to keep this going if I depend just on the Washington market,” he said.

Janiszewski, who made his name creating a graphic in opposition to the government, was recently commissioned by the state of Poland to create the logo for its six-month term as president of the Council of the European Union. Krause hopes his gallery will advocate for lesser-known artists like Janiszewski — those who created game-changing graphic designs and even propaganda posters in addition to fine art. “Other galleries have had a long time to discover these people, but they didn't,” he said. “You could say, 'Oh, that’s because they aren’t very good artists,' but I don’t believe that.”

Art in America
PBS Correspondent Opens Political Gallery

by Caroline Elbaor

Jerzy Janiszewski - Solidarnosc 

Source: Art in America December 14, 2011


Veteran PBS and Washington Post foreign correspondent Charles Krause opened his first gallery this past weekend in Washington, D.C., combining his interest in politics with a lifelong passion for art collecting. Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art will focus primarily on artists whose work reflects social or political events during the 20th and 21st centuries.

The inaugural show, "Solidarnosc," features the work of Polish artist Jerzy Janiszewski, whose red-lettered, graffiti-like logo spelling out "Solidarity" became an icon for freedom from Communist rule in Poland during the early 1980s. While the print of the original poster itself will not be available for purchase, other hand drawn and historic graphic imprints of the logo signed by the Janiszewski, will indeed be for sale. They are not from Krause's collection.

On his website, Krause credits his specific concentration in political art to his career, where he had the opportunity to discover "the extraordinary power and often haunting beauty of the art of protest, propaganda and political change while covering the wars and revolutions of Central America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East."

Other works in Krause's collection of paintings and drawings include that of Cuban artist Roberto Favelo, and Soviet propaganda posters he obtained while working as an advisor to Russian prisoner and rumored political victim Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Jerzy Janiszewski’s graphic design was part of protests in Poland

The Powerful Imagery of Protest

By Mark Jenkins
Source: Washington Post December 15, 2011

When Jerzy Janiszewski departed Poland in 1982, he left some posters of his most famous design with a friend. The pal didn’t put them in the attic, and he didn’t hang any in his home; instead, he buried them. Janiszewski’s creation, one of the most famous and powerful graphic-art images of the late 20th century, was the logo for Solidarity, the Gdansk shipyard workers movement that defied Poland’s communist government. The movement and its emblem had been banned, and Janiszewski had little choice but to flee.

One of those posters, dug up in 1989, is among three versions of the Solidarity logo on display at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, a new Logan Circle gallery. Also included is the first imprint of the design, approved for use by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who signed it — that one’s not for sale — as well as a hand-painted version done for a BBC program in 1999. The logo, Krause notes, wasn’t just a design job; inspired by graffiti, Janiszewski chose both the look and the word “Solidarnosc,” thus naming the movement.

Janiszewski, who lives in Spain, is a successful graphic designer. One of his latest logos, also on display here, was commissioned by Poland to mark its six-month 2011 tenure as president of the Council of the European Union. But most of this show’s art was done privately and has rarely been exhibited. It’s mixed-media work on (and mostly of) paper and cardboard, contrasting freehand lines and bursts of paint with mass-produced, machine-printed items. The most dramatic of the collages are “Black A” and “Black B,” two handsome abstractions in which bits of text and color dot heavily worked black fields.

The more minimalist pieces arrange simple rectangles, such as Barcelona Metro tickets or strips from inside the tops of Marlboro packages, into larger compositions. They suggest a pack-rat Sol LeWitt and, as Krause notes, “speak to exile.” They also reveal an aesthetic honed in a land of scarcity, where every scrap was a potential artistic medium. These assemblages share the spirit of simplicity and directness that informed Janiszewski’s best-known design.

Krause, a former foreign correspondent for this paper and several TV news operations, became interested in suppressed artwork while reporting from authoritarian countries in the 1970s and ’80s. His gallery will feature the art of “protest, propaganda and political change,” which he says is too often undervalued by art-world purists. 


Poland's Jerzy Janiszewski: The Artist Whose Graphic Design Changed History - Charles Krause Reporting Fine Art Gallery