“Everything is imagination,” says Ernst Gruler, who uses his many skills and talents to create imaginative sculptures, paintings and furniture.
“As I Imagine,” Gruler’s solo show opening on August 24, features everything from Doodle Paintings and lamps made out of paper and steel to plywood table and chair sets and sound sculptures created with pressurized gas cylinder tanks. The show takes place at GVG Contemporary, the gallery Gruler co-owns with his wife, Blair Vaughn-Gruler.
A former precision model maker who also learned how to do high-end cabinetry work during the 1980s and had a fascination with cars (he estimates he’s owned 60 vehicles, including a 1966 Pontiac GTO), Gruler studied furniture design at Northern Michigan University.
He made his first piece of plywood furniture while he was working on his master’s degree.
“I like exotics and hardwood, but I can’t bring myself to use them,” says Gruler, who likes plywood’s strength and the fact that it won’t warp in dry or humid climates.
The curved chairs and table legs in Gruler’s furniture are made from pieces of plywood that Gruler is able to bend into various shapes. With the addition of auto body filler, layers of paint (house paint can work just fine) and clear coats of polycrylic on top, Gruler has a finished dining room set.
“I want the tables to have a ‘livable,’ not a glossy, surface,” he explains. “I don’t want the surface to be so precious that people are uncomfortable using the table.”
Gruler sees his Doodle Paintings as an extension of his furniture-making. “They are a fluid response to my imagination without the cumbersome reality of assemblage,” he adds. “The figures are momentary glimpses into my psyche.”
Gruler’s sound sculptures, which were born out of an interest in welding, are up to 10 feet tall. They’re fabricated out of glass and discarded steel from different kinds of machines and have a bell made from old fire extinguishers or acetylene tanks. Each one comes with a metal mallet and makes it own unique sounds when struck.
“The materials I use (for the sound sculptures) represent a discovery of repurpose, where the sum total of the parts is greater than the individual components,” he says.
Gruler welcomes conversation about his work during the show’s 5 to 7 p.m. opening reception.