Danny Kerschen, a Houston-raised artist and art organizer who contributed to the city’s alternative art scene, died on January 25, 2024.
Mr. Kerschen was born on December 1, 1977, in Norwich, England, where his father worked in the oil industry. In 1980, when his father’s work shifted back to Texas, the family moved to Houston, where Mr. Kerschen and his siblings were raised. In 2001 he received a BFA from the University of Houston, where he studied under renowned sculptor Luis Jiménez. Mr. Kerschen worked in a variety of media including photorealistic drawings, color studies, conceptual work, and perhaps most notably, site-specific installations.
According to a 2022 Voyage Houston profile of Mr. Kerschen, the artist visited the Menil Collection regularly as a teen and was drawn to found object art, assemblages, and readymades. He explained, “The initial readymades were displayed in the context of established art venues. I asked myself, what if a readymade artwork were displayed in a heterogeneous context, such as a sidewalk or on the street. Could it still be articulated and recognizable within the discourse?”
This line of thinking would inform his artistic practice and curatorial work for years to come. In 2003, Mr. Kerschen organized Trailer Park, an exhibition of art installations in his father’s double-wide trailer home in Deer Park, Texas. The show featured works by artists Aimee Jones, David Krueger, Donna Huanca, Gabriel Delgado, Rosalinda Gonzalez, Gorton Othengo, Jason Villegas, John Champion, Jon Read, MD Williams, and Virginia Fleck, and musical performances by Go Spread Your Wings, NME, Indian Jewelry, and the Wiggins.
In 2004, Mr. Kerschen was invited to curate a show of site-specific works inside the Orange Show Monument, a 3,000-square-foot art environment built by Jefferson Davis McKissack. The exhibition was titled Temporary/Contemporary. In 2022, Pete Gershon, the Orange Show’s curator, invited Mr. Kerschen to return and co-curate an updated take on the original show. Titled Re: Tempt/Contempt, the newest iteration brought together six artists who responded to the Orange Show Monument with temporary site-specific installations.
Mr. Kerschen helped to shape Houston’s alternative art scene. Along with Mike Holcombe and Mr. Kerschen’s brother, Travis, he was a co-founder of the Bill Hicks Resurrection Laboratory (BHRL), an artist-run social center and performance venue that was open from 2003 to 2006. In Impractical Spaces: Houston, edited by Mr. Gershon, Mr. Kerschen noted that the original contributors came together “in defiance of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.” The goal of the space was to pool resources and foster creativity. At its height, the BHRL had a wood and metal shop, screen-printing equipment, sewing and craft areas, event space, a publications library, and an edible garden.
Around the time of the closure of BHRL, Mr. Kerschen got involved with three iconic Houston arts organizations. From 2006 to 2009 he worked as the Chop Shop Coordinator at Workshop Houston, teaching children in the city’s Third Ward how to build, repair and maintain bicycles. In 2006, he was one of five artists-in-residence in DiverseWorks’ inaugural visual arts residency, during which time the organization drew inspiration from MTV’s The Real World and recorded the artists via live webcams, publishing the feeds online. The following year, Mr. Kerschen was part of the second round of Lawndale’s Artist Studio Program.
In a statement Mr. Kerschen’s brother, Tex, provided to Glasstire, he shared an anecdote about Mr. Kerschen’s artistic practice. Tex wrote, “One morning, he chose I-45 at downtown as a site for a sculptural installation of construction barricades he had painstakingly fabricated. Rush hour commuters had time to admire his craft as all North-South traffic came to a standstill. These barricades, called Hammocks for the way their orange safety netting swung between each lazily, mimicked the form and function of the sawhorse A-frame armatures used in construction barricades, except Danny scaled them both up to twelve feet tall and down to a few inches in height. The often-surreal scope and placement of his art belied the care he invested into its production.”
After participating in a number of programs across the city, around 2009 Mr. Kerschen left Houston to pursue higher education. He received an MFA from Städelschule in Frankfurt. After obtaining his degree he worked as a preparator at the SFO Museum in San Francisco. He split his time between Germany, California, Wichita, and Houston. Mr. Kerschen’s art has been exhibited in Berlin, Bogotá, Cork, Chicago, Frankfurt, Galveston, Houston, Istanbul, London, New York, and Reykjavík. In 2022, Mr. Kerschen began presenting curatorial projects under the name DKULTRA; some of these exhibitions took place at the Houston venue Ruth Street Projects.
Mr. Kerschen has left an undeniable mark on Houston’s alternative art scene and will be remembered for his collaborative nature working with a multitude of creatives beyond the visual artists, including winemakers, playwrights, and musicians.