Jon Imber’s latest paintings capture the energy and vitality of the botanic cosmos.
In the last ten years, Jon Imber’s paintings have taken on a new dynamism, a freshness, and a remarkable proliferation of color. To see paintings like Lantern in the Snow, Stonington Harbor, and Spring Totems together is to witness the thrill of a master rising to a challenge, letting it open and change him. These paintings display the selflessness of mastery: the cultivated willingness to step out of the way and hold an image as it develops, joyfully and calmly.
Chelsea Knight on performing motherhood and marriage in her new video The Breath We Took and why “write what you know” is limiting advice.
I first met Chelsea Knight last year at the cheekily-named Bushwick Basel during the Bushwick Open Studios weekend. She was one of the featured artists, and I was an intern helping to man the booth. During the sweltering hours we spent together last June, I was impressed by Chelsea’s political savvy, feminist views and highly original video art. So impressed, in fact, that almost a year later I asked her to be my first interview as BOMBlog’s Art Editor. We sat down in her Liberty Plaza studio to discuss her newest work, The Breath We Took (showing through June 1 at Aspect Ratio Projects in Chicago). It is a partially fictional yet deeply personal documentary featuring four generations of Knight women (both real and imagined), and explores the ways in which we perform motherhood, marriage, and confront femininity.
Sophie Buonomo Where was the original idea for this piece and for performing motherhood?
Chelsea Knight Good question. I always work with people who are authentic to their given field. I’m not interested in direct documentary, I’m interested in the way people perform their lives, professions and emotional selves. Performance is not necessarily a construction but there is a frame for it, there’s a front. Things don’t flow from humans 100 percent naturally all the time. I wanted to make a piece that was partially documentary and partially fiction to talk about that—because non-actors are so much more convincing than actors with certain subject matter. Sometimes you need an actor if you’re remaking another work—I remade Antigone last year—and we needed actors for that.
But generally I like extracting specific kinds of truths from people based on their actual experience. But I want to undercut it with these notions of performance by adding in literally overproduced or theatrical or fictional elements.
Lauri Stallings discusses her dance company gloATL and why it’s crucial to export contemporary art from Atlanta.
If you live in Atlanta, chances are you’ve encountered the work of Lauri Stallings. There aren’t many contemporary choreographers, or many cities, one could say this about—a testament to the complicated, synergistic, multi-platform relationship that Stallings has with Atlanta.
Stallings first began choreographing work late in her career as a dancer with Ballet BC and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. After a three-year stint as choreographer-in-residence at the Atlanta Ballet, Stallings remained in Atlanta where she founded the company gloATL in 2009. Through the company’s numerous public performances, Stallings has sought to engage the city in all of its aspects—its most central, trafficked and familiar places as well as its tucked away, odd, and hidden pockets. Whether in a busy shopping mall, an empty public pool, the High Museum’s central plaza, or an odd drainage gulley of Piedmont Park, Stallings’ work utilizes an intriguing gestural and visual language that encompasses everything from the erotic and the absurd to the grotesque and the unabashedly beautiful, drawing in an ever-widening circle of viewers, participants, and collaborators.
Andrew Alexander How does new work begin for you? I imagine it’s somewhat different each time, but is there some way to generalize?
Lauri Stallings There’s something that I sort of allow to happen. I guess the best word would be ‘intuition.’ Surprisingly, it’s a mindful one: It’s mental. I’m not saying I’m always aware of it, but it is something that happens. I never know when, but it is prior to getting in the studio, the literal process of generating material as a choreographer. The consistent thing is: I’m always surprised at what comes to me first. That’s what can’t be generalized. But intuition is the one thing I don’t second-guess, and I think that comes from my parents. They kept telling us over and over again, “All you have are your instincts.” I’m very grateful they kept telling me that.
Gavin Turk on impersonating Elvis, Ford transit vans, and the problems of careful consumption.
The neighborhood around Gavin Turk’s East London studio is exactly what naysayers said the 2012 Olympics would bring. In the shadow of the still-resonating stadium, this semi-circular road is littered with barbed wire and discarded McDonald’s wrappers; empty warehouses and the cold, sign-less facades that seem more like a ’70s J.G. Ballard paperback cover than 2013 London.
Such juxtapositions are manna to Turk, one of the original “YBAs” (“Young British Artists”) who came to dominate Brit-art in the 1990s. In a career spanning more than 20 years, a fact commemorated in his new monograph, The Years, and current show at Ben Brown Fine Arts in London, Turk has created an entire language for questioning authenticity and preconception. Placing his own likeness at the heart of iconic images such as Andy Warhol’s silk screens (of Elvis, Sid Vicious, and others), Turk twists and shucks at the layers of seeing we live with in today’s age of image ubiquity. And perhaps more importantly, through a process of creating and then painting bronzes, Gavin Turk builds high-art sculptures that act as “fake” readymades, calling into question every assumption we have about viewing objects—from McDonald’s wrappers, to the glittering stadiums that tower above them.
Justin Hopper One of the themes you’ve worked with recently is the idea of the automobile. In your recent show at David Nolan Gallery, the work was all about cars: A sculpture of an exhaust pipe, precisely made to look like a readymade; images of car exhaust plumes; and work continuing use of the English cultural phenomenon of the ‘white van.’
Gavin Turk The automobile is an extension of a person. If at some point our architecture starts to talk about interior/exterior buildings—places that we use for habitats—they’re then interconnected with road systems. [Those] road systems then have machines on them, which are kind of these “human machines”. And what I want to do is try to go to the end of the vehicle—when vehicles are finished, but also when the exhaust combustion is finished. The exhaust pipe [piece] is a metaphor for the general exhaustion and the end of something. When an old exhaust pipe has a hole in it, when it becomes no good, people try to discard them on the side of the street, they really become these useless things.
Simultaneously, I look at this thing and think, Here’s a pipe, a transportation system, it’s a place where something goes from one place to another, in that way it’s a metaphor for the automobile. It has to do with breathing; it has to do with lungs; it has to do with inside and outside. It has to do with this transfer. It puts me in mind of the way that air from the outside world gets into your lungs and enters into your body and your bloodstream. So, actually, the oxygen in the air gets extracted out of the air and somehow is in your body. At some point your body. . . there’s no true “inside.”
Elaine Lustig Cohen on the late Alvin Lustig and the art, and archiving, of the book jacket.
I first met the artist and designer Elaine Lustig Cohen through the website dedicated to her former husband, the legendary designer Alvin Lustig. Back in 2006, I had been asked to get in touch with the estate regarding his jacket designs for New Directions: we were hoping to replace intermediate designs on some of our books with the original Lustigs. I was an editorial assistant at the time; New Directions was still going through a generational change. Emails were considered unofficial. One senior editor told me to type a letter, “preferably with a typewriter.” Another told me to call. But I had neither an address nor an number. So I emailed the webmaster of the Alvin Lustig site and hoped for the best. Elaine herself answered my inquiry—it was the first contact she had had with New Directions since its founder James Laughlin passed away in 1997.
That was almost seven years ago. Yet over the years, Elaine and I have teamed together in promoting the legacy of Alvin Lustig. Many of New Directions’ classic titles now proudly wear their original Lustig jackets. This May, New Directions will issue an Alvin Lustig postcard collection: 50 of his best ND designs in a box.
Since our first meeting, I have also come to discover Elaine’s incredible body of work. A couple of years after our initial contact, she invited me to her opening at the Julie Saul Gallery. The exhibit was called, “The Geometry of Seeing” and it displayed the sort of opus only a designer cum artist could develop—a prototype for a sewing kit, a giclée of a geometric Alphabet, a collage made from old train tickets, and a wooden box adorned with colored cubes, among other pieces.
In the course of this Alvin Lustig revival, Elaine has also garnered widespread attention and acclaim as an artist. She began as a book designer for New Directions and Meridian Books. Architects such as Eero Saarinan and Philip Johnson hired her to do the lettering for their buildings. In the 1960s, Elaine worked as a designer for the Jewish museum, producing some of her most opulent and iconic designs. For the catalog cover of Primary Structures, a full-bodied “P” is cut neatly in two by a red line that folds below it into the curvature of an “S.” In the layout for Kinetic Sculptures the two words look as though caught in an eddy. Around this time, she began showing her artwork outside of design—collages and paintings that nod ever so slightly to Dadaism. Elaine’s recent exhibitions in the Julie Saul Gallery, the Adler and Konkright Gallery, and the AIGA Gallery, where her work was shown alongside Alvin’s, are a testament to her success as an artist. In 2011, she was awarded the American Institute of Graphic Arts medal.
This interview took place at Elaine’s Upper East Side home. The interior of her townhouse is touched with a designer’s sensibility—everything in its right place, from the curation and layout of art to the selection and placement of furniture. Speaking with Elaine is like cracking open a volume of 20th-century American design history. At 85, Elaine’s memory is as sharp as her knowledge is erudite. She speaks with a modest firmness, doubtless in her affirmation of fact, but humble about her accomplishments.
Michael Barron How did you get your start as a designer? Was it in Alvin’s studio?
Elaine Lustig Cohen Well, for a long time he was the only designer in the studio.
Colette Lumière on the return of Victorian Punk, 40 years of “sleep art” and her artistic collaboration with Hurricane Sandy.
Over a 40-year career, Colette—also known at different points in her career as Olympia, Justine, Mata Hari and the Stolen Potatoes, Countess Reichenbach, the Beautiful Dreamer, and Lumière—has created a complex oeuvre of performances and staged photographs. She has also pioneered trends in art, design and fashion, including the Victorian Punk look. As she has reinvented herself as an artist, she has seen her ideas filter into the commercial world through designers, decorators and clothing lines. Today, her influence on pop entertainers from Madonna to Lady Gaga, and visual artists like Cindy Sherman is clear. Beginning in the mid-1970s, she staged a number of sleep pieces, which are still reverberating in the work of artists today, including Tilda Swinton’s The Maybe, which is currently being re-performed at MoMA.
Katie Peyton Colette, you cut a striking figure on the New York art scene, but a lot of people of my generation don’t know what a fascinating and influential figure you really are. You were staging photographs, taking on personas and using them as canvases before Cindy Sherman and Matthew Barney ever did. Your installations from the ’70s look exactly like some of the costumes and environments created by Madonna and Lady Gaga. You’re a fashion icon, and you’ve even staged your own death.
Now your work has found its way into museums, but I think it is significant that it actually began on the streets. Can we use that as a jumping off point to talk about how you began performing?
Nathan Mabry on his first solo show in New York, as well as mixing ancient shamans with Donald Judd and sports mascots with Rodin.
A 2004 MFA graduate from UCLA, Nathan Mabry hit the ground running with his inclusion in the Hammer Museum’s seminal survey show, Thing: New Sculpture from Los Angeles. Combining irreverence with conceptualism, Mabry introduced a fresh postmodernist style that mashed ethnographic icons up with recognizable Minimalist objects—a way of working that the artist continues to explore in convincingly clever ways.
I first met Mabry in March at the opening reception for his first one-person show at Sean Kelly in New York, and two weeks later had the chance to attend the preview for his first museum solo at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. In our recent conversation, Mabry reflects on the origin of his ideas, the sources for his unusual appropriations and the development of the different bodies of work, while referencing the works on view in his two current shows.
Paul Laster Do you remember the moment that you first hit upon the idea of creating cultural mash-ups between ethnographic art and Minimalist sculpture?
Nathan Mabry There wasn’t really a pure defining moment. Basically, I have always been interested in dualities, dichotomies, and juxtapositions. This had led me to explore aesthetic combinations of visual tropes, sociological values, and diverse cultural material.
I first investigated the “authorized” Minimal object in conversation with the “anonymous” ethnographic iconography a few years ago. These objects in unison exemplify the perfect debate involving aesthetics, philosophy, and psychology.
Charles Simonds’s New York Dwellings and his mysterious absence from contemporary discourse.
At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Robert Smithson, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Charles Simonds were among those artists who applied the principles of Land Art and site-specificity to the contemporary urban context of the East Coast. All three artists were motivated by a similar ambition to do away with the traditional ontology of the viewing experience and to renegotiate the relationship between the artwork and its context. Although close friends who naturally influenced each other (Simonds and Matta-Clark shared a studio building from 1969 to 1971), the artists’ individual positions regarding the phenomenological locus and intentions of their work varied drastically. While Smithson and Matta-Clark geared parts of their art production toward a gallery context, Simonds had a markedly more conflicted relationship with the art establishment and the circumstances in which his work should or should not be experienced. He wanted his work to be encountered unexpectedly out in the streets, beyond an institutional framework pre-conditioning the viewer’s behavior.
The founders of Mossless on turning their photography blog into a magazine: why self-publishing can be the scary future of art books.
Initially a daily blog where Romke Hoogwaerts and a few contributors interviewed over 300 photographers, Mossless has now grown to be a sophisticated two issue photography magazine. Launched by Kickstarter, Issue 1 garnered a quick and widespread following among the small but close-knit photography book community. Issue 2, which launched last fall, was hand-made by co-editors Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh in their home/studio in Long Island City.
The small niche of photography magazines—while popularized by events such as Printed Matter’s LA and NY Art Book Fairs—is still a small and challenging market. In our interview, we discuss the hurdles in Mossless’s transformation from an interview-based photography website to a print magazine as well as the role of the internet in their process. Hoogwaerts’s accompanying essay in Issue 2, Swimming in the Center of the Earth, focuses on how the internet has introduced an arena for artists to show their work, while additionally generating a new kind of competition between artists.
While attending school, working, and creating art, Hoogwaerts and Leigh managed to produce a magazine that has already been recognized by museums, store owners, and individuals as something unique. The dedication and joy involved in the making of Mossless is essential to their success.
Ashley McNelis Romke, previously you were the editor of the Mossless blog where you interviewed contemporary photographers several times a week for over two years. Why did you decide to shift into creating a photo magazine of the same name?
Romke Hoogwaerts The magazine was the idea that started the interview blog. I’d always wanted to work in publishing and I figured there might be a way to carve my way through to it independently. I launched our first Kickstarter campaign to light a fire under my ass and so that I would graduate college with something in my hands. Most importantly though . . . these things look better in print, right?
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt on the politics of art school admissions, knick-knacks, and linguistic gate-keeping in contemporary art.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt is a doggedly peripheral figure in an historic and cultural narrative in which he’s actually played a central role. He was out as gay before Stonewall (he’s one of the few surviving participants), he made “installations” before they were branded as such, and he has persisted in maintaining a relationship with the Catholic faith which was and is still highly suspect to the art world and activist liberal community.
I interviewed Tommy this past January in the Hell’s Kitchen apartment where he’s lived for four decades, to discuss his recent exhibit at MoMA PS1, Tender Love Among the Junk. The largest survey of his work to date, the show included work from the late-’60s to early-2000s that accreted into a radiant, cathedral-like environment comprised of hundreds of hand-wrought and jewel-like artworks, many made on the TV-dinner tray nested in the far edge of Tommy’s bedroom.
Ours was a long, meandering conversation held over the course of a weekend—an otherwise unassuming continuation of a conversation we’ve been having since I was 18 and I first met him in person.
Jessica Baran I’m wondering about the relationship between the time when you were assigned to decorate the school bulletin board in your Catholic elementary school in Linden, New Jersey and the story of how you got your first review in the Village Voice, which was by stenciling “Object Art” all over an East Village city block. The Object Art project seems very different from both that childhood bulletin board and the artwork you subsequently went on to make.
Shara Hughes on painting with her fingers, dismembered bodies, and making work about love.
In 2008, Shara Hughes returned to her hometown of Atlanta after graduating from RISD in 2004 and living in New York and Denmark. Not only has she embraced the extra studio space to make her work—or mental space to process it—but Hughes has also actively asserted herself into the Atlanta art community while remaining internationally connected and actively exhibiting in New York at American Contemporary (her most recent solo exhibition, See Me Seeing Me, was in Fall 2012). In Atlanta, Hughes operates SEEK ATL—a studio visit group that meets monthly in an artists’ studio for conversation and critique—along with founding partner Ben Steele. Hughes opens her first Atlanta solo exhibition, Don’t Tell Anyone But . . ., at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center this month (April 19–June 15, 2013) and will also have a solo exhibition next spring 2014 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia as she is the recipient of the 2012/2013 MOCA GA Working Artist Project fellowship.
I spent a day with Shara to visit both her home studio—where she consistently produces her paintings—and her sculpture studio—a temporary space at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center’s Studios provided to produce new sculptural works specifically for this exhibition. The conversation that follows weaves a thread between the dualities that are at play in Hughes’s practice: Balancing abstraction and representation, labor and spontaneity, difficulty and ease through two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms exemplifies the ‘flip’ she consistently refers to as a necessary and dynamic part of her visual practice.
Rachel Reese Maybe a good place to start talking about your work would be to back up. What did your work look like coming out of RISD?
Shara Hughes I was making like a lot of minimal paintings about dead animals, but used as furniture. So, for example, bear skin rugs and heads on walls and stuff, which then I think turned into some larger kind of weird trend. Generally you don’t see much of anymore. But I remember a while people were making that kind of work.
And those were based on my parents getting divorced and how I felt. There were all these ‘dead’ things at home so I latched onto the idea of interiors because I was always trying to create some other kind of home, in a way. Whereas my space—the one that I’ve always known—has been broken.
RR So the interior has carried throughout your work over the past several years? Specifically, using the idea of the interior as maybe a rubric that you could lay your either your style or your imagery on top of?
SH Yea, so I think that’s when I first started doing interiors—it always felt like the best resolution to everything for me. Within an interior, you can make a landscape through a window or you can make another person’s painting within the painting, or you can paint figures or not. I never really started doing figures until now. And they’re still broken up and pieces of things.
Back-dated art works, Picasso’s frustration, and the transnational creation myths of Abstract art.
According to Gabrielle Buffet, her husband Francis Picabia invented abstract art in July 1912 on a drunken drive across France with Claude Debussy and Guillaume Apollinaire. Mix equal parts artist, composer, and poet in a car at the dawn of the modern age, let it bump around for a while, then throw the doors wide, and out pours a brand new cocktail of color, space, and time.
Of course, Vasily Kandinsky might have begged to differ—and he did. An often-told anecdote has it that the Russian-born painter and critic had stumbled upon Abstract art as far back as 1896. One evening, just after arriving in Munich, Kandinsky saw one of his own paintings leaning on its side in his unlit studio. He couldn’t make out the subject of the work in the darkness, but the forms and colors before him nonetheless struck him—an event sparking the revelation that “objects harmed my pictures.” Despite this epiphany, it took Kandinsky nearly fifteen years to bring an abstract painting into the light of day, so to speak. It is perhaps more illuminating that this story started going around in 1913, just as the same lightbulb seemed to be switching on in everyone’s head.
Nabil Nahas on painting with starfish, the reception of his work in the Middle East, and the symbolism of cedar trees.
Born in Beirut in 1949, Nabil Nahas spent the first decade of his life in Cairo before returning to his native country of Lebanon, where he remained until 1968. During the uprisings preceding the Lebanese civil war, Nahas, like many others, left the country to start a new life elsewhere. After studying painting under Al Held at Yale, Nahas moved to New York in 1973, where he has been living ever since. It was twenty years before he began to visit Lebanon again, and those trips would prove to have a profound affect on his work.
Ranging widely from densely textured works on canvas formed with layers of an acrylic and pumice mixture to abstract representations of the native olive and cedar trees of Lebanon, Nahas’s work consistently oscillates between many aesthetic sensibilities, ultimately driven by his almost religious passion for abstraction.
Nahas’s character has the same rapidly shifting qualities of his painting repertoire. His personality is iridescent, shifting rapidly yet gracefully from a serious man weathered by worldly experience to a sage with a sly sense of humor. I visited his Chelsea studio on a cold but bright afternoon in early March. After coffee and a light brunch, we perused the set of newly finished paintings to be included in his solo show at Sperone Westwater and discussed the stylistic shifts in his work, his recent exhibition at the Beirut Exhibition Center, and his relationship to the landscape of Lebanon.
Duane Michals on the benefits of skipping art school, becoming an atheist, and why certain art(ists) make him sick.
Decades after his first foray into painting, photographer Duane Michals recently opened a new exhibition of painted tintypes at DC Moore Gallery in New York. It is evidence of his tireless instinct to challenge the limits of the construction—or deconstruction—of photography as a medium. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Michals is probably most comfortable when reinventing himself and his work, errors and all, and truly takes personally the notion that it is an artist’s duty to evolve and explore, rather than simply keep doing what he does best, what brings him the highest acclaim, or what audiences seem to initially adore. Last November, I had the good fortune of stumbling into a screening and artist talk coordinated during the Paris Photo festival of a new documentary about Duane Michals, entitled the The Man Who Invented Himself. As I sat in the back row listening to this artist three times my age, I couldn’t help but think about how much he has to say at a moment when my own generation is tweeting endlessly yet saying in fact, very little. At 81 years old, he is full of opinions, laughter, outrage, and energy. Mr. Michals was gracious enough to spend an evening with me in his Manhattan home talking about his work, as well as his thoughts on God and his undying interest in the metaphysical.
Duane Michals FIRE AWAY!
Sabine Mirlesse So, how are you?
DM I’m very free, the freest I’ve ever been in my whole life. I like being old, and that certainly is a scary thing to say. You have to remember that the bill always comes due. People don’t understand that.
SM Where do you come from?
DM McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Andy Warhol was also born in McKeesport. . . but they got uppity and moved to Pittsburgh. My dad was a steel worker. The most I could have hoped for given my socio-economic background was to teach high school art in West Smithland, Pennsylvania, have three kids, still be a Catholic, and be suicidal.
Kenya (Robinson) reflects on the end of her MFA program and becoming a professional artist.
Kenya (Robinson) is currently wrapping up her MFA in Sculpture at the Yale School of Art after several years as a working artist. An astute observer of culture, (Robinson) explores a range of issues from race and class to perceptions about gender, privilege, and consumerism. Her newest work places rogue installations within store displays and merchandise to emphasize the act of shopping, beginning with a Walmart in New Haven. All kinds of people encounter art every day, she explains, making this a good moment to think about the American national character and its shifting nature. (Robinson) took a break from searching for fabric, materials, and other supplies for her thesis exhibition to meet with me in midtown Manhattan to discuss how graduate school has influenced the direction of her career and creative practice.
Lee Ann Norman You’re in New Haven now, but where are you from originally?
Kenya (Robinson) I’m from Gainesville, Florida. This is hugely important to my identity, almost as important to my identity as creativity. I’ve long been an artist, but it’s a fairly recent addition to my professional life. In the past, I imagined artists as people with a particular set of skills—painting, carving, drawing—I didn’t recognize that we each create in the context of our personalized experience. Sometimes it includes that level of specific training and sometimes it doesn’t.
But, Gainesville is a small, quirky college town, so it has this amazing dichotomy—being provincial in that way—very southern—
LAN —What school is there?
KR The University of Florida. When I was there, it was 38,000 students, and it’s continuing to grow. Because of that, we have international students, many professional schools, scientists, a lot of medical researchers. . . you have this element of culture that exists there neck-in-neck with that southern fried, Bible Belt thing. You can go downtown and hear some pretty good jazz, but in that same space, there will be a van rolling around with an anti-Muslim sentiment written on the side—that’s the town where that preacher was trying to burn the Qu’ran—
LAN Oh! That’s right!
Christian Patterson discusses the re-release of Redheaded Peckerwood, comparisons to Truman Capote, and photographic secret codes.
After much anticipation, the third edition of Redheaded Peckerwood (MACK, 2011)—Christian Patterson’s widely lauded monograph—is finally available. The self-taught artist, who worked for William Eggleston in the early to mid-2000s, produced his first monograph, Sound Affects, in 2008, which pays homage to Memphis, Tennessee’s music culture. Redheaded Peckerwood is the culmination of Patterson’s five-year study of the murder spree that Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate committed through Nebraska and Wyoming in 1957 into 1958. It is a multi-faceted body of work that includes not just photographs, but actual pieces of evidence from the crimes, re-worked to fit into Patterson’s new narrative. After hearing him speak in late 2012 as part of the International Center of Photography’s lecture series, I was even more intrigued about the process of creating Redheaded Peckerwood, which has come to define Patterson’s style. When I met with him in his Brooklyn studio, he was editing the photographs he had shot on a recent trip back to his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a small-run book he’s working on as a reprieve before tackling his next big project.
Jacob Pastrovich How did you end up coming to New York from Wisconsin?
Christian Patterson I had a camera for a while, but I didn’t become interested in photography until after I moved to New York. I didn’t study art, but I was in a student organization in college that involved coming to New York once a year and like many people, I was very excited and blown away by the city and each year I came back I became more comfortable. When I came here, I had no idea I’d be doing some of the things I did or some of the things I’m doing now. I was offered a job in a completely different line of work and industry but that brought me here initially, and when I got here I began exploring the city, wanting to get the know it more, bringing my camera along, inevitably popping in and out of galleries, museums, and bookstores and seeing work that inspired me to try to make better pictures. It turned into an obsession.
Amy Adler on artist’s rights, the impact of conceptual art on law and Texts from Hillary.
Amy Adler is the Emily Kempin Professor of Law at NYU School of Law. Her practice focuses on art, sexuality, and speech and explores the relationship between law and the construction of culture. At NYU, she teaches Art Law, First Amendment Law, Feminist Jurisprudence, and Gender Jurisprudence. She is also on the faculty of the Visual Culture department. When I first met Adler it was in a class of hers I sat in on at NYU Law. Into the Day-Glo fluorescence of classroom lights—at a time where most art world folk in New York are usually taking an Aspirin and mourning the err in judgment of attending whatever open-bar-gallery-crawl had taken place the night before—Adler strolled in fresh-faced and dazzling in a crisp Chanel suit and pearls. Along with her came a little boy—her own—who promptly seated himself at the front of the class. Not only did her son participate in class discussion (the kid just might have a future in art criticism), but Adler in the next forty minutes proceeded to create correlations between everything from reality TV, to feminist theory, to legal precedence. Nothing was safe. At the end of the session, with far too many questions of my own and too little time remaining, I knew I had to find a way to continue the conversation. It wasn’t until quite some time later that Adler and I found a few hours to lunch and discuss the laws of art, art law, authenticity, collective action, and the notion of provenance in a digital age.
Legacy Russell You have said before that the law “works by creating rules” and yet that “art is somehow bound-up in the transgression of those same rules.” Can you speak to this a bit? And talk about how it relates to the work you’ve done in a concrete sense?
Amy Adler I was just reading a passage today from Adorno where he writes: “Art revolts against its essential concepts while at the same time being inconceivable without them.” We are living in such an interesting moment in contemporary practice. I’ve been playing around with the question: What if art’s longstanding “revolt” against its essential concepts has been a bit too successful? Perhaps “art” as a category has become “inconceivable.” I wonder if we are teetering on that brink. Legal rules are premised on the assumption that art is a stable category, but what happens to law as that assumption becomes unsound? The instability of “art” as a category has implications across a wide swath of legal and cultural stuff. One place we can begin to talk about is in the area of moral rights, which is something that I’ve done a lot of work on and continue to do.
Augustus Thompson on making art in the shower, Instagram and his solo show at Ed. Varie.
For Augustus Thompson’s latest installation at Ed. Varie in New York, the artist has taken on the role of organizer and collagist of cultural information. Building an archival self-portrait by appropriating images from social media feeds, personal photographs, music videos and texts, Thompson layers printed works to form a floor-based collage. Compositions where Chicago rapper Chief Keef’s Instagram “selfies” meet aerial shots of the Grand Canyon are superimposed on images of the artist’s studio, construction sites and consumer objects. A seemingly infinite combination of potential narratives and associations opens up in the juxtapositions of these prints, resulting in a personal image stream where the mundane and everyday meet the extraordinary.
Antonia Marsh For Hold Tight, which will be your first solo exhibition of 2013, you’re preparing a site-specific installation for the gallery, is that right?
Augustus Thompson Yes, the installation will be around 40 or so digital prints on 13”x19” watercolor paper placed on the floor covered with a clear vinyl. I want the audience to walk on the prints, and although hopefully they won’t get damaged. I do want a tension to be there because it feels slightly strange to be walking on artwork.
Aura Rosenberg—whose “The Golden Age” harkens back to the politics of appropriation of her earlier work—discusses her use of pornography with husband John Miller.
Aura Rosenberg began using pornographic imagery in her work about 25 years ago. After a period of intense activity, she stopped and moved on to other subjects, only to return to it in 2011. Much, however, had changed: the porn “industry,” the social acceptability of pornographic images, the kinds of cameras used to produce them and the kinds of media used to disseminate them. In short, very little stayed the same. Instead of taking a “bad girl” stance, Rosenberg raises the prospect of a feminine gaze. In the interview that follows, she and I discuss some of these issues and what they might imply.
John Miller When did you start working with pornography?
Aura Rosenberg It was the summer of 1988.
JM We already had been together for four years at the point.
AR No—more like two years. When we met I was making paintings by imprinting my body on canvas. We were just getting to know one another when you suggested we collaborate on these paintings. You built some shaped canvases—a cross and an x—and painted my body brown. I always felt that was your version of “Come up and see my etchings.”
Patti Astor talks about her new book and her role in the New York art scene of the 1980s.
In 1980, on a lark, Patti Astor and Bill Stelling opened FUN Gallery in the then “undiscovered” East Village. It was meant to be an outlet from the pomp of the ivory (shall we say, white) tower art world that had until then covered its eyes and ears to what was happening on the street.
“To the street!” That was Patti’s battle cry. Whether marching for civil rights, tapping out a performance on Union Street, or crawling through Central Park as Snake Woman for a Tina L’Hotsky film, she was where the action was. Where it wasn’t, she created and became the action. So when this activist/actress applied her skillz to making a gallery, a change had truly come. The FUN Gallery gave minorities and unrecognized artists the chance to cover the walls and floor freely. FUN Gallery can be credited in part for the east coast hip-hop explosion of the ’80s, especially where graffiti is concerned. Patti Astor’s first book FUN Gallery: The True Story, tells all—and, if you know Patti, she tells it like it is! So put on your Converse and get ready for a journey through the beatbox-blasting, Krylon-scented streets of downtown past.
Richard Goldstein How’s everything in California?
Patti Astor It’s good, it’s good. I moved since we last spoke, I actually did an art deal (gasp) and made some money. Finally. I was able to move down to my dream home Hermosa Beach, and I’m in this little kind of ’60s surfer trailer park. It’s awesome. It’s been very, very good for me. I’ve done a lot of stuff since I’ve been here. My dream was always to be here in Hermosa Beach. It’s one of the last small beach towns left. There’s no big hotel on the waterfront. It’s just a cool, small town. There’re no hipsters.
Micah Stansell talks about premeditated experimentation, collaborative production processes, and weighs in on the film vs. video debate.
Micah Stansell is an Atlanta-based video and installation artist. His most recent production, The Water and The Blood, was projected onto the side of the High Museum during the summer of 2012. Stansell has received several awards for his work, most recently a 2011 Artadia Award and 2010 Working Artist Project Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stansell in his home studio to learn more about his work, from pre-production to installation.
Rachel Reese Let’s start with the most recent work, The Water and The Blood (2011-2012).
Micah Stansell It was first shown at MOCA GA in 2011 and then in the summer of 2012 at the High Museum. That was the work I made as a result of the Working Artist Project Grant for MOCA GA.
RR What were the sound components for The Water and The Blood, specifically for the High Museum installation, as it was projected on the façade of the museum and in Sifly Piazza?
MS The music or soundtrack was broadcast via speakers we had placed on top of the building and it spilled down below; it was really beautiful. And there were two vocal tracks. One was a sort of “verbal score” and the other track was actors delivering monologues and you could hear those via headphones, your smart phone, or little speaker stations. They had a very short radius so you could only hear them if you stood around them.
The Propeller Group discusses Vietnamese graffiti, infiltrating the advertising world and their upcoming show at the Guggenheim.
When Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Phunam, and Matt Lucero started The Propeller Group in Ho Chi Minh City in 2006, achieving their goal of large-scale collaboration with Vietnamese artists proved both complicated and unpredictable. The collective’s work, blending interests in the visual arts, video, media, and popular culture, is both ironic and earnest, with a political awareness that lurks just below the surface. The Propeller Group straddles a new space between the art gallery and the media world, with an interdisciplinary and border-crossing appeal. By playing with cultural boundaries and bringing artists from around the world to Vietnam, they upend viewers expectations and, it appears, the expectations of the artists themselves. You can see their video project, Television Commercial for Communism (TVCC), at the Guggenheim’s No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia exhibit, opening on February 22nd in New York.
This interview was conducted over the phone with Tuan Andrew Nguyen in Los Angeles, followed by a second Skype call with Tuan, joined by Phunam and Matt Lucero in Ho Chi Minh City.
Diane Mehta What inspired you to establish the collective?
Propeller Group Matt and I [Tuan] started doing collaborative projects while we were at CalArts in 2003-2004. At CalArts, we were organizing public events and symposiums and also doing collaborative projects with other artists too.
In 2005, I met Phunam in Vietnam. There wasn’t a lot happening in the arts scene that really intrigued us at the time, so we began to make video and films together. We noticed graffiti in Vietnam for the first time—when we started asking around, we discovered it was this one kid in Hanoi, Linkfish. He was inspired by the graffiti on Mear One’s 1999 Significant One album cover for Limp Bizkit and was trying to figure out what it all meant in a Vietnamese context.
In 2006, with Spray it, Don’t Say it, we began documenting graffiti artists, who were just starting to adopt American-style graffiti and place it in the Vietnamese landscape. Phunam and I continued shooting documentaries but quickly discovered that it was difficult to film in public without the proper permissions. We decided to register as a film production company—forming a company would make it easier to get the paperwork done—but realized that if we set up as an advertising company instead, we could film in public, rent out billboards, buy media space on TV channels, and generally have more freedom.
A critical as well as a creative process, Jules Marquis originates in an experimental awareness shared between conceptual artist Daniel Turner and video artist Colin Snapp. Perhaps less of a collaborative project than an impersonal presence, “Jules”—as Turner and Snapp refer to the works they sign off under her name—is a fictive third-person, a woman, who adroitly facilitates the artistry of Turner and Snapp for her own aesthetic explorations. Her ventures, however, are no masquerade. Among other things that make “Jules” such a rarity, is the fact that she’s so independent- minded. Her work even presents itself as something radically different from—and self-consciously critical of—the work of both her fraternal co-conspirators.
Jules Marquis has been, and will always be, the dematerialized realization of an intensely collaborative dialogue between Turner and Snapp—a dialogue that touches on nonpartisan agitprop, controlled chaos, and mindful criticality toward questionable practices prevalent in the gallery system. What interested me personally, though, was why Snapp and Turner seemingly discontinued this dialogue whenever they engaged in their own individual practices. So when I interviewed them, I was delighted to glimpse how their respective practices and sensibilities fed into the ever mercurial enterprise of Jules Marquis.
In the following conversation, Turner, Snapp, and myself discuss Jules Marquis as a collaborative body of work designed to address the prevalence of media in contemporary society, revealing how Turner and Snapp’s individual practices relate to the works credited to Jules. Through the course of our discussion, we direct our attention to essential projects Jules has engaged in over the past two years.
Jeffrey Grunthaner So tell me about Jules Marquis. What’s the history behind it?
Colin Snapp Jules Marquis started off as collaboration about ten years back, in San Francisco.
Miriam Katz on crying with Aziz Ansari, her new podcast and the role of comedy in the art world.
Over the last few years, Miriam Katz tracked through basement bars and comedy clubs, galleries and museums, trying to split the difference between the high and low of the comedy world. Her recently inaugurated monthly podcast, Breakdown, focuses on a wide range of funny people, from comedians to artists to those in between. In this conversation, we tried to locate Katz’ position in the comedy world. While tracing her engagement through laughter, stand-up, and a lot of feelings, we found our way into some of the darker depths of the comic, but wove our way back, redeemed.
Sam Korman It’s nice timing that we’re conducting this interview during Obama’s oath of office. It is such an important moment, today is his big inauguration speech and we decided that we’re going to sit down on our computers and talk over Skype about comedy. . .
Miriam Katz I don’t know if I’m proud of that. . .
SK I don’t know either. So, you’ve worked in the art world for many years and have recently done a number of projects related to the work of comedians, all of which leads me to ask, why is comedy so important?
MK Partly it feels important because it gives people relief. Also, it allows very difficult truths to come forward. I love the gamut that it encompasses: very serious things and the most playful, childlike things come together. It’s critical and also really fun. That’s one reason I think the art world ought to look at it. The art world is interested in criticality, but often in a very serious way. There’s something about being critical in a joyous way that’s especially powerful.
Mark Mulroney’s visual and sculptural work depicts a body in gross excess: engorged genitalia, numerous oozing bodily fluids, and characters in between ecstatic and sadistic states. Explicitly sexual and mostly NSFW, Mulroney’s work is itself refreshingly hyper and perverse, reinforced by his surprisingly succinct and brightly colored artist statement: “People don’t want to die, and they want to have sex.”
Though thematically juvenile, his work isn’t exclusively such and the labor used to create the works is not forgotten, especially with a section on his website entitled, “TEDIOUS INK DRAWINGS.” Many of his drawings are traditional in execution but subversive in content, with dense landscapes that could take hours to digest. Broad in scope, his works encompass everything from a miniature nude woman carved from wood to a child’s bedroom mural. When his oeuvre is laid out, his aesthetic attention to form affirms that, although not one to evade the crude, he is willing and able to incorporate it in vivid and sophisticated terms.
Mulroney provides levity in an art universe choking with sober academia. Depending on your mental state at the time, any piece could cause an onslaught of laughter or of tears. His playful inventiveness acts as a flashback to youthful fantasies fraught with appendageal obsessions and a reveling in cartoon gore and guts. Though his artist statement addresses adult conundrums, his art conjures memories of a less media driven existence, while providing twisted amusement.
Effie Bowen For your upcoming solo show at Mixed Greens, the subject matter includes islands and vintage issues of Playboy. How did you prepare your material and decide on the content?
Mark Mulroney I just work and see if a theme emerges and go for that. It is winter in Syracuse so I like to look at warm pictures and naked bodies so that is what I am doing now. I suppose when summer rolls around I will be using a lot of cool colors and be drawing a lot of water. I don’t work to tell me where I am. I work to let me go somewhere else.
EB How is life in Syracuse?
MM Pretty solitary with lots of terrible food and college basketball fans. I can’t wait for baseball season and the Syracuse Chiefs to start playing again.
A failed interview with the author of The Address Book, available now for the first time in English.
I thought Sophie Calle was blasting Van Morrison in her studio when I called for an interview. A few minutes later she told me to turn my music down. The hold-songs were a comically misread sign that the third party conference-call site was not in fact recording our conversation. We ultimately forfeited to the mechanical obstacles that foiled our attempts to start over. Had I understood the technology, had we had more time, had “Born to Run” not drowned out our brief interaction, I would have interviewed Sophie about The Address Bookher project from 1980 newly translated into English and published by Siglio Press.
The controversial project has attracted a sizable viewer/readership, but for those who aren’t familiar: it is a compilation of text and images that documents Sophie Calle’s encounters with the acquaintances listed in an address book she found on Rue des Martyrs. Before returning the book to its owner, known to us as Pierre D., Sophie photocopied its contents in order to build a portrait of a missing subject by contacting his contacts. Each documented encounter yields a new impression with a new valence; overlay them all and a figure may start to take shape. Toward the end Calle reflects, “The descriptions merge together. The picture gets more defined and exhausts itself at the same time.” Some examples: Paul B. characterizes Pierre as “a child forgotten in an airport;” Jacques O. remarks on his “well-mastered incongruity;” and Marianne B. describes him as “a cloud in trousers.” Other encounters yield nothing besides Calle’s reconsideration and doubt concerning her work. Pierre’s brother, a psychoanalyst, declined the invitation because the project was “too inquisitive.” The accompanying photos—a chair Pierre liked to sit in, his building’s peeling ceiling, the crotch of an informant—are equally inquisitive, and quietly illustrative.
Architect Carlos Brillembourg’s poetic meditation on Keith Sonnier’s sculptures at Mary Boone Gallery.
Off the re
In my opinion
Clear as a bell
Lighting strikes three or four times
Lisa Radon on her recent PICA residency, the white magic of books, and transforming radical skepticism into Radical Openness.
Lisa Radon makes essays, poems, performances, and publications that carry with them a mesmerizing ethereal quality despite the density of their content. She continues the tradition of the artist who not only postulates, but also creates; devising works that combine her stream of consciousness research with a smart design sensibility.
I corresponded with Lisa at the end of her Resource Room Residency (RRR) at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). Begun in 2012, the RRR is conceived for artists whose methodologies utilize text, design, and research. The residents are granted a stipend and unlimited access to PICA’s archive and library for a three-month period.
Mack McFarland Lisa, the press release for your Resource Room Residency, titled WHITE MOUNTAIN, is a lovely bit of prose poetry that does not describe much of what you were doing in the Resource Room, though it does leave us with some tantalizing images. Taken with the quotes from René Daumal’s Mount Analogue: A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures and Blaise Cendrars’s, The Astonished Man, I am sensing a feeling of scientific wonder towards the incomprehensible largeness and stealthy nature of language. You write: “WHITE MOUNTAIN is a constellation.” What are some of the points of that constellation?
Lisa Radon It all comes from and through language (language is my primary medium, after all) and reading specifically (Cendrars says, ”...eating the book is the highest form of white magic.”) – but that’s just where I started.
Adrien Tirtiaux’s architectural installations channel a new form of political opposition.
Recent austerity measures taken by the Dutch government have slashed cultural funding for the Netherlands by 21%. The major cuts to individual artist grants and funds for institutional research will go into effect next month, and while some small institutions subsequently have gone under, others are bracing themselves for the upcoming changes.
The Great Cut is Belgian artist Adrien Tirtiaux’s response to this shift. The project, a performative architectural intervention, was on view at Stroom Den Haag as part of the Fall 2012 exhibition Expanded Performance. The accumulative sculpture occupied 21% of Stroom’s site, imposing a physical obstruction to the center for art and architecture that both mirrored the economic impediment and encouraged conflict and consensus to surface. The work was produced in tandem with a series of discussions with the members of Stroom’s staff, who collectively navigated the conceptual, aesthetic, and logistical problems introduced by the project’s invasiveness. The intervention began in the office spaces, where the budget cuts will be most severe, and moved out into the exhibition space in stages over the course of the exhibition. I sat down with the artist in December, among the sounds of construction at Stroom to discuss the unfolding narrative of The Great Cut.
Annie Godfrey Larmon As the progress of The Great Cut has been inflected heavily by the site of Stroom, perhaps you could talk about how the project was conceived and how it changed when you arrived in The Hague?
Adrien Tirtiaux I’ve noticed that when I am invited to work within a specific context, I am drawn to the problematic situations within a site. I hate working with a white cube. I’ve found it is better to have a bad space, or disturbing elements with which to engage. It’s been interesting for me to thematize problems, rather than provide solutions. I have many Dutch friends, and for the last two or three years, all anyone can talk about are the cuts, the cuts. It seems as though the symbolic problem engages more thought than the work that is shown in the galleries.
Anoka Faruqee’s paintings convert crafted labor into vision, as they seem to dematerialize before our eyes. Her description of these effects, however, seeks to demystify them without diminishing their power to dazzle and confound. Faruqee writes, “A moiré pattern is an interference effect created by the overlay of two or more offset patterns. The fusion of the patterns creates another pattern that is quite unlike and much more complex than any of the individual ones.”
I had seen her work online and read a bit of Faruqee’s writings before I met her, and I was curious to see how her ability to parse complex social and philosophic issues would relate to the woozy optics of her paintings. I finally met her at Yale, where we both teach and where we’ve navigated public conversations during group critiques, but hadn’t had an opportunity to explore what matters most to this recent LA transplant with family roots in South Asia. This fall I had a conversation in front of an audience with Anoka, surrounded by her paintings during a solo exhibition at the Hosfelt Gallery in New York. She describes her work as a balance of worked out process and intuitive experimentation in a way that makes sense but also comes with surprising turns and shadings.
David Humphrey I wanted to start with an epigraph that is more of an apology than it is a question. Samuel Beckett writes somewhere that to restore silence is the role of objects. We’re going to go against Beckett now and restore noise in the form of talking.
Here’s my first question: I feel your paintings almost insist on being described with self-contradictory terms like ephemeral materiality, or speedy slowness. Their vibrating opticality—and the way that opticality arises from your accomplished craftsmanship—reminds me of the Richard Sennett book called The Craftsman, in which he equates making with thinking. I’m curious what kind of thinking emerges for you from the process of making.
Anoka Faruqee That’s a great question. You’re right to say that the work deals with the poles, and reconciling poles. I definitely see thinking and making as part of the same process. I don’t see them as being opposite.
I’ve always been interested in knowledge that’s not passively received, but actively experienced. I guess that’s why I make paintings—or why I believe in making paintings—because the act of making the painting presents the question.
DH What excites me about your paintings is that they are so emphatically material. Undisguised paint and signs of process don’t diminish the effect: there is a disappearance of matter into the visual hum. I feel like this has the possibility of being a metaphor for something—about being in the world, perhaps.
AF These are very optical paintings, some more than others. You look at them and see them very much as image and illusion. There are a lot of things happening with color in the moiré patterns that are kind of illusionistic. Yet I don’t want the materiality to be lost. The materiality is important, even though it’s sublimated somewhat. I feel like I’m sublimating the materiality for the optical experience, and so much of what you are seeing are traces or residues of material events.