Showing posts with label Gallery Watch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gallery Watch. Show all posts

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Gallery Watch Q&A: Tilde Thurium and Nicole Aptekar on 'Anaphoric Fractures'

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos of the Artists: Shoshana Soleyn; all other photos courtesy of EVGallery 

There is absolutely ZERO way that any form of digital consumption of "Anaphoric Fractures" could compete with an in-person viewing experience. This intelligent and ambitious show at EVGallery on 11th Street showcases 10 multimedia sculptures created by Tilde Thurium (below) and Nicole Aptekar (second photo) — each with an infinitely captivating amount of intricacy and flare. 
I was lucky enough to meet and chat with the artists about their processes, collaborative relationship and greater visual arts practices. "Anaphoric Fractures" runs until Sept. 3, and I highly recommend making an appointment to visit the gallery NOW.

Clare Gemima
: First, congratulations to both of you for the success of "Anaphoric Fractures." I came to your opening, and it was packed right up until the sun had finally settled! How has the experience of watching your audience interact with your works been? Did you learn anything from opening night that you weren't expecting to? 

Tilde Thurium: The reception has been overwhelming. I am profoundly grateful. Everyone I've interacted with has been curious about the process of producing these works. It feels like the audience understands the feeling I intend to convey. 

Nicole Aptekar: It's been fantastic to see people's reactions to our work! I had a pretty good understanding of what it might be like, having shown at EV Gallery last October, but it was actually a somewhat different crowd than the previous show! 

Lately, I've found that the most commented-on pieces are never what I expect they'll be. Given that we're making abstract work, hearing how people connect and interpreting them for themselves is really powerful and heartwarming to experience. One of the main things I took away is that my process perspective can mask how people will see the final pieces. In a number of the works for this show, there are curved lines extruded and twisted through the pieces, and to me, this geometry is used like variations on a theme. Still, to most people at the opening, the results were so different that they didn't connect them as explorations of a similar technique. 

CG: How did you initially meet, and what attracted you to each other's unique visual lexicon?

TT: We met in 2011 at a vegan pizza place in San Francisco that has since ceased to exist. Nicole's work immerses the viewer in a geometric landscape; seeing her art, I felt an immediate resonance with my approach. Her style is more precise, and mine is more organic, but fundamentally we are both taking the audience on three-dimensional journeys. 

Knowing Nicole has pushed me to become a better artist than I otherwise would have. I felt like she profoundly got what I was trying to communicate visually. She is a prolific creator, and her practice has inspired my own for many years, even before we made our first collaborative piece in 2018. 

NA: We met way back in 2011! This was in San Francisco, just a few months before my first solo show, and I was working on an event with Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. I stopped at a tiny little vegan restaurant across the street on a break. 

Tilde had eye-catching tattoos, we got to talking, and I soon found out that they were a painter. We started hanging out and have been friends ever since. We've helped out on each other's projects back in San Francisco and have encouraged each other's art practice. Both of us work in abstract, but Tilde's always been so colorful, and I've historically been so scared of color in my work. I worked exclusively in white until like 2017 or so, and since then, I've moved to black and metals like gold or silver. 

I'm not entirely sure how we got the idea to blend our mediums together, but we started working towards a couple possible ways to do so in 2018. I've got some files from before we settled on the method we used in the show. I think initially, we were trying to experiment with etching construction lines into the wood, and having Tilde paint around them. I like our current process better. 

CG: Tilde, you work out of San Francisco, and Nicole — you’re based in Brooklyn. Can you shed some light on how your collaborative dynamic operates long distance? 

TT: When we first agreed to start working on Anaphoric Fractures, we talked through initial themes and colors we wanted to explore. We decided I would start the process and send the work to her as I finished. From there, I would send Nicole photos of works in progress. She would give suggestions from time to time, which were really helpful and pushed me to think about composition in a new way. 

When a painting was done, I would mail it off to Nicole. Then she would start designing, cutting, and assembling the sculpture, which is much more labor intensive. Over the course of Nicole's work, she would send me renders and snapshots of pieces in progress. I would offer suggestions. The whole process was a reciprocal dialogue, one of the dynamics that inspired the show’s name. 

NA: Well, the first piece we made didn't have the distance. I moved to Brooklyn in 2019! That said, I think working long distance actually works better for us. Tilde regularly sent over progress shots of the paintings as they came together, and we could discuss them at length and conceptualize how the paper sculpture might engage with the painted form long before it got completed. Then once it made its way over to me, I would do the same with iterations from my process. If I were local, I think that would probably just get saved for when we could meet up in person, rather than being a daily/weekly sort of thing. The final results would have been much more of a sequential handoff rather than a continuous collaboration. 

CG: Each sculpture is accompanied by a body of poetic, stimulating, but also cryptic text. They have also all been given verse-form titles. How important has writing become throughout your collaborative process, and how is it intended to aid your audience’s overall interpretation?

TT: The titles help the viewer place themselves within an imaginary world. Nicole and I are both evocative writers, but our tones and rhythms are markedly different. We each wrote the text for half of the pieces, as it felt important to make balanced contributions to the show's written and visual aspects. 

NA: The writing is a thing I've done since my earliest pieces. I used to be hugely embarrassed by it, but all of my sculptures have been 'inhabitable' in my head–they describe a scene in a world that's often fairly dark. 

When I finish a piece, I sit with it and explore where in that world it takes place. The writing you're referring to is the result of that process, the description of that moment in the world of the sculpture, and I extract the title from the writing. For many years, after pulling out the title, I'd delete the writing; it just felt too personal to me! Some friends eventually convinced me not to, and starting with my previous show, I included it in the show. The reception has been so surprising; people seem to appreciate the words, even with how strange they are. 

For this series, Tilde played along with my process and went through the exercise themself! We traded off who would write the longer moment of the piece and who extracted the title from it. It's remarkable to me how different our writing styles are for this process, but in the same way that the pieces feel natural and cohesive as one; the titles and texts all feel like they fit together. 

CG: Each of the 10 works appears to be an extreme labor of love. How long do these works take to create — from conception to installation, and what have you used to make them? 

TT: I'm a very slow painter. I spend about 1/3rd of my time on a given piece doing small touch-ups, trying to make it as perfect as possible. I estimate I spent at least 20 hours on each piece. 

NA: I'd say it's pretty variable on my end! There are pieces where the sculpting process goes really swiftly, with just a few variations and iterations, and ones where it's a lot more of a struggle to land on something I'm really happy with, with massive swings that engage with the painting in completely different ways or use totally different shapes. I'd say the longest time any one piece from this show took about three months. 

And the shortest — about a week. I design my sculptures in Rhino, which is architectural CAD software. I've written some software to aid in my process over the 11 or so years of making paper sculptures, which helps me produce the work in a more reasonable amount of time. 

Once the sculpture is designed, I use my own slicer software to get the 40 paper layers and then cut them one at a time with my laser cutter. If they have gold or silver embedded in the paper, that's an extremely manual process, so the cutting can take anywhere from a day to three or four if the adhesive and gold are uncooperative. Almost everything gets at least a once-over with an Exacto blade just for cleanup, and then the framing materials take me another two days on average. 

CG: What is the most nerve-wracking aspect of crafting these sculptures, and at what point in production does it take place? 

TT: On my end, a very procedural part: shipping the paintings off to New York in the mail! It's unlikely that they would get lost, but if they had, it could have been catastrophic. 

NA: For me, once the paper is cut, there's only so much handling it can take before it stops looking 'perfect,' and there are often many steps still to come! The edges and spindly lines are quite fragile, and the gold/silver is tricky to have it come clean. I'm a perfectionist, and through working with the gold, I've had to tone those tendencies way down, as it's never going to be computer-render perfect, and that slight organic edge turns out to be a lovely contrast. The nerves calm down once I've finished photographing the work and sealed it in its frame; at that point, it's safe from me! 

CG: What is the most rewarding part of being a visual artist exhibiting in New York City at the moment? 

TT: Seeing people's expressions as they react to the work. Having engaging conversations with other artists and viewers who are curious about the process and enthusiastic about the results. 

NA: It's been really meaningful to hear from folks that I'm helping bring back their experience, vision, and memory of a New York City filled with art and life after the truly rough first year of the pandemic. It's nice to have openings and see so much work in person again. I'm also really appreciative of how EVGallery engages with the street and neighborhood; the openings are as much outside as they are inside. It's just wonderful to interact with so many passers-by! 

CG: Some of the visual techniques in each sculpture can be read as dichotomous — fluorescent, acrylic paint, webbed inside the monochromatic, cut paper. Are these contrasting design choices deliberate or accidental? 

TT: The material contrast is one element that makes these pieces work. The intense colors highlight the sculptures' depths and provide a strong focal point. The paper adds dimensionality to the flat paintings and provides the contrast that gives the work balance. 

NA: I think that's one of the main forces that pushed us to work together. Our styles have some similarities but a lot of contrast, and it's satisfying to work to merge those differences together into a cohesive whole. It's a lot more challenging for me to work this way, but it's pushed me to experiment in ways I don't think I would have tried for years. 

CG: Based on your distinctive and individual practices, how do the works in Anaphoric Fractures differ from what you would usually make in your studio? 

TT: A few of these works are consistent with pieces I would produce in my solo practice. The rest diverge. Instead of abstract perspective blocks, I experimented with alternate geometric forms to give Nicole some liberty to layer over more of the paintings with sculpture. This experimentation has generated some themes and ideas I'm excited to incorporate into my solo work. 

NA: My own works have a lot less color! Until this show, I'd only worked with black, white and gold. In my head, I've been dancing around the notion of adding color for probably five years, and this has been a good way to slowly test the waters of what that might feel like emotionally. As I said before, I've also experimented with many new techniques in this series, as it seemed like a safer space to do so. My individual practice is more methodical and controlled, slowly layering in new geometric primitives over the course of years rather than months. After some of these pieces, I feel like I have a lot to explore on my own. 

CG: What are your thoughts regarding collaborations with each other in the future? Any exciting projects in the works? 

TT: For "Anaphoric Fractures," I began all of the works, and Nicole then designed sculptures around the paintings. In the future, I would love to try making some pieces in the opposite order, where Nicole would design a sculpture that I would then create a painting around. 

NA: I doubt that this is the end of us collaborating! I am excited to explore a few tangents I've been working on in parallel with this exhibit. After about a decade of hiatus, I've wanted to move back toward larger-scale installations again, and I'm hoping to find the right venue to make that happen. 

Also, back in 2020, I had a residency at NYU's ITP. I have been working on paper sculptures framed with robotic armatures surrounding them to produce an even more kinetic experience for an object hung on the wall.
EVGallery, 621 E, 11th St. between Avenue B and Avenue C, is open Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment. Find contact info here.

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Gallery Watch Q&A: Kevin Sabo on 'Kimberly Pepperoni’s Closet'

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos courtesy of Kates-Ferri Projects 

The current artist-in-residence at Kates-Ferri Projects recently celebrated the opening of their first solo show in New York, “Kimberly Pepperoni’s Closet.” I talked with Kevin Sabo about celebrating gay “yucks,” the artist’s inspirational figures, from Tekken to Janet Jackson, and the concoction of queer and queendom that soaks through their paintings. 

Kimberly Pepperoni, the star of the show: Who is she, and how does she influence your multimedia practice?

Kimberly Pepperoni is a drag character I’ve made up. She’s lusty and bodacious but also often annoyed and pissy. I think she’s this extremely exaggerated version of my personality and also just exists completely on her own. She challenges queerness and fabulosity. I’m always thinking about my own perception of self and how I could personify those feelings into a character. 

Kevin Sabo, an equally important character in your works, hello! How would you describe your role as a creative within your practice? Are you a storyteller, composer, painter, puzzle piecer-togetherer? 

I’m all of the above! I love sprinkling narratives into my work like a writer. Puzzles absolutely resonate with me, too, because, as you can see, my works are sort of like puzzle pieces with the way they take up space. These figures are being contorted inside the canvas to ensure they get their little moment. I also relate the way I paint to music a lot of the time — tracklists of albums are so similar to composing a show or even choosing the number or style of the characters I make. And, I’m sure, like most painters, music is integral to the painting process.

I love the way you’ve embraced the concept of the closet in this show. The sexy, luxury garments that adorn your figures present one side of the queer emblem, although the closet’s significance invites a vast array of contention from the community. What are your thoughts surrounding (coming out of the) closet, especially as an artist that renders queer identity with such an amusing amount of joy and humor?

Well, I see Kimberly Pepperoni as the embodiment of just embracing all your gay “yucks” in life. Like, for me to be perceived as feminine before coming out was to be worthless and small; and now it’s just the truth. To come out is an ongoing process — it doesn’t just happen once. To come out is to slowly peel off every layer of fear and guilt you’ve felt before sharing with others who you are. 

Who are your heroes or heroines? I know Britney Spears is an idol of yours, and Kimberly Hart from Power Rangers. Can we know more about some queens, painters, poets, fashion houses or musicians who inspire you?

Yeah! It’s kind of all over the place and admittedly unsophisticated for the most part, but most of my QUEENS are the women that were always my guilty pleasure before being out. For instance, Nina Williams from the Tekken series was a video game character that I think constructed a lot of the shapes and style of my work. 

Gwen Stefani was one of my first OBSESSIONS with fashion and music — and I had to hide my love for her growing up. And then, as I got older, music became more of an obsession, and I started discovering the careers, discographies and videographies of all the icons. It started with Gwen, and then I moved on to Britney. In school, I discovered the amazingness of Janet Jackson and Madonna. 

And, now that I’ve run almost completely out of the classics, I’ve graduated to studying the tedious careers of artists like Bjork or even Joni Mitchell. Women in music are truly a force of nature. I almost exclusively listen to ladies. Any genre, I don’t care. Drag itself has really influenced my work, too — if Valentina and Jimbo the Clown had a baby, you’d get Kimberly Pepperoni.

Your character’s limbs, breasts, shoes, lips, eyes and hairdos fill the edges of your canvases and evoke questions about identity and fluidity. Are your figures gendered, or do they possess a sexuality? Are they all in drag? 

I wouldn’t say they’re gendered at all! If they had pronouns, I’m sure they’d be She/Her, but it’s more so intended to celebrate my own fluidity and invite people who feel connected to that notion to also find a bit of excitement in being much more complicated than just man or woman, masc or femme. 

Are there any other characters hiding in Kimberly Pepperoni’s closet? Anyone else that viewers should be made aware of? If so, what’s their story? 

There are certainly a few subgenres of Kim Pepp that make their way onto canvas every now and then. I love turning them into lizard monsters sometimes, and much more recently, I’ve been playing with the idea of time and fashion — like some of them will be dressed as Victorian-era hussies and then also wondering what Kim Pepp would be wearing in the far, far A.I. controlled future. 

Throughout your residency at Kates-Ferri Projects, what have been the biggest challenges, lessons and/or breakthroughs that you have experienced? 

Working on the spot for a show that would be hung just days later was a fun challenge. I work with speed in my paintings, and as you can see, the linework is very quick and gestural. The idea that I wouldn’t be able to live with these works for a while before showing them to an audience was kind of intimidating because while I’m a quick painter, I’ve learned that I love to sit with works for a while before I decide whether or not they have that special sauce. 

How are you celebrating Pride this year? 

Cooking, eating, painting, redecorating, dancing and minding my business. 

What are your plans for the upcoming future art-show wise? What are Kimberly’s? 

I have a solo show in Paris this fall with Bim Bam Gallery. I LOVE France, and I think my work can be read as very French. I speak a bit of the language. I’ve got family and roots over there. It feels very serendipitous and also coincides with my 30th birthday. 

Kimberly will definitely be joining. I haven’t made all of the work yet, bI’mI’m imagining Kimberly in just one colorI’mI’m thinking it could be green. When I was just a wee-lad my AIM screen name was @Greenguy2224. It could be fun to pay homage to such a powerful color. Bit’st’s honestly too early to say ... Kim might have a full-body plastic surgery modification by then; who knows. 
Kates-Ferri Projects, 561 Grand St. (near Madison Street), is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by appointment. “Kimberly Pepperoni’s Closet” is up through July 23.

Follow Kevin on Instagram here

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Gallery Watch Q&A: Dana Robinson on 'Ebony Reprinted'

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos courtesy of Dana Robinson 

Dana Robinson is part of a group show titled “Homecoming: Artist Alumni Exhibition” at Kates-Ferri Projects, 561 Grand St. (near Madison Street). I had the chance to talk with Dana about her work on display, “Ebony Reprinted.” 

How did your series “Ebony Reprinted” begin, and what inspired your initial intrigue into this particular research area? 

It started during the summer when I was between years in grad school at SVA. I was having a very lazy summer but wanted to create some sort of fast work in the studio that contrasted against the incredibly tedious work I was making previously. I wanted to make fun of myself and the process of painting. 

I became really interested in Ebony magazine because it was one of the only mass-produced publications I could think of that had a lot of Black women in it. I wanted to reflect back on my work and bring more Black people into art. I also love that Ebony is for everyone — it’s a family magazine that focuses on an ideal version of the Black family. 

How many copies of Ebony Magazine do you own, and how did you source the issues that you use in your making? 

I have maybe 30 magazines; I don’t really keep track. But I get them off of eBay mostly. 

Is there a specific time period that your series focuses on? What is the historical span of your source material? 

Yes. The 1950s to 1970s. Any older than that, and the magazines disintegrate. The historical span of my source material shows an interesting transition in print, from including ads for skin lightening cream to making ads about how Black is beautiful and showing women with afros. 

Can you explain the process behind each of your paintings, from start to finish? 

I put down an image from the magazine and place a piece of flexible clear plastic on it. I then paint the image and place the painted piece of plastic onto the wooden panel, making a monoprint. It’s as though I am inking a stamp. 

Does each image you choose to work with hold any personal or sentimental value? What makes you want to interact with specific pages in the magazine? 

Each image shows a version of life that I can relate to. They are not images from my life, but they are familiar. And through reproducing them in this way, I feel like I understand them more, and I start to understand life more. 

What work has achieved the best effect or finish out of the series? What piece would you mind never selling? 

I’m never selling “With a Little Help from Fashion Fair Cosmetics” (2020, below) because it was the first time I figured out that I could scale up, and I was really onto something interesting. It has also been featured in so many articles, and it feels special.
Conceptually speaking, does your process aim to rewrite, reclaim or renavigate the use, purpose or exoticization of Black or African American people/models in editorials? What can a viewer learn from your series? 

I’m giving myself the ability to reproduce images that I’m reflected in on my own terms. I’m looking in at myself and Black people and recognizing our humanity, dimension, and flaws. I am taking the time to love all of us. 

What other painters, writers, performers or entertainers do you feel most aligned with artistically? 

I love my friends’ work, especially Joselia Rebekah Hughes, Carlos Rosales-Silva, Alison Kuo, Destiny Belgrave, Stina Puotinen and Jia Sung. I love all of the work for their colors and humor. In the way they put their work together, an intense generosity and care to others carry through. I think this is really special and something I’m always working towards. 

Do you explore other mediums besides acrylic paint? 

Yes, I’ve been working with fabric a lot. Most recently, I have been using found-fabrics to make quilt-like works that I plan to stretch. I also make silk paintings, some of which were recently on display at the Wassaic Project, and I will soon have a different series at Fuller Rosen Gallery in Portland in a few weeks. I also make watercolor/ gouache paintings, collages, and do some leatherworking. 

How did you get involved with Kates-Ferri Projects, and do you feel as though your practice has expanded or become different in any way since this relationship began? 

Haha. I met Natalie Kates at the Untitled art fair in 2019. I had recently graduated, and I had worked in the SVA booth. Natalie loved my work, bought a piece and the rest was history. It truly spoke volumes that she was willing to invest in me that way. She asked me to be the first artist in residence and, of course, I said yes. My practice has grown, yes. I feel more confident about doing what feels right and making mistakes. 

What’s in store for your studio practice in the future? Any shows in the pipeline? 

So many shows! BAITBALL — a group show at Palazzo San Giuseppe in Italy. One at 92nd Street YMCA in New York — a two-person show with Maya Varadaraj through the gallery, Medium Tings. There are three solo shows: one at A.I.R Gallery, one at Haul Gallery, both in Brooklyn, and then one at Fuller Rosen Gallery in Portland, Ore. 

What co-exhibitors from “Homecoming: Artist Alumni Exhibition” excite you the most, either with their work or overall studio approach? 

I love Eric Manuel Santoscoy Mckillip’s work, especially the way it references architecture and its colors and stucco textures. It feels like you’re getting these special memories — maybe they are daydreams. 

I also grew up in Florida, so that texture is so special to me because most houses had stucco. For me, it’s literally the texture of home. I also love Ryan Brown’s sand-filled dogs, and those are works that I’d want to pick up and hug forever.
Kates-Ferri Projects is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. “Homecoming: Artist Alumni Exhibition” is on display through April 2.

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com

Friday, March 18, 2022

Gallery Watch: Emily Oliveira at Geary on the Bowery

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos courtesy of Geary 

Captivated by the Brooklyn-based Emily Oliveira’s bold and saturated exhibition, I was lucky enough to speak to Geary’s gallery director Poppy DeltaDawn about “Red Velvet, Orange Crush.” The show in the gallery at 208 Bowery is packed with color, varying mediums and an innumerable amount of fascinating visualizations. 

In an attempt to understand more about the artist’s process and broader practice, I reached out to Emily to ask about their research, studio time and exciting plans for the future.

As soon as you walk into Geary’s building, a painted orange and yellow, to blue and purple gradient covers the walls from floor to ceiling. Can you explain the intention behind transforming the gallery so boldly, and speak to how it affects the position of each of your works?

I wanted to give the viewer the feeling of standing on the precipice of something, possibly gazing at a light or a portal opening up onto another world. The colors in the gradient are also ones that are found together at sunset or sunrise, when our pupils are dilated and our eyes are starved for light, which heightens that sensory experience of color, of being at the threshold of something shifting and changing as you look at it. 

One of my favorite things about the way we painted the space is that the gradient is built out of translucent layers of color — your eyes don’t stop at a flat color the way they do on most painted walls. Light passes through the layers of color and increases the feeling that the surfaces you’re looking at are in flux somehow. 

The quilts in your show are all different shapes and sizes, some ovular and some more circular. There is even one that appears more “eyelid” in shape. Is this aspect something you pre-plan in your studio, or is it something that occurs accidentally?

I started to play around with the shape of my quilts last spring, and since then I’ve realized that the impulse toward a curved or oblong shape has to do with making the viewer aware of the earth in space, and the picture plane of the quilt recalling vision more that it recalls an interior window or a framed painting. I tend to plan these shapes in my sketchbook, but I also try to respond to the materials as much as possible in the studio and do not try to make the fabric do things that it doesn’t want to do. I respond to the ways that it wants to pucker or drape. 

Poppy, Geary’s gallery director, mentioned you have an interest and knowledge in the concept of hydromancy, a ritualistic practice that channels signs and warnings from water. Can you elaborate on how this idea inspired “Listening Bowl with Two Figures” (2021) and “Listening Bowl with Reclining Figure” (2021)?

I started making those small sculptures after a show last year when I wanted a little break from making quilts, and I thought about them immediately as vessels and tools for hydromancy. I think the idea of hydromancy relates to the gradient on the walls, and the water and the portals depicted in the quilts — a vision of something just beyond our reality appearing momentarily in a shifting liquid. 

Speaking to notions of tradition and folklore, one of your quilts depicts the resurrection of an ox, which presumably references Brazil’s famous yearly celebration, Bumba Meu Boi, or perhaps the story behind it. Have you ever participated in its traditions outside of your immediate art-making? 

I am interested in the idea of an ox shared by a community as a collectivist symbol, and its resurrection as a way of talking about the resiliency of leftist movements in Latin America. My connection to Bumba Meu Boi is primarily through heritage, the objects created for use in the performance, and an ongoing interest in the emancipatory potential of participatory performance.  

Was it more human, animal or other that inspired the creation of “I am weak with much giving, I am weak with the desire to give more” (2022)? And, what soft or hard sculpture artists do you gravitate toward in your research?

I’m very influenced by practical effects (puppetry, miniatures, animatronics) in science fiction and horror movies from the 1970s-90s, and particularly that their general disappearance from film has nothing to do with obsolescence and everything to do with labor (workers in CGI are not unionized but fabricators and designers of practical effects are). 

The film influences on this particular sculpture are “Species,” “Alien” and “Jumanji,” with the horror of the first two based in the monstrous feminine, and the last one the colonial trope of the “hungry jungle” — two concepts pretty near and dear to my practice. 

So, as a roundabout way of answering your question, I’m interested in taking the horror associated from the blurring of boundaries between the “human, animal, or other” and turning it inside out, and hopefully into something tantalizing, erotic and post-human. 

The writer for your catalog, Kyle Dacuyan, claims that visual mythologies, ecological considerations and the cosmos are all areas that “Red Velvet, Orange Crush” explore. They also poetically write that the work rides on reverie. Do you feel as though all of your work deals with sentiments that Dacuyan describes? And, will you adopt this vernacular moving forward with your artistic practice?

I’ve been working with interlocking mythological and science fiction narratives in my work for several years now, and the work is invariably informed by present ecological collapse. The cosmos comes into play in a way that relates to your question about the shape of the textiles — trying to call attention to our own subjectivity and that we are caught between two parentheses: a living earth and an infinite cosmos. 

You’ve used processes such as hand-dying, sewing, stitching and cyanotype. You have also used silks, velvets, linens and sequins, to name a few of your materials. While making the work for the show, what process or materials did you struggle with the most, and how long — roughly — did “Red Velvet, Orange Crush” take until it was ready to hang as a show?

All of the work for the show came together in a little less than a year. I think I continue to struggle the most with time and the time-consuming process of appliqué and quilting. Hand dyeing is a fast and loose process that requires a lot of preparation and a lot of steps, but I really enjoy all of the different processes that my studio practice allows me to engage in. I think if I was only doing one process every day I would not feel as excited to go to the studio. 

Is there anything extremely important to know before a viewer sees your work for the first time in person?

I think other than knowing that the works in the show are all handmade textiles (with the exception of the two small paper pulp sculptures on the mantle), I ideally would want the viewer to have an unmediated sensory experience of the work! I also think the work and the painting on the wall are particularly beautiful in the daytime, with sunlight coming in from the windows. 

What do you hope to focus on after you have finished your studies? What do you have in store exhibition/show wise? 

After I graduate in 2023, I’m going to be in Rome for a year at the British School at Rome, which I’m really thankful and excited for. Right now I have a mural that’s at the Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park until early May, and in the fall, I’m going to have another solo exhibition at LaMama Galleria that’s opening in September 2022. 

I’ll also have my thesis exhibition sometime next year, both in New Haven and at a space in New York. I’m excited to continue exploring textiles and expanding my practice. I also want to continue exploring videos and performances that have been set aside for a while since I’ve been in school. 
Geary is at 208 Bowery near Rivington Street. “Red Velvet, Orange Crush” is up through April 8. The gallery is open Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ... and on Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment. 

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Gallery Watch: Robert Zehnder at Rachel Uffner

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos courtesy of Rachel Uffner Gallery

I was fortunate enough to interview Robert Zehnder about his alluring and obscure series of paintings in “Buried and Deep,” a two-person exhibition in Rachel Uffner’s upstairs gallery (170 Suffolk St.), which closes on Saturday. The show also features new paintings and sculptures by Erica Mao. 

We discussed Zehnder’s relationship to Erica’s work, the conceptual framework behind his pieces and his wide-spanning artistic influence.
The nature of your landscapes invites a sense of infiniteness, be it only restricted by the size of your canvas. Are you painting crops of larger scenic scapes?

I hope that sense of infiniteness is registered by the viewer. To answer your question, yes. They aren’t specific landscapes that I have come across, in which I then crop a specific view, but rather what I can fit within the dimensions I am using. 

For example, if I scaled the dimensions of the canvas, I wouldn’t necessarily scale the forms in the painting, and it would just be a larger or smaller window. This is important to me because a lot of my work is about what we aren’t privy to. Allowing for questions such as “what is over the hills?” or “what is to the right or left of our vantage point?”...  I see my landscapes as blankets that are ever-expanding and boundless.

Although your work is devoid of any wildlife or humanity, are your landscapes a result of civic extinction or an invitation to a promising and untouched new Utopia?

There isn’t a narrative that I am trying to imbue in the work. I wouldn’t say that these landscapes are a result of civic extinction. Still, there is a tonality of civic insecurity and the fear and anxiety of what lies ahead in these certain conditions of our contemporary times. This idea of Utopia comes up a lot, and these works actually try to reject that. 

Depicting a landscape void of humanity can imply the reversal or result of an industrialized society and its detriments. The works I am making aim to speak about the post-industrial/ digital/ internet world and our psychological relationship to and within it. These could be before or after the Anthropocene, but they are not. They are metaphorical spaces that depict our view of something familiar in concept but unfamiliar in tone and composition. I believe these feelings are echoed in the many new interfaces we navigate today. 

Regionalist painters like Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood lend a notable influence to your work, yet some of the organic curvatures in your paintings remind me of Renaissance’s Bosch and your palette of Rococo’s Fragonard. Do painters from other periods of art history inform your practice?

The American regionalist painters lend a lot of influence to my work. Though, they are not my only inspiration. The works of Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton were an entry point to the landscape paintings. I looked to them mostly for their formal attributes. Though, the context of their works and why they were making them do apply to my conceptual inspirations as well. These artists were producing imagery during the post-industrial revolution, capturing the turbulence of the early 20th century. The visual perspectives are skewed and the mundane American life depicted is electrified with unease.
 
Bosch and Bruegel are also great inspirations to me. What I see in their works is that there is no visual hierarchy. Like many of their contemporaries, a centralized figure typically dominates the composition, creating an imbalance of focus.

On the other hand, Bosch and Bruegel depict society, nature, and the mythical as one naturalistic force that has no bounds or order. That is an operation I employ in my work.
 
Fragonard’s palette is beautiful. I was recently looking at Progress of Love (1771-2) at the Frick. Such a fantastic series of works, yet, I do not have any intentional relation to Roccoco at the moment.

Could you break down your process in creating, say, Desk Shaped Stone (2022, above)?

Desk Shaped Stone most likely started with me drawing a few of the circular trees. From there, I would draw in hills and lines, leave some places blank and then paint from the top down, starting with the sky. I typically have an idea of the palette, but a lot is done or decided on the canvas. It is a lot of moving color and removing paint with a rag to then reapply. The act of making these works is primarily expressionistic. 
 
This work specifically is about Bellini’s Agony in the Garden (1459-65). They say that the stone Jesus is leaning before and praying upon is shaped like a desk or an alter. That stone is depicted at the bottom of the canvas, and I also see it as two knees in a robe.

Does your work toy with allegorical, biblical or phantasmagorical themes?
 
Yes. My works want to talk about the power of allegory in painting, but there aren’t any allegories in the work. Though, that may be up to the viewer’s discretion. I became fascinated with the landscapes in early renaissance paintings, which typically lay behind the figure or the symbol. These landscapes do not intend to be allegorical.

I am interested in what that implication of expanse meant back then. At the time, most people who would view these artworks had no understanding of when and where the pastoral began or ended. This feeling of boundlessness had a very different meaning to its viewers of the time. Today, we understand all-natural land to have had some sort of eyes on it or to have been documented or known to one degree or another. I wonder how we understand a ‘worldly boundlessness’ in the age of now. 

I look at religious paintings through an ontological lens. I am excited about how they operated during their time of creation and how they function today. Being a visual artist, there is a lot to investigate and learn from biblical art and architecture. For example, Desk Shaped Stone may be inspired by a religious artwork, but there aren’t any images or symbols that signify anything from the bible. 

For me, the phantasmagoric comes to mind when thinking about any high-fidelity artifice we engage with. Whether or not my works are phantasmagoric is up to the viewer. They do, however, want to talk about feelings of being in an altered state - ones that are not necessarily drug-induced, but rather those that are so believable yet, untrustworthy.  

Of your co-exhibitor’s work, what paintings by Erica Mao are most conceptually in line with your body of work? Do they host complementary or contrasting relationships?

A Shadow Following (2022), by Erica Mao, is a work that I keep returning to and spend a lot of time with. It has a great palette and composition, and I believe its title and theme relate to my work conceptually. Erica and I had conversations leading up to the show in which we spoke about the uncanny and how specific regions are fruitful for fiction. This work definitely achieves those similarities. 

Erica’s ceramics I see to be very complementary to the paintings I have in the show. There is a great relationship between the objecthood of the ceramics and the pictorial qualities of the paintings. They are exhibited on low-lying circular pedestals we designed together. The pedestals are made of slatted wood and are finished with a very dark stain. They create a great weight in the center of the show, like two mirrored wells, and the ceramics are our memories or visions of hidden sheds and geological formations we may or may not have come in contact with within our conscious reality. 

The paintings in the show, by both Erica and I, operate in their own individual way, allowing the viewer a murky unforgiving view of landscapes that may offer threat or salvation. To return to the work A Shadow Following, we don’t know if the shadow is a friend or foe.

What makes you gravitate toward the Hudson River School art movement? Does it hold any personal significance?

What interests me about the Hudson River School is how those artworks operated within their time. Once again, I am viewing these artworks ontologically. They utilized idealist naturalism to depict the untouched regions of the Americas, which coincided with the development of American tourism. The artworks were allegories themselves. The landscapes were soaked in the light of God. This goes back to what I was saying about the high-fidelity artifice. 

Hudson River School painter’s aptitude for realism allowed for viewers to have entirely immersive experiences with these artworks, flooding their sensorium with the promise of prosperity and the idea that God had given them boundless amounts of resources and freedom. My work wants to look at that flooding but in our contemporary time. There isn’t that same nationalistic and spiritual whole that the viewer is intended to put faith in, but rather an individual pursuit through a newly interconnected world. 

Are your landscapes melting or static?

They are melting rather than static. But I wouldn’t use melting because that alludes to a singular direction of movement. I would describe them as being in a constant state of change. Different moments of perspective arrive and disappear in vignettes and blend with one another while also negating one another. The painting is a still image of this. 

Atmospherically speaking, are your landscapes earthly or other-worldly? Perhaps, they are a mix of both?

I would say Earthly. They are very much our local environments. If these local environments appear to be altered, that distortion is coming from a place within rather than a place outside. 
 
Rachel Uffner is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 170 Suffolk St. between Houston and Stanton. The show ends on Saturday. 

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Gallery Watch: 'Beetlejuice' by Faith Icecold at Housing

Interview by Clare Gemima 
Photos courtesy of Faith Icecold 

Faith Icecold is a craftsperson from planet Earth. In 2018, Faith Icecold was a Studio Immersion Project (SIP) Fellowship recipient at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop

I interviewed Icecold about their solo show “Beetlejuice,” currently running at Housing, 191 Henry St. on the Lower East Side, until Feb. 25. We discussed ceramics, Icecold’s inspirational figures, and some systemic issues that run through art’s history. 

How would you describe your artistic practice? 

My practice is an attempt to perform art therapy on myself, to create some version of balance of the mind and soul under global anti-Blackness. Also, my practice is a reactionary response to artworks that I strongly dislike or find offensive for various reasons. 

So basically, my practice is about making diss tracks to help myself feel better under global anti-Blackness. I believe most artists want people to forget that all new art movements started as diss tracks like “x is fucking terrible, let me show ’em how it should be done…” 

I also hold onto the one strict rubric: if the artwork isn’t a fraction as good as Brandy’s album Full Moon, then was it really hitting? I make pretty things for myself, and I am happy when other people enjoy the pretty things I create as well. 

At the beginning of 2021, I wasn’t sure if I would survive to see 2022 and thought to myself, “Nah, I need to do ceramics somehow before I die.” So, I said “fuck it” and sent Woody De Othello a cold email to ask him if I could come to California to work at his studio, to have kiln access and to work alongside a Black artist I respect. (Othello and Alake Shilling changed the course of ceramics forever — quote me on that). He said yes, so I ended up living in the Bay Area for the first part of 2021. 

That is literally the only way I could’ve made ceramics at that point in the pandemic. I am forever grateful to Woody for extending a gesture that all degree artists should be able to make toward non-degree Black artists — helping them have access to afford to make art. Two works from my time in Oakland are in “Beetlejuice.”

What have you learned about ceramics in the process of crafting “Beetlejuice”? 

Working on “Beetlejuice” was an adventure, to say the least. What I fully grasped from making this exhibition is the idea that ceramic art continues to be divorced from its non-degree Black origins. Nine out of 10 Black people in Amerika cannot afford to even take a one-day “try-out” ceramics course. “Beetlejuice” would have been mostly ceramic works, but I did not have my own kiln after working with Woody,  so I had to wait to take a community-studio course, which was very expensive.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2021 that I had access to a kiln to make my clay works. In community-studio courses, I am usually the only Black person. Having very few Black peers in a mostly white studio, plus being in a large art studio during that stage of the pandemic… plus finding time to have open studio time while working full time, plus only having a shared shelf in the kiln for making works made it extremely difficult to finish. 

Due to my lack of kiln access and seeing a Rosie Lee Tompkins show while in California, I was pushed toward fiber arts where yes, it would be amazing to have my own studio, but a lot of fiber art can be made “at home.” 

Once I have my own kiln, I will be able to create more freely and more frequently. Working with clay is one of the only things I do not hate in this hellish world. I wish that all Black people had access to ceramics — not just well-off people who can afford to take classes or those who can afford to have and run their own kiln.
Could you explain the soft/hard practice to someone unfamiliar with this terminology? 

Soft/hard references materiality. It is a system of relational aesthetics. Soft materials like light, air, fiber or water interact with hard materials like stone, steel, glazed ceramic or glass within the same piece to create a version of harmony. 

Getting into Barbara Chase-Riboud’s rope and metal works made me realize that the best sculptures have soft materials that are activated through close conversations with hard materials. I believe there is a “soft” and “hard” version to all materiality if the material is guided in a way. But then there are materials that are in-between, like plasma, which is not fully hard nor fully soft. 

Mixing up molecules through materiality establishes a dynamic of musicality within art, like when one instrument plays a sustained note while another instrument is playing a series of moving notes all at the same time. Soft materials determine hardness, and hard materials determine softness — they help define each other. For me, blending a variety of textures introduces depth when it comes to sculpture. 

To quote Beetlejuice’s checklist, “All of the craftwork in this show exists without a personal studio, a BFA, or an MFA.” In response to this, I would like to ask: Where has this work been made? 

All of the craft-driven objects in “Beetlejuice” were made in my bedroom or in shared community-studio spaces. The art world likes to downplay that poor people cannot afford to pay rent on a place to live AND pay rent on an art studio at the same time (especially during the pandemic). 

What are your thoughts regarding “institutionalized” art learning? 

I can go on for days about art of the academy and its mountains of anti-Blackness and other forms of exploitation, but what I will say is that all degree art (Black AND non-Black) is just watered down non-degree Black art. All of it. 

I did not pursue a BFA because I did not even think that was an option as a Black person. And I cannot afford to get a BFA even now unless it is a full ride, which is a rarity for most Black people. Almost all degree artists are not poor, and the academy wants to flatten that fact. Like, even if I did get a full ride, I wouldn’t be able to afford supplies to make work as often as fellow students.

Is there a reason you have chosen not to pursue a university qualification in art-making, and if so, why? 

It is not about choice. Black people do not have autonomy under global anti-Blackness, and “alternative options” only present themselves once a Black person has enabled and/or enacted “enough” anti-Blackness. I center non-degree Black art because we are the most marginalized in the art world but get stolen from the most. It’s all systemic. Almost all non-degree Black artists do not get material support they need until they are old, about to die or dead already. There are very few exceptions, but they are usually non-degree Black people that render Black people for non-Black consumption or they render things like a Black police person or a protest. 

What defines your works as “remixes”? 

The only “original” art pieces are the first cave paintings and the first craft objects ever made, all of which were made by Black people. So, I am fully aware that nothing I make and nothing anyone else makes in 2022 is “original.” Someone else has done it before all of us, so the best approach is to fully identify who came before me and what movements came before me to figure out how to add to the source instead of doing the exact thing someone else has already done. 

The language of remixes is born from Black culture, and most Black people already understand that concept — like how Black people cover the same track, but each cover is not the same, or how Black people will create remixes of pre-existing tracks and build directly from the source. All good art is a direct “response” to an “original call.” All artists copy but not all artists (spell)cast and transform. 

How long did it take you to create this body of work and was there any technique in the process that you had no prior experience with? 

One day in May, toward the end of my shift (where I stand for most of the day), the idea for the mini quilts and most of the works for the show came to mind. Art-making sometimes feels like you are reaching into a space with no lights, searching for something you need but cannot describe, and then suddenly, you’ll pull something from the ether/the void to build upon.

For “Beetlejuice,” I learned glass fusing, learned to quilt, learned to make jewelry and simple beading, learned to wet felt, learned to sew, learned how to flock materials, and learned how to apply ceramic decals. I wanted “Beetlejuice” to be an ode to non-degree Black craftspeople that came before me, so my idea was to showcase Black craft in various interconnected craft-based skill-sets. 

What piece in the show challenges you the most? 

The wet felt piece was probably the “most challenging” only because I learned how to do it by watching a YouTube video and wasn’t sure if I was “doing it right” the whole time, but it worked out. Also, the ceramic tile piece — only because I made each tile for the piece myself before adding the decals and learned to do the decals by watching a YouTube video too. 

What piece in the show do you resonate with the most or are the proudest? 

I am proud of the entire show, like I really did a solo show in NY while working full time during multiple waves of this pandemic. All without rendering Black bodies for non-Black consumption, or using the poor Black experience as materiality, or using Black suffering as materiality, or using my family as materiality! 

I look at some of the pieces now, and I am honestly shocked that I finished all of this new work within a year, and most of it involved new processes to me. I hope non-degree Black artists who came before me are proud of my work in “Beetlejuice” because non-degree Black art determines the flow of all art movements globally. 

We are the past, present and future of art and craft. I plan on “retiring” from art criticism and center my focus on making art and trying to stay alive/afloat under global anti-Blackness.


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Housing is open Wednesday-Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at 191 Henry St. between Jefferson and Clinton.

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Gallery Watch: 'Falling Through Flatland' by Chris Hood at Lyles & King

 
Text by Clare Gemima
Images by Charles Benton (please see below for descriptions)

“Falling Through Flatland” by Chris Hood
Lyles & King, 21 Catherine St.

Lyles & King showcases 12 explosively colorful paintings in its current solo show, “Falling Through Flatland.” The gallery kindly facilitated an interview with myself and artist Chris Hood, who answered a series of questions relating to his unique process, intentions for the show and overall painting practice. 

How long did it take you to create the body of work exhibited in Falling through Flatland?

Though I work consistently most every day, the exhibitions tend to come together in moments of intense focus and creation. This body of work took around 5-6 months of painting time to create. It is both a culmination and lasering-in on efforts that span a few years.

Can you describe what your medium is and how you use it?

I use alkyd paint, which is not very common and quite difficult to work with. It is resin-based and therefore has a very organic and distinct materiality. Thick like honey in its natural state, but possible to thin and stain like watercolor. I came to this medium through my process of painting, which involves soaking through the fabric of the canvas with paint, as opposed to having it sit on the surface. 

Can you elaborate on your painting process? Is it specific to Falling through Flatland or signature to your overall practice? 

I build up layers of paint that push through the canvas from the back. It is a process that is unique but typical of all my work. The various strokes and washes prevent or collide with successive layers of paint enmeshing into the weft and producing a surface that appears literally from within the canvas. It can visually invoke sensations of memory and challenge what is in front and what is behind. It is a method that extends the paint and imagery into territories they would normally not tend to.

Of the show, what piece challenges you the most and why? 

I hope to thread the viewer through variation and surprise within each piece and amongst the exhibition as a whole. This can be challenging enough for a viewer wanting a quick read. But one painting, in particular, All Futures (2021), is both visually distinct and acts as a kind of protagonist in the show at large. It presents a scrambled figure that seems to be either emerging or fading into a darkened space. Punctuated by flashes of light and black holes, the figure meets the viewer in between coming and going, like turning a corner on the street and running into someone you used to know.

Of the show, what piece do you feel most accomplished or satisfied in and why?

I am most satisfied with the paintings that are formally inventive and challenging. Some works cue your next steps, and you can see pathways open up. That is exciting.

Collecting imagery is clearly part of your process. How do you source it?

A landscape, for instance, might be depicted in three ways: sourced from a personal photograph, an appropriated digital landscape from a video game, and from a drawing or topographical rendering. I am interested in the vernacular narratives that come from these types of spaces, rather than the specific image itself, and aim to bring the subtle feelings of those spaces into the meaning of the work. There is often an art historical or traditional theme that I extend into contemporary and personal contexts. Everything is available.

At the opening, you spoke about how you operate mostly in an analog manner. If that is the case, how are you feeling about fine arts ascent into virtual spaces that are almost entirely hands-off?

Good art is transformative beyond the tools used to make it and I am mostly skeptical of virtual art for its reliance on staying within its algorithms. The hands-off nature of creating in virtual spaces eliminates most of the physical facilities for using a tool or rather misusing it (the once-radical developments in painting from brush to scraping, to pouring, to roller, to screenprint, etc.), and so the tool stays bound in its intention.  

What is worse is the insistence of virtual art maintaining its ‘portrayal’ of art-ness. It is always the virtual thing as painting or as sculpture without speaking much to either direction. As always, the issue at hand is the soul.

You also mentioned to me at the opening of Falling Through Flatland that you were not a “conceptual painter.” What does that mean to you?

I was clarifying the importance of the subjective and individual experience. Although there are concepts that feed the work, how the painting exists as material in space is also important. Surprise and risk are crucial.

What are your upcoming plans for these paintings? Any shows on the horizon?

I plan to continue expanding this body of work for an upcoming Los Angeles art fair and Tokyo-based group show. I am also organizing several shows in Europe, which will take place later in the year. 

Falling through Flatland will be on view at Lyles & King’s Catherine Street location through Feb. 5. Hours: Tuesday — Saturday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Top photo: Phantom Limb, 2021
Alkyd on canvas 
Image Credit: Charles Benton

Below: Hypnotic Portrait 1, 2021
Alkyd on canvas 
Image Credit: Charles Benton

All Futures, 2021
Alkyd on canvas 
Image Credit: Charles Benton

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist and arts writer from New Zealand, now based in the East Village of New York. You can find her work here: claregemima.com