Zoe Pettijohn Schade on small-scale infinities, revitalizing the textile tradition and avoiding lengthy wall texts.
Zoe Pettijohn Schade is a bit of a rebel. Her paintings don’t yell or scream. They don’t shock, disgust, give you a quick snicker or make you sniffle. There are no amped up day-glo hues or splashy gestures festooned about her supports. No libidinal outbursts or pornographic imagery. Keep looking! See images appear and disappear, shimmering across her surfaces like a distant mirage. Find yourself asking, Is that a set of teeth, a barracuda, a snake? No it’s a shark, jaw open ready to bite, but wait—it’s gone! It faded behind the web-thin lace and a flock of lightning bolts.
The first time I viewed her work, I was mesmerized. It hinted at gender (the seemingly fragile feather versus the solid cube), religion (at gravestones and crosses), and science (cellular structures and classical botany). Disparate sources—textile-pattern imagery paired with icons of 20th-century modernism and elements clearly rendered from life—merged effortlessly into composited wholes.
When I heard that Zoe had been awarded a Fulbright Research Scholars Grant to Paris and concurrent solo exhibition at the Mona Bismarck Center for American Art and Culture in Paris to research a rare collection of 18th-century gouache pattern paintings at the Bibliothèque Forney, I reached out for an interview. Our exchange unfolded by email between New Jersey and Paris over the course of many weeks, through a collaging of many layers of information, which seems a fitting approach to a discussion of Pettijohn Schade’s work and practice.
Alyssa E. Fanning Your work is very different from a lot of contemporary art on display in New York. How did you arrive at your interest in the textile tradition and how is this study currently informing your work?
Zoe Pettijohn Schade My curiosity in the textile tradition began twenty years ago when I was a student at Cooper Union. I became interested in how my associations with different images were connected to one another and I began to see patterns as a visual representation of those relationships. I researched the scientific, art historical, and philosophical aspects of pattern, including cellular structures, the physics that compel patterns to form, the mathematical structure of information, and the history of feminism. As my work developed, I realized that there is a very old and complex language of repetition that can be found in textile designs. My research led me to spend a lot of time at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with their lace collection, and to volunteer at the De Young Museum’s conservation department in San Francisco in order to gain access to their immense collection in storage, specifically their ecclesiastic embroidery.
In the latest of BOMBlog’s reprints of [2nd Floor Projects], Larry Rinder takes us through a few of his art adventures, with images of D-L Alvarez’s dynamic work.
I went to a show recently in New York of collages by Ray Johnson. It was upstairs in an old townhouse on the Upper East Side. Must have been about thirty or forty of them, nicely framed. But being inside one of these works is like being in a burlap sack with a couple of angry cats. You can easily get cut by the sharp edge of Duchamp’s profile or poked in the eye by Johnson’s weird nosed avatar. Marilyn Monroe is around but she’s no help at all, since you can’t even recognize her half the time and when you do she’s just as dangerous as Warhol’s electric chair, which is broken into parts and spread around like unassembled pieces of some macabre IKEA furniture.
Hotelart.us on guerrilla-style curating, online galleries and why we really go to art openings.
It is fashionable lately to blame the Internet for many of the problems of modern life—from a cheapening of aesthetic experiences (there goes the Sublime, say the cynics!) to the collapse of social skills and destruction of deep relationships. But for the art world, the fact remains: Most of the art we encounter, we encounter on the ’net. Hotelart.us, a collaborative curatorial practice by Loney Abrams, Jonathan Stanish, and Ian Swanson, would like us to move beyond this “Internet, friend or foe” debate, and instead seek to harness the Internet’s nuanced capabilities. Over the past few months, hotelart.us has set up shows in rented hotel rooms, documented them, and then shown that documentation at a separate art space in a one-night opening. Their last show, Cultural Affair, was documented at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Tribeca, and then “opened” at Interstate Projects in Bushwick. I met with Loney, Johnny, and Ian over backyard beers to discuss self-promotion, the difficulties of showing work in New York and their next show in August at Sadie Halie Projects.
Sophie Buonomo How did you guys come up with the idea for hotelart.us? Do you trace that genesis to one of you or to a specific moment?
Jonathan Stanish We were all out at a bar one night and someone had mentioned something about an hourly rental hotel around the corner from us in Bedstuy. Ian said, “Maybe I should do a show in a hotel.” This was December, early December. As the month progressed we began developing this idea into a collaboration between the three of us.
Titillating and nausea-producing? Certainly. Transgressive? Maybe. Forrest Muelrath reviews Paul McCarthy: WS at the Park Avenue Armory.
Several warning signs about the graphic nature of the work were hung around the entranceway of the gymnasium-sized exhibition. As I walked toward the room, the first thing I noticed was the soundtrack of the film—a constant dull roar of extreme drunkenness. The feature film is played out across eight large screens hanging from the balcony, four screens on opposing sides of the room. Upon entering I saw about a half dozen people looking up over the entrance at large screens, their faces contorted, some with wry smiles, most overtly scowling. Onscreen three Snow Whites, seven Dwarfs, and Walt Paul (McCarthy’s own portrayal of Walt Disney) were in the middle of something like the most debauched night of the year in an art-school dorm. The set was packed with the ingredients for the makings of an orgy in middle America: tables stacked with booze and cake, half empty bottles of Hershey’s chocolate syrup lying on the floor, flour spread all over everything (which at one point is patted on Snow White’s genitals), ‘Happy Birthday’ banners dangling over the mantel. The character’s speech is incomprehensible. It’s hard to tell if they are drunk or handicapped; even in sober moments they are still barely able to form sentences.
In a supplement to her July 22nd Portfolio, BOMB visits Chloë Bass’s Bedford-Stuyvesant studio to discuss invisible performance artists, documenting ephemera and creating The Bureau of Self-Recognition.
Michael Craig-Martin discusses “Young British Artists,” the secret souls of art students and why the 1990s felt a lot like the 1960s.
A prominent Irish-born artist, Michael Craig-Martin is recognized as one of the most influential art teachers in Britain. Being enthralled himself by the legendary teachings of Josef Albers at Yale University, he was crucial in the creation of the YBA’s (Young British Artists), with Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Liam Gillick, Sarah Lucas and Julian Opie among his most famous students. Finding freedom in questioning the necessity of meaning, Craig-Martin attempts to strip his art of unnecessary clichés. He has been able to repeatedly reinvent his visual language across a variety of media, including his minimalist boxes and installations, large wall-drawings, computer animations, strikingly colored paintings and sculptures of everyday objects.
Kristína Jarošová After working primarily with the minimalist boxes in the 1960s, and black and white drawings and installations in the 1970s, your visual language has focused more recently on re-sized and vibrantly colored graphic outlines of everyday objects. What is your fascination with these objects and how important is their ubiquity, design, and artistic quality?
Michael Craig-Martin I just had a sense and some instinct from very early in my career that everything that seems special in life was available through what was ordinary—the truth is not distant or obscure. It is right in front of your face; the trouble is it’s hard to see.
A selection of images from Chloë Bass’s 2011 series Practice of the Daily, shown here for the first time as a complete set. Bass uses performance and installation as a means to investigate the everyday, engaging the aesthetics of tacit but meaningful participation.
Radcliffe Bailey on artistic and regional labels, testing his own DNA, aging, and the power familial ancestry holds on his practice.
Radcliffe Bailey investigates memory—personal, genetic, and related to place—as the basis for his artistic practice. Old family photographs and his own DNA collide with symbols of the African Diaspora and potent natural materials like Georgia red clay and sea water. Bailey’s work is rooted in personal experience but posits this experience as part of a greater whole, diverting the focus from himself and towards a greater history. Bailey speaks of his work with the air of a mystic, describing himself as a vessel that carries many histories, or as a lens for viewing the past and future. He vacillates between personal pronouns, frequently interchanging “I” and “you;” even in casual conversation, the line between individual and collective experience is fluid.
I visited Bailey at his home and studio in Southwest Atlanta, built on old Civil War grounds, in May of 2013. The building was designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and completed in 2003. The house is 2,200 square feet; the studio almost matches the house at 2,000 square feet. A driveway bisects the two at the ground floor, but house and studio are connected by a causeway at the top level. After a quick tour of the studio, Bailey and I retired to an open-air porch on the top level of the house where Bailey could smoke as we talked.
Kalup Linzy on growing up in a small town, soap operas and his new feature film, Romantic Loner.
Genre-crossing, multidisciplinary artist Kalup Linzy is known for his short videos featuring a cast of characters with big dreams to match their big personalities and complex lives. I’ve known of Linzy and his bawdy, affecting, and quite funny videos for a while, but have only recently began to really look at them. Linzy’s low-tech aesthetic subverts the tropes and stereotypes from the soap operas and old Hollywood movies that populate his videos. Whether he is employing voiceovers and shooting in black and white or gender-bending and intentionally editing out of sync, Linzy makes work that obliges viewers to reconsider ways of making meaning. We met recently one afternoon in Brooklyn to talk about roots, home, family, and art.
Lee Ann Norman You’re from Stuckey, a small town in Florida—would you call it a tight-knit community?
Kalup Linzy It was close-knit, but it wasn’t closed. It wasn’t really like a small town but more like a settlement where people migrated, so they just never incorporated. Well, I think they had the opportunity to incorporate [as a municipality], but they didn’t want to—the community was always reluctant. They thought the city or the county would come in and kind of take over.
My great grandmother and grandfather migrated there to work at a steel mill. Shanties were donated for people to live in— kind of like a Little House on the Prairie community. There were a lot of small businesses back in the day run by the people in the community, like gas stations and stores. But something happened, the crack epidemic, and shit like that. . . so there’s a gap. A particular generation didn’t keep the entrepreneurship going full punch. And then with my generation, a lot of us moved away and then came back. You were kind of taught to get away from there once certain things start to happen in your life. I think that happens in a lot of small towns.
Tribble & Mancenido on nature as an artistic medium and the mythical reality of their year-long venture into trucking.
During Current Practice at The Invisible Dog Art Center—July 3rd through 18th—photographic collaborators (and married couple!) James Frank Tribble and Tracey Mancenido-Tribble will be presenting new work along with their peers from the School of Visual Arts’ Art Practice class of 2014. We discussed some of their previous projects including Hurry Up & Wait, where they spent a year together driving across America as truck drivers experiencing and documenting the trucker lifestyle. Both removed and intimate, this series examines lesser-known workings of American consumerism. In their new work, they interpret connections between personal history, identity and place.
Ashley McNelis You have exhibited together as a photographic duo both domestically and internationally. Can you tell me about the collaborative process and how it began?
Tribble & Mancenido We met while both in undergrad, working at the same restaurant in 2004. We started making art together in 2006. What began as friends helping one another out with our respective projects, quickly turned into a collaborative endeavor. We challenge and push one another and never take for granted the constant dialogue we have about our work, which is a huge part of our process.
Ragnar Kjartansson on protest songs, the Venice Biennale and why most of his art idols are women.
While back in Iceland this spring for my own photographic work, I persuaded Reykjavik-based artist Ragnar Kjartansson to answer some questions about himself and his art over an early breakfast. He was gearing up for an afternoon of protest troubadorism, as the national elections were in full swing and apparently swinging in the wrong direction. Together we talked about what distinguishes Iceland from the rest of Scandinavia, Björk, Roni Horn, and his “performative sound sculptures.”
Sabine Mirlesse How did you start doing performance work? I know you were exposed to the theater through your mother’s acting growing up here in Reykjavik, but how did that exposure evolve into what you do now?
Ragnar Kjartansson I grew up with the theater and then I was always in bands. And then I ended up taking a course in Feminist Art in the art school here—about the movement and what came out of it—Vito Acconci and Marina Abramović and Chris Burden. I didn’t know about any of them before that so I was like, Whoa! I suddenly became interested in the fact that these things they were doing were looked upon as kinds of holy rituals. Sacred, otherworldly, ubermensch rituals. Like the Marina and Chris Burden things. . . they would just do it! I was also fascinated by the fact that at the end of the day it was simultaneously a kind of show business in a way. Like a Houdini stunt. . .
Eight works by Sean Mellyn, including new additions to Paper Monet (begun in 2008) and Eyecharts (begun in 2010). Mellyn’s fascination with surveillance, visual perception and the way we see pervades his paintings and prints. His essay on Stephen Tashjian was an Editor’s Choice in BOMB124/Summer 2013. A twenty-year survey of his prints and multiples is on view at the Underline Gallery in New York until August 1, 2013.
Legacy Russell and Bibi Deitz explore the Venice Biennale, interviewing and photographing the audience along the way.
We arrived in Venice covered in biscotti crumbs and cigarette ash after a several-day road-trip from Rome. Sun was lacking; Venice was muggy, moist, and wet. Though muddy, the poor weather brought an unexpected charm to the experience: in the rain, the convivial spirit amplified, umbrellas were shared, and people squeezed together into waterbuses with a midsummer’s gaiety, despite the gloomy clouds above. The days brought delights: my favorites I found first at the Israeli Pavilion in Gilad Ratman’s The Workshop (2013), a multi-channel video and mixed-media installation that documented the journey of a community of people from Israel to Venice. Later, at the Romanian Pavilion, I was mesmerized by Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmuş’s gestural performance titled An Immaterial Retrospective Of The Venice Biennale, a series of actions strung together enacting highlights from years of Biennale that had come before. Other moments were spent getting lost again and again throughout the city, stumbling upon performing bodies taking to the streets and a smattering of pop-up pavilions. Was it a dream?
Here, a sampling of the audience this year, including children, artists, and everyone in-between, as interviewed and photographed by American writer Bibi Deitz.
Dannielle Tegeder discusses the “death of painting” in the digital era and why her upcoming exhibition at the Wellin Museum of Art is a more media-integrated project.
Dannielle Tegeder’s paintings depict constellations of imagined urban systems: roadways, electric lines, sewage pipes, and wireless networks that have been filtered through some Suprematist formal vocabulary. Painting in the Extended Field, her first solo museum exhibition at the brand new Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, features wall drawings, animated video works, sound, sculpture, and a mobile that test the parameters of what might be considered painting today. I sat down with the artist in her Manhattan studio to discuss the death of painting, steamfitting, and what it might mean to pictorially render utopias.
Annie Godfrey Larmon The title of your exhibition cites Rosalind Krauss’s 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” which challenged Modernist claims for autonomy and medium-specific criteria. What do your paintings gain by their material expansion into animation, sound, photography, or sculpture—specifically within the context of the continual threat of the “death of painting?”
Dannielle Tegeder The problem of the “death of painting” is central to my work. I identify as a painter, even though I work in sculpture, animation, sound, and installation. I continue to paint and teach painting in an MFA program because I think painting can be both traditional and transgressive. Painting is now contextualized with so many mediums. When I make my work, including the more traditional two-dimensional paintings, I also consider how they function in the context of the Internet, and how we as humans function every day among multi-media experiences. A fixed, two-dimensional painting behaves very differently now than it did even 20 years ago, before our contemporary networks and iPhones. My work has shifted dramatically in the ten years that I’ve been painting. It’s interesting to move into sculpture and move back into painting, to think about how each context informs the other.
Alice Aycock looks back on her early influences and gives insight into her creative process.
It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear a sculptor from the ‘70s speak of “structure structuring,” but Alice Aycock’s soft command of those words, from a video interview of the time, cuts through the decades. Aycock blends formal structures with not just the mind, but memory, the body, and fiction, allowing her to infuse her work with the personal. Her desire to explore the self may be linked back to her teachers Robert Morris and Yvonne Rainer, and is apparent in the influence of Bruce Nauman and Louise Nevelson. But deeper still, the impetus of her imagination and curiosity leads back to her family and childhood home, her sense of space apparent in memories of her maternal family—Appalachian coal miners—bringing to mind the tight subterranean tunnels of her earliest work.
This video happened forty years later than the one I mention previously in which Aycock’s original thought of “structure structuring” still rings true. But with this piece, time’s added sense of memory structuring becomes apparent. We spoke on the heels of her two-part retrospective Some Stories are Worth Repeating, shown at the Grey Art Gallery, NYU and Parrish Art Museum, with plans well underway for her May 2014 Park Avenue installation Paper Chase.
Karen Rester reviews the first museum exhibition of Martin “Kippy” Kippenberger’s work in Berlin, considering his playful legacy in this new context.
Since his untimely death at age forty-four from alcohol-induced liver cancer, there has been an upswing in the opinions of collectors, curators and art historians across Europe and America regarding Martin “Kippy” Kippenberger. Virtually ignored by the German art establishment during his lifetime, Kippenberger is currently being navigated into the pantheon of late 20th century artists where he will stand—with his pants down, he would no doubt have insisted—alongside the likes of Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke. I say “pants down” because the antic he was arguably most known for was dropping his trousers in public while breaking into the boogie-woogie.
They say his influence is only beginning to be appreciated, and his über-expansive, oeuvre—paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, drawings, books, collages, poems, posters, stickers—that spans a mere 20 years and yet would fill the careers of several artists will take several lifetimes of exhibitions to unpack. He has been called the James Dean of German artists, given his prodigious output, early death and subsequent mythologizing that continue to provide a font of inspiration for the young artists that congregate in Berlin. This is one reason why Der Spiegel called the first ever museum exhibition of Kippenberger’s work in Berlin, Sehr Gut | Very Good, which runs until August 18, 2013 at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art, long overdue.
Fourteen drawings from Jim Torok’s 2013 Jesus series. A painter by training, Torok’s often satirical work combines humor with a deep cynicism, tempered by a cartoon-like, storyboard aesthetic. He was featured in The Wick in BOMB 124/Summer 2013.
Todd Lester discusses his new personal project, Lanchonete, and the status of contemporary artist residencies.
“I’ll have glasses and red shoes. And maybe my suitcase.” That’s how I was to identify Todd Lester in a café in Edifício Copan, the symbolic building by Oscar Niemeyer in downtown São Paulo. It was a gorgeous day and the interview would be done in a hurry: Todd was leaving on the same day back to the US, after a week in the city.
Todd came to São Paulo to start the bureaucratic procedures for his personal project, Lanchonete, a five-year, site-specific artist residency project in the center of São Paulo. Lanchonete (which means “lunch counter” in Portuguese) will have a staff and operate as a business; 32 international and Brazil-wide artists-in-residence will live in a suite of adjacent apartments for periods of four months each, four at a time. It will take the form of a Brazilian non-profit, membership association, Associação Espaço Cultural Lanchonete.
Todd is the founder of freeDimensional, an organization that supports activists and artists-in-distress by providing safe haven in artist residencies. Until just a few weeks ago, he was the Executive Director of Global Arts Corps, an organization that uses theatre to advance reconciliation in societies emerging from violent conflict, a job he just quit to dedicate himself entirely to the Lanchonete project.
Lorena Vicini As a Brazilian, I was curious about the name of the project, Lanchonete. As we understand the concept in Brazil, it’s an establishment where snacks, drinks and sandwiches are sold, but in a totally different way from a deli. In a way, “lanchonete” is an old-fashioned word, going in the opposite direction of the gourmet wave. There is no line, there is no order—it’s chaotic.
Todd Lester The first time I came to Brazil, in 2005, I stayed in Praça da República, in the heart of downtown São Paulo. I saw all the lanchonetes in the neighborhood and just thought they were amazing. I chose the lanchonete as an establishment with an open front, which is disappearing nowadays. This organic and spontaneous movement is disappearing from capital cities. In the lanchonete it’s still possible to rub elbows with different kinds of people.
Adrienne Antonson on designing smocks, making sculptures out of human hair and the problems of sustainable design.
Artist and designer Adrienne Antonson’s fashion label STATE caught my eye with its liberally pocketed garments, quality fabrics, and minimalist aesthetic. They aren’t clothes just to suit one’s lifestyle, but the kind of clothes that inspire a new lifestyle while wearing them. Coming from an art gallery in Charleston and an alpaca farm off the coast of Seattle, Adrienne’s garments and accessories are durable yet delicate and ethically sourced and her insect sculptures crafted of human hair are currently touring in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I caught up with Adrienne in her new studio space in Gowanus to discuss sustainable designing, hair as a medium, and being stranded on a deserted island.
Effie Bowen What’s new?
Adrienne Antonson I’m exhausted but I’m really exhilarated—I think that’s just how it is in New York. No one comes here to coast. You come here to grind.
EB I’m happy to be meeting you here in your new studio.
Eight young artists, curators, writers and art historians tell BOMB their top picks at this year’s BOS, May 31–June 2, 2013.
To know thyself is one of the world’s oldest maxims, one that has been adopted for various ends over the centuries—by Socrates, Shakespeare, Freud, and Dr. Phil, among countless others. At Momenta Art, artist Chloë Bass investigates what self-recognition entails as a process and a practice via the installation of her long-term research project. Since 2011, Bass, who originally trained in theater, has been operating as the Bureau of Self-Recognition, conducting a series of exercises on herself as well as other individuals and groups that are aimed toward inner awareness and empowerment.
The results of these exercises are displayed throughout the gallery as video interviews, photographic archives, and re-staged environments, along with a small library of reading material (highlighting works such as Henri Bergon’s philosophical treatise Creative Evolution and Georges Perec’s novel Life: A User’s Manual) and several designated spaces where audience members can participate in their own processes of self-realization. One such exercise invited visitors to write what they do every day and post it to a collective bulletin board: most submissions were unapologetically banal (sleeping, breathing and scratching were popular responses), but the cumulative effect is surprisingly strong in its everydayness. A refreshing alternative to the neo-modernist abstract painting and sculpture that dominates much of Bushwick Open Studios, Bass’ installation highlights individual experience on a level that vacillates between conceptual art and common actions—with unexpectedly engaging results.
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.
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.