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KARL UMLAUF
at The Martin Museum of Art (Baylor)
by Todd Camplin

When I was living in Waco, one name kept coming up in conversation amongst the art crowd,
Karl Umlauf. His monumental body of work is an incredible influence on artists around town. I
had seen a few pieces by Umlauf, but now the Martin Museum of Art is featuring over 50 pieces
celebrating his work and time at Baylor. Karl Umlauf spent 26 years teaching and making art in
the Waco area at an old mattress factory. I think the industrial surroundings, along with being
from the rust belt, Chicago roots likely had an impact on his work. I would imagine he also saw
a lot of rusted machinery out in east Texas as well. It seems that decay, death, and the
experience of time are his primary themes. But this is not a depressing show.
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“The Shrine of Terlingua” mixes wood carving, found bones, and a painting to make something out
of the catacombs of Europe. Only he was influenced by a shrine in South Texas. Once again he
uses the theme of decay to illustrate mortality. The mixture of animal and human bones equate
that we as mortals all meet the same fate. Umlauf’s paintings are often pretty abstract. If you
have ever been adventuring in old abandoned buildings or at least vicariously through youtube,
you might feel you have seen these paintings before, because you get the feeling he took these
abstract images from crumbling buildings. His new works are influenced by ships.  Salt water has
an incredibly corrosive effect on objects, so it is no wonder he would be attracted ships. One can
also see these works as geologically influenced abstractions, but placing them on the wall as
paintings almost seems to remove them from their source. I think I would like to see a work or two
on the ground to see if I it changes my perspective. Guess I should have been there when they
were installing the show.
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