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LARA NICKEL [on] JOANNE LEFRAK

Joanne Lefrak.  Photo by Eric Swanson.

Joanne Lefrak. Photo by Eric Swanson.

Lara Nickel: Briefly describe your artwork.

Joanne Lefrak: I have been drawing places that are loaded with a history or a connotation and imbuing the drawing with the energy of the place.  For example, I’ve explored landscapes such as the Trinity Site, spiritual and healing pilgrimage sites, ghost towns, or sites where treasure can be found. These drawings are etched into Plexiglas. Only when the piece is illuminated can a viewer see the drawing, which is cast on the wall as a shadow. In the same way that the shadow is connected to the drawing, the scenes that are represented are inseparable from their past.

Cabezon Butte. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 36 x 48 inches, collection of Karen Rodgers and Marc Still. Joanne Lefrak.

Cabezon Butte. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 36 x 48 inches, collection of Karen Rodgers and Marc Still. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: Do you see your work as being connected more to the genre of landscape painting or to historical painting?

JL: My work is both connected to the genre of landscape painting and historical painting.  I think perhaps I am trying to push the boundaries of landscape painting as well as tell a different kind of narrative than has been told through historical painting before.

Pilgrimage to Chimayo. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 34 x 26 inches, collection of Chuck and Barbara Moore. Joanne Lefrak.

Pilgrimage to Chimayo. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 34 x 26 inches, collection of Chuck and Barbara Moore. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: What types of historical narratives are you attracted to? How important is the viewer’s knowledge and understanding of a landscape’s background story?

JL: At first I was attracted to the historical narrative of the Trinity Site because of the fact that the resulting landscape after the atomic bomb was detonated is a kind of a physically “empty” landscape yet completely not empty at the same time when considered within the context of our historical and current  collective ideas of war. I also liked the comparisons I was drawing between the ghostly shadows within the drawing and our nuclear history. Shadows can be both being secretive and also ghostly like the silhouettes left after the bombings in Japan during WWII. However, I actively sought other landscapes that had entirely different energies and I began looking at places where different kinds of treasure could be found. I liked the idea of a mythology or possibly fictional story informing a landscape just as much as an actual historical event. This then led me to the pilgrimage to Chimayo–the “holy dirt” there is a kind of treasure to be found. After that I began exploring places that give something to a person who travels to those locations (ie. healing, spirituality etc.). It is a continued investigation and I am following lots of different threads related to these central themes.

Trinity Site, Ground. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 feet. Joanne Lefrak.

Trinity Site, Ground. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 feet. Joanne Lefrak.

Context is always important when viewing any work of art. If you come to a piece with more knowledge of the subject, you are going to have a different experience with the work of art than otherwise. Similarly, one can have a different experience with the same work of art at different times in one’s life. So, yes, of course a viewer is going to have a different experience depending on their understanding of a landscape’s background story but that is across the board for viewing all artwork. What is important to me is that a viewer might be drawn to the piece visually and have an experience of the work viscerally, emotionally, intellectually or otherwise.

He Will Come Again. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 4 x 8 feet. Joanne Lefrak. // Xia Gui, Remote View of Mountains and Streams (detail). ink on paper, 1195-1224, 18.3 x 350 in. Joanne Lefrak.

He Will Come Again. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 4 x 8 feet. Joanne Lefrak. // Xia Gui, Remote View of Mountains and Streams (detail). ink on paper, 1195-1224, 18.3 x 350 in.

LN: There are many visual similarities between your landscapes and traditional Chinese ink landscapes – discuss your use of emptiness, factual naturalism, monochrome and fiction.

JL: In terms of factual naturalism, I think the factual elements in the landscapes I depict are essential. The fact that a viewer could go to the same locations and see the actual elements in the places I am drawing adds to a certain level of authenticity.  If I draw an insect in the resulting drawing, it is an insect that would exist in that location. I relate the composition to the feeling of being in the space. For example, a large open and empty sky can create the feeling of desolation and the open sky does exist in the landscape and I simply am choosing to include it. I think the monochromatic emptiness creates a an opportunity for a type of an inward looking even though the imagery is of looking out onto the landscape.

Pilgrimage, Nambe to Chimayo. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 feet, collection of Bill and Alicia Miller. Joanne Lefrak.

Pilgrimage, Nambe to Chimayo. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 ft, collection of Bill and Alicia Miller. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: What was the purpose of your recent trip to Nepal?

JL: After completing the work on the pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo, I was researching spiritual and healing landscapes. After communicating online with people who have experienced a variety of different landscapes that have this effect, the people who had gone to the Himalayas and completed pilgrimages all described their experiences similarly; they all said that the Divine moved to the foreground of their experience while they were there and that normal life experiences were in the background whereas typically in our daily existence this is reversed.  Their descriptions of their experiences were so compelling that I thought it would be meaningful to experience it myself and perhaps create some work around the Himalayan landscapes and related pilgrimages. I traveled with poet Hakim Bellamy and we plan to collaborate on a project together now that we are back.

Trinity Site Ground Zero. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 34 x 26 in. Joanne Lefrak.

Trinity Site Ground Zero. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 34 x 26 in. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: What role does Art and Nature play in Nepalese culture? Did this experience change the way you interact with Art and Nature?

JL: On my trek through Nepal I was surprised by how much art I experienced. I was anticipating the magnificence of the landscape but not the infusion of art and spirituality in daily practice. I found that as opposed to the western art world, the art that I witnessed in Nepal was not about the ego of the artist but for the purpose of creating something more spiritual, for a larger purpose. For example, on one of the pilgrimages to Muktinath, at the top of the pass, there were 108 carved stone fountains filled with Himalayan glacial ice melt. While not intending to be an art project (these fountains were meant to be a part of the spiritual ritual of the pilgrimage) these fountains were clearly works of art to my western eyes. I found this to be true everywhere in that area of the world, which was very inspiring. This experience infused my art practice with an altered intentionality and my creative mind was filled with images of prayer flags, mani walls, intricately painted murals, etc.

Holy Dirt. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 ft. Joanne Lefrak.

Holy Dirt. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 3 x 5 ft. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: Using light and shadow as a medium gives your pieces a theatrical quality (the ability to appear and disappear), as if your work is more of an event than a straightforward pictorial documentation. How does this tie in with the themes of your work?

JL: The theatricality of the light and shadowplay in my work creates a visceral feeling for the viewer. It is also a bit of an exercise in perception. A viewer has to look through or past the actual drawing to see the shadow of the drawing.  This is similar to the landscapes that I choose to depict as the places are filled with memory and these memories, fictions, or histories cannot be separated from the landscape itself.

Cabezon Road. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 42 x 54 in. Joanne Lefrak.

Cabezon Road. scratched plexiglas and shadow, 42 x 54 in. Joanne Lefrak.

LN: In a way, you are deconstructing the picture-plane by making the viewer look through the surface of the plexi-glass to the wall behind in order to view the drawing. What are your ideas concerning perception and physical space?

JL: We can perceive much more than we can see which is why I try to imbue my work with more of the feeling and history of place than what we can just absorb visually.  In the pilgrimage at Muktinath, it is said that the water that flows from the fountains is sacred because it carries with it the memory of its journey from the top of the Himalayas and one’s sins will be washed away with the water there. Reflecting back on this, in the same way that the water contains its history, the landscapes I’m drawing do too. My intention in my drawings is to add this level of perception beyond just the visual imagery depicted.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JOANNE LEFRAK: Joanne Lefrak is a visual artist, museum educator and teacher. She is passionate about arts education and she works as the Director of Education and Outreach at SITE Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, NM. In addition, Lefrak teaches as a visiting artist in the classroom with the El Otro Lado Program through the Academy for the Love of Learning.

LARA NICKEL: When she is not traveling, Lara lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA). She received her BFA from College of Santa Fe, NM, USA in 2007. She has previously been featured as a Flash Fiction contributor in this publication.

CODY LEDVINA [on] BILL WILLIS

Cody Ledvina: I want to look at your Instagram presence first. The content you display is through a program that allows you to superimpose imagery on top of each other. You have a history of combining images through different formats–Instagram seems to be a natural fit for that branch of your practice.

Bill Willis: There are several bodies of work represented by the web collages, each commenting on some role I play out during the day. They all have evolved as a way for me to communicate in a daily or topical way, usually through absurdity and over-simplification about my thoughts and mood. I used to have a couple of selfies for faces, but have settled in to the one with the horse laugh or mule-eating-briars smile.

Image 1

Courtesy of Bill Willis.

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Courtesy of Bill Willis.

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Courtesy of Bill Willis.

CL: Got any of those early collages we can see?

BW: Yep, these collages are from 2009. I’ve made collages, either by hand, chemical photography, xerography or digital means for years.  I had journals of collages, notes, lists and drawings with me all the time, along with retail catalogs, pornography and Japanese haircut magazines as materials, working wherever I was with scissors and glue stick. Now that there are so many online sources for imagery, decent phone cameras, multiple editing apps and cloud storage, I can travel light and make things on the fly, saving the studio for painting.

Image 4

Courtesy of Bill Willis.

Image 5

Courtesy of Bill Willis.

CL: Your paintings focus on objects in such a casual way, in that your framing seems to degrade the aspects that people normally aesthetically develop within a calculated portrait of food. You meticulously craft the paintings while actively downplaying the significance of the object. Artists or Instagramers who post images of food in their pictures consider it’s presence. What do you have to say in response to the statements I have just made?

BW: The subject seems dead or free at the moment, ready to be recharged. It’s not like I’m a very conceptual guy. The food images are ubiquitous: it’s like genre painting. I’m always shopping lifestyle catalogues, Instagram and feeds looking for subjects to transform and inhabit. I’m drawn to all the window dressing, theatricality and seduction of product photography. Sometimes it has to do with nostalgia, but I don’t want the products–most I can’t afford or never existed anyway. I collect the images instead, choosing, editing and distorting compositions of meat and other food like stand-ins for bodies. It is an excuse for me to paint and view, which are both very sensual activities. I do the whole thing for kicks.

CL: I asked 4chan about your Meat and Vessel paintings. Would you like to see what they said?

BW: Yes, Outsourcing the feedback for the paintings is interesting and hilarious considering many of the images where sourced from the web.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 24 x 36 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 20 x 30 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Untitled. oil on linen, 18 x 24 in { 2014} Bill Willis.

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Self Portrait Playing Guitar. oil on linen, 24 x 36 in {2014} Bill Willis.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Bill Willis: is an Artist and educator living in Houston, Texas.

Cody Ledvina: Ledvina received his Masters of Fine Art from the University of Houston in 2009. He has shown his paintings in Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Baltimore, and New York. He currently lives and works in London, UK.

ANDREW BLANCHARD [on] LYNN MARSHALL-LINNEMEIER

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

ANDREW BLANCHARD: Lynn! How the heck are you? It’s been a while since we’ve talked… I know you’ve been entrenched working on this massive new project… How is it going and what does it encompass?

LYNN MARSHALL-LINNEMEIER: I’m good, great actually. I just finished the installation for Fulton County (GA) at Wolf Creek Library near the airport. It was a big public art project, a part of the 1% For Art program.  The installation included sculpture, photography, and textiles. This project was part of the Journey Projects, which began in 2010.  The Journey Projects functions through the universality of ancestry. Everyone and everything has an ancestor.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

The project’s title is Beneath the Ogirishi Tree and includes an 18′ sculpture adorned with over 800 handmade ceramic objects, hundreds of beads, and tiled seating. The installation also includes a 153 square foot textile work that includes photographs of ancestors of residents who reside in Fulton County. The teen area features photographs taken by youngsters from the area. The Ogirishi Tree is a sacred tree in West Africa–found on altars in some communities. 

The installation brought together so many people from the South Fulton Community.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

AB: 
It sounds to me that you have been extremely productive, busy! Congrats. So, for as long as I have known you, it seems, much as with the Wolf Creek Project, that your work is very community oriented, with oral and ancestral history at the core of your conceptual intention. Am I right, and if so, could you elaborate?

Cyanotype workshop, Southwest Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia {2014 }

Cyanotype workshop, Southwest Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia {2014 } Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

LL: Yes, that’s pretty accurate. The community projects are heavily photo-based and include a variety of media. They rely on collaboration. The community builds components of the installations, which are intergenerational. For instance, children as young as three made cyanotypes, a non-silver photographic process. I worked at two arts centers in South Fulton County and a church. The cyanotypes were made from pre-treated fabric were later sewn into the textile work. Elders from the community donated photographs of people that they wanted to remember. I also did free workshops for teens and they photographed the landscape. This interaction with community is really what energizes the projects and the part that I enjoy most.

Work installed at Old Church, Oxford at Emory University, Oxford, GA {2014}

Work installed at Old Church, Oxford at Emory University, Oxford, GA {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

ABAnd what about your current project?

LL: 
I was introduced to Central State Hospital through Mab Segrest. Mab was the Fuller-Maathai Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College from 2002-2014.  She has published articles on Central State Hospital’s history and is working on a book-length study.  We met in 2011 to discuss the project.

Redressing the Stone. Agan Ceremony, Lithonia Women's Club, Lithonia, Georgia. {2012}

Redressing the Stone. Agan Ceremony, Lithonia Women’s Club, Lithonia, Georgia. {2012} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

The exhibition is informed by archival material from Central State Hospital, and in particular the intake documents of a woman we are calling “Mary Roberts.” Because of confidentiality laws we cannot use her real name. She was interned in 1911 at what was then the Georgia State Sanitarium for singing, praying, crying and shouting.  The archival materials refer to her “exalted on the ward” and I imagine her dancing as she attempts to heal herself.  The exhibit also remembers the over 25,000 patients who were buried on the grounds of the hospital, which opened in 1842 as Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum.   Located in Milledgeville, Georgia, what is now known as Central State Hospital was at times in the 1940s and 1950s the largest mental hospital in the world. Milledgeville was also the state capital of Georgia from 1804 until 1868 when the legislature moved it to Atlanta.

The mixed media installation is entitled Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. It includes a straightjacket installation. My goal is to invert the meaning of the straight jacket in a way similar to Anna Schuleit Haber’s installations at Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC). It’s quite a challenge.

Angels in Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. Image for Georgia College Department of Art Exhibition. {January 2015}

Angels in Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. Image for Georgia College Department of Art Exhibition. {January 2015} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

 AB: Lynn, many thanks for sharing your new projects with the Uncompromising Tang audience and me! Cheers!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier: is a Visual Mythologist, a Maker of Things. She works through the Journey Projects, which uses community collaboration to address notions of ancestry and memory. Her work weaves together stories, myths and visions from the prehistoric past to the present day through large-scale sculptures, mixed-media assemblages, and installations, using a variety of media including photography, painting, textiles, oral histories and other primary source documents. An honors graduate of the Atlanta College of Art (1990), she received a BFA in photography and an MA from the University of Mississippi in Southern Studies (2005).

Andrew Blanchard:is an artist-printmaker living in Spartanburg SC. He is currently represented by M Contemporary in New Orleans, LA and Southside Gallery in Oxford, MS. His prints have been included in Schiffer Publishing’s Printmakers Today and the Southern Edition of New American Paintings magazine. Recently, Oxford American magazine selected Blanchard as one of the New Superstars of Southern Art. In 2014, his work will be featured in the International Painting Annual No. 4, published by Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Ohio.  He became pals with Lynn Linnemeier while earning an MFA in printmaking at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 2004.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE [on] GRIER EDMUNDSON

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Untitled {2013} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Your work has often made pointed appropriations of other artist’s work.  Especially in this new series, beginning with the work in Easy Come, Easy Go, it seems that you are appropriating other artist’s work as a means of discussing the status of works of art as commodities.  Could you talk about your appropriation of other artist’s work, and in particular how you arrived at the set of concerns that define this new body of work?

GRIER EDMUNDSON: I have been working with found images for a while and was really trying to figure out what it meant to re-present these images as a painting.  That contemplation of the dichotomy of the reproducible image and the ‘singularity’ of painting led to the mirrored and repeated paintings I have made in the past.  You could say the mirrored and repeating paintings had certain implications on the value of the object by undermining their own uniqueness but that wasn’t really what I was focusing on.

The artwork as a commodity was definitely a focal point of the work in Easy Come, Easy Go, but those works were the first that were dealing with that idea in such a straightforward manner.  But a lot of that had to do both with the intent of the original works by Kippenberger and the text from the Monopoly cards I chose to superimpose.

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Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

Initially I was appropriating other artists’ work for the symbolic or iconic quality of what or who was represented within the original painting and seeing how the change in context affects both the reading of that work but also the reading of the work that is shown with it.  However, something funny happened when I recreated the portrait of the American Revolutionary figure Thomas Paine that was painted by Auguste Millière. I later found out that Millière based his portrait on an etching by William Sharp who had based his etching on a painting of George Romney so my painting was the 4th reiteration of one portrait.  That really got me thinking more and more about appropriation, studies, copies etc.  A lot of time this kind of thing is bordering more on interpretation or symbolic representation rather than straight up appropriation.

I don’t really see myself working within the vein of someone like Sturtevant or Sherry Levine–I don’t have the conceptual fortitude to be that strict within my practice.   I think of it more like when a singer or a band comes up with a really good cover of a song or brings a new interpretation to a traditional form.   Coming from the South with it’s history of blues, bluegrass and country music, those genres of music have always been as much about reinterpreting traditional tunes as they are about creating new material.   One of my favorite albums is Cat Power’s The Covers Record and I remember very clearly the first time I heard it and how impressed I was with how she brought such a particular voice to the songs she chose.

KKG: Have your experiences working in a commercial gallery affected your understanding of what works of art are and how they function?

GE: That’s a tough one…the works from Easy Come, Easy Go and Une Serpent Dans La Pelouse, definitely were influenced by my working in a commercial gallery to some degree but I don’t think I can say it has affected my understanding of what works of art are or how they function…or maybe I just down know how it has affected me.  I can say that my working in commercial galleries has shown me the best and worst of the art world. I have met gallery owners who really believe in their artists and what they are doing, put no limitations or expectations on them in terms of what they are making or how marketable it is and find a way to help them realize the ideas that they have.  But then there is the side that sees all of the money and politics and how much influence that can have on a lot of the art world; how it can influence galleries, museums, collectors and artists and the choices they all make.  Its a weird feeling when you see a collector buy something solely because someone told them it would be a good investment and not out of any personal attachment to the work.  As an artist you want to think that your work means something or speaks to someone and some of these big collectors buy stuff and file it away in storage until it appreciates enough in value to sell it off.  With all that in mind, I don’t necessarily recommend to most artists that they work in a commercial gallery.  It can be an eye-opening experience and you learn a lot about the machinations behind the art world. But it can also leave you feeling a bit cold and jaded about it all.

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Untitled. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KKG: I’m interested in your appropriation of Kippenberger’s work in the last exhibition. It seems to me that this move really points to an explicit tension between the “use value” and “exchange value” of works of art.  To me, Kippenberger was an artist whose work very much foregrounded the use-value of art as the event of lived experience.  However, since his death his work more or less transacts purely at the level of exchange value.  His work seemed to attain a much more explicit function as a commodity, both in terms of being a literal financial asset, but also as a reference used by art world types to acquire coolness capital by association.

Why did you choose Kippenberger’s work in particular?

GE: I guess the shift to ‘exchange value’ took place after his death because there is now a finite amount of the work, no? I agree with you about the cool capital that comes along with Kippenberger but I guess that’s just the residual effect of the whole mythology he built up while he was alive.

As for why I chose Kippenberger, it had more to do with the specific body of work, the ‘Preis’ paintings, than anything about his practice as a whole.  I saw the ‘Preis’ paintings at the Tate Modern retrospective in 2006 and I remember immediately thinking they were so right on.  With that said, I am a fan of Kippenberger’s work and there are a lot of things about his practice that I find fascinating but he’s not necessarily the first person I would gravitate towards when I think about artists that influence my own practice. When I started thinking about making these Monopoly paintings I started thinking about the overlap between the Monopoly cards as a readymade and Kippenberger’s work and how they both so implicitly dealt with artwork as a commodity.  I just decided to double down and mash the two together and, in a way, give Kippenberger a sort of Kippenberger treatment.  It’s a slightly absurd project, trying to painstakingly recreate this series of ‘bad’ paintings only to then paint this foreign text overtop.

KKG: In the last exhibition you superimposed the Monopoly typography on to appropriated works, but in Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, there is just the text on white paintings.  What precipitated this shift?

GE: Actually the shift would be when the Monopoly text was superimposed on the Kippenberger background.  Even though the Complex Economic paintings for Easy Come, Easy Go were made first, it came out of thinking about the monopoly game property cards as being these perfect ready-mades.   I had already come up with the idea behind the installation for Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, which included the monopoly paintings on the white background and had planned to show it in Montreal at Clark in the fall.  But before I could get to that I had this show in Glasgow that I had to tackle.  So I put the first idea of making the paintings to the side and started with Kippenbereger series.   It worked out well because I really wanted the show in Glasgow to be just paintings, no sculpture, no wallpaper, no found objects, just paintings…and the Kippenberger paintings are so crazy that it would have been too much to have anything else in the space with them.  The funny thing was that it had been so long since I had put together an exhibition of just paintings that it felt like I was doing something really radical!

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Easy Come, Easy Go. installation view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

KKG:  How do you see this difference in approach working in the paintings?

GE: Well the paintings for Un Serpent Dans La Pelouse, are definitely easier on so many levels.  Those monopoly property cards have such a clean and simple design; it’s really what drew me to think about working with them in the first place.  The Easy Come, Easy Go works are more precarious.  The whole idea of appropriating this series of Kippenberger’s paintings that were initially made, I have to assume, to be as bad as they possibly could be only to paint this somewhat arbitrary text over them felt/feels absurd in a lot of ways.  For all I know Kippenberger and some assistants cranked the 13 paintings out in a week and it took me hours upon hours of guesswork to deconstruct and reconstruct each one.  It’s hard for the paintings not to come across as being flippant, though I guess in a lot of ways they are, but it’s not really the intention.

KKG: The new show also features various objects throughout the space.  Most notably you have the plaster boxes that make a sideways reference to Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, but there are various other objects throughout the space: a boot, some Cheerios, a couple of figurines, etc.  Could you talk about how these are elements operate within the exhibition?

GE:  For this exhibition those objects came from a couple of different places.  The first was thinking about the game pieces from Monopoly: the thimble, the shoe, the car etc. and having this desire to create my own set.  So I started looking around at things that I thought might work as game pieces.  Slowly through the selection process it became a way for me to introduce more of a biographical element into the exhibition which I thought was quite important because for me all of the work has this personal narrative aspect though its not readily apparent in the paintings and sculpture.

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Easy Come, Easy Go. detail view {2014} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

Another line of thinking was when I first thought about making these Brillo box works a couple of years ago, I had this idea of using them both as sculptures and as display devices.  By introducing these found objects a lot of things happen in the space.  The boxes suddenly take on multiple roles: they’re sculptures, plinths, designer side tables… and the viewer is then suddenly forced to question what is what.  Is the paper coffee cup supposed to be there? Is it really an old coffee cup or something that was made just to look like one?  I guess it kind of just jars the viewer out of walking into the space and thinking “I am in a gallery, there’s the painting on the wall, there are the sculptures on the floor, this is an art exhibition” without completely banging them over the head with it.

KKG: Throughout your practice you have made much use of wallpaper.  In this exhibition you’ve made a wallpaper pattern using the motif of Mr.Monopoly with empty pockets.  What led you to using wallpaper in your work?  How do you see it working in this exhibition?

GE:  The original thinking behind the wallpaper was mostly about introducing content into a material that is normally a backdrop and is traditionally seen as a decorative element.  I thought it was an interesting way to flip the script and take the content out of the paintings and inject it into the decorative.  Another thing that happens is it tends to move the space away from the neutrality of the white cube.  In a strange way, even though the patterns are often quite loaded in terms of the content found in the imagery, the wallpaper pushes the galleries towards a more domestic feel.  I am really interested in that effect, it’s really similar to my interest in the role of the Brillo boxes and how they can so easily transform from sculptural to a design element. In this exhibition the wallpaper only covers one wall so its not as full on as some installations but the pattern is also one of the more optically aggressive patterns I have made so covering the whole space would have been pretty intense.

KKG: I’m also quite interested in the fact that you made the pattern available for download on your website. What was your thinking there?

GE: So much of the show came from me pondering these ideas of value and how value can be somewhat arbitrarily projected onto these things, that it only made sense to give something away and just negate its value.   I’ve always made the wallpaper out of pretty cheap material, its usually screen printed onto newsprint but that still requires access to specialized equipment and such, which requires money.  These were just made using a laser printer and basic white paper.  I put the pattern up on the website with the idea that anyone could download the pattern and do what they want with it.

KKG: Your work repeatedly touches on the question of how value is inherent in, or is produced by, works of art.  Within your practice you seem to repeatedly approach this topic from a variety of angles.  Could you talk about how you came to take this on as a concern in your work and maybe talk a bit more about you’re approach to the subject of value in these recent shows?

GE: I don’t know that “value” has always been a concern of mine…I would almost say its only with this last body of work or two that its come into the conversation or at least been a focus of the conversation.  Some of that has to do with what you touched on earlier when asking about the influence of having worked in a commercial gallery but I think a lot of it has to do with being at a point where my priorities or concerns in life are shifting.  With that shift I started taking a closer look at the mechanics that affect those priorities and questions began to evolve.    Fresh out of art school money is not (usually) an issue in the same way that it is as when you start getting older, having a family and looking a little further down the road.  Going back to the personal narrative aspect that is not always evident in my work: six years ago my first exhibition in Montreal was mainly focused on ideas of progress, revolution, change and all of that work was made just after moving from Glasgow to Montreal and having just found out my wife was pregnant with our first child.  So the work now, just as it was then, is mostly about me working through things that are weighing on my mind.

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Untitled {2013} Courtesy of Grier Edmundson.

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS 

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist who lives and works in Winnipeg. He recently had a show at ACTUAL in Winnipeg.

GRIER EDMUNDSON: Born in Memphis, TN, Grier Edmundson holds a BA in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and a MA in Fine Arts from the Glasgow School of Art. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Kendall Koppe Gallery(Glasgow), Fourteen30 Contemporary(Portland), Battat Contemporary(Montreal) and PowerHouse(Memphis). His work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the 2011 Quebec Triennial(Montreal), I’m Not Here:An Exhibition without Francis Alÿs at the de Appel Arts Centre(Amsterdam), Samedi, Samedi at Galerie Art Concept(Paris), and The State with A. Vermin at Glasgow International 2008. He lives and works in Montreal.

JONATHAN VanDYKE [on] BENNY NEMEROFSKY RAMSAY

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The Return {ongoing since 2010} sound, goldleaf, megaphones, installation view: Coming After, The Power Plant, Toronto, {2011} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay

Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay described The Return to me at the opening of Coming After, a group exhibition at The Power Plant, Toronto, in which we both took part. The Return, a sound piece installed on the outside of the building, was both highly charged and ephemeral, a veritable shout in the dark bracketing a crowded and cacophonous opening party. Curated by Jon Davies[1], Coming After featured the work of queer-identified artists who were children and adolescents during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Central to the exhibition’s theme was the shadow presence of a generation of mentors/lovers/friends swallowed by the crisis – lingering like ghosts (an illustration of an 80’s-era, Pac Man-esque ghost appears on the cover of the exhibition catalogue). That I missed Ramsay’s installation as I hurried in from the cold December night felt like an echo of this ghosting.

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The Return {ongoing since 2010} sound, goldleaf, megaphones, installation view: Paraphrasing Babel, Viewmaster, Maastricht {2012} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.

 

[sound file]  >>>  The Return. sound, goldleaf, megaphones, sound clip featuring Vienna Boys’ Choir soloist Beni Klocker {ongoing since 2010} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.

While I stood to listen to the The Return a few days later, on a sunny winter afternoon, I watched a group of children ice skating at an outdoor rink adjacent to the museum’s entrance. The Return utilizes a megaphone, its interior gilded, and is often mounted outdoors. Its megaphone is not the large, gaudy mouthpiece of a cheerleader or the power tool of a protester, but looks like the sort of emergency siren that is installed just out of sight, awaiting a singular, urgent performance. At the Power Plant it was mounted in a brick corner, and the source of the recording could not be seen. Leaning in to the megaphone, you had the piece to yourself as you turned your back to the surrounding world.

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Letter to Jonsi. ink on paper {2011} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.

The gold interior of the megaphone offers a pronounced contrast to its plastic exterior. Gold signifies timelessness and adornment; simultaneously, the megaphone is a functional instrument that signifies the here and now. In Joseph Beuys’ 1965 performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, gold leaf hangs from his face as he whispers to a rabbit. He mythologizes himself with this death mask, cradling the stiff animal like a shaman preparing a sacrifice. Nemerofsky’s golden figure is a voice without a face. The Return alludes to the Sirens, a group of mythological females whose sounds were so compelling as to be deadly: distracted sailors crashed their ships onto the rocks. The gilded megaphone is also a lure. Its interior shaft is stamen-like, its exterior cone a modernist flower opening its sex onto the passing world.

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Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder eklärt (How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare). performance and installation Düsseldorf {1965} Joseph Beuy.

The Return is not an olfactory lure, but an auditory one. Its sound, both jarring and pleasing, is the recording of a male singer imitating an emergency siren. Among the singers Nemerofsky has recorded is Beni Klocker, then a twelve-year old member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir whose siren call was broadcast in the public space of the Vienna Museum Quartier, and of counter tenor Geoffrey Williams. As with many of Nemerofsky’s works, The Return is accompanied by a handwritten letter that documents the transaction between him and a potential performer, a drawing-document that is reproduced in the exhibition space and made available online. Here the accompanying letter notes his interest in the Siren’s “role as one of many mythological women known for their problematic and dangerous voices, a kind of pressure point in discourses that project menace and un-control onto high-pitched voices.” The Siren character is the auditory Medusa, both undeniable and repellant.

Several intertwinings are enacted by The Return. The juxtaposition of hand-leafed gold and industrial plastic reminded me of a visit I made to the post-modernist galleries of the Groninger Museum in Holland, designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au Architects. A centuries-old clock was displayed in the stripped bare, cement interior of one gallery – the old on top of the modern, rather than the other way around. The displacement of electronic sound by a human voice is similarly disorienting. The siren was appropriated in several significant Futurist compositions at the beginning of the twentieth century, including George Antheil’s Ballet mecanique and the Symphony of Sirens (1922) by Russian revolutionary composer Arseny Avraamov. But where those works put forward technologically generated sound as a call to action – bidding society forward by overthrowing convention ­– Nemerofsky’s soprano offers a humanist urgency, a call that is carried body to body, not machine to crowd.[2]

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Saint Cecilia. oil on canvas, 37.75 x 29.5 inches / 95.9 x 74.9 cm, The Norton Simon Foundation {1606} Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642)

Because the siren sound is so readily associated with imminent danger, the voicing of it by a human singer comes across as a cry for help, or, looked at another way, as a statement of resistance. The singer emits an ethereal, transcendent urgency, like a contemporary saint. Amongst the many depictions of music-makers in art history are Baroque depictions of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, who was said to have the capacity to hear angels. In Guido Reni’s 1606 portrait of her, now installed at the Norton Simon Museum, she gazes upwards, towards the heavens, with her mouth open, breaking into song, while at her waist she strikes a bow to a violin. Her depiction might be described as beautiful, but she is not the heavily feminized figure seen in Baroque depictions of Judith of Holofernes or Daphne. Her head is covered with a turban-like scarf, and her youthful face is neat and androgynous. The overall composition is harmonious, but in the orderly setting of the museum, the literal silence of the painting is discomforting. In this period where recorded sound is ubiquitous, to view a music maker performing silently feels oddly disjunctive. As I looked at the painting recently, I could hear the murmur of another visitor’s audio tour.

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Woman with a Guitar. oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 32 1/8 inches / 100 x 81.6 cm, Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection {1913} Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)

In another gallery in the Norton Simon Museum, the viewer encounters Picasso’s cubist painting Woman with a Guitar. In this 1913 depiction, the music player is fractured into bits, like the machine sounds of Ballet mecanique. Gramophone recordings were just a few decades old when Picasso made the work, and were among those many technological advances (photography, moving image, combustion engines, to name the most obvious) that fractured and re-oriented sensory experience. The Woman with a Guitar is pieced, like the product of an assembly line, a humming machine. Nemerofsky’s The Return presents a reversal of the Picasso painting: rather than rendering the human technological, he renders the technological human (the title suggests as much, as a “return” to another state). The fabricated, tinny sound of the emergency siren is repossessed by a boy.

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Image accompanying Shakira’s EP She Wolf, Epic Records {2009}

Reni’s St. Cecilia is cherubic, innocent. Her covered body renders harmless any notions of the female music maker as man-killer. Powerful female sexuality in music is still equated with danger – on the cover of Shakira’s EP “She Wolf” (2009) for example, she appears inside of a cage. Reni’s saint is a figure of concordance: there is no background “noise” with which to be distracted. Nemerofsky’s recording of Klocker offers the innocence that we attribute to youth choirs, but its gender is troubled. In his letter, he notes the “daemonization of the high pitched male voice,” a passage that reminded me of an experience of my early adolescence. My voice had already changed, but I was unaware of its apparent theatricality until a girl on my school bus asked me “why I still talk that way – your voice should be deeper.”

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The Last Song. still from video {2014} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.

Nemerofsky’s most recent work, a video entitled The Last Song, further explores returning. A man of early middle age, his hair closely shorn, his jaw pronounced, wearing a gray shirt and matching gray necktie, stands in front of a gray folding screen that is adorned with a Charles Rennie MacKintosh-esque gilded pattern that appears like vertical shafts of wheat, or, seen another way, as stylized bars of sheet music that have yet to be filled in with notes. As the man begins singing an aria, the camera moves slowly towards his face.

The edge of the man’s collar is gilded. This detail draws attention to his face and neck, which is veiny and deeply expressive. He reads as masculine, though his clothes are unrevealing. (He is gendered about as much as Reni’s St. Cecilia.) His manner is intense and slightly theatrical, but not dramatic. His eyes take in his surroundings with a soft focus, not lingering on any particular thing, or on the camera, which moves around him in such a way that we understand it as a surrogate for ourselves. The singer’s fingers tremble slightly, in a manner that feels unconscious, as if his hands are vibrating with sound. As in the Reni painting, the relationship between figure and background is totalizing; there is nothing else to distract us. There is a nakedness to the singer’s hands: focusing in on them, I recognize the singer’s absorption and a degree of tenderness that carries an erotic charge.

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The Last Song. still from video {2014} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.

The performer sings a Baroque aria, Tu M’Offendi from the Vivaldi opera La Verita in Cimiento. About halfway through his performance, and at that moment at which the camera comes closest to his face, the performer’s voice begins to “crack,” and he lets out higher notes. This “cracking” ultimately makes a full change, such that the singer has a new voice, that of a boy. In the change there are a few seconds of discomfort and self-consciousness as he brings his hand to his neck, but he continues to sing, a shadow of relief crossing his face when he steadies into a boyish range. As with The Return, the instrument (there, a megaphone, here, a man) does not line up with the sound it emits. If this is the singer’s Last Song, as the title suggests, we understand this as an inversion of the usual progress of a changed voice: whereas the boy singer whose voice deepens into that of the cisgendered male is no longer fit for the role of the angelic, pre-sexualized music maker, here it is the grown man, a life of experiences etched in his hands and neck, who becomes de-sexualized. As a title, “The Last Song” comes close to that best known of “lasts,” the last supper, in which Christ, who will never age into middle life, addresses his retinue of male companions, instructing them upon how they might partake of, and pass on, his body and blood through the transubstantiation of wine and bread.

Is the performer of The Last Song host to a younger version of himself, or is he a vessel of transference, bringing forth a ghost, a blood brother, a saint? The man sings in Italian that (translated into English): “You insult me but do not make my unchanging, gentle brotherly love any weaker or less loving.” The subject of this passage is multiple: it encompasses both the listener and the emergent youth. Whether this emergence is also an emergency, as implied by the siren call of The Return, is not clear. As the song ends, the camera veers away from the singer, resting upon the now disembodied facade of the gilded screen.

In the gay male community, a history of cross-generational friendship, fellowship, and sexual relations is deeply embedded. In Plato’s Symposium the love between an older and younger man is celebrated, although there is the implication that the younger man is the “feminine” recipient or receptacle for the older man’s affections. In Europe, the sexual recipient in homosexual relations is described as “passive,” or passif. The word carries a tinge of the “passivity” that historically was placed upon women, though by contemporary terms, this sense of power dynamics amongst gay men, at least in my experience in the West, is far more playful, if not anachronistic. The Last Song carries with it some of this history, inverting the role of the “passive” youth such that he wills himself out of the mouth of a grown man. The youth edges forward, the grown man, back.

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The Lovers. sound recording, megaphones, paint, mesh installation view, Nuit Blanche Calgary {2014} Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay

The scholar Heather Love describes the role of “looking backward” in the queer community: “Over the last century, queers have embraced backwardness in many forms: in celebrations of perversion, in defiant refusals to grow up, in explorations of haunting and memory, in stubborn attachment to lost objects.” For Love, this unearthing, this looking backwards, is a necessity. For Nemerofsky and I, our earliest identification as men who desired men was at the peak of crisis, such that our youth took on the taint of emergency. As a boy I read the panicked articles about the AIDS crisis in Newsweek, and announced to my parents that I had AIDS. Even though I hadn’t engaged in any sexual activity at that point, or made a public announcement of my orientation, I saw my future mirrored in men who were disappearing. Identification equaled transmission. Ramsay’s work returns us to this moment of identification. The ghost of his work is the boy, not the lost man. By this reading, the performer in The Last Song is a counter hero who brings back the boy on our behalf. He transmits neither virus nor status, but finds himself transformed by a youthful call to arms, ringed by a queer halo.


[1] Davies is the Associate Curator at Oakville Galleries just outside of Toronto. Coming After appeared at The Power Plant from December 2011-February 2012.

[2] A new work by Ramsay, entitled The Lovers, uses a group of nine megaphones, six of them veiled, creating a small crowd of “singers”.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

BENNY NEMEROFSKY RAMSAY: is an artist and diarist.  His work in video, sound, and text contemplates the history of song, the rendering of love and emotion into language, and the resurrection and manipulation of voices from history – sung, spoken or screamed.  Nemerofsky’s work has been exhibited internationally, appearing in numerous private collections as well as the National Gallery of Canada.

JONATHAN VanDYKE: is a visual artist based in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include Traunitz at Loock Galerie in Berlin and Krisen og en Krise i en Skuespillerindes Liv at Four Boxes Gallery in Denmark, both in 2014; Oltre l’oblio at 1/9unosunove in Rome, The Painter of the Holeat Scaramouche in New York, and Syrup of the Hand at Court Square Project Space in New York, all in 2013. Recent performance works includeSelf Portrait as My Mother, as an Actress, as a Painter, as a Stranger, presented at On Stellar Rays in New York, Knockdown Center in New York, and by the Qwatz Residency in Rome in 2013, Cordoned Area, presented at the National Academy Museum, New York, in 2013, andStranger Suite, presented on Fire Island this past summer by the New York Performance Artists Collective. Recent press includes “The Expanded Photograph” in the May issue of Art Review, an interview in Critical Correspondence, and an essay on his exhibition Traunitz by Caitlin Berrigan, appearing in Uncompromising Tang in June. Upcoming exhibitions include Geometries of Intimacy at Abrons Art Center in New York in November, and Reception of Reception at Kleine Humboldt Galerie in Berlin, opening in December.

GUY LOCHHEAD [on] ADAM REID

Top 10 Soundtracks

  • The Shining {Had somehow never seen this until last night. Put it on at 1am on headphones in the dark. Terrible idea…}
  • Dead Man – Neil Young
  • Twin Peaks – Angelo Badalementi
  • Mogwai – Les Revenants {Not much of a Mogwai fan really, but really enjoyed The Returned, and the soundtrack was vastly better than most on TV}
  • Nosferatu – Popol Vuh
  • White Lunar – Nick Cave/Warren Ellis {A collection of 3 different soundtracks, work really well as one piece also though}
  • Psychomania – John Cameron {Never even seen this film, came across the OST on a blog though, it’s fully mental.}
  • Naked – Andrew Dickson {One of my favourite films ever, the OST carries the tension so well. Very gentle compared to the bombardment of sound & shock tactics often heard in modern Hollywood films.}
Naked. {1993} Mike Leigh.

Naked. {1993} Mike Leigh.

  • GNODorowsky – Cork Film Festival {This hasn’t even happened yet, but will surely be amazing. The Gnod Squad sound tracking Jodorowsky’s Dune, which also doesn’t actually exist.}
  • Zero Charisma – Therion – To Mega Therion {My favourite comedy of the last couple years, using this piece of ‘symphonic orchestral gothic prog death metal’ is a stoke of genius. It’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard by a long way, perfect for the Dungeons and Dragon’s theme of the film.}

Top 10 experimental skaters

  • Colin Fiske {It seems Guy & I have an affinity for this guy. Misunderstood genius. Dem legs…}
  • Koichiro Uehara {Quickest feet in the East}
  • Gou Miyagi {No words needed.}
  • Chris Pulman {Something about this guy’s skating that makes it really easy to relate too.}
  • Tim Jackson {Only came across his ‘Risk-it’ part recently but it blew my top off, seems to skate walls just as easily as the floor, pays no attention to gravity.}
  • Joe Moore {Leeds, UK vanguard. Been following this guy on Youtube for literally about 7 years. Love or hate, no one in the world skates quite like him.}
  • Takahiro Morita {This guy gets in. Kinda fits a ‘Japanese Gonz’ space in my head, what more could you want?}

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  • Chopper & The Osaka Daggers {Similar approach to Takahiro, big inspiration on the Magenta lads I believe.}
  • Get Rad – Another Every Other {I have no words for this, other than it resembles roughly what my skate part would look like if I ever bothered to film anything.}
  • Nolan Johnson {Welcome Skateboards crusty kingpin. Takes the oldskool style into 2016, next-level mosher shit.}

Top 10 Festivals

A list of two halves…

  • Fat Out Fest {Highlight of the year. Held at the fantastic Islington Mill in Salford, home to GNOD and swathes of other inspirational artists, this 5 story mill is probably the most exciting place in the UK. Headliners were Melt-Banana, Cut Hands and the Charles Hayward Ensemble, which says all you need to know. But the fervent experimental approach the promoters took to billing the rest of the festival which was so great, which can’t really be summed up in words.}
  • Supernormal Festival {Finally made it in 2014. They continuously book the cream of the UK underground, year on year. Best place to see these acts in an open air scenario.}
  • Raw Power {London’s premier promoter, Baba Yaga’s Hut put this on a few months back. Amazing mix of psychedelic/noise acts at Tufnell Park Dome & Boston Arms, perfect indoor London festival space. I played an hour of tunes between acts, the sound engineer thought I’d blown up his rig, success. (See Quttinirpaaq below)}
  • Supersonic {Again, the line-ups kinda speak for themselves. I went in 2012 which was great, but slightly gutted I missed 2010, that line-up is totally un-fuck-withable.}
  • Roadburn {Most have heard of this by now. The premier doom/stoner/psyche/metal festival out there. Went both in 2010 and 2011 when I was fully obsessed with that stuff. Catching Goatsnake’s reunion show was special. The Volcano lead to a bunch of bands missing their flights, but meant Witchcraft did a impromptu one-off show with their original drummer (making it the same lineup as the classic self-titled debut!) They’ve totally gone to shit now so I relish that performance.}
  • Thalassa Festival {Now 5 I haven’t been to before. Out of all the ‘psychefest’ nonsense of 2014, this looks like a genuinely exciting gathering. ‘Italian occult psychedelia’ is the premise and they sure deliver. Acts like Cannibal Movie, Donato Epiro, Father Murphy & Heroin in Tahiti are who make up the scene, plus a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard, which would be half the fun.}
  • Berlin Atonal Festival {A formidable force in the 80s, this returned in 2013. Held in an abandoned power-plant, surely the best indoor venue for this music imaginable. Line-up was just as impressive as the location; Ike Yard, Cabaret Voltaire, Source Direct, Fis, Powell, Roly Porter etc, you get the idea. Bleak.}
Berlin Atonal. {2014} Camille Blake.

Berlin Atonal. {2014} Camille Blake.

  • Incubate & Unsound {Two different festivals, Tilburg in Holland and Krakow, Poland respectively, they both fit together in my head. Huge, sprawling and eclectic line-ups of experimental music, held in varying venues across the cities. I imagine it’s a bit of a SXSW set-up, but with better tunes and less pricks.}
  • Tusk {The admirable TUSK promoters run Newcastle as far as I’m concerned. I’m not entirely sure how they manage it but they consistently mash-up some of the most forward thinking music on the planet and present it to their lucky audiences. Anything goes.}

Top 10 Cacophonous Sarcophagus moments…so far 

  • Hey Colossus @ CS#1 {No licence, no insurance, no clue what I was doing. Noise rock crypt rave. The police grilled me for about 40 minutes so I missed a good portion of their set. The plod let it carry on, so I was finally allowed go back inside where I ended up on the floor tangled in the vocal mic cable about 10 seconds later, was rockin’.}
  • GNOD @ CS#2 {GNOD + soundsytstem + strobe + crypt = bliss. Being able to tick off my two favourite UK acts in my first 2 shows felt good, especially having them play with cult Texan wronguns Shit & Shine.}
  • Sly & The Family Drone @ CS#3 {This was my first time encountering the Drone family, after hearing great things. They went on last after 4 other vastly varying acts and broke the crypt in two. Playing from the middle of the room, it started out as a well formed table-top electronic/techno set, though after about an hour it was free-form chaos with shit-tonnes of drums, noise & nudity. I tried & failed to get them to stop as we’d breached the curfew ages ago, rather glad they ignored me now.}
  • I’m Being Good @ CS#4 {Got the chance to show Bristol I’m Being Good, a criminally underrated Brighton band. They’ve been going nearly 20 years and haven’t hit 400 FB Likes yet. Their unique brand of micro-tonal indie-sludge rock is incredible and they totally nailed it live, they’re still being good.}
  • PigsX7 @ #CS5 {I was super excited to book these guys with that ridiculous name. They only had 1 track at the time but I was totally convinced. Deep, dark winter Solstice in the stone crypt. Could’ve been cold & drab but their energy had the place freakin’. Infectious fuckers.}
  • Terminal Cheesecake/Bong/Michael O’Neill @ CS6 {Can’t really pick a single act from this night, it was just bonkers throughout. 90′s industrial psyche legends + the UK’s best psych/doom band + stark industrial hip-hop from GNOD alumni. Everyone was fackin’ wasted and the vibe was immense. TC have said it was probably their favourite gig ever, can’t argue with that.}
  • Dead Fader @ CS#9 {Another super-selfish line up, proud of that one. 3 brilliant ‘noise rock’ bands, electro-doom-step from Necro Deathmort and my favourite electronic producer all together in one crypt. NDM & DF had previously expressed wishes to work together so having them play together on the same bill for the first time felt like I facilitated something, fingers still crossed for that collab.}
  • Arabrot @ CS#10 {This show felt like a big step-up from the previous ones for numerous reasons (it’s was in a huge fucking church, the acts had come from 3 different continents…). Arabrot played a long-form experimental & at points almost psychedelic set, that was a million miles from the rawkus riffing they’d laid down just a few months prior at The Exchange. Again confirmed themselves as one of the best noise rock bands worldwide.}
Arabrot in the church. {2014} Adam Reid.

Arabrot in the church. {2014} Adam Reid.

  • The Cacophonous Cosmic Dead Jam @ CS#16 {CS#5 worked so well that I thought about just repeating the line-up. Cosmic Dead & Luminous Bodies returned,  I deliberately picked acts that knew each other well so the jam would…JAM. At least 4 different people took the drum stool over 2 hours. Didgeridoos. Miscellaneous drums scattered about. About 10 empty bottles of Buckfast were recovered.  Lamps were destroyed. Shitmatt turned up with a musical chair & log.  The rest is history [aka forgotten in the collective inebriated haze].}
  • Part Chimp/Hey Colossus/Sex Swing/POHL/GNOD/Roly Porter/Killing Sound {This was a bit of a weekender really, can’t choose a particular moment. Immense throughout, a bunch of my favourite acts from literally anywhere. By finally booking Part Chimp & Roly Porter I pretty much finished my ‘dream’ list from when I started out about 18 months prior, success!}

Top 10 dream headliners

{Kinda showing all my cards here a bit, but whatever, if you’ve read this far maybe you deserve a hint. This would change on a weekly basis but some are firm.}

  • Nurse With Wound
  • Skullflower
  • Bardo Pond
  • Demdike Stare
  • Ike Yard
  • 23 Skidoo
  • Quttinirpaaq
  • Drunk in Hell
  • Innercity Ensemble
  • Trad, Gras & Stenar

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Guy Lochhead: of Bristol, UK and started the British Whybrary and Bristol Co-operative Gym.

Adam Reid: is also of Bristol, UK.

ALDRIN VALDEZ [on] FELIPE BAEZA

Chicos. watercolor and collage on paper {2013} Felipe Baeza.

Chicos. watercolor and collage on paper {2013} Felipe Baeza.

ALDRIN VALDEZ (intro): Felipe Baeza’s art is beautiful and irreverent. He challenges people to think about the messy entanglements of religion, sexuality, and the ongoing legacy of colonialism and white supremacy. I think his art is powerful and necessary because it disrupts the status quo and reminds people of the daily violence that undocumented immigrants, queer people, and people of color experience. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to interview him for Uncompromising Tang and to share his art with people who might not already be familiar with his work.

ALDRIN VALDEZ: Can you talk about when and how you began making art? Is there a clear beginning for you?

FELIPE BAEZA: I was actually thinking about this the other day. From a very young age I was an obsessive object maker. I was constantly making things and that’s how I kept myself entertained. Throughout my childhood in Mexico I was fascinated with creating my own toys. I had a huge obsession with modeling clay. Right after my parents left for the US, I was around 7 years old and I do remember sheltering myself by creating objects and imaginary worlds with clay. Now that I look back at that, I realize that creating those objects was a way for me to cope with my parents’ departure, which at that time was really confusing. Creating things has always played a role in my life, but I never took it seriously in the sense that I wasn’t going to benefit from it or I didn’t imagine it being a profession. This has a lot do with my upbringing, coming from an immigrant family and growing up in a mostly Mexican working class community in Chicago where art was never part of the conversation.

But I do have to say that my time in Chicago was a turning point in my artistic development and understanding of what being an artist meant and that’s when I became an artist per se. It was right after 8th grade when I began taking all sorts of art classes at after-school programs. It’s in these moments that my interest in art became more serious and I became a young artist in my own understanding of what being an artist was.

Right around high school I was introduced to printmaking and since then I have been fascinated by its many techniques and history. My first pieces from high school mostly incorporated stencils and collage elements and these are elements that still show up in my work. It was bit of a struggle making art because I was very aware that I enjoyed and was very skilled at making things, but at same time it was hard for my parents to understand what I was doing. I think they thought it was a phase or something to keep me distracted from the streets. I do realize the last thing an immigrant family wants from their kids is for them to become an artist, especially because my family immigrated to this country to provide me a better quality of life and education. I am sure they imagined I would become some respectable professional like a lawyer or architect, which I find humorous.

Objeto de la Nueva España 3. woodcut with metallic powder on paper {2011} Felipe Baeza.

Objeto de la Nueva España 3. woodcut with metallic powder on paper {2011} Felipe Baeza.

AV: Has their understanding changed?

FB: My parents’ understanding of art and me being an artist has changed for sure. I have noticed that change more in my mom than in my dad. When I talk to them they ask about what projects I am doing or if I have any shows coming up. My mom loves my work and she has some of my pieces hanging around her house and even some of my very homoerotic prints. To me that has definitely been a change in their understanding of what I do and my work in general.

When I was in the process of applying to college they were both confused about my interest in art school and pursuing art as a profession. I do remember them being worried about my future and what I would get from art school. I mean I was also worried too but knew that there wasn’t anything else that I wanted to pursue but art. Even though they questioned my decision to pursue art, they were extremely supportive of me applying to college. I think they were just glad that I was pursuing education and was applying to colleges.

But because of my legal status, college seemed unimaginable to me. I’ve been undocumented since I came to this country. In many respects, my family’s experience mirrors the stories of many immigrants, especially those from Latin America: my parents fled poverty, corruption, and violence in hopes of providing their children with a better life. When we first arrived, we did not expect that our experience would resemble what we were trying to escape: as undocumented immigrants we had invisible lives and we lived in a low-income community plagued with a host of social and health problems. However, against many barriers, I managed to navigate the Chicago public school system, which led to a full ride at Cooper Union in New York City. If it weren’t for Cooper Union and the help from my parents I don’t think I would have gone to college or even left Chicago.

Post-Colonial Object of Desire 4. collage on handmade abaca {2014} Felipe Baeza.

Post-Colonial Object of Desire 4. collage on handmade abaca {2014} Felipe Baeza.

AV: How does being undocumented affect your life as a working artist?

FB: I have encountered a lot issues regarding my legal status and working as an artist. The main one would be working and sustaining myself first and then hopefully my art practice. The other issue would be the lack of resources. One of the problems that I’ve come across regularly is that a lot of art residencies require a legal status. I spent a lot of my time interning at various art institutions, not because I wanted to but because that was the only thing I was capable of doing without being asked about my legal situation. Luckily through interning, I came across amazing people who opened new doors for me. I’ve been living in the United States for over two decades. I’ve worked hard to access the limited resources available to us and it has taken a great deal of skill and learning to navigate systems that were not designed for low-income, undocumented immigrants to survive, let alone succeed in. Ultimately and against many barriers, I completed my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Cooper Union.

Post-Colonial Object of Desire 5. collage on handmade abaca {2014} Felipe Baeza.

Post-Colonial Object of Desire 5. collage on handmade abaca {2014} Felipe Baeza.

If someone were to ask how I got here, I’d have many people to name, but I owe a majority of my accomplishments to my rooted connection to community organizing and community mobilization. For the past several years I have engaged in community organizing at the local, state, and national levels for different campaigns and organizations. LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights have been a priority of mine throughout these years. These grassroots movements have granted me the privilege of applying for a work permit after nineteen years, due to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. As someone who has lived the majority of their life in underserved communities as an undocumented youth, I have experienced the process of removing myself from the shadows of fear, shame, and embarrassment that were constructed in me because of my immigration status and, at the same time, I was also able to do that for my queer identity. Developing my consciousness has helped me understand the injustices that are faced on a daily basis by the two communities I identify with. My experiences as a queer immigrant and my ability to navigate through unjust policies and inappropriate practices, which aim to keep people silent, are what drive my art practice.

Nuestra Virgen Penosa. photogravure on paper {2009} Felipe Baeza.

Nuestra Virgen Penosa. photogravure on paper {2009} Felipe Baeza.

AV: How would you describe your art process?

FB: It’s never been clear. Part of my process in making work is mostly taken up by investigation and not just information pertaining to what I am dealing with but also with materials and how I would go about executing each piece. I tend to put pieces off to the side for months and some even years and that’s how long some of them take to make sense and to be completed. I go back to pieces and not only do they make sense and speak  to me but I go about executing them and finishing them in a way that I wouldn’t have been capable of doing earlier. Time plays a huge role in my art practice. This also explains the fact that a lot of my work tends to look differently than what I expected and in some cases it even speaks to others issues that I wasn’t planning on dealing with. Most of the time my art practice is somewhat bittersweet. That’s what makes it interesting for me. I can’t imagine dealing with work or going about making something that was clear to me from the starting point. That would just be unnecessary and not enjoyable.

Fogata. woodblock, silkscreen and monoprint on varnished paper {2013} Felipe Baeza.

Fogata. woodblock, silkscreen and monoprint on varnished paper {2013} Felipe Baeza.

AV: I really like “bittersweet” as a description of an art practice! It speaks to having to give up some part of the work that might have become too precious. I think it’s interesting to consider this messy, wayward process in relation to the images you end up with because your imagery is so iconic. I’m curious how Catholic iconography has influenced your work. When I think about how your imagery affects me, I think of it as pushing me in a way that’s hard to articulate. Maybe it’s part “wow, Felipe is gonna get in trouble with some Catholic fundamentalists” and part “wow, I wonder how he created this and what kinds of materials he used to make these marks.” You create forms and symbols that people might see and use in the context of worship. In your work, they are objects that provoke by drawing people’s awareness to that context of worship. But then you twist them in ways that I think may be expected but there’s still a surprise, an element that can make a viewer uncomfortable. I think it has to do with how much people, by not questioning the ubiquity of these images, imbue them with power. What’s your relationship to Catholicism?

El dia que me convertí catolico. silkscreen with metallic powder on paper {2010} Felipe Baeza.

El dia que me convertí catolico. silkscreen with metallic powder on paper {2010} Felipe Baeza.

FB: I find it fascinating how my work affects you and glad that it makes you feel this way. As an artist, I would want all my pieces to convey that and get that type of reaction from people seeing my work. I do see that in some of my pieces there is this shock value that people tend to gravitate to and make sense of. That has to do a lot with my imagery. As you mentioned I tend to use a lot of religious and primarily Catholic imagery in my work. I can describe my relationship to Catholicism just like my art practice which is “bittersweet.” I grew up in an extremely religious family, Catholic on my dad’s side and Christian on my mom’s side. So I had my fair share with religion on both extremes. But at a young age I always gravitated towards Catholicism. I have always been mesmerized and interested by Catholicism, the imagery and how dramatic and bloody everything is. If you look at the imagery of Catholicism in Spain and then look at the imagery of Catholicism in colonized lands they are extremely different. The Catholic imagery in colonized lands tends to portray a lot of suffering and a lot more blood and as we know figures tend to be more brown.

As a kid I enjoyed going to church and to me seeing the spectacle that processions tend to be. In my growing up process I learned the many horrors that come with religion and its history and also the imbedded hate towards me and my queerness. I am no longer an observant but culturally I can say am still very Catholic. This is where my bittersweet relationship comes into place: I enjoy the fable, imagery, and spectacle of it but I am repulsed by its power. There was a series of projects that I did a while ago that investigated the abuse of power by the Catholic Church, which excludes and condemns homosexuality. We have been witnesses for centuries of the abuse of power based on the Bible. The Catholic Church has taken the Bible as an oppressing tool for centuries to discriminate and exclude various groups; it’s been used to justify slavery, predestined women to a second-class status, and condemned homosexuality. This institution was founded for the worship of men and is based on fear and machismo and for the advancement of men. Finally, I find it quite problematic to have faith and believe in an institution like the Catholic Church.

AV: Hmmm…Catholic imagery in colonized lands portraying more suffering and are bloodier than the Catholic imagery in Spain? That’s really interesting. It’s making me think back to this figure of Christ in the Philippines. It’s a Christ that is very dark-skinned kneeling and carrying a cross. Like you, I was also raised in a Catholic community. I’m very critical of it now, but I also still love the spectacle of it. I love the processions and even when Christ and the saints are portrayed as suffering figures, they are decked out in regal outfits with gold-tinted ruffles lining their capes for example. Haute-couture suffering! Those figures, like the Santo Niño, are also very pretty and sometimes they appear androgynous. I responded to the Santo Niño figures in the Philippines as though they were very cute, chubby fairy godmother-like characters. I didn’t really think of them as younger boy versions of the same Jesus Christ that I’d see on the crucifix. This brings me back to the imagery in your work, where you flesh out the implicit or silenced sexuality in these Catholic images. One great example of this is the collage with two figures in flames looking up admiringly at the crucifix while a baby angel hovers above catching the blood that’s squirting from the body of Christ. It’s a ridiculous image to begin with, but then you’ve cut out the crucifix and underneath you glued an image of one guy playing with – presumably – another guy’s ass. What has been the response to your work from institutions that you’ve shown your art to (in applying for residencies or for shows, for example) and from the public?

Sufres Porque Quieres. 4" x 6" collage {2012} Felipe Baeza.

Sufres Porque Quieres. 4″ x 6″ collage {2012} Felipe Baeza.

FB: In my earlier work I was dealing more with religious imagery and also a lot of homoerotic imagery. This was around the same time when I was at Cooper Union. There wasn’t much dialogue during critiques and, at that point in my art practice, dialogue and critique were crucial to my work. I found my time at Cooper a bit frustrating for that reason. I felt that I was expected to make a certain type of work and for them it made sense that I was dealing with identity issues. I was put in this “Latino artist” box. But despite all of the expectations and lack of dialogue, I found a few professors who played an important role in my development as an artist.

In Cooper Union, I came across a repetitive reaction towards my work. I am actually surprised it didn’t happen earlier. In my junior year, I showed some prints during the End of the Year show and someone reported my work to a Catholic organization. From there it blew up. It became a huge ordeal, from people sending me threats to people asking the administration to remove my work.

AV: Wow, it’s terrible that there were organizations not affiliated with the school coming in and policing art being made by its students. But that shouldn’t be surprising because religious institutions have had a lot of influence on what kind of art can be shown.

FB: The administration at the school handled it pretty well and decided to display my work for the duration of the show. For me this was something that I knew I would be confronting with my work. The same situation happened during my thesis show. In that case, the administration wasn’t on my side. I had people calling the school to shut down the show and threatening to protest. I remember that there was also construction happening in the space where I was showing and even the construction workers threatened to walk out if the show was going up, which they did. This was a very dramatic and amusing experience and also proved to me how powerful art can be and how it can affect people in so many ways. The show still went up and, as I expected, it caused an uproar. I am very conscious about how my work can be seen and some earlier pieces can be seen as one-liners and those were the pieces that got attention.

I feel that a lot spaces have an issue with showing my work and it surprises me that even at this moment in time we have to deal with censorship. This, in a way, has made me self-conscious about what I am able to submit when applying for grants or residencies. Most of the time you are dealing with non-profits that depend on donors and I feel that plays a role in what they will show and what they will not show, which may not be a print of a guy with a cross in his anus. So definitely the response from institutions has been mixed and they tend to deal and show only the “safe” pieces.

F is for Fogata. collage with silkscreen and monoprint on varnished paper {2014} Felipe Baeza.

F is for Fogata. collage with silkscreen and monoprint on varnished paper {2014} Felipe Baeza.

AV: You’re a printmaker and, as you said, you began making prints in high school. How do you see the relationship of printmaking to the content of your work?

FB: Yeah, as I mentioned I began experimenting with printmaking back in high school, but it wasn’t until college that I immersed myself in the medium. I was for sure wanting to focus on sculpture and that was what I was primarily doing before college. With this in mind, at Cooper Union I took some sculpture studios courses and I developed such an animosity towards it. A lot of it had to do with the way it was taught and how much bullshit and macho attitude surrounded it.

I remember taking a silkscreen class and that’s where it all began. I feel like printmaking has been seen as inferior practice in the art world and a proletarian tool. In a sense this was what attracted me to the process. I was knowledgeable about its history in social engagement in Mexico and how it was seen as a radical tool for social change. Printmaking made more sense for the type of work I wanted to make, and this not only became clear because of the different processes but also because of the early history of printmaking. Using printmaking, I recreated religious imagery using woodcut and intaglio. I’ve mimicked the same process of documentation through printmaking originally used by the Catholic Church to disseminate their religious ideas. Using these same tools, my work proposed a critique of religious institutions and social control.

Desapareces II. etching with chine-collé {2012} Felipe Baeza.

Desapareces II. etching with chine-collé {2012} Felipe Baeza.

AV: Which artists would you consider as being very influential to you?

FB: I knew this question was going to come up! This is constantly changing and I’ll probably be embarrassed about the artists I was interested in during high school, who were most likely white and male. This has a lot to do with the fact that the representation and exposure of artists of color are minimal. We are under-represented. But there were a few artists whose work spoke to my young queer brown self. I was exposed to mostly to white and male artists working primarily in printmaking until Elizabeth Catlett made an appearance in my high school years. She made a huge impact on me not only because of her work, but because she was a person of color and one of the first artists I came across. What spoke to me about her work was how she depicts the Black experience and how politically charged her work is.

During that same time I came across Kerry James Marshall’s work, which to this day still has an effect on me. Just like Catlett’s, Marshall’s work deals with Black experience and identity. I was probably around fourteen or fifteen when I came across his work and at that time, like many other teenagers, I was dealing with my queerness and my legal status and the experience of feeling invisible and ashamed. I saw those themes in Marshall’s work. I became interested in how he dealt with themes of invisibility and visibility within the Black experience.

Another artist that I also came across at that time and that I consider influential to me has to be Nahum Zenil. Zenil’s work made a great impact on me because he was the first artist that I had encountered whose work deals with queerness and religion very explicitly. I remember printing his images and hiding them in fear that my parents would find them.

There are obviously more artists that influence me but these three were really influential to me at a young age. I think that the works of the current artists that I have been looking at and admiring are completely different from the work I make. I am very fond of socially engaged work and performance art that deal with identity, gender, and race. Artists like Regina José Galindo, Ana Mendieta, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carlos Motta. I’ve also been looking at and admiring the work of younger artists who use collage and printmaking methods in their work such as Wangechi Mutu, Firelei Baez, Yashua Klos, and Tschabalala Self.

Ese de Rojo. monoprint with hand embroidery on paper {2011}  Felipe Baeza.

Ese de Rojo. monoprint with hand embroidery on paper {2011} Felipe Baeza.

AV: What are you currently working on?

FB: Forever figuring it out! I am taking a bit of a hiatus from printmaking, not entirely. I think I’ve gotten too comfortable with the medium and sometimes it’s not a process that makes sense to what I want to work with. I’ve been making collage work for a while now and collages were actually my studies of finished pieces and I rarely showed them. I’ve been working on small collages that have been dealing with the recurring theme of reversal ethnography and hybridity using porn and pre-Columbian imagery. I’m also doing some mixed-media work on paper incorporating printmaking dealing with hybridity and identity inspired by Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands. So I’ll expect you to come over soon once I am ready to show them!

Untitiled (AIDS). monoprint with hand embroidery on paper {2011} Felipe Baeza.

Untitiled (AIDS). monoprint with hand embroidery on paper {2011} Felipe Baeza.

AV: I can’t wait!

Queria Ser Sirena Pero Termino Siendo Pulpo. monoprint with collage {2013} Felipe Baeza.

Queria Ser Sirena Pero Termino Siendo Pulpo. monoprint with collage
{2013} Felipe Baeza.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

FELIPE BAEZA: was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Baeza received his BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. His work has been exhibited in various group shows around the country including New York’s The New School, the International Print Center New York, and Meyerson Hall Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the recipient of the Michael S. Vivo Prize for Drawing and previous residencies at the Lower East Side Printshop and at The Anderson Ranch Art Center.

ALDRIN VALDEZ: is a queer Filipino artist and writer living and working in Brooklyn. They studied at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts and was a 2011-12 Queer/Art/Mentorship fellow.

JESSICA ROBBINS [on] MORIAH ASKENAIZER

Moriah Askenaizer. Photo by James Huang.

Moriah Askenaizer. Photo by James Huang.

{As I try and make things clear, I seem to obscure.

The already problematic context of the artist interview…

What would Moriah want an interview to look like? How will this inform their subject? As an artist do they build one? Don’t we all? How do they choose to display themselves in language? Dress, in description? What would it smell like? Oh, subjectivity! It’s a failure already. This intangibility forces a focus on the mechanisms inherent in the interview, ways of information gathering about a subject and their constructing restraints.

Yet without solution, we submit with a taste for subversion on our tongues. Perhaps the interview itself creates “a space where the problem of identification and its laws, in all their force and impossibility can be experienced,” and maybe even pulled apart (Roland Barthes).}

Jessica Robbins: Tell me about where you grew up?

Moriah Askenaizer: I grew up in a town called Hollis, New Hampshire. It’s in the woods. We had really really cold winters, Yea, small, old, apple town. It smells like apples there right about now.

JR: And then you went to the Cooper Union to study art…

MA: I graduated this year and mama was proud!

JR: Now that you’re done with Cooper what are you doing?

MA: I am working on staying alive, getting a job, and writing a manuscript. I’d like to write 100 pages by at least this time next year. I’m trying to paint too. Little paintings.

Askenaizer-Moriah-4

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

JR: Tell me about what you’ve been writing lately?

MA: Well most of the writing I’ve been doing lately is based off of this passage in Willa Cather’s novel O Pioneers!. It’s a passage where the protagonist Alexandra is lying in bed and she is fucking exhausted. The worst has happened, but it’s a moment, when she… It’s during Sunday. She’s isn’t working and her brother Emil is blacking his boots down in the kitchen and the wheat fields are growing up outside her window. Everything, all of the language up to that point is very matter of fact. And Alexandra is lying down in bed and all of a sudden starts to incant this dream in which an other worldly being comes in and sweeps down and lifts her up and carries her across her fields. The person or being that Alexandra dreams of is too big. They smell like corn fields and are full of light and like in that passage I think there’s a lot of queer potentiality. Alexandra can’t see him but she knows he is a man but unlike any that she has ever met. So what are they? They aren’t anything, maybe they’re everything. But this book, or manuscript at least, that I wanna write is from the perspective of this other worldly creature. Which is weird because… try to even fucking write about something that is basically imperceptible outside of a fictional character’s impressions of a daydream. But it’s interesting because, I think you have to talk about the body in exhaustion. So…

JR: Well that actually leads me to some of the questions I wanted to ask you. What do the characters that you make look like and how do you build them? And also considering pronouns, how do you choose to describe this person or how do they speak? How do you choose to narrate?

Askenaizer-Moriah-9

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

MA: In this passage Willa Cather uses “he” but the characteristics of that “he” imply that this being is beyond any pronoun that can be used to describe them. Sometimes when I sit down to write, it’s the most fucked up challenge, and so I’m trying to just tell myself to write. The reason I want to write this figure into a story is like… All the times I feel depressed, I think about them. A part of me needs this being to be real or a feel-able as active ulterior, just as much as perhaps Alexandra needs it in O Pioneers. But when you’re pulled by different extremities of your feelings it’s hard to will a specific idea or character.

JR: I feel this relates to the way Roland Barthes talks about “love” in A Lover’s Discourse. He seems to compromise with the idea of “love” in a way that feels like a submission or a constant submission. Would your character, similarly need to be contradictory and fragmented?

MA: Absolutely, and it’s cool that you bring up love too. I was reading bits, little bits, of Cruel Optimism and it’s about how optimism is a product of things we desire that are actually horrible for us, and I think about that when I think about exhaustion or disruption or paradoxes. (I am probably misreading or misinterpreting Lauren Berlant’s work but for the purposes of this interview…). This figure to me represents a capital W wanting that is met with something that is not reciprocated or mutually abiding. That is willing and wildly discursive. Fragmented, sure, or paradoxical. But that’s another thing that is hard about writing this; She’s asking this being to carry her in a lot of ways; emotionally and physically. She wants the being to carry the burden of her desire, too. She doesn’t want to want. But what I’m trying to write is a being into being. It feels like trying to reanimate a form of aggressive submission.

Askenaizer-Moriah-10

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

What is exciting to me is that the being possesses all of these characteristics that misalign with human life but within the intelligibility of a body that can lift. The most amazing part to me in the entire passage is not that this being is being dreamed, but when they lift her up! and how the moment of their contact with Alexandra is expressed; I mean, wow! To be touched in the way that your lover or your friends or your family or who ever is most closest to you can never ever touch you. I have a working theory that’s it’s like two interiors touching. And Alexandra’s inner life, from what I read, is fortified by constant resistance as well as an expressed inability (or fuck no!) to abide female gender expectations. So two interiors touching that are beside themselves in resistance. I think its trans-historical too (I am animating this figure now! This figure persuades me to miss its touches from decades away).

Askenaizer-Moriah-7

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

JR: Do you think the paintings and the writing talk to each other?

MA: Well the paintings I made with Alex for the exhibition If Less Than a Boy Were Fruit were secretly really about suicide, fatigue and exhaustion. Everyone thought they were about theater or performance or coyness or artifice. Which, they were, too. I suppose. But I mostly remember during that time not feeling like I could ever be a painter and then making paintings. I think those paintings and the character I want to write about were about negation in a similar way. Out of all circumstances that said no, something happened. Something keeps happening. I wanted to die but I am still here! That’s how I felt a lot when I was making those paintings. It was like everything I learned or talked about in my classes, in articles I read, was telling me that the ideas I was having about painting as a queer, dog, genderqueer thing, were constituted as not being valuable by “the painting canon.” Or those parts of me would only be valuable in really restricted fields that announced a “defect in painting”, that mouthed allegiance to “performance”, or were only appreciated in utter co-option. I just didn’t feel like I fit or that I could muster enough emotional strength to give a shit, but I kept making paintings. I align that with a *feeling* of my queerness and being inaugurated as a living being through the violent terms of Girl Lady Boy, whatever. It’s like most everywhere you’re denied. No, you’re not a body, you’re not human, no, no. And I think this fantasy character too comes out of the “no” or the flat, open landscape of Nebraska (where the novel is set), out of the cold winter, and the death, and perhaps too out of the “no” of human relatedness.

Askenaizer-Moriah-3

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

I think Willa Cather’s work holds a lot of sentimental resonance from me too, because I grew up in a rural area. I was pretty isolated and alone.

JR: Can you tell me more about where you think this violence comes from?

MA: Negligence, negligence that comes from progress, stasis, sublimated rage, love of not being, abuse, open space, winter.

JR: This stance of negligence in the face of progress which you tied to this violence, seems to relate very much to your paintings from your show, If Less Than A Boy Were Fruit with Alex Velozo?

Askenaizer-Moriah-6

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

MA: I think those are asshole paintings. Like I felt when I was painting that I was the ass that wouldn’t move with a carrot dangling in front of my face. I also felt like I was a self-condemning shithead for not moving. The carrot might have been “good, sensitive painting” or “passing”. I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to and because I didn’t want to, I couldn’t, and I think Alexandra and the daydreamed being don’t do what they ought to do.  Not happily though, or that’s the way Willa Cather writes it, I think. Cather writes that Alexandra punishes herself for her fantasies. The novel doesn’t glamorize or make that whole process of fantasy, punishment, and being a homesteader seem beautiful or easy or delusional or unbound, but it definitely doesn’t account fully for Alexandra’s fantasy figure. It feels like the whole brief scenario falls out of the sky. Its huge and impossibly opaque and lucid. It not a moment that reveals her weakness, that’s the spirit of her character and the character that Willa Cather writes and wills, taking priority of her bodies.

JR: It seems that that imagination comes from having a need to escape, from this exhaustion.

Askenaizer-Moriah-2

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

MA: Its escape but it’s also a failed escape. The figure that she imagines, and I guess, when I feel like I am painting into the magic window, I make these dumb ass works. I think about how there isn’t a trap door out of what is complicated or what you love or what hurts you. You’re in the thick of it. I think thats the way that the figure comes about in Willa Cather’s text. Alexandra is in the thick of it, and she is going to be in thick of it until she is cold and dead in the ground. But there is something about that too. She can’t actually escape. There is a desire to do that but you’re never going to escape. I think there is actually something exciting about knowing that there is no escape, but the desire to escape is still present.

It’s a lot about the rigors involved in maintaining the unmaintainable. Or not being able to name, or maintain the unnamable and committing oneself to those presences. And not falling for something thats easy, like something that only half describes itself and just goes on with its stupid little life.

Askenaizer-Moriah-1

Courtesy of Moriah Askenaizer.

JR: To always be at odds with oneself…

MA: Yea, it’s very hard. This paradox feels imminent and always.

*If Less Than A Boy Were Fruit is a title we adapted from a poem by poet Ari Banias entitled Solve for X.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JESSICA ROBBINS: was born in 1988 and raised in Southern Virginia. After attending the Virginia Military Institute for two years she moved to New York City in 2007.  She attended Parsons’ the New School before transferring to The Cooper Union. She graduated in may of 2014 with a bachelors in fine arts. She is currently living and working in Brooklyn.

MORIAH ASKENAIZER: Moriah is a painter, writer, and occasional drag prince and dog from New Hampshire. They hold a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art and are currently working on writing a manuscript and becoming potty-trained.

ELAINE STOCKI [on] KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE

fruit_script(jaune_brillant)_72x60

Jaune Brillant. 72″x60″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

{Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline’s most recent body of work uses a random number generator app to instigate the painting process.  The work was recently shown at ACTUAL Gallery in Winnipeg, Canada.}

Elaine Stocki:  Why the random number generator?

Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline: Using the random number generator was just a pragmatic solution to the problem of how to motivate the painting process. Early on in the trajectory of this work I began by using a set of cards, but as the parameters of the work became more complex, it just became impractical. So I numbered all the variables that go into making the paintings and use the number generator to select the moves that happen.

For me the making of the paintings is about searching through the material space of possibilities presented by the process, so the randomness of the number generator is as good a criteria as any really.  The randomness is just a catalyst for the process that allows things to happen in the work.  The number generator is just the spark that sets the other causal chains of the process into motion.     

The work that I’ve done since around 2011 has all come out of the use of a generative system of stencils.  The stencils more or less function as a shabby information relaying mechanism in the work.  They allow me to transcribe elements from one painting and then translate them onto the subsequent paintings.

One of the earlier stencil sets was a group of lines based on marks from one of the paintings.  I transcribed the elements of this gesture into sections that could be fit together end to end like plumbing or the tracks in a toy train set.  The problem of how to fit the pieces together became apparent, so I numbered all the ends, wrote the numbers on bits of paper, and then more or less pulled them out of a hat.

Immediately this altered my relationship to the work. Rather than just being an inert tool, the stencils had their own strange behavior.  This completely changed how I would approach making the paintings. Over the past few years I’ve just extended this situation out into almost every aspect of the making of the work so that everything more or less just follows sets of scripted protocols.  My painting process became some sort of golemed-doppelganger of itself and my position in the making of the work has been demoted to something more like an attendant rather than an author.

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Soft Object. 60″x48″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you think that your self inflicted demotion to attendant in the art making process has any philosophical basis or precedent?

KKG: Early on in the development of the work there were two people that influenced my thinking about the work quite a bit.  Firstly, Manuel De Landa’s work relating to the inherent morphogenetic capacities of the material world. What is most striking to me about De Landa’s work is the way he points to the material world as a dynamic space of self-organizing systems and processes that are perpetually generating new forms and assemblages between forms via their interactions.  His work outlines a very interesting re-formulation of materialist philosophy.

Secondly, Andrew Pickering’s books The Mangle of Practice and The Cybernetic Brain, were both quite important to me.  In these books Pickering foregrounds a much more performative understanding and way of interacting with the world, which he contrasts against a more dominant representational model of understanding the world.

In relation to my self imposed demotion within the making of the work, what both Pickering and De Landa point towards is a much more symmetrical relationship between human and non-human agents in the world; what could be called a flat ontology. Subjects and objects are seen as occupying the world equally, exerting reciprocal formative pressures on each other. Both also point to the world as a material process that is perpetually unfolding itself in novel ways. For me, their work proposes a displacement of the habitual notions of artistic agency in relation to making work. It shifts the emphasis towards operating more at the level of designing parameters for processes or situations where the inherent creative capacities of the world can to play themselves out. This creates a situation where both artist and the work shape each other in what Pickering would call a “reciprocal dance of agencies”.  This also be extends out into how the larger context of the work’s production bears on what is produced and how it is produced.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you have full faith in the process, or does your emotional or aesthetic opinion ever intervene?

KKG: I have no faith in the process.  It’s not really an issue of faith.  The process is a way to proceed in a situation of non-faith.

The whole process is built around my emotions and aesthetic opinions in that the process takes the habitual ways I would make a painting and then systematizes them.  But in doing so it also makes those biases alien to themselves by re-organizing them.  The process becomes dumb to itself, and so, it itself becomes an intervention into the pre-existing system that is my emotions and aesthetic opinions.

ES: Would someone who was watching your process note certain “cheats”?

KKG: Yes.

ES: Does this become problematic to you?

KKG: I think what I’m doing is making the whole enterprise of making a painting problematic for myself.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: How does the sculpture you made for your show relate to this? There are odds and sods thrown in there. I noticed half of a wiener dog salt and pepper shaker. Are these everyday objects meant to perform with the pieces of sculpture in a sort of flat ontology that you describe? Is that why you put them in there?

KKG: I suppose if you took the idea of a flat ontology seriously everything would perform together within that ontology.  But the work is not meant to be an illustration of that idea.  Wouldn’t the work just be terrible if it did that? I mean, there may not be much of a valuable distinction between a work of art and a Dachshund salt and pepper shaker, other than value itself, but that’s not really why I put it there. Although, I feel like your interest in the salt and pepper shaker is by virtue of the fact that you gave it to me.

The objects in the sculpture are really just the banal stuff that was around me that met the criteria of the sculpture. But as such, the objects are an extension of my subjectivity in that together they form what Timothy Morton would call a hyperobject. They are a kind of subjective Katamari ball. They are just things that I have made, used, had given to me, put on, in and out of my body, looked at on the internet, etc.

Similar to the way my painting process is re-organized through the systematizing of that process, the objects in the sculpture are also re-organized and re-distributed through the system of the sculpture. The tiles used in the sculpture basically just amount to a bad minimalist sculpture tarted up with a funky paint job and arranged using a drunk-walk algorithm. By placing the objects in the sculpture the relationships between the objects are redefined by the program of the sculpture. But part of what interests me about this systematizing of the work is the way it mimics the cybernetic/algorithmic systems that basically re-organize and re-distribute subjectives in contemporary culture.

I think both DeLanda and Pickering are great in showing the productive virtues of these types of systems, but I feel like the show also comes with a fairly ambivalent back hand. Part of what was going through my mind during the making of the show were the resonances of recently re-reading Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control. That essay was written in like 1992 but it couldn’t be more important for today’s culture. Its just jarring really. Plus, it has the great line: {Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.}    

ES: Wait – how in the first place did the paintings turn into 3-D? Does that relate to de Landa and Pickering as well?

KKG: I guess you are referring to the tiles, but in the end I really feel like the whole show ends up being the sculpture.  Putting the tiles and wall paintings in the space was sort of a catalyst for how the rest of the elements would be organized.  So the limits of the sculpture are quite fuzzy. Its not clear to me where it really starts or ends.  It absorbs the accoutrement of a contemporary art exhibition into itself and also points to things well outside the show.  So there are also the paintings, QR codes that lead to websites, one of which shows a drawing hanging in the basement of the gallery, the hand bills, the artist’s statement, my blog, etc. Beyond that I included an image of a Heineken can found at the bottom of the Whittard ocean canyon, basically one of the deepest parts of the Atlantic.  I consider that can as part of the sculpture.  Not the image, but the can itself.  I’ve appropriated it, wherever it is. And finally, the images of the fruit supposedly mutated by Fukushima radiation. Given that there are detectable amounts of Fukushima radiation in Manitoba it only seemed right to have the mess of Fukushima as part of the sculpture, since it has already integrated its caesium particles into the work anyways.

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Martha. 14″x17″, pen on paper {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: The barcode that scans to an image of the drawn bird in the basement in the gallery is my favourite idea in the show. I love how it works with the rest of the work. Can you talk a little bit about why a bird, and why the basement?

KKG: The image of the bird is an image of Martha the last Passenger Pigeon, who died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  She was stuffed and ended up in the Smithsonian.  I guess I really just made the drawing in lieu of being able to actually acquire Martha.

Again, I think a lot of the things in the work have a relationship to the way subjectivities are sort of being recomposed at present.  The modern individual has been replaced by a networked “dividual” able to be broken up into information of various kinds.  At the same time you have the tension between individuals and multitudes.  The tension between one person in relation to, for instance, the geologically scaled biomass of the anthropos.  You sort of have this situation of the one as many, and also, the one and the many.

For me Martha’s story seems to head in an opposite direction. Passenger Pigeons flew around in flocks of billions.  They would basically black out the sky like some sort of sentient meteorological event.  So its quite staggering to see something like that reduced to one individual completely severed from their relevant networks.  Placing the drawing in the basement seemed suitable to this situation.

Beyond that I think that only being able to see the work by linking to it via the QR, through a smart phone, over the internet, allowed for another means of renegotiating the space of the gallery.  It also holds the drawing close and at a distance simultaneously.  You can understand where it is but in a sense have to project yourself into that space. I think it generates quite an odd experience of a work of art, but also one that is completely familiar to how we consume art now.

ES: You used to do a lot of figurative work. Would you ever conceive of this process using representational repeating patterns? Is that idea off putting to you?

KKG: One big influence on the work was Jeff Funnell’s cat paintings which are more or less that.

The new paintings came directly out of my earlier representational paintings.  In a lot of ways those earlier works were more or less what you are describing.  They were basically made by layering segments of found images.  But as I went forward it was really the structural and material aspects of the painting that were interesting to me, so it was enough to use a repertoire of visual information collected from the paintings themselves. I guess I’m more interested in what the painting is and what it does rather than its ability to reference something in that way.

That being said there were plenty of images in the show. I’m not opposed to representation. The supposed dichotomy between representation and abstraction has always been a false one. I think this notion in modern painting often obscures what paintings are and what they are doing.

ES: Last Question: What does the title of the show, Fruit On Black mean?

KKG: It means Fruit on Black.  But stroked out.

The title of the show and most of the titles for the paintings came out of another process I’ve been using.  I drop texts related to my work into a William S.Burroughs style text cut-up app and then pick out the interesting word combinations. That was one of the phrases that popped out.  It fit the show and I liked the image that it conjured.  For me the title is again just another piece in the show.  I liked the idea that people would read it and then carry the image it provoked for them through the show.  /Its more like a micro-poem.  But it also has a performative drawing aspect through the striking out of the text.

The strikeout aspect was also interesting to me in that these types of fonts have been created in order to make texts illegible to computers trained to read through text on the internet.  Actually getting the title of the show to appear on the internet has proven to be quite a difficult thing.  Even getting it on the handbill properly was quite hard. (Apparently it doesn’t work in my email either.) So I like that aspect of it also.  It ends up being a kind of delinquent text that sort of falls in and out of the symbolic order.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ELAINE STOCKI: Elaine Stocki is a Canadian artist who works in Photography. She recently had a show at Thomas Erben Gallery in New York.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist who lives and works in Winnipeg. He recently had a show at ACTUAL in Winnipeg. 

THE PRODUCT DIVISION [on] LARA NICKEL

QUARTER HORSE. 78 x 110”, oil on canvas, IN PROGRESS. Lara Nickel.

QUARTER HORSE. 78 x 110”, oil on canvas, IN PROGRESS. Lara Nickel.

The Product Division wrote to Lara Nickel while she was traveling across Europe and asked her a few questions about her and her unusual approach to artistic practice. These are her responses.

LN: First, I think it is important to explain that I paint life-size oil paintings of an entire plant, animal or object on stretched canvas. They are all realistic, have white backgrounds and are displayed much the way the subject of the painting would be in reality (standing on the ground, up high, behind something, etc.).

As a result of these tactics, the subject of the painting is pushed forward into the room, making the room itself the setting of the painting and making the painted image of the subject appear as if it is actually in the room with the viewer. This makes the painting object-like. This idea of painting-as-object is in some ways similar to works by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, or Jo Baer. However, I am interested in how a painting can act like an object yet still have a representational subject matter.

tPD: Why are you drawn to the natural world (plants, animals) to explore painting-as-object?

LN: Painting-as-object is a complicated and layered idea and I do not want to distract from that idea by using a too loaded subject (such as anything that has to do with humans: politics, race, gender, religion, emotions).

I often paint plants and animals because they are more anonymous and, therefore, more versatile and playful than other subjects. This is not to say that we do not have certain connotations about plants and animals – some are exotic, endangered, ugly, domestic, or majestic; some have their own history within an art context. However these things either add to or are flexible enough to allow room for my other interests in art which revolve around how to make painting behave more like an object.

CANDELABRA CACTUS. 84 x 30”, oil on canvas & GIANT WHITE BIRD OF PARADISE. 96 x 82”, oil on canvas {3013-2014} Lara Nickel.

CANDELABRA CACTUS. 84 x 30”, oil on canvas & GIANT WHITE BIRD OF PARADISE. 96 x 82”, oil on canvas {3013-2014} Lara Nickel.

An example is my recent series of Plant paintings. As plants are naturally very sculptural I decided to emphasize that quality by displaying the paintings in a more three Dimensional way – jutting out from the wall, obliterating a corner, one painting too close to another – the way plants behave in real outdoor/indoor spaces.

GIANT PRICKLY PEAR. 79 x 50”, oil on canvas & BLUE MYRTLE CACTUS. 92 x 64”, oil on canvas & GIANT PRICKLY PEAR. 87 x 75”, oil on canvas {2013} Lara Nickel.

GIANT PRICKLY PEAR. 79 x 50”, oil on canvas & BLUE MYRTLE CACTUS. 92 x 64”, oil on canvas & GIANT PRICKLY PEAR.
87 x 75”, oil on canvas {2013} Lara Nickel.

Or,  Zebra + Straw which involves three separate paintings: the zebra is hung on the floor, flat against the wall, with two paintings of straw displayed flat on the ground in front of the zebra’s face. The three paintings interact with each other on various viewing surfaces and viewing angles. The way these paintings are displayed affects where and what the actual focal point of a “traditional” painting is (“traditional” meaning stretched canvas, rather than murals/cutouts).

ZEBRA + STRAW, (Zebra) 56 x 80”; (Straw #1) 20 x 11.5”; (Straw #2) 9 x 16”, oil on canvas {2012} Lara Nickel.

ZEBRA + STRAW, (Zebra) 56 x 80”; (Straw #1) 20 x 11.5”; (Straw #2) 9 x 16”, oil on canvas {2012} Lara Nickel.

tPD: Are the subjects in your paintings always to-scale?

LN: Yes, my paintings and drawings are always to-scale and anatomically correct. I am very careful about measuring and researching my subject before I start painting it. This is an important aspect to my work as I am working between the traditions of illusionistic painting and painting-as-object. The fact that my paintings are realistic and life-size enhances the idea of illusion (pictorial space) and at the same time enhances the idea that this is a real thing which exists in real space and time (physical space).

tPD: Do you consider yourself first and foremost a painter?

LN: I consider myself a painter, though I would use the phrase “installation-based painter.” Half of the meaning of my paintings comes from the way they are installed and interact with a space. Without this installation side to my work my paintings would be boring – they would become simply portraits of animals and plants. I do not consider myself an installation artist however, as I am working to change the way people interact specifically with painting. I want people to bend over a painting, to search for it, to look around a space, to perhaps not find a painting but to know it is there somewhere. Even if it is subtle, I want my paintings to activate the spaces they are in – to make the walls and floor and ceiling play an active role in the viewer’s experience. I am trying to keep painting from becoming simply decoration and the wall simply a place to decorate.

FISH. various sizes, watercolor on paper inside plastic pet store bags {2010-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

FISH. various sizes, watercolor on paper inside plastic pet store bags {2010-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

tPD: Why did you choose painting as a medium vs. photography or sculpture?

LN: I am not drawn to the process of painting. Painting is slow and tedious and I am just like anybody else – I want instant gratification. In this sense photography seems like heaven (product-wise as least)! But the more I learned about Art History and Art Theory the more I wanted to be a painter. Painting has a lengthy and established history, full of expectations about how and where and what a painting should display. Rather than contradict these inherited rules, I am interested in the ways in which I can play with these rules and highlight the aspects of painting which are largely overlooked and yet have existed for hundreds of years.

So why am I trying to make painting object-like, why don’t I just make a sculpture?

A painting can be both an object and a window into another world; a sculpture can only be an object. When painting addresses the fact that it is three Dimensional - when it addresses its own materiality - it has the ability to exist in our world while existing in its own. This is a powerful and awkward quality which I still do not fully understand. Painting has so much unexplored potential and that alone makes the tediousness of creating it worth it!

DUST IN A CORNER (various locations). 2 x 2”, oil on canvas {2008-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

DUST IN A CORNER (various locations). 2 x 2”, oil on canvas {2008-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

tPD: As a culture of materialism we seem to be obsessed with representation and authenticity, would you agree?

LN: We are obsessed with creating art, whatever form/style it may be, to represent our ideas and emotions. One of the reasons we even make art is in an attempt to make our abstract ideas and emotions into something tangible – to try to make a way for ourselves to be conceptually and physically closer to them. In this sense all art is representational and is very important to us as a culture.

I think we are obsessed with wanting things to be authentic and believing something is authentic when it may not be. We are trying to make things more interesting than they actually are, especially in the art world. Most “true” and “original” ideas take a lot of time to find and then take a lot of time to develop and refine – and then it takes a lot of time to articulate this authentic idea in an authentic and relevant way. Most of us are not willing to wait, to do the work, to spend the time, we are lazy and ultimately afraid to fail. But the real interesting artists have taken their whole lifetime building and rebuilding off of just a couple core, authentic ideas. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

As far as my own art is concerned, I hope I am allowed the time to build something authentic and which represents my ideas accurately. I hope I can build a place for myself in the history of art – something that will survive history. I hope I can look back on what I’ve made and say, “I built that pyramid”, “that is my Rome” – and I hope that feeling will beat any kind of feeling of instant gratification. I hope I won’t be afraid to work like a dog for this.

LUSITANO. 80 x 99”, oil on canvas, IN PROGRESS. Lara Nickel.

LUSITANO. 80 x 99”, oil on canvas, IN PROGRESS. Lara Nickel.

tPD: Have you faced any challenges in presenting the work in the unconventional way you’d like to? Does painting still carry a lot of traditional expectations?

LN: There have been several artists in the last 150 years who have offered powerful alternatives to the way we understand and interact with painting, but these artists were/are breaking away from the tradition, not trying to destroy it. Briefly, this tradition is that painting should be hung flat on the wall at eye-level, be well lit, framed, act as a window into another world or have some sort of transcendent/transportive quality, and should be preserved because it is precious. Yes, these expectations are alive and well and live in a fortress!

Many people like my paintings on a basic level – they are seduced by their realism, by their accuracy. They may not understand immediately why I insist on presenting them in an unconventional way (flat on the ground, partially or completely hidden, perpendicular to a wall), and therefore they resist that mode of display. If something is well made why would I want to complicate the way you view it? Isn’t the point of visual art to see it and to see it clearly? Many people want my work to be decorative, they want my work to be hung over a couch, to be lifted up off the ground, to be framed, to be better protected from the daily things in life (such as sweeping, children, and pets).

JEWELRY. various sizes, watercolor + ink on paper with metal studs {2012-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

JEWELRY. various sizes, watercolor + ink on paper with metal studs {2012-ongoing} Lara Nickel.

But my work is not decorative, it may be beautiful, but it is not decorative – and that is where people get confused.

COYOTE. 35 x 47”, oil on canvas {2011} Lara Nickel.

COYOTE. 35 x 47”, oil on canvas {2011} Lara Nickel.

I am making paintings which reference how we have interacted with art throughout history, and that is largely through the setting of the museum. The museum has taught us how to look at art, how to display, preserve and explain art. This is the historical “home” of art and it is this type of setting where my painting works at its best (as this is where the tradition of painting thrives and that is what my painting references). The gallery is a misleading place, its facade is the image of a museum (a clean, neutral space), but ultimately the point is to sell the work and the buyer will take the work home (which is often not a a clean and neutral space). This makes my work difficult from a sales point of view but I’m not willing to compromise my concepts. You have to take responsibility for your work, for what you put out into the world, and that means following through with an idea even if you are met with doubt and resistance from others.

TIGER + WEEDS. (Bengal Tiger). 41 x 64”; (Yellow Alfalfa Sprout) 2 x 2”, oil on canvas  {2007} Lara Nickel.

TIGER + WEEDS. (Bengal Tiger). 41 x 64”; (Yellow Alfalfa Sprout) 2 x 2”, oil on canvas {2007} Lara Nickel.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

THE PRODUCT DIVISION: is a working collaborative of conceptual artists Red Cell & JC Gonzo, creating multidisciplinary works in Video Art, Performance Art, New Media, Music, Installation, Site Specific, Futuristic/Primitive Arts, Writing and Photography. They are currently living and working abroad.

LARA NICKEL: When she is not traveling, Lara lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA). She received her BFA from College of Santa Fe, NM, USA in 2007. She has previously been featured as a Flash Fiction contributor in this publication.

 

ERIC GARDUÑO [on] JUSTIN FISET

ERIC GARDUÑO: How did you first get into photography?

JUSTIN FISET: My mom was into photography, we had a darkroom in our basement, she taught me how to use a camera and to print when I was around 9 or 10 and that was that.

EG: How would you describe your personal aesthetic, both in terms of your work but also your style, i.e. Horn Rim glasses, vintage Mercedes Benz wagons, Scotch and of course…The Beard. Do the two influence each other? (your work and your style, not scotch and beard)

JF: I don’t know. All the things you mentioned are founded in a sort of practicality, keeping things simple, finding the default setting, or at least that’s how I think about it. The old wagon is a cheap, practical and reliable car that I can (sort of) work on; I don’t like to shave and have excellent beard genes; old things, like the glasses, are just what they are, or rather they look like what they are, if that makes any sense. It’s bourbon more than scotch, and that just tastes good.  Does that relate to the work? Well, I like to keep things simple in general, and opt for a practical approach when I’m making something, so maybe a little.

WLA0271. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2011} Eric Garduño.

WLA0271. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2011} Justin Fiset.

EG: Let’s talk about how your photographs come into being. Do you carry a camera at all times waiting to capture a fleeting moment or do you embark on occasional expeditions in search of opportune subjects?

JF: It started with (and continues to be) regular outings. I had moved to Los Angeles a year or two before and was still settling in. I hadn’t really worked on art in any consistent way since before I moved and was looking for a way to start. Carrying a camera around had never really been how I worked, I would usually have an idea and deal with in a studio or on a computer but that wasn’t really working for me, for whatever reason. I knew I wanted to make images and that the subject matter wasn’t really important, so I started by walking out my front door. I walked all over the neighborhood, and other neighborhoods, and through alleyways and parks and tried not to think too much about what I was doing. After a while, longer than I would have thought, I started getting something that worked.

WLA0273. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2012} Eric Garduño.

WLA0273. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2012} Justin Fiset.

EG: How do you know when you find something you want to shoot?

JF: I don’t, until I do. It’s not all that easy for me to articulate what I’m looking for or what I see in the images, but it has to do with seeing a convergence of elements that manifest in a way that, to my eye at least, elevates itself just beyond everything around it; a frame that’s stranger and realer than what’s outside of it. That last sentence makes me cringe but I’m leaving it because it’s pretty close.

EG: I’m deeply struck by the color in your photographs and their relationship to the whole composition. Can you describe the process of composing an image in terms of its logic of color?

JF: The color is really important, the color of the things but also the color of the light. Probably more than anything else, what dictates when I make an exposure is color, and that might shed a little light on the last question, because the images aren’t really of things, if that makes sense. I’m not trying to tell you anything about alleys or walls, it’s color and light. But I’m not sure I can describe the process. It’s the recognition of whatever internal logic of color that comes across that’s guiding the thing, when I’m composing the frame, or rather, when I see something I usually move pretty slowly to actually take a picture. I stare a lot, step back, walk around and just look to make that the thing I’m seeing or responding to is actually what I’m seeing. I try to make sure that I’m clear on the logic of what I’m seeing so that when I actually make the exposure all of the active elements are in the frame. This usually means I take a few steps back. Well, ok, that’s actually a pretty good description.

WLA0201. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2012} Eric Garduño.

WLA0201. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2012} Justin Fiset.

EG: Do you think color can be humorous? Is humor a part of your practice?

JF: Sure. There’s stuff in there that I think is funny. The best pictures usually have me laughing to myself a little before I make an exposure, but I also spend a lot of time alone. Humor’s tough, I think I’m funny personally/socially, I like making other people laugh and I like comedy a lot, and occasionally I see humor in art that works and I really, really like it when it does, but a lot of the time (and this may be specific to photography) it’s an easy out for everyone, but mostly the viewer. They see an image, they get the joke, the interaction is done. It’s difficult with a still image to be funny and not have it be a one-liner. If there is humor in my images I hope it’s on the absurd end of the spectrum.

WLA0160. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2010} Eric Garduno.

WLA0160. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2010} Justin Fiset.

EG: To what extent are your images produced or staged? Do you move objects around, use lighting tricks or post-production tools?

JF: They’re not. I don’t move anything around, or I don’t think I have, and it’s all natural/available light. Everything goes through Photoshop, the editing is usually pretty light, though. After the picture is taken whatever editing I do is usually just in service of a better print and to bring the image inline with what I recall. The relationship to reality isn’t all that important to me, but it’s usually pretty close. If I thought it would make better images I would arrange things, but I don’t think I could do any better than what I find.

WLA0141. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2010} Eric Garduño.

WLA0141. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2010} Justin Fiset.

EG: Has photography ever gotten you into trouble or led you on any noteworthy adventures?

JF: When I’ve actually been on something like an adventure, photography isn’t something I’m very concerned with. Photographs just end up being a deflated version of what you thought you saw or what happened, or it takes you out of whatever is happening in order to make a better picture. It’s much more work than you would think to make things appear as they are, and a lot the time it isn’t worth the trouble.

WLA0197. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2011} Eric Garduño.

WLA0197. 30 x 24 inches Archival pigment print {2011} Justin Fiset.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ERIC GARDUÑO (USA, Santa Fe): Eric Amabe Garduño was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico the year that E.T. premiered. He completed an MFA at Yale around the time Justin Timberlake attempted to bring Sexyback. He was the storyboard artist for the pilot of Breaking Bad, and has exhibited artwork nationally and internationally. He’s taught at several colleges. He drinks Whiskey and Gin (not together) and is currently the director of the foremost Pre-Columbian antiquities gallery in the United States.

JUSTIN FISET USA, Los Angeles): Justin Fiset was born in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up in West Virginia and New Mexico.  He studied photography at the University of New Mexico. Since graduating in 2003 has been struck by lightning and has looked at more photographs than you ever will. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he manages one of the most significant private collections of photographs in the world.  His work has been published internationally, most recently in VIA Publication (issue #2), shown throughout the country, and is held in several private collections.

STERLING ALLEN [on] CODY LEDVINA

Sterling Allen: So I guess I’ll ask you some questions and let you answer.  I won’t really be asking these long beautifully worded things.  I’m just interested in some of the moments I see reoccurring in your work and I guess also the general unease I feel when I look at most of it.  For me, it (your work in general) has this really repulsive sort of confrontational aspect of bad taste and ugliness that actually is able to win me over almost every time. This feeling that I can’t even really describe runs throughout the work and includes the surfaces, the marks, the materials and the installation of the works.

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Studio Shot {Early 2014} Cody Ledvina.

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Drawings. shitty ink pens, 11″ x 14” {2014} Cody Ledvina.

There’s an excess happening in terms of mark making and touch.  It’s also present in the variety of materials you use within a piece (save the newer mostly pen and ink drawings). The DVDs and cut digital prints (at least they appear digital) on the surfaces of the paintings for example are totally puzzling.  There’s a fragility and disregard for the sort of archival obsession that some artists let run their practices in those choices.

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Pregnant Dog Painting (detail). paper and DVD cover, 8ft long {2013} Cody Ledvina.

I am totally grossed out by the super sculptural parts of some of your paintings, especially those that contain a figure, but again feel like they are so memorable and captivating.  Can you talk a little about texture, mark making, and materials?

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Pregnant Woman Painting. wood, cloth, latex paint, 24″ x 84” {2013} Cody Ledvina.

Cody Ledvina: I’m honored in regards to what you are seeing in the work. My experience with “realness” not just in object making but in life always have elements of disgust. When I see complete control in anything non-practical I might admire it for a second, but quickly loose interest. The issue of basic formal issues in the textures, mark making, and materials comes from the same place. If I feel content with the initial decision to use a particular strategy, I immediately abandon it for something that doesn’t quite sit right. It takes time for it to settle in and in some cases I’ll look back and think the decision I made in a particular object is too quiet. If I’m feeling awkward about it, I know others will too as I’m incredibly self conscious.

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Bird Painting. paper, acrylic, DVD covers, 45″ x 60” {2013} Cody Ledvina.

SA: I’d also like to better understand your relationship to Alex Grey.  Beyond recognizing his “style” for lack of a better word in some of your work, I can’t say I know much about him. He seems like someone that most people write off as a serious artist (and maybe you too) but I could almost guess that you might sincerely be really into him.  I’m not sure what to think. Maybe it also has to do with your relationship to folk or outsider art?

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Broken Arm Babe. graphite on paper, 38″ x 50” {2010} Cody Ledvina.

CL: I’m more interested in the world that Alex Grey inhabits. The one of ultimate answers. I’m really into the way he uses the entire picture plane to illustrate how important EVERYTHING is. It may feel at times I’m making fun of it, but I like it in a theatrical way. His work and other psychedelic/universal truth imagery are just fun to look at in the end.

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Drawing Series Drawing. pen on paper, 11″ x 14” {2014} Cody Ledvina.

SA: I’ve focused mostly so far on paintings and drawings, but I know that you make video and performance as well.  Would you care to discuss how and if those ways of working cross over and vice versa to your paintings/drawings/sculpture?

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Dr. Kavorkian Painting. acrylic, clay, mate tea, 20″ x 26” {2014} Cody Ledvina.

CL: I learned five functions in Final Cut Pro and decided to use those to work out ideas that wouldn’t work in any other way. It started with just turning on the camera and realizing what most people feel, as soon as you press record you forget who you are. This doesn’t happen in my studio when making a drawing. So I went through some time figuring out how to make anything interesting through video. Hell, I’m not quite sure I have yet. The format is too big for me to understand completely. I don’t really watch art films or any films for that matter. I guess I could just summarize this whole paragraph and interview with ‘I have no clue what I’m doing, I just hope I can look at it in 5 years and not be embarrassed’

SA: Finally, I can’t really feel satisfied until I ask you about how spirituality plays a role in what you do.  Even formally, there’s something about the symmetrical and radial compositional devices in your work that feels sacred or holy.  Maybe it’s just a sense of energy?

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Crawdad Ledvina (Installation Shot, Okay Mountain, Austin) {2010} Cody Ledvina.

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Drawing Series Drawing. ink on paper, 11″ x 14” {2014} Cody Ledvina.

CL: As aloof as I may have come across about the underlying and surface meaning of what I do, there is a real struggle with my connection to living. I’m pretty sure this is the feeling for anyone who hasn’t accepted a universal truth about life. But what the recent work especially is attempting to capture is just how present and lost I am. That complete confusion always packs energy. It also leads me to almost every decision I make as an artist.

SA: Lastly, I wanted to see if you had anything to say about being an artist in Houston and how that has shaped your practice.  You’ve been super active in Houston for as long as I’ve known you as an artist and as an organizer.  I know you just recently re-located to London (UK) and I wonder how it’s been so far?

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Me as a Woman Giving Birth Under and Awning. paper, acrylic, oil pastel on plastic liner {2013} Cody Ledvina.

CL: I’ve been in London for nearly three weeks so I can’t say too much about the community here, except everyone so far has been very kind and accommodating. There is definitely a lot of activity here, I just hope it’ll be the right kind. The more I think about Houston the more I realize just how powerful a place it is. Artists thrive in the cradle of blue/brown collar communities. Houston has a shit ton of those, and this leads to tremendous amount of opportunities. I was able to work with so many people, and it took so little money to make such an immediate impact. The kinds of work that is happening there is equally as interesting as anything I’ve seen on the INTERNET. I love that city. Yao Ming.

SA: Thanks Cody!

CL: Thank you man!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Sterling Allen: Allen received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. In 2006, together with eight other Austin artists he founded and currently co-directs Okay Mountain. As a solo artist and in collaboration with Okay Mountain, he has exhibited and created numerous projects at venues throughout the United States and received several residencies including the Artpace International Artist-In-Residence Program in San Antonio, Texas. He recently completed an MFA in Sculpture at the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College.

Cody Ledvina: Ledvina received his Masters of Fine Art from the University of Houston in 2009. He has shown his paintings in Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Baltimore, and New York. He currently lives and works in London, UK.

THE PIZZA [on] GUY LOCHHEAD

The Pizza: What is THE LIST and how did it come about?

Guy Lochhead: Whenever I hear about something interesting, I write it down to find out more about later (I think everyone does this). In my final year at Dartington College of Arts, I collated all those scraps of paper, napkins etc. into a spreadsheet because I wanted to see all those items alphabetised. I then spent my last project there looking up randomly-selected items off that list, with a view to filling the mise-en-scene of a children’s TV programme with objects referencing the most inspiring things I found out about. Although I no longer have that ambition, the list remains (now 12,573 things long, from 100 Diagrams That Changed The World to Zvi Hirsch Szylis) and I look things up off it on the last Sunday of every month, evaluating whether or not to include them in an imaginary sort of library called the British Whybrary. The knowledge I get from that research informs everything I do, and I also still hope that one day that collection might exist in real life too.

TP: How does your random number generator work, what do you use it for and could you send us a picture of it?

GL: The random number generator was made by my friends Yas Clarke, who designed the algorithm, and Jo Hellier, who built the box. It uses the background noise from unconnected analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) inside it to generate truly random numbers. I use it to pick the number of the item off the list that I will research next, and to choose films to watch, recipes to cook etc.

random number generator. (c) Guy Lochhead, Yas Clarke, Jo Hellier.

random number generator. (c) Guy Lochhead, Yas Clarke & Jo Hellier.

TP: Can you send us a picture of your favourite diagram?

GL: This is so tricky. I think probably that the diagrams I come back to most frequently are the structures and building techniques in Lloyd Khan’s ‘Shelter’ books. I find them very encouraging. I really like the implications that they have for making anything – the desperate optimism of meticulously designing something you’re going to inevitably end up bodging. I have them on my bookshelf next to Paul Oliver’s book Dwellings, which has the sort of reverse approach, of painstakingly recording work that was often just done out of necessity.

How to build a hen house. From the book 'Shelter' (c) Lloyd Khan.

How to build a hen house. From the book ‘Shelter’ (c) Lloyd Khan.

TP: How does the sorting process work? What makes you decide to put something into The British Whybary?

GL: When I decided that I actually wanted to ask for other people’s help in getting through the list, I realised I’d need to formalise the sorting process so that I could communicate it to others. I ended up with three questions that serve as criteria for inclusion:

1) Does the idea of showing this thing to a child make you feel hopeful?

2) Do you feel that the thing is currently overlooked / misrepresented / undervalued?

3) Would you feel comfortable explaining your decisions to anyone who asked?

Coming up with the questions was a good exercise for me too, helping me get away from the dressed-up “I just don’t like it”s of early articles.

What kind of projects has The British Whybary informed so far? Could you use the random number generator to choose one to tell us about?

I really use the stuff I learn from looking up items on the list in everything I do, but I have made a list of ten projects for which I used information from the Whybrary and I’ll use the random number generator to pick one to write about.

OK, I got number 4: Ernest. I’ve started writing articles for a magazine called Ernest, which is all about slow stuff – cooking, traveling, making things. My first article was about the South West Dementia Brain Bank, where 900 frozen brains are stored for dementia research. I am currently writing articles about a US pilot called William Rankin who fell through a storm cloud, the wildman myth (featuring Enkidu, Buile Shuibhne, Kaspar Hauser etc.), the Tsaatan people of northern Mongolia, Bill Rankin’s radical cartography, JA Baker’s writing about following peregrines in Essex, the Penguin edition of the Domesday Book, the Vestiges of a Natural History of Creation, and other subjects that I often first found out about on the list.

TP: What is the most exciting discovery you have made through researching items on the list?

GL: Oh no, this is an impossible question… All of the things that I include in the Whybrary are exciting for me, but every now and again I find out about something really special. This happened most recently when reading about Geronimo. He was an Apache warrior who led a band of Bedonkohe against Spanish and Texan expansions into Apache lands, and murdered hundreds of Mexicans in retaliation for the murder of his wife, mother and three children during a Mexican raid in 1851. He surrendered to the USA in 1885, and was held as a prisoner of war and not allowed to return to his homeland. He later became a celebrity, appearing as a sort of indigenous trinket at pro-US World Fairs, and his name has since been re-purposed into an exclamation of fearlessness in the US army. The bastardisation of Geronimo’s name into a war-cry for his enemy struck me as a particularly neat, particularly horrific example of the colonial process.

TP: How did you come up with the name The British Whybrary?

GL: It’s awful, isn’t it? I have a problem where I think something is funny for a second, attach myself to it permanently, and then love/hate it for the rest of my life – e.g. I have “Livin’ la Vida Lochhead” tattooed on my back.

TP: What it is that appeals to you about spreadsheets?

GL: Initially, I just used one to sort the list alphabetically. Since then, it’s really got out of control. For example, watching a film with my housemates is now an incredibly laborious process of each selecting five films, randomly selecting a number of those, each rating those in order of preference, and then using proportional representation to decide on a title we’re all happy with. A spreadsheet makes that easy!

TP: Making the list then using the random number generator to choose from it seems to me like an interesting contrast between imposing order/leaving things to chance. Could you talk a bit about this?

GL: I think it’s really easy to sort of curate yourself into a corner, following related videos and Amazon product recommendations until you’re surrounded by things that are all sort of similar and all sort of alright. When I first started looking things up and the items were just arranged in whatever order I’d added them to the list, I noticed this happening – I remember working through a glut of female pilots, for example (Pancho Barnes FTW). Using a random number generator avoids this and allows for some really interesting associations to occur. I’ve been fascinated by this since learning about Piaget’s idea of the schema – the webs of interconnected concepts that he thought we formed when learning. Jumping from reading about Scottish folk guitarists to mercantile Edwardian authors to the first European settlement in the Americas to The Clangers to Boston noise bands allows some really fun conceptual bridges to be built, recognising the similarities and differences between things, and appreciating just how richly varied our weirdo species’s history is.

TP: I like the favourites bit of the Whybrary website too, do you own everything on the list? What are the best slippers?

GL: I don’t own everything on the list, no, but wanting to buy something is usually the starting point for bothering to look that stuff up. Trying to find the best slippers brought to attention the main problem with this whole project though – sometimes there just isn’t a single greatest thing. I reckon I would go for some sheepskin slippers from some legit local farm or whatever. I did find out that Totes made the first slipper-socks though, and that a guy called Derek Fan wore his pair of slippers for 23 years straight, so he’d probably be a good person to consult. I also started reading about Japanese uwabaki slippers, which apparently developed from the sandshoes originally manufactured by the Liverpool Rubber Company in the 1830s, so maybe some variation of them would be good? Or you could go for some velvet Prince Albert slippers, monogrammed in gold.

TP: How would you best like the Whybrary to be used? What’s your dream for it?

GL: I think its primary purpose at the moment is just as a sort of symbol of getting stoked on learning. I think people like the idea of it more than they actually use the website as a resource. Ideally I’d like this to change, and even to have the collection exist in real life, but we’ll see.

I find it very useful for myself as a way to not get stuck thinking about the same thing. I was on the ferry the other day and got so upset sitting in the restaurant, looking around at all the couples just sitting there in silence. How can there possibly be nothing to say? There’s so much stuff! I hope that continuing to work through the list might mean that less people sit on ferries in silence. That’s the dream.

TP: Is the list shrinking (getting worked through) or is it growing – are you adding more things than taking them away?

GL: Growing. In 2009, the list had 8,949 items on it. It now has 12,573. I really am committed to chipping away at it though, and I’d appreciate any help. I spend the last Sunday of each month looking things up. If you’d like to be involved, send me an e-mail: info@britishwhybrary.org.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

THE PIZZA (Rosalie Schweiker, Mario D’Agostino, Hannah Clayden, Joanna Waterhouse from London,UK): They are four friends who invite somebody for pizza every month.

GUY LOCHHEAD: He is a writer, cyclist and enjoys knowing what he is looking at. He founded the Whybrary in 2013.

BUZZ SLUTZKY [on] ALDRIN VALDEZ

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From Storms, mixed-media works on paper, family photographs, and poem. {2013-2014} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

BUZZ SLUTZKY: Hey Aldrin! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview over email. I’ve been a fan of your work for as long as I’ve known you, and it’s fun to see someone use writing and painting and photography so fluidly.

ALDRIN VALDEZ: Hi Buzz! Thank you so much. I’m so grateful for your support! It’s funny that you say I use writing, painting, and photography so fluidly. I’ve been struggling with the pressure to do just one thing or to present my work in one coherent form so I often feel like I’m stumbling through those mediums or that I should focus on one form. But I can’t just do one thing because I need all of these different mediums to communicate and express my ideas.

BS: What’s been the biggest change in your work over time? Why did that change take place?

AV: In the last few years, I’ve become more specific and articulate about what I want to explore through my art: Filipin@ identity, queerness, and memory. And I think these are themes I’ve been exploring for a long time but now I’m learning to be less fearful in claiming them. I’ve been thinking about compassion for oneself. What does it mean to have compassion for yourself? As an immigrant, as a Filipino, as a queer person who’s experienced racism and homophobia and internalized those oppressive systems, it’s been difficult to have compassion for myself. I’ve experienced a lot of silencing. It’s been a struggle. And it’s complicated because all throughout undergraduate and graduate school, I wanted – like many of my peers and especially as an immigrant who’s had to assimilate and seek the approval of my white teachers to survive – to fit into this narrative of whiteness and measure my validity based on white standards, to try to see myself and my work through a Euro-American history. I took part in my own silencing and erasure, which extends to the time before I came to the United States. The Philippines is a country that has been colonized and brutally oppressed by the United States and by Spain. I think silence and complicity to white supremacist structures have become tangled with the way many Filipin@s view themselves and their place in the world. Most often we don’t want to acknowledge that reality or don’t want to challenge it because we are traumatized. Many Filipin@s work in other countries and their residencies in those countries are conditional. I’ve always felt, living here in the U.S., that at any minute I can be deported, even with my permanent resident status.

I think a big part of this change in my work has to do with community support. I’m fortunate to be part of communities made up of mostly people of color, queers, and trans folks. Seeing them and their art has been significant because I’m learning that there’s room for my story, too. And it’s a messy, non-linear story so I’m going to use the various forms of media that I’m attracted to and that means using writing, painting, photography, performance, etc.

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Installation view of Untitled in Don’t Worry What Happens Happens Mostly Without You, curated by Kris Nuzzi; mixed media works on paper and family photographs. {2012} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

BS: Can you talk a little bit about your name, pronouns, and identity? And maybe how your work frames some of that information?

AV: I was named after the astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (yes, readers: there is a beautiful coincidence with my name and Buzz’s). “Aldrin” has Old English origins and is usually used as a surname. In the Philippines, it’s a common first name. My last name is Valdez, which is a Spanish surname. So my name, like the names of many Filipin@s, contains the complicated history of colonialism and imperialism by Spain and the United States. And there’s a lot there to look into, just in that name. I’m beginning to see my art as a way to decolonize myself. What does that mean, to decolonize? Right now for me it means remembering as a way of healing from trauma. And I’m remembering a lot, which is to say: I’m sharing a lot and opening up about many things publicly. It’s overwhelming sometimes. I’m learning some histories for the first time and that process brings up feelings of shame, but then that provides an opportunity to ask questions. Why, for instance, am I learning these histories for the first time? I’m going back and kind of piecing myself together. I want to feel whole and I want to be in this body and not feel I should have another body or deny the history of this body (even though sometimes I do want that because it’s exhausting having to constantly assert your history to be recognized by straight, white folks). I want compassion for myself. I’ve been asking people to say my name the way it is pronounced in Tagalog, which is with an “a” like in “alive” and an “i” like in “seen.” AHL-DREEN. I wrote a kind of announcement that you can find here. For the past 20 years in the US, I’ve been going by the “Edwin Buzz Aldrin” pronunciation and I never corrected people. It’s emblematic of a larger erasure.

Gender is so complicated. I’m thinking of my gender as related to my being Filipino, so what I’m learning is that there’s a racial aspect to gender. I’ve been thinking about the Tagalog word “bakla” and defending it as a word that can’t be translated into English so that it becomes merely a Tagalog version of “faggot” or “gay,” though certainly it can encompass those meanings. I say “defending” because many times I’ve experienced Americans referring to the word as a Western, English equivalent of “gay.” Bakla is a gender on its own. It has its own history and its own contexts. Looking at this word and using it to describe my experiences with gender and sexuality helps me look at the homophobia, racism, and misogyny I’ve internalized.

For me thinking about gender is a way of asking questions about my relationships to different power structures and communities. Tagalog doesn’t have gendered pronouns. We use “sila” and “siya” – translatable as “they” or “them” – to refer to people in the singular and plural. Yet in the Philippines, gender binaries are so entrenched. Sometimes I’m not really sure how to think about and what to think of my gender. This not knowing is my response to outside pressures of having to concretely define it. I’ve been asking people to refer to me with different English pronouns. I think we should all examine how each of us relates to these gendered systems and to think critically about them.

Because I’m experiencing so much and expressing so much that has been silenced and repressed for so long, my art lately has felt like an urgent rant. I mean it is an urgent rant. I want people to see and hear me in ways that I wasn’t allowed and (internalizing that) didn’t allow myself to show. Maybe my art will always be an urgent rant in this society where brown queer immigrant people like me are silenced.

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DINUGUAN, oil, ink, collage, and colored pencil on paper, 11 x 15 in. {2013} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

BS: I get this question a lot, and never know the answer: how do you decide what materials to use? But I’ll add: What does each medium bring to the questions you’re asking in your work?

AV: Very intuitively. I collage a lot. I need something to start me off when I’m making an image. I’ve been using a lot of cutouts from comic books and using lots of patterns. I have a very strong visual memory. I don’t mean that I can memorize an image and reproduce it exactly. Rather: images stay with me. They have a powerful effect on me. Almost tactile. Haptic. I love patterns, especially floral patterns. And it should have been so obvious to me where this love of floral patterns was coming from – but again because of the shame mechanism I didn’t want to claim it: my grandmother would wear these duster dresses with floral prints. Even the more formal dresses she would wear had flowers. I remember one dress she wore was this beautiful purple and black number and I remember her dancing in this dress at my sister’s debut. This love of patterns isn’t only in my drawings and paintings. I love wearing patterns, too.

I often include text in my visual work. Sometimes this text is a piece I wrote or words that have stayed with me from a poem or story I read. I love books. I love how tactile they are, and that love for books, including comic books, is reflected in my work. As a painter, I don’t often work on canvas. It’s not my main surface or material. Canvas has a political content that doesn’t often work for me. So I choose to work mainly on paper. Paper I can cut and join with another element. This is related to my having varied experiences through the marginalized identities I contain. So when someone is telling me I should work big and on canvas: why? Are you trying to tell me it would legitimize my work? It would make it more valid? These material concerns involve race, ability, and class. Canvas is expensive. And it takes work to construct and prepare and to store! This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever work with canvas. Right now, I’m going back into small paintings that I’ve put away and that I’m now reconsidering. Their smallness is significant to me and I want to look at them alongside the works-on-paper I’ve been making. If you’re a painting teacher you should really consider why you’re telling your students to work only on canvas and encourage them to think about the significance of the materials they’re using.

BS: What are some challenges you face in terms of audience and art community?

AV: I’ve internalized oppressive systems so I’m learning that some of the limits I’m experiencing are self-imposed. What does that mean when it comes to audience and art community? I’ve had this stupid notion that because I’m making multi-media works dealing with complicated issues of race, gender, and sexuality, the communities I’m a part of won’t understand or won’t care what I’m doing. That’s so fucked up because I’m denying vital parts of myself connection and visibility and also assuming that my friends are not capable of understanding and supporting me. That notion comes from a real place. I have been in communities that ignored me and dismissed my work – communities that adhere to white, straight standards – but I don’t have to pay attention to those people anymore.

BS: What is the role of biography and personal narrative in your work?

AV: I’m finding this a tough question to answer. Immediately my response was: well, biography and personal narrative is my work, but I feel like there’s more to that. I think the difficulty has to do with fear that my biographical and narrative work is too personal, so it isn’t valid, it’s not art, it’s not relevant to a larger audience. Geez, that censorious effect of oppressive systems is deep in me. But that’s what I’m doing: I’m telling my story and it’s imperative that I tell it. I need to connect my experiences to history.

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Ellis Island (Self-Portrait), family photograph. {1995/2014} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

BS: How do you navigate language as a multilingual writer?

AV: My relationship to English will always be one of ESL, even if now the reality is that I’m more fluent in English than I am in Tagalog. But what does that mean – to be more fluent in English than in the first verbal language I learned and grew up speaking? A lot of things point to my status here as a Filipino immigrant and to the history between the U.S. and the Philippines – especially moving through languages. That’s very present in how I approach writing.

Being ESL has made me sensitive to language as a series of sounds. I like learning etymology and tracing movements through the history of words. And LOL part of this learning and loving etymology came from me being embarrassed by my misuse of words or using them out of context. There are so many American English expressions that I’ve had to pause from using and think about and ask what does that actually mean and why am I using it?

BS: What’s the best advice an art mentor has ever given you?

AV: I’ve been privileged to have such great art mentors in my life and one of those mentors is the painter Deborah Kass, whom I worked with through Queer/Art/Mentorship. Q/A/M is a fellowship organized by Lily Binns and Ira Sachs. The program pairs queer-identified emerging artists with more established queer artists and each mentor/mentee team works together for a year on a project the mentee has proposed. It’s also an opportunity to meet and connect with other artists working in a different field. So it’s also a community that provides support and feedback amongst the mentees.

During one of our monthly meetings, Deb was looking at my drawings and said, “You can afford to be more literal in your work.” I’ve interpreted that advice on several levels as an image maker. For me, it has to do with being more out in my work as a queer person, as an immigrant, as a Filipino.

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and the several years, oil, ink, collage, and colored pencil on paper, 11 x 15 in. {2013} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

Lately I’ve been thinking of my grandmother’s mentorship. My grandmother raised me – she wasn’t an artist, but she was my greatest mentor. I remember I was trying to draw fish like how this person was drawing it on a television program I was watching at the time. And I couldn’t do it. I was so frustrated. My fish didn’t look like the fish on television. And my grandmother was so supportive. She asked me if she should get more paper at the store. This was in Manila. She was going to go run to the store to buy paper! I have terrible guilt over that, because she worked so much to support a huge family that included all of her children (my father was the oldest of over 10 children, some of whom didn’t live to be teenagers) and her many, many grandchildren. Sometimes she’d take in runaway kids. And there I was being mean to her! We didn’t have much and still she’d run and get me paper. That afternoon, I remember being incredibly frustrated and not knowing what to do with that frustration. And rather than coddle me by telling me my drawing looked fine, my grandmother stood there, frozen. I wouldn’t accept her offer of more paper because I was throwing a tantrum on the floor and I was more involved in not being able to do something than in fixing it. I think she really didn’t know how to help me beyond what she already offered.

This memory is very significant for me because it makes me see how my grandmother was showing me that she couldn’t help me, that sometimes people, even the ones you love, cannot help you and that maybe the best thing they can do for you is to give you the space to ride out that frustration, or sadness, or another seemingly unbearable feeling you might have. That it’s your perception of yourself and your art that you have to work on and only you can really do that for yourself. There are real borders, real oppressive systems telling you that you are not allowed or not capable of doing something and then there are the borders you’ve internalized. And the latter you have more agency over; you can change them.

BS: What’s your relationship to AIDS? How does HIV/AIDS impact your approach to desire in your work?

AV: There are many tangled questions within those two questions. But first and foremost, I think my relationship to HIV and AIDS is the body. Missing bodies and my awareness of my body as a dick-sucking, ass-fucking, cum-loving queer with a lot of yearning and loneliness. Many of the artists I’ve come to love and from whom I continue to learn are dead because of AIDS, so in coming to learn about them, I also came to learn more about AIDS. But piecemeal. Like looking at a pattern through the wrong viewing tool and not seeing the connections. So here is an example of a situation in which the history left out of your classroom history books and in the mainstream media becomes an insidious message that you, as a queer person, your history doesn’t matter. Your reality doesn’t’ matter. In fact, because it’s not in the books, it’s not on TV, it doesn’t exist. Or if it is in the books or on TV, it is almost always through the lens of hetero whiteness. Why are you feeling so lonely, why are you angry at yourself and ashamed of your sexuality? Why do you think you’ll catch something each time you have sex? And if you do, why does it feel like you’re a monster or a sexually depraved criminal who has to confess something each time you want to hold another body?

The things I’m questioning in my work have to do with guilt, shame, and desire. With the policing of desire. So I’m dealing with oppressive systems like colonialism, homophobia, and racism. With the intergenerational trauma that is the ongoing legacy of those systems. I’m thankful that there are organizations like Visual AIDSQueerocracy, and Queer/Art/Mentorship – because these communities offer spaces where you can learn those histories that have been erased from the classroom and form connections between what you’re experiencing and larger realities and ongoing histories. You’re not alone. You’re connected.

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lagot ka faggot, typewritten text, oil, ink, colored pencil, and collage on paper, 11 x 15 in. {2013-2014} Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

BS: Who are some artists that have influenced you? Why?

AV: David Wojnarowicz: when I read Close to the Knives and The Waterfront Journals, I’m so aware of his desire, his rage, his trauma, and how these connect him to history and to other people. He loved to look and his writing really is a powerful way of archiving his desires and for us as readers, we’re witnessing that desire unfold and maybe we’re also feeling that desire. The first time I read DW’s writing and saw his work, it was a shock to my system. There were so many things coming together because all of a sudden my experiences, though different from his, were being reflected in his representation of queerness, his sexuality, of his fears and desires. I tried to see myself and learned from painters like de Kooning, Matisse, Picasso, etc. What do these artists have in common? They are part of a canon, the church of white hetero art that you need to strive for and measure your success against. I like their paintings, but it was always like I was trying to wedge my awkward self into their narratives. DW’s work is so raw and messed up. He was deliberately messing things up, messing up aesthetics and standards. So that really influenced me because it was an encouragement to go be myself in the ways that fit my history and my desires.

In my collages and drawings: Paul Thek, Amy Sillman, Henry Darger, Nicole Eisenman. Artists, who like DW, are/were juggling written and visual languages. And often dealing with ineffable experiences. With fantastic, internal worlds. Rifts and collisions between image and word.

AV02

Detail of lagot ka faggot. Courtesy of Aldrin Valdez.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of R. Zamora Linmark’s poetry and fiction. He’s like me, a queer Filipino. That’s HUGE! In my almost sixteen years of going up the education ladder in the U.S., not once did I encounter works by a Filipino writer. “Encounter” is so passive. And that’s the ugly truth. I was so passive. I didn’t know to demand and how to demand culture that reflected my own experiences. RZL’s work has led me to Jessica Hagedorn’s writing and to Lino Brocka’s films. These are Filipino artists who have similar concerns with language and history, similar questions about their lives as queer people taking on their inherited tradition – their trauma – with Catholicism, colonialism, and the diaspora – as I do. It’s exciting to experience their work. It makes me feel alive and valid.

Sarah Schulman. Like DW’s work, her writing deals with the gnarled contradictions and difficult truths of being alive, being with people, being queer – experiences and histories that get flattened by mainstream representation if not completely erased. Reading her books has helped me to articulate and give language to my own trauma. Maybe that’s a lot of pressure to put on an artist and their work, but her books — especially Ties That Bind and The Child –have been incredibly helpful and are very important to me because they’re complicated and uncomfortable. They make you have to sit there and own up to your secondhand beliefs and ask questions. I think the art world is full of people who are careerists and careerism disconnects you from the bodily urgency of being alive and being mortal because you’re constantly having to climb this ladder of whiteness to validate yourself and competing with others to do that. Sarah’s work reminds me in generous, compassionate terms, that I have a responsibility to other people. I have an effect on other people.

BS: Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, Aldrin! Keep making work!!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

BUZZ SLUTZKY is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and curator. Buzz works in a range of media, particularly in drawing, video, and performance. They are a former Curator of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and currently work as a student and Teaching Assistant in the Parsons MFA Fine Arts program.

ALDRIN VALDEZ is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn. Aldrin studied at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts and was a 2011-12 Queer/Art/Mentorship fellow.

MICHA PATINIOTT [on] PIM BLOKKER

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Studio Pim Blokker {2014}

Micha Patiniott (intro as aside): I had a studio visit with Pim Blokker where he showed me some work and I asked a few questions:

MP: You are back in the studio working, after a two month break. How do you pick up the thread?

Pim Blokker: I start working from zero, a kind of emptiness, and from there it can move in different directions. I make quick intuitive sketches on paper from which ideas can arise. Initially I try to work without thinking too much. It’s like working in a kind of frenzy or haze.

It could develop in two different directions, but hopefully these two things come together in the work.

MP: Which two things do you mean?

PB: Humorous narratives and abstraction. But for me there is actually not much difference between them.

MP: Could you elaborate on that–how there is not much difference between the two?

PB: Well for example this work (below) is seemingly abstract, but there is a clear narrative within it.

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currently untitled. 60 x 60 cm, oil on canvas, {2014} Pim Blokker.

MP: Could you tell me the story?

PB: Hahaha. Well, that is actually quite difficult to do. It’s an outline or a structure [of a story]. An interplay of lines. You could say that the black shapes that enter the surface are behind and in front of the blue line. And then relationships start to happen; they form a sort of interplay and thereby a story. I make narrative connections by painting from left to right, top or bottom/below etc. Although this might sound vague, it is simply an abstract story.

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Try to make a horse. 60 x 70 cm, oil on canvas, {2013} Pim Blokker.

Try to make a horse is a painting that refers to the myth of Medusa, where her head is cut off  from her body. From her blood springs the flying horse ‘Pegasus’. This is a classic example of a narrative story. I find there is beauty in the metamorphosis from the one thing into the other, and that’s what I would like to paint about. The concept is in the back of my head and I loosely associate with it. I make three or four versions from the same point of reference.

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Courtesy of Pim Blokker.

MP: You just brought out your last two works/paintings from before your break… You hadn’t looked at them before, because I heard you say “Oh I haven’t seen that in a while!” Did you deliberately not look at them yet, while you were making new work?

PB: No I actually look at old work a lot, to see new links and contexts and to see what I can use again.

For example, I could use the layering in this painting again (the ‘currently untitled’ one featured second from top). There are actually only three layers; the background, the black planes and blue lines. These elements I could use as a staring point. I re-use and rearrange elements from old paintings until I find a new painting that I’m satisfied with, which reunites all the elements in a new way. This is a way for me to discover new possibilities, to get to something completely new again.

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Dirty Dog. 70 x 80 cm, oil on canvas, {2014} Pim Blokker.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

MICHA PATINIOTT: currently lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was a resident of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam from 2006-2007, and was also a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA from 2008-2009.

PIM BLOKKER: was born in 1974 in Woerden, The Netherlands. He lives and works in Amsterdam, and was a resident of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam from 2009-2010.

JONAS CRISCOE [on] ANDREW BLANCHARD

Within Shouting Distance

Within Shouting Distance. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

Jonas Criscoe: A number of your works contain subject matter and imagery that is connected to the South and Southern culture. Can you discuss how “place” has influenced your work and/ or process?

Andrew Blanchard: Man, without place, I’ve got nothing-ha. It’s ALL about the American South, my work. It’s people, historical backlog, land management, socio-economic landscape; not to mention the stereotypes and the acres of baggage. All of my images are culled from the lower 48 [states]; living in South Carolina has provided me with numerous visuals, but I actually do road trips to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia quite frequently.  I’ve got buddies and relatives sprawled out all over the South; which provides me with such an extraordinary breadth of material for my output. These works tow the line [between] the urban, rural, and country quadrants of Southern living…and all the cuts in between. “Place” for me is stumbling upon gang scrawl out deep in the county, and likewise, running across more and more chicken coups in city folks’ backyards; these aspects of “place” are influencing my current works—where I fear Southern “places” are beginning to homogenize, I run across the aforementioned sprawl and enjoy taking part in witnessing this present evolution of the South. Process wise, it’s all screen print technique and acrylic inks. Those materials work best for how I want my work to look for the viewer—an unbiased honesty only achieved with photo based screen emulsion coupled with a distinct surface texture that lends itself to a painting—how I see the South, man.

Learnt A Thing Or Two About The Socalled Good Life

Learnt a Thing or Two About the So-called Good Life. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

JC: As you mentioned, photography in tandem with photo silkscreen plays an important role in your process. Could you elaborate on how you go about collecting imagery (taking photos) and the process involved in bringing that imagery into work?

AB: Yeah man… I mean, screen-print, as you know, is so versatile. I can have a picture perfect photographic outcome via the CMYK process, or I can have a completely unaltered open mesh screen frame, and just go at with inks like two pit bulls wearin’ tights. From there, I scrape, sand, spray, overprint, offset print, stencil, etc…Heart of a painter, if you will, with the brain of a print-maker.

No Shirt No Shoes No Service

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

Collection wise, and due to the nature of most Southern towns and cities that fix/clean/beautify and tear down, I try my best to document as quickly as possible when I see something that sparks a possible image or a visual that I know I can utilize further down the road. I have a few buddies that I go on local road trips with; 1/2 day trips. And then I have a duo of compadres that I go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to New Orleans with annually. All these friends shoot their own material—sometimes there is crossover, but, they mainly document figures/folks/portraits. If one were to look at my oeuvre of work(s), you pretty much get the gist of what I collect. As a challenge, sometimes I watch subject matter I know I want, but will let it evolve a bit over time; see if it changes color, or if it rots a tad more…Or if, say, an old pickup truck changes owners—I wait and keep a mental collection in my head—just like a sketchbook. One time, I watched this old, shiny black pick-up all over town, for a year—never able to catch it parked or a chance to ask the owner to shoot it. It had Jesus and hearts all over it, most probably airbrushed. Finally not too long ago, he pulled alongside of me at a red light and I pounced; asked what year it was and if I could shoot a quick pic. Obliged, but on a honey-do to the post office, he said he’d meet me at my studio around the corner in a few minutes. An hour later, and I never heard from him. Two hours had gone by—thinking it was a blown chance, and I heard a bunch of horn honks outside…There he was! He proceeded to turn around in traffic, block all 4 lanes and let me shoot his “baby”! Other times or places may be so sketchy, I do “drive-bys” or go super early or on Sunday to shoot stuff. Don’t want any trouble, ha.

From there, as mentioned earlier, I keep a balance between obtaining an honest capture and nuancing it in combination with a more “painterly” surface texture—I cut clear stencils to protect the photo based screen-print portions, then I work intuitively on foregrounds and backgrounds.  I layer and strive towards making those two main types of execution blend without one dominating the other. I set up personal challenges too; say, to use a specific color, or try to recreate brush marks, though by using a screen-print squeegee. I have all size widths; just cut them down on the table saw; the size of brushes almost.  Man, there are my secrets, shoot.

County LineUrban Limit

County Line: Urban Limit. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

County LineUrban Limit II

County Line: Urban Limit II. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

JC: Who are some the artists that you’re into/looking at these days?

AB: After printmaking since high school (20 years), I’ve shied away from what’s happening now, in academic printmaking. I just needed a different source of inspiration—that’s mainly painting/-ers now; a few sculptors too. I am really digging Charles Ladson’s work.  I’ve seen his last two shows at Winthrop and in Asheville; he’s a GA painter. I just saw a new collection of Bo Bartlett’s work, again, a GA born artist. Crazy enough, those folks paint tons of figures, and that’s nice to take in as a viewer, since I usually keep away from folks and I am more interested in the assumption or the notion of them in my work. Of course, I always lose myself in Dunlap’s (Bill) landscapes, as there is way more going on in those than meets the eye.  Our show together “Keeping it Between the Ditches” this past October put me and my own work into perspective: an icon and a rookie side by side. We are doing the same thing more or less, layering historical implications and our own perspectives on top of the images of barns and gas stations (among others). Ron van der Ende’s relief sculptures have a real sense of textural maturity that I need to align myself with; and though I can’t say I understand the conceptual prowess of R. H. Quaytman, I enjoy [her] use of screen-print and structural integrity to get across to the viewer exactly what one needs to say.

Surely A Revelation Is At Hand. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Surely A Revelation Is At Hand. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

I Think You Might Be Wrong.

I Think You Might Be Wrong. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Grand Of The East!

Grand Of The East! Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Cutty Life.

Cutty Life. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.

All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDREW BLANCHARD earned a B.A. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000 with an emphasis on printmaking and a minor in photography. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Paris, France to work and study with Frederic Possot, a master lithography printer. This experience solidified his desire to be a lifelong artist-printmaker. In 2004, he earned his M.F.A. degree from The University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS.  Recently, several of his prints were included in Schiffer Publishing’sPrintmakers Today, the 2011 Southern Edition of New American Paintings magazine and the Oxford American magazine, of which he was selected as one of the New Superstars of Southern Art. In 2014, his work will be featured in the International Painting Annual No. 4, published by Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Ohio.  He is currently the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Photography at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

JONAS CRISCOE is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably the International Print Center in New York and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Criscoe has also been featured in various art publications, Including Art Lies and New American Painting and most recently was a Jerome Fellow at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking as well as a West Prize acquisition recipient. A native of Austin, Texas, he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. Currently, he is an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.

JOSE JOAQUIN FIGUEROA [on] JESSICA ROBBINS

On Jessica Robbins

{I am for an art that drips out of the frame

That sneaks up behind you and tells you your name.

The trickster, the wizard, the hero, the artist

We created them all and they’ve grown beyond us…}

(J.R -fragment/work in progress about SIWOFT)

Jessica and I first met in 2010 when we both transferred to The Cooper Union to pursue a bachelor degree in Fine Arts.  Since then we have witnessed each other’s growth as young artists in NYC- a city that enabled us to freely explore and challenge our own subjecthoods. Although we never thought of our artistic endeavors melting together, we collaborated for our senior project STUCK IN WONDER OUT FOREVER TRYING.  I am happy to leave a record of our correspondence.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JOSE JOAQUIN FIGUEROA was Born in 1986 in Caracas, Venezuela. Figueroa attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2009, and graduated from The Cooper Union in NYC in 2014. He will begin his graduate education in Art Practice this upcoming fall at UC Berkeley, CA.

JESSICA ROBBINS was born in 1988 and raised in Southern Virginia. After attending the Virginia Military Institute for two years she moved to New York City in 2007.  She attended Parsons’ the New School before transferring to The Cooper Union. She graduated in may of 2014 with a bachelors in fine arts. She is currently living and working in Brooklyn.

J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY [on] THE PRODUCT DIVISION

tpdweb

The Product Division logo

J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY (intro): On February 25th 2014 I sat down with artists Red Cell and JC Gonzo, collectively known as The Product Division. They were living and stationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico and were planning to relocate to Tangier. I wanted to get down some words before they left, and take the bulk of the interview after they arrived.

My questions are in ORANGE. Their answers are, obviously, not.

J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY: Who?

THE PRODUCT DIVISION: The Product Division (JC Gonzo and Red Cell)

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PD 5×7 portraits, Santa Fe, NM {2013} The Product Division

JCD: What?

TPD: The Product Division is a Third Mind effort from conceptual artists JC Gonzo and Red Cell, who operate as a provider of portals past or through the control systems we all must navigate in society.

The Product Division develop works in many fields including Video Art, Performance Art, Music, New Media, Installation, Site Specific, Sculpture, Writing, Futuristic/Primitive Arts and Photography.

The Product Division believe in heart before mastery and guidance without dogmas. They are agents for the emerging Technomad culture being formed in our rapidly evolving post-human society.

JCD: When?

TPD: The Future / Now

JCD: Where?

TPD: The Product Division is currently selling everything they own and moving to Tangier, Morocco. But, first we will be on the small volcanic Portuguese island of Faial in the Azores for three months at Angie Reed’s (Stereo Total, Barbara Brockhaus) cottage, working on ‘The Future.’

 JCD: Wear?

TPD: With abandon and distinction.

JCD: Why?

TPD: Because there is more than fighting the system. There are other portals one may take.

JCD: One word, one sentence or fifty:

TPD: Be anything forbidden.

JCD: I feel like so many labels describe what you do, what do you think is sufficient and accurate right now?

TPD: We’re the New Expatriate, the Technomad. Next in the lineage of those in search of minds without constraint. Life is the function, byproducts are not vital. Assassins. Agents. Armed with whatever is in front of us.

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Idiot Future: Teaching Stones to Sing. Performance and multi-media video installation, Spirit Abuse Project Space, Albuquerque, NM {2013} The Product Division

JCD: What do you want it to be eventually?

TPD: A touchstone for future expatriate artists, culture shifters and criminal intellectuals.

On July 21st 2014 The Product Division were firmly stationed in Tangier. We chatted for a bit about their plans, identity, art, music, books and their new project “RePoRTal.”

JCD: Last we talked you were in Santa Fe, NM. But do you see yourself as a collective “out of New Mexico?”

TPD: We are Nomadic in principle and occasionally in action. Right now our home is Tangier, then Berlin, then…who knows?

On the point of “collective”: we are not a collective. Rather, we are a third mind effort of two people in the vein of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Two minds, personalities, ideologies coming together to form a third mind from which the conceptual works flow.

JCD: So it’s almost Hegelian: combining thesis and antithesis to form synthesis…interesting.. okay, so you were in New Mexico, now you’re in Tangier, but this wasn’t a direct transition…what was the exact connection?

TPD: We made friends with the musician Angie Reed (Stereo Total, Barbara Brockhaus) and we were invited to do a three month residency at her cottage in the Azores Islands.

BEE PINUP TRIO

Bee Girls. Graphic Design, Santa Fe, NM {2011} The Product Division

JCD: Can you explain the Burroughs/Gysin thing a bit more?

TPD: Burroughs and Gysin wrote a book titled The Third Mind in which they explained the idea fully and they presented the efforts of such ideals. For us, it is a way to get past the ego found in most working relationships, particularly those in so-called democratic art making situations. Tangier has always been our eventual Mecca, being a Burroughs / Gysin lover.

JCD: Okay, but Burroughs lived everywhere. He was born in Saint Louis, so why go to Tangier? You could have just come to Saint Louis; I’m in Saint Louis…are you avoiding me?

TPD: You are one to be avoided, surely.

JCD: But Tangier has some particular pull I assume?

TPD: Putting the allure of Tangier into a few sentences is challenging. Let’s just say it maintains a point of energy in time and space that calls to a certain type of artist.

JCD: Can we go back a bit? I knew you from earlier projects, like The Process and End of Being, do you see these as a continuation that lead to The Product Division or separate projects? Can you talk about those two earlier works, especially for anyone who doesn’t know about your trajectory?\(full disclosure: I read from my own work during one of The Process’ events: Word Virus)

TPD: Our cultural website, The End of Being, which deals with difficult art, film, music, people, and ideas is still going strong. It could be considered in some ways to be one of our predecessors because it deals with challenging cultural norms. Aside from that, it is a different entity entirely.

The Process was a 6 or 7 year long project aimed at bringing diverse acts to Santa Fe that would otherwise skip the southwest. I did it with the good will and help of many amazing friends.

My work with The Product Division is much more about JC Gonzo and my work, not facilitating others’ work, although, we do collaborate quite a bit with other artists.

JCD: Do you each play a particular role? Serve parts of the whole or is everything interchangeable?

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666 (with Jon Moritsugu & Amy Davis). Video, installation, AHA Festival of Progressive Arts, Santa Fe, NM {2011} The Product Division

TPD: As I illustrated earlier, the idea is to have a singular “third mind” create all works and concepts. This IS the entity that is The Product Division. So, no one has any particular role, no.

JCD: I figured as much– and I have to say it’s such a fascinating project. Can you tell us where the name comes from? Do you even want to?

TPD: Sure. Being conceptual artists, much of what we do centers around ideas and not necessarily the end result, or the “product.” The idea that the process is the product is one of our guiding principles. This is not to say we do not produce tangible works–we do. But, the emphasis in the art world on the production of art seems misguided at best to us. So, the name of, “The Product Division,” is bringing attention to these issues.

JCD: I can’t believe I didn’t ask…when exactly did you form?

TPD: We formed in 2009/10

JCD: So this is an emphasis on the means rather than the end?

TPD: Often, yes. Or paying equal attention to the ideas/concepts in the journey of the product, as much as the product itself.

JCD: So what would you say if I told you that Josh Groban’s mother was Crispin Glover’s high school art teacher?

TPD: I would say that evil is everywhere.

JCD: Nice. Well played…. and we’re back…You’ve done some performances as The Product Division in Santa Fe that I’ve heard amazing things about, can you talk a bit about what you’ve done so far together and what you’re working on?

TPD: We have been lucky to be asked to participate in some outstanding events. For the first three years of our collaboration, we did very little publicly. We were instead focusing on building a language between us with which to build a universe from. The first real efforts of this universe were publicly shown in 2013. We have performed at events ranging from the writer Bett Williams’ (The Wrestling Party) house salons to High Mayhem Emerging Arts’ Fall Festival, and to gracing the same stage as the experimental visionary  JA “Dino” Deane. We’ve played with Low on High (Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis) for their album release party. We have gotten around considering it was our first year in public. And these are just the music specific type performances we did.

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Rites (1 of 5, with Sacha Lindsay). Photography, Albuquerque, NM {2011} The Product Division

We also were one of the acts who opened Raven Chacon’s and Post Commodity’s new space, Spirit Abuse, in Albuquerque, NM. We shared the bill with curator Candice Hopkins, who just unveiled a new game changing show she has been collaborating on for SITE Santa Fe that re-invents the entire concept of biennials.

JCD: What I think I’m getting from you is that everything is primary, is that right?

Can you talk about what other projects/ mediums you’re looking to get into?

I anticipate that there’s nothing you won’t attempt to try, that everything could be attempted in the process of expression.

TPD: Yes! As conceptual artists, the medium for us is determined by the idea. We put heart before mastery, not that we are against mastery, but I would rather listen to Half Japanese spill their heart out any day over listening to a perfectly skilled studio musician with no heart.

Or Rush.

JCD: Well we just lost all of our Rush fans…

The most important fascinating thing going on right now is the RePoRTal project. What can you say about RePoRTal that’s not in the press release? (specific details about RePoRTal can be found HERE.

reportal development circles

RePoRTal logo

TPD: Only that we have done a ton of research on the idea of fan clubs, subscriptions formats, sharing your life and works and platforms to do it, and we think we may have a unique idea. We do not think anyone has done just what we are proposing previously in the art world. There are things that may incorporate portions of our idea, but not all. And in the art world, something that no one else has done is a big deal. So, we’re pretty proud of it.

JCD: I have to say it reminds me of a being a kid and sending away for things from the back of comics or when we could buy cassettes and join a band’s fan club and mix that with 80s artists and all the artists mailing each other work, and the factory, and Jack White’s current subscription service–the excitement of sending away and receiving, and the nostalgia…and and? what else am I missing?

TPD: Well, those are all about the end product, aren’t they? Also, on one specific thing, like a band giving you an unreleased song, etc. Ours is unique in the way it focuses on all of our various exploits and productions over a one period of time. Look at it this way: it is a singular work of art that exposes everything an artists does over the course of a year. And for us, that incorporates a LOT of various things.

JCD: Oh, I like that, so it’s participatory in a way.

TPD: Yes! You discover what we discover. Who the hell knows what that may be? It mechanizes the artists’ process as the final product, see? We have shifted the focus and are delivering it to your inbox and mailbox.

JCD: So it will be both traditional and electronic, so every person is guaranteed to get some physical and ephemeral products from The Product Division?

TPD: Yes, the mail art is the physical dispatch, the rest is transmitted via the interwebs. This is the only way to make it sustainable.

JCD: This is an incredibly exciting project.

TPD: One last thing about our Art/Life project RePoRTal is that we are not the only ones who are a part of it. We are collaborating everywhere we end up, with emerging artists as well as a few famous ones. There are interviews and even works contributed from these people every month, as well as our own work.

JCD: So before I edit this to make my questions look much more interesting and exciting than they were… you’ve spent a good part of your life completely immersed in art and artists of all mediums, are you willing to give out some recommendations?

TPD: For what in particular?

JCD: Whatever you’re comfortable with…how about for starters…who do you think we should be listening to right now that we’re probably not? past or present

TPD: Ok, the three contemporary things currently in my continuous playlist and in no particular order are:

1 - OOIOO – Gamel

2 – Eno & Hyde – High Life

3 – Yasmine Hamdan – Ya Nass

JCD: Thanks. As usual I haven’t heard any of these. I think the last recommendation you gave me was Zola Jesus and she should be on everyone’s playlist.

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Trianglehead (with Micaela Butts and Monessa Bacon). Video, Photography, Performance, Santa Fe, NM {2010} The Product Division

Alright, almost done– what two to five films have affected you most as an artist?

TPD: 

1 – Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg, 1991

2 – Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees, David Blair, 1991

3 – The Limits of Control, Jim Jarmusch, 2009

4 – Kafka, Steven Soderbergh, 1991

5 – Alien, Ridley Scott, 1979

6 – The Third Man, Carol Reed, 1949

7 – The Cremaster Cycle, Matthew Barney

JCD: And to go back to the RePoRTal thread…this won’t merely take place in Tangier… you are heading to Berlin next and I assume some projects began in the Azores Islands, right?

TPD: Yes, we did. And after Berlin, who knows?

JCD: What about artists?

TPD: Instead of specific artists, howzabout this?

1 – Fluxus

2 – Video Art

3 – Performance Art

JCD: Of course if anyone wants to listen to some of your thoughts on music you have a podcast on MixCloud HERE (for anyone interested the 80s Sex Cult podcast is a great starting point)

TPD: You can also find the podcast where we play things we currently like on our website, The End of Being.

JCD: Did I leave anything out? Anything else you want to share?

TPD: Authors

1 – William S. Burroughs

2 – Kathy Acker

3 – Brion Gysin

4 – Ray Bradbury

5 – William Gibson

One last thing

JCD: Yes?

TPD: If you are going to share what I’m currently listening to, and our inspirations in other categories, could you also include a list of bands?

JCD: Yeah, I’d love to see that list.

TPD: Bands

1 – COIL

2 – Tom Waits

3 – Laurie Anderson

4 – PJ Harvey

5 – Depeche Mode

JCD: Very interesting list… are those the top five? Or top-ish five? Or top five-ish?

TPD: Top five-ish. The real list is more like 500 bands long.

JCD: I think that’s it. I need a final line like, “Boomer Lives!” do you have any suggestions?

TPD: Two, please.

The Process is the Product.

Be Anything Forbidden. – Hakim Bey

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The Process is the Product. Mixed media, Graphic Design, Santa Fe, NM {2012} The Product Division

:::Follow up later that day:::

JCD: I’m going to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Detroit. Thoughts on Nicole Atkins, the opening act?

TPD: Love her

JCD: Really!? Oh that’s great! Tell me more.

TPD: What’s to tell? Just go listen.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

THE PRODUCT DIVISION is a working collaborative of conceptual artists Red Cell & JC Gonzo, creating multidisciplinary works in Video Art, Performance Art, New Media, Music, Installation, Site Specific, Futuristic/Primitive Arts, Writing and Photography.

J. CHRISTOPHER DUPUY is a graduate of the MFA in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. Upon graduation he was invited to continue on as a lecturer.  He is currently working on a novel.

WISH YOU’D BEEN HERE (EVA ROWSON & ANDREA FRANCKE) [on] THE PIZZA

‘The Pizza’ Interview

Wish you’d been here (a collaboration between Eva Rowson and Andrea Francke) is the start of an investigation to bring together and explore histories of and current thoughts on hosting, socializing and partying as a new framework for reflecting on contemporary art practices that involve working with people. Rosalie Schweiker, Mario D’Agostino, Hannah Clayden and Jo Waterhouse are artists based in London. Together they run a monthly dinner called The Pizza.  Both Wish you’d been here and The Pizza are based in London, UK.

 At Our Shop {Wednesday 16 July 2014}

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Do you do something special with your mushrooms before you put them on the pizza?

It’s not about the food.

We put stuff on there that we really shouldn’t have put on there – like the broccoli.

They’ve changed a lot. Now they’re thin and crispy.

I think it has to be a bit more effort than you would do yourself. It’s in the details.

I just want to feel like I’m on a cruise for once in my life.

How did it start? I had the idea in the shower and emailed you guys and you said yes. Then Jo got pulled in later on – because you live with me! We do all bring something different and special to the night. Rosalie does the placemats, Mario does the pizza, Jo brings the table, Hannah drinks a lot.

You invite someone because you really like what they do and not because you are expecting something back.

Friend-networking. If we had enough money we would buy their work, but as we don’t we invite them and cook them a pizza to thank them for making their work.

Sometimes you like someone’s work and they turn out to be an arsehole, but that hasn’t happened to us yet.

We’ve never been stood-up.

El’s pizza was so busy – it was nuts.

The idea started with how to find a way to meet people.

Petrol can of wine.

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Courtesy of The Pizza.

Guests can bring friends so they feel more comfortable. We put it on Facebook and really rarely someone we don’t know comes. Then it’s friends of friends. We can’t really do more than 10-15 people, can’t really afford to feed more than that and don’t want to be stressed out by it.

You could make it bigger and charge people, but there’s something nice about not having to charge people. We’ve invited people to come so it seems odd to then charge them. Really, it’s good it’s happening in our living room, and people have to leave their coats in my bedroom  – there’s no escape, which is one of the nice things. It changes the dynamic having it in the flat, it’s such a personal thing.

Worst pizza was wheat free, cold.

We’ve never sat down and thought about why and how we do it.

We make it so the artist isn’t on display or having to answer questions about themselves, sometimes you don’t even know who the artist is.

We hardly ever talk about art.

Sometimes there’s an element of fandom and nervousness beforehand.

But there is always one of us that will go: So what do you do?

A strategy for successful stalking. “Hi, I followed you home and would you like some pizza?”

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Every time we try to make a calendar we fail.

You just have to brave enough to knock on the door.

If no one comes do you think of it as failure? It doesn’t have to be about how many people come.

Sometimes people come up to me and say ‘oh I think I’ve met you, I’ve been in your living room’.

It’s anti socially engaged.

If you call it art does it change it?

I wouldn’t wanna do it for an institution as I do my art projects. I wanna do it for myself.

It feels odd to invite people round for dinner and then tell them it’s an artwork.

I would be careful to label any social occasion as an art project.

I would describe myself as an artist and if someone asks me what I do I would take about the pizza to describe my practice, but I’m not sure if I think of the pizza as an artwork in itself.

I use the pizza as an example of how to expand your social group and meet people.

This is going to make my life better so I’m going to do it.

Pizza_diagram

Courtesy of The Pizza

Re-enactment. Artists have hosted dinners and made restaurants. There is value in seeing the small things and the differences each time you do it.

We wouldn’t claim it’s a revolution in art practice.

It’s like when you make something for one person.

It’s a bit like throwing someone a birthday party.

Between the 4 of us there is not a definition of what it is.

Sharing food is quite an intimate thing.

If you do something for a long time it gives people time to realise what it means to you.

They can decide the toppings.

Pizza_face

Courtesy of The Pizza

It’s like inventing our own folk art traditions. It’s just stuff that you just do. We are from a certain kind of tribe and this is our folk art.

I don’t think folk art wants to be in the art world. You do something and you’re so into it but it doesn’t fit in with an art tradition, it has its own logic. It can just exist and it has its own followers without the art world.

I can only host my own dos, I can’t host anybody else’s as then I become a guest. It’s a weird thing to be invited to be a host.

It’s not about making a pizza, it’s about being together.

I’m genuinely not into pizza.

Pizza_image1

Courtesy of The Pizza

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Further information on ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON’s project Wish You’d Been Here can be found by clicking their names or the project title.

Rosalie SchweikerMario D’AgostinoHannah Clayden and Jo Waterhouse are artists based in London. Together they run a monthly dinner called The Pizza.

MANUAL HISTORY MACHINES [on] DEVON TSUNO

Talking to Concrete Walls

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Devon Tsuno. Photo Credit: Ace Carretero.

LA-based artist-curator collective Manual History Machines asked fellow artist-curator Devon Tsuno of Concrete Walls Projects a few questions about the mission of CWP and other random queries in the following interview from June of 2014. Manual History Machines is comprised of Daniela Campins, Rema Ghuloum, Tessie Whitmore and Bessie Kunath.

Daniela Campins: What is an exhibition for you?

Devon Tsuno: For me it is an opportunity to bring people together, contribute to the culture of my community and a way to provide resources to artists.  It doesn’t matter where it is–it is about how good the art is, and how well organized and presented it is. I’ve curated exhibitions at established institutions and non-profits in white cubes, but also in boba tea stores. The 1990′s era of MFA superstars and commercial gallery one hit wonders is somewhat over in LA now, so a really healthy “anything goes attitude” has opened up when it comes to the type of venues in which it is professionally acceptable to exhibit.  I’m glad to see spaces like PØST, Weekend, Summercamp’s ProjectProject, Jaus, Elephant, Autonomie, Commonwealth and Council, KChung, and Monte Vista Projects doing so well.  I tend to visit these venues to feel the pulse of LA, and what is on the cusp of art making.

Daniela Campins: Concrete Walls Projects have been presented in both established and non-commercial spaces, as a curator do you put into effect a different approach depending on the exhibition site? To what extent does the type of venue influence the exhibition form, production and curatorial methodology? Are there any compromises on your end?

Devon Tsuno: I always have curatorial ideas, and take the venue into account, but as an artist myself; I think it is important to let the artists dictate the art.  Some artists work well with site-specific goals, but others can be distracted by it.  As much as is possible, I try not to project ideas onto artists, so that they can work through ideas for an exhibition, as they apply their own specific interests.  The art and artists should always supersede the venue or curatorial idea, so I always approach curating more as a means to provide resources for artists.  Creating a mutually beneficial situation for artists and venue is the key to success.  I want artists to have access to resources that will benefit their practice and I want the venue to have access to art that will fulfill their goals and broaden their audience.  Depending on the venue for the artists, curating could include: funding, access to space, the opportunity to collaborate with professionals outside of the art community, or offering a young artist the opportunity to exhibit with peers who are slightly more established.  It is my job to make sure both parties start the project with clear expectations, and conclude the project feeling those goals and more were accomplished. Curating is always a negotiation, but I don’t think of the negotiation as a series of compromises because that word always sucks the positive energy out of anything. I want the artists and the venue to be super stoked about the project, and when everyone is excited, compromises are really just smart organic solutions.

Bessie Kunath: Do you consider yourself a cultural worker? If so, what do you get in return for this work?

Devon Tsuno: I hope when I die people call me that….ha, but I got a long way to go.  I am closing in on the 10-year mark out of graduate school and I feel like I’m just starting to scratch the surface.  There is definitely a learning curve.  Finding ways not to be completely isolated in the studio helps to continue my education beyond academia.  Working within my community, and growing it alongside interesting and talented people is return enough, but I do live here. I was born here, and I’m raising my son here in LA proper, so I want it to be a beautiful, culturally interesting, diverse and a creative place to live.

Bessie Kunath: There seems to be a great deal of chance and shared authorship in Concrete Walls Projects. Do you find that the unpredictable results wielded by the nature working in a collaborative fashion with other individuals, institutions, locations, elements etc. is the crux of your curatorial practice? What does working in “chance” method teach you? Does it always work….even when it doesn’t?

Devon TsunoConcrete Walls Projects has always worked because the artists who contribute to projects co-author what it becomes.  Ranging from white box exhibitions, to outreach projects with middle school students, the goals have always remained the same, but I’ve always been flexible about how to achieve them.  I think creating a solid framework, parameters, and expectations for a project promotes creativity.  This has allowed me to trust the decisions of others and allow a project to grow organically.  Since I know there is a system in place it is rare for an artist to stray from the end goal.  I expect change, so in that way I don’t feel the process with Concrete Walls is a game of chance, but it is the unpredictability that makes it exciting and a good ride for all involved.

Tessie Whitmore: What’s in a name? The name “Concrete Walls” brings to mind the concrete walls of the L.A. river basin. Those walls define the city of L.A. The river being a major source of water in the past was the original source of life for the City of Los Angeles. Is this something you considered when choosing the name for your project?

Devon Tsuno: Wow that sounds romantic and rad….but unfortunately no.  The original Concrete Walls Gallery located on Wilshire Blvd. next to Ace Gallery literally had walls made of concrete. I ran the programing on a shoestring budget and had the mentality: “It is what you make it” and “by any means necessary.” The name stuck and so did the mentality…In year 11 of the Concrete Walls project, resources have come a long way, but after you learn to hang art on concrete walls no venue looks out of the question.

Tessie Whitmore: Concrete Walls Projects being a community curatorial project, I see a majority of focus in your previously curated projects especially in Case Study: Løs Angeles and Case Study LA II, as dialogue about how artists function in L.A., how artists document L.A. and how artists participate in the L.A.community. An excerpt from your mission statement states “SERVING Greater L.A.”. I want to ask you more about the concept of SERVING. Being a proud Angelino yourself, was there a moment in your upbringing or a way you were brought up that reinforced the value of service to your community? How did you come to understand that the idea of building upon your hometown community was something you wanted to pursue?

Devon Tsuno: My parents were very proactive organizers in public education.  When the LAUSD music program was eliminated at my elementary school, they took it upon themselves to form an organization to empower parents to fund raise, purchase instruments, and hire their own music teacher for the school, independently from the district.  My parents could afford private lessons for my brother and I, but they must have believed strongly in equal opportunity and access to the arts. It shows in their actions.  They didn’t talk much about it, I think I learned more from observation–if you wanted to be in the arts, it was obviously in your best interest to contribute to fighting its demise and to work as a community.

Tessie Whitmore: Many of your projects seem very sculptural or multi-dimensional in terms of the depth of ideas and formulation of concepts. Many details are considered: architecture, location, physicality, gesture, bringing together varying aspects of the art community, your teaching life, and the neighborhood community. I feel like this layering of ideas and a focus on diversity are some of the great characteristics of the LA area. The idea of layering is also present in the way you handle your paintings. In both your curatorial Concrete Walls life and in your own art work all things come together in the end as a unified whole, no matter how many separate layers there are . Do you see your curatorial concepts being affected by the way you paint?

Devon Tsuno: Wow thank you, that is really rad you think that!  They do all fit together for me.  I used to struggle with how the two lives, as you described, interacted as one, but in the past few years they have become more intertwined.  I can’t escape the way I tend to think, so curating and painting tend to embrace similar mentalities, but with different concepts and different methodologies for outputting thoughts.

Rema Ghuloum: I can’t help but think of Haruki Murakami’s book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” when thinking about your approach to your art practice and the way in which you extend yourself outside of the studio and into the LA art community. Murakami says:

{If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole.}

You seem to exert yourself to the fullest in your work and your life. I know that you happen to be an avid cyclist ­– an exercise that slows one down enough to be present while still being forced to operate in a social environment. How does cycling inform the subject matter in your own work?  I also can’t help but view cycling as a bridge between being a maker in the studio and working on projects that directly involve a larger community. This may be far reaching, but are there direct correlations between cycling, painting, and Concrete Walls?

Devon Tsuno: To get my mind away from the hours of driving necessary to exist in Los Angeles; I started cycling.  Pedaling circles with other artists, educators and curators, has also become a valuable time to clear our heads and brainstorm, far away from the normal scenery of studios, schools, galleries and museums.  I also use cycling as a means to slow down the pace of my always-active observational habits.  Adventuring by bicycle throughout the LA watershed system, gives me a chance to simultaneously have a hobby and work.  I photograph water and vegetation on the concrete banks of the LA and San Gabriel Rivers during these outings — and I take those photographs and experiences back to the studio with me to make paintings. Partitioning art and daily life is always an uphill battle that I try to avoid.

Bessie Kunath: Who are your favorite artists (famous…not famous…dead….alive)?

Devon Tsuno: That is a long list…Recently I’ve been really interested in American craftsmen who are trying to revive beautiful and functional handmade objects made in the USA.  I’m a big fan of Sacha White, a Portland based bicycle frame builder and also recently took an interest in a small community of craftsmen building wood and canvas canoes at home in their garages.  In LA I’ve always looked up to Habib Kheradyar (HK Zamani), a great artist who also founded one of LA’s oldest and most respected artist-run spaces, PØST (formerly POST).  Habib has done it all including: endurance performance, abstract painting, one-day exhibitions.  He defines multi-tasker, ‘cuz he’s also a great father, while successfully running both commercial, non-commercial and college art gallery programs….all at a super high level.  He is a living bad ass in my opinion.  The under-the radar artist I’m rooting for in LA is Anna Mayer. She has crazy skills, and works with performance, ceramics, painting, photography and sculpture to create beautiful, witty and socially engaging artwork.  Anna is also one half of CamLab; a really rad two person collective.  Look out for her; she is a force that I know will emerge at the top soon.

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Green Ripple. 30 x 23 inches, acrylic and spray paint on paper {2014} Devon Tsuno.

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Flood: LA Drainage Relocation. 9 x 28 inches (200 risograph prints, each 17 x 11). Installed in Wonder Valley, California. {2013} Devon Tsuno.

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Santa Cruz Island Ironwood Reallocation. 5000 risograph prints, wooden crates, 20 Santa Cruz Island ironwood seedlings. Native Plants Project/ Manhattan Beach, California. Theodore Payne Foundation {April 2014} Co-Curated by Kristina Newhouse. Devon Tsuno.

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Case Study Los Angeles II: On the Perimeter (installation view) at Jaus, Los Angeles {2012} Organized by Concrete Walls Project.

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Mass Emergencies. collaborative project between Cypress College, Angels Gate Cultural Center, Concrete Walls Projects and the California State University Long Beach Fine Arts Round Table. Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, California {2010} Organized by Devon Tsuno.

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Concrete Walls Art Reference Library. Autonomie Projects, Los Angeles.

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Donated Books for Concrete Walls Art Reference Library. Displayed at Autonomie Projects, Los Angeles

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Reception and book drive for the Art & Literacy Project {April 2014} Organized by Devon Tsuno, Autonomie Projects, Los Angeles.

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Art and Literacy Project. two thousand risograph prints. Art Collaboration by Mark Twain Middle School, art director and graphic designer Sam Cho, artist Devon Tsuno and their teacher Jill Usui. Exhibited at Autonomie Projects, Los Angeles.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

MANUAL HISTORY MACHINES: A collective comprised of Bessie Kunath, Daniela Campins, Rema Ghuloum, and Tessie Whitmore. As artists and friends, they desired to form together to curate projects that could serve as a vehicle for generating dialogues with other artists. All members live and work and make in Los Angeles, CA.

DEVON TSUNO: Since 2003, Devon has worked as the founder/director of Concrete Walls Projects, an artist run curatorial project that focuses on building community by facilitating collaborations, educational projects, and group exhibitions throughout Southern California. He has been an instructor at various Southern California institutions. Tsuno received an MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2005 and a BFA from California State University, Long Beach in 2002. Tsuno is also the recent recipient of the 2014 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists.

 

JANAE CONTAG [on] STERLING ALLEN

“We’re Calling It a Freeway!”

JaNae Contag: As we begin, I’d like to set up a few parameters to help us more narrowly frame our conversation. First, let’s acknowledge materiality as content. I am not fond of the circulating and somehow popular discussion of re-use, trash, and found materials as a basis for the bricolage genre in art. To me, that discussion hinges on high culture / low culture binaries that I would like to avoid, especially because your work sits so squarely, if not ambiguously, amongst those classifications. I also would like to avoid conversations based purely on “process” evident in the work – let’s take this for granted.

In other words, let’s make content and context our main focus.

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Floater. digital inkjet print {2012} Sterling Allen.

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Untitled. digital inkjet print {2012} Sterling Allen.

First, I’d like to talk about the way in which you flatten and frame your sculptural work by photographing it. Your past work has been interpreted as having a sense of optical illusion, in that the photographs (like all photographs) are bound by their frames, subject to manipulation, and are static. What do you accomplish by fixing the vantage point of a 3D object? I am looking specifically at the chartreuse block on a white pedestal that seems to be engaging a demi-point pose in ballet (10,11,12) and the piece of plywood suspended in air (06). Furthermore, in what ways do the contexts of photographic representation and their actual presentation in the world lend meaning to your sculptures?

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Untitled. collage in found frame {2013} Sterling Allen.

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Untitled. wood, paint {2013} Sterling Allen.

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Untitled. wood, paint {2013} Sterling Allen.

Sterling Allen: Good first question!  I suppose that line of questioning really gets to the heart of what I’m really after as well.  I realized some time ago that my ideas about sculpture were really polluted by the camera/screen as opposed to a corporeal understanding.  I had been making sculpture from photographs and began to see how tricky this relationship can be for the reasons you mention (frame, flattening of space, singular viewpoint) all of which are the opposites of what most sculpture tries to be.  I guess I got interested in the limitations of the photographic representation of objects and where that can be exploited or toyed with.  It’s no accident that most of the sculpture I have seen has been in magazines, books or on a computer screen.  I have lived in Texas nearly my whole life and the vast majority of what I’m looking at is not taking place in my backyard.  For this reason among others, I also know that most of my sculpture will be seen in a similar way.  This isn’t a new development, but something that I feel is becoming more and more pressing for artists right now.  It’s actually part of the reason I feel like sculpture is so exciting.  It’s really hard to get a sense of it from a picture and that’s a fascinating problem to think about.

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Untitled. mixed media {2011} Sterling Allen.

JC: The use of flat paint in your work also seems to add another layer of flattening to your sculptures, especially in photographs. In what ways do you think flattening both limits and extends our perception of depth in space?

SA: I’ve always had an attraction to flat paint.  I think it goes back to a few things but off the top of my head two of them would be cartoons and screenprinting, neither of which have always been a part of the fine art world.  In terms of sculpture, I love the kind of clarity that can be gained from coating an object in one tone and letting light fall over the form, producing shadows/highlights and separating planes.  I think about artists like Anne Truitt, George Sugarman, Vincent Fectau and Anthony Caro in this regard.  Lately I’ve also been thinking about the illusion of flat paint over forms.  In other words, using different tones of a single color on an object to mimic the effect of light – creating edges or cast light where there might not really be any through the use of color shifts.  It’s like volume suggested through color rather than form.

JC: Most of your color choices are garish – like a child’s bedroom (I’ve always wondered why on earth parents paint their kids’ rooms orange, pink, and lime green), or a cartoon. There definitely seems to be a sinister, caricature of play in some of the work. I’m looking at the blue painted plywood train tunnel. I’m thinking about the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the tunnel entry into Toon Town. Toons are out of place in the real world, and humans are aloof in Toon Town. How does this resonate with the experience of viewing your work?

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Untitled. plywood, paint {2012} Sterling Allen.

SA: In terms of color, I think bold, bright but also specific.  I think that it’s the specificity of some of the color relationships that actually make them sing rather than how bright or punchy they are.  Sometimes the intrinsic color of an object or space is already set up and it’s just a matter of isolating it or keeping record.  I rarely choose color randomly and most of the time it is based on something I’ve photographed which tends to come from advertising, construction, debris, or some other pre-existing source.  It’s more of an editing process than an intuitive one.  I think the garish choices add levity to the work; they’re approachable and recognizable but not necessarily as art first, which I like.

JC: The blue painted zigzag sculpture in the first and ninth image has a similar affect, but is even more deadpan in presentation. Would you discuss the relationship between color, paint and play in your sculptures?

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studio view {2011} Sterling Allen.

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Untitled. digital inkjet print {2013} Sterling Allen.

SA: The first image shows the entire lifecycle of that work (which has turned out to be a very important work for me.) The small bit of blue tape on the window was the first part.  It was put there simply to hold that sheet of plywood up against the window to block the sun from my studio at the time.  Once light shone through the tape, it created two tones because in some places the tape was doubled up.  I took a picture of this and then made a sculpture based roughly on the photograph.  Once the sculpture was made, I documented it on the floor in a different space.  The image you see shows the original, the photo of the original, the sculpture itself and the documentation of the sculpture.  This whole process is play for me.  I like what happens when I force myself to translate an image across  different media, seeing what is gained and lost in the translation.  When working from photographs I have one vantage point from which to base something. And of course there is also my memory of the event that is documented in the photograph, should I choose to access that. So when moving into three dimensions, decisions must be made that go beyond the two dimensional source material.  Conversely, when photographing an object that you can walk around or pick up and rotate, you are making very violent decisions about how it will be fronted or flattened into two dimensions.  The camera can be generative though and not always limiting during this process.  I’m also interested in relinquishing control when I can.  I try to photograph things while I’m making them as a way to slow down and re-evaluate my original intentions.  I often make u-turns or left turns on my way somewhere based on these moments.  This sort of meandering is really important to me.

JC: I want to discuss the theme of plasticity in your work as well–plasticity being defined as flexible, cheap, tangible, reproducible, and economical. To you, is plasticity a desirable thing in the world? There is an old saying among engineers that given the choice between creating an object (or purchasing one) that is cheap, fast, and good, you can only ever fulfill two out of the three characteristics. For instance, if I want to purchase a pair shoes to wear to an event, I could go online and rush-order Jeremy Campbell boots and they will be good and fast, but certainly not cheap. There is a tension in your work that suggests this sort of desirable plasticity, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Anything you can explain here, especially in terms of your choices of materials and colors?

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Untitled. mixed media {2011} Sterling Allen.

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temporary outdoor installation {2012} Sterling Allen.

SA: I’ve heard the same thing when talking about a contractor.  You can be cheap and fast but do a shitty job, or you can do a good job, be fast but expensive etc.  I suppose this has to do with limitations, which I think are the most important things for artists.  I have noticed that most of the time when artists begin to expand their studios too quickly to include dozens of assistants and huge production budgets and an array of processes, the work  decidedly lacks something in the end.  Those artworks are certainly huge, well made, plentiful and shiny, but they can feel cold or dishonest at times.  I thrive on rules though I have learned it’s ok to break them as well.  I use a lot of wood in my work.  I prefer big box hardware store grade over high grade hardwoods.  I like working by myself and spending time with a project.  I think I’m just trying to problem solve all the time and wood has proven to be a good material for trying things out.  This type of material surrounds us and one can mold it without too many fancy tools.  I really hate waste so it’s hard for me to throw anything out.  I will often repurpose materials even if they bear the history of previous efforts.  I’m also happy using found materials for this reason.  For these reasons, I would say that I am definitely into plasticity as you’ve defined it, much more so than it’s opposite (rigid, expensive, inaccessible, one-of-a-kind etc).  I am more engaged with what the work is doing rather than the sum of the materials themselves.  Some artists rely heavily on materials with certain connotations or meanings and that’s cool, but not me so much.

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digital photograph (iphone). Sterling Allen.

JC: Your sculptures don’t have eyes or faces, but in many ways they have anthropomorphic qualities. They seem to indicate, through the context lent by the photographs, a sense of singularity, loneliness, deflated-ness, and some are even derelict lying on the pavement outside of the studio, apt to get run over by a car (04). Some objects, like the concrete staircase with the red x’s have been marked for demolition. What are the codes to look for, if you can say, and how do you mean these sculptures to feel?

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digital photograph (iphone). Sterling Allen.

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digital photograph (iphone). Sterling Allen.

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digital photograph (iphone). Sterling Allen.

SA: I suppose most of the photographic documentation of my work singles out individual pieces so maybe the loneliness can be attributed to that?  In the objects that I photograph with my phone (an obsessive index that is ongoing) I think there are certain strategies and themes that I keep coming back to.  With the street photography, as you might call it, I have the power to isolate the subject of the photograph and frame it in any way.  I almost always take one picture and move on.  I guess I am drawn to instances and objects that appear out of place somewhat.  This might explain their singularity and sense of deflated-ness.  Rarely will I make a picture of something brand new, looking super good.  Most of the time the flaws, folds, stains and holes are the things that give us our character and these objects are no different.

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digital photograph (iphone). Sterling Allen.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JaNae Contag: A St. Louis-based artist, writer, and educator. She received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio. Her films, photographs, and drawings deal with uncanny aspects of desire in suburban retail and residential developments. She has exhibited in the Midwest and Texas, most notably at The Luminary Center for the Arts and the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, and Co-Lab Project Space in Austin, Texas. Contag currently teaches in the Photography Program at The Art Institute of St. Louis.

Sterling Allen: Allen received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. In 2006, together with eight other Austin artists he founded and currently co-directs Okay Mountain. As a solo artist and in collaboration with Okay Mountain, he has exhibited and created numerous projects at venues throughout the United States and received several residencies including the Artpace International Artist-In-Residence Program in San Antonio, Texas. He recently completed an MFA in Sculpture at the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College.

DUSTIN DENNIS [on] ERIC GARDUÑO

Dustin Dennis: Your work has taken a number of forms over the years, from a collaborative installation using reconstructed court case ephemera, to geometric charcoal drawings, to your most recent works of digital images that capture altered situations and found objects. What is the method you use to determine form and function when developing your work?

Eric Garduño: I guess I just get bored with things quickly. I’ve always wished that I could be the kind of artist who digs one really deep hole, but instead I dig lots of little shallow holes that don’t ever quite reach water. I have no particular method for determining what direction my work goes in. I just tag along.

DD: Is form or content delivery more important to you when making work? Are they mutually exclusive? Do they share equal importance?

EG: Sometimes I get really into the formal qualities of materials and that leads me to be super crafty. Then I start to feel that my work should have some deeper, smarter motive and I swing into a conceptual mode. I can’t quite seem to get my hands, eyes and brain working at the same time.

Generally speaking, I think people respond more easily to form, whereas content is far less universal. For example: You can have great music without stellar lyrics, but even the most amazing lyrics are not enough to make great music – which is why slam poetry sucks so hard.

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8.14 (improvisation) {2014} Eric Garduño.

DD: From your website, the following statement accompanies your most recent series of digital images:

{Who was the first person to stick gum under a table? How did that become something people do? Can such acts/objects be framed or titled, and what is their potential as art?}

Your collection of images operate as an index of actions, found items and situations. Do you consider these pictures a form of recording soft interventionalism? Is there a particular method you use when choosing what you record? What have you learned by starting this project?

EG: I prefer the term “flaccid interventionalism”.

Initially, I got the idea to hide my fuel gauge with a post-it note and force a little uncertainty into my life. I think that was a pretty good idea. I had a few other clever ideas that seemed to follow suit, like asking strangers for directions I didn’t need – because giving good directions always makes me feel like hot shit. But, in the end the work has become more observational. Rather than doing something I just wait til an odd thing catches my attention, then I snap a picture on my phone, upload to my website, give it a title and voila! – an art.

1.14 (uncertainty) {2014}

1.14 (uncertainty) {2014} Eric Garduño.

DD: You’re currently living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  How is making art in the southwest different from your experience making art in other places you’ve lived?

EG: The only other place I’ve made work is in Connecticut which doesn’t really count cause I was in grad school (a myopic vortex). So, I don’t have many points of comparison, though I do think place, geography and culture have strong effects on an artist’s work. When I lived in New York and Chicago I was too broke and too busy surviving to worry about making art. Similarly, my current lack of time and studio has produced a lazy little practice.

9.14 (history) {2014}

9.14 (history) {2014} Eric Garduño.

DD: I come from a family who takes automotive culture very seriously and I know you’re a fan of classic cars. There have been a number of contemporary artists who have made work inspired by automobile culture, I’m thinking of Richard Prince’s Elvis {2007}, Jason Rhoades’s Garage Renovation {1993}, many works by John Chamberlain, even Tony Smith’s story of driving three Cooper Union students along a closed section of the New Jersey Turnpike in 1951. Driving across the large expanses of the southwest feels different than driving across other parts of the country. Do cars or the act of driving affect how you conceive of works in any way?

EG: I’ve fallen in love with working on old cars. Right now I’m working on a 1970 Datsun 240z and a 1969 Triumph GT6+. Like making art, it satiates every part of my impulse to work with my hands and is an endless learning experience. But unlike art, there’s a larger, less elitist community with less bullshitmarketanxietycareerismlameness (that’s German for “Art World”). With cars you either know stuff or you don’t – there’s no room for faking it. Plus at the end of the day you can drive your work out into the streets, hit the cruise line and get props from Chollos. At this stage in the game, a nod from a thug in a lowrider means more to me then the approval of a curator. Actually, they’re equal. Actually, I have no idea what either feels like.

1969 Triumph GT6+ Bonnet

1969 Triumph GT6+ Bonnet. Courtesy of Eric Garduño.

1969 Triumph GT6+

1969 Triumph GT6+. Courtesy of Eric Garduño.

1970 Datsun 240z

1970 Datsun 240z. Courtesy of Eric Garduño.

DD: You’ve been working with Julia Friedman on her artwork trading and bartering project, ExchangeWorks.co. Would you explain a bit about your involvement in this project? Do you feel this project attempts to circumvent any shared “bullshitmarketanxietycareerismlameness” concerns, pushing alternative market solutions? Or do you think the project is more about defining the limits of artworks’ values?

EG: ExchangeWorks.co is attempting to establish a web based hub for the exchange of art and resources (travel, materials, services, etc.). It could easily be viewed an alternative to the traditional gallery model, but Julia is thinking about helping artists, not flipping off the art world. The so called “sharing economy” is growing quickly–from kickstarter and airbnb to small bicycle, garden and daycare exchanges. One of the things the internet is really good at is building communities. If the site succeeds it might prompt a reconsideration of the valuation of art. Traditional supply and demand models change slightly when specific needs enter the equation. For example: You might sell a paintings for 25k, but you might also trade one for a 8k moving van if that’s what you really need at that moment.

DD: In 2011 you collaborated with Matthew Rana to create “People v. Bruce (parrhesia)” for the Site Santa Fe exhibition, Agitated Histories. Would you talk a little about this project? How did the idea for this work begin?

People v. Bruce (parrhesia). cardboard, theater lights, 16 x 5 x 6 ft., "Agitated Histories" at SITE Santa Fe (installation view). {2011}.

People v. Bruce (parrhesia). cardboard, theater lights, 16 x 5 x 6 ft., “Agitated Histories” at SITE Santa Fe (installation view). {2011}. Eric Garduño.

People v. Bruce (parrhesia). "Agitated Histories" at SITE Santa Fe (installation view) {2011}

People v. Bruce (parrhesia). “Agitated Histories” at SITE Santa Fe (installation view) {2011} Eric Garduño.

People v. Bruce (parrhesia) Exhibit A. 1/1 scale archival ink jet print, "Agitated Histories" at SITE Santa Fe. {2011}

People v. Bruce (parrhesia) Exhibit A. 1/1 scale archival ink jet print, “Agitated Histories” at SITE Santa Fe. {2011} Eric Garduño.

People v. Bruce (parrhesia) Exhibit B. 1/1 scale archival ink jet print, "Agitated Histories" at SITE Santa Fe. {2011}

People v. Bruce (parrhesia) Exhibit B. 1/1 scale archival ink jet print, “Agitated Histories” at SITE Santa Fe. {2011} Eric Garduño.

EG: Matthew and I have been collaborating since early undergrad (UNM), but this particular project started because Matthew was exploring intersections of Art and Law. He was looking at Lenny Bruce, an artist who has been heavily persecuted (legally) for obscenity. We started talking about free speech and the courtroom as a performative space. Consider the similarities of lawyers and stand up comedians – in terms of truth, rhetoric and what it takes to work an audience… Later we began condensing our ideas and research into short “bits” that we pressed to vinyl. Sadly, I don’t think the record was fully formed (at least not my parts), but it led to more work and eventually inclusion in Agitated Histories. The works that have come out of the collaboration (which is ongoing) are widely varied in materials and scale and far too dense in content to discuss here (because Matthew is really brilliant). The project is scheduled to surface again at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in early 2015 for an exhibition called Laugh In that will explore comedy, politics and protest.

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

DUSTIN DENNIS: Dennis was born and raised in a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and in 2005 received an MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has since exhibited digital, print, and sculpture work in New York, Rhode Island, New Mexico, California and Michigan. Dustin is a founding Director of Studio Fuse, an expanding art blog and studio community. He currently lives and works in New Mexico and New York.

ERIC GARDUÑO: Eric Amabe Garduño was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico the year that E.T. premiered. He completed an MFA at Yale around the time Justin Timberlake attempted to bring “Sexyback”. He was the storyboard artist for the pilot of Breaking Bad, and has exhibited artwork nationally and internationally. He’s taught at several colleges. He drinks Whiskey and Gin (not together) and is currently the director of the foremost Pre-Columbian antiquities gallery in the United States.

MATT SMITH CHAVEZ [on] LEE LAVY

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Ol’ Dirty. dirt, plywood, canvas, trash, 6’ x 7’ x 28” {November 2013} Lee Lavy.

Lee Lavy and I are MFA candidates at University of California Berkeley. Our studios are at the UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station (RFS), a satellite campus of sorts that mostly houses large scale engineering and research projects. There’s a huge earthquake simulator, for example, and countless other projects that I haven’t quite figured out yet. There are folks building drones, race cars, and whatever this is. And if you look out yonder you can see the Bay and the San Francisco skyline. The campus closes to the public after regular hours so on the weekends it can feel like a semi deserted lunar base with dozens of young people building and making things late into the night.

There are also a couple of turkeys running around. And a healthy population of stray cats.

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UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station. Courtesy of Lee Lavy.

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UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station. Courtesy of Lee Lavy.

I mention the UC Berkeley studios because for most of us the site of production matters, especially if you are interested in issues of site and in found and reclaimed objects. Lee often uses discarded materials in his practice, materials that you might find packed away in a old garage; materials that are almost talismanic in their obsolescence. Lee tells me about the found objects he incorporates into his studio practice:

{I’m interested in objects that were once used in high circulation for industry production but no longer serve a functional value for contemporary, practical uses. The gears, belts and other flotsam once dependable for running machinery for the now defunct Weber Bread Factory in San Diego have fallen out of favor for technological advances. The discarded colors of gallon paint cans that I collected from a house painting company in Sacramento are out of fashion and left to sit idle. These materials no longer serve their intended purpose. They have become obsolete, hidden in attic spaces and on basement shelves–Time capsuled.} LL

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Belt and Colored Coded Gears. found belt and spray painted found gears, bolts, gauges and various hardware, 76” x 72” x 72” {February 2013} Lee Lavy.

It’s about history as much as it is about materiality. Last year he produced an installation for Bread and Salt in San Diego using discarded mechanical gears that he found in the attic of their new building. He reconstructed the way they had been stored and forgotten. In a way, the work was as much about the obsolete objects themselves as it was about the trace of the hand that had arranged and stored them years or decades ago:

{Finding and using these objects is a way for me to interact with the not so distant past by creating a new existential meaning for the forgotten materials. Their physicality alters when gathered and arranged in a new context. By arranging an inventory of gears, bolts and various other mechanical parts and coloring them or by placing them on a canvas and stripping them of their rust, I give them new ontological value.} LL

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House Paint Excavation (details). latex paint, 2×4’s, plywood, painted wall, table = 60” x 33” x 27”, wall = 8’ x 18’. {2014} Lee Lavy.

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House Paint Excavation and All Colors Combined. latex paint, 2×4’s, plywood, painted wall, table = 60” x 33” x 27”, wall = 8’ x 18’. {April 2014-Ongoing Project} Lee Lavy.

Most recently he used the hardened paint found inside discarded paint cans. It may have been the perfect metaphor for his practice — cracking open the object and using its history as a kind of found sculpture:

{Hardening and extracting discarded paint from it’s can brings about a new physical form. Paint as solid physical volume becomes a relic. Mineral-like in their appearance, strange and unnatural, useless in their can-less nudity–these objects have been excavated from their old use-value and placed on a new contextual plain brimming with visual mystery. Beyond the interesting visual physicality of the objects, the site of collection becomes important. If a collection of paints from a particular site is assembled, then a discourse surrounding that specific color and the identity of the site begins to take shape.} LL

So perhaps it’s natural that Lee is interested in leaving the object behind (at least for now) in favor of a more research based practice. A few months ago he travelled to Los Angeles to excavate ideas regarding something that lies deep below ground: the Hollywood Fault.

{LA’s famous history of quaking has forced developers to have to comply with strict building practices. One of those practices being that a project must be built at least 50 feet away from a known fault zone. Since Los Angeles was built out and covered with over a century’s worth of concrete and asphalt, it has proven to be a very difficult task in identifying where exactly a fault line might exist. This hidden fault identification is precisely the dilemma for the Millennium Tower project (currently under development), a double tower 45 story set of high rises. Due to strong opposition to the project, the State Geology Survey drafted a map of the Hollywood fault in January of this year. The map places Millennium as sitting directly within the fault zone. Millennium is now digging a trench at Hollywood Blvd and Argyle St next to the iconic Capital Records building. The trench is an attempt to visually identify whether or not the fault runs beneath the property.} LL

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Looking for the Hollywood Fault. archival digital print, 20” x 30” {May 2014} Lee Lavy.

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Hollywood Fault (Working Title). walking GPS, iPhone pictures, Adobe Illustrator, 6.9 Miles {January-Ongoing Project} Lee Lavy.

{With reference to the map, I walked the 6.9 miles of fault running through Hollywood. I mapped the walk on my phone’s GPS, creating a red line that correlates with the yellow line of the State released map. The red line is the color of a Stop Sign, of High Warning, Danger, Blood, the Hollywood Red Carpet. It’s a symbol of an arterial fault ready to rupture. It stands for impending ruin, destruction and demise. It represents the solidarity of all those who choose to call California home; for everybody staying for the love of place regardless of the unknown time the fault will slip. I propose to the city of Los Angeles that the entire road be painted a bright, Fire Lane Red. The Red Road would represent the fault as an actual, physical GPS line, one that could be seen from space. A tourist attraction to be driven on and walked along by residents and visitors alike, acting as a reminder of place and as a warning for the future.} LL

He tells me about Montana, where he’s spending most of the summer researching his family’s relationship to land:

{I’m a fifth generation Montanan, which means my family has been in the state for a long time. Land was patented, (purchased from the US Homestead Act of 1864) by my family in the early 20th century. The land is extremely rural, and difficult to access. It is located 14 miles east of the nearest town far into the hills. The land holds the ruins of an old Tuberculosis Hospital, the remnants of my Great Great Grandparents abandoned and weathered farm and a forgotten one-room school house that sits on a sage brush plain, overlooking the Rocky Mountains to the west.} LL

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Ravalli County Land Abstract Book 1. phone photo {June 2014} Lee Lavy.

It seems like an inevitable transition — Lee has gone from excavating the history of found objects to excavating his own history:

{I’m interested in what it means to own land–what it means for land to be passed down through family hands within a century. What does it mean when sold land still holds all the remnants of it’s former owners? This project is meant to tell the story of the land my relatives farmed and raised large families on. It is a story of a property that quarantined consumption afflicted patients and of the people that still work the land that they have spent their entire lives knowing. It’s an attempt at creating a Landscape Portrait.} LL

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Matt Smith Chavez: is currently a  MFA candidate at UC Berkeley. Working mostly in an abstract formalist manner dealing with the existence of the image in a post Internet world. Follow Matt on twitter @MattSmithChavez, Learn more about his work and keep up with his writings both at parkwayblog.net and his most recent article for New American Paintings.

Lee Lavy: is from the Bitter Root Valley in Western Montana. In 2005 he moved to San Diego. He co-founded the artist run gallery space, ICE Gallery in 2010 through 2012. ICE Gallery was a space for site specific installation. He received his BA in Art at San Diego State University in the winter of 2012. While working on the Gallery and attending SD State, he also worked as an art preparator for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego for 4 years. He is currently a 2015 MFA candidate in UC Berkeley’s Art Practice Program.

SANTIAGO ECHEVERRY [on] JOSE JOAQUIN FIGUEROA

JOSE JOAQUIN FIGUEROA: Cute Transgressor

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Muñecos de Loza 02. Courtesy of Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

Santiago Echeverry (intro as aside): Back in March of 2014, I was invited to participate in a collective show curated by Manu Mojito and Paulo Alvarez at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, in Bogotá, Colombia. Having lived outside my country for over 10 years, it was a strike of luck that I was in the city for the show opening. And believe me, it was a breath of fresh air.  The talent and the reflection in every single one of the pieces was breathtaking, especially knowing I was already considered a veteran within the group. With the curators both being in their 20’s, the exhibit entitled Muñecos de Loza 02 ( Porcelain Dolls 02) presented works related to the ambiguity of the body by established and emerging national and international artists. I shared the space with former students of mine (Santiago Forero), colleagues (Ana Patricia Palacios), friends (Juan Pablo Echeverri) and masters (Clemencia Poveda) emerging young artists such as Paloma Castello and Pablo Adarme, and international guests Abel Azcona (Spain), and José Joaquín Figueroa from Venezuela.

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José Joaquín Figueroa. Bogotá, Colombia {March 2014} Manu Mojito.

I was fascinated with all of the works, and I could write a book about the entire exhibition, but I felt particularly attracted to the work of Figueroa, who was living and studying in NY, at Cooper Union, at the time of the show. He represented this new generation of artists that consider themselves Queer, moving beyond gender barriers and stereotypes, with very strong political and satirical approaches to exploring the realities in their countries and the invasion of American culture in Latin America. M having experienced the harshness of growing in a difficult country myself, and having lived and worked in New York too, gave Figueroa and I starting ground for a fertile round of conversations, culminating in this short but insightful interview, that we performed a little after his art college graduation. Figueroa incarnates the passion of his generation for freedom and alternative methods of expression, with an invigorating, uncompromising and irreverent attitude that redefines the stereotypical views of Latin American art.

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El Pitiyanqui: American Quilt, photo-performance, {2009} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: I am almost twice your age and yet I notice that there are no big differences between our generations; there are a lot of ideas and concepts that we share. Do you think that that happens because we are both Latinos or is it because we belong to this kind of global culture?

Jose Joaquin Figueroa: I think it is hard to pinpoint why these similarities arise but I feel there are two constants in life for me: change and repetition. As artists we have a constant struggle between these two, and if I have to respond I would say that our shared background has a lot to do with that. I feel in America artists react differently to globalization, especially to Americanism or Americana invading some other spaces that are supposed to have other values. We react and we observe those realities under a different lens and therefore we can arrive at the same ideas and concepts at the end because we are in a middle ground. It is interesting for me to now be in America (USA) and have this new door to a way of producing art and then going back home and also having that door open, but finding myself in the middle because I am neither here nor there.

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Playboy, photo-performance, {2010} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: I am particularly fascinated with the work that you have done regarding gender and politics, especially the work entitled Playboy where you are appearing nude in the same position as Marilyn Monroe but you are smoking Fidel Castro’s cigar and wearing Mao Zedung’s hat. I am also interested in the photo-performance entitled From Left to Right, where you morph from the Fidel Castro into Marilyn again. Where is this work coming from?

JF: These works are autobiographical and it is interesting to remark that From Left to Right was produced while I was still living in Venezuela, in the period of time when Hugo Chávez had been in power for around 10 years. The work was a digestion of his discourse in my country because he was always antagonizing the American ideal with the socialist/communist notion that capitalism was bad and communism was good, but he never got deeper into the ideology behind both systems, and why one was working and the other one wasn’t. So I think I grabbed those ideas and thought about the advertising images of both Castro and Monroe, especially because of their gender attributes,  and I obviously grabbed on to Fidel as some iconic image of the masculine intellectual communist, as well as Marilyn, as the icon of feminine beauty and desire.

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From Left to Right. photo-performance, {2009} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

Their images are very powerful in what they stand for. I also took those two images as an excuse to play with my concern with  gender in Venezuela: if you are a gay male and you are masculine it is good, but if you are effeminate it is bad. There is a paradox that if you are into capitalism and you are feminine that is bad, but if you are into communism and you are masculine it is good, and if you are of the opposition, or the other side of the coin, then there is a short circuiting that happens. That is hard for me to grasp. I have never believed in radical positions, I believe in the transition or the transit–sometimes we are in one position or the other but we are never in the same place. There are two sides where the work comes from, one being the political body that processes all binary information, and the other being the position from which I can enact or develop myself in a society with social constructs limiting the body already. In Venezuela, there are no other (or not enough) male body artists doing what I am doing, just female artists, which is interesting to me because I am appropriating the idea of the feminine body attitude used as an artificial object of desire, because those poses are not only artificially constructed but also exclusive to the female gender.

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Studies on plastic bags / Shopping Heads. photo-performance, {2009} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: I studied the work you did with the plastic bags, and these plastic bags have a double connotation: suffocation and suicide. It is as if you were walking on a cliff, on one side it is extreme pleasure, on the other side you die.  Are you playing that game, trying to reflect your own angst?

JF: I feel that my work has a lot to do with angst in many ways, like that moment when I do not know what is it that my body can do to make a difference, with the struggle constantly present. The plastic bags project took three years to develop, it started with me collecting all of my consumer bags and then putting them on my head. Initially they were not necessarily plastic, they were paper too, all with consumer culture brands and logos. The process of collecting all of these traces of consumption started to be more systematic, and I focused later only on plastic bags. Every human being in a city has to interact with this object. Wherever you buy something, they always give you one of those, in the pharmacy, the supermarket, working equally for both the low and high culture consumer, easily accessible as an object.

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Martyrs. photo-performance, {2009-2011} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

After repeating this gesture of portraying myself with a bag on my head, finding a place between pain and pleasure,   I “saw the light” – it sounds corny, I know – and I started doing double exposures, shifting the initial scope of the project. I would combine the portrait of my face with and without a bag, so you could see the face and the bag at the same time. It ceased hiding my identity (where the bag would behave as a mask) to allow the fusion between the branding identity and my face, allowing it to become a very religious experiment. This is why I ultimately called it Martyrs, because martyrs are these catholic people that after being either tortured or immolated (for the good of their religion) they start seeing the light, they get access to the other side, they can see other planes, like some sort of redemption or clairvoyance.

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Dialécticas al cubo (about Venezuela’s politics). photo/video-performance, {2012} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: Do you  think that if you had stayed in Venezuela you would be doing the same type of work?

JF: I probably would be doing directly political work or even refuse the political aspect altogether. I do not know. I call Venezuela the land of Magical Realism, because of all its absurd situations. It is the land of endless paradoxes. There is so much contrast, but still people find ways of achieving happiness or not caring at all. I think for the creative mind it is a very fertile territory because it just highlights a sort of absurdity, some place where logic or common sense doesn’t really work. Anything could happen when you play with/around absurdity and irony.

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Still Life. photography/installation, {2012} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: You are in New York which is also full of paradox and magical realism that comes from everywhere in the world…

Yes it is, but in a different way because it is also a concrete jungle. I am now doing the same work I would be doing at home too, but I am now reacting to America and this city of cultural divergence and convergence, in a way where I try to think about my roots in my country almost like my own debt to the land where I am from. Wherever we go we are going to be Colombian or Venezuelan anyway, and we bring that with us, like the reaction to nature, vernacular culture, music, the body, religion. When I was working at home, I was working with the illusion or fantasy of America (USA), and here I am working with the illusion of South America. I do not like calling it Venezuela, because it feels too much like the nation-state, whereas I am trying to see it from the perspective of the natives that used to be aligned with nature, a free land where generosity and freedom were aligned with what the world needs, without taboos. Colonization brought a lot of change to us.

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Out of Order. Installation/Intervention, {2013} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

Another one of your pieces I had the chance to see was a series of urinal covers. What was it about?

JF: This project is called Out of Order and it is a series of custom made, fabric covers for public restroom urinals. I call it a project because I see it as an ongoing work of public art that could be installed anywhere, inspired by the covers that grandmothers sew for their appliances in the kitchen, the toaster, the teapot, or even computers. I have seen those and they are very funny. I use the term grandmother because that is my own direct personal experience. I purposely chose fabrics with floral patterns, very colorful prints with feminine attributes, to cover these urinals which are always white, clean and shiny. It is obviously a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s urinal in art history. But in this case it is trying to highlight the issues of gender identity, questioning the stereotype of masculinity as very rational and unemotional, and how these distinctions are set in social gender constructs, because I do not think that is how it works at all. It is a project that brings back different memories not only with gender but also with gay cruising in public bathrooms, emphasizing the visual place where the sex is aligned, because once you place these covers, these urinals start looking like bulges or speedos. Desire works in a very interesting way, where you fantasize more with someone you haven’t seen naked or you’ve just seen in a speedo: the sky is the limit – which is fetishism -  and sometimes to see a naked body might not be as erotic as the fantasy or with the ornament that covers the sex.

SE: Instead of covering it in leather or black latex or rough materials which are masculine, you fetishize it and turn the most masculine element, which is the urinal…into a type of feminine aggression.

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Out of Order. Installation/Intervention, {2013} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

JF: The work is sort of “punky,” or “cute transgressive” and it is regenerative too, telling the boys that we are also feminine, without the need to deny the other side. I have a problem with things that are depicted as being very radical or one-sided, because there are always different sides to each story.

SE: Is this also related to the fact that there is now a generation that no longer needs to have casual and forbidden sex in a public restroom?

JF: Yes, but it still hides itself in different masks and personas. Even straight people are using apps to skim through other people’s profiles to see if they want them or not. It is interesting for me to understand how cruising worked in the past, where the social engagements happened in real life, in flesh and blood. For my generation it is different, I lost my virginity through the internet. It is a different set of interactions, because you could hide yourself, you do not have to put your body into a possible situation of denial,  or danger, or where people would physically say that they did not want to have sex with you or that they were not gay; you no longer have to be a daredevil, and through the lens of technology it is easier to be very straightforward and say things as you want to because there is nothing at stake anymore.

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Stuck In Wonder Out Forever Trying. happening/performance/intervention, {2014} Jessica Robbins and José Joaquin Figueroa.

SE: You are ready to start your Graduate Program in San Francisco: what are your goals there?

JF: I applied to UC Berkeley for Art Practice, and I chose it because most of the programs out there are too specifically focused on traditional arts such as photography, painting or sculpture. I was interested in a program that is already talking about all the intersections in art. Just like in my Left to Right project, when it comes to making work, I mix mediums. I could make a painting, but I also mix installation and photography too. I do not think of these terms as being static at all. Another reason why I am moving there is because it is a program that offers me significant financial aid, which is very important. It is great that I am following my career path through this institution,  but it is true that once I graduate there will be no $60k/year job for me. I know it is hard, so why would I want to get into student debt? I don’t see how necessary that debt is, because artists are still going to do their thing, regardless of whether they go to school or not.  It is a basic need for us.

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Untitled (Suicide). video-installation {2013} Jose Joaquin Figueroa.

I am also very happy, after studying in NY for 4 years, and observing how the art world / system works, I am excited to go somewhere else where it might not be the same at all, so that I have to re-establish  what my goals are as an artist and a visual communicator.  I put myself in a position where I do not really care about making commercialized objects that can be sold. Obviously I would love to make a living out of what I do and I am aiming towards that goal, but I am more happy in communicating or leaving statements or documents of problems that are happening or paradoxes that no one talks about. I have used the word paradox a lot and I wish I had the language to be more specific with that. That’s why visual language and non-verbal communication are such good tools for me in pinpointing all these problems. If you think about being a studious artist and the platform of the art world, it is already sort of ridiculous to begin with. It is again a different performance, a different mask, you have to create this characteristic persona in order to play around in the game. I guess that San Francisco is going to give me an opportunity to be in my studio a lot more and to not think about that game for awhile, or think about it in a different way. New York is called the capital of the art world, but I guess that’s true just because there is so much money there and it is where galleries sell the most. This is where a sort of fetishisation towards the art object can happen. And let’s not be naïve, because it is not only the fetishisation of the art object that counts,  it is about the value that is created  through the art object, and therefore the investment for people who are in the finance world. It is still about status, and I think it is very  important to remember that because I want to be aligned with the people–to something else, I cannot be aligned with that other world.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

SANTIAGO ECHEVERRY: is a Colombian New Media and Digital Artist with a background in Film and Television production. Thanks to a Fulbright Grant, he received his Master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. He moved to the USA in 2003 to teach Interactivity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He then relocated to Florida in the Fall of 2005 to teach Digital Arts and Interactive Media at the University of Tampa. He started exhibiting internationally in 1992, and his research interests include non-linear narration, video-art, performance art, interactive design, creative code and web experimentation, while never forgetting his commitment to Gay and Lesbian Human Rights.

JOSE JOAQUIN FIGUEROA: Born in 1986 in Caracas, Venezuela. Figueroa attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2009, and graduated from The Cooper Union in NYC in 2014. He will begin his graduate education in Art Practice in the fall at UC Berkeley, CA.

JOSE GARZA [on] GILLIAN TOBIN

{One mourns less for what was than for what can no longer happen now.}

—Hans-Jost Frey, Interruptions

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Epilogue

Some of these things may or may not have happened…

{These walls used to be beige. Lime green. Piss yellow. Looks like there could be at least five different types of yellow. There’s a spot you’ve been picking at. Your fingernail is filed down from the scratching and peeling. The tip of your finger is raw. What happened here when the walls were brown? You keep peeling back. More layers appear. You pull back a nice big chunk. Whose room was this? Maybe it used to be a bedroom. You concentrate on a place where the paint is closely stacked together like sheets of paper. It looks like at least a hundred layers. Your nail digs in deeper. Small flakes and debris fall at your feet. You think you catch the scent of stale beer. It’s faint but turns your stomach. You continue scratching. Peeling. A telephone rings on the other side of the wall. You place your ear against it where you’ve been scratching. A muffled voice. Then crying. The receiver drops to the floor. Scratching again. Deeper. Almost to the first layer. Crying becomes sobbing. Were there any pictures on the walls? Posters of movie stars and pop bands? Did someone hide in here?  Did they hide from teasing or scolding? Rejection. Did a broken heart live here? Could it still be here? Footsteps. Trrrttdd. The receiver is placed back on the cradle. Why do you only remember the bad things? You know? Because they’re the ones that resonate in your bones. So deep yet so close to the surface. Why can’t you remember anything good? The bad shit is so much easier to remember. Why won’t you let yourself remember anything good? Almost to the bottom. You can see the bare wood. You need the scratching and peeling to help you remember anything at all. You are tethered to it. Like a line to your ankle that slacks before becoming taut and pulling you back home. Almost there. Almost home. What is that? A speck of red. It’s wet and instantly soaks into the dry rotted wood grain. Leaves a ring. It gets bigger. Puddles. You stop.}

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Standing in the middle of the room, I feel like the lone survivor of a natural disaster. It looks like a tornado just tore through here. The air feels heavy and static. It’s eerily quiet. Objects and debris are strewn everywhere. I’m afraid to step without looking, as there are very few places to find proper footing. The entire world is condensed into this 10ft x 10ft space. It’s piled on top of itself. But there are a few instances where things appear to have been spared, left unscathed. Brief moments of clarity. A stack of books about ten high, notes tacked to the walls or pinned to the surface of a worktable, a lone empty PBR tallboy erected like a pillar. And the artwork. The sole reason for all of this. It hangs bravely to the walls or stands defiantly on it’s own. It was born out of this chaos. They look back at me with suspicious eyes as if to ask, “What are you doing here?” or rather “What are you still doing here?” But I’m not the only one here. Gillian is here too. She stands by her long worktable just a few feet from me. It resembles a battle zone. I can almost see smoke rise from it. Her eyes survey the damage and the casualties. Her hand scans over the rubble.

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

This is Gillian’s studio. It’s a messy, uneven, incoherent, fragmented, and broken space held together by all the confusion and at once ready to fall apart. It’s full of as much splendor as wretchedness. Clearly she has run out of space to work long ago. We are here to pack and clean. She is moving out. I can tell she is already feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Usually, I can read it in her eyes. They are her most expressive feature. While the rest of her body can sit perfectly still, her hands tightly clasped together, shoulders raised and held against her neck; her eyes change color as fast as brewing storm clouds. From crystal blue to bluish-green, green-blue to green and back again. Sometimes it depends on the light or what she is wearing. Other times it’s her mood. Right now they are green, deep dark green. I’ve never seen them this green. So dark green they absorb all the light around her. There is something uncannily familiar about all of this. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I try to remain calm. “Everything is gonna be alright”, I reassure her. She turns to me, slightly smiles and nods in agreement. Her shoulders relax.

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Gillian says she has picked one of her sculptures to give to me; knows exactly which one. She doesn’t realize my intention is to leave with more. At least two. I have been in her studio many times. We’ve made it past all the pleasantries and insecurities that occur the first couple of times you visit someone’s studio. The awkwardness. Gone beyond the polite questions and smiles. I’ve been nosey, poked around and asked questions. Found myself genuinely interested in her process- materially and intellectually. She has talked me through what she’s doing and thinking. Confided in me. I’ve tried my best to be helpful- objective, honest, direct and encouraging. It’s what happens when trust is established. We begin to notice the subtle moves, nuances and changes in the work. Also in the repertoire we develop with the artist. The moves and words become more intentional and confident. We appreciate the privilege of the relationship to the artist and their work. The intimacy that it brings. We are attuned to the visual language that begins to emerge. It sings to us when we walk into her studio.

{I’m sorry if it falls apart. I feel like they are. Like they’re not meant to last.}

I hold the piece she’s chosen for me in my hands. It’s one I’ve had my eyes on.

{What’s it called?}

{It’s “Untiled”, most of them are untitled.}

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Gillian’s sculptures are constructed from a recipe of acrylic paints, household glue, coffee grounds, concrete dust, gel medium and other ingredients. She pours out the mixture and leaves it out to dry to form skins. When dry, they are malleable. Their color range between black, beige, yellow and blue. Glossy and matte. Colors that allude to those found in domestic interiors. There are pieces of them all over her studio floor. Chips and scraps. Other elements such as parts of furniture, twine, wish mesh and gutted journals are also incorporated. Using the dried skins and other materials, she transforms them into exquisitely precise handcrafted sculptures. Sections are cut, glued, twisted, and folded to create concave and convex lines. They blossom and collapse onto themselves revealing a delicate and painstaking process. We are not only looking at their exterior but are seduced inwardly as the forms weave in and out. They are abstractions. Fragments brought together to make a whole. They’re enigmatic. Elegant. Yet by their abstraction, their fragmentedness and otherness is only further emphasized. They appear wounded and propped up by the sum of their parts. Intentionally left in an unresolved state.  And so we are also repulsed. Not because they are ugly or grotesque but because we are also confronted by inherent and insensate hopelessness. They are open and unselfconscious. Vulnerable. Frail and volatile. Beautiful and Sad. Brilliance is found in their poignancy and sadness.

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Still packing. Gillian separates her studio in different piles. Things to be packed, thrown away, given away and undecided. She methodically sifts through all the items. Bags of trash fill up. Art supplies and notebooks are sorted. We work together without speaking. Space opens up around the floor. I hear her take a deep gulp of air and then sigh. There’s more room to breathe now. Before we even begin, I try to memorize her studio exactly as it. I attempt to visually catalog every single thing in it. Imagine what it would look like if it were much bigger or even much smaller. I place it other cities. Places I’ve been to and others I haven’t. What if it’s much bigger with more natural light? White walls. Maybe a concrete floor…There’s a large sliding glass door that opens up into a garden. I’m sitting on an old leather chair smoking a cigarette. When I exhale the smoke dances around my hands as I cut pictures out a magazine. There are more gray hairs on my chin. A dog naps at my feet. Gillian is at the other end of the studio. Next to her a hot cup of coffee. There’s a small chip one side and if you’re not careful it will cut your lip. She twists a life-size armature into shape. A chewed-up pencil is held between her teeth. This isn’t real. I don’t know if it will ever be real. But right now it feels like it is and it only raises more questions. I’m not sure why I’m doing this. It’s sentimental. Overly romantic. It doesn’t’ make any sense. I catch myself deep in this daydream, fantasy. I have no name for it. I don’t know what this is. The more I yearn for it, the less clear it becomes. As vivid as I want the images to be, they are distant and out of focus. I bring myself back. Look at my smartphone to read the time (4:37 p.m.). Then, I use the studio and its content to orient myself. I need an anchor. But with every sweep of the broom and the neat stacks created, I am slipping away. The floor open up and slides from under me. I am empty, buoyant, floating no matter how close she is.

Gillian is placing some books in a translucent green plastic bin. She arranges and rearranges their order. Makes more room for other items. Pops the lid closed. She looks up at me. Her eyes are blue.

{Wow, it looks like everything’s gonna fit!}

I think we’re both surprised by how quickly the studio has almost been returned to its original state. With the exception of a little patching and painting it’s all set. All done for the day and a little tired, we sit on a plaid couch outside the studio. I sink in deeper into the cushion than anticipated. It’s old and the springs have no give left in them. Our elbows lightly touch. The thin hairs on our arms stand on end. I look over at Gillian; her eyes flutter and then gently close. There is a tiny bead of sweat above her eyebrow. Her lips are slightly parted. I trace her profile and tattoo it on my brain. Draw every freckle on her face. I want to remember everything just as it is. The feel of the rough and worn fabric of the couch. The socks I’m wearing. Her dark, curly hair pulled back into a loose bun. The way the air smells. The hot and muggy late afternoon waiting for us outside. The earrings she wears. The dirt under my fingernails. The one hair on my mustache that is just a little too long and pokes my lip. The smudge of dust on her jeans. Splattered dried paint and scratches on the hardwood floors. Every single one. The feeling of satisfaction of accomplishing a task. Together. I catch my breath. She rests her head on my shoulder.

I don’t want this moment to end. I don’t trust my memory.

Softly she says, the words barely leaving her lips, {Thank you so much for helping me. Thank you for everything…I’m hungry. I don’t feel like I should be but I am. Are you hungry? Let’s go get something to eat.}

I nod my head {yes.}

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{2014} Courtesy of Gillian Tobin.

Prologue

The words above were inspired by Gillian and her work. Unfortunately, I fear that I have not done her or her practice any justice with reference to and describing her work intellectually. Below this paragraph, I will place her words to describe it.

{Few feelings are more disjointed and elusive than our longings. Poignantly situated beyond verbal expression, our innermost yearnings act as the basis for our sense of selfhood in the world, and yet that restless pining often leaves us dissatisfied, empty; desire rarely finds an end result; longings are seldom fulfilled. These longings manifest themselves in the questions we struggle to give form to, the instances of melancholic reverie, the missing of a place that doesn’t exist. There is a sense of loss embedded within the subject. Not a specific loss, but the troubling sensation of one, which can’t be named.

Objects illuminate this absent condition: an emblem of insatiable longing – the personal, private sign.  Meaning is associative: romantic and illogical. Pivotal to our sense of self, our navigation of the world is reliant on our encounter with things.  We contend with the present through our relationship to objects. The house adorned with antiques, arranged to feel like a home; a coffee table scattered with empty bottles and cigarette butts: fragments from the night before. An interruption – the chipped cup one can’t bear to part with.  Imbued with history and associations whose materiality has dissipated, objects direct our sense of being in the world.       

As an artist, my practice continually seeks out the enigmatic – questions riddled with an excess or absence of answers – an inward inquiry that inspires an exterior search. This incessant striving, the uneasy quest towards understanding, is intrinsic to our presence in the world. I seek to concretize what essentially remains airy and immaterial – to give shape and disposition to longing – to compose my own fragments.

My work’s language is one of abstraction. Forms evoke feelings as feelings manifest form.  Themes are archetypal, bearing a myriad of associations. My construction of abstract objects reinforces otherness, the challenge of making the un–nameable solid. Art objects seek to give structure to the ephemeral nature of our being, to create a shared experience.  These displaced fragments embody loose connections to the notion of “home”: a utopic space, inherently absent. Longing fails to reach totality.  Incompleteness reigns. The fragment acts as a physical stand–in as well as an emblematic gesture of metaphysical desire – an unsatisfied longing for the ideal of home.}

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JOSE GARZA: A Navy Veteran from Florida, who received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. He currently lives and works in St. Louis, where he is the new Co-Curator and Acting-Director of The Transversal Project.

GILLIAN TOBIN: A fellow WUSTL MFA alum (’14), Gillian now works out of Kansas City, MO, USA.

PATRICK WHITFILL [on] JONAS CRISCOE

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2 Marks. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 18” x 24” x 2” {2005} Jonas Criscoe.

Patrick Whitfill: You’ve moved around and lived in a variety of different places—from Mexico to Seattle to Spain—and I wonder how you see place in relation to your process as a painter. Do you find that the two are linked in any way?

Jonas Criscoe: Well, I have always chosen my path based upon a commitment to my work. Though this has not always left me in the most secure position, it has provided me with the drive and determination to pursue my passion—my Art.

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Overpass. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2”, {2007} Jonas Criscoe.

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Overpass. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2”, {2007} Jonas Criscoe.

It has instilled within me the need to create, the focus, drive and motivation to explore different modes of making, and in turn alternative ways of seeing the world around me.

The influence of “place” is a common thread that binds a number of my past works and series’ together. Though its impact might change in focus, degree, content and form, it is a significant element in my creative process. From the distinctive light that radiates from a particular sky, to the resulting tones and hues that electrify the landscape; from the languages and dialects that drift upon the air, to the people, stories and adages that I become acquainted with, all of these elements combine to form the palette of a place and in turn inspire me to create.

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Little Mansions. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 36” x 2” {2004} Jonas Criscoe.

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Stop N’ Shop. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2” {2005} Jonas Criscoe.

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Plane & Graffiti. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 12” x 24”x 2” {2004} Jonas Criscoe.

PW: Many of your paintings utilize images of “contemporary” American structures—from corporations to name-brands and advertisements—and I’m curious what started this fascination for you. Also, how do you feel that your approach to this issue has evolved into your current work?

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When The Coyotes Return. Acrylic and Collage on Constructed Panel, 72” x 48” x 12” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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When The Coyotes Return. Acrylic and Collage on Constructed Panel, 72” x 48” x 12” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

JC: It is what it is.  I saw them for what they were when I first really looked at them:  generic sets created for commerce, made of sheet rock and plastic, blanketed with a patch of sod and every now and again a few windows to let the light in.  I suppose I animate them in the sense that they take on their own characteristics by way of advertisement and marketing.  Such is the governing structure of the world we live in. Fascinated, appalled, Art is about understanding the world- it is an existential scenario.  So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, which means there has to be an attracting force.  The most intense attraction is a mere fact: this is what our life and a good portion of America looks like.  This is our cultural landscape, our capital’s design. So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, more as a witness rather than as a critic.

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What I saw When I looked Deeply Into The Kudzu. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 24” x 36” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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What I saw When I looked Deeply Into The Kudzu. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 24” x 36” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011}

Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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Saluda. Acrylic and Collage on Panel, 24” x 56” x 4” {2008} Jonas Criscoe.

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Saluda. Acrylic and Collage on Panel, 24” x 56” x 4” {2008} Jonas Criscoe.

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Johnson City. Mixed Media on Panel, 48” x 96” x 4” {2009} Jonas Criscoe.

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Johnson City. Mixed Media on Panel, 48” x 96” x 4” {2009} Jonas Criscoe.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

PATRICK WHITFILL: lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2008, Texas Tech gave him a PhD, and since then, he has served as a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, taught as an instructor at a few colleges and universities, waited some tables, and sold some books at an independent bookstore. His poetry has been published in such places as The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets and in other online and print venues. Along with poet Eric Kocher, he is the co-creator of the New Southern Voices Reading Series. In the fall, he will join the faculty of Wofford College as a Visiting Assistant Professor.

JONAS CRISCOE: Jonas Criscoe is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably the International Print Center in New York and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Criscoe has also been featured in various art publications, Including Art Lies and New American Painting and most recently was a Jerome Fellow at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking and a West PrizeAcquisition recipient. A native of Austin, Texas, he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. Currently, he lives in Minneapolis where he is on the faculty of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts as well as an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.

CAITLIN BERRIGAN [on] JONATHAN VANDYKE

The diamond of the Harlequin is a flattened facet. His fashion is at once costume of the devilish trickster and uniform of the aristocracy’s entertainer. He wears all dimensions one next to the other in a field of vision that suggests depth—and yet always slips into a smooth plane of illusory pattern.

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Men’s Shirts. {2014} paint on cotton fabrics [Brad and David's t-shirts from performance sessions 7/8/9; with dyed canvas and cotton dress shirts on verso] 40″ x 51″. Jonathan VanDykeCourtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Father Figure. {2014} archival pigment print, 17.5″ x 12″, Edition of 3 + 2 AP. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Uniform. {2014} paint on cotton and synthetic fabrics [Brad and David's pants from performance sessions 5/6/7/8] 37″ x 39.3″. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

For his first solo exhibition in Berlin at Loock Galerie in January 2014, Jonathan VanDyke produced a new series that furthers his formal play with the diamond, choreographies of netted bodies, performers leaking paint, and traces of their labored stains left on the surface of the canvas. VanDyke works with dancers in his studio, whose bodies move with and against each other, dripping and interlocking to smear trajectories of color and Freudenfluss across the plane of the canvas.

These material remnants of performance VanDyke cuts, quilts, irons and sews in a feminized act of labor to fashion a costume/uniform for the shoulders of the painting stretchers to wear: a dizzying Harlequin jacket of abject pleasure and work (e.g., Skin; Costume; Uniform; Men’s Shirts). Echoing and distorting the diamond pattern are the large-scale canvases Rubber Sheet; Vers; Body Pressure; which bear imprints of dye-soaked nets worn by performers as they entangle and press into space. The dimensions of VanDyke’s work with dancers (and couple) David Rafael Botana and Bradley Teal Ellis cannot be encompassed within the medium of painting. Photographs hold frozen glimpses into this process (e.g., Darkroom (Berlin) #1-6). The paradox of photographic capture only emphasizes the impossibility of delimiting the shapes of VanDyke’s choreographies, and they glint like ever proliferating facets of touch, form and time. The video (Traunitz) sequences this inquiry into shapeshifting solids and surfaces. The very paintings in the gallery serve as sets in the video, constituting spatial scenes and ocular cutouts for voyeurism into an imaginative theater where diamonds morph into gesture.

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Traunitz. {2014} Installation view. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Traunitz. {2014} Installation view. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Traunitz. {2014} Installation view. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Rubber Sheet. {2014} paint on black rubber [Brad and David performance session 9, body pressure sequence] 32″ x 52″. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Vers. {2014} paint and ink on raw canvas [Brad and David performance canvas, sessions 7/8 in body pressure sequence] 78.75″ x 106.3″. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Vers. [detail] {2014}. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

VanDyke, like the Harlequin, is an artist between worlds of labor and play as much as his work exists between painting and performance. It is in this gap where the instability of the Harlequin’s geometry takes hold. The hidden dimension in VanDyke’s paintings is not the third dimension of Renaissance perspective and representational illusions of solid space, but rather the fourth dimension of time. Through the labor of producing painting, VanDyke gives glimpses and material evidence of the concealed dimensions of performance, intimacy and queer couplings. In Commedia dell’arte, the characters of Harlequin and the earnest yet melancholic Pierrot vie for the love of the beautiful Colombina in endless variations since the late 16th century. But locked in the absence of Colombina inside VanDyke’s studio, it is quite possible that Harlequin and Pierrot seduce each other in an excess of slurred color. As viewers we are left with the charged palimpsests of this motion and energy. For while artists may be coerced under capitalism to play the role of entertainer within rarified markets of intellect and aesthetics, there are some pleasures and intimacies of practice that resist possession. That is the trick.

And we are willingly duped—as VanDyke’s paintings continue to seduce and perform within the space of the exhibition. The provisional armatures of paintings-as-walls are revealingly bare, as if a film set for a new choreography of contact. They display two facets of vision: one side of the canvas made for show and the backside, pinched and haggard with loose threads. Overflowing the rectilinearity of modernity, VanDyke’s paintings sometimes include integrated orifices that leak and sweat streams of color, soiling the floor (Beards). It is an unstable threat of the incomplete—the artwork that will not be contained within space or time.

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Beards. {2014} walnut wood, masonite, cast plastic, rope bondage costumes and pigmented urethane in dripping sequence, 26″ x 34″. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

VanDyke is a devilish servant of Modernism. The diamond is a romantic perversion of the square, which is the favored form of modernist abstraction’s sober rationality. In the making of Rubber Sheet, Vers, and Body Pressure, VanDyke wraps performers in nets saturated with dye. With the eroticism of bondage, the nets serve at once as armor delimiting the borders of each performer, at the same time as they capture, hold and conform to the contours of the body. Pressed onto the plane of the painting, the diamond’s rigid geometry is loosened, perverted and multiplied. This practice shares affinities with Lygia Clark’s participatory net improvisations, such as Baba Antropofagica (1973). Her work evolved from Neoconcrete abstractions to relational objects that facilitated therapeutic encounters under the social isolation of military dictatorship in Brazil. The nets entangle—pulling one person to another in a movement that draws and remakes the empty and the full, space and body, the flat and the faceted. The paintings share this anthropophagic drive: the irreconcilable violence and tenderness of contact.

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Darkroom (Berlin) #5. {2014} Gelatin Silver Print, 11″ x 14″, Ed. of 4. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

Darkroom (Berlin) #2. {2014} Gelatin Silver Print, 11" x 14", Ed. of 4. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin

Darkroom (Berlin) #2. {2014} Gelatin Silver Print, 11″ x 14″, Ed. of 4. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

Among the many layers of VanDyke’s work are its cinematic correspondences. Traunitz is the title of VanDyke’s ensemble of work, whose namesake is a character in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Chinesische Roulette (1976). Traunitz is the mute governess of an autocratic twelve-year-old girl whose disability demands she walk in crutches. Suspecting her own disfigurement is at the origin of her parents’ infidelity and lovelessness, the girl exposes them through a manipulative foil that assembles her unsuspecting parents, their secret lovers, two household caretakers, herself and Traunitz at the family’s countryside manor—also called Traunitz. Like VanDyke’s leaking scaffolds, the house itself becomes a porous puzzle box for the dynamics of contained love, rage, resentment and resistance to spill over and poison the family from the inside out.

Although the film was not shot there, Trausnitz is a castle in Bavaria whose main staircase boasts life-sized fresco scenes of Harlequin, Pierrot and the Commedia dell’arte characters. Traunitz, the governess, is herself a bit of a Harlequin. The coy woman is both servant and confidante, subordinate to the little girl yet charged with her physical well-being and entertainment. In one of the few moments that date the film, the housemaid’s son overhears the electronic beats of Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity seething from behind a closed door. Gingerly opening it, he finds the girl lost in adolescent brooding by the window overlooking Bavarian rooftops, while Traunitz takes the whole room in a diagonal dance, buoyed by the girl’s crutches in a radical reversal of disability into prosthetic play. It is this tiny moment that resonates most clearly with VanDyke’s work: when the nets of bondage prove to be an illusory foil for subversive performance. The radioactive twinning of the Harlequin and her master precedes the dismantling of societal repressions.

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film still from Chinese Roulette {1976} Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

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film still from Chinese Roulette {1976} Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

There is a hierarchy between the girl and Traunitz. And yet the speechless intelligence of Traunitz completes and complements the girl. In the film’s denouement, the girl undermines her mother in a psychological game of ‘Chinese Roulette.’ The girl and Traunitz are two facets of a single trap. The girl speaks her cruelty aloud, while translating the signed gestures of Traunitz, whose disarmingly mute expression belies a blunt emotional honesty of disdain. Insults accumulate to the climactic affront that the mother’s character matches that of an officer under the Third Reich. It is difficult to discern whether Traunitz is the girl’s puppet, or if Traunitz directs the girl with pantomime hands. For this Traunitz must be shot by the enraged mother—taking the bullet that might have been reserved for the daughter. It results only in a minor flesh wound and flustered embarrassment. But the film ends with an exterior view of the Traunitz manor and the sound of a second shot, whose execution is left to the imagination.

Traunitz, the exhibition, is a coy threat to splinter the space of self-imposed modernist containment. It is a set within a theater, composed of provisional architectures and diamond puzzle boxes through which we are compelled to spy, dance and seethe. It beckons with pantomime hands to lead out of the exhibition and into a hidden dimension of flamboyant perversion and corporeal invention. Just out of reach of our voyeuristic gaze, the untidy ends of VanDyke’s work continue to make a mess of our imaginations.

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video still of Bethany Ides in Traunitz. {2014} 13:00 video, looped, Unique edition. Jonathan VanDyke. Courtesy the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin.

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Jonathan VanDyke working in the studio with Bradley Teal Ellis (L) and David Rafael Botana (R), {2013} Photo by J. Louise Makary

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

CAITLIN BERRIGAN [DE, Berlin]: Caitlin Berrigan works across performance, video, sculpture, text and participatory public interventions to engage with the intimate social dimensions of power and politics. She is currently on a Humboldt Fellowship in Berlin, working with Archive Books and the Technische Universität on performances and a forthcoming book related to post-conflict landscapes, affective geographies, speculative real estate and science fiction between Berlin and Beirut. Berrigan has created special commissions for the Whitney Museum, Harvard Carpenter Center, and the deCordova Museum. Her work has shown at Storefront for Art & Architecture, Hammer Museum, Gallery 400 Chicago, Anthology Film Archives, LACMA, Lugar a Dudas Colombia, 0047 Gallery Oslo, Grimm Museum Berlin, among others. She is the recipient of a Chancellor Fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation, a Sculpture Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Agnes Gund Fellowship from Skowhegan. Invited residencies include PROGRAM for Art & Architecture Berlin, Fountainhead Miami, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and The Wassaic Project. Berrigan attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, holds a Master’s in visual art from MIT and a B.A. from Hampshire College.

JONATHAN VANDYKE [USA, New York] Jonathan VanDyke is a visual artist based in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include Oltre l’oblio at 1/9unosunove in Rome and The Painter of the Hole at Scaramouche in New York, both in 2013, and Traunitz at Loock Galerie in Berlin in 2014. Major performances include the forty-hour works The Long Glance at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo in 2011 and With One Hand Between Us, part of Performa 2011, the biennial of performance art in New York City. His performance work and installation Obstructed View was commissioned by The Power Plant in Toronto as part of their 2011-2012 exhibition Coming After. His durational performance work Cordoned Area, made for the dancers David Rafael Botana and Bradley Teal Ellis, has appeared at The National Academy Museum, New York (2013), Vox Populi, Philadelphia (2012), and Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2011). VanDyke received an MFA in Sculpture from Bard College in 2005, attended the Skowhegan School in 2008, and in 2007 attended the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where he was mentored by the artist Paul Pfeiffer. His work has been reviewed in Art Forumartforum.comTimeOut New YorkArt PapersWhite HotThe Buffalo NewsThe Philadelphia InquirerATP Diary, and Artslant; profiles have appeared in Modern Painters and Art Review. His work has appeared in group exhibitions at On Stellar Rays, the Islip Art Museum, Y Gallery, Columbia University, and PS122, all in New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee; Luis de Jesus Los Angeles; Rutgers University New Jersey, University of Nevada, Texas State University, and the University of Wolverhampton, England; and Exile Gallery, Berlin, among others. He has received grants from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, has served as a resident at Yaddo, New York, and at Qwatz Residency, Rome; as an Emerging Artist Fellow at Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, and as a Visiting Artist Fellow at The University of Chicago, Illinois State University.  He is currently the visiting artist at Krabbesholm Hojskole in Denmark, where his solo exhibition and performance will open in the Four Boxes Gallery on May 17th.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO [on] DUSTIN DENNIS

Christopher Ulivo (aside as intro): I’ve known Dustin Dennis for about ten years. In that time we have worked on several projects together. He is, I believe, the least selfish artist I’ve encountered. He is genuinely curious about the world, observant, and thoroughly capable. I suspect he is working on a secret project. I imagine that it is dramatic and involves something like reanimating the dead or contacting extra terrestrials. Time will tell.

CU: Are you now, or have you ever been a ghost hunter?

Dustin Dennis: I tend to tread lightly when asked questions that start with the phrase “Are you now, or have you ever been a _______?”

I prefer unexplained phenomena enthusiast. I grew up reading about the Fox sisters in Hydesville, The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and other cases investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren or Hans Holzer. I think the term “Ghost Hunter” means something different today then when I was growing up. This term has become reserved for reality TV celebrities who hang out in old houses, staring at each other through infrared cameras. On two separate occasions I’ve made inquiries about abandoned sites of alleged mystery and have been asked if I were from either the Travel or Discovery channel.

My attraction to unexplained phenomena stems from the simple desire to see something I’ve never seen before, to hear a story I’ve never been told. This is not that unlike the drives that keep me returning to galleries, performance spaces or museums. Although, too often in either case I’m met with a nearly emptied room featuring various collections of soiled furniture, out-of-date reading material, or ambiguous debris leaning against a wall. In the context of visual art, my partner Amanda Lechner refers to this as “Tuttle-ing around”.

Although it’s not always directly featured in my work, sites of strange tales or unusual events are intriguing to me because they blur fact and fiction within actual geographic locations. Often these sites act as stages for rites of passage. Apparently for some teens, traveling to reportedly haunted locations must be a potent aphrodisiac. I’ve stumbled upon an unsettling amount of discarded underwear in a number of these places.

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Basement wash tub at the Lizzie Borden House, Fall River, MA. Kel Dennis & Dustin Dennis.

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Medical equipment at abandoned hospital. Kel Dennis & Dustin Dennis.

CU: Kentucky or Kansas, I forget?

DD: Which apparently forgettable state am I from? Is that what you’re asking? I’m from Missouri, but it’s certainly not forgettable. In fact, I recently finished a work entitled Show Me after the state’s unofficial motto.

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Show Me, 11″x11”, Digital Print. {2013} Dustin Dennis.

CU: I know, an ignorant question. Your version of Missouri looks like a rabid bat. Is he mad at ignorant outsiders like myself or is he trying to invade some other territory? The bat is out change the motto to the “I’ll show you!” state perhaps?

DD: That’s an intriguing, albeit perplexing observation and may have more to do with your political assumptions about the state of Missouri. I made this work after reading about the Ozark big-eared bat, a subspecies of Corynorhinus townsendii vacating the caves of southern Missouri. I am attracted to the idea of obfuscating symbolism through anthropomorphism. Narratives involving animals and locations shift easily because of degrees of familiarity, cultural predilections or disdains. I think the Ozark big-eared bat is fascinating, but bats often get a bad rap for being shifty nocturnal creatures that fly into old women’s hair and bite us in the dark. If I were approached by a libertarian because they “really got this work”, I’d want to stick around and hear why.

CU: Wrong again but wiser for it.

CU: How would you describe your method of inquiry? How has your artistic research evolved in the past 10 years since graduate school?

DD: I have a background in building sculpture. Lately I’ve been excited about making short films and building digital objects within the computer that feature narrative elements. I’m currently working on a few projects that are thematically different than previous work. One project is a short fictional film that involves birds of the Southwest.

After graduate school I co-directed a studio visit and critique group in New York City. I was fortunate to be able to surround myself with very talented, resourceful people. Members of this group would meet monthly and discuss current work as well as practical career tips and technical solutions. Occasionally residencies or galleries would host a discussion if a participant had a solo show up. I felt that the rigor and regularity of our meetings helped unlock some useful information about navigating various aspects of the contemporary art world. We were constantly inviting new artists to participate. This helped expand and fortify our social circles.

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Studio Fuse NYC

CU: I really enjoyed being a member of Studio Fuse. Was it intentionally set up to be a cross between a twelve-step program weaning us off of graduate school and a séance to commune with spirits from a more romantic past New York art world?

DD: Studio Fuse began as an experiment. Groups of people who like to discuss art naturally gravitate toward one another.

CU: Any yet they don’t usually last long or are less than inspiring.

CU: Why didn’t you get into movie making earlier and how has your previous work effected the way you are making movies now?

DD: When I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’ll often return to Jean Antoine Houdon’s sculpture “La Frileuse / Winter”, 1787. It’s a bronze sculpture of a nude woman with only a shawl over her head and shoulders. Her gesture is huddled tight, shivering, walking through the cold. The sculpture has a light absorbing black patina and makes the figure look vulnerable but haunting. I often find myself thinking it has a filmic quality, which is absurd because it was created before the invention of film. I’m responding to a story. I’m now interested in the differences of how narratives can unfold in a time-based medium.

CU: I love that the characters in your film Untitled work alone. They are convincingly contemporary as are the settings but they get to be creatively wicked without needing collaborators, corporations or giant laboratories which seems ‘old fashioned’. –Was this film, on some level, an allegory of your vision of a perfect working space? –Am I way off, here?

DD: The film isn’t an allegory of my perfect working space, I’m as comfortable working within a group as I am by myself. We learn that the two protagonists in Untitled are involved in actions that are reliant on one another. Their combined efforts culminate into a plot that unfolds through observing their mysterious scientific processes. The characters work both autonomously and collaboratively on their creative mission. I planned this film with two specific actors in mind who are themselves talented visual artists and close friends. While some of my projects require concentrated work alone, I’ve enjoyed the collegial environment while making this short film.

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Untitled, film still, 4 Minutes 41 Seconds. {2013} Dustin Dennis.

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Untitled, film still, 4 Minutes 41 Seconds. {2013} Dustin Dennis.

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Untitled, film still, 4 Minutes 41 Seconds. {2013} Dustin Dennis.

CU: We both speak of Ray Harryhausen as if he were some artistic genius, Is he? Would he would have been better off making projects on his own, without a studio or live actors to deal with? Did he need the B movie aura to shine?

DD: Artistic genius? Absolutely. Harryhausen worked on a number of films that weren’t considered B movies. Would he be better off making his own work without film studios? That’s hard to know. We can only appreciate the work he’s left us. Harryhausen might have been less known without the attention and backing from working on projects for film studios. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have continued making awesome work.

CU: What story would you commission Harryhausen to create if you could?

DD: I recently saw Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”. I’d want Harryhausen to do the special effects for a buddy movie staring these two that combines the premise of “The Time Machine” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”.

CU: My good god, I am so sad that doesn’t exist.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO: {Born in Brooklyn during the fateful summer of 1977, it is likely Ulivo’s first sights were of a son of sam shooting, the great blackout and the filming of Saturday Night Fever.} He received his MFA from RISD, where he then continued to teach. He now lives and works in Goleta, California.

DUSTIN DENNIS: Dennis was born and raised in a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and in 2005 received an MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has since exhibited digital, print, and sculpture work in New York, Rhode Island, New Mexico, California and Michigan. Dustin is a founding Director of Studio Fuse, an expanding art blog and studio community. He currently lives and works in New Mexico.

ANDY ABBOTT [on] ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDY ABBOTT  is an artist, writer and musician living and working in Yorkshire. In 2012 Andy was awarded his PhD from the University of Leeds with a thesis on ‘art, self-organised cultural activity and the production of postcapitalist subjectivity’. His research interests are in Do-It-Yourself culture, art as social practice, political philosophy, autonomist Marxist and post-anarchist theory. He is a member of the artist collective Black Dogs, makes music as That Fucking Tank, Nope and Elizabeth, and is the director of the arts and music festivals Bradford Threadfest and Recon. Since 2011 Andy has been Fellow in Music at the University of Bradford.

Further information on ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON’s project “Wish You’d Been Here” can be found by clicking their names.

EDO ROSENBLITH [on] ARMANDO VEVE

{seven questions}

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Artist and Illustrator Armando Veve, photo by Greg Cartelli

Edo Rosenblith (intro as aside): I first got to know Armando in the winter of 2010 when he lived next door to me in Rome, during our time studying abroad. I had not known Armando that well previously, but I had seen him around campus at the Rhode Island School of Design where he was studying Illustration. That winter we traveled up and down the boot of Italy, crashed a rental car on a strange desert island, ate incredible food, became overwhelmed by all the art and architecture of Rome (mostly me on that one) and drank way too much Peroni and Grappa together. In-between these events I discovered that Armando grew up in Vermont although his family originally emigrated from Puerto Rico. After graduating from RISD, Armando moved to Philadelphia with his partner Sean Gerstley, a ceramicist. Armando has exhibited his drawings in New York City, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Delaware, Rome, Providence and Utah. His drawings have been published in Vice Magazine and the New York Times Sunday Review.

The format of this interview is based on curator Mathew Higg’s 20 Question format, which he describes thus:

{The Standard format of an interview invariably reveals as much about the subjectivity of the interviewer as it does about its subject. In an attempt to both democratize the role of the interrogator and to hopefully broaden the scope of the interview’s actual remit, 20 individuals – all of whom have either a professional or personal relationship with the artist – were each invited to pose him a single question. [1] Matthew Higgs, “Martin Creed 20 Questions, “ Untitled 18, (Spring, 1999).}

For the purpose of time and brevity I narrowed down the questions to seven. Here they are:

{1}

Q: Stephen Truax (painter): I would like to ask you the traditional Andy Warhol Interview magazine question, “What did you have for breakfast”?

A: Armando Veve: Egg, cheese and hummus on toast and a cup of coffee.

{2}

Q: Andrew Forsthoefel: Is your work more planned or more spontaneous? How are you feeling when you’re deep into a piece?

A: Armando Veve: Each piece begins with some kind of impulse. Sometimes the impulse to make a new piece is in response to something I have made a photo or drawing, or something I have found. I am continuously collecting images. These images become connective fragments for new works. When I pull from this imagery bank I am looking for unusual relationships between images. I also look back to past drawings to see if there is anything else I can build on. There is definitely a visual vocabulary that is evolving which is starting to generate new directions for subsequent works. The way images come together on a page is a really organic process. A work arrives at a finished state when I find the connective tissue that allows for all the elements to coexist. I want it to be able to stand on its own.

It’s really hard to describe what I am feeling when I am deep into a piece. If it’s going well I am present with the work, its almost as if the space between my body and the work disappears.

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Crown Vic & the Atlantic Flyway. graphite on paper 35.5″ × 72″. {2013} Armando Veve.

{3}

Q: Katie Stout (furniture designer): I feel like I could pluck the subjects right out of you’re drawings because of the detail with which you render gives them such convincing dimensionality. I was wondering if you envision the worlds you create in a 3-D realm and if so, can you describe how those worlds or subjects would be executed or presented?

A: Armando Veve: I am definitely interested in seeing these images activated in a sculptural realm. The way I compose some drawings is very similar to how a sculptor arranges physical objects. I love to think of the drawings as blueprints for physical things.  It would be fun to work with sand. I love its ephemeral qualities; how it is always in a state of coming together and falling apart. It reminds me of the stippled marks of some recent drawings.

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#5. colored pencil on paper, 30″ × 22″. {2013} Armando Veve.

{4}

Q: Lila Ash (cartoonist): How does your musical abilities inform your artistic practice (Armando plays the Flute and Piccolo).

A: Armando Veve: I don’t think music directly informs my practice. When I am drawing I am thinking about it on a completely visual level. I am looking towards and responding to found and made images. On the other hand, when I listen to and play music it is a very visual experience - I find myself associating particular colors or images to certain frequencies of sound. I am interested in the possible dynamics between sound and image, but for now making a work doesn’t start or end there. It would be fun to collaborate with an animator to explore that relationship.

{5}

Q: Katie Bell (painter): Can you describe your studio space and how that set-up affects your work in any way? Do you listen to anything specific? What do you surround yourself with?

A: Armando Veve: I currently work in a small studio about one hundred square feet and 15 feet in height. I have no windows except a single skylight, which casts a shaft of light over my worktable. I love how dramatic it can be.

Since the space is small, I don’t like to have many things on the walls. The works themselves take up a lot of visual space. I have a shelving unit and a whiteboard where I have my to do list. I reorient my studio depending on the series of projects I am working on. All my stuff is in my apartment, which is next door. I am always looking for a bigger studio with more windows, but for now this one is convenient and works well.

I am always listening to something when I am working. I shift between podcasts, music and NPR. If I’m working on something that requires a lot of attention, I prefer to listen to something nonverbal.

{6}

Q: Sean Robert FizGerald (painter): Armando, hypothetically, if you were forced to spend the next ten years only drawing one object, what object would you choose?

A: Armando Veve: I have been looking at a lot of spider webs recently, so maybe a spider web.

{7}

Q: Edo Rosenblith (painter): How has living in Philly for the last three years affected your art practice and do you see yourself staying there for awhile? Do you have an ideal place you would want to work and live?

A: Armando Veve: Living in Philadelphia has been really good for me. It affords me the time and space to make my work. I think it’s too soon to describe its effects on my work. A recent drawing, “Crown Vic & the Atlantic Flyway” pulls directly from the built and natural environment. The landscape is so wild here. If I change location I can see myself returning to Philadelphia. It really is a good place to make art. An ideal place to work and live is one with a lot of light, good food and with positive people.

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#2. pen on paper, 30″ × 22″. {2013} Armando Veve.

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Drawing of A Bulbous Man. pen on paper, 30″ × 22″. {2012} Armando Veve.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ARMANDO VEVE: Born in 1989 in Lawrence, MA , Veve now lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. His latest show, at So What Space in NYC was a two person exhibition with fellow contributor Edo Rosenblith.

EDO ROSENBLITH: was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and spent his early years bouncing around America, first in New York, then Arizona, Missouri and Rhode Island, earning his BFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. He currently lives and works in St. Louis, MO, USA.

JASON MONES [on] MICHA PATINIOTT

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ZZZZZZZZZZZ. installation view. Anna Zorina Gallery, New York. {2014} Micha Patiniott.

Jason Mones: The subject of the creative impetus is a reoccurring theme within your work these days. Could you discuss your experience with gravitating toward this subject as a source of inspiration? Perhaps this has something to do with dealing with the blank white page or the canvas. (A relationship to writing?)

Micha Patiniott: I guess my work has always dealt with people and objects engaging in playful and somewhat problematic forms of self-expression, but yes, I wanted the work to speak even more straightforwardly about it. Being quite literal about the theme allowed me to simultaneously carve out a lot of room to disrupt it with some serious quirkiness. I also felt that because of a recurrence of subjects and tropes, there would be more possible ways for things to resonate amongst the works, . Within the different iterations new possibilities for shifts in meaning pop up. There is a lot of juggling with objects that can produce or receive images within the paintings, like pencils and canvasses – images ‘making’ and/or ‘unmaking’ themselves within the work. I like it when the images can potentially fold back on themselves, becoming self-referential and recursive.

The blank page – the empty surface-as-state of potential (and perhaps its end at the same time) does play a big role. The protagonists in my work, whether human or object, driven by this creative impetus, often meet with emptiness.

In my studio, on the ground and leaning against the wall next to the paintings, I have a drumskin that is loosened from its barrel. It helps me continually think of empty surfaces as loaded screens or skins.

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studio installation view. Micha Patiniott.

JM: One of the many wonderful things about your work is the dynamic way in which form has a flexibility that disregards convention, almost in defiance of it. Could you give us some insight as to how you arrive at these decisions? (How do the formal decisions of the painting come about?)

MP: I love to play with fluid ideas related to the body, objects, form, paint and representation – and how these notions can bleed into each-other. Objects may have human properties and become filled with presence. Vice-versa, human body parts sometimes become object-like, evoking the idea of being containers.

With the distortions of form I want to relate meaning through a sort of language of the body. So with distinct postures and manipulations of the physique, I wish to show something in a very physical way, the way one might understand things from interacting with people and objects through their own body in real life.

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Vector. 130 x 160 cm, Oil and gesso on canvas. {2014} Micha Patiniott.

By ‘disregard[ing] convention’ as you put it, I can move towards a slapstick of the body, where exaggerated and absurd physical activity exceeds the boundaries of what one might communicate through naturalistic means. I am intrigued by the fact that a certain type of caricature, while thriving on exaggeration, can tell us something very subtle and concise. It seems like such a contradiction, but that is what I am trying to make happen. In the end, the formal decisions I make are always informed by how such a play with form is felt in my own body, first in a very physical way and then psychologically and as narrative.

JM: In the yellow and black painting titled “Lux Wax II”, the image is derivative of an earlier painting you have done. Could you talk about whether there are reoccurring themes within the work and how they interact with your daily practice?

MP: The works form a network of questions, definitions and meanings. Themes do reoccur, mostly revolving around (problematic or awkward) scenes of self-expression. If not directly, the work  deals with these ideas implicitly, utilizing binaries like showing and hiding, presence and absence, strength and weakness, making and undoing, support and collapse, potential and failure. Despite these patterns, ambiguity remains, as growing connections amongst the work harbor new meanings, and new subjects are naturally introduced.

Ideas for new works tend to gladly impose themselves on me in a cascade of associations when I look at my existing works. The interactions of these ideas within my daily practice can be quite lively, to the point of becoming almost disruptive. I need to live with these ideas for quite some time before I can gauge their potential for becoming a good painting.

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[LEFT] Micha Patiniott. [RIGHT] Breaking Wheel. 150 x 120 cm, colored gesso and oil on canvas. {2014} Micha Patiniott.

JM: I’ve noticed various works in the recent exhibition at Anna Zorina Gallery use a framing device within the painted image, as if there is a page within the page. Could you talk about that a bit? (It seems to strike a great conversation about the painted image as an object.)

MP: Yes, it is the recursive thing again, the image within the image, the self-referential painting. I have always been very aware of the edges of an image, figuring out playful ways to deal with the moment that representation collapses and / or reconstitutes itself. Where does the image begin or end, and when does the painting as an object kick in? That question is always very much part of the work itself.

In these recent ‘framed’ works I have been playing with the space around an image more explicitly, letting it be part of the image and object itself. I like it that these images are super honest about their representational character: the framing device tells so straight away. On the other hand, the frames are not so straightforward as they seem. For example, sometimes they are formed by a large piece of bare canvas around the image, so the image is actually on top of the larger surface, the barren canvas pointing to its object-ness. Another example: if you look at the work ‘Draw Draw’, green paint creeps over the frame, coming from underneath a white page partially covering it. These squiggles mark the liminal moment between frame and image. At the same time it makes the frame into something that can receive marks in itself, and by doing so it becomes an illusionary space. These moves introduce some confusion into the work regarding which part of the work constitutes frame and image. I am very interested in this sort of ambiguity of status.

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Draw Draw. 70 x 90 cm, colored gesso and oil on canvas. {2013} Micha Patiniott.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

MICHA PATINIOTT: currently lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was a resident of the Rijksacademy in Amsterdam from 2006-2007, and was also a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA from 2008-2009. Micha’s work can be seen at Anna Zorina Gallery in New York.

JASON MONES: Received his MFA from Yale in 2008. Mones has taught at the University of Connecticut and Dowling College, while he currently teaches at Montclair University in New Jersey. He lives and paints in Brooklyn, NY. He has exhibited internationally, including shows in Seoul (S. Korea, 2012) and at the AIM Biennial: Bronx Museum A in New York in 2013.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN [on] EMRE SARBAK

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Photo by Jason Schwartzman

Eliot Hall, a widely disliked modernist building on Washington University in St. Louis’ campus, was demolished sometime in the summer of 2012. Other things were ending too. We were graduating, and Emre Sarbak, a student filmmaker, was leaving St. Louis for a job in his native Turkey. He tried to fit everything he owned into this bulging suitcase he had, but many things didn’t fit, which meant I inherited them. I wore his shoes for a year, until the soles fell off. Before the arrival of the wrecking ball, the rubble and eventually a new building, Emre made a short film to preserve some memories of the building that was still there.

Most students considered Eliot Hall, which stood since 1974, an “eyesore,” a “prison,” “ugly.” People loved to hate it. With its naked concrete façade, Eliot Hall was the only building on campus not dressed in pink clay scraped from local hills, the exception to a manufactured unity. Finding a specific office within it could be a labyrinthine, Kafkaesque task. The entrance was toward the back or the side, almost like the building didn’t want you to enter.

Photo by Cole Bishop

Photo by Cole Bishop


Eliot is a project about how we see things. That the scenes Emre chooses often contain literal frames seems to hint to this effect. If the subject matter were different, the film could be about another side of a maligned, caricatured antihero. In Eliot, we never even see the ugly façade that was a focal point of dislike, the stand-in for a face or a reputation. Even the “Hall” is trimmed from the title, as if the building were a person, someone Emre used to know. And so, from the get-go we are already confronting kinds of surgeries, views, losses.

Photo3

Still from Eliot, 2011

The film is shot in a photographic style wherein the camera rarely moves. What does move? Fluttering leaves, a few birds chasing each other, a tiny-looking airplane making its way upward, a little boy blowing into his bugle, a dad carrying his sleeping son. Scene changes tend to follow several of these slow journeys across the screen, even of something as slight as a shadow. At these points, the film seems to be about more than a building, exploring impermanence and the passage of time, almost as a study of mindfulness. The stillness of the camera adds a meaningful weight to what would ordinarily be imperceptible, invisible fractions of someone’s day.

Emre told me once not—so far from Eliot Hall—that when he was a child in Turkey, he would wake up early and watch cartoons. His mother didn’t approve and conspired with his father to be absolutely silent in the mornings so he wouldn’t wake. His parents never spoke to each other in those early hours, but stirring their coffee was so habitual that they didn’t think not to do it. Every morning he would open his eyes to the sound of their teaspoons against glass cups.

{My happiest times are always in the morning…Hearing that sound, having a new day ahead of me. I’d like to relive that again and again.}

The film has no soundtrack except for the environment’s natural quiet musicality. Without words, the “eyesore” turns into something beautiful. In the same way that the more you remember something, the less access you have to the original memory, sometimes the more you talk about something, the further you get from whatever you’re talking about.

“Eliot” brings us back.

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Still from Eliot, 2011

The photographic style gestures toward preservation and loss. Generally, photographs seem to freeze time, knifing out a single moment and making it into a reality. The film’s pseudo-stillness challenges that idea, distrusting image, suggesting that an essence may not really be able to be fully captured. Things leak away. The sky slowly scrolls by. Someone moves through a space and we barely notice. There is a statement about memory here, how there are subtler, less dramatic forms of demolition. We do not always get to sort through the rubble.

Emre and I were talking behind the library a few years ago and he showed me little marks he’d ashed into a cinder block, a record of his presence. They are likely gone, those marks, victims of a thousand rainstorms. Emre is a consultant now, mostly—like the landscape, we are all changing, remaking ourselves, looking for slivers of our old selves. The film makes me wonder: Are we still what we were?

In Emre’s directorial vision, though it is Eliot whose end is near, it is the presence of people that is most fleeting. They are always moving and leaving, peripheral and small. The film is an effort at preservation, but within it, loss feels natural. There is the sense of how hard it is to hold onto anything. The end of the film gets at this idea, highlighting a wall of Eliot where the outside appears like a series of framed pictures. And at that moment you may think you have something, you may think your mind is memorializing something, but it isn’t really a picture at all—it is about to be gone and it won’t be as you remember.

Photo5

Still from Eliot, 2011

 

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JASON SCHWARTZMAN is a writer who lives in New York. His website is forthcoming, just like Sisyphus’ boulder.

EMRE SARBAK is a consultant, as well as a photographer and filmmaker.  He lives in Istanbul.

 

LARRY KRONE [on] BUZZ SLUTZKY

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Dirty Sticker Party {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

Larry Krone (aside as intro): {Below is a record of what transpired between Buzz Slutzky’s and my computers on Thursday, April 10, 2014 from 8:51 – 11:20 PM in an interview done exclusively for Uncompromising Tang. While the chat format was great for spontaneity and easy transcribe-ability, the result in its pure form lacked in readability and flow.  Changes have been made to correct grammar and improve continuity, and some responses were enhanced after the fact. Most chit-chatty bloopers have been edited out, but in the interest of your reading pleasure, my embarrassing misunderstanding of Buzz’s reference to “Kinko’s” remains in its entirety. Enjoy! }

LK: Hello, Buzz Slutzky!  I’ve been thinking about this interview all day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I may have gotten my expectations a little high about what we can accomplish here.  I’ve been excited to talk to you formally, because I’m so drawn to your work, and also because you seem immersed in a queer/transgender art dialogue that I’ve been exposed to and even included in yet still struggle to understand. I am putting it on record that I aspire to learn and write more about the bigger queer/trans picture specifically, but today let’s just do our Google messaging and see where the conversation leads.

Sent at 8:51 PM on Thursday

LK: We were in a show together, and that’s how I first saw your work. The show was John Chaich’s Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City this past January 17 thru March 16. Can you talk a little about the pieces you had in the show?

Sent at 8:52 PM on Thursday

BS: The work I had in Queer Threads were three small pieces in a series called Body Party. Each piece is made from collected fabrics, which are sewn into the form of abstracted body parts.

Sent at 9:00 PM on Thursday

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Body Party (Ghost Boobs) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

BS: Each body part is imaginary to some degree. Ghost Boobs is my response to the phantom pains and itches I felt in my chest after having FTM top surgery. I used a shoulder pad to represent a breast form with displaced skin, the feeling of dislocation. Wiggle Pants is made from two different cousins’ discarded garments. My former roommate, as well as cousin, Alexa Newman is a textile and costume designer, and she had given me a scrap from a sweater she was making on a knitting machine. So that is the pink and green fabric you see. The form of the scrap was so strange, since it was probably the top strip of the shirt, with a little bit of sleeve? I’m not sure, but I ended up making it into something that resembled half-pants (since they would only cover the front of your legs.)

Sent at 9:04 PM on Thursday 

Body Party (Wiggle Pants) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

Body Party (Wiggle Pants) {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: Can I comment on Ghost Boobs and Wiggle Pants?  I think it’s worth describing what they look like a little more.  They are such crazy looking pieces!

BS: Sure! I’d love your feedback.

Sent at 9:07 PM on Thursday

LK: The look of these pieces is so scrappy and ephemeral. Ghost Boobs has curly plastic gift-wrapping ribbon hanging off it, and Wiggle Pants is shredded and frayed in a way that seems wild and likely to get messed up further over time.  To me, this gives the work a disarming funny quality and also a sense of mystery as to what the person is like who made it and how they made their formal decisions.  I know part of the content of the work is about your body and your gender transition.  Is the unstable nature of the materials intentional as a means to convey change?

Sent at 9:16 PM on Thursday

BS: Yes, I think so. The fun thing about using sewing in such a simple way, just joining two fabrics together, is that it is so mutable. The process requires trying it so many different ways… which I suppose is a lot like my experience of my body. The series is working with an idea of the body as a found object, which can be repurposed as well as altered.

Sent at 9:20 PM on Thursday

LK: Cool. I think a lot of people don’t see their body that way. This work could be a good way to show people about transgenderism and its connection with the body as opposed to being ALL about the body.

Sent at 9:23 PM on Thursday 

BS: What do you mean?  Like what a possible trans experience is like?

Sent at 9:25 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes. I think many people see their body as unchangeable except for maybe diet and exercise. The idea of changing one’s body in the way you describe could be eye opening for them. How important it is to you to inform people about your trans experience? Do you want to educate people in a political way?

Sent at 9:30 PM on Thursday

BS: I would love to have a positive effect in terms of trans acceptance, but I can also only make work from my own experience. I can’t speak for all trans people. But if people come away from my work knowing what the word “cisgender” means, that gives people the language to talk about gender identity at all. (Cisgender is the opposite of transgender; someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.)

LK: Oh I know all about cisgender!

Sent at 9:37 PM on Thursday

BS: I think my work with Pop-Up Museum was more intentionally political. I was involved for the first two years of the project. The goal was to encourage queer people to educate ourselves about our own history through art, since it’s not included in school curricula. Also Pop-Up wanted to make that history codified collectively, so that it doesn’t end up whitewashed or masculinized. For example it’s really important for any curriculum about queer history to emphasize the work of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, instead of acting like Stonewall was some sort of white gay man thing.

Sent at 9:41 PM on Thursday

BS: That’s awesome that you know about cisgenderness!

LK: This could be a good time to plug your video. I think it’s a good example of this educating idea mixed with art.  And regardless of the art aspect, it’s really good at explaining how to deal with the pronouns!

Sent at 9:44 PM on Thursday

LK: I’m trying to figure out the question I want to ask about audience for the Pop-Up Museum.

BS: OK.

Sent at 9:50 PM on Thursday

LK: This is what I’m thinking, and it relates what you said about the Pop-Up Museum, your video, my personal relationships with transgender people in my life, pronouns, queer things, and all of that:

Sent at 9:53 PM on Thursday

LK: Your video argues a good case for the pronouns, specifically to not be that much of a problem to use naturally in conversation. I had been tormented by that issue, and I was happy to have some support. I felt so much more optimistic about getting it right after watching. But who besides me and a handful of LGBTQ people and their families care enough to even be concerned? I started to focus on trying harder when I realized that I was in the smaller group of people who really should get it right. I thought about this when you talked about the collectively codified history for the Pop-Up Museum. Of course it has to be collectively codified–there is no way to justify whitewashing or masculinizing history–but isn’t it frustrating that in being so responsible, you making it more difficult, thus possibly alienating your most built in target audience?

Sent at 10:03 PM on Thursday

BS: Well, I have an issue with the idea of a “target audience,” as if trans people are trying to sell something to cis people. To respect a trans person has everything to do with seeing the person as the identity they self-determine. Mispronouning is very disrespectful for this reason. I made the pronouns video very selfishly: to inform my colleagues of how to be respectful towards me and the other trans people in the department. It comes from a place of assuming good intentions, and trusting that your friends, family, and coworkers want to know how to respect you. The “art” part is in the way I communicate those ideas.

Sent at 10:10 PM on Thursday

LK: I get the assumption of good intentions from the video. I think that’s one reason it is so effective. That and all of the sample scenarios using your objects as the subjects!

BS: I wanted to use objects as the “people” I was practicing pronoun etiquette on. It hopefully shows the viewer how to alter their perceptions, by taking the intensity of personal interaction out of the scenario. But also it has to do with questions I have about objecthood in general; I am interested in the fact that in English, we don’t give objects genders, but in many languages, most words have a feminine and a masculine form.

Sent at 10:13 PM on Thursday

BS: I’m an MFA student right now, and many of my classmates are international and English is not their first language. So it makes it a lot more difficult for gender-neutral pronouns to catch on.

LK: I’m sure!  And particularly “they,” I’d imagine, because of the confusion of it sounding like a plural.

Sent at 10:15 PM on Thursday

BS: Right. And a lot of people who use “they” as their pronoun welcome that multiplicity of having multiple genders. It’s an idea I am drawn to conceptually, but I don’t actually identify as multiple people. (Although one professor mistakenly thought I did.) Actually, the singular “they” used to be very common, and there are examples in literature. It was pushed out of use by a mean-spirited schoolteacher.

Sent at 10:17 PM on Thursday

LK: What about how writers used to use “he” as interchangeable with “one”?

BS: That’s a different thing altogether. That has more to do with patriarchy, and male-normativity.

LK: I want you to finish your thought, but I also want to shift gears a little bit. I’m curious about your art beginnings

BS: Art beginnings!

Sent at 10:21 PM on Thursday

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Suit Yourself: The George Sand Story in C Major (Arcana) {2012} Buzz Slutzky.

BS: I was always “drawn” to drawing. My learning style is pretty non-visual, so drawing from direct observation was a way to train my brain to take in visual information, learn how to “word” it so that I could represent images on paper or canvas. I learned to draw from life, but also did a lot of drawing from images, for example of Britney Spears photo shoots I liked the set decoration on. I had an art teacher who frowned upon drawing found images, since he thought it was uncreative to copy a pre-made composition. So I ended up returning to that practice and developing it as a core principle in the work, to draw from images, e.g. on the internet. I like to mix two different image sources in one drawing, since they have to pass through a perceptual layer; but the perception thing also is enough for me as far as bringing new content to an already existing image. And it feels rebellious, at least to my old art teacher.

I was very encouraged to draw as a child because my Grandma Syb was an artist. I remember her drawing an eye on one side of the page, and then asking me to draw the other eye as if it were reflected across a vertical line. My mom used to be a graphic designer, and still makes photography and installation work.

Sent at 10:25 PM on Thursday

BS: My Grandpa Jerry had a hilarious narrative sensibility with home movies, and in his retirement was always making zines at Kinko’s, although he didn’t call them that. Zines, that is. He called it Kinko’s. I mean, he called Kinko’s “Kinko’s.”

LK: That’s what I call it, but I put an apostrophe “s” on everything.  I thought that was a St. Louis thing.

BS: Well my parents met in St. Louis!

LK: Of course they did. Where did you grow up?

BS: My dad is from Omaha, Nebraska, my mom is from Fort Worth, Texas, and my brother and I were born in Kansas City. I grew up in New Jersey though. We moved there before I was a year old. So any Midwestern characteristics I have are second hand.

LK: Well, you have them!

BS: You think so?

LK: Kinko’s is all the proof I need

BS: I never know what of my parents’ speech patterns are just their weirdnesses. When is it a speech pattern and when is it an accent, you know? With anyone.

Sent at 10:30 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes that does get mixed up! Back to the drawing. I see a contrast between how rendered and realized your drawings are as compared to your 3-dimensional work and videos. I do see the aesthetics coming together in your doily drawings like in the Trinkets series and videos such as Villanelle for Daters and Internet Dating with Buzz Slutzky. Did the sculptures such as Quilted Arc come after the drawing?

Sent at 10:35 PM on Thursday

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TRINKETS (more of a gayboy every day). 21 ink drawings on 6.5″ doilies. {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: I guess my question is about whether you deliberately exercised a different kind of freedom when you started making sculpture, if they came after.

BS: Oh.

LK: Unless you can find a more interesting question in there.

Sent at 10:37 PM on Thursday

BS: I suppose sculpture and video do feel freer. I’ve been heavily trained in painting/drawing more than any other medium, so my relationship to it is quite different than my work in sculpture or video, which I’ve only been practicing since 2008 and 2009, respectively. Drawing has always been a way for me to trace my perception of the world, but at a certain point my ideas felt too contained in it. Sculpture allows me to simplify forms by using the materials’ already existing content. Video allows me to pack a ton of content into a simultaneous audio/visual experience. Despite what medium I’m using, the act of making is more fun for me if I am engaging language in some way. At times the work is verbal first and visual second. That approach is really foreign to some people. Making an artwork from a pun. But I guess in my mind, I will do anything for a laugh.

LK: Oh that’s a great lead in to your performance!

BS: Awesome!

Sent at 10:42 PM on Thursday 

BS: Right, because it’s interesting that we both perform as well as make things.

Sent at 10:44 PM on Thursday

LK: You are an entertainer! It’s in your visual work– the humor and comfortableness of your references and materials like stickers, paper towels, and textiles. But you also actually perform in a wholehearted way. What can you say about your performance work and its relationship to your objects and other visual work?

BS: Thank you!

Sent at 10:45 PM on Thursday

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Double Incision. metal, paper towel, thread, felt, studs. {2014} Buzz Slutzky.

LK: (By the way I just Googled Kinko’s and that is the correct spelling.  Your Grandpa was right and I can’t claim it as a St. Louis thing!)

BS: Hahahaha! There goes that discussion!

Sent at 10:48 PM on Thursday

BS: It took me a long time go come around to performance actually. I’ve always been a jokester or “class clown” in small groups, but I was cursed with stage fright after forgetting my lines onstage. So all that performative, comedic, dramatic energy went into the visual work. Doing performance video helped me gain comfort performing in front of a camera, without the social pressure of being in front of people, and I could control the output. This led to performing the audio live during my video screenings, so that I could be present without being onstage. This is how I learned that I could memorize my own material. And of course, the visual aesthetics I’d already developed in my visual work came into the video, and has from there extended into my costumes (like the teddy bears inside of my stuffed bunny suit, in my recent performance Teddy Poems: The Unstuffing (2013).

Video editing has given me so much joy in exploring comic timing. While my visual work has elements of humor, but there is something about time-based work that engages laughter in a new way as a mechanism of connecting with an audience. With video I can also engage the visual elements of video and even combine it with other mediums. It started happening with Internet Dating (2009), since that piece came out of a drawing series I did about online voyeurism and dating profile images. I didn’t fully engage drawing within video until Chatroulette: Serial Terror (2010) where I played with layering images and video to get at the tension between flatness and depth in online spaces of interaction. As for drawing and video, I’m not as interested in the illusion of movement, which is why I don’t call it animation per se. Villanelle for Daters (2012) was so fun for me to make, since I was able to combine most of the mediums I like to use– drawing, poetry, performance, and video. And I suppose sculpture, since I am drawing on found objects (doilies).

Sent at 10:57 PM on Thursday

BS: There’s something really fun to me about using such a traditional form like the Villanelle to talk about things like Grindr and cruising. It gets back to the themes of sentimentality and irreverence in my work. (Is irreverence a theme or an attitude?)

Sent at 10:59 PM on Thursday

LK: Yes, that’s a really good piece. As with a lot of your other work, you can sense your joy behind it. The contrast of contemporary sex stuff with old fashioned-ness does not get heavy-handed, which could be a real danger and make it much less funny and engaging. (I think, at least.)

Sent at 11:01 PM on Thursday

LK: I was thinking about how the video and performance work is this weird mix of indelible documentation and an illustration of change and fluidity at the same time. In the early videos we see your body before your top surgery and in later videos your physical transformation is apparent. I wouldn’t have thought that video could create an ephemeral effect like that. To me, it relates directly to your Body Party work. In fact, I think that is a connection throughout: a feeling of solidity together with the sense that everything can change.

Sent at 11:09 PM on Thursday

BS: Hmm! That’s interesting. Making work is almost like keeping a diary of what you are like at any particular moment. It can be fun to look back at old work and see how I am the same person, but notice the ways I have changed. It’s also notable how gender identity can change over time…  at one point I really did identify as a girl.

LK: It must be satisfying to see that consistency of your character no matter what was going on with the rest of everything else.

Sent at 11:14 PM on Thursday 

LK: Our comments overlapped…saying kind of the same thing.  Maybe we can end here?  It could be a nice note if I can edit it well.

BS: Sure!

Sent at 11:20 PM on Thursday

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Dirty Sticker Party. found childhood stickers {2013} Buzz Slutzky.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Larry Krone: Born in Chicago, IL in 1970, Krone was raised in St. Louis, MO and now lives and works in New York City’s East Village. He has exhibited work since the early 1990s, most recently at Pierogi (Brooklyn) with an accompanying performance at Joe’s Pub (New York) and notably at The Contemporary Baltimore, The Museum of Contemporary Craft in conjunction with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (Portland, OR), The Whitney Museum of American Art Philip Morris Branch (New York), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Drawing Center (New York), and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which, in 2006 presented “Larry Krone: Artist/Entertainer,” a ten-year retrospective of his visual and performance work.

Buzz Slutzky: A Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator. Buzz works in a range of media, particularly in drawing, video, and performance. They are a former Curator of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and currently work as a student and Research Assistant in the Parsons MFA Fine Arts program. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Buzz’s work has been shown at La Mama’s SQUIRTS: New Voices in Queer Performance, The MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival, Dixon Place, and Ed. Varie Gallery. Their projects have been written about by Artforum.com, The Huffington Post, TimeOut NY, and NEXT Magazine. Buzz’s collaboration with LJ Roberts The Queer Houses of Brooklyn is the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

IAN THOMAS [on] PATRICK WHITFILL

“Somewhere down
the road, in the lake house, the pillows won’t
get any softer than they are now. I’d say that’s
about four Candles short of a Light.” (Curiosity XXXVI)

Ian F. Thomas (aside as intro): Through the bottom of a highball glass, Patrick and I became friends. Meeting weekly to laugh, drink and talk about our individual practices and to complain about life.  While the outcomes of our individual works may manifest in different ways, I couldn’t help feeling a parallel to the self-deprecating nature and self-righteous hypocrisy that lie beneath our waxing veneers. Years have passed since those times but they are some of my most fond memories, two friends drunk and delusional thinking that they are the only two people in the world that know anything. How wrong we were.

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Broadside, screenprint. Collaboration between Patrick Whitfill and Jonas Criscoe.

IFT:  As a writer who engages in collaborations with visual artists, how do you think of visualization as it pertains to poetry, and what connection(s) do you see that tie this type of pictorial description to the methodologies of visual artist?

Patrick Whitfill: When I’ve worked with visual artists, what I’ve noticed is how differently they approach a poem, because it isn’t about the tradition or the publishing world or anything else but the thing directly in front of them. That’s what they trust to work with. From there, the process of hearing and reacting to a single reader’s response, who has ideas and directions I couldn’t have guessed at, lets me take a new direction in the piece, or embellish an old one, or try something completely different. In terms of visualization, I want the image to come through in a poem, to come through and stick right in the front of your mind for a bit after reading it. Maybe for a long time after reading it. To me, that’s what I’ve collaborated with in the past: artists who want the image and to make it stick.

IFT:  Patrick as I read your work I keep feeling as though guilt plays a role.  Whether it is personal guilt or the sense that there is guilt placed upon you, there still seems to be an undertow of this feeling.  Is this a cognitive decision on your part?

PW: Most of everything I do, up to and including poetry, is in response to guilt. I couldn’t tell you where this originated—maybe from growing up in predominantly Southern Baptist cultures, maybe not—but I’ve always approached my life as a series of potentially embarrassing mistakes that I’ve gotten away with. If I don’t write, I feel guilty. If I write poorly, I feel guilty. If I think I’m writing well, I feel guilty. It isn’t healthy, of course, but I suppose it keeps me from dipping into pride and self-aggrandizement, which I have an almost physical aversion towards. My poems approach this issue as best they can, try to unpack it, get to some root of the issue, but they never do. And they don’t get there because I can’t get there. But that’s what makes them fun, I guess, that constant searching for a conclusion that simply doesn’t exist. And, when it’s not guilt that I’m dealing with, it’s fear. Guilt and fear. Without those two little minions prodding me along, I wouldn’t get anything done.

IFT:  I can unfortunately relate being deeply riddled with guilt, but anyway.  You’re currently working on a massive poem.  Could you speak to the size and importance of this work and to how an undertaking such as this one has been different them your previous works?

“I never have learned how to draw. I consider
this a desperate kind of failure, like walking
into the same wall for an entire afternoon,
wishing it would turn into a door by the sheer
force of my dumb will.”  (Curiosity IX)

PW: My latest project happened in about a dozen different ways at once. Or it felt like that at the time. At its heart, the book, called Curiosity, is a long poem about not knowing where or what home is. That’s basically the center of it. And, in that, and maybe only that way, it resembles my older work. The central image of the book is the Mars Rover, the Curiosity, and I spent some time researching all of that business. By “researching,” I mean, I trolled the internet and read lots of unreliable information about Mars and space travel. Then I opened up my research some, read more reliable/textbooky stuff on physics and Mars and the history of space travel, the Voyager satellites, Carl Sagan. I wanted to write about the magnitude of the Mars Rover when I first started, this thing on another planet streaming video to us. I couldn’t get to it, though, that sense of awe, so I started writing about everything else that happened when I thought about space travel. From there, I just let my brain unravel on the page. So, the poem will go from some physics-speak—like a complete misreading of the Pauli Exclusion Principle—to a story about buying beer in Nazareth, TX as a teenager, to a consideration on the sound the word “popsicle” means when you say it too many times in a row. So, things get oddly personal for a book that’s supposed to be about science. But I don’t really understand science. And I don’t really understand myself. So, I combined both fascinations into one poem. Like an experiment.

image 3

Left: Collaboration, Eli Blasko, Ian F. Thomas and Patrick Whitfill, graphite, chalk, on light grey Stonehenge. Right: Collaboration, Eli Blasko and Patrick Whitfill, graphite, coloured pencil, on light grey Stonehenge.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS:

IAN F. THOMAS: is an installation artist living in Slippery Rock, PA and works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Thomas received additional training at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. His work has been featured in the contemporary ceramics magazines Ceramics: Art and Perception and Ceramics Now. Recent exhibitions include Filtered Permeability at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, and Push Play at Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle. And Is co-founder of One Wall Gallery.

Patrick Whitfill: lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2008, Texas Tech gave him a PhD, and since then, he has served as a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, taught as an instructor at a few colleges and universities, waited some tables, and sold some books at an independent bookstore. His poetry has been published in such places as The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets and in other online and print venues. Along with poet Eric Kocher, he is the co-creator of the New Southern Voices Reading Series. In the fall, he will join the faculty of Wofford College as a Visiting Assistant Professor.

ELISE RASMUSSEN [on] ELAINE STOCKI

Cona. 2013. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches

Cona. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

Elise Rasmussen: I had the pleasure of seeing your most recent body of work, P.A., at Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto in the Fall. Could you tell me a little about your process… how did you find the people you photographed and what is the overall arc of the work?

Elaine Stocki: This body of work shoots off in a few different directions, but the heart of it is significantly influenced by American street photography, more so than the other work I’ve produced. That’s a function of my education at grad school and of growing the balls to get out into the world and photograph rather than just planning ‘photo shoots’.  But I will never be one of the greats of that street photography tradition, nor do I wish to be, and I know that I’m pretty much in my head when it comes to making art, so I wanted to mix a certain tradition of image making with studio constructed images that were emotionally viable next to the street images. So, for example, the amateur wrestlers and ‘God Hates Us’ revival meeting meet their emotional counterparts in the semi nude and vulnerable shots of men taken in my studio.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 2. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 3. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 3. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

And then, as I continued to photograph, this thing started to happen where the work started to become about the making of work. As I keep doing this, making art, and getting older, it seems inevitable that the fact that you devote all your time to making art starts to be in some way what the work is about. While all your friends of a similar age are making families and buying houses and establishing some sort of asset list you are diddling around on ‘stuff’. It’s inevitable that you feel some sort of emotionality about the arc of your life and all the things you don’t have because you have chosen to make art. But I digress. I’m referring to the Nudes triptych, which to me are more engaged with art historical discourse, in a broader sense, than anything I have made before. But I also love those pieces because I own the entire process – I made the paintings, and the paint splattered studio is mine, and I am photographing it as a way of finally resolving the state of all these failed attempts in my life that have amounted to diddly squat. That’s more personal than most people would read into it, and probably less interesting than the way that a good friend aptly put it: {it’s the pre-modern object of painting moving the postmodern object of painting}.

The title of this body of work, P.A., refers to a “Public Address”, and riffs on the idea of the PA system. I love the sound (pardon the pun) of that name, it sounds idealistic and lofty in its ambitions and maybe a titch dictatorial…  it also fell in line, and in deference to, the title of Garry Winogrand’s great body of work, Public Relations.

Ellice. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches

Ellice. Silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

ER: I know you had taken a departure from photography and had been working on painting. I find it interesting that the works straddle both mediums. The images are hand printed and many are painted. Although editioned, each is unique, which is counter to the photographic process, especially with current technology and digital practices. In a sense they become more like a painting. How did you come to this process and why was it necessary in the making of this work?

ES: I’m interested in making objects, and that’s true whether I’m painting or photographing. When I’ve done photography I’ve always developed the film, worked in the darkroom, etc. and I stopped photographing for a while to paint because I wasn’t able to do those things (and I had previously painted in undergrad but wasn’t able to do that when I went to grad school). I was craving the feeling of making something. That craving isn’t necessarily satisfied when I photograph and scan stuff and look at images on a computer. In New York I found a hard time photographing but I did have a studio I could putter around in and make work in. The downside to that was I couldn’t get to the same level of intensity in terms of content. My figurative work in painting had an element of cartoonishness that wasn’t intentional.

When I relocated to Winnipeg I was able to work in a more hands on way with darkroom photographic practice, but I also became interested in hand colouring because it mined a certain aspect of photographic history that isn’t explored too often, the ‘hobby’ aspect that doesn’t exist in the realm of fine art. Its kitsch is what makes it a really ripe place for interesting ideas. It can look really incredible, and I was excited about working with content that historically wouldn’t have been hand coloured. The tastelessness of it seemed really exciting. And yeah I was definitely excited about making prints that were one of a kind and that were produced laboriously and uniquely.

K. 2013. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29 * 26 inches.

K. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29 * 26 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

ER: After living in New Haven (for Grad School) and New York you moved back to Winnipeg. How have you found your work to be informed by your physical location?

ES: New Haven and Winnipeg have been good to me in terms of idea making, and the ability to cook up and idea, try it out, disregard it, and then move to the next thing. It seemed like all my ideas in New York were half-baked. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s more exciting to me to be operating a bit out of the centre of things.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ELAINE STOCKI was born in Winnipeg in 1979. She holds an MFA from Yale University (2009) and has been awarded numerous grants including a Tierney Fellowship and a Canada Arts Council Project Grant. Her work has been exhibited in the US, Canada and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. Stocki has been nominated for both the Grange Prize and the Sobey Art Award (2011 and 2012, respectively). In 2014 Elaine will be in residence at the Mountain School of Arts (Los Angeles) and her work will appear in solo exhibitions in New York, Montreal and Alberta.

ELISE RASMUSSEN is a Canadian-born Brooklyn-based artist. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2007) as a Merit Scholar and her BFA from Ryerson University (2004).  Elise is represented by ESP | Erin Stump Projects in Toronto, and has upcoming shows in New York at Pioneer Works and Momenta Art.

SPECIAL NOTE FROM THE EDITORS

Hey lovely people!

It appears that we had some crossed wires in a couple places and this week’s post went up with some unfinished thangs all up in it’s business. It was our bad, and we are working with the contributors to make it just perfect! So sorry for the inconvenience, but we promise it will be worth the wait!

In the meantime, stay tuned for more flash fictions this week and another post on artists, written by artists next Saturday as usual.

Love,

The Editor(s)

JESSE FIRESTONE [on] EDO ROSENBLITH

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

Jesse Firestone and Edo Rosenblith

 

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

EDO ROSENBLITH: was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and spent his early years bouncing around America, first in New York, then Arizona, Missouri and Rhode Island, earning his BFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. He currently lives and works in St. Louis, MO, USA.

JESSE FIRESTONE: A photographer, sculptor, Freud impersonator, and current BFA candidate in Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

 

YVONNE CARMICHAEL [on] ANDY ABBOTT

{Since 2006 Yvonne and Andy have lived together in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, UK. Andy is an artist, musician, writer and organizer. Yvonne asked Andy some questions about his artwork and interests.}

Yvonne Carmichael: We first met during Situation Leeds: Art in the Public Realm ’05 festival, you had spent three months cutting out card bricks to make a replica of the Electric Press Chimney in Leeds. Did you enjoy the process? And what you do you think looking back at that piece of work now?

Andy Abbott: Looking back on that A Half Scale Card Maquette… project it was a strange time for me. I think I’d found motivation to do art, and had a lot more spare time than I ever had. I was in the last year of Uni, I’d quit my (part time) job working in a call centre to spend more time on studying. I didn’t have a lot of commitments; I was swimming a lot in between getting really boozed and playing music. I think that project helped give me some structure. I treated it like a warehouse job where I was in the studio at a certain time each day to do a shift, trying to better yesterday’s target. Then I’d have lunch, go for a swim, come back and do an afternoon session. I made 8000-odd bricks (boxes) in those months.

My thinking behind the project was that this action reduced the art process (which is often seen as opaque, over-intellectualized and elitist; a bit ‘emperors new clothes’) down to time and graft, in the hope that would somehow democratize it. I thought that people would be inspired by my willingness to use my time ‘productively’ in concrete labour, rather than consumptively, and maybe think about being artists themselves in their spare time. In actuality people saw the finished thing and said ‘Wow, I could never be bothered to do that.’

A Half Scale Card Maquette at Situation Leeds 2005

A Half Scale Card Maquette at Situation Leeds {2005} Andy Abbott

Half Scale Card Maquette

A Half Scale Card Maquette. Andy Abbott.

Half Scale Card Maquette

A Half Scale Card Maquette. Andy Abbott. 

YC: A Serious Waste of Time was an exhibition in an empty commercial space in Leeds, that showed a combination of your works all focusing on activities you have undertaken in your spare-time. How did you go about putting this exhibition together?

AA: I started those projects as a bit of a reaction to some of the more ’socially-engaged’, participatory and collaborative projects I did following things like the chimney project. I’d started doing projects like the Festival of Pastimes, the Your Arms project we did together, and Black Dogs stuff, where I was acting more like a facilitator or curator than an artist. So at the time I wanted to do some more ‘indulgent’, representational, self-contained art, and my PhD allowed me – even encouraged me – to do that. So I began a project about traveling back to the village that I was born in by cycling up and down a bit of canal (Homeward Unbound), another work about swimming at Shipley Pool, a linked project about the DIY punk scene family tree, and then a less resolved project about the Bell Pits on Baildon Moor and heavy metal.

They all shared some similarities in content and form and made what I considered to be a coherent exhibition; they were all quite autobiographical and most used diagrams, maps and music to get the point across. I called the exhibition A Serious Waste of Time to push forward the ‘hobbyist’ aspect of all the projects but looking back on it that was a tenuous thread between them all. I was doing those activities for a PhD which was as much ‘work’ as it was ‘play’, but I like the conversations that arise from that slippage.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition. Andy Abbott.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition ‘Homeward Unbound’. Andy Abbott.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition. Andy Abbott.

YC: Which piece of work or projects that you have undertaken have been the most successful and why?

AA: It depends on how you judge success. The longest running, most consistent, ‘projects’ I’ve done have been That Fucking Tank and Black Dogs, in as much as they keep on going and growing. In terms of a single art project, the one I’ve been asked or commissioned to do the most is the Festival of Pastimes. When I do talks and presentations it seems like some of the earlier projects I did, like the chimney piece, communicate what I was interested in more clearly than my recent work, but I don’t think that means they are more successful. I liked the response I got to the Erewyrehve project I did in Istanbul last year with PiST, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on that. I think that’s the one I’d judge most personally fulfilling as it sparked a lot of interesting conversations, it is really open-ended and fed a lot of other work, and it looked good as an exhibition too!

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Festival of Pastimes – Leeds. Andy Abbott.

7. Erewyrehve exhibition - PiST Istanbul

Erewyrehve exhibition – PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

8. Erewyrehve - PiST Istanbul

Erewyrehve – PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

9. Erewyreve Exhibition PiST Istanbul

Erewyreve Exhibition PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

YC: Your portfolio of writing includes a range of formats from press releases, web copy, essay, articles and academic papers. I like your style of writing and that it is accessible but covers complex stuff at the same time. What would your tips be on how to write about art?

AA: I guess I’ve always tried to be ‘honest’ with my writing and not use words or terms I don’t really know the meaning of, although I’m sure there are plenty of times I’ve succumbed to the art-talk pressure and you do have to use some specialized terminology at times. I prefer reading something by someone that’s in their own voice rather than relying on cliches and trendy jargon though. At the same time I think you’ve got to give the reader some credit for knowing roughly what you’re on about, or assume they’ll be able to look up words or terms they’re not familiar with. I think the call for ‘plain English’ in art is a tricky one because whilst its good to call out bullshit when you see it, audiences/readers should embrace being challenged too.

YC: You have written a lot about value of punk, DIY and organized activity and its political potential. What are the key things around this you think are important for an audience to know in relation to this when experiencing your work.

AA: Ha, well I often wrongly assume people know what the DIY ethos is, or what DIY even stands for. Over the last couple of years I’ve started to qualify it a bit more as the ‘not-for-profit underground/alternative scene’ or various other things. Someone did an interview with me a bit ago asking me about self-organization and I realized it’s a term I just stopped using because it doesn’t really say much about what I find interesting: the political or socially-transformative dimension of cultural activity motivated by love-not-money.

In terms of what an audience needs to know to experience my work: I guess someone who doesn’t know about – or acknowledge – the harmful effects of capitalism, and thinks there’s either no need or possibility for an alternative way of living together, is unlikely to identify with what I do. I believe that DIY activity is a site where new forms of engaging with the world and one another are experimented with, and that’s where its radical potential lies. If you don’t think social transformation is either necessary or possible then I guess that notion is not something you would agree with or be interested in. You’d also have to be an idiot or a helpless cynic though.

YC: Do you ever think about doing a project just to make loads of money?

AA: When I taught at art college I used to tell students ‘if you are in it to make loads of money then stop doing art and play the stock exchange instead, or go into banking or whatever, where you’re almost guaranteed to be more successful.’ I could have made a lot of money if I kept on being a sales person I think, because I was good at it, but that idea of sacrificing time for cash doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather just enjoy the time we have. One piece of advise that’s stuck in my head from my parents is that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and should act accordingly.

At the same time I guess I have a romantic idea that if you do something with as much fidelity and integrity as you can then somehow something will come out of it, and that might even generate money. You learn a lot more skills and competencies through doing things you enjoy rather than things you don’t. So far we keep on keeping on and I’m happy with that.

YC: Your artistic practice utilizes a broad range of medium including: video, sound, scores, diagrams, writing, publications, participatory events and photographs. Would you ever consider streamlining and focusing more closely on one approach or style?

AA: I always hated the way artists ‘specialize’ in one medium or theme, as it seemed to me to be a very cynical way of turning yourself and your practice into a marketable commodity – something that the Institutional Art World and its markets demand, rather than an organic or authentic process. I prefer artists and people who resist that easy reduction to a single type of work or a specific ‘issue’ or ‘theme’, even if they’re known for one or two things in particular. I guess Joseph Beuys and John Cage did that to an extent, and I like them for it.

At the moment though, I am really enjoying making music and animations, I am finding that those are appropriate ways to resolve some of my projects. I can see myself doing more of that. I think it’s good to keep the end result open and show fidelity to the process, reacting to interventions or happy accidents and letting them decide where a project goes, rather than having a fixed destination. That’s not good for art dealers or even funding applications but I think it makes for more vital art.

YC: Threadfest (May) and Recon (September) are both festivals you organize; how have you found putting these events together? What have been the least and more enjoyable bits? Do you see the co-ordination of these events as part of your practice?

AA: Yes, I’ve started to see those festivals as the current manifestation of my interest in events as art, even if the actual process of making them happen—which comprises in the main, lots of admin, funding applications, emails, contracts, spreadsheets, website updates, flyer distribution and so on—doesn’t feel like an artistic process a lot of the time. That’s definitely the bit that’s most like ‘work’ but in a sick way I kind of enjoy it…it’s like the office or ‘immaterial labor’ version of my chimney project.

The most enjoyable bit is definitely when the events actually happen and you see a lot of people brought together in one space, all having a shared collective experience which is ideally something unique to that context or situation. I do feel like those moments have some lasting effect on people as individuals and I try to organize these festivals in places where that is likely to resonate or have added meaning.

YC: What’s the best art event you have ever seen?

AA: As far as ‘proper’ art goes I really liked when we visited Manifesta 2008. It opened my eyes to a faction of the Art World that wasn’t just market-led, commodified nonsense and seemed to have some genuine intention behind it. I don’t think it’s had as much impact on me as being involved in Situation Leeds (2005), or even the first squat party I went to in Leeds, but that’s a different kind of process I suppose.

YC: What’s the best gig you have ever been to?

AA: There were a few gigs in the early 2000s that I saw in Leeds and Bradford that really opened my mind up to the idea that ‘the best’ music wasn’t necessarily going to be experienced in big spaces and was just as likely to be had in the top rooms of some dingy local pubs, houses or social centres. I saw bands like Sweep The Leg Johnny, Red Monkey, Bilge Pump, Black Heart Procession, Trans Am, Trail of Dead around then that were really inspiring. It was motivating because of the balance between them giving such spirited performances and at the same time it seeming so achievable to play the places they were playing.

YC: What’s the best meal you have ever eaten?

AA: Aside from the ones you’ve cooked me or we’ve eaten together I think the best meal I had was on the first European tour I did with Kill Yourself. We played at Metalkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia and were starving hungry when we arrived. The promoter, Ivo, then spent about three hours or more making us a gigantic meal that everyone involved in the collectively-run venue sat down to eat together. It was incredible; a venison stew with loads of salads and a vegan gnocchi dish if I remember right. I was almost crying. I don’t think it’s possible to enjoy a meal as much as that in a restaurant or even at home…there’s something about the collective experience (and the unassuming settings) that make it have much more impact, that and being very very hungry.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDY ABBOTT:is an artist, musician and writer interested in the role of cultural activity in social change. His practice and research focuses on alternative forms of work, Do-it-Yourself culture, self-organization, participation, collaboration, counter-institutions, and post-capitalist subjectivity.

YVONNE CARMICHAEL: is an artist and independent curator living and working in Leeds and Bradford, UK.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK [on] LARRY KRONE

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Larry Krone and Family: Together Again 1/5/2014 (I’m Always Changing/Final Number
Costumes), Various sizes, Gold lamé and various fabrics, embroidery floss, Swarovski crystals
{2006-2014} Larry Krone

Erin Rachel Hudak: Can you talk about the first piece(s) you made as a child that was important to you (materials, motivation etc.,)?

Larry Krone: One of the first things I remember making was a project in Kindergarten making masks out of inverted paper grocery bags. I was going with the shape and made it a Frankenstein kind of thing with rows of yarn on top for hair. I probably remember it so well because of all of the praise I got for it from my teacher and fellow students, not to brag!

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Then and Now (Cape Collaboration), 58 x 32 x 22″, found needlework projects, sequins, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, {2012} Larry Krone

EH: Your most recent show Together Again, at Brooklyn’s Pierogi, featured a piece that I have been in love with since I saw it in your studio a year ago: Then and Now (Cape Collaboration). What was your inspiration in starting this piece, and can you talk about the ‘collaborative’ aspect of the Cape?

Then and Now (Cape Collaboration), 58 x 32 x 22", found needlework projects, sequins, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, {2012} Larry Krone

Then and Now (Cape Collaboration), 58 x 32 x 22″, found needlework projects, sequins, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, {2012} Larry Krone

LK: I am a compulsive thrift shopper and collector of things. I always look for the same things when I shop: 1950’s and 60’s clothes for myself, vintage lamps and kitchen items—particularly Melmac plastic dishes and collectible ceramics, autobiographies and vintage how-to books, handmade things and home crafts.  For years I accumulated framed embroidery projects with the vague intention of hanging them on the wall. When I realized I would never have enough room for them all, I took them out of their frames and in handling them was touched by the individual lives and stories that each of the pieces seemed to contain.  I was also struck by the (obvious) fact that they were fabric and that they could function as more than just merely wall-mounted visuals-they could be really used.  I imagined making a coat modeled after a classic fur coat, each embroidery representing a “life,” in the way that individual pelts pieced together to make a huge fur are literal remnants of the precious lives of the animals sacrificed to make it.  But as I got working, the amassing of all of these pieces in such an anonymous way felt wrong, like I was exploiting their creators.  Instead, I decided to patch them together leaving space around them so that I could feature each piece and then enhance it with my own workmanship, sewing sequins one by one to cover all of the area not already embroidered.  That felt fairer to me and satisfied my personal impulse to challenge myself to do ridiculous feats.

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Then and Now (Indian, Owl, Clown, Duck, Chicken), 63″ x 67″, found needlework projects, sequins, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, {2012} Larry Krone

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Then and Now (Indian, Owl, Clown, Duck, Chicken), 63″ x 67″, found needlework projects, sequins, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, {2012} Larry Krone

EH: I see the Hay Bales as one of your more subtle, tender sculptures. Partly because they are soft, the colors are more nature-oriented, it almost seems like they have a ‘supporting role’, but they are powerful on their own. They can be interpreted in so many different ways. Can you talk about the Hay Bales sculptures and your inspiration for creating them?

LK: I love thinking of the hay bales as having supporting roles, because it makes me imagine them checking out the bulletin board after auditions to see what parts they got in the big show. I guess they do take a back seat to much of the other stuff, maybe because they are not shiny, but to me they are right up there with the stars!

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Larry Krone performing

When I first started to make the Hay Bales, I didn’t intend for them to be such a big deal. I had been traveling a lot with my country music art performance revue routine, and I always asked the venue—often a museum or gallery—to supply me with bales of hay to help create a Western atmosphere. It was a hassle every time, so I decided to make my own portable hay bales as traveling set pieces. Of course I couldn’t just make them inflatable or out of printed fabric… too easy and practical! I wanted them to be outrageous and show my effort. Also, like much of my work, including the Cape, I wanted to limit my materials to things I could find in the thrift store… castaways and remnants from other people’s craft projects. So, I bought yarn that was as close to the colors of hay and straw that I could find and used it to latch hook panels that I sewed together to make hollow cases, the idea being that I could easily pack them in my suitcase unstuffed, fill them with whatever I could find at the venue, and sit on them while I performed. It turns out all that yarn is pretty heavy and bulky even without the stuffing. Also, each hay bale takes me about 3 months to make, so the idea of using them as furniture got scrapped. They are now purely works of fine art no matter how much they seem to beckon people to sit on them.

Then and Now (Hay Bale #2), yarn, canvas, muslin, zipper, embroidery floss, stuffing, 18" x 15" x 40", {2009} Larry Krone

Then and Now (Hay Bale #2), yarn, canvas, muslin, zipper, embroidery floss, stuffing,18″ x 15″ x 40″, {2009} Larry Krone

EH: Time, or the idea of it, is very evident in your work. Although it is not a direct message, I can never help but feel the layers of days in your sequins, or weeks passing on the hook and loom. Can you talk about the importance of time and process in your work?

LK: The element of Time is very important to me in my work in a lot of ways. Most recently, I have been thinking about it in reference to the Cape. It took me 2 ½ years to make that, which feels kind of luxuriously indulgent. As I’ve been getting older I have learned to value the personal experience of making the work as my own private reward. The feeling of having spent that much time with such intimacy devoted to one project is an experience that I will never forget. The piece may live on as something else to other people, but I will always have that personal connection and those years of my life to remember.

EH: I believe your mirror pieces are a fantastic blending of themes. They are at once hard-edge, and uncompromising, but also clearly vulnerable. Can you talk about your work with mirrors and what inspires you to use them as material.

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I’m Bad (He’s Bad), antique mirror, acrylic paint, aluminum foil, {2012} Larry Krone

LK: I have a lot of work that deals with my own masculine identity, and a lot of it uses country music and the world around it as a framework.  I was attracted to saloon art including boudoir portraits like you’d see in Western movies and those beer logo mirrors that have been hanging in bars probably since forever. I got into the idea of mirrors for their formal qualities after my retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2006. When I looked at the show and imagined it as an outsider, it seemed that all of my work was so internal and self referential, not inclusive and engaging as I’d imagined it was. Mirrors were a direct way to engage the viewer. Right away, the viewer sees himself or herself when they look at a mirror piece, so from the start it is about something besides just me. I like the fact that the mirror can create that immediate connection and even a crazy kind of dialogue in a way that nothing else can. Also the shine.

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Coors, Owl, vintage beer mirror, found embroidery on fabric, (private collection) {2011} Larry Krone

EH: Language and text is vital in your work. Can you talk about the choice to use text or not, and where the phrases come from?

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Mean, Vicious, Wild, 8′ x 26′, Mylar, tape, {2013} Larry Krone

LK: I have a basic rule, which is that I only use words that come from country songs not written by me. Every now and then I break the rule, but the point is that the song lyrics are a found material with layers of meaning and associations the same way that the old embroideries and mirrors are. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but I never stop being thrilled by the fact that our most sincere, personal emotions are so often triggered and expressed by music, whether or not the music itself is sincere.

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Mean, Vicious, Wild, 8′ x 26′, Mylar, tape, {2013} Larry Krone

There was a point when I consciously challenged myself to NOT use text, because I felt like I had been using it as a crutch. I think that challenge turned out to be good for the work. Now I don’t impose that limitation, but I find that, as with any other material, I use text when it feels like the right material to use for a particular piece.

EH: In conjunction with your show at Pierogi, you performed at Joe’s Pub, in NYC. How and when did you begin to integrate your singer/songwriter performance into your artwork as a whole?

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Larry Krone and Family: Together Again 1/5/2014 (Baby Bonnet and Diaper of Many
Colors) Size: large, found fabric & trim, embroidery floss, Swarovski crystals, {2011} Larry Krone

LK: My work has always referred to music and incorporated song lyrics. From the beginning, I related to a certain kind of vulnerability that I saw displayed by men in country music. I used it first in the objects that I was making, then in some lo-fi videos, and finally in actual live performance. Back then the point of performing was the possibility of failure and humiliation balanced with the opportunity to charm and win over a live audience. I never would have imagined that what I was doing would evolve into what it is now, which is more of a legitimate musical act incorporating my own songwriting and with the support of many talented performers and musicians. That has been the natural progression, though. Most of that original content is still there, and that’s important to me, but I can’t pretend to still be terrified of singing, because I’m not afraid anymore.

EH: In addition to your personal performative creations, you started your own fashion label, the House of Larréon. Can you talk about it–this label, and the Look Book you created?

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House of Larréon Look Book sneak peek! photo by Marley White, art direction by Kathleen Fox, hair & makeup by Frances Sorensen

LK: House of Larréon was born a few years ago at Joe’s Pub when my good friend, singer/downtown superstar Bridget Everett asked me to make something for her to wear onstage. She had been wearing a lot of Beyonce’s family’s clothing brand House of Deréon, but for some reason she couldn’t get it anymore. So stepping in as a replacement, I came up with the name as a one-time joke. But as Bridget’s fame increased, so did the attention I got for the clothes, and since then I’ve become Bridget’s exclusive designer. I’ve basically been riding the wave and taking on other exciting commissions along the way as they come. I don’t have any fashion training and I really have no goal of creating an actual fashion line, but I am having a ball and loving the opportunity to do something so challenging and fun. An extra perk is to be able to collaborate so closely with Bridget. We have a great time, and I’m learning a lot! Of course, if I can make something big happen with House of Larréon, I will.

EH: Can you tell us what’s next on the horizon?

LK: The exciting news right now is that I’ve been working with some talented people to produce an art book documenting all of my costumes, including the Western ones I’ve made for my own act and the newer House of Larréon stuff. It’s been a lot of work, and we don’t have the funding yet, but hopefully House of Larréon Look Book will be out sometime this year.

LookBookProposalMockup10-copy

Also, I’m working on plans to go into the recording studio to make a CD with Kiam Records. Besides that, I have a couple of group shows lined up including “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community” curated by John Chaich at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, and I’ll be getting back into my own cluttered studio to make more fine art masterpieces for the world to enjoy.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Erin Rachel Hudak: Born in Stow, Ohio in 1978, Erin Rachel Hudak creates collages, paintings and sculptures that discuss ideas of freedom, power, perception and transformation. Hudak’s artwork is often inspired by her personal relationship with nature juxtaposed with various histories of mans’ relationship with ‘The Land’. She received her B.F.A from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and attended Allegheny College for art and literature. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her artwork has been featured in Vogue Girl Korea, DailyCandy.com, Art+Culture.com, VillageVoice, Dailyserving.com, NY Daily News, Sun Valley Magazine, and The Brooklyn Eagle. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Larry Krone: Born in Chicago, IL in 1970, Krone  was raised in St. Louis, MO and now lives and work in New York City’s East Village. He has exhibited work since the early 1990s, most notably at The Contemporary Baltimore, The Museum of Contemporary Craft in conjunction with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (Portland, OR), The Whitney Museum of American Art Philip Morris Branch (New York), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Drawing Center (New York), and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which, in 2006 presented “Larry Krone: Artist/Entertainer,” a ten-year retrospective of his visual and performance work.

SAM SCHARF [on] MATT SMITH CHAVEZ

On Fabric, Berkley and Digital Existence

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{Some points of reference from the video interview which bear mentioning are: Matt Smith’s informatively strong curatorial effort in 2013 at Heiner Contemporary; Gene McHugh’s Post Internet Blog is a project funded by the Warhol Foundation from 2009;  Artie Vierkant is an artist who lives and works in New York represented both by Untitled, NY and New Galerie, Paris; Mitzi Pederson’s exhibition 3:34 is currently up at Ratio 3, San Francisco and images from the show can be found here.}

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Almost Practically There {2013} silkscreen, spray paint, bleach, and glue on cotton on canvas on particleboard. 17.5″ x 17″. Matt Smith Chavez.

I always find it very stimulating to get the chance to sneak a peek into the practice of an artist so different from my myself. Matt Smith Chavez has carved out for himself an unapologetic place in the world of abstraction and is currently carrying his views into graduate school at UC Berkeley. I’ve known Matt for about 5 years now and closely for the last 2 while he shared studio space with my girlfriend Megan Mueller at Arlington Arts Center (right outside D.C). What strikes me most about Matt’s earlier work is something dear to my own practice as well: the ways in which he organized and executed his pieces with such exacting math. His practice spoke more about the making of the work then the manifested forms.

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Wake me up, I’m Dreaming {2014} Matt Smith Chavez.

Now, moving across the country at the age of 36 to pursue a graduate degree and leave the comforts of his past hard work, he is shifting gears. The change in where and how the images exist have informed not only the creation of the work (i.e. his decision to dye the fabrics himself) but how the works exists digitally, which is where his content can be particularly salient.

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Installation photographs from the UC Berkeley 1st year MFA exhibition {2014}. Matt Smith Chavez.

He is letting the material dictate where he will go next, rather than trying to control it, which can be a leap of faith for us artists. Matt Smith Chavez has begun a journey and while the perils of grad school are sure to manifest, I have only pure faith and excitement when it comes to seeing where the work will lead us next.

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Wake me up, I’m Dreaming (Digital) {2014} Matt Smith Chavez.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Samuel Scharf: is an artist living and working in the Goleta, CA area. Major publications of Samuel’s work can be seen in past issues of the Washington Post, Huffington Post, New American Paintings and Sculpture Magazine. Samuel has exhibited work in DC, MD, VA, NY, CA as well as internationally in Berlin, Germany.

Matt Smith Chavez: is currently a first year MFA candidate at UC Berkeley. Working mostly in an abstract formalist manner dealing with the existence of the image in a post Internet world. Follow Matt on twitter @MattSmithChavez, Learn more about his work and keep up with his writings both at parkwayblog.net and his most recent article for New American Paintings.

JENNIFER VANDERPOOL [on] PAIGE WERY

Good Luck Harry: 103 Ceramics at The Good Luck Gallery

Bowl on Flower Base by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

In 1998 Paige Wery dropped out of California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco, drove her old truck to Los Angeles and began her professional art career selling paintings on the Venice Beach boardwalk. Each morning she would arrive around 8:00 AM, layout her blanket, and display her paintings. These were the days before spaces along the boardwalk were doled out by the lottery system, so finding a good location among the other artists and vendors selling work was competitive.

Croc In a Box Blue Hat by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

Over the next two years, Wery befriended these mostly self-taught, homeless artists and fostered a sense of community among them. In 2000 she organized the first of what became monthly exhibitions of the Venice Beach artists’ work at the now defunct Highland Grounds a coffee shop in Hollywood. Each artist self-selected three works and Wery would arrive early on the appointed Saturday morning, load up her truck, and install the work for the opening that evening. There was a $3.00 cover charge to see the exhibition which was shared between the organizer and artists.

Man Woman by Harry Steinberg.

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

She arranged shows for two years before dedicating more time to her own practice and later segueing to work as the publisher of Artillery Magazine from 2007-2013. Wery’s latest endeavor takes her full-circle back to her interest in self-taught artists with the opening of The Good Luck Gallery, Chinatown, Los Angeles, which will exclusively exhibit non-formally trained artists.

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Harry Steinberg, Paige Wery (center) and Claire Hanzakos. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

The Good Luck Gallery’s inaugural exhibition 103 Ceramics, a ten-year survey of ceramist Harry Steinberg’s work from 2004-14, opens March 15, 2014.  103 Ceramics is a playful and poignant title: not only are there are 103 works in the exhibition, but also Steinberg is 103. This is his first solo exhibition.

Figure Red Cone Hat by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

Steinberg was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 1910. Growing up he visited the Carnegie Museum of Art on school field trips, but had little other arts education. He earned a M.D. from the University of Michigan and during World War II served as a medic in the European Theater. Steinberg eventually achieved the rank of Colonel and was deployed on D-Day Plus 1.  He moved to Los Angeles at the end of the war and began his medical practice as an otolaryngologist, head and neck surgeon. It wasn’t until the fifties that he developed an interest in art, first as a collector of African and Pre-Colombian work. Steinberg’s curiosity grew from there as he visited artists’ studios and galleries in the emerging L.A. art scene. He took up painting on the weekends, but during a 1961 studio visit with ceramicist Claire Hanzakos, Steinberg discovered his creative passion. A few years later, Steinberg converted his garage into a ceramic studio and arranged for her to teach him and six of his colleagues. Steinberg and Hanzakos were married in 1979.

Multi Color Head by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

Steinberg created ceramic sculptures on weekends, but when he retired in 1986, he dedicated himself to his studio practice. Nowadays, he works three or four mornings a week creating mostly sculptures that respond to everyday life— brightly colored, boisterous storybook animals and anthropomorphic figures, while others mimic household objects. Many of these works included in 103 Ceramics evoke a sense of wonderment and joy.

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Video Courtesy Parris Patton and The Good Luck Gallery

Steinberg’s inquisitiveness seems boundless both as a creator and patron of the arts. He enjoys visiting museum and galleries in Los Angeles and is on the Ethnic Art Council at UCLA’s Fowler Museum. Steinberg is a gem. He would be delighted to meet you at his opening and as much as he would love to share stories about his life and art, he would be equally, if not more so, pleased to hear stories about your work.

Lady on Green Frog by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

103 Ceramics opens March 15, 2014, at The Good Luck Gallery from 6:00 PM-10:00 PM. The exhibition is on view from March 15-April 12. The Good Luck Gallery is located at 945 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, California 90012.

Humble Orange Hat by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

Venus by Harry Steinberg

Harry Steinberg. Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Jennifer Vanderpool, Ph.D.: is a Southern California based artist. Her next adventure is in March 2014 at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

Paige Wery: is a Los Angeles based artist, curator, current gallery director/founder of The Good Luck Gallery, and former publisher of Artillery Magazine.

RYDER RICHARDS [on] IAN F. THOMAS

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41.807296,-77.077468, panoramic installation view. Mansfield University, Allan Hall Gallery. By Ian F. Thomas.

Ryder Richards (aside as intro): I met Ian while he was in graduate school and running an alternative art space. He was continually collaborating and pushing boundaries while I was hosting events and creating new venues for display. Finding we had a similarly ambitious drive fueled by a bizarrely protestant and alcohol-fueled work ethic we started the Culture Laboratory Collective. We have worked together on international exhibits, collaborative shows and art works, and have plotted and schemed around the ever-elusive vanishing point of success.

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P4142100 By Ian F. Thomas

Trained as a ceramicist with exquisite craft, Ian is capable of producing beautiful objects, yet is also constantly exploring conceptual issues related to craft, technology, process, and performance.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

While in Dallas a few years ago, Ian (and collaborator John Shumway) created Incidental Transformation, a “digital projection on ceramic” installation that confounded traditional exhibition strategies while providing a series of improbable “view points” from which to engage static ceramics and ever-shifting contemporary technologies.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

RR: Ian, your practice can, at times, seem schizophrenic. Do you see a gap between your more traditional ceramic vases and your conceptually grounded pieces–such as Yesterday’s Tomorrow where a performer rubbed Pennsylvania coal onto a ceramic mound? How does object creation align with works such as Please Excuse the Mess?

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Pots {2014} Ian F. Thomas

IFT: There are of course many differences between the two but I have always viewed my practice as a physical extension of personal ideologies.  In one instance I may be thinking of some social/political issue and in the next I might be fantasizing, but no matter how fractured the individual works may appear, they are rooted in my observations and interpretations of myself and the world around me.  I try not to separate or influence my works based on some stylistic constraint. I look at the work in-and-of-itself, each piece being a separate thing that needs to function on its own, in a context, without concern for style or brand.

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

Coming from a craft heritage background and positioning myself in the Post-Craft movement, I can trace similarities between my vessels and works. Yesterday’s Tomorrow and Please Excuse the Mess are a direct commentary on labor, manipulation, the gallery itself and its ability to glorify almost anything that is placed inside it.

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Yesterday’s Tomorrow {2012} ceramic, audio, hired laborer, coal, acrylic, found bench. By Ian F. Thomas.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow utilized a day-laborer within the gallery context and allowed viewers to ogle a human doing a task. The worker himself had no idea why he was doing the task—his only concern was doing what he was told and being paid for it. The art work utilized this person, a laborer, thus rendering the work as spectacle, contextualized within the surrounding traditional artworks. Yesterday’s Tomorrow narcissistically called attention to itself.

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Yesterday’s Tomorrow {2012} ceramic, audio, hired laborer, coal, acrylic, found bench. By Ian F. Thomas.

This call for attention was also prevalent in Please Excuses the Mess. As part of a group show, this work, or non-work, shifted the viewer’s vantage point so that they didn’t know that they were looking at an art work. The gallery itself appeared under construction as if the workers had not finished in time for the opening. The laborer is still the object of focus. While the person is not physically present this time, it seemed as though the painters had just stepped out for lunch and hadn’t yet returned to finish the job at hand (in this case, painting the wall.) The work relies on the viewer’s own memory to help finish the piece, and the assumption that it is not an art work at all but is a momentary glimpse behind the curtain of the everyday.

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State Change {2014} metal ring, photography, video. By Ian F. Thomas

Another recent work is a collaboration with jeweler/metalsmith, Sharon Massey, entitled State Change.  The intended audience will be metal-smiths at their annual conference this year in Minneapolis. Sharon gave me a meticulously finished piece of studio jewelry, a large silver ring. I then filed the ring down to nothing.

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State Change {2014} video still. By Ian F. Thomas

While this work references Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing, it is also a physical representation or statement about technical work that is devoid of content. Through compulsion, persistence and patience the ring has been reworked offering a new ideological context, removed from its intended beginning and re-positioned as an art object, freed from its function and the body. The work consists of a projected video of the act of the filing of the ring, a large format photo of the original ring and the detritus of the ring itself in it new state, rendered formless but equally as conceptually useless as the original ring was in it finished state (ouch, haha!)

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State Change {2014} ground metal ring. By Ian F. Thomas

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS:

RYDER RICHARDS: is a Dallas-based artist and curator who recently co-curated Boom Town at the Dallas Museum of Art, directed The Cube in Roswell, New Mexico during a year long residency, and co-developed the RJP Nomadic Gallery. He has shown work across the United States, in Germany and China. He is a member of several collaborative art groups including The Art Foundation and Culture Laboratory, writes about art, and teaches at Eastfield College.

IAN F. THOMAS: is an installation artist living in Slippery Rock, PA and works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Thomas received additional training at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. His work has been featured in the contemporary ceramics magazines Ceramics: Art and Perception and Ceramics Now. Recent exhibitions include Filtered Permeability at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, and Push Play at Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle. And Is co-founder of One Wall Gallery.

DESIREE D’ALESSANDRO [on] SANTIAGO ECHEVERRY

{The Saints are not supermen and neither are they perfect. They lived normal lives marked by sadness and joy, hardships and hopes [. . .] being saints is not a privilege of the few but everyone’s vocation.}

Pope Francis

Desiree D’Alessandro (aside as intro): The invitation to write for Uncompromising Tang has been burning at the back of my mind as I prepare for the upcoming semester at the University of Tampa. Recently, my thoughts and research have been dedicated to the development of a brand new communications and public relations hybrid course titled Digital Citizenship. As I’ve contemplated the integration of our everyday lives with digital technologies, my thoughts wandered to a colleague’s solo exhibition that I had the privilege of seeing back in October, titled Modern Saints by Santiago Echeverry. On display at the Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City School of Visual and Performing Arts Gallery, it consisted of alternative video and digital prints of de/re-contextualized portraits. It is my hope that this interview with the artist and the corresponding review of the displayed works contributes to present and future discussions regarding art and technology.

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Modern Saints Exhibition Invite {2013} Santiago Echeverry

Desiree D’Alessandro: As a contemporary artist, Associate Professor at the University of Tampa, and director of the New Media Production Major there, what did your Modern Saints exhibition mean to you?

Santiago Echeverry: A lot. This was my first solo show in the United States and my second solo show since the year 2000. As an immigrant, as someone who will hopefully become American very soon, it was quite an honor and opportunity to see that there are doors or openings in educational spaces and experimental spaces for people like me. The show benefited me and all the people who participated. I am extremely grateful to Carolyn Kossar, Stephen Crompton, Corey George, Carl Cowden, and my students, who trusted me as their professor and their torturer (laughs.) Ask them, my students don’t sleep at all and had absolutely no time for a social life.

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Santiago at the Modern Saints exhibition talk {2013} Santiago Echeverry

DD: Tell me about your relationship with your students and how they ended up as models in the Modern Saints series.

SE: I have a very close relationship with my students. Through smaller class sizes and intimate conversations, I get to know their potential, their strengths and weaknesses. I believe that part of being an artist is exploring ones inner-self and background in order to make unique expressions. Behind every portrait there is an individual’s very personal story. This series was a teaching experiment; a teaching lab. In the process of creating these portraits, their personal stories and their fears were visually projected onto their faces. As they worked to overcome these fears, many expressed that they felt empowered. This was my main goal.

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Modern Saints (l-r) Jeff Chamblees, Candice Smith, Stephen Long. {2013}

DD: How does this set up a juxtaposition with your digitized Self E-Portraits? Do you ever think about how capturing and digitizing a moment suspends its further deterioration in the physical world?

SE: In these works I’m exploring the fragmentation of myself into spheres and cubes, an exploding grid of sorts, de-contextualizing my own image. As a man who is now in his 40s, I can see that I’m getting older. I look at my physical state and realize I’m facing numerous challenges while simultaneously continuing to discover newness in the world. I call these photos AUTOSCOPIES, because you get a sense of looking at yourself when you are not yourself. You become unafraid of embracing your own flaws, your mistakes, age, etc. I used a lo-fi webcam in the process.  I was revealing and extrapolating on who I am, while also fragmenting myself into a luminescent representation along the z-axis, as opposed to a 3-dimensional representation. The colors were influenced by the temperature of light and playing with tungsten and LED lamps. The mathematical process behind the works is a really complicated one, but which allowed me to also create some of the Apocalypse of Eden video.

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2A, Processing webcam. From the Self-E portrait series {2013}

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2B, Processing webcam. From the Self-E portrait series {2013} Santiago Echeverry

DD: Regarding the Apocalypse of Eden video, please explain the execution and concept for us.

SE: I come from a video background, and exploring 3-dimensionsal video capturing is one of my latest passions. All of these images that you see were captured using the Xbox’s Kinect Sensor. From my perspective, this is the future of film, where you can literally place the camera anywhere you want and you can play from any perspective. Like the experiments that Edison was doing in the 1890s with the basic film strips, now we’re able to experiment with this technology in turn. Obviously though, having a conceptual underpinning behind technical exploration is important to me. This is why I teach at UT and not MIT (laughs.).  Apocalypse of Eden is set to an accompaniment by Travis Damato and is inspired by the Book of Revelations and the visions of John writing warning letters to the seven churches of Asia, while he is on a prison island called Patmos. In my video John is overwhelmed by these chaotic visions of an almost certain future–one that we can only experience as layered pixelated images of angels and humans. In the exhibition, it’s positioned as the bridge between the Modern Saints work and my Self-E Portraits.

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Still from Apocalypse of Eden, Video and live performance (click to see video) {2013} Santiago Echeverry

DD: And what of your last work in the exhibition, Buccaneer Bruce?

SE:  Buccaneer Bruce was originally created for the 2013 Gasparilla Arts Festival’s Piracy Redux, an exhibition curated by Tracy Midulla and Kurt Piazza. It won “Best Satirical Arrrrrtwork” from Creative Loafing, which was really cool. Each Hillsborough county mugshot represents the sins that the individuals were committing, their fears or demons. The idea came to me when a former student was arrested for DUI and her image appeared in Google when she looked up her name. Her future will be forever altered. Here in Tampa, people party and drink, and in a lot of ways mirror the image of the old Buccaneer logo. I used this logo without permission, which is interesting in the context of the mugshots themselves and  a society that is increasingly more pirated in terms of copyright infringement.

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Buccaneer Bruce. Digital Mosaic {2013} Santiago Echeverry

DD: Since the show has concluded and you’ve had time to meditate on the exhibition, what realizations or wisdom have you gained?

SE: The entire show, and several of my works previously and since, have been inspired and influenced by the grid. Since our realities are increasingly digital, we begin to transform our existence from molecules and atoms to pixels. The entire collection of pieces tried to emphasize this dimension with the actual installation and positioning of the pieces, mirroring, echoing and creating reflections throughout the space. In several of the works, I’m exploding the pixelation to help the viewer realize it IS fake – that this is the matrix. But imagine the possibilities of a future with unlimited resolution, with vector video, where the binary behind the scenes can lead to unlimited possibilities…

DD: Lastly, what goals did you achieve with the Modern Saints exhibition?

SE: As a political activist and artist, it was very important for me that the work provided an opportunity for transformation. My student models and those who witnessed the exhibition were receptive to its social impact. I was proud to aesthetically honor their stories and their essence, and not in accordance with the standards of beauty set forth in Vogue or GQ magazine. The context of each portrait was different. The Saints shared their stories willingly , but in the case of the Buccaneer mugshots, optional participation and communication were removed. The way I see it, the grid is everywhere. Identity is inescapable. Everything is connected.

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Modern Saints panoramic installation view {2013} Santiago Echeverry

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

DESIREE D’ALESSANDRO is a Tampa-based artist and educator specializing in traditional and digital media. Her works and writing have been exhibited/published internationally and she has presented and chaired sessions at a diverse array of conferences.

SANTIAGO ECHEVERRY is a Colombian New Media and Digital Artist with a background in Film and Television production. Thanks to a Fulbright Grant, he received his Master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. He moved to the USA in 2003 to teach Interactivity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He then relocated to Florida in the Fall of 2005 to teach Digital Arts and Interactive Media at the University of Tampa. He started exhibiting internationally in 1992, and his research interests include non-linear narration, video-art, performance art, interactive design, creative code and web experimentation, while never forgetting his commitment to Gay and Lesbian Human Rights.

JANG SOON IM [on] JASON MONES

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Rainbow Time Machine, oil paint on canvas {2013} Jason Mones

2007년 정도에 내가 Yale의 오픈스튜디오를 갔을때 나는 많은 대학원생들의 작품 중 한 작가의 그림에 많은 시간을 할애했었다. 그 그림은 황량한 사막에 덩그러니 놓인 통나무 집 한채의 배경에, 토이스토리의 Sheriff Woody처럼 생긴 카우보이가 약간 어정쩡하게 서있는 그림이었다. 분위기는 초현실주의와 디즈니의 중간쯤으로 보였고, 전체적인 배경은 현실을 반영하는 어떠한 관념과 디즈니 가상현실의 폐단 정도가 뒤섞인 모습이었다. 당시 용기를 내어 작가에게 그림에 대해 몇가지 물어봤던 기억이 난다.

At Yale’s Graduate Open Studio in 2007, I spent quite a long time in front of Jason Mones’ paintings. One in particular depicted a cowboy that looked like Woody from the  movie “Toy Story“, standing awkwardly in the background of an empty desert with a log cabin in the foreground. The entire atmosphere was both surreal and Disney-ified–the scene looked like a mixture of abstract ideas and  false (or maybe virtual) realities. I asked Jason several questions regarding his paintings, in order to figure out his thought process.

그리고 2012년에 나는 그 작가를 오마하의 Bemis 아티스트 레지던시 프로그램에서 다시 만났다. 그의 그림은 Yale의 딱딱하고 이론적인 날카로움에서 좀 더 자유분방해진 느낌이었다. 그림 속 등장인물들의 형체는 더욱 일그러져있었고, 그림은 그 그림으로써의 정체성을 더욱 자각하고 있었다. 그리고 특히 그림 화면의 모든 부분은 한층 그를 닮아 있었다.

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Drone Fruit, oil paint on canvas, {2013} Jason Mones

In 2012 I met him again as a fellow artist at the Bemis Artist Residency program in Omaha, Nebraska. His work had become more open and liberated from Yale’s straight and stubborn academicism. Figures in his paintings had become more distorted and the entire painting looked to be aware of  its own identity as “a painting”.  The surface showed the artist’s intentional and unintentional brush-strokes. I would argue that his paintings became more like himself than they had ever been before.

그의 그림 “Drone Fruit”은 그의 작업방식이 잘 나타나 있다. 거대한 버섯은 그 윗부분이 UFO를 닮았으며 그 아랫부분에 뚫린 구멍 사이로 2차대전에 참전했을것만 같은 구식의 비행기가 윙윙 파리처럼 날아 나온다. 한가로운 버섯에 한가로운 장난감 비행기같지만 또한 아래 잔디 모양은 흡사 UFO가 땅으로 기둥같은 레이져를 발사하여 폭파하는 상황같은 묘한 이중성이 있다.

His recent painting Drone Fruit shows his work and thought process sure enough. A giant mushroom looks like a spinning UFO shooting laser beams to the ground, causing a grass explosion. The mushroom stalk quietly spits World War II era airplanes into the sky like buzzing mosquitos. There is a lot to decode. Every gesture he makes redefines and confuses the painting as a whole. Embracing the prospect of  multiple readings, Jason Mones picks his figures and compositions {by working subconsciously to outline a narrative.}(Mones)

“Hand Plant”에서는 Jason 특유의 우스꽝스러우면서 괴기스러운 분위기가 회화를 통해 효과적으로 연출된다. 화분의 잔디는 화면에 가득차게 확대되어 보여짐으로써 마치 B급 공포물에 나오는 서툰 클로즈업 장면같다. 잔디 사이로 나온 네개의 손가락은 그 빛과 그림자의 대조로 인해 얄팍한 긴장감을 주기에 더욱 더 우스꽝스러운 B급 분위기가 난다.

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Hand Plant, oil paint on canvas, {2013} Jason Mones

In his painting Hand Plant, Jason’s own humor and sincerity are efficiently carried by the medium of painting. The zoomed-in plant in a pot fills the entire scene, reminiscent of a B-horror movie close-up. Four creepy fingers reach out of the green in a dramatic chiaroscuro.

JM07

Payless, oil paint on canvas, 58″ x 64″, {2011} Jason Mones

 ”Payless” 가게 앞에서 시위를 하는 Payless, 말 그대로 ‘급여가 없다’며 시위하는 사람들. 작가는 아마도 여성의 나체 시위에 대한 이야기를 하려는 것 같다. 회화에서 여성의 신체는 미의 상징으로 이용되어져 왔으나, 그의 그림체는 곡선을 통해, 그리고 다소 중성화된 (겨드랑이의 털) 신체를 그림으로써 전체적인 분위기가 희화화되고 그 심각한 사회현상은 서툴러진다.

 규칙을 지속적으로 와해시키는 그의 작업은 페인팅의 본연의 임무를 더욱 강조한다. 회화가 회화임을 자각하며 그 자신의 정체성을 더욱 알아가는 것처럼, 그의 작업과정은 앞으로 그 과정 자체에 더욱 집중될 것이라는 점에서 그가 매체를 통해 해나갈 작업들은 무궁무진해 보인다.

JM04

[LEFT] IOU3, oil on canvas, {2012} Jason Mones [RIGHT] Tommy Gun, 10″ x 8″,oil paint on canvas, {2012} Jason Mones

A street demonstration plays out in front of the Payless shoe store? The artist seems to depict a nude parade. Although historically female nudity has been often used as a symbol of beauty and desire, here Jason’s painting neutralizes the femininity of the nude through the depiction of armpit hair and a bold painterly rendering of the body line. The problematic social context and those issues surrounding it become messy and humorous in his world. His paintings reflect our own daily lives. And there are still many more days left to explore in his work.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JASON MONES: Received his MFA from Yale in 2008. Mones has taught at the University of Connecticut and Dowling College, while he currently teaches at Montclair University in New Jersey. He lives and paints in Brooklyn, NY. He has exhibited internationally, including shows in Seoul (S. Korea, 2012) and at the AIM Biennial: Bronx Museum A in New York in 2013.

JANG SOON IM: A Korean born artist living and working in the United States. He is interested in presenting battles between ancient armies from past eras as an unattainable fantasy, a depiction of alternative worlds. For more on him and his work, click his name to visit his website.

LAURA KRIFKA [on] CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

SURFING, PISS AND DEATH

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Peek-A-Pee-Pee-Boo Mohamet Visits the Taj Mahal, Egg tempera on panel, 11” x 12.25”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

There is something superbly disarming about the way urine looks when it is painted in tempera. Christopher Ulivo paints arcs of piss with intense unforgiving yellow. He splashes it across the bodies of figures and into the atmosphere of the painting. To be fair, there is a history of urine arcs that Ulivo taps into—one thinks of Lorenzo Lotto’s Venus and Cupid- the humor and sense of surprise are the same but the potential meanings of the two fracture upon comparison. Both paintings are funny, but Ulivo’s are not light-hearted. Underneath the history mash ups and pop star icons there is a leering ghoulishness to the figures as they copulate, murder, seduce and pop a surprising amount of boners at one another.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Venus and Cupid, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, Venice ca. 1480–1556 Loreto)

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Venus and Cupid, Detail, Lorenzo Lotto

Ulivo’s recent body of work was shown at the Santa Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art in a small, darkly painted room with an elaborately patterned floor. This darkened room created a womb-like viewing chamber, or maybe even a sneak peak into Plato’s Cave. Each painting is small, measuring around twelve inches, and their humble size pulls you in like a vacuum before delivering a sucker punch to your brain.  They read as single framed parables and nursery rhyming murder scenes, sci-fi flicks and surreal dreamscapes.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

studio installation view, Christopher Ulivo

In Peek-A-Pee-Pee-Boo Mohamet Visits the Taj Mahal, the tropes of East and West clash in a piss fight, all for the pleasure of a turban clad peeping tom who lowers his pants for his own caresses. Here man and horse alike demean, the combined force of their urine topples a boy onto his back, essentially pinning him to the ground by unforgiving streams of disrespect and humiliation. The painting is uncomfortable but it is also funny. This is one of the successes of Ulivo’s painting. When I describe them verbally they sound perverted and cruel, when I encounter them visually I giggle and shake my head.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Surf Legends: Elagabalus Moon Beam Round Table Paddle-Out 2010, egg tempera on panel, 13” x 15″, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

Ulivo balances the humor and absurdity of his show with a keen sense of pacing as a storyteller. There are crescendos of violence and oddities, but also pauses and bridges in the form of subtle and mysterious paintings such as Surf Legends: Elagabalus Moon Beam Round Table Paddle-Out 2010. These “pauses” not only support the paintings around them, but they make a viewer aware of our own desire to seek out the strange when it is suddenly denied to us. There is a sense of cultish mystery in the circling surfers, a playfulness in composition and storytelling that reads as more of a caress than a snarl. It invites you in, before leaving you vulnerable to the tides of piss, blood and laughter that Ulivo threatens to drown us in.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Spy Posing As Geisha Murdering Gen. Lee In A Brothel 1862!, egg tempera on panel, 27″ X 20″, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Surf Legends: Silver Tom Shreds Through The Pillars of Hercules!, egg tempera on panel, 5”x 7”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Ghost Cat And Gorgeous George Battle in The House of Clocks, egg tempera on panel, 13.5″ 11″, {2010} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Hooper On The Case at the Caravan Park Park Outside Swansea, egg tempera on panel, 10.75” x 10”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO: {Born in Brooklyn during the fateful summer of 1977, it is likely Ulivo’s first sights were of a son of sam shooting, the great blackout and the filming of Saturday Night Fever.} He received his MFA from RISD, where he then continued to teach. He now lives and works in Brooklyn.

LAURA KRIFKA: Krifka received her MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is represented by CB1 Gallery Los Angeles as well as BravinLee Projects New York. She currently resides in Ventura, California where she continues to paint and sculpt, often simultaneously.

NETTA SADOVSKY [on] JASON SCHWARTZMAN

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from ‘It’s About Just Makin’ It’: Chasing The Triple Crown In The Back Room by Jason Schwartzman

Jason Schwartzman’s adventures with strangers can read as morbid fantasies, lived out by experiencing them vicariously. As a reader you get the sense that Schwartzman seeks out grown men who act out an exaggerated version of some tendency inside him. Most of the stories form small but unending worlds of want and gratification.

That premise of voyeuristic fascination risks condescension or spectacle. But whatever the initial inspiration, the pieces turn towards demystifying otherness. The characters flesh themselves out. There’s this illusion that the subjects of the stories are given the reigns on Jason’s life and voice. The most obvious moment of artistic agency is choosing the subjects, and those choices give the work its initial lure and radicalism.

 

I recently moved to New York City. Like most newcomers I have been flabbergasted by the level of eminently visible poverty and desperation. As the story generally goes, anesthetic takes over next. Rather than find a way to help, one stops seeing the need, or stops caring about it, feels helpless, and finally justified in ignoring it. Part of the allure of Jason’s work is its stark contrast to these strategies. The work engages with raw interpersonal discomfort. In “Joshua,” Jason inserts himself into the life of a homeless man trying to scavenge for enough donations or possessions to amount to expensive daily medicine for nerve damage. When he cannot afford the medicine Joshua suffers debilitating pain, and turns to less expensive street drugs for help. Unfortunately the low upfront cost of those drugs belies their expensive aftereffects. The story is painful to read but Jason does not present it as an attack on the reader. Like an image of disease or detritus the viewer who would otherwise never approach is safe to get close. 

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from Joshua, by Jason Schwartzman

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from Joshua, by Jason Schwartzman

The journey that unfolds is open ended and unabashed. The work makes it seem possible to have your own conversations and relationships with people whose very existence would threaten to turn your life upside down. Some of the work has nothing to do with socioeconomic discomfort. On that end of the spectrum, “Being Ram Man” follows Karl, the super St. Louis Rams fan. The piece starts as a fascination with extreme fandom and turns into an exploration of personal branding and identity. Karl recalls his earlier days breaking into the superfan world, and how his appearance and name took a major turn.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from Being Ram Man, by Jason Schwartzman

The difference between him and lessor superfans is that once he found an adequately effective name and look, he stuck with it, allowing fans to remember and recognize him. Again, here Schwartzman tends to gravitate towards those who get public attention through the extreme nature of their public presentation. In this case the subject is less morbid and more obscure, but the way Schwartzman holds the reader’s interest is the same: we learn things we do not expect about this particular human’s experience of being inside a readily stereotyped persona.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from Being Ram Man, by Jason Schwartzman

Whether Schwartzman’s work qualifies as art is contentious. The style of the work is undeniably journalistic. Yet his process differentiates itself from typical journalism. His works are not motivated by assignment or promised publication. Jason seeks out the work, creates it, finishes it, and later investigates opportunities for propagation. The process aligns itself readily with studio practice: attending to intuitive direction, following, playing, redefining, all without external function or expectation. Jason drives the bus of his creative process from start to finish, and separates creation from branding and dissemination.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from the works of Jason Schwartzman

That source of the work gives it unique power. Without that type of self direction we would have a series of personalities, interesting but not necessarily in conversation with one another. Instead we have literature on a lifestyle, and a collection of characters that were magnetic to it. The stories have efficacy both as singular investigations and as a body of work, building off one another to flesh out the potentialities of our minds that fascinate and frighten us.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN

from ‘It’s About Just Makin’ It’: Chasing The Triple Crown In The Back Room by Jason Schwartzman

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JASON SCHWARTZMAN: Doesn’t have a website, but he writes, and you can email him by clicking his name!

NETTA SADOVSKY: Netta Sadovsky is an artist working out of New York. She graduated in May 2012 with a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis. Netta has shown her work at various spaces across the USA, including Temp Art Space, Los Caminos, Des Lee, Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, and Pig Slop. Her curatorial projects include an exhibition at the Luminary Center for the Arts and a series of pop-up exhibitions for Children of the End of the World in 2011-12.

DAVID JOHNSON [on] RYDER RICHARDS

RYDER RICHARDS

Antiquated Modernity-Do Not Seek the Treasure, gunpowder, gold leaf, graphite on Arches paper 32″x40″, Ryder Richards

David Johnson (aside as intro): I first met Ryder while we both where at Texas Christian University in 2003 while Ryder was getting his MFA and I was working on my BFA. Ryder was first the Teaching Assistant for my painting class and later my figure drawing instructor then eventually friend. Time went by and I moved away to St. Louis to pursue my MFA. Every once and awhile we would reconnect. Generally this would happen after I had been in the studio working and begun listening to one of the many masterfully mixed CD’s Ryder made me before my semester in Italy.

After a while we got back into conversation about things—what we’re doing in the studio, the process and how the “machine” works.  Ryder’s been a friend, mentor, collector and curator of mine and I thought it would be compelling to put our email conversations into form.

David Johnson: How’s it going? Last time we saw each other we were eating dim sum, trading art in the parking lot and getting our faces melted by Omar Fast at the DMA.

Ryder Richards: Yes, face melting at the Dallas Museum with a belly of dim sum and a car full of art. A really good day.

RYDER RICHARDS

Antiquated Modernity- Power, gunpowder, gold leaf, graphite on Arches paper, 32″x40″, Ryder Richards

DJ: You have your hands in a lot of different art related practices. You recently finished a year long residency in Roswell making new and incredible work, you just gave a paper on the failure of the B.F.A degree, you teach, you are a gallery director/coordinator, you have had several different curatorial programs, you write about what’s going on in the art scene in north Texas and the list goes on.
I’m always curious on how an artist navigates his or her own practice. It appears that, gone are the days of sitting in the studio just making. Most artists, I know are curating, writing, showing, working for other institutions, working for other artist and freelancing (sometimes for free). Do you feel that these are different practices away from your studio do they inform each other or do you delegate them to different “boxes” or “hats”? Are you just trying to pay rent? Or does it matter?

To be honest, this question sometimes bores me. It might not matter, and as long as people are adding to the conversation, it can’t be that bad.

RR: Paraphrase: isn’t it fucked up how much we work?

Yeah, it is kind of boring to talk about how hard we work and how many jobs we all have because we are preaching to the choir; we are all serving a penance or brutal apprenticeship for choosing art. However, we did choose it, so we need to understand what that means. Maybe that can lead to change, maybe.

There is a problem within the system in that we need to have reputational aplomb in order to have our work recognized; we have to prove our dedication and seriousness before being taken seriously. In this way the system turns us into what it needs us to be: hard workers or great bullshitters, but more than often we become both.

I think this brings up the odd commingling of personal biography/celebrity and the art we make. These can seldom be separated. When I first got to Dallas I noticed a group of ‘usual suspects’ who were invited to do something in every interesting show. Some of their work was good, but more importantly people thought of them when it was time to put together a show. I needed to be that, but I also needed to be as smart and accomplished as these people, hence all the extra jobs.

Ryder Richards

Tower I, gunpowder and graphite on paper, Ryder Richards

I don’t really do all these jobs for the money, like there is any. I did when I started, but for the last few years it seems like I have trained myself to work all the time so I could climb the art mountain and now I can’t stop. The art world has turned me into what it needs: A cultural production machine.

If you get a chance read Greg Sholette’s “Dark Matter” where he talks about the 99% of the art world supporting the top 1% of artists and how each individual has 3 jobs: 1 pays the bills and is usually in the art world, 1 is a version of art that is commercially viable, and the last one is the job we need to fill our soul and give back to the community since we have sold ourselves doing the first 2. Is that depressing or simply what we signed up for and no one told us?

DJ: Yeah, we have talked about “Dark Matter” before; I still need to spend more time with it. Its great how he discusses the 99% working for the 1% before the Occupy Wall Street movement started catching on. It feels like some of the art world problems go hand in hand with the cultural/economic/ “the world is not the same as our father’s” problems. Very few people are getting paid what they are worth and have to spend time doing a lot to try and squeak by with whatever debt or finical shortcomings they may have.

On a more optimistic note, we get to choose this life.  However hard or monetarily unsuccessful it may be, it’s still a privilege. We don’t have to worry about walking 7 miles everyday for water–most of us have accepted that we have to think and make to be fulfilled. The problem is finding ways to do it.

Yes, no one told us how hard it was going to be, but how could they? Each artist has a different career path or finds validation in his or her own way.  We can only teach young artists how things have worked in the past and how to refine their studio practice and skills, but it’s their choice to work every angle to find success or define what success is for themselves.

All these jobs or titles may actually help my studio practice. I get to talk about, train people in, and be around the thing that I love to do. Yes, I wish I could be in my studio more or not have to worry if I need to choose between framing a show and getting film developed versus paying rent and grad school loans.

So thinking of this “odd commingling of personal biography/celebrity and the art we make,” how do you get started on an idea or working through an idea? Do you need to have the personal biography to create or does each new idea or work exist on its own?

RYDER RICHARDS

Coercion I, gunpowder, pigment on paper, 30″x22″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Coercion, gunpowder, pigment, acrylic, wood, 70″x60″x14″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Commensurate, graphite, acrylic, wood, 70″x48″x24″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Conflicted (Installation View), Museum of Art, Roswell, NM, Ryder Richards

RR:  Excellent points: art is our choice and we are lucky to have it. I really resonate with the thought that no one could tell us how hard it would be because we are in a different time and it is silly to think a fellow artist/mentor could predict our predicament. My parents clearly told me it would be a hard life.

I am getting more practical about what I expect from a show: if 20 people see it, good; if I get some press, great. I don’t know if I can realistically (honestly) ask for more. Which leads us back to this “odd commingling” of art and biography. If put simply, people trust that they will see something “interesting” from “interesting” artists, but they are not sure whom is interesting at first. If someone can make their name synonymous with that accursed ambiguous adjective “interesting” there is hope that people will ponder the work a bit longer. Which is a gift.

On the other hand, I once had a lady at a gallery talk ask me if  I “just made art about social topics or if I actually did anything (Forgive her aggressive angst: she was fresh from grad school).” I defensively responded that she was only seeing one facet of my work, the commercial gallery’s physical objects. I was tempted to slap down my thickly padded resume and point out the community inclusive projects, crazily wanting to shield myself from criticism with my biography by using a slew of writing, curating, teaching, nomadic gallery exhibits, collective events, lectures and residencies as validation of something. This seems to point to this odd commingling where more is needed than art, an additional justification is often demanded.

As to ideas and working through them I have several that spring from reading (Groys, Zizek, and Lethem lately) or art world interactions, but more often I set up a situation where I force myself to create and fulfill new ideas, such as working in a collective with a specific theme and limitations.

Culture Lab had a show where I needed to make a piece with 100 multiples, so I started reading and somehow decided a ‘lost  aura’ could be regenerated if the objects worked together to permeate the space rather than being passive. I ended up making my first sound piece using 100 iPhone ear buds.

RYDER RICHARDS

From the sketchbook, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

iComm, 100 iphone 3 earbuds, mp3 players, amps, shepherd’s tone, wood, acrylic, wire, Ryder Richards {2013}

RYDER RICHARDS

iComm (detail), Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Culture Laboratory: An Investigation of Extra Terrestrial Issues for the Uninitiated, Ryder Richards

Sometimes it is more practical, like at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence when I built a gallery inside my studio called The Cube.  National and local artists showed there and I created some installations torturing a pedestal. Great fun. The whole project acted as a social/communal platform questioning public/private space while playing with gallery pretensions. Yet it also gave me a very practical place to develop other bodies of work and drink beer with friends.

RYDER RICHARDS

The Cube Inquisition (detail), Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

The Cube Inquisition (detail), Ryder Richards

After spending a year in Roswell, I am working on a series about informational vagaries and the monumentalization of informational absence as a psychological ploy. Ok, ok, it’s really about UFO’s. So, right now I am trying to balance my desire to go X-files on it with my desire to strike a more formal poignancy related to information redaction. Those inner critics are nipping at me to go formal.

RYDER RICHARDS

Safe I: Contagious Within a Certain Circumference, Ryder Richards

DJ: That’s a truth that I need to remind myself of more often: 20 people at a show good, press is great and selling something a god-send. I’m often caught thinking about where and how one gets validation in the arts. Getting or hearing validation as artist seems to be difficult when your work is wrapped up in such a personal process. You can’t get it from the looky loos looking for something “interesting” when they don’t really consider what is “interesting” or not interesting in context. But how helpful is it if we have to keep validating or justifying ourselves? Merit is a muddy thing in the arts and even less understood by audiences. I’ve kept a core group of peers that can and will call me out when something is slacking.

In your projects, how do you set up situations to create, do you have self- imposed “rules” when making? Is it a different process or a different outcome if you didn’t have predetermined themes or limitations? Can you start on something if you don’t have a deadline or theme? You seem to go back to drawing.  Even with your larger installation you have or hint at drawing.  Is drawing where you work out your ideas?

RYDER RICHARDS

Executive Order 13526 (file 231), pigment on paper, 15″x22″, Ryder Richards

RR: Looky Loos, indeed. Yes, our art making process is personal and most people who see it will be judging the work without proper context, but the only way we can balance against that is working on how our pieces communicate OR we can decide not to worry about it and keep making work for ourselves and those insightful few. I typically try to strike a balance, providing entry points to the work so that the uninitiated can access the ideas. That may be out of vogue given much of the purposefully obscure or vaguely pointing metaphorical works that I see. I think it is smart to make work that is open enough that people can fill it with their own ideas, but I assume that the artist’s merit or personality starts to count for even more in the interpretation of the work. If that makes any sense, then perhaps it underlies the reason why we must continually validate our work, which is really about validating ourselves. In a classical model of the art world good work would stand on it’s own, but contemporary art does not need to follow that structure, especially as it becomes intertwined with socio-politics and economics.

RYDER RICHARDS

Executive Order 13526 (file 644), pigment on paper, 15″x22″, Ryder Richards

{Exec Order 13526 is an order to classify information for national security, whatever that may be. The file number is rubbish really- I just type numbers into the Dewey Decimal system until I stumble across a topic I like and used that number.}

At times I abstractly think I have a handle on the art world, but when I am in the studio I become classically stupid about wanting to make nice objects instead of being a ‘post-objectarian’ or whatever the latest frontier may be. When I go into the studio to make I am comfortable doing certain things: drawing and woodworking. With no rules I tend to repeat myself: using the same materials and solutions that have worked in the past, so I impose small rules on myself inside a body of work (such as “no gunpowder” or “strip away one component for each piece”) and when I really need a leap I make a new body of work with a larger set of rules (research information voids, physicalize a psychological condition, develop a means of user interaction, and utilize one new skill/media).

And, yes, having friends who care and know your work is vital. One rule my friends and I followed was to say, “yes” to every opportunity. Another was: “there is no excuse for poorly designed or crafted work, no matter how good the idea.” It is easy to make a crappy piece and declare it profound, but can you remove the roadblocks that prevent the piece from declaring itself to the viewer?  Do you want to? What is the role of craft in the piece: a distancing mechanism, a purveyor of honesty, and a dematerializing agent?  Of course, like most rules there are times to break them, but once they are habitual breaking them forces more consideration.

RYDER RICHARDS

Safe I: Contagious Within A Certain Circumference, gunpowder, hydrocal, salt, 18″x18″x20″, Ryder Richards

Another imposed rule: DEADLINES may be the most important thing I have. They keep me active, honest, and humble… and a bit stressed. I make work without them, but a deadline and a venue tighten the knots on my loosely flapping sails. For me, the space has become even more important. Starting with a theme is easy, ideas are easy, but giving shape to them requires planning out how the viewer will encounter the work. I usually plot this through drawing, which may be why drawing features so predominantly in my work. As you well know, it is my first love and is closely linked to how I process information and illustrate ideas. My work, even as it moves towards sculpture and installation, is really a series of drawings that are built or building as drawing. The planning and actions echo each other. Especially as a drawing designates a specific point of view from which the work will be seen and developed, which lends a level of controlled theatricality to the work: this piece is meant to be seen from here, in this way.

RYDER RICHARDS

Deposition IV: Hold Back All My Dark, wood, acrylic, 64″x36″x42″, Ryder Richards

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

RYDER RICHARDS Ryder Richards is an artist, writer, and curator based in Dallas, TX.  He has taught art at the collegiate level for a decade and has been writing art reviews for the past few years.  As the director of both privately owned and collegiate galleries Richards has been curating exhibits for 9 years.

DAVID JOHNSON is an artist based in St. Louis, MO. He received an MFA in Visual Art from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007 and earned his BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from Texas Christian University.  In 2011, David was awarded the Great Rivers Visual Arts Award from the Gateway Foundation. This biennial award culminated with his 2012 exhibition Institutional Etiquette and Strange Overtones at the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis. His photographs have been exhibited internationally, including: the Contemporary Art Museum, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Los Caminos, and Boots Contemporary Art Space, all in St. Louis; Isolation Room, Copenhagen, Denmark; La Esquina, Kansas City, MO; Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR; Maps Contemporary Art Space, Belleville, IL; and Blue Star Contemporary, San Antonio, TX.  His work can be found in the collection at The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. Currently, Johnson is a Lecturer at Washington University in Saint Louis and Saint Louis University.

CHELSEA KNIGHT [on] ELISE RASMUSSEN

Jaruco_Park_2012

Jaruco Park, C-Print, 40×53 inches {2012} Elise Rasmussen

Elise Rasmussen’s project Finding Ana (video, performance, photographs, 2013) is about Ana Mendieta’s life and work. The project began when Rasmussen journeyed to Cuba’s sprawling Jaruco Park in 2012 in search of Mendieta’s Rupestrian Sculptures, made on-site in a cave. Though photos survive, the sculptures have been since declared lost by the Guggenheim Museum. Rasmussen, relying only on vague written accounts of where the sculptures were hidden, was able to locate them, with the help of a local man who had met Mendieta in the 1980s, and who led her to the sculptures, wielding a machete, through tall grasses. The works were intact, forgotten then discovered, like living totems.

Elise Rasmussen

Maroya, C-Print, 24×18 inches {2012} Elise Rasmussen

In the next component of the project, Variations (video, live performance, 2013), a live audience collectively discussed alternative histories of Ana Mendieta’s death, which in turn were performed by two actors: one playing Mendieta and the other [artist] Carl Andre, Mendieta’s husband at the time of her death.

The audience discussed  alternative endings to Mendieta’s controversial death, in which she was allegedly pushed out of  her 34th story window by her husband Carl Andre. Andre was acquitted, but suspicion still remains. In re-thinking the event, Rasmussen re-enacts, with the help of her audience, Andre’s own conflicting statements over 20 years, three statements which all testify to different scenarios and invite different kinds of speculation. As Andre was the only (living) witness to what happened, Rasmussen indexes the cloudiness of histories, especially those written by men about men. In a sense, Rasmussen is setting up an alternative structure for thinking about history, a method that can be applied to any contested history (and some that are not contested). This could be a powerful tool, especially in her larger goal of feminist revisionism.

Variations, Elise Rasmussen {2013}

Ultimately, history and myth are Elise Rasmussen’s mediums. She is a practitioner of a kind of method that seeks to revise and rewrite, writing. She is not only investigating history as myth, but questioning the very application and misuse of “history” through time.

Roland Barthes says the following in his essay “Myth Today”:

{Are there objects which are inevitably a source of suggestiveness, as Baudelaire suggested about Woman? Certainly not: one can conceive of very ancient myths, but there are no eternal ones; for it is human history which converts reality into speech, and it alone rules the life and the death of mythical language. Ancient or not, mythology can only have a historical foundation, for myth is a type of speech chosen by history: it cannot possibly evolve from the ‘nature’ of things.}

Barthes is trying to speak, of course, about myth as a special, second-level sign. This sign can take any form—even an utterance or a language—anything that has an added layer of inevitability, of culture. But what Barthes is also speaking about is Baudelaire’s stereotyping and mythologizing of what a woman represents; her very physicality.

Elise Rasmussen

Untitled, C-Print, 24×18 inches {2012} Elise Rasmussen

We must, beyond following Barthes as he traces the important path from human history to myth—which is very much related to Rasmussen’s project—also notice the Baudelaire assertion that Barthes is deconstructing: that there are objects like women, which are inevitably a source of suggestiveness.

Playing into ideas of woman-as-body, as-object, as-substance (though not—as Hegel was going for—evolved enough to be Subject), Elizabeth Grosz, in her book “Volatile Bodies” theorizes the place of the body in the history of Western Philosophy. Starting from Descartes’ “mind over matter” she suggests that philosophy has always privileged the mind over the body, segregated them, and attributed one to woman and one to man (I think you can guess which is which). Grosz insists that what we need is to re-think the entirety of this philosophy from an embodied position, that the body IS philosophy as much as the mind is, that they needn’t be segregated from one another. She’s applying a method to this history, in order to re-write it. In doing so is she writing a new history? Suggesting one? Are they the same thing? Similarly, Rasmussen applies a physical, collective, collaborative method to her history, not just to re-write it but to make suggestions about what those statements may signify. Her works are, in the end, about mythological speech.

In destabilizing accepted readings of history, Rasmussen threatens to revise any history. But it is difficult to write a totally new history, clean and unfettered, without using language already at hand to make an invention out of a patriarchal language that pre-exists feminist thought. That is our task, as feminists, and it is Rasmussen’s quest. In Finding Ana and Variations, Rasmussen not only investigates and traces an over-determined history, she erases and rewrites, experiments, and in doing so traces the problems associated with the writing of history. In a sense, she could apply her method to any history but it is really particularly well-suited to the feminist enterprise, in which, as I see it (as does Elaine Showalter, Jacqueline Rose, Luce Irigaray, Elizabeth Grosz and countless others) the task is to MAKE the language: to experiment with the form; to take a simple sign (falling from a window), complicate and trouble it by experimenting with form and structure, to create a new narrative. A new myth.

Elise Rasmussen

Rupestrian Sculptures, C-Print, 48×63 inches {2012} Elise Rasmussen

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ELISE RASMUSSEN was born in Canada and received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. She is currently represented by Erin Stump Projects in Toronto. She lives and works in New York, and continues to exhibit internationally.

CHELSEA KNIGHT was born in Vermont and lives and works in New York. She received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Knight has completed residencies at the Whitney Independent Study Program (2010), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2008), and was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy (2007). She was a 2011-2012 Freund Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, a 2010-2011 resident at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace program, a 2012 resident at Triangle Arts Association, and is a 2013-2014 resident at Smack Mellon.

MICHAEL BEHLE [on] ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

I, Me, You {2013} Erin Rachel Hudak

Michael Behle: Written word and photographic images have been prominent elements in your work. Can you discuss that and where it comes from?

Erin Rachel Hudak: I have always been very captured by ‘A Story’. Both photographs and literature are transporters. They access a space where you become the witness, and are able to examine life at a new perspective other than your own.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Love You Forever (NYC) {2011} Erin Rachel Hudak

Of course my early interest in these materials were out of curiosity. I began purchasing old educational picture books from thrift stores when I was thirteen. Much of how I learned to really see the world was through photos, like National Geographic and Encyclopaedia Britannica…as books, not through computers. I have also written and journaled since I was in about 5th grade. So the written word is as much a part of my artwork as a brush, because it remains the foundation where things begin.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Love You Forever (Sun Valley) {2012} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: How does the interplay of abstraction and representation function in your work?

ERH: I do love to bounce back and forth. I believe [that] sometimes it is very important to be clear about what I am saying with [regards to] forms that represent things in our world. However, these things are usually just pointers for ideas, concepts and not just ‘the thing’ itself. Then there are times that a representation would overpower and block the interpretation, or would become too easy of a read and deny the viewer the depth I hope they will seek in the work. Sometimes there is a bridge between the two, and this is the place where I have been working recently. The elements that someone could point out as representing something are dually linked with formal choices that also can be abstracted and interpretive.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Waterfall Wall {2012} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: I think of painting as your voice. How would you describe it’s accent?

ERH: My accent is strong, vibrant and clear. Color is very important as well as line. The mark can be delicate or heavy, or scripted, but always sensitive to intention. I am not personally interested in paint as an illusion, or even the exploration of paint as just paint, I seek the balance between.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Meeting {2013} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: How/where does that come from? (personal history, influences, studies…etc)

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Rooting {2013} Erin Rachel Hudak

ERH: Oh my, from every tiny morsel of life! I mean, in terms of personal history I have seen myself as a serious artist since I was a kid. Once I made this painting of a sunset, in oil, I was very young. I finished it and showed it to my Mom, who was always amazingly supportive. She made a suggestion to add more orange or something. I went down to my studio in my parents basement (they had given me a studio of my own) and signed my own declaration that I would never paint again, and then proceeded to sign it. It’s funny to remember that now, but it reminds me that even at a really young age I didn’t want to make art that just looked pretty. I wanted to make work that was honest. Through school that desire to make the most honest work has remained the same regardless of the medium.

When I was at Allegheny College, I really discovered sculpture, photography and performance art. Then I went on to SCAD to focus on photography. After intensely studying photography for five years, mostly doing set-up self performance documentation, I left that process to return to painting mostly because I no longer had access to the darkroom as a graduate. Now with digital photography I would have had completely different options. That was about ten years ago. I have been primarily working in painting, and installation since. I do have some performance ideas that seem to be recirculating in my mind. I always want to use the medium that is right for the artwork.

MB: How do you feel that “accent” changes the subject matter you discuss?

ERH: The subject matter I choose may be something that is benign in another persons perspective, but for me it becomes charged when it goes through ‘my accent’ or voice.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Fire-Headress {2011} & Neon Campfire (violet) {2012} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: How do your sculptures and installations, and the process of creating them relate to your 2d works?

ERH: They actually all come from the same beginning, which is “phrases.” Words in certain chains, or phrases will turn round and round in my head and these will become the sculptures, or the starting point for paintings. I feel that sometimes the words by themselves need to be contemplated, or played with, and turned around. I will visualize them as actually taking up physical space for people to contend with them. However, because of the amount of time, space, energy etc that it takes to create installations and sculptures, I love working out the chains on paper or on canvas as it is more immediate.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

What We See {2012} Erin Rachel Hudak

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

So Much More Here {2012} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: Regarding your studio practice, what do you pay attention to?

ERH: My attention. It can be a battle to be present in your studio. There are so many things that must ‘be done’ or are demanding to fracture your attention. I always think of a quote from Philip Guston {When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting YOU walk out.}

So when I go into my studio I try to leave everything at the door except my attention to the connection between my hand and the work.

MB: A historical figure you admire?

ERH: The Peace Pilgrim. From 1953 to 1981 she walked over 25,000 miles, across the United States, on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She had no one with her, no one to catch her fall, she just put one foot in front of the other for thousands of miles because it was what she believed in.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

Everything Is Fine (NYC) {2010} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: Favorite city?

ERH: Paris! And of course, NYC. Every time I cross the Brooklyn Bridge I feel so elated to call this city my home.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

From Here to There {2013} Erin Rachel Hudak

MB: Any information on upcoming projects?

ERH: After my solo show in July with Ochi Gallery, I have started a whole new body of work. For the moment it is called Messages/The Great Beyond. So far most of the work is on paper, but I am moving into canvas as well, then I have some large installations planned. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Paul Artspace in January, where I will be realizing one, or maybe two of my installations out on the grounds of the residency.

ERIN RACHEL HUDAK

You Are My Reflection {2014} Erin Rachel Hudak

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Michael Behle {I’m very interested in the human experience—it offers up a tremendous field on which an unending cultivation of ideas can be explored. More specifically, my work has focused in a large part on the idea of cycle and the give and take of information, a kind of communicative exchange…} -Behle 2009. Behle is a painter, sculptor, and founder of the St. Louis based Paul Artspace, a midwestern residency for visual artists.

Erin Rachel Hudak Born in Stow, Ohio in 1978, Erin Rachel Hudak creates collages, paintings and sculptures that discuss ideas of freedom, power, perception and transformation. Hudak’s artwork is often inspired by her personal relationship with nature juxtaposed with various histories of mans’ relationship with ‘The Land’. She received her B.F.A from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and attended Allegheny College for art and literature. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her artwork has been featured in Vogue Girl Korea, DailyCandy.com, Art+Culture.com, VillageVoice, Dailyserving.com, NY Daily News, Sun Valley Magazine, and The Brooklyn Eagle. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

AMELIA CROUCH [on] YVONNE CARMICHAEL

Yvonne Carmichael and Amelia Crouch are artists who live and work in West Yorkshire, UK. They met at Yvonne’s house for a conversation over dinner and prosecco.

Amelia Crouch: I’d like to talk to you about two of your recent artworks Choreography and The Ballad of Rawson Sisters. Could we start with Choreography? Can you describe it to me?

Yvonne Carmichael: It’s a series of videos made on my i-phone that are between 10 seconds and few minutes long, of different domestic objects or chores that are more choreographed than they would normally be.

AC: They’re quite carefully framed so they are aesthetically appealing, and I found them quite funny.

YC: I tried to do one a day for 2 months, filming chores that I had to do anyway. What is exhibited is the edited down version. I tried not to overthink it and keep it spontaneous. Using a phone meant the filming was very quick. There’s not a lot of settings so there’s little technique involved other than framing the shot.

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Chore-ography (Distort) {2013} Yvonne Carmichael

AC: I like the attitude of the videos; they have a sort of tension between you seeming as if you’re enjoying yourself or are annoyed about the jobs you have to do.

YC: I think that’s exactly right. I enjoy having a tidy house and I don’t enjoy actually doing it! My favorite video is of the stairs, shake and vacuuming the stairs. I did it maybe 20 times and filmed it all different ways. I did get a bit obsessive about the stairs for maybe a month afterwards.

AC: So your initial choices were about framing. How did you make subsequent choices about which videos to keep and exhibit together?

YC: By showing them to other people. I am interested in curation and I enjoy curating exhibitions but I think it’s really hard to make decisions when it’s your own work. It was good to show them to people and see which ones they found interesting.

AC: Were you aiming for a particular feeling or meaning with the work?

YC: It’s about looking at things you do everyday in a different way and appreciating them. After I made the videos I read a lot about the wages for housework campaigns in Italy. It was interesting to read alongside the work but was not exactly what I was thinking when I was making it. There was something about female labour in the house that I thought my videos would be a soft critique of. That provided a starting point.

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Chore-ography (Rotate) {2013} Yvonne Carmichael

AC: The idea of a soft critique appeals to me. The videos are enjoyable but there is something malevolent about them, especially the bread maker. You only appear, or parts of you appear, in some of the videos and the objects seem to take on their own agency.

You probably know Martha Rosler’s video Semiotics Of The Kitchen; your work is a bit like an update of that with more electronic gadgets!

YC: I really like Martha Rosler’s work but I wasn’t trying to reference it. For me it’s not important that you know about art or other artists’ work. Watching my work shouldn’t be reliant on this.

Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen-still

Semiotics of the Kitchen (video still) {1975} Martha Rosler

I am aware that art in domestic settings has been done to death but it was really nice to think “my house, that’s where I live, that’s where I am going to work”. I don’t have a studio and sometimes I have a paranoia that I don’t feel like a proper artist. It felt good waking up and thinking I’m going to make some art today in my house. It’s made me look at my house differently too, although it’s probably turned me into a bit more of a neat freak, which wasn’t my intention.

AC: Lets move on and talk about The Ballad of the Rawson Sisters. Here you had a different approach to finding a workspace. Can you tell me a bit about that?

YC: [It] is a short video that documents some research I did in the high street shop Primark, in Bradford city centre. I collected movements that female shoppers and shop assistants make and re-staged them across the road in an empty shop unit.

It was a sort of self-initiated residency where I had the space for a month. I like having specific parameters or an amount of time to do something and not letting projects go on for ages. With Choreography it really suited me to spend between 5 minutes and an hour every day making a piece of work and then it was done. With this project I gave myself a month. I struggled for the first 3 weeks with what I was going to do and then worked it out!

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The Ballad of the Rawson Sisters {2013} Yvonne Carmichael

AC: Where does the title of the video come from?

YC: The unit was part of the “Rawson Quarter” of Bradford; it was built 10 years ago but has not been let, mainly because the architectural specifications of the building were wrong. It’s an awkward space now because of that, and it will struggle to ever attract tenants.

AC: So you collected people’s movements while they were buying things in Primark?

YC: Yes, and the shop assistants. The rules were that they were all women interacting with products. The idea of collecting movements came from a workshop I did, led by a dancer. She talked about Japanese Buto where you take movements from the everyday but do them for long meditative periods of time. I enjoyed mimicking everyday actions and doing a sort of performance out of them. I wanted to have a go at doing that specifically in a retail setting.

I have made other work about visual merchandising and am interested in the rules of how things are displayed in retail. I’ve also done work about catalogue photography, exploring how the commercial world and art world overlap. An area I hadn’t looked at before was the people in the shop and their actions, how they interact with products.

AC: In the final video the actions get recreated by a group of women who are doing the movements in sync.

YC: How I describe the work, or how I was thinking about it whilst making it was that it was a group of sisters who are in an empty shop unit who have worked in shops their whole life and then shopped as a leisure activity. They did that forever and were stuck in a loop of shopping and browsing and stacking, although this isn’t necessarily clear from the final piece.

AC: Why does the video start with one woman and then becomes a group?

YC: I was doing it as research. To start with I thought I’d just film myself working out the movements. Then I thought it would be good to have a Busby Berkeley style cabaret with lots of women performing the action all at once as a way of exaggerating them.

Footlight Parade {1933} Busby Berkeley

Footlight Parade {1933} Busby Berkeley

AC: It gives quite a nice feeling of indoctrination too, with everyone doing the actions at the same time. It reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s book the The Handmaid’s Tale where women have really proscribed roles. Also because that book is written in really short chapters and you edited the video in short sections that fade to black, so formally it reminds me of the book too.

YC: It was edited to a pop song (by Rihanna) that was playing in Primark most of the time I was in there. I wanted the film to have a rhythm or a beat, for it to be short and snappy.

AC: Well, I find it effective because you are trying to hang on to the image and then it’s gone. It’s there again, then it’s gone. It’s quite a physical experience of watching a video. It reminds me of blinking but you could also talk about it in terms of a desire for an image and not quite being able to grasp it.

YC: I was thinking about the rhythm of shopping and about it being an advert. It’s funny when you make art, you make all these decisions for a reason and then it comes out at the end and someone else thinks something totally different about it.

AC: It’s filmed in the shop window space, It’s not through the window but you can tell it’s in the window. I think that’s quite appropriate and reminded me of the earlier work you did with Bryony Pritchard where you dressed up as shop mannequins.

YC: There was no power in the space so I had to use the natural light coming in through the windows, this meant doing most of the filming very close to the edges of the space. Sometimes it’s good to have limitations.

AC: Returning perhaps to that idea of soft critique, there is an enjoyment, a sensuousness in this work but also a feeling of being sucked in by commercialism and wanting to be critical of it.

YC: That’s definitely my problem, I like shopping. When you go into a shop it does seduce you! If you find out what the mechanisms are that the retail industry uses and acknowledge them then you are less likely to get sucked into the experience and buying things.

Previously, as a curator, I ran a project Art in Unusual Spaces in empty shop units. It was about using those spaces in a way that wasn’t selling stuff and instead doing something interesting and critical and inviting shoppers to critique those spaces too. But then I spent a year and a half in Leeds Shopping Plaza and bought way more stuff than I would of done normally, because I had to walk past all the shops every day. They got me!

AC: Lastly I want to ask you about how you choose to exhibit the works. You’ve shown them in domestic settings and in more gallery type settings. What has worked best?

YC: Although I have shown them in galleries, I liked showing the Choreography videos in my house. I did this as part of the Saltaire Arts Festival. It has an audience who are mainly buying art, for their living room walls. My work was not for sale and hopefully gave them something to think about, showing them [that] there’s art you don’t buy. There were 3 screens showing videos simultaneously and I liked the rhythms they created next to each other.

The Ballad of the Rawson Sisters is usually shown on a big plasma screen because I think it looks good. They are horrible screens really, they’re quite commercial – what you have in shops or pubs but I think it suits the work. When I’ve done projects in empty shop units before, as a curator, it has tended to be facilitating artwork in response to that space which then doesn’t really work in any other space. With The Ballad of the Rawson Sisters I wanted to make something that used a shop unit but that would also be relevant in other places too, so I am not limited in where I can exhibit it.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

YVONNE CARMICHAEL is an artist and independent curator living and working in Leeds and Bradford, UK.

AMELIA CROUCH is a visual artist who lives and works in West Yorkshire, UK. She makes artwork using words, or a combination of text and image. She works in print, drawing, video, audio and installation to produce site-responsive artworks for both galleries and public spaces.

STEPH ZIMMERMAN [on] JANG SOON IM

JANG SOON IM

Jang Soon Im’s Donglaebu-SoonJeoldo (after the painting 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖, 1760), Digital print, 64″ x 48″ {2012}

When I visited Jang soon Im’s studio at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, there was little evidence that he had produced any work during his month-long residency. His studio was dark and the only work displayed was a video entitled Turtleship projected waist-high on his studio wall.

The video depicted a Korean Turtleship—a 500-yard-long, 16th century warship complete with 22 cannon portholes and dozens of steel spikes protruding from the ceiling of its enclosed top deck. Coupled with the video was an audio excerpt from the History Channel television documentary Technology Korea—a powerful battleship of the 16th century. The deep-voiced, English narrator touted the ship as a foremost example of Korea’s technological prowess, accompanied by a soundtrack of dagu drums and harrowing, operatic voices.

Despite the grandeur, it was hard to take the ship seriously. The video was smaller than the size of a computer screen, and the pixelated images of the ship had been taken from the graphics of a popular computer game, Age of Empire 2. Several images of the ship moving through the video game’s ocean had been strung together and looped, so it traveled through the same tiny section of water in choppy, artificial movements. The small amount of the historical ship’s remaining prestige was permanently cheapened when the video ended after 32 seconds and then looped. The glorious achievement of Korea’s spiked warships was destined to be forever mass-produced in bite-sized doses.

I had spoken to Im a few times during the residency before I had seen his work, and through those short conversations (“I make battle scenes,” he told me) I had decided to write his work off completely. Any work that refused to deal with the rhizome or phantom capital was clearly self-indulgent, visual fluff. After I saw Turtleship, though, I was captivated by the relationship between the dramatic subject matter and the flimsy aesthetic; I found more of Im’s work online—digital prints, collages, sculptures, drawings, and videos—that all re-imagined the battles of ancient Korea.

JANG SOON IM      JANG SOON IM
Details, Donglaebu-SoonJeoldo (after the painting 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖), 1760), Digital print,{2012}

In the digital print, Donglaebu-SoonJeoldo (after the painting 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖), 1760), dozens of military figures defend a walled village from an oncoming attack. The military figures are photographs of Im in different poses, wielding weapons and wearing military costumes he himself has fashioned out of painted cardboard and fabric. An outdated, striped, canvas tablecloth forms the ground beneath the walled village and the surrounding mountainous landscape is fabricated out of graphic paper shapes the color of Play-doh.

Through his work, Im does not try to recreate battles from past eras (a task he refers to in his artist statement as an “unattainable fantasy”), but instead plays out his own re-imagined views of these wars. To create the prints and videos, Im photographs the individual components and arranges them digitally according to the composition of a specific, found media source. In the case of Donglaebu-SoonJeoldo (after the painting 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖), 1760) the composition is modeled after the 18th century painting referenced in the work’s title.

JANG SOON IM

동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖),145 cm x 96 cm, ink and color on silk {1760}

By replicating the compositions of specific media sources, Im draws an explicit connection between his work and the media portrayals. Im’s pieces are playful, childlike, and wholly unconvincing representations of Korean military life. In Field Battle, the grand general defeats several missiles fired from enemy fighter jets with his foam-core saber.

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But Im’s work is hardly different from the media sources they reference. In both Donglaebu-SoonJeoldo (after the painting 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖), 1760) and 동래부순절도 (東萊府殉節圖) , there is no blood—the only visible difference between the alive and the dead is the orientation of their bodies. In Field Battle, the few traces of blood are represented by red teardrop-shaped pieces of paper that immediately arrange themselves into decorative, spiraling shapes after leaving the soldiers’ mortal wounds.

Through his humorous engagement with the artifice of media depictions, Im reveals these depictions as sensationalist, sanitized and romanticized fodder for a passive audience’s viewing pleasure. According to Im, Korea’s violent war history has entered the domain of sitcoms, jingles, and commercials where the realities of war and death—like the missiles that fire in Field Battle—are reduced to the gentle tone of a children’s slide whistle.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

JANG SOON IM is a Korean born artist living and working in the United States. He is interested in presenting battles between ancient armies from past eras as an unattainable fantasy, a depiction of alternative worlds. For more on him and his work, click his name to visit his website.
STEPH ZIMMERMAN recently graduated with a B.F.A. in Photography from Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently in the process of avoiding employment. For more information on Steph and her work, click her name.

EMILIE McDERMOTT [on] FERIEL BOUSHAKI

292 Repositionnements
A 2011 performance installation in Bordeaux, France

{ Space is not an obvious or monolithic category. It can be a city or a building, but it can be, among other things, an identity or a discourse. } -Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics

EMILIE MCDERMOTT

Feriel Boushaki’s performance 292 Repositionnements {2011} Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, France’s ninth largest city, has known considerable restoration in recent years. Its old stone buildings, blackened and damaged by decades of soot, carbon dioxide, and other atmospheric pollutants, have been cleaned to give them back their original light stone grandeur. Vast projects, from creating a pedestrian friendly walkway along the Garonne to building an elaborate tram system, have transformed it into France’s top city in terms of real-­estate investment and the second most dynamic city in terms of business location1. However, Bordeaux – and France in general – still struggles to make visible a less attractive side of its history, i.e., its dark past as one of France’s most important slave trading ports. Only two small testimonies to this past, which honor the hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were shipped through the harbor, exist in the city. One is the statue of Toussaint Louverture – father of Haitian independence – along the Garonne. The other is a small commemorative plaque on the Quai des Chartrons. However, no official memorial has ever been created, much to the dismay of Karfa Diallo, chairman of The European Memorial Foundation for Slave Trade. He has said that: {[The city] is so concerned about [its] image that it can’t bear to talk about its slave-­trading past.}2

EMILIE MCDERMOTT

In 2011, French-­Algerian artist Feriel Boushaki, who emigrated to France during her childhood and now lives and works in Paris, was asked to participate in Bordeaux’s cultural festival, Evento. The artist, who creates context-based performance installations, did a lot of research on Bordeaux and particularly on its history. This place’s past was so blatant and present, yet so invisible, that the idea to make an artwork related to the slave trade became more and more obvious to her.

EMILIE McDERMOTT

On a cold September morning she arrived at Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse, the city’s imposing square designed by Gabriel, Louis XV’s architect, to perform 292 Repositioning. Basing her piece on sketches and documents describing slave boats that transported slaves from Africa to the city and then to the Caribbean islands, she started outlining on the square’s cobblestones, in full scale, the areas of the boat where slaves were not confined. Once her outline was traced on the ground, she meticulously placed craft paper on these areas, delineating these negative spaces. Only then did the endurance part of the performance begin. Following her research and calculations, Boushaki proceeded to perform the 292 possible human positions upon the remaining areas of the boats, on the Place de la Bourse.

EMILIE McDERMOTT

Feriel Boushaki’s performance 292 Repositionnements {2011} Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France

{I felt vulnerable, scared…Especially as a woman, laying on the ground, in these positions…it’s a very intense experience. The question of the displacement of bodies is extremely important to me as an artist, and I wanted to highlight that aspect in this piece: I remember during my history classes of accounts of thousands of men, women and children transported by train to concentration camps during the second world war…the extreme situation to which they had to adapt their bodies, and consequently their minds…}

EMILIE McDERMOTT

Feriel Boushaki’s performance 292 Repositionnements {2011} Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France

What is striking about her piece is indeed its vulnerability: her body, laid out on the floor, in the middle of the grandiose square, has a kind of majesty yet fragility. It provokes in the viewer a feeling of discomfort. The slow movements from one position to another, the metaphorical boat that is suggested and can only be imagined, is like a commemoration, akin to a silent rhythmical trance. Furthermore, the fact that the performance is by a female Algerian artist, using her body, in France, is particularly interesting as the country has been grappling with its own colonial past, and in recent years has tried to impose laws forbidding the Muslim female population from wearing their headscarves. The body is a geopolitical stake in post-­colonial France. As Bernard Andrieu – a French philosopher specializing in questions regarding the body – recently wrote:

{I will not give up my body to become the body you want me to become. Every body in the world is as singular as a face. The living body that animates us gives us information. Let us bring the live body to clear consciousness: it creates trouble, disturbs public order, precipitates the perception of self and others in the sensory intensity of pain or pleasure}3.

EMILIE McDERMOTT

Feriel Boushaki’s performance 292 Repositionnements {2011} Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France

Boushaki subtly met le doigt là où ça fait mal (in French it translates as : puts ones finger where it hurts) and places the body at the center of the city and the public arena, generating a shift in consciousness. The inherent transient nature of Boushaki’s performance metaphorically points out the fragility of collective memory, and as Nietzsche says, that {all will to truth is a will to power}. In 292 Repositionnements, the otherwise hidden vulnerable body brings to the surface its own truth and reconfigures our perception of public space and history.

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1 Explorimmoneuf, May 2012, CSA poll for BGI, 2012, with 305 foreign business owners.
2 Cody Edward , In Bordeaux, a Struggle to Face Up to Slave-­‐Trading Past, September 26, 2009, Washington Post Foreign Service
3 Andrieu Bernard, Il faudra vous habituer à nos corps métis, hybrides…, November 20, 2013 , Liberation

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

FERIEL BOUSHAKI is a French-Algerian artist based in Paris. See more of her work online at http://ferielboushaki.com/

EMILIE McDERMOTT Emilie McDermott is a French-American visual artist currently based in Paris and Helsinki. She spent her childhood dancing at the Washington School of Ballet.  In 2008, she undertook her art studies at the Sorbonne University where she graduated with a Bachelor and Master of Arts suma cum laude in 2011. She completed her MFA (DNSEP) in June 2013 at The Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy, where she worked alongside art critics and artists such as Frederico Nicolao, Bernard Marcadé and Sylvie Blocher. Her work concentrates on moving images and performance art. For more information about McDermott and her work, visit her website by clicking on her name.

PATRICK MELROY [on] SAM SCHARF

THE KIND OF OPENING YOU LEAVE YOURSELF

Sam_Scharf

Sam Scharf

The man takes up all of the chair in the tiny kitchen. Samuel Dylan Scharf, for the record, has agreed to speak to me about his work, his loves and his drive to make art under the conditions of strong whiskey and hard questions. I have attempted to parse him with both from my private stock of Irish spirits and Irish spirit. He held up quite well to over two hours of recorded conversation, never threatening violence even once, except a brief moment of name calling that involved Jeff Koons and Louise Bourgeois; his spelling of all names during the interview were and remain accurate.

On the surface Mr. Scharf is a bully of a man, large for his age and strong in the upper body while buoyed by timberess legs. This is not to cast him as someone who would subconsciously use his physicality as a tool, and yet that is exactly how he behaves. His work ranges from large heroic sculptures to light intricate needle work. He is a self-identified project-based artist and curator who allows the context of the idea to drive the decisions of his making. His work, like most physical work, is best experienced in person and occupies space in a variety of dynamic and engaging ways. He clogs corners of galleries with chiseled plywood (as in Torn Down, 2013), or completely inhibits pedestrian traffic patterns, as in his In Your Way of 2012.

In Your Way_Scharf

In Your Way {2012} Sam Scharf

The latter piece was installed in the rotunda of American University in Washington DC, reforming the decisions of everyone entering the space without overtly insulting their needs. Much like Richard Serra’s ill-fated Tilted Arc (1981-89) Scharf’s piece succeeded at providing a striking visual reevaluation of a common space overlooked yet perhaps over used.

American University bestowed a masters degree on Scharf in 2013, a period during which he also co-curated a successful gallery, Delicious Spectacle, with frequent collaborator and love interest Megan Mueller. They were joined in the endeavor by Victoria Greising, Camden Perkins and Dan Perkins. Delicious Spectacle hosted some of the most innovative and engaging art events in the DC area. Many people including correspondents for the mainstream media experienced art at the Columbia Heights venue, and also sampled the snacks.

In late 2013 Scharf and Mueller loaded their respective art practices into a small van and undertook the classic road-movie adventure of traveling cross country to remind themselves what they were fighting for. They arrived in Santa Barbara in the fall of 2013 and launched immediately into the art community they found there. The transition from east to west coast has proved informative and exciting. Scharf has rapidly begun a discourse with area artists, digging in for purchase on the scene. His strengths are much coveted among his new peers and his language has added to an active growing culture fight.

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Torn Down {2013} Sam Scharf

His work and views [on such work] walk the line between commodity and commotion. He has had a good deal of success selling his work at an auction house but yearns for a more functional platform to produce and channel his work. Much of his drive hinges around the communication he has with viewers. He explained to me over ice and whiskey:

{I’m most excited about work that supports the viewer in the experience as opposed to leaving them out in the cold trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I think there is a sweet spot in between something being too artsy-crafty, but then on the flipside too intelligentsia… somewhere in between there, I want the non art viewer to walk up to the piece and get an experience and I want the academic to walk up and get an experience.}

Scharf shows this time and again as he builds out structures like his recent Growth (2013) installed at the Martin Luther King Library in DC. The structure was built in the primary lobby out of commonplace building materials. The form was reminiscent of a Bucky Fuller structure but slightly askew. The key component was the surface treatment of the panels covering the structure, on which Scharf printed the duplicate pattern of the marble slabs ever-present throughout the lobby. The resulting piece, at a short distance, appeared to be marble slabs pried from the floor and haphazardly stacked up to create a child’s fort. I imagine the piece was magnetic to library visitors and would have caused a great deal of conversation across a massive striation of demographics. Scharf provides access points for a variety of viewers, leaving intact a place for us (the viewer) to build upon.

Growth_Scharf

Growth {2013} Sam Scharf

His work most often exists as physical objects. Our discussion traveled into the contentious realm of flat or formed work, a.k.a. painting vs. sculpture. Like many in his generation he is compelled to function outside the confines of medium, explaining:

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Artworker {2013} Sam Scharf

Artworker_1_2013

Artworker, detail {2013} Sam Scharf

{I have clearly chosen a path of sculptural production… I don’t get the, “I’m suppose to commit to drawing for forty years to become a really great draftsman,” I’m not interested. It doesn’t impress me. I’m more interested in how they can use paint, period…in a way to convey an idea. And get that idea across to the viewer, and not just kind of, for lack of a better term, you know just masturbate how well they can use a medium. I’m not interested in that, so I wouldn’t make work that has that conversation and I end up getting in this argument a lot with people who are medium based who will default to “well I don’t see any similarities in your (Scharf’s) medium. I don’t see any kind of style here, I’m really finding it hard to grab onto anything.” Which is the most base entry into artwork: the medium.  I think it’s what gets us into this conversation about “sculpture vs. painting” or the history of painting conversation…or the conversation of how photography is still relevant…or is painting still relevant? All of them are. I love painters, I grew up painting…It also keeps me on my toes in my own mediums as well. I think making a stance of what you like and why you like it is important, hopefully for your artist friends to really have that battle… with each other because that battle is what keeps us moving forward and progressing and also kinda fortified in our own decisions. I will not be able to talk some of my painter friends out of making a painting for sure, but I’ll tell you what, I get real excited when I am in a painter’s studio and I see that sculpture in the corner that they didn’t even know they were making, and I want to show that when I am curating. I lean toward that, that’s my own bias, I understand that fully.}

Scharf has decided to move his entire perspective, migrating West like many before him but in the midst of a digital age. He still finds himself shipping work back to shows and auctions in his previous region but he is determined to find a new story to tell in this environment. His work functions at it’s best when it is responsive and agile in meaning and thought, which is convenient because that is how you will find Scharf. He is both nimble and sure of foot with a solid sense of gravity. He continues to curate and provide studio visits to other artists in his new community. Many local arts organizations are getting their first taste of his creative and organizational prowess.

The story he will develop over the next few years will be an interesting one about change and the evolution of communication. He will learn and then develop a new creative dialect, which will undoubtedly emerge in his work. Location is not the only driving force inside an artist like Scharf, but he has proven adept at shifting regions, from his childhood confines in central Florida, to the political hotbed of our nations capital, now to the decidedly deceptive luxuries of the Californian Riviera. Sam Scharf has some things to say, and if we are lucky, we will get to listen for a long time to come.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Learn more about Sam Scharf @ samuelscharf.com

Patrick Melroy maintains a studio practice in Santa Barbara, California, USA. He lectures on Art and culture internationally and can be reached through his website patrickmelroy.com or uppurbunk.com