Chris Natrop


My studio practice has centered on the act of cutting paper. Executed free form and exclusively with a knife, it has evolved into a stream-of-consciousness drawing technique, a meditation of repetition and reduction. Immediate cutting decisions and the intentional lack of pre-planning allows for the discovery of ambiguous silhouetted imagery that surface as interconnected landscapes.

While specific meanings vary from piece to piece, the underlying thrust of my work is based on the evolving concept of confronting a new type of landscape reborn out of a futuristic vision of an annihilated land. Although I believe the world is a glorious chance-evolution, the pressure placed on it through human intervention puts it in a precarious situation that I fear may force it to unravel. I counter my existential foreboding by offering fantastical visions of future days.

The work is cut paper drawings that either stand alone or are translated into a variety of other rigid materials. Both the original paper cutouts and fabricated objects are arranged in floor to ceiling combinations interrelating as a unified whole. The addition of directed lighting and projected motion graphics transforms these collections into immersive, multifaceted environments. Full-scale installations become complete worlds once the viewer enters the scene.

Chris Natrop is Los Angeles-based visual artist known primarily for his immersive art installations and 2D wall-works made mostly of hand cut paper. He is also commissioned to produce both permanent paper- and non-paper-sculptures for private and public spaces. Natrop was born in 1967 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1992 with an emphasis in painting. He was an affiliate artist at Headlands Center for the Arts, and a resident at Vermont Studio School. Natrop's major installation projects have been shown at Cooper Design Space, Nancy Toomey Fine Art, Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Armory Center for the Arts Pasadena, Holland Papier Bienniale, Winghall Museum, Vincent Price Art Museum, Long Beach City College, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Taylor De Cordoba, MOCA Jacksonville, Chapman University, Sonoma County Museum, BANK, and Overtones. Publications include Art and Cake, Los Angeles Times, Artillery Magazine, Architecture Digest, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, San Francisco Chronicle, BEAUTIFUL/DECAY, Tema Celeste, THE Magazine, New Yorker magazine, New American Painters, and Art in America. Chris Natrop was the 2007 recipient of the Pulse Prize, New York. Commissioned work includes U.S. Consulate in Dubai, Los Angeles International Airport, Harry Winston Jewelers, and Facebook, Inc.

Press Quotes
ART AND CAKE | Evan Senn | Jan 2018

Chris Natrop’s fully immersive installation Half Light Candy Bowl Mashup and Jungle Diamond Burst in “LAND” both are incredibly detail-oriented, colorful, systematic and captivating. Like stepping inside a dreamscape, Natrop’s colorful cut-up world is bound together by fibers—reaching, pulling and pushing at itself—holding together but free to float as it wishes. It moves and bends with light, with shape, and with our interaction with it.

OC WEEKLY | Dave Barton | Jan 2018

Chris Natrop’s stunning multimedia Halflight Candybowl Mashup in Gallery 1 is the most assured, the installation’s complexity in sharp contrast to other artists’ austerity. Colored lights reflect off ornate, painted, cut paper suspended from the ceiling, drifting gently just inches from the floor. Shadows are cast on filmed projections, the camera aimed at the sky and run through filters. The soundtrack of birds chirping is melodic and inviting, the warmth of the machinery giving the room a pleasant welcoming feel, reminding us of nature’s potential for paradise.

ART AND CAKE | Shana Nys Dambrot | Dec 2016

Chris Natrop is not a sculptor, or a painter, not really. But he works in both large-scale quasi-sculptural installation and conventional wall-framed idioms, often using paint in addition to lighting, video, and audio elements to augment his knife-cut paper-based works...In many ways, Natrop’s practice is even better suited to non-traditional sites like Cooper’s public entrance than to white box galleries; as the circumstances of their unique etant-donnes provide context for his interventions in terms of history and function as well as structural features to play against...

LOS ANGELES TIMES | Deborah Vankin | Oct 9, 2015

The jungle is a magical one, dense with dangling vines and voluminous blossoms awash in green and gold glitter. The foliage sways in the breeze, casting glimmering shadows that dance on a nearby wall to the chorus of crickets chirping, leaves rustling and crows cawing. Chris Natrop's hand-cut paper forest at the Craft & Folk Art Museum is part of the exhibition "Paperworks," which features sculptures, collages and large-scale installations by 15 contemporary artists working in unusual ways with paper. Using a somewhat crude box-cutting knife, Natrop carved a 3-D forest that is backed by video from his own garden. The color-washed paper forms, often with rough or frayed edges, dangle from the ceiling and drape along the floor like an overgrown yard, the organic sounds from his garden bringing the installation to life

Catalog Essay for Paperworks exhibition, CAFAM | Howard N. Fox, Curator Emeritus, Contemporary Art, LACMA

Chris Natrop does not believe in the inevitability of final form and presentations; tentativeness and serendipity are very much part of his aesthetic practice, and he curries improvisation as his working method.  Typically, Natrop – easily six-feet tall – begins one of his wall-mounted sculptures by placing a seven-foot long (or longer) expanse of unrolled white Lenox 100 drawing paper on the floor of his studio and pouring, dripping brushing, or spattering colored dyes and acrylic paints onto the surface, as he picks up the edges of the paper sheet to encourage the random flow of the paint over its surface.  The result is a dynamic, intensely colored abstract painting, on paper, that is an homage to both gestural abstract expressionism and color-field or stain painting from mid-twentieth century modernism.  But Natrop is not content to celebrate the flatness and formal purity that influential art critic Clement Greenberg proposed as an artistic ideal in his lionization of those late modern movements.

Natrop is a bit of an iconoclast and trouble-maker for such ideals.  For, draping his long strip of “painted” or stained kraft paper down the studio wall all the way to the floor, he proceeds to cut shapes out of it.  Unlike several artists in this Paperworks exhibition who use scalpels and X-ACTO knives, which are prized for their capability to create very precise cuts, Natrop (who reports that he has a neurological disorder that prevents him from making such precision cuts) uses a box-cutting knife – a particularly “primitive” tool whose main use is expressed in its very name – to subtract elements of the composition, ripping into areas of the paper or cutting them away with the crude knife blade, which has the effect of creating a second composition of voids and holes implanted into his painted paper hangings.  Often he mounts the resulting painted and cut paper works a couple of inches in front of a wall, creating yet a third compositional layer of cast shadows on the wall of the “white cube” of the gallery space, while sometimes allowing the long, long paper-based painted and sliced objects to cascade onto the floor and to creep up onto the ceiling, or even suspending them in open space as free-floating constructions.

These works, which are hybrids of two- and three- dimensional modes, are visually exciting and a bit unruly.  There is a quality of robust visual restlessness and aesthetic muscularity to Natrop’s audacious commandeering of architectural space; he seems to willfully vie for attention with gallery spaces or public settings. Of course, the same may be said of any but the tamest, blandest works of site-specific or public art projects. But Chris Natrop’s work is neither tame nor bland; it cheekily engages its surroundings, stoutly engaging both the viewer and the space they share in the gallery.