Sunday, March 18, 2018
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The Von Koelnau artwork displayed here is currently for sale through Doubletake Gallery
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Artist's Biography - Louis Von Koelnau
Louis Von Koelnau
Louis von Koelnau (pronounced “vahn KELL-now”, as in “now or later”) was born in Chicago in 1924, the only child of artist parents. The senior von Koelnau was a calligrapher and illustrator of children's books, in collaboration with the artist's mother, who was also a medical illustrator for the University of Minnesota.

The family moved to Minneapolis when young Louis was six years old, and settled in the Lakes district of south Minneapolis in a neighborhood of modest but pleasant homes. The future artist reveled in the close observation of nature and marine life there, and also enjoyed many rock and fossil hunting trips with his parents, both of whom were avid amateur mineralogists.

Also, in residence with the family was Louis' maternal grandmother, a woman of iron will and great internal resources. She had departed Riga, Latvia, in 1909 on a ship bound for the United States, her 4 year old daughter (Louis von Koelnau's mother) in arms. She intended to reclaim the recalcitrant husband who had abandoned her and the child, and this she did, in Chicago, U.S.A.

The grandmother taught German to her grandson; by the time Louis von Koelnau was six years old, his grandmother had read to him in German: all of the Old Testament, all of the New Testament and all of Grimm's Fairy Tales. His parents had read to him by this time, in English, most of the world's great adventure stories.

Mr. von Koelnau received his primary and secondary schooling in the Minneapolis public schools. He then enrolled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (from which he was graduated with honors) and finally, the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, Sweden, for a two-year graduate program.

Next he sailed to many of the exotic ports of the world as a Merchant Marine seaman and then went to Florida to work as a designer and craftsman of fiberglass boats and other utilitarian objects. During this period he was extremely uncertain about his own capabilities as an artist, but when he came back to Minneapolis for a visit, friends convinced him to remain in Minneapolis and launch himself as a sculptor. Since that time, 25 years ago, Mr. von Koelnau has worked exclusively as a sculptor of clear resin objects. His style has evolved and unfolded over the years, and he feels he is doing right now, at age 73, the finest work he has ever done. He says if he had 2 or 3 lifetimes left, it would not be enough time to put into tangible form all the ideas he has.

His material is space-age and utterly modern, yet universal and timeless in its glorification of light, that ultimate mother of us all, that which, without which, there can be no life at all.

Louis von Koelnau's work is not intended to shock or confuse the viewer. Rater, he says he loves to make objects which are simply beautiful to look at and which invite the viewer to share his delight in the endless combination of light and shadow to be seen in his pieces.

The elegant, exuberant forms he gives us are exciting but no bizarre. They are timeless in their simplicity and invariably attractive to the innately tasteful collector who knows what is good and will wear well.


Resin is a material, which is similar to lucite and plexiglass. A more familiar form of resin is amber, which is the fossilized resin of pine trees.

Although resin has been in use since the 1930's, we see it today in its more modern applications: in premium quality jewelry and in elegant collectibles often labeled “faux malachite” or “ivory”.

A resin sculpture is not easily shattered, but it can be scratched about as readily as varnished wood can. Such scratches can be repaired according to our instructions, which are provided upon request.

The strong, chunky forms Louis von Koelnau makes cold never be rendered in glass, because the thick parts of the piece would cool at different rates, exterior to interior, and the resultant stresses would cause breakage. Additionally, the weight would be unbearable and impractical.

Resin is not an easy material to work with. This undoubtedly, is the reason more sculptors do not work in resin.

The mold itself is difficult to make. Once the resin mixture, with its delicately balanced hardeners and pigments, has been poured into the mold, the process itself produces heat and then shrinkage within the mold, both of which can break the sculpture. Success with each pour is a question of exquisite chemistry and timing.

When the sculpture has been removed from the mold, it is very rough and only faintly recognizable as a work of art. After two or more days of curing at a slightly elevated temperature, the grinding and polishing begin. Using sand papers of increasingly finer grits, the surface is smoothed progressively. The buffing wheel produces the final shine. The artist then levels the piece, signs and numbers it and also incises the copyright (©) symbol.

Louis von Koelnau is a highly trained and thoroughly experienced artist, having been engaged exclusively in the making of resin sculpture for the past 25 years. He has never wavered from his long standing opinion of resin as the medium that offers limitless possibilities for artistic expression.

Louis von Koelnau's medium is light. He twists it and turns it. Pushes it through the narrows and brings it out to the broader areas of a work in a burst of energy.

Every von Koelnau sculpture is contoured from its earliest inception to achieve another life: to ultimately come alive and function as light/energy conductor.

When the artist begins his ruminations on a certain shape or subject, he makes fist-size sketches in wax, always devising to make the completed sculpture function primarily as a composition of lenses.

In a world grown tired of its own flash, von Koelnau returns our minds to the contemplation of light for its own sake. Light which enlivens and energizes. Light, which by virtue of its commanding role in the universe never cases to fascinate us.

It is no surprise, then, to find von Koelnau's color range is mainly in pure, jewel-like colors of the spectrum: sapphire and icy blues, amethyst and mauve, soft to dark green, rich amber, and red and yellow as well.

von Koelnau's non-objective and abstract forms work not only as vehicles for light conduction, but also as pleasing organic shapes.

Since his boyhood, the bear studies have been recurring themes in von Koelnau's oeuvre. He says he is actually sculpting human beings: families, adults and children in the guise of bears. Why bears? He doesn't have an answer; he just keeps on conducting with his collectors an unspoken dialogue about warmth and intimacy and one's own private mythology. Forty-five years of constant demand for the bears seems to be proof enough of their lasting vitality.

Louis von Koelnau works solely in resin, a modern compound. It is not unlike amber, which is the fossilized resin of pine trees. Working as a boat builder and taxidermist for twenty years, the artist acquired extensive knowledge about the use and control of the resin medium.

Many artists have noticed the artistic potential in this medium, but almost invariably they find it impossible to work with. Such a situation virtually guarantees the uniqueness of von Koelnau's work.

Having spent 25 years acquiring the necessary technical expertise, von Koelnau is not about to give away any clues to budding artists. When they ask such questions as “How do you get it to come out of the mold without cracking?” he will reply, cryptically, “I hold my mouth just right while I'm pouring.”

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160 Glenwood Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55405
(952) 224-8333
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