Larry and Debby Kline artists and provocateurs – installation, performances, and other works

VoyageLA, “Art & Life with Larry and Debby Kline,” Jan. 21, 2019.


VoyageLA, “Art & Life with Larry and Debby Kline,” Jan. 21, 2019.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Larry and Debby Kline.

Larry and Debby, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
It’s rare to find partners who are truly in synch, and we genuinely enjoy working with each other. In fact, our skills are often interchangeable, whether creating music for our video work or even drawing. On large drawings, for example, we often work simultaneously, switching seats to riff off of the other’s drawing (call and response style) and eventually crawling all over each other to finish the piece.

We are incredibly lucky in that we are both curious and love to experiment in the studio. We feel like we are at our best when working outside our comfort zones. Those proclivities have led us to venture into all sorts of areas. Most recently, we have engaged in a number of projects related to the sciences, including residencies at UCSD School of Medicine and The San Diego Natural History Museum as well as two collaborations with scientists from the Salk Institute, one of which is ongoing.

We met in art school at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, a part of Indiana University. Debby was a work-study student, so she had a key to the place. The studios were not open 24 hours, so we’d sneak in and work all night! We occasionally participated in each other‘s artwork, collaborating even at that early stage, and we started showing our work professionally in galleries before we graduated from college.

After college, Larry went off to Graduate School to study with Grace Hartigan and returned to Indianapolis. Debby’s daughter, Jill, was then diagnosed with leukemia, finally succumbing to the disease after a two-year struggle and two bone marrow transplants from her brother, Will. We both spent a number of years working in museums both during and after art school. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this experience made our work unique because after seeing museum visitors walk past important artworks, we developed techniques to get people to pay attention to what we do.

We would often take extended trips to Chicago to check out the art and cultural scene, never dreaming that we would wind up there, but Debby had the opportunity to work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we made the big move. Chicago is a great city but life can be tough with wind-chill factors of 72 degrees below 0. We did benefit from a deeply ingrained mid-western work ethic, which would later aid us in our collaboration.

Debby flew out to interview at California Center for the Arts, based on a resume that she stuck in a hat at an AAM convention a year earlier. She only applied to institutions that were near water. There were oranges on the trees in California and snow on the ground in Chicago, so it was an easy sell. It was at this time that we began collaborating again. Our first work together was “A Democratic Challenge to the Republic,” a commentary on the role of money in the American electoral system. To create this piece, we went through the process of selling our votes on eBay for the US General Election. This prompted a very polite letter from the folks at eBay, stating that they valued us as customers, but asking us to refrain from violating federal law. Our second project, The Electric Fields of California, harnessed the powerful electromagnetic fields from roadside power lines to illuminate fluorescent light sculptures without any electrical hookup! This project brought us coverage from magazines like Utne and Orion and won us grants from the Gunk Foundation, New York, and the Potrero Nuevo Fund in San Francisco. We were on our way!

We met some wonderful artists in San Diego including the amazing duo Eleanor Antin and David Antin with whom we became good friends. It was through our lengthy conversations that we learned of John Baldessari’s move from National City to Los Angeles, to begin his art career anew. We have lovingly described our own shift to LA as “the Baldessari Jump.” Los Angeles is amazing, and we have met many wonderful friends in the arts. We were also thrilled to land a studio at the Brewery, which radiates a wonderful creative energy and everyone is so helpful and generous, a real community.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Your Thought-Provokers series is a perfect link to our work, as we refer to ourselves as provocateurs. We like to poke people, make them think — to think, differently. Our work generally connects first on a visceral level. Once we have a viewer’s attention, they begin to see the deep complexities that we weave into our work. Often people are moved to tears, epiphanies or action. We believe that one person can change the world and, of course, there are two of us.

We create everything from large installations to micro-drawings. The materials that we use are always dictated by the idea, so our media ranges from the traditional like graphite, clay and paint to the unusual, such as fluorescent light bulbs, mud from the Dead Sea, ketchup and salt. Much of our work is a reflection on politics and social justice.

Through our residency at UCSD School of Medicine, we teach young doctors observational skills as well as the importance of empathy and humanity through drawing. Students draw from nude models, skeletons and cadavers. We also curate exhibitions – our latest at San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park drew their highest attendance to date.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Learn to embrace the business of art. Marketing, networking, and promotion are all critical to an artist’s practice. Without it, you are doing a disservice to something that you feel is worth sharing. Since there are two of us, we find that meetings are essential, so we don’t duplicate efforts. Never underestimate new connections, whether with arts professionals, collectors or even those who do not have any connections in the arts. They all have the potential to buy art, to be moved by your work or to connect you to others via the seven degrees of separation theory. Also, most folks have empty walls behind their couches, just sayin’.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
We had a number of museum exhibitions this year. Upcoming include a show in Copenhagen as well as the Natural History Museum in San Diego. We were also awarded land through The Calzona Project to create a huge environmental work in the desert, and we could certainly use donations to realize our vision. The piece, titled “Igloo Inversions for the Salton Sea,” is a sister piece to one that we created for a museum in Israel. More locally, we are in an exhibition at Durden and Ray opening January 5, which will feature two of our drawings, one approximately 4’ x 8’, the other about 2” square, so whatever your size limitations or budget requires, I’m sure that we have something suitable for purchase.

People can always see our work online at, and they are welcome to visit our studio at The Brewery. They can contact us via email at to schedule a visit. We also send out quarterly email updates, so shoot us an email, and we’ll add your name to our list. We also get a lot of buzz from the media (thank you, VoyageLA!) so if you are part of the fourth estate, and like what you see here, give us a shout!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The Age of Enlightenment

  • The Alchemist and his Junks
  • Earth Igloo for Jerusalem
  • Fourth of July, NewYorkHarbor from My Dinner With The Klines
  • The Post-Apocalyptic Coffee House
  • Prayer Rug: Be not Afraid
  • The Game at Hand
  • Tiny Revolutions


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