PATRON Journal The PATRON Team would like to welcome you to the Journal, a digital workspace where we expose and extend the gallery experience through a variety of media. The Journal will give artists, and visitors, a platform to share the elements of inspiration and process that contribute to the exhibitions here at PATRON. While we reserve the Press section of our website for more traditional journalistic coverage of our artists and exhibitions, the Journal hopes to achieve a more personal level of contact to the people, places, culture and ideas that fuel our programming. Similar to the way in which these influences possess a high level of fluidity, we feel that with your help the Journal will prove equally malleable in it’s construction and outreach. In order to achieve this level of flexibility we will forego any strict guidelines, but will instead make a high priority of increasing the scope and readership typically associated with the contemporary art experience. For us to advance the understanding of our artists and our influences, we will look to establish a multimedia platform that will include photo essays, video interviews, studio visits as well as written responses. Through a casual approach to content, and a willingness to evolve the program, we look forward to seeing personal and critical connections made manifest through these future entries. Welcome to the Journal, PATRON
Too Many Degrees is a safe space that developed from candid conversations about Contemporary Art and Life as lived by contemporary intellectuals and creatives Carris Adams, Jared Richardson, Esau McGhee, and those whom they are in contact with and admire. Although Contemporary Art and all its forms of expression are the main focus, nothing is off limits. No Rupologies. TMD is an independent podcast, published bi-weekly and available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Pocket Cast and Stitcher.
Move over, New York and L.A.: Chicago’s art scene has never been more vibrant, with new galleries popping up and homegrown artists exhibiting and winning awards all over the world. If you’re looking for an art fix, Chicago-style, here are 10 names to look out for. (And, while the art world in general remains male-dominated, women are in the majority on our list!) Elijah Burgher Elijah Burgher was selected for the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 2014. His frenetic, abstract, colored-pencil drawings and acrylic paintings on canvas drop cloths explore the areas where daily life meets fantasy. He creates his own symbols by combining various letters, and in doing so, his work references magic and the occult. Tony Fitzpatrick Tony Fitzpatrick — who has worked in a laundry list of media, from printmaking to painting — is one of Chicago’s best-known artists, with several celebrities numbered among the collectors of his work. A former tattoo artist and semi-professional boxer (could this guy be more fascinating?), his work, often inspired by Chicago street life, recalls graphic tattoos, folk art and comics. LaToya Ruby Frazier LaToya Ruby Frazier is definitely an artist to watch right now: In 2015, she was a recipient of the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellows grant ($625,000 over the course of five years). With her documentary photography, she’s examines family, place and race, with a special focus on her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania — a once-thriving steel town that’s now decaying in the post-industrial era. Find her TED Talk here. Theaster Gates Theaster Gates is a name that should be on your radar: Though his training is in ceramics, he’s well known for his social activism — working to revitalize underserved, crumbling urban neighborhoods. He’s also the director of the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life program that seeks to unite community activists, artists, local residents, U of C staff and students in a dialogue and exchanges about the arts. Most recently, Gates bought an abandoned, 1920s bank on Chicago’s South Side for $1 and transformed it into a gorgeous arts center, the Stony Island Arts Bank, which he said in a press release will be “a repository for African American culture and history” and “a laboratory for the next generation of black artists.” Myra Greene Myra Greene’s work, which looks at the relationship between photography and race, among other themes, has been exhibited widely throughout the country. In her latest series, she deconstructs African textiles and then photographs the results, in hopes of better understanding her heritage. Magalie Guerin Magalie Guerin’s abstract oil paintings are colorful and playful, featuring various wonky shapes; they’re the type of paintings we could happily look at for hours, puzzling over their meaning. In March, she’ll have a solo show at Sector 2337 in Logan Square, and will release her book, “Notes On,” from The Green Lantern Press. Mika Horibuchi Mika Horibuchi is a painter who says her work explores human perception, how we see, and real versus fake. She co-founded and co-directs 4th Ward Project Space, an artist-run gallery in Hyde Park. Samuel Levi Jones Samuel Levi Jones’ abstract, mixed-media pieces are often made by desecrating historical materials and then reinventing them in new works, to explore exclusion, equality and power struggles. He received the 2014 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize from the Studio Museum in Harlem. Laura Letinsky Laura Letinsky is well known for her still-life photographs depicting beautiful tablescapes left in a state of messiness and imperfection. In recent years, she’s expanded her work to include porcelain dinnerware and cashmere and chiffon scarves for purchase here. She’s curated a photography exhibition, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” on display at the Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts through March 13 and features work from 10 international contemporary artists. Audrey Niffenegger You might know this Evanston native as the uber-best-selling author of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Her Fearful Symmetry.” But what you might not know is that Audrey Niffenegger has exhibited her artist’s books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics in Chicago and beyond since 1987. (Her artist’s books have also been commercially published: “The Adventuress,” “The Three Incestuous Sisters,” “The Night Bookmobile” and “Raven Girl.”) Her work is imaginative, quirky and even a bit spooky.
Kadar Brock on Sunday-S Kadar Brock makes abstract paintings and works on paper that explore history, personal psychology, but mostly materials and surface. He takes his old, bright, “failed” paintings and hides them beneath layers and layers of paint, only to abuse them and sand them with a belt sander until the old shape of the former painting dictates a new and beautiful surface. Statement: My work is generated by interrelated processes that manifest in three concurrent series of paintings and a series of sculptures. All of these bodies of work begin with paintings on canvas that I produce instinctively, in a ‘free space’ made possible by the paintings’ inevitable erasure (see magicalitems.tumblr.com). They embody, and are created with, a Romantic belief in gesture and authorship. From these ‘seed paintings’ I create my sanded paintings (deredem…) through a labor-intensive process of first scraping, and then sanding down all the painted marks. Next, numerous layers of industrial strength primer and spray paint are added then repeatedly sanded, producing a subtle, worn color-field. This scraping and sanding, even as it erases the original marks, creates new ones (holes, tears, gouges), and maps the painting’s history of production with the resulting topography. The material produced through this scraping and sanding generates the paint chips that produce another body of paintings (rdns…), and the dust that comprises yet another (residuum…). In my sculpture series mystic reagents…, human scaled slabs of cast hydrocal and aqua resin serve as mutated paintings —made of the same materials as the other works, but re-contextualized and conglomerated. This ecosystem of works physically pressures painting as both object and record, and deconstructs Romanticism’s belief that an artist’s intentions automatically translate through their actions. These processes undo gesture with ritual and, hopefully, result in works that offer repose and respite in this increasingly hyper-saturated era. My process has been shifting slightly, is more evident in the studio pics. That change is – instead of layering spray paint after sanding/priming each layer, I’ve gone ahead and just started making complete oil paintings between layers. So, I make a painting. Undo it with a razor blade. Prime it. Sand it. Make another painting on top of it. Repeat until… It leads to a slower process, but also reaffirms the work’s general goal of pushing on concepts and relationships to gesture, while allowing for more of what the process is to be evident in the final work. The newer sanded piece in this group really evinces that, with some of the gestures still being visible, ghosts of a mark almost.
Teton Artlab visiting artist tweaks photography materials to create futuristic visions. JACKSON HOLE, WY – Brittany Nelson once likened herself to a tiny Bart Simpson with a chemistry set. The Montana native arrives July 1 for her two-week residency at Teton Artlab. A nontraditional photographer, her works investigate photographic materials themselves. She uses 19th century chemical processes like mordançage and tintype to create luscious, eerie images that seem to spill from the surface. “My research deals with a lot of concepts from science fiction, so I’m very interested in researching and visiting places that involve geologic phenomena,” Nelson told The Planet. Yellowstone is a hotpot of inspiration for Nelson and a key reason she is excited about the Artlab residency. “I’m specifically coming to the Teton Artlab to revisit Yellowstone,” she said. Nelson teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She says she is drawn to locations that feel uncanny or other worldly and do not match our day-to-day experience or expectations. “In the mordançage work, I contextualize these abstractions as a type of landscape,” she said. Mordançage is a negative-reversal process in which a piece of gelatin-silver paper is submerged in a bath of copper chloride, glacial acetic acid, and hydrogen peroxide. The chemicals dissolve the emulsion on the paper and loosen the silver so the surface becomes soft and pliable. From there, Nelson manipulates the material. “I approach this work as a scientist, it is a process of cataloguing variables and recording results,” she said. “It is important that I have a tight set of restrictions when devising the experiments. Everything is self-reflexive; all the chemistry and materials used are based in the history of photography.” Photography can be so much about a moment in time, but often that moment is tied to a subject, explained Travis Walker, Teton Artlab’s executive director. “Instead of a traditional subject, Brittany captures the instant a chemical reaction takes place, which opens up an exciting dialogue about the role of science and alchemy in the arts.” Nelson earned her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, where she also lived for several years. Her accolades include the Fish/Pearce Award for Excellence in Process Based Work from the Print Center in Philadelphia, PA, a Theo Westenberger Foundation Grant, and in 2015 a Creative Capital Grant. “Brittany’s work stood out to us because it was so mysterious and primordial, like watching a galaxy form or a star implode,” Walker said. Nelson says residencies are always “game changers” in her work. “Just by traveling to a different location and using a different space, the variables change dramatically with what I have access to, or how I can work on someone else’s equipment. And because there is a ticking clock with how much time you have to make something, this causes you to problem solve and make decisions in new ways that yield unexpected results,” she said. One constant that travels with her is music. Of late, Nelson has been a Drake fiend, and during her time in Jackson she is bringing her love of Mr. Yolo himself. “I highly recommend the fine people of Jackson avoid the darkroom at this time unless they want to join my all day Drake dance party,” Nelson said. She will be using the darkroom facilities at the Art Association. She says the idea of clean darkroom printing is a radical idea to her at this point in her career. “I want to do some large archival, master prints,” she said. “Which is frankly impossible in my own lab because one: it is set up for very large tintype work, and two: it is so contaminated. The only thing I can’t do in my own space is a clean print at this moment.” More creative visitors at the Artlab Claudio Orso visits the Artlab July 16 to 30. A multi-genre artist, Orso is currently the coordinator for Apollo Outreach Initiative of the Cinema Studies Program at Oberlin College. The Apollo Outreach Initiative is a year-round media literacy outreach program directed at public schools in the Oberlin area. Orso’s areas of interest include large-scale puppets, paper masks, and woodblock prints. “I found in the carving of woodblocks the greatest treasure of challenge and satisfaction because of the oftentimes antagonistic nature of the wood’s grain and density,” Orso explained in his artist’s statement. “The hand printing of the woodblock is also an occasion of wonder and discovery, like when an ink sounds right on the brayer, its color biting into the paper, the circular burnishing motions of the wooden spoon, the joy of peeling off the print.” Chad Stayrook takes up residence at the Artlab August 2 through 31. An interdisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY, Stayrook’s approach is one part Ernest Shackleton and one part performance artist. His website included several videos of installations, experiments, and performances. One video entitled “Cloudmaker” takes the viewer on a journey through “the daily work routine of the man who makes the clouds in our skies.” Stayrook explains: “I play the role of artist, research scientist, and adventurer to document the process of discovery.” Like Nelson, Stayrook is interested in history. In his case, he says he wants to revive the method of historical explorers. “[Their] exploits trended towards romantic, even magical, experiences,” he noted. “I bring them into a contemporary world that is dominated by empirical procedures, where the romance of scientific pursuit has been discouraged.” PJH Caption: Brittany Nelson comes armed with mordançage during he two-week residency at Teton Artlab. Drake darkroom dance parties may or may not be included.
Please click the link above to access the full interview from the podcast Brooklyn-based painter Kadar Brock talks about: His non-association with the cohort of process-based abstractionists, and how though you could compare what he does on the surface as similar, he points out that he doesn’t have time to participate in the market-based machine element of it; the studio building he has a studio in and subleases (at a very low $2/sq. foot avg.) to fellow artist tenants in East Williamsburg, and how, in combination with an affordable apartment nearby – part of the fortune one needs to maintain traction as an artist in NYC – has been vital in facilitating his full-time artist career; how artist Bryan Savitz has been in invaluable friend and connection in jobs throughout the art world; how his career turning point came through participating in a group show that was curated into Ross Bleckner’s studio in Chelsea; how he became a full-time artist, by gradually transitioning out of art handling/preparing and in combination with managing the sublease of his studio building made it financially viable; fond memories from his art trucking days; how he was courted by, and eventually came to do business with, his primary dealer, Vigo Gallery in London, which has been a dream gallery relationship for him; his latest fetish: the effects of social media on people and relationships, and how the market reinforces and regurgitates popularity; his passion for fantasy online games, including Dark Souls, where he met a wild punk dude in Detroit whom he now follows on Twitter; his thoughts on the explosion of abstract painting, which he argues comes down to marketing by the powers that by, whether they’re trying to sell abstraction or figuration as the dominant trend, and is ultimately about people trying to make a profit, and yet Brock admits that his being able to paint full-time is indeed connected to that market rise in abstraction; how his type of artmaking involves a process where the decisions are not always conscious but rather evolve slowly out of the process, as opposed to formulaic processes; and how he manages his studio time, which he keeps on a regular daily schedule, by balancing it out with external activities (openings, dog walking, basketball, etc.); and what he’ll be doing while listening to this (his) episode of the show.
We asked Amanda Coulson, director of VOLTA NY, about some of the highlights of this year’s fair, taking place from March 2—6 at Pier 90. “Whenever I’m asked to pick my top galleries or artists, it’s always very tough—especially for VOLTA NY where we are so engaged with each presentation because of the solo project format—it’s almost like being asked which of my children is my favourite … each has different qualities, but here are a few that I think personify the direction in which the fair is headed, with a more diverse representation reflective of the city that hosts us. Samsøñ (Boston) — Camilo Alvarez first exhibited with us at VOLTA NY’s debut in 2008, and he has brought a unique and critically exacting degree of creativity to nearly every NY fair since then (and several Basel editions as well), from Nicole Cherubini to Steve Locke to Lisa Sigal. I routinely refer to longtime VOLTA exhibitors as “family” and Camilo (and, by extension, Samsøñ) is certainly part of the family. For NY 2016, he will show a reconfigured installation of Gabriel Martinez’s incredible multimedia project Bayside Revisited, the artist’s elegy and eulogy to gay paradise Fire Island interspersed with ephemera from Philadelphia’s long-running William Way LGBT Community Center. Martinez is also on tap for a Joan Mitchell Foundation residency this year. PATRON (Chicago) — Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar, the co-directors of this newish Chicago space, are the former directors of Kavi Gupta Gallery, one of VOLTA’s co-founding three dealers back in 2005. They bring an unparalleled pedigree of curatorial acumen and directorial precision, and we are thrilled to have them in one of their first art fairs. They will show two series by Chicago-based artist Myra Greene, both of which utilize portraiture to explore the construction of racial identity, including “Character Recognition”, self-portrait closeups created with black-glass ambrotypes, a vintage photographic processes referencing colonialism and ethnographic classification. MoCADA (Brooklyn) — We have a long history of working with not-for-profits at the fair, but this is the first year that we made a concerted effort to have a number of special booths available (“Project Booths”, we’re calling them) for such artist-run or nonprofit spaces with incredibly dynamic and vibrant programming but whose tight budgets may not permit them to go for a “regular” exhibitor booth. So I am especially proud of including MoCADA, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, in this year’s edition. MoCADA do wonderful things from their home-base near Brooklyn Academy of Music, and they are accenting our programming this year with a threefold contribution. Tschabalala Self, a very young but remarkably talented young artist from Harlem, who recently received her MFA from Yale School of Art and is featured in a major group exhibition “A Constellation” at Studio Museum in Harlem, is MoCADA’s solo booth project. But in addition to that, the institution tapped Kameelah Janan Rasheed — another wonderful young talent, born in Palo Alto, CA and based locally — to install her ongoing large-format social commentary print series “HOW TO SUFFER POLITELY (and Other Etiquette)” in the windows connecting VOLTA NY with Pier 92: The Armory Show – Modern. Finally, MoCADA proposed a brilliant entry to this year’s debut Video Wall programming, which involves a selection of video works by VOLTA artists (either booth artists or artists represented by exhibiting galleries) screened on a 30-foot wall at the front of the pier. MoCADA’s entry is “Instructions for a Future” by Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, and her critique of culturally recognizable images and the female body echoes both Tschabalala’s collaged figurative works as well as Kameelah’s text-based takedowns. It’s a strong first showing for MoCADA and we are thrilled to collaborate with them. “Something I Can Feel” — we initiated a Curated Section this year, a set of freestanding, museum-style walls in the heart of the fair under the curatorial direction of a mid-career artist. In this first edition, we scored big-time with Derrick Adams, a fantastic interdisciplinary artist (he exhibits internationally, but his most recent big splash in New York was for Performa 15, with “Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal/SIDESHOW”, a live performance paying tribute to Pablo Fanque, Britain’s first Black circus owner) and a right “man-about-town”. Adams then assembled eight artists under his thematic concept “Something I Can Feel”, as well as a dedicated performance series and panel discussions. This is a remarkable achievement: for one it provides an excellent platform for some emerging or otherwise under-the-radar artists; for another it instills an even deeper degree of critical discourse to what my team and I always endeavor to be a thoughtful and “curated” fair — albeit a commercial one, of course. We always strive to make VOLTA a place for discovery, and going forward this curated section will be an integral part of it: that yes, you can find something nice for yourself here, but it’s not all clean and shiny stuff, and hopefully you’ll learn something — about an artist, about yourself, about the broader world, in the process.” — Amanda Coulson
Brittany Nelson presenting her work at the 2015 Creative Capital Retreat at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center as an awardee in Visual Arts. Brittany Nelson’s bio provides a clue to her process. The young Richmond-based artist’s medium of choice is the tintype, a unique direct-positive exposure revived by hipsters for portrait photography, though Nelson flexes this collodian process with panache and confidence into the purely material realm.
Myra Greene has often used the human body—primarily black and brown ones, often her own—to explore issues of difference, beauty, and memory. In conversations with white friends, she realized that they had very different notions of racial identity than her own; in one pivotal exchange, a friend remarked that he really didn’t think about whiteness at all. “I had never considered this was possible,” says Greene. "My White Friends" was born out of this revelation. The project’s “racial identity portraits” are co-constructions with Greene’s friends that allow them to “respond to the idea of being imaged for their race,” she says. Her goal is thoughtful dialogue about how we describe and think about racial identity: “I want conversations, not categories.” This photo slideshow features a recording of Myra's talk at the reception & book signing for "My White Friends" on April 9, 2014 at the Center for Documentary Studies. Exhibition Dates: Monday, March 10–Saturday, May 17, 2014 Center for Documentary Studies, Juanita Kreps Gallery 1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina
However, drawing is hardly on Nelson’s mind. While her training at Cranbrook has equipped her with a solid background in inter- disciplinary photography, she does not think about nor aim to reference drawing when creating her work. In fact, she is determined to let it remain rooted in the materiality of the photographic medium. Instead of using a camera and film, she extracts her compelling images from the reactive relationships of the materials involved. What fascinates her is the separation of the photo process from the representational image. To Nelson this marks the moment when we are no longer looking through the material to assess the image, but are in fact examining the surface and material characteristics. This motivation reveals curiosity but also entails a particular sense of humor: Nelson not only dismisses but mocks the traditional preciousness inherent in her materials. It is her uninhibited approach to experimentation and freely mixing up her ingredients that provides the ultimate push to her genre’s usual confines. The process involved in Science reflects her interest in creating work that requires the destruction of analog materials. It embraces a chemical combination that reacts violently with the silver in the photo paper. The outcome is staggering. The paper suddenly blisters, the gelatin layer becomes detached and chemicals begin to crystallize. It is a rather rebellious technique considering that this process damages the intended functionality of the paper and its most costly component, silver. Measuring only 8 x 10 inches, these chemically impermanent and textured sheets are visually mesmerizing. They might be toxic but their dimensionality, color and line make for vivid and highly seductive compositions. But Nelson does not stop at this point. She then scans these works to offer yet another form of trans- formation. To her, the scanner is a crucial tool to fixate the visual vocabulary at its optimum state. It also is a catalyst of sorts. By embodying the digital era, it aids in moving the work away from the traditional and somewhat nostalgic dark room reference and brings it into a distinctly contemporary context. The scanned files are printed large to create compositions that are permanent and are able to capture every minute detail of the originals. Here, texture no longer exists in reality but has become a stunning optical illusion. At this stage, Nelson’s work has found its ultimate abstraction, a state achieved through a chain of chemical and digital reactions. Nelson is focused on working within a very constrained set of variables. Until these are fully exhausted, she finds much variety, pertaining to both form and color. It is especially the latter that speaks to us emotionally. This is partially due to the fact that, although determined by the chemical reactions involved, the palette of each work alludes to something rather natural. While any association remains abstract, Nelson does admit that nature marks an important source of inspiration. She heralds from Montana and has spent significant time in Yellowstone National Park, for example. There she has particularly noted a unique palette defined by the park’s geysers and volcanic activity. In addition, Nelson has a keen interest in space and astronomy, collects minerals (which she keeps close on her desk) and owns a variety of aquariums. No inspiration is literal or illustrative, but it is the interplay of artificial and natural phenomena that finds its reflection in Nelson’s work. It is the naturally occur- ring things that look incredibly unnatural that spark her curiosity and they certainly provide her exploration of the photographic medium with a strong sense of depth.
It’s hard to believe that when Patron Gallery opens its doors this fall, it will be among just a handful of commercial art spaces that have opened in Chicago in the past 10 years. While the Windy City is rife with the kind of artist-run and non-profit spaces that have come to define its art scene, the commercial galleries that call the city home are mostly veteran affairs. Yet, in the past few years, the city’s art community has started to receive more attention—something one could attribute to the star power of several Chicago-based artists, including old hats like Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, as well as new residents like Jessica Stockholder and LaToya Ruby Frazier. There is also the skyrocketing interest in the Imagists and the School of the Art Institute more broadly; and, to a certain extent, the city’s new art fair EXPO. This fall, Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar, two former directors of Chicago mainstay Kavi Gupta Gallery, will strike out on their own to open a space geared toward cultivating the city’s next generation of artists. “For a long time, artists left Chicago—they felt there was not enough opportunity here,” says Aguilar. “We are staying and continuing the momentum the city has at the moment. There will be a big focus on artists here in Chicago, and it’s important for us that we’ll be able to have a lot of interaction with them, person to person.” As a 17-year staffer at Kavi Gupta, Fischbach watched the gallery find its footing in Chicago by cultivating local artists. “For a long time, that was our singular focus,” says Fischbach, “and at Patron, I want to get back to that passion.” By and large, Patron plans to focus on young artists. Currently, its roster consists of New York-based artist Kadar Brock and Chicago-based artists Alex Chitty and Daniel G. Baird. The gallery will inaugurate its new space with a group show, “Theory of Forms,” which includes the aforementioned artists, as well as Samuel Levi Jones, Matthew Metzger, Bryan Savitz, Kristen Van Deventer and JPW3. “There will be people in the program that have never worked with a gallery, as well as recognizable names. It’s just about working side by side with the artists in developing a practice that is more encompassing than just the market.” Located a few blocks north of the West Loop, Patron is taking over the space formerly occupied by Shane Campbell Gallery. The area has a history of being home to artist-run spaces and two remain down the street—the Center for Intuitive Art and the feminist gallery, Woman Made. In choosing a name for the space, Fischbach and Aguilar decided against the convention of naming it after themselves. “We are both interested in an old school value system and ‘patron’ embodies everything we want to bring to a young space,” Aguilar said. “It is our way of saying that everyone is allowed to take on that name and come and engage and learn about art and be part of it.”
A Conversation with Liat Yossifor Liliana Rodrigues – I understand that your new work is done in three-days per painting. I am curious about this time constraint you impose on yourself. In the past, fresco painters had to deal with the properties of freshly laid wet plaster and pigments; thus, they were forced to paint quickly. What does it mean for you, as a contemporary painter, to set a time constraint on yourself? Liat Yossifor – I have worked before with one layer of paint while it is still wet and moveable, and the duration of the piece was until the paint starts to dry, which for oil paint is on the fourth day. But in the past two years, I have switched over to large scale, which is when these short sessions began to matter. Now, regardless of the drying properties, I set the clock as a way to structure the process. I work fast, and in continuum—one three-day session to the next—and I feel like I am in a constant state of flux, in liquid, until the layer starts to oxidize and then I step out and go for the next run with the next painting. If the painting begins to make sense at the end of the first day, it is a bit upsetting, because while the thick layer of paint is open, I cannot resist pushing it around for the rest of the days. My drive to paint while the layer is wet overrides the pictorial decisions. Sometimes the better version of a piece is buried under all the action that happened at the end of the third day, and the irony is that I feel like I can still see it, but of course it has been totally destroyed. Because of all this, this limitation is now a critical part of the work; it has become the structure and frame for the work. LR – It seems to me that you are consciously avoiding an essential question to the medium of painting, which is, when is a painting finished. At first I thought that my speedy process is a matter of emphasizing process over the end result, but I think that I am after something else that has persisted in my work for a while now, which is an alternative to pictorial logic. I love pictures but I am often fighting the urge to make one. While a bigger, better, more colorful picture is something I am envious of, I don’t ultimately agree with how it qualifies a painting. I don’t think the resolved painting is as interesting anymore as it has been in the past. As a viewer, I also don’t think that a push against the old formula works either; while the picture maker is still the court entertainer; the bad painter is easily consumed and loved by the audience because the anti-gesture is easily read. I am not exactly resisting the questions of painting, such as, when a painting is finished. I may be prioritizing other questions just as important to painting. When I “perform” these works (performing is painting and vise versa, it just seems more accurate to say “perform” because of the repetitive sets of the three-three day sessions) I am also carefully navigating through space in order to find some kind of logic, but it is not pictorial or flat. I naively hope to stumble upon an alternative to the picture space that is framed in front of me by its history, and I keep in mind its more recent history too. If I end up at a dead end, I will paint that dead end. Maybe the hardest thing is that I try to work this out in the context of the tradition of oil painting, so the newness (if possible) has to come internally and not through a game-like variation on the questions of painting. I am not going to find what I am looking for by outsmarting painting. I actually think this subtler attempt to break away is more difficult. The monochrome aspect of the work is another way to resist picture making, which is actually the more historical reference part of my work, and I feel like there are already enough words about its contribution to this kind of painting. LR – We will soon get into the theme of the monochrome in your painting. But before we go there, it is very interesting that many artists in contemporary art restrain themselves (either technically, physically, or conceptually) and achieve greater openness between mediums. Matthew Barney’s “Drawing Restraint” is but one example of such strategy. In this series he benefited from his training as an athlete by using harnesses and other gym equipment to limit his body while performing the drawings. Does the three-day discipline represent a kind of liberation for you? Does it open up painting to incorporate some ideas borrowed from the medium of performance? Why has it become important for you to apply the element of time on a two-dimensional, flat, still, silent medium? I think through paint and while making work. While making work, almost by accident, I ended up with a system of conditions and restraints, thinking they came from the material itself, but later realizing I created a set of strict psychological and theoretical conditions. To me, Barney’s work is hyper aware of constraints; the constraints are the subject of the work. He is serious about these constraints, but he also winks at them. I am unfortunately without humor about my rules. I need to push against time, and I need to be anxious in front of the work. And, theoretically, I need to fight against the expectations we have from painting (representational, abstract, experiential, as a hybrid of representation and abstraction, etc.). Psychologically, I might be manufacturing a level of stress that used to be a part of my painting method when I was younger and more anxious, and now I have to trick myself into this state of mind. I don’t know if my process is self-serving or that it will lead to something bigger, and maybe the two can happen at the same time. The constraints are certainly both self-serving and meant to interrupt the comfort level in the studio, with the hope of interrupting the result too. LR – I would love to explore this new improvisational aspect in your work more deeply. Well known for his experiments with chance and improvisation in the field of dance, Merce Cunningham always took liberty with the structure of the dance production. He called it poetic license. At the same time, he seemed to preserve some control over certain elements. I recognize the same controlled action in your work. How would you describe the relationship between preparedness and improvisation in your work? LY –The three-day sessions are actually rigorous in terms of structure and control. It is a set-up for chance to occur. The tighter the perimeters are, the wilder I can be inside of them. Cunningham is a very interesting example of organized chaos; structure and freedom are locked together, and this is exactly what my painting feels like to me. I have practiced my gestures and scribbles daily, and I tend to scrape a ton of work while developing a body of work. Like a dancer, once I have practiced my moves, I am then able to “improvise.” This is why letting go reads differently from one painting to another; it depends on the prep work, and the build up before the moment of abandonment. LR- When you talk about the practice of going into the studio every day, about the energy released during those three days, do you see the painting as a residue of that intimate performance. Or, do you consider the painting as a valuable and desired object in itself? I consider the painting to be performative, not the residue of a performance. I am busy thinking about painting questions but I use the performative aspect of action painting and the relationship to movement in space and time to hopefully help me get to a great painting one day in the future…not to a great performance. Meaning: I always intend to make a good painting, as an object, on the wall, with all of its market traps and issues. Some of those issues I attempt to question, as I explained before, but of course my resistance is from the inside. A full resistance to painting would be to simply stop making them. I love the way a still surface on stretchers can have so much power. LR – Besides the fact that you have always been interested in monochromatic painting, you seem to arrive at the monochromatic gray paintings in a completely different way as in your early work. These are no longer the result of the extensive work of one single color and its shades but in fact, the addition of many different colors onto the canvas and their neutralization during the process of painting. Do you care to talk about this evolution? Strangely, the gray now is not an aesthetic choice, but maybe it is an aesthetic position, which is to prioritize continuous action over the appeal of color. I start with white, and the more I move around with opposing colors in it, the more I approach gray. My gray at the end of the three-day session is a result of continuous action. It is the result of colors being consumed by the ground and by movement. To be specific, I grab burnt sienna, sap green, ultra marine blue and mars yellow, and together they cancel each other out. I tried to shortcut this process and introduce the black from day one, but there is no tricking. The painting fell flat next to the rich grays the colors make when they meet up in equal amounts. LR – Unlike other painters who stick to a lifelong formula, your style has changed several times. You started out with a series of monochromatic portraits of soldiers, either in red or in black, followed by a series of predominantly black paintings concerned with public war monuments and symbols of power, followed by a series of abstract white paintings and finally the gray abstract paintings. Can you talk a little about this need to change? I feel that when artists are asked about changing their work, the question on its own is a compliment. I just saw the Guston show at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. His change of style is one of the more beloved heroic moments in painting for painters. But, change is also fear of going further, and sometimes it is a greedy urge in the sense that it can be about catching up with the new (which can also be argued for Guston). It is hard for me to locate each time and each change. Early on, I thought of changing my work as a sign of integrity, and now I wonder if at times it was self-sabotage. I can say for sure that when I try to manufacture change I get into trouble, I do need to let things happen on their own, even self-sabotage is best when it is happening organically. Then, there is something almost charming about an artist working against his self-interest! LR- After your first visit and artist residency in Germany in 2010 your work saw a crisis with representation. It seems to have been the decisive moment when you abandoned figuration altogether. Can you talk about your stay and the experience of seeing post-war German painting in person? The change and crisis after my stay in Germany represent a transition I can talk about. There was quite a build up for me towards my stay in Germany. I was invested in German painters, and post-war (both wars) as a period of especially potent work in painting from Germany, one of the strongest reactions to violence in painting’s history. I did not just want to see the works in person but feel the place and time from which they were made. I was also a Jewish Israeli American woman, more identified with post war German painting than any other period. American abstraction was born from these paintings, and I wanted to understand the teachers, not the students. Before the residency, I was painting in LA, on Hollywood Blvd. (where my studio is located) but was (and still am) attracted to Art Informel, the Cobra, and a European interpretation of what is raw and primitive. The problems of the West were my problems, but they were further complicated by my position, which was overly romantic since I was a visitor. I am not a European painter, and was historically an occupied subject there, so the attraction is also due to the power structure Europe has over me as a Jew. Considering the reality between Israel and Palestine, I rarely allow myself to be rendered as a victim. But, in Europe, I got in touch with old buried issues about my Jewishness that were covered up by the normalcy of my position in Los Angeles and Israel. This mess must have been what propelled such an over identification with paintings from Germany. A quick example would be an early Baselitz; in which an upside down painting stands for an upside down nation. The victim/victimizer position as an Israeli and a Jew while in Europe switches so fast in my mind. I could contradict myself inside of a five-minute conversation. And, sometimes I perform an identity that I feel is expected of me, but it feels almost real since I can pull equally from what feels like a two-headed brain on this matter. I did not talk about all this when I was over there, but the work I did for my first show there is awkward and derivative because my love affair with German painting became unraveled by my experience of living there. It was a process that happened both inside and outside the studio. When I got home I had nowhere to go with all of my research and work, and I had to break away and start over. The arguments for my paintings were exhausted by the reality of a place. LR – After you returned to LA, starting with your 2011 show at Angles Gallery and up until now, it looks to me that you are limiting several aspects which have been central to painting. You removed color prior to your stay in Germany, but then you removed the figure, the subject, and lately you removed the decision of when to end a painting. Would you agree that you have a persistent interest in narrowing your choices in painting? I track this path all the way back to my days as a student. I first worked with a full and expressive palette, and then became interested in the monochrome while in graduate school. After my studies, I then spent several years making white-on-white and black-on-black paintings, in which I collapsed the figure/ground space but still worked with a figure and a ground. Later, I eliminated both figure and color. Maybe technically this is incorrect to say, black is like white and gray, but in my work, black is a color in the sense of its presence and dominance, where gray is mud, an accidental result. These choices left me with a naked layer of paint. It can’t be dressed up too much; it’s just gray paint that was moved around a lot. And yet, while moving, I had intended to create space with all of the grandiose illusions that any painter has when they are composing space with full palettes and all the tropes and tricks of the medium. So, the result can be confusing because of these urges to do so much with so little. I think my intention is to open up the space of painting without the distractions and the expectations that we bring to its viewing. This actually reminds me of your question about Cunningham, because I relate to him on this point too. In his world of dance he removed the narrative, the climax, and the musical forms that were the expectations built into a dance production. He did not send his dancers on kayaks or to climb buildings like Trisha Brown; instead he messed around with the idea of dance on the stage of dance. This is also an argument for modernism, but I care less about the categorical definition and more about what keeps me excited in the studio. This interview was conducted in front of Yossifor’s new paintings at Galerie Anita Beckers in Frankfurt, Germany in November 2013. Liliana Rodrigues earned her MA in 2002 from the University of Nova in Lisbon. She has worked in management and communications in art scenes as diverse as as New York (Mike Weiss Gallery), Lisbon (Galeria Filomena Soares), Santiago de Compostela (CGAC), Leipzig (Galerie SPINNEREI archive massiv), Frankfurt (Galerie Anita Beckers) and Dublin (art quinquennial Dublin Contemporary 2011). Rodrigues has written for various publications, such as Transcript Verlag 2003; Catalogue Friedrich Vordemberge Gildewart Stipendium Museum Wesbaden 2012; Catalogue 25. Kasseler Dokumentar Film und Video Fest 2008; and Res Art World/ World Art 2009. Liat Yossifor earned her MFA from the University of California, Irvine, 2002. She has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (solo), Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe Gallery, New York, NY (solo); Anita Beckers Gallery, Frankfurt, GE (solo); the Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT; and KunsthausNuremberg, GE. Yossifor completed her residencies at The Ucross Foundation, Claremont, WY in 2008 and at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany in 2010.
There’s something to be said (and held closely) about quietude in a time when shock and volume are firmly aligned with power and value. It’s something more to explore that power and value, in all its systems and intricacies, through a lens of stillness. But Samuel Levi Jones does it and does it well, in a most thoughtful manner, through his brilliant works on canvas that incorporate the covers of encyclopedias and law case text books. It is this engagement to material, raw and aggressive, that put him in the running for the Studio Museum’s lusted-after Joyce Prize of which he took home along with a cool $50,000 and that brought on solo shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem (opening today) and Indiana’s Museum of Contemporary Art (opening this fall). He’s also in this year’s Mistake Room biennial exhibition. So we caught up with the artist, represented by Papillion, Los Angeles, to discuss his first exhibition in New York, his interest in material, and what that quietude is all for. This is your first exhibition in New York. Can you tell me about Unbound, how it came to fruition, the work that will be on view, and how it speaks to your practice as a whole? I’m extremely excited about my first show in New York being at the Studio Museum Harlem. In late 2014, Naima Keith (Associate Curator, Studio Museum Harlem) and I started having a conversation about exhibiting at the Studio Museum. Unbound is a continuation of the work that I have been constructing from encyclopedias, which is about the exploration of systems of knowledge and power. For this exhibit I chose to use law books, as I felt that it was pertinent to current events. This work is site specific, and the three works are much larger than any of my previous works. Your critical exploration of systems of power and knowledge is the main focus of the exhibition. Can you explain its relationship to materiality and form? Is there a direct relationship to the body? The relationship of the material to systems of power is very direct. I viewed the source material as the system of power. Encyclopedias in particular, contain a vast amount of information, but it is selective, and much equally important content is omitted. When working with the material I think about how the information was compiled and the methodology. I am ultimately thinking about information that is selectively left out. Much of the material I work with are the covers of the books. I refer to them as skins, and they define, and contain, the body of my work. I find the evisceration of text in your work interesting given that you employ books as a symbol of knowledge. Can you talk a bit about this deconstruction and quieting of content? The removal of the text pertains to numerous ideas that are competing for my attention. One thing that I think about are narratives which are not consistent with their contexts and do not fit. Deconstructing the material is a cathartic act as I physically handle these inconsistencies. You stay within a limited color palette. Is this intentional? What is the significance of color within your practice? The color is based upon what the material naturally gives me to work with. It is not intentional unless I choose to do some mixing of the source materials. Most of the time, the color palette is based upon the particular set of books with which I am working. Early in my work, I would typically construct a single piece from one set of books. More recently, I have been experimenting more with mixed materials to keep the aesthetic fresh. The color is not as important as the texture and other qualities of the material. I enjoy the challenge of working with a constantly changing source of materials. Unbound is on view at the Studio Museum Harlem, New York through June 28, 2015. The TMR Benefit Exhibition is on view in Los Angeles through May 9, 2015.
As I stroll slowly into Patron Gallery, Emanuel Aguilar walks briskly up to greet me. With partially unpacked artworks leaning against the walls and the smell of fresh paint lingering in the air, the storefront gallery reeks of transition and anticipation. Julia Fischbach emerges from their backroom offices and joins us for a tour of the gallery, which was previously occupied by Shane Campbell Gallery. Construction included expanding the exhibition space to include an adjacent second showroom, building a new storage unit and—firstly—removing the fogged glass from the front windows. “Little details like that make our presence less intimidating,” Aguilar explains as the three of us sit at a smooth white table near their desks. “The community here can really use more patrons for the arts. It’s part of why we named the gallery what we did.” He continues, telling me of their plans to use the small kitchen space for entertaining and hosting events for the community. Leaning forward, Aguilar rests both elbows on the table. “We want this place to embody a very open door policy to the engagement of art.” Small, stone sculptures by Bryan Savitz rest on a line of bubble wrap in front of us. Aguilar and Fischbach will be exhibiting Savitz’s work alongside that of nine other artists in “Theory of Forms,” Patron Gallery’s inaugural exhibition. Patron Gallery has formally announced they will be representing three out of the ten participating artists: Kadar Brock, Daniel G. Baird and Alex Chitty. “Representation is a big thing. It’s a vow, a type of partnership. We approach these partnerships like a marriage. You dream and grow together, and we want the gallery to grow organically,” Julia locks eyes with Aguilar, then continues. “The artists are why we exist, and it wouldn’t be fair for us to launch with twenty of them.” Looking back at me, they confess their list now totals four, thanks to the addition of a young local painter named Mika Harabuchi. I ask if they have similar taste, and they both say yes. “We go like this,” Emanuel says while twirling his hands together to make fluid, dancing circles in the air. “We would have murdered each other at the other place if we didn’t.” Until this summer, Aguilar and Fischbach were the co-directors of Kavi Gupta Gallery, where Aguilar spent five years and Fischbach seventeen. “Being a gallerist, you don’t have a lot of time for your personal life. Your relationships, your joys, everything that enriches your life is through your artists and then to go from them being an every hour sort of component of your life to entirely gone, it’s a very painful thing to go through. And that’s probably the hardest part of moving on, is leaving behind a family.” Pausing, Aguilar looks at Julia and continues his thought slowly. “But I think that’s also the motivation. It’s because of them that we have to do it again. There’s another family that needs us now.” (Maria Girgenti) Patron Gallery will open its first exhibition on September 18, 673 North Milwaukee
Look out Chicago — there’s a new gallery in town. Emanuel Aguilar and Julia Fischbach both departed from Kavi Gupta to start Patron on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. This inaugural exhibition, a group show featuring Daniel G. Baird, Kadar Brock, Alex Chitty, Mika Horibuchi, Samuel, Levi Jones, Matthew Metzger, Bryan Savitz. Nick van Woert, Kristen Van Deventer, JPW3, and Liat Yossifor titled Theory of Forms, runs through December 19. The gallerists seek to “to redefine and re-appropriate the traditional values of the contemporary art audience – that of the arts patron.” I quizzed Aguilar on Patron and Chicago’s thriving gallery scene. An installation shot of Theory of Forms at Patron gallery in Chicago. An installation shot of Theory of Forms at Patron gallery in Chicago. Why did you decide to branch out from Kavi Gupta and start Patron? We are both very proud of what we were able to accomplish and be part of at Kavi Gupta. It was an amazing opportunity for the two of us to work with amazing artists and be part of an amazing chapter in the gallery’s history. Like most things in life, there comes a need for change, and leaving was definitely a personal decision for the two of us. We were ready for a new chapter. After our departure we remained in touch with each other and decided that we wanted to continue doing what we loved, which was to work with artists and make magic happen. We knew that we worked well together through our experience working side by side at Kavi Gupta and thought it made sense to continue doing so in this new venture. Why a group show for your inaugural exhibition? We wanted the inaugural exhibition to lay a foundation for the gallery. The group show is inspired by a philosophy of Plato’s that we find to be inspirational for the appreciation and engagement of art. We wanted the first exhibition to be a representation of our aesthetic, our interests, and our approach to developing patrons from all walks of life. Tell me about the sort of programming Patron will have in the coming year. What kinds of art and artists will you be showing? Our first year will focus strongly on Chicago based artists and we are also planning an exhibition for the spring focusing on artists from Mexico. As the gallery grows we hope introduce different layers of the program in different stages. Why has it been so long since Chicago has had a new gallery? For many reasons, of course both coasts have always been appealing to artists and professionals for their high concentrations of activity and markets. But Chicago has other obstacles it’s had to tackle as well, for many years a lot of the local collector community bought primarily from galleries in New York and there was very little support for local spaces. That has changed a lot in the last few years and there is an amazing group of collectors and supporters in the city that have helped revitalize the local spaces and artists who have chosen to remain in Chicago. Chicago has a lot to offer, our rents aren’t as high as New York or London, it’s a very liveable city, and we have an amazing collection of institutions and MFA programs. What do you hope to contribute to the Chicago art scene? We hope to add another platform for artists to develop and grow here in Chicago. We hope we inspire collectors, artists and curators to continue to not only stay in Chicago but also continue to grow the community and strengthen the scene here. We love doing what we do, working with artists and developing their careers and we do have a mission to help develop the next generation of supporters and trustees who have the potential to become the future of our major institutions and ensuring that artists and museums can continue to be a thriving part of our culture. For more information, visit patrongallery.com.
Myra's fine art work attempts to address "issues about the body, memory, the absorption of culture and the ever shifting identity of African Americans." D&B: Where are you from? MG: I grew up in Harlem, and I am proud to call myself a New Yorker, even though I haven't lived there in 10 years. D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training? MG: My training started back in high school, where I knew I wanted to make photos. I then got my BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and then later my Masters at the University of New Mexico. And since graduate school, I have taken workshops that help me learn specific photographic techniques for specific projects. The process of learning never ends. D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use? MG: My work isn't specific to any type of shooting process, camera or technique. I have worked with experimental and historical processes as well as digital technologies. I really believe that the medium you use should compliment the metaphorical meaning of the work. So I change photographic mediums when I am start working on a new idea. Right now, I am shooting with a medium format camera (a Hassleblad) and making digital prints. D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)? MG: One of my mentors is Tom Barrow, one of my graduate professors, since he was able to consume and decipher information from many different sources. He's thinking would reflect his knowledge in popular culture, classics, and everything in between. I also love the work of people who do the same. Carla Williams is a wonderful woman, and her writing and images also reflect her broad thinking. I think this is also true of other artists I love: photographers Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and artists like Kara Walker, Wangechi Mutu and Julie Mehretu. D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer. MG: I believe my journey is just beginning. I have had some recognition by interesting organizations (Light Work, CPW, and En Foco) and have participated in some great group and solo shows. Hopefully that trend will continue! D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? MG: Oh there are lot of things I wish to achieve, that many artists dream of. I would for my work to have great gallery representation, and to create a monograph of my work one day. But more importantly, I hope that my work helps people to think about the power photography holds over representation of identity. In turn, I hope my work makes people really think about photography as a medium, and the culture's obsession (or lack there of) with identity. D&B: What's your dream photography project? MG: Dream Project, I am not sure... I am really enjoying the path that I am on. Each day’s experience become stored in my mind and eventually some of them are translated into photographic projects. My dream project will come out of these lived experiences.
PATRON is a new gallery in Chicago founded by Emanuel Aguilar and Julia Fischbach both former of Kavi Gupta Gallery, also of Chicago. Their inaugural exhibition titled, Theory of Forms is on view until December 19th, 2015 and is a group show with a varied group of artists including, Kadar Brock, Nick van Woert, Alex Chitty, Mika Horibuchi and others. Katy Diamond Hamer recently sat down with the gallerists to discuss the gallery, program and future plans. Katy Diamond Hamer: Congratulations on the new gallery! Can you both talk a bit about how your recent past experience has brought you to this moment? Emanuel Aguilar: Thank you, we are both very excited! Julia and I worked extremely well together at Kavi Gupta. We did amazing things with amazing artists and Kavi certainly provided a wonderful opportunity to the two of us to grow during a great moment in that gallery’s history. I think taking into account all of the different projects and milestones we were able to be a part of there, there was a lot of great first hand experience that we are taking with us. Julia Fischbach: Since I had been in my previous position for 17 years I realized I really needed to take a step back to really evaluate the direction in which I wanted to move. I greatly missed working to help establish young artists and foster their practices, helping them navigate the paths of their careers. KDH: What can you say about the contemporary art scene in Chicago? What is the niche you hope to tap into via PATRON? EA: The art scene in Chicago has been steadily growing over the last few years. There has been a lot more attention and energy here and its a very exciting time to be part of that. That said it is still a very intimate and small community that is for the most part dominated by alternative artists run spaces. Spaces that have been part of the frame work of the city for a longtime, I think that what all this new energy provides is an opportunity to expand on that history and create a more serious platform for engagement. JF: With PATRON we were thinking of this community for sure, but also on how to expand the community of patrons in the city. How to create access points to something as intimidating as contemporary art in a city like Chicago, to individuals who may not have as much interaction with art in their daily lives. Hoping to help foster and develop the next generation of collectors and future trustees of institutions. KDH: Your inaugural show “Theory of Forms” is a group exhibition with a focus on conceptual artists using minimal palette and shapes. How did you arrive at these particular artists? EA: We wanted this first exhibition to be an introduction to our aesthetic and interests. A snap shot of the different kinds of practices we are interested in as well as artists whom we will be working with. Theory of Forms is inspired by a theory of Plato’s which was developed to help navigate the fine line between physical reality and conceptual reality. How what we see is different in the real world than how we see in our minds. We thought that was a wonderful way to introduce a program, to focus on the engagement component of art appreciation, that moment where art asks us to contemplate and arrive at our own experience. KDH: Can you give us a peek into your next exhibition and any future plans? JF: Certainly, our first solo exhibition will be with Chicago based artist Alex Chitty in January. Alex used to be a marine biologist and has a very dynamic and beautiful practice that explores the histories of display and classification as tools and platforms for the narrative. We are very excited for her solo that will coincide with a solo exhibition at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center. The rest of the year will continue to focus on solo presentations by local Chicago based artists, Daniel G. Baird, Mika Horibuchi, and Myra Greene. We have a lot of traveling to do, we do want the program to have an additional focus that looks to Latin American contemporary artists. So we will be doing a lot of visits and scouting in that part of the world through out the next year. KDH: Being that art fairs seem to be one of the best (?) or most popular ways to show and exhibit art these days, do you plan on taking part in any of the upcoming fairs in Miami or New York? What is your relationship to the art fair as a model? EA: Art Fairs are a part of the industry that serve a purpose greater than just sales. Its about contacts and face to face engagement with the community at large, curators, trustees, writers and academics, other artists all gather at art fairs along with collectors and so art fairs are, in the big picture, about keeping up with the larger community. They really are a great way to create many different kinds of opportunities. JF: We will not be doing an art fair in Miami this year, though we were invited to participate, since we just launched, we thought it would be best this once to be able to spend some time with our artists, collectors and contacts through out the week of events in Miami catching up. We do have plans to participate in fairs in the coming first half of next year. KDH: Thank you for taking the time to chat! I look forward to seeing what you both have up your sleeve going forward and looking forward to seeing you both soon. PATRON Gallery is located at 673 N Milwaukee Ave , Chicago, IL 60642 Theory Of Forms features work by: Daniel G. Baird, Kadar Brock, Alex Chitty, Mika Horibuchi, Samuel Levi Jones, Matthew Metzger, Bryan Savitz, Kristen Van Deventer, Nick van Woert, John Patrick Walsh III, and Liat Yossifor and is on view until December 19th, 2015 More soon! xo
Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces. This week’s studio: Kadar Brock, East Williamsburg, New York. “My daily schedule is Monday-Friday, 10-6,” Kadar Brock said while scraping dried paint off of a work. “But Monday and Fridays my BFFs are in so we usually have lunch together. The rest of the week is just me working on stuff as much as I can. Then walking the dog. Then working on more stuff.” The Cooper Union graduate is preparing for a few upcoming shows but seems to find the ideal work/life balance. While working, Brock listens to audio books (currently binging on Game of Thrones), podcasts, and more recently nerding out to the sounds of French composer Jean-Michel Jarre. The artist is represented by Vigo Gallery in London and currently in a group show at Sperone Westwater. In September, he will be a part of the inaugural group show at Patron in Chicago. After that, Brock has a solo project with Almine Rech in Brussels in November. In the slideshow below, Brock takes us around his Brooklyn studio. “In this corner … a couple ‘dust pieces’ nearing completion, my stash of wood, bins of saved materials, and some green through the window. Reject sculpture parts line the window sill. The resident studio squirrel usually hangs out on the other side.” “I just got these bluetooth headphones. I often wear headphones when sanding and scraping, and not having a wire is infinitely nicer. Also, bucket o’ pens and markers for drawing. My hammock, and some actual finished arts in the background.” “My closest friends and I have a monthly Pathfinder session: we get together, roll dice, slay goblins and dragons, and otherwise eat pizza and have a blast. Seriously though, role playing games in general have had a huge impact on my studio practice. Early on it was just a source for titles from books like ‘Dragon Kings,’ later it was a system through which to translate chance into painting. The whole time it’s been a way to analogize our relationship to art viewing and art making, and the roles and myths associated therewith.” “As a continuation of my nerdery, my friends and I play Magic: The Gathering. Magic, for those who don’t know, is a trading card game that mixes parts of poker and chess with an ever expanding Lord of the Rings–like fantasy world. The card illustrations are amazing, and the game play is continually shifting and therefore increasingly complex. So, all those strings of numbers are scores from various games of magic that have been played at the studio. We just write on the table. I consider it an ever evolving long-term art collaboration. The razor blade though, well, that’s what I undo paintings with.” “Insert description of the artist’s palette. Ha. I still make painty paintings. No one really ever sees them. They just feed the larger ecosystem of my art making.” “Yup. Scraping paintings. That’s how all this stuff starts and i guess how other stuff ends.” “After scraping and sanding comes rolling. In the spray booth ’cause paints are stinky.” “Festool vacuum. Best $600 I’ve ever spent.” “Dust masks make for better living. Ha. My studio has a lot of dust.” “This is a detail of an in-process ‘dust painting’—these works are made solely from the dust collected by sanding down other works. They’re essentially reconfigured paintings.” “Inside the spray room. I keep canvas on the floor to collect information as I layer up works in here. That information helps me to make the next paintings … and keep the cycle moving.” “Technology. Phone. Lap top. Headphones. And then of course a couple finished works in the back. Always satisfying to actually finish some paintings. More often then not I expect them to be done, only to realize they need to get layered up one more time. I can’t tell you how long those two took—maybe 5–6 months each (and that doesn’t include their previous existence.)” “The Mets troll. My best bud Matt Jones got this for me at a Mets game. Mostly as a joke, but also a sort of avatar. I’m the guy on all my Google groups who’s always trolling.”
The 4th Ward Project Space, situated on 54th Street and Kimbark Avenue, proves that young, underrepresented artists in Chicago can exhibit their work as long as someone is willing to exhibit it. In the case of 4WPS, those dedicated to supporting such artists are three Chicago artists themselves: Mika Horibuchi, James Kao, and Valentina Zamfirescu. “Part of the goal is to build a coalition—another place for Chicago artists to show work,” Kao told me at 4WPS last week. “We see it as our responsibility. If we have the means to do this, it’s sort of the right thing to do.” The most recent exhibition, by Eric Saudi, is as overwhelming as it is inviting. “Marginalia” is the fourth in a string of single-artist shows 4WPS has exhibited since opening last year. The show focuses on Saudi’s upbringing in the Bronx in New York City and explores themes of sexuality, religion, and violence in his community. The exhibit includes drawings on flesh-like materials, which are interspersed throughout overlapping party-like banners whose phrases reflect on the darker side of his neighborhood. A new exhibit by Alberto Aguilar will begin on May 3. As professional artists who have a strong background in painting, Horibuchi, Kao, and Zamfirescu select their artists from a variety of sources. Some they hear about through word of mouth, and others they stumble upon online. After they select someone, the trio is with that artist through every step of the process, from the first gallery visit to installation. But essentially, as Kao put it, they give them the keys to the gallery and try not to step on their toes. More http://southsideweekly.com/three-heads-are-better-than-one/
Q: Can you tell us about your background? I was born in 1978. I grew up in the small Midwest town of Marion, Indiana. I would describe the town mostly as a blue-collar working class town. I grew up with three older brothers and my father worked and retired from the local General Motors plant. I spent a good deal of my childhood playing sports. I went to a university nearby to studio Communication Studies where I also played American football. After finishing my first undergraduate studies I moved to Indianapolis where I lived for seven years and a BFA in photography at the Herron School of Art and Design. In 2010 I moved to California to attend Mills College in Oakland for my MFA. Q: Was there a particular moment or event where you decided to become an artist? It was around the age of 27 when I really considered being an artist. At the age of 23 I took a photography class during my first undergraduate studies. I was studying Communication Studies at the time, and during my last semester I took a black and white film photography class. I had a strong draw to using the camera along with whole process of making prints. The process of making in of itself felt right and seemed to make sense me. It felt very natural. Q: What was the first artwork you made? Long before the first photography class that I took I had made works of art in art classes, notably in elementary school or junior high school. At the time art did not resonate with me. These classes were mandatory and as such there was little room for creative freedom. In that given context I had very little interest. It was not until I decided to pursue art in my own way that I became excited about it. Q: What is most important to you regarding your work? The visual outcome, The process, The Material, Or something else? Interesting question. I feel that each of these things is no less important than the other. The “something else” for me would be the conceptual entity of the work. The term “process” seems to be used primarily for the act making. To me process is everything from getting up in the morning to turning down at night. Sometimes the process is even continued in rest. I am actually able to remember my dreams or even nightmares in the morning then they also become part of process. Part of the outcome is how the viewer, through the work, experiences the idea or ideas. The experience of the viewer is equally as important, so from beginning to end everything has to take equal importance. Q: The process and the choice of source material and ideas surrounding your work, can you tell us more about it? A: The choice of material simply comes form ideas. Ideas are at times based upon personal experiences and reactions to various things which I encounter. The work begins with an idea and I simply try to find the best way to convey those thoughts. Q: Working with covers from encyclopedias – How did that happen? A: The choice of encyclopedias came from the work of my 48 Portraits (Underexposed). The paper used for the prints came from recycling pages from the encyclopedia. Working with the skins was a result of further investigating the material and a continuation of breaking it down. Q; The mixed media works, compared to the Encyclopedia works, can you tell us more about the differences, similarities and the choice of titles? A. The mixed media that you might be referring to are, in fact, the encyclopedias on canvas. This is the medium in which the work is described, and they are on paintings. They just so happen to be on canvas, and a lot of the time viewers ask how I have applied paint. There is no paint applied directly to the material. A majority of these paintings are created form the skins of the book covers. In some paintings I have used material in addition to the covers, and these works are usually on panel. Q: Can you tell me more about your quote from “Recology” and what it means? “The process of my making is an attempt to address identity within the modern world upon the existence of exclusion” I consider the encyclopedias as a structure that controls information. I think about information that is left out, and I am giving consideration to that information that is on the outside. I am thinking about its existence or nonexistence. Does it disappear, does it find a place of its own, or is it able to exist along side all of the other information as in one in the same? The encyclopedia is a trope for various contexts of exclusion. Q: What influences you? There are various influences. Initially, personal experiences were the strongest influence for me to make art. The work became a way of understanding these experiences. I also look upon others or other situations around me in which I relate as influences. Q: Can you let us in on some of the future projects, works? I am currently working on a project to be exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem for 2015. I have an idea of what that project will be, but still hashing out some details.
Out on West Grand, Etta and I meet up with artist Daniel G. Baird at his studio. Hanging in Daniel’s studio is a sculpture that was recently exhibited in his show, This New Ocean, at Appendix Project Space in Portland. Around the hanging sculpture are colorful molds hung on the wall, what appears to be a partial greek bust on his desk, a plastic children’s playset, and in the corner a used ejection seat. These seemingly disparate objects begin to reveal a common relevance when Daniel starts talking about what influences his practice. Daniel talked to us about putting value in physically experiencing spaces. For example, if one were to visit a quarry just to see and experience the quarry, to experience this one phenomenological thing in the world. In this way, Daniel is interested in using these types of experience as a source but not connected to making something with or about the literal site. Daniel tells us about his trip around the country, visiting pre-Columbian ruins of the south west and NASA research centers. The road trip was a way to understand how these two seemingly opposite things intertwine in his work and thought process. Daniel continues talking about visiting sites and brings up his collaboration with Haseeb Ahmend titled, Has The World Already Been Made. In this collaboration the goal of visiting sites is slightly different. With this work it is about capturing the site in a mold then bringing it back to the studio as a type of total objectified experience. Daniel shows us a mold, about 9 to 10 inches in diameter and explains, “This mold if from University of Illinois Chicago… this is the imprint of 7 months ago, that moment in that time of the world, of my experience of this place and my hands have the marking of the making it on the opposite side”. This idea deals with the tension between the direct engagement or an abstracted form of the site. When asked about his experience of being an artist in Chicago, Daniel remarked he felt that there is a lot of opportunity to experiment that may not be possible in any other place in the country. All the alternative spaces Chicago has really breeds a type of experimentation and risk taking that he is not aware of in other places he has been. Daniel also says that space is a big issue–when working sculpturally it is important to have a studio substantial enough for production.
Wax-laden tires (prime for Arab Drifting, apparently) and engines transplanted with the care of a heart surgeon: J. Patrick Walsh's studio could either be a teenager's dream playroom or a car-centric torture chamber. J. Patrick has exhibited his mixed-media installations in New York, Los Angeles, and Italy. While in LA, I dropped by his studio for a tour. Yanyan Huang: How long have you had this studio space? J. Patrick Walsh III: I have been here for almost two years. I moved to this space because the University of Southern California studios are built more for office activities than for actually making anything. I kept giving everyone in the business office (down the hall) headaches with my paint odors so I began splitting my time between USC and this space where I can actually work. I share the building with Sayre Gomez, Owen Schmit, Paul Wadell, and Dirk Knibbe. Why did you decide to leave New York and move to LA? I'm from Pennsylvania, originally. After school in Chicago and living in New York, I moved out here to accept USC's MFA offer. But honestly, I was ready for a break from the intensity of New York. Your work deals with oppressive insulation and privacy, how did you come to work with these themes? I wanted to create a site that was also a recording device. I was interested in the visual noise created by recording studio foam and anechoic chambers. While you are in an anechoic chamber, your equilibrium stops vibrating and you can become nauseous and dizzy. You physically lose your place in the world but on the other hand you start to hear your nervous system at work. I created a performance with a wax sculpture at an anechoic chamber in USC's electrical engineering department. It was an anti-noise show where viewers entered the chamber one at a time and listened to the sculpture for as long as they could. Do you see silence as a potential hazard or threat? Silence is death. Silence is peace. Silence is a weapon against progress. Progress needs vibration. In my view, silence is a place where sound can start. That's how the universe started: it was really quiet… then, bang! What draws you to car engines and wax? When did you begin using these materials? I have a few early memories of making wax sculptures as a kid and its mutability has stuck with me. My fascination with cars began only recently: After watching Arab Drift videos online, I started to consider my car as a performative and sculptural object. I wanted to do 0mph drifts so I made wax wheels for my car. The weight of the car with the wax wheels allows for a very slow drift. Tell us about your Ferrari engine project. What are the origins of this performance/sculpture? This project started from a nickname for my car, which I call Scirrari. I thought, why not make a real Scirrari by putting a Ferrari engine in a 1984 VW Scirocco? Giorgetto Giugiaro, the designer of the Scirocco, has the same birthday as me so it seemed like a fateful opportunity to create a new full-breed Italian machine. Since then, I have been making books, sculptures, and paintings about the Scirrari. Just looking at a 12-valve Ferrari engine will knock your socks off—Enzo Ferrari thought they had the most beautiful song. Sound engineers are actually hired to "compose" a trademark sound for such high-performance cars. There is this great McLaren documentary where they interview a sound engineer and he compares different engine sounds to Dizzee Rascal and Kanye West. They see the engine as a tunable instrument. And finally, which artists are you currently interested in? I feel very lucky to have lived in Chicago because that's where I have met some of the best artists and musicians around today. I took Ashland Mines' (aka Total Freedom) room when he moved to the Southside and lived with Daniel Pineda (one half of NGUZUNGUZU), Math Bass, Robert Beecraft, Wu Tsang, Cayatano Ferrer, Justin Schaefer, Sayre Gomez, Gabe Wallace, MPA, and Dylan Mira. Somehow, we were all in the same building and there was a good flow. It's crazy that most of us live in LA now.
Nick van Woert’s artwork is all about informed anarchy. To visit the former architecture student’s Brooklyn studio is to enter into a massive playscape for destruction, a place dreamt up by little boys who love to blow stuff up. Van Woert’s message is anything but juvenile, however. To put it simply, he believes we are what we eat. Nick van Woert is interested in the materials we use to manufacture all that faux fortune. The world we build for ourselves is only as good as the materials used to build it, and modern society has found a way to substitute really bad ones (plastics, chemical compounds, plaster) for pretty much all the good ones. Architecture has moved from stone to styrofoam, and it’s a disease that has spread to every fiber of our daily lives ~ from how our clothing is made to how we consume a cup of coffee. On a planet made of stone, van Woert wonders why we keep making fake rocks. Much of his work uses mass manufactured, artificial neoclassical statues ~ aka ‘the world’s worst sculptures’ ~ as canvasses. He hollows out their insides with chemicals and gunshots, or baths them in waterfalls of colored resin. To him, these fiberglass gods represent the vacuity of our values, our willingness to keep the past alive visually but not materially. He has said, “Stone sculptures represented a very monolithic understanding of the human body, in spirit and material. You could go a thousand ways with that idea ~ one god, one way of living ~ it’s one material, solid, permanent. Now we make them hollow, with a chemical concoction that mimics that way of looking at the body, and it’s a superficial understanding… That’s just who we are now. We’re not interested in anything else.” The most influential artists have always made works that reflect their times, and van Woert’s message ~ grim as it may be ~ comes not a minute too soon. He’s incredibly thoughtful about his work, in trying to understand “what this material shift is, and why it’s happening.” It’s a question especially pertinent in the fashion world, where new products are churned out at a dizzying daily rate, while we rarely stop to ask how, where or why they were made. When we do participate in some sort conscientious consumption, it’s too often part of some marketing gimmick, some feel-good greenwashing that doesn’t truly do much to change the machinery of the system. That humans may one day render the earth uninhabitable is a terrifying reality. Like Nick van Woert, I don’t know what the answer to this issue is, or when we will hit a collective breaking point ~ but like him, I’m looking around and within, asking hard questions, choosing more carefully ~ and I hope you will too.
Matthew Metzger is a Chicago based artist and has exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Tony Wight Gallery, Arratia Beer, Berlin, among others. Metzger is also co-editor of Shifter Magazine. Matthew’s work creates a sense of tension using paint as a distinctly separate and independent material from the rectangle it is painted on. In turn, the rectangle’s dimensions mimic the size of the objects represented on the surface leading to questions of illusion, perception, and modernist abstraction. Metzger will be showing at Tony Wight Gallery opening April 20th through May 25th. Interview by Make Space Matthew, to me your paintings have a tension which resides in the representation falling back into abstraction through the flat surface only then to have the size of the painting referring back to the represented object. Could you elaborate on this cycle the viewer may experience with your paintings? The circularity that occurs in the perception of each painting originated in an effort to close the gap between the object of study and the representation of that object in paint. This conflation between object and painting was also a way for me to subvert what I feel as the overwhelming arbitrariness of compositional decision-making in a painting, by reducing any excess space around the object. It also helps in suspending the illusions that are at work in each painting, all-the-while adhering to the ‘criteria’ of modernist abstraction with regards to flatness and absorption. Your paintings play with a sense of truth and reality. I cannot help but think of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in relation to your work. That, perhaps, the viewer is the prisoner chained in the cave only to stare at the wall while shadows of objects are the only thing experienced, therefore accepted as reality. Destined to never have knowledge of the real objects casting the shadow from behind us. Are your paintings shadows on the wall or are they the objects? This is a complicated question. One that I don’t necessarily think contains a ‘blanket’ answer. So in an effort to steer away from the philosophical implications of this question in relation to Baudrillard for instance and his notion of an overarching Simulation/Simulacra that our world is composed of (which would of course perpetuate a deeper look into what a shadow is in relation to copies and doubles), I will answer in a rather literal and direct way. Shadows do not have surfaces, so my paintings are objects. However, I think of paint as a material that function like a shadow in the way a shadow’s surface is the same as what material it is laying over, and so I make use of that quality with paint in the manner with which I both think about it and deploy it. The piece Ghost perhaps questions if the symbol for “diver down” is represented or is the symbol actually present. But maybe more interesting, and more existential, is the question, has the “diver” passed away while we float on the thin surface between life and death? I hope that the painting itself already proposes these questions in a productive manner that the viewer must parse out through experiencing the work itself. Yet the question you bring up here regarding the relationship between representation vs. presentness I can say was an effort to continue with the engagement of what was mentioned above in your initial question regarding representation falling back into abstraction that then in turn re-presents. How do titles function in your pieces? Are they a tool for the viewer to enter into your pieces or do they act more as a support for the concept? The titles function merely as one of many entry points into the work. They announce the works’ lineage from my perspective as the artist, offering up a place for the viewer to begin when engaged with the work. I also consider each painting’s references (titles) neither as tools nor as crutches/supports. They are a part of the paintings themselves, and are meant to be engaged hand-in-hand with the image. Could you talk a bit about your experience as an artist in Chicago? It has been wonderful. Everyone I have met has been very supportive, interested, and invested in what I am doing and I could not ask for anything more. Your paintings not only exude a sense of skill and patience, but also a carefully and methodically planned conceptual foundation. Could you shed some light on your studio practice? I read. I think about the objects I am interested in painting rather rigorously while reading. I then build the panels once I have come to a decision about how I will make each painting. All conceptual and formal decisions are worked through prior to making each painting. Then I paint them, usually taking about a month per painting on average. Lastly, what can we expect from your new paintings at the Tony Wight Gallery on April 20th? Backdrop is an exhibition of a specific collection of objects, 7 paintings in total, curated into a conversation regarding the line and its presence in two endpoints in painting, from one end, the production line, and from the other end, Daniel Buren.
As part of HUNTED PROJECTS | In Dialogue New York, it is a pleasure to present this interview and studio visit with Brooklyn based artist Kadar Brock. Kadar Brock’s paintings are full of holes; they are sanded and worn out. To a point, Brock’s surfaces even seem to have been acid washed, gradually eroded or perhaps fiercely sand blasted, though simultaneously shredded as if struck by an explosion of shrapnel. The surfaces also are incredibly smooth, as if coated with talcum powder, though I am amongst the lucky few who have touched the surfaces of Brock’s paintings. What’s fascinating is that Brock’s works are the product of an artist who aims to demystify the gesture in painting through creating rituals that in effect eradicate the didactic artist-viewer scenario. Brock doesn’t aim to create works that are easily read as being a by-product of an artist’s expression; Brock has created a set of rituals, a rolling of dice, where he, in effect has his actions directed for him. This could be through the number of brush strokes to apply or the number of cuts to make, in all, his intuitive approach to painting is not present or discernible to the viewer. A video of HUNTED PROJECTS studio visit with Kadar Brock can be viewed here. Steven Cox: I first encountered your work online long before we met earlier this year at Volta. I had been familiar with your work purely on a digital level, though upon experiencing the scale, surface qualities and vibrancy of colours, I felt that your works owned a mystical aspect that doesn’t translate via digital images. I am interested; to what extent are you conscious of this? Do you feel that something is lost when your work is presented through images online? Kadar Brock: yeah of course. I think they're really tactile, physical paintings, and a lot of that information is lost if you're just looking at a reproduction. SC: Your ritual-as-process approach to mark making is conducted through the gauze of being either dis-enchant, or re-enchantment based. Both processes refer to the removal or application of paint. I am interested in how you decide where and when the ritual takes over from the intuitive aspect of painting? KB: So the rituals really started as an extension of, and as a way to manifest, my desire to divest intuition from painting, as a way to push out the more subjective and expressionistic aspects of painting. My long-term desire in painting has always been to talk about the sublime, the spiritual, and belief structures as they pertain to both painting historically, and how we perceive our day-to-day existence. At a certain point it became very apparent to me that the reliance on subjective expressionism, and believing in the autonomy of, and translation through, gesture was super flawed. So I started setting up rituals to dredge those beliefs, and those rituals simultaneously embody and leave a residue that, I think, touches on my larger goals. That said, there are of course judgment calls, and those are intuitive. When to sand, when to stop sanding, to do more layers or not, are all subjective and intuitive decisions. Intuition doesn't enter into what I do, just if I continue to do it. SC: Can you expand on this notion of a conceptually flawed expressionism? KB: It's more that at the root of a certain relationship to painting, there's a belief that comes out of romanticism, out of Herder, that an artists actions automatically/subconsciously/inevitably express his or her goals and ideals or emotional state or character. I think while interesting, that belief is flawed in terms of my goals in painting, and was in fact a personal stumbling block, so I dug at it. SC: Do you consider creative decision making in general, a ritualistic task? KB: Creative decision-making is the creating of metaphors. Rituals are repetitive metaphoric actions. There's some overlap there. SC: To what extent have you controlled the gesture within your rituals, and the metaphorical significance of each action? How are these weighed? KB: By gesture, in this context, I'm mostly referring to a painting action. The significance of the rituals, well, they really came out of pretty mundane studio activities - cleaning my palette with a razor, painting my walls with industrial strength primer, sanding said walls. I just started treating my old paintings like they were physically a part of the studio I guess. And then it's really more where I and other viewers can go from there with what those actions mean and how they relate to a painting as this seat of ideologies. SC: Your paintings, prior to being cut and sanded are colourful, geometric and very painterly. I am aware that it is now very rare for anyone to see your paintings at this stage before they become erased, cut and presented in the manner that most are familiar with. Do you ever feel a sense of loss when you embark upon the stages where the original becomes lost? KB: Yes and no. I really enjoy them as they were, but they're not really alive anymore anyways. They've become these symbols for a belief system and a relationship to painting. So taking those symbols, and enacting these rituals upon them just makes sense. Working on the newer works that are made from composites of the dredged material, I remember moments, and passages from older paintings, and that's a nice kind of nostalgia. It's great too to have those moments just isolated and decontextualized; it gives me a new appreciation for them. More http://www.huntedprojects.com/kadarbrock
I met Chicago-based artist Alex Chitty this past summer during a visit to her studio with the Chicago Printmaker’s Guild. She spoke to us about her recent photographic explorations and constant effort to add new technical processes (ceramics, woodworking, electroplating metals…. you name it) to her studio practice. Alex’s interest in modes of display and domestic, utilitarian forms immediately got me thinking about a collaboration with Unison, and now one is in the works! Alex has selected domestic goods from Unison’s spring collection to alter, deconstruct, and reinstall in photographic and sculptural compositions that reference, but are removed from, their original utility. Last weekend, Alex came to the Unison store in Wicker Park, equipped with her flatbed scanner and camera, to document textures, patterns, and objects for use in her project. At Unison, we always want to learn more about the process and thinking behind an artist’s work. Alex has kindly taken the time to tell us a bit about her use of scanning and digital manipulation: “In place of a camera, I frequently use my laptop and a cordless flatbed scanner. As the scanner translates 3D analog into digital, it invents information and reveals images that hint at an original source without revealing it. This becomes important conceptually as well as aesthetically: a document of the history of its own making links itself to painting, cinematography, dance and performance. Another misused tool is Adobe Photoshop — software designed to covertly enhance or shift the reality of an image. When used to make obvious additions and changes by adding text and symbols or blurring specific areas, the tool becomes conceptual not functional. The resulting image disappoints the anticipated expectation of reality and begins to reveal how we see and think when looking at photographic imagery.” “I use Photoshop intermittently, so you are never quite sure what exactly you are looking at, and in this way, you are encouraged to think about the actual act of seeing. Essentially, it’s meant to slow you down and make you a tiny bit self-conscious of your existence in the world, like when you see your reflection in a shop window as you walk by, and you remember ‘Oh, yeah…I’m a human body, walking down the street’.” The Unison team is bursting with excitement to see how Alex will transform Unison products, using them as materials in her new project. We hope you will join us for the opening reception to see the work and meet Alex!
Ten questions from Shane Huffman for Kristen Van Deventer regarding her exhibition En suite. SH Kristen, I will start off by saying that I don’t believe that photography is a medium, but rather a domain. Within that domain there are planes. The planes are vast and many that can be thought of as “photographic”, by definition photographic is “relating to photographs”, and I will put forth that, for me, the mediums of photography are located there and that they are Light-Spacetime-Movement. Your paintings are not addressing these, the mediums, but I hold strong to the idea that they take up residence within the domain of photography. KV I have to be honest, it surprised me when you brought this up at the opening! The paintings utilize some rudimentary printmaking techniques, repetition, and a reproducibility, but this drive is more emotional rather than a conceptual prompt to talk about “the original and the copy” or “authenticity”. I like the idea of the paintings “taking up residence” but I’m not sure their domain is in that of photography. I don’t think repetition is a metaphor for photography. SH By counting, as you did in the “Landscapian Interiors (once) and (twice)”, one presupposes a horizon, an end and therefore this counting takes place in space and not necessarily in time. The “Leda” painting isn’t counted, it’s repeated and not named. Do you see the paintings in the “Leda”, and/or the “Landscapian” as multiples, similar, duplicates, or potentially serial? KV The Landscapian Interiors were produced mark by mark. Their doubling was created in a one, two dance. A swirl of color here, the equivalent over there. They are not duplicates but twins made side by side. The Leda paintings are completely different. They were made to be repeated and have the potential to be reproduced over and over. SH I think about the futility of trying to make, by hand, the same thing: drawing, painting, photograph or sculpture. Standing in front of these paintings I oscillate back and forth between paintings looking for both similarities and differences. So I would ask you: Are these different in kind or different in degree? KV Trying to replicate something is more or less how art began – that and storytelling. You repeat a phrase in order to understand it differently, to give it urgency, importance. This is a technique seen in poetry and music. You copy an image to learn from the act. But the two Landscapian paintings are not exactly copies, there is no first painting or second painting. They happened simultaneously so I think I would say they are different in necessity if that makes sense. SH Whatever your answer, my follow up question is Why? Why the one you say, and not the other? KV Well, I say in necessity, because the paintings are different, and it is so important to me that the paintings retain their own individuality despite their similarities. And there really is no way for me to make them exactly the same because I am not a robot, and there is something extremely comforting about not being a robot yet. I so often jump around and produce work without a particular style, though I consistently stay in the realm of painting because I do think of it as a necessity. It will always be a thrill to be confronted by something that an artist made with their own hands and their own minds, and for me that is heightened when I look at paintings. It’s like magic with a transparency. SH Photographs have generally been thought of as infinitely repeatable and paintings as each being unique, fine, I understand that’s what has been passed on through lazy teaching at academic institutions, but would you not think that these paintings could hold up in an exhibition on the Photographic, with say other non-photography art? Like Tony Cragg’s faces sculptures, or Anne Craven’s paintings, both of whose work I look at in the same discourses of the Photographic. KV I think you might be curating an exhibition! There is a big difference between something being “repeatable” and something being “reproduced”. Paintings are very often repeated. Repeated in a different color or a slightly different composition at a different time. They are unique, sure, much more unique than a photograph. But there is something almost more appealing about the “unique” photo or the “unique” sculpture. That something reproducible can be labeled as such. An artist could have a thousand copies stashed away somewhere. Or your partner could have a few mistresses but there is still something really special about saying you’re married and there is something special about owning something “unique”. I think these works would be at home in that conversation but I don’t think that relationship makes the work. SH So, why did you use the word motif? KV That piece is a pattern repeating itself and I wanted to emphasize this — but the myth of Leda and the Swan is also an important motif in the history of painting and literature — and it’s the sort of image a young girl might naively cling on to as she discovers her sexuality — women and animals, Marie Laurencin… SH “Landscapian Interiors”, were you trying to make me laugh? KV Well, the word “Landscapian”, is borrowed from a Rosemarie Trockel sculpture titled Landscapian Shroud of My Mother. I think I may have seen this at Donald Young Gallery but I don’t remember exactly. It’s beautiful but such a heavy title. I like how “Landscapian” is a made up word that you instantly understand – similar to how one intuitively reads a circular object over a horizontal line. SH It only makes sense to me that all the arts would be, to some degree or another, addressing the Photographic. Photography is the crux of our society, everything we do is done with the thought of it being recorded, repeatable, from our most intimate to banal activities. Does this make sense or am I completely out in left field on this? Do you think about this? KV Of course. But it can’t be so simple. I don’t think anyone can say all art is “addressing” the photographic. If I had to make a bold statement, I’d say our use of photography and addiction to images is a symptom. And artists are trained to think visually and “see” these things first and therefore will address this in their work. I don’t know, I feel like everything I do is with the desire for it to not ever be photographed. Not my work necessarily but my private life. I think about our current relationship to images all of the time. It is exciting but dangerous because part of me thinks it is liberating and the other part thinks showing images to the world should not be taken lightly. It’s hard to tell if we are becoming better or worse at “reading” images. Though, for me, the evidence points to the former. I don’t make photographs. I take photos from time to time to help me remember, as a form of note taking. It’s less about capturing the thing or the moment, than wanting to remember the feeling or idea of why I felt impelled to remember in the first place. In painting it is different – I’m thinking about ways to have control, ways to remove control, for marks to be mediated or not and what that means. I think about the meaning of processes of applying paint, about color and form and about image making. Image making in the sense of making images where there once was none. But I am disturbed by photographic images because I don’t trust them. In a way this is where the Leda painting comes in. I was struck by the erotic, raunchy Francois Boucher painting of Leda and the Swan, and also thinking about a photograph from The New York Times that really disturbed me. I will call it a decorative placeholder of sorts, depicting a corpse from the Malaysian Airlines plane that crashed in the Ukraine. The body is underneath clear plastic draped with a single rose. I don’t want to get into it, but the image is reckless in how soft and digestible it appears. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/world/europe/malaysia-airlines-plane-ukraine.html?_r=0 SH Do you know Dieter Roth’s two handed drawings, and do you have any thoughts about them in relation to these paintings of yours? Or more specifically the act. The act of Roth attempting to draw with both hands and mirror the left and right but never exactly, of course and we wouldn’t want them to, and your act of painting the same painting (twice). KV I don’t really think about his drawings as much as how he used language in his work. Like Literaturwurst, where he would cut up books he didn’t like and use the pages to make sculptures of sausage. SH What are the conceptual foundations in these acts? KV These acts are not what make the work do what it does. I think a lot of the action actually has to do with color, the process of their making and two types of interiority that might be labeled expression on the one hand, and an actual room to live in on the other. Kristen Van Deventer is an artist living in Los Angeles. Shane Huffman is an artist living in Chicago.
Brock's current exhibition at New York's The Hole, titled "Dredge," features a series of these shredded canvases, hung sparsely throughout the space. Together they are the result of hours of labor-intensive art making, proof that, although Brock aims to "demystify" the artist, the works are still very much a product of his hands. The exhibit is complemented by the work of Kasper Sonne, another artist whose pieces exemplify the beauty of destruction, in his case by setting his works on fire. "The starting point is my interest in exploring dichotomies," explains Sonne. "The paintings are painted using a roller instead of a brush to make a perfect monochrome painting. Then they're set on fire. Control is contrasted by chance. Perfect by imperfect." It is a dichotomy evident in both Sonne and Brock's work. Destruction can rarely, if ever, be controlled. We caught up with Brock on plush beanbag chairs at The Hole to chat about the exhibition, ritualizing art and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. ALLYSON SHIFFMAN: At what point did you know you wanted to pursue art professionally? KADAR BROCK: I think I was 10 years old. I used to make cartoons and comic books with friends. My dad had a book of Picasso paintings in his apartment and he said, "Look at these!" I was like, "Oh, these are really cool." And he goes, "Yeah, these are millions of dollars!" I said, "You can do that? That sounds great! I want to do that."SHIFFMAN: [laughs] It was a moneymaking vocation? BROCK: It was more like, oh, I can do that and be rich? That seems great. Instead of drawing comic books, which is a functional application of art, if I'm totally self-indulgent and just make whatever I want to make and talk about whatever I want to talk about, people will actually pay me to do that? [laughs] I can do that? SHIFFMAN: How did your parents react? BROCK: My parents split up when I was really young. My dad was the "weekend dad" who was always really supportive, and my mom was the practical mom who was trying to discipline me. SHIFFMAN: What's the point of your art-making? BROCK: [laughs] There are a couple points. One is that I don't know what the fuck else I'd do with myself. I have all this time, and I figured I'd fill up that time by making paintings. In a larger context, it makes me happy and hopefully it makes other people happy. It sets up a situation where I can talk to people and share life experience and share ideas. More specifically, it's about talking about belief structures in painting and in abstraction and using that to talk about larger emotional and psychological life phenomena... [laughs] Maybe. More http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/kadar-brock#_
Art News: Artist Alex Chitty talks about her career, background, and creative process. How did you know that you wanted to be an artist? I didn't know right away, as a child I always drew, as I guess every child does. Coming of age I never saw it as a career in the conventional sense, it was never presented to me as such, but I still kept on drawing and messing around with materials. Now I can say that I always saw the world thru the eyes of the artist, even though my education was in science. I was always curious about stuff, the inner working of things. I take science to be perhaps the most pragmatic means to approach true understanding of things; yet it is such a lonely field, lonely and rigid. I guess I wanted a place of speculation, that's why I never made a decision about being an artist until 2004. What happened in 2004? While I was stationed in the Pacific, studying sea horse populations, I got a call and was told that one of my best friends died of a cocaine overdose. He was the kind of guy that everyone liked, very popular, charming and friendly. At the moment, I had been out of college for three years. I thought that my friend died, he was so young. What about all he wanted? All he desired. He didn't get much time, all he was went with him, so I thought maybe I should try this art thing, see where it takes me. At the time, I had only three months before most MFA deadlines, so I applied, and I waited. Are there more artists in your family? Wow, I had never thought about that...Coming to think about it yes. You see, my family came from Great Britain, my grandmother was a potter during the arts and crafts movement, and my grandfather was a woodworker. He owned a furniture factory that was pressed into service during the Second World War. He made propellers for military aircraft. Does your background in science play a role in your work? Both art and science are similar processes. I would say that science takes more creativity than most sciences would like to admit. They both deal with things not readily available, which is that which cannot be seen, grasped. Yet, science is kind of rigid. I probably came to science because I was always curious about the world. As a child, my family and me used to spend a lot of time outside. I was always curious about things, about the phenomena I saw. I wanted to understand it, I wanted to find out why things where the way they are. That's what brought me to science, until I found out that I could harness art in a similar way. What is a favorite color? Right now, I would say it is a faded turquoise, as if it had been sitting on the sun for decades. More.... http://chicagocontemporaryartseminar.com/artist-interviews/manuel-rodriguez-interviews-alex-chitty/
Dungeons and Dragons is a hell of a game. With a basis in traditional battle strategy, the Role-Playing Game (RPG) offers each participant the possibility to develop fantastical characters and provides an omnipotent Dungeon Master to keep track of the story constructed through play. The classic “analog” game is a source of inspiration for the latest painting series by Brooklyn based artist Kadar Brock. Within Brock’s studio the trappings of an intensive painting process are immediately evident. Plaster, enamel, spray paint on a wheeled cart, sanders, industrial primers and pens of every sort are grouped amongst buckets of scrapped paintings and collected dust. Each material is fed through a process of abstract painting where they become imbued with an artist’s enchantment in their ideal state. This enchantment likened to the wizardry of a D&D player makes up the crux of an artistic metaphor that Brock uses to explain art world roles. “When I first started on this line of thought I was using a character sheet for the level 25 wizard in D&D to generate content. Chance systems were used to generate compositions. Roll dice and use stats. Roll playing games at their most basic are a set of stats, the same way a painting is just a painting – it’s factual material. The material is only going to function as long as people interact with it. There has to be a reciprocal relationship of belief around the work.” In an effort to be more objective about producing, he set up a character to construct a process for creating. A painting may begin in a traditional sense, with a few strokes on canvas, then become whitewashed, sanded, thrown on the ground to collect spills from another project, whitewashed again, and so on, up to at most 15 times before a surface is built, and the work is deemed finished. This process is likened to a piece rolling in and out of enchanted states as each successive turn of texturing is undergone. The excess that comes from each sanding and clipping of a canvas ends up collected in bins which serve as an additive to halved plaster paint bucket sculptures. They are reminiscent of an archaeological cross section with traces of canvas scraps emerging from the surface. “The action of painting can be likened to the digestion of another painting.” In the case of these plaster sculptures, Brock calls forth the reference of Brancusi’s columns and paint cans. “If painting is a magical or transitive act, then every piece of them will contain some of its aura. I can use a reference from history as artists from my team, the people that I’m looking at, and the information I’m surrounding myself with, and this builds a context for these auratic objects.” Belief structures from the tradition of American Abstraction also influence these works. Brock constantly tests the ideas that action painting holds some sort of knowledge about the creator that can be likened to theories of graphology. His study of gesture and interest in authorship has a different spin on it than the original Abstract Expressionist (AbEx) painters though, since he also pits this belief against artists working to empty sacredness out of a painting in subsequent generations (see Christopher Wool). AbEx authorship finds its way into a series of failed utopian systems in Brock’s artistic philosophy, along with idealized spirituality and early techno movements. He jokes that the space of each painting is reminiscent of a very early video game, from a generation of game play where Zelda and the first Final Fantasy were deemed seminal. The rugged individualism of American Abstraction is paired with a wave of California new age stemming from the 90s. Neon spray paint, reminiscent of easy living, manifest destiny is added to bold gestural streaks, and covered once more, returned to a blank industrially primed surface. “I can make a thing that is about destroying my relationship to painting by constantly trying to pare them down. Then trying to cover it up and add base materials like pen ink. If I put a stop between myself and all these removes, and all these dodges, then I have a way to talk about abstraction. I can role play these things into existence.” Artist Website: kadarbrock.com The Hole Gallery, New York City theholenyc.com Vigo Gallery, London www.vigogallery.com Studio Visit Photographs by Jen Trahan
‘THIS IS THE KIND OF TERRITORY WHERE WE CAN TAKE RISKS’: Chicago-Based Curators Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar on Opening Their Own Gallery This Fall
This past March, a couple of high-level curatorial positions opened up at Kavi Gupta Gallery’s Chicago location (the gallery is also based in Berlin), following a resignation announcement from longtime co-directors Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar. Initially, their departure was only intended as an opportunity “to decompress, learn to cook, and stare at the wall,” as Aguilar puts it. “Certain things happened in our lives, things that we felt like we needed to absorb individually,” said Fischbach over the phone. “When we left the gallery, we weren’t 100% sure which direction we wanted to go in. I wouldn’t call it a mid-life crisis, but I had this urge to go in a different direction.” Aguilar considered attending business school—prior to working at Kavi Gupta, he had founded a successful Chicago-based media company. “I’ve always really enjoyed nurturing things and watching them grow,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of gallery directors have an ambition to open their own gallery, because it’s so much extra responsibility.” After a month, the two reconnected and concluded that, above all, they wanted to continue working together, and they will do so at a new business called Patron Gallery, on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. “Julie and I were really partners in crime at Kavi,” said Aguilar. “We worked together 24/7. We thought, ‘Ok. We work really well together, we like the same things, we both see eye-to-eye; why don’t we give this a try?’” Fischbach and Aguilar’s combined curatorial experience totals thirty years, the bulk of which was spent at Kavi Gupta. Though excited by freedom that comes with authority, Kavi’s influence lingers. “Kavi was very open to input and new ideas, and there was a real collaborative feel in the way the gallery program grew.” Likewise, Aguilar said of Patron, “For the most part, we’re very democratic here.” Their first exhibition, coinciding with the EXPO Chicago fair this month, features artists such as Kadar Brock, Daniel G. Baird, and Alex Chitty. Patron will concentrate primarily on Chicago-based artists and also contemporary Latin American art, though other artists won’t be ignored. Fischbach and Aguilar said they are already considering opening up pop-up galleries in other locations, especially L.A., a city with strong connections to those in their Chicago artist network. Foremost, however, the pair would like to increase the visibility of Chicago’s rich art scene—both historical and present-day—while simultaneously encouraging artists to stay put. “There aren’t a lot of galleries here,” Aguilar told me bluntly. “As an young artist, you graduate with hundreds of other MFA students, and you just disappear into the system. But you look at the cities on the coast and see that they’ve made it—that’s very attractive to artists coming out of departments here. But you can live and have a huge studio here in Chicago for a fraction of the money it would cost in New York or L.A., which is very important for young artists who can’t really afford to live while they’re figuring out their practice. This isn’t New York or L.A. or London or Berlin—it’s the kind of territory where we can take risks.” Copyright 2015, ARTnews Ltd, 40 W 25th Street, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010. All rights reserved.