Nearly 500 posters for Larry Krone’s art exhibit have been installed in the advertising panels of CTA trains–without CTA permission. Although they bear a gallery name, they’re less advertisements than works of art, in which two thought balloons appear to come from whoever stands beneath the poster. The text in one balloon reads “I don’t want to talk about it why can’t everybody see,” and in the other, “This is just between an old memory and me.” Krone notes that people on the el “look apathetic or indifferent” and “make an effort to not talk to people or really look at them or express any interest in anything.” He hopes his poster will help viewers imagine a “romantic side” to whoever’s under it.

The words in this work, Between an Old Memory and Me, are from the Travis Tritt country song of the same name. The exhibit it promotes includes 14 works by Krone that also use lyrics from popular songs. Each of the more than 200 panels of Margaritaville has one word from the Jimmy Buffett hit written in strands of Krone’s hair (collected from years of brushing), which are sandwiched between pieces of wax paper. “Margaritaville’ was one of the songs I really loved,” Krone says. “It has to do with the idea of escaping, the idea of alcohol as something romantic.”

There’s an obsessive quality to much of Krone’s work. As he says of one of his videos in the show, in which he repeatedly sings fragments of a Dolly Parton song, “It goes on for so long that I hope it comes up as being sincere, being real.” In fact, he says, women often look at his work and tell him he’d be a great boyfriend because he’s “so expressive of loving.”

Krone, who admits to being brought to tears by the songs he quotes, once considered himself above such sentimentality. “I was educated; I was into jazz; I read. This still kind of embarrasses me. People think I’m doing some sort of critique or making fun of it, that it’s about how ridiculous it is to take this music seriously. Not at all. The idea of sincerity is really important to me; it’s one of the reasons I do such

In Someday lyrics are written in vinyl letters on the bottoms of empty beer bottles on a shelf; one must look into the empty bottles to read “And I said someday / I’m gonna get my life straight / She said I can’t wait . . . ” Krone sees the bottles as “trophies in a way, but to something sort of pathetic; why be bragging about drinking all these beers? The idea is of carrying on a conversation with your drink, like the bottle has something to say.” Krone is touched by, and identifies with, the way that “men in country music can sort of glorify this self-pity. They’re really not committing to any type of change: I’m miserable, I’m drinking, but I really can’t do anything to change.” An untitled floor installation consists of many bottles of beer, drunk by the artist and his friends while preparing the show and at the opening; the words inside the bottles, “I’ll never break your heart,” only became easy to read after they were empty. And in the gallery bathroom Krone wrote “and I will always love you” many times (he calls it “feel-good graffiti”), covering all the wall space he could reach while sitting on the toilet. “I like to fill large environments. This is humble and at the same time it’s ridiculously grandiose. Here it’s mostly the romance of being in the bathroom and being surrounded by “I’ll always love you.’ What an affirming thing!”

Larry Krone’s exhibit “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” is at Automatic Art Gallery, 1087 N. Hermitage, through April 7. Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday, 1 to 5 PM; call 395-3958 for more.

–Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jon Randolph.