Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Adam Milner’s Excavations of Everyday Life

tumblr_nxj3xvK9sm1uamkiso1_1280

Negotiations, personal artifacts from the artist’s life (found, recreated, altered, cast, or borrowed) on hand carved pine tables, 2015

pinkbelly

Untitled drawing, belly button lint and tape on paper, 11″ x 8.5″, 2015

Adam Milner is a contemporary artist currently living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Milner encompasses the everyday in his drawings, photographs, sculptures, and videos that often take on a performative tenor. He intervenes with collections of virtual and physical remnants of his own body, social interactions, and sexuality.

Milner has exhibited his work in a variety of venues including Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Aspen Art Muesum, David B. Smith Gallery (Denver), the Fung Wah Biennial (NYC and Philadelphia), Gildar Gallery (Denver), McNichols Building (Denver), and Florian Christopher (Zurich). He is currently an artist in residence at Casa Maauad in Mexico City, where he will have a solo exhibition in August. Milner holds a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is currently pursuing an MFA at Carnegie Mellon University.

emoji3emoji2emoji1emoji4emoji5emoji6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Weiner:
I’ve noticed that many of your works leave the gallery setting and invade real time. For instance, you will post your self portraits of your face imitating emojis on Facebook in response to comments on statuses (Emoji Expressions). Do you actively construct these projects with the intention of creating art that exists outside of traditional art spaces or are they naturally evolving tendencies you have that you later collect, refine, and define as your artwork?

Adam Milner:
Many of my projects begin before I realize they have. Because so much of my work blurs intimately with my personal life, I’ll start doing something and then later realize that it’s the beginning of a “work.” I think that’s why I work in such relatable media: drawing, collecting, making photos and short videos, even performing in one way or another, are things that are commonplace for many people, not just artists. The Emoji photos are a bit different, though, in that I knew it was a performance for camera before it began, and thus was using it as an artwork to very directly think through questions I had about how performance relates to communicating and expressing emotion to each other. I suppose bringing those photos back into social media is a kind of joke for me, but it also gets at the heart of what I’m wondering about these portrayed emotions.

Dances for People I Miss (Untitled Dance 20), performance for camera, 2012-2016

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about Dances for People I Miss. How did you come to these dance moves and how do they relate to the people you miss?

Adam Milner:
Dancing has always been something I’ve enjoyed, though it’s intimidating and very vulnerable for me. I wondered what it might be like if I removed the safety nets that usually surround me when dancing – music, a dark room, alcohol, a crowd of other dancing strangers and friends – and isolated my dancing. It became a way for me to sort of face that fear I had. The performances are very cathartic for me. I make the dances when I think of someone who I wish I could be dancing with, touching, laughing with. I find the nearest blank wall, set up my phone or computer, and dance. I never say who they’re dedicated to, so that they can live online as vague dedications to anyone. Maybe you could send one as an e-card.

milner

tumblr_nrefi1J9Id1uamkiso3_1280

Discreet, photographs of men Milner met on the internet using using dating sites, personals, and social networks. (2012-2016)

Paul Weiner:
Collections of personal information seem prevalent in your works. In Discreet, you photograph men you met online, and they make it clear that they are not consenting to show their faces in the photos. Have these men seen the photographs or their public usage as art? If so, how do they respond to this publicity?

Adam Milner:
These photos are, to some good degree, about compromise. The photos are documents of a negotiation process that the viewer isn’t privy to– we had to create a photo that both of us are comfortable with, and we both have very different interests. The men I’m meeting are often people whose names I don’t know, whose faces I haven’t seen until we meet. The men are interested in anonymity, self preservation. I have certain formal or conceptual interests I need to maintain. We’re both interested in safety, but also pushing that limit a bit. I think this conflict is what makes the series provoking. I don’t think any of the men have come upon their photos later, but I’m not sure. These are generally people who I don’t keep in touch with. Their interests lie in temporary, anonymous encounters, so staying friends or inviting them to the exhibition would go against everything that prompted our meeting in the first place. I don’t meet them under the agreement to make a portrait, that comes later. So I’m immediately creating a conflict when I mention any kind of document at all. The resolving of that conflict is what interests me, this meeting in the middle where we are both vulnerable, both at risk. We’re both willingly meeting a stranger who we have to blindly trust. They have an added vulnerability because of their need for anonymity and I become vulnerable by presenting this problem of the photograph. Once the problem is solved, we go our separate ways.

blood

Untitled (Blood Tapestry), blood on paper, 11″ x 8.5″, 2016

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent collages and drawings include bodily materials: semen, blood, belly button lint, hair. How did you come to these materials and with what processes did you apply them to the canvas? Are you ejaculating or bleeding directly on the paper or are you collecting these fluids and using them like more traditional art materials?

Adam Milner:
I’ve been thinking a lot about bodily traces– the marks and residues we leave behind as we live. I think drawing is a very natural endeavor and that everyone, not just artists, are constantly leaving behind marks on surfaces. Emma Dexter says “to draw is to be human,” and I think there’s something true there.

So I’ve been mining the body for a lot of my drawings. These substances come from looking at what sort of drawings my body already makes all the time (semen on a sheet, an accidental prick of blood, a loose eyelash falling to the table), as well as asking what materials I can mine from myself, a way to self-sustain. I recently learned that medieval artists working on illuminated manuscripts would sometimes use their own ear wax to give substance to the pigment, instead of egg yolk. I’m thinking of these materials somewhat like that, as accessible, regenerating, and personal, but also having certain specific material properties and certain cultural significance.

The drawings are so intimately made, often in bed or in my lap, and so it just made sense to begin pulling the material directly from bodies. Some drawings are very solitary and almost hermetic, while others are much more social. For instance, now a friend might hand me an eyelash across the table when they notice it on a cheek, and there are certain people I know who produce a lot of bellybutton lint which I try to barter for when I see them. As for how they’re made, I think drawings say enough for themselves already. It’s something I love about drawings, that they contain so much information. Every act of making the drawing is contained on the page. They’re transparent, unsecretive.

tumblr_o4gfbyt8no1uamkiso1_1280

Untitled, blood and plastic on paper, 11″ x 8.5″, 2016

Paul Weiner:
What have you found to be your favorite bodily material to work with?

Adam Milner:
It really varies. Each material has so much embedded in it. I might approach a material with a very specific memory or association, only to later remember its more cultural or political implications or learn about its historical usages, and then be seduced by its materiality and strangeness or beauty, and then remember another specific memory again. It’s an exciting thing to juggle, all these various ways to relate to a material.

Right now blood is really interesting to me. It’s such a powerful substance, so loaded and so valuable and personal. I like that I have this precious material in my body, but that nobody wants. I can mine myself and it will replenish and regenerate. Yet it’s almost dangerously cliche to work with, and I like that challenge too. I approached blood initially as this continually replenishing and beautiful material, only to realize how obviously political it is. Because of my sexual identity, I’m not allowed to donate blood, and it’s amazing to me how I have this really valuable and important substance that nobody wants. I think about how when I was 16, people would come to my high school and take pints of our blood—kids’ blood!—and then sell it. Blood reminds me of the complexities of who controls the body, who really owns it. And what it’s worth. These are strange questions. I often feel victimized when I think about blood. But yesterday I spilled a lot of blood onto a pillowcase and it looked like a murder scene— it was the first time the blood had looked so violent. I somehow had previously avoided aggression or violence in the blood drawings. But looking at the blood spilled and splattered like that, I couldn’t get recent news out of my mind— unarmed people being shot cold in the street because of their race, or the murder involved with war. Everything about the body is political and blood reminds me of that. I’m realizing that to make these works is a huge act of privilege. Looking at a lineage of art history, it’s easy for me to see these materials as drained of their potency, but at the end of the day these things are what they are. Using this material is equally personal, formal, political. Blood contains everything.

nowhere1

Nowhere Voyage (still from video) HD video (looping) and artifacts (found and recreated), 2015

discreet

Nowhere Voyage Installation at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in Now? Now!

Paul Weiner:
For your performance piece in the Fung Wah Biennial, which is essentially a road trip from Manhattan to various east coast cities during which artists intervene with the passengers, you dropped a vase in front of the bus and let it shatter. How did you come to plan this action?

Adam Milner:
That work (Conversation Around a Pot) involved an improvised phone call I made while on the bus. While sharing these really intimate stories and experiences over the phone, nearby passengers could hear snippets, receiving a sort of fragmented narrative of loss, longing, the confusing blurring of bodies that happens when one attaches to an object. All the while on this two hour bus ride, I was clutching this handmade ceramic pot, only for it to smash upon our arrival. That moment of loss and of breaking was important for me to share with those who had been on the bus, as well as passersby. It’s a hard performance for me to understand or digest still. Creating this moment of the pot breaking united me with the people around me somehow. And was also somehow a betrayal of their trust, even while they were strangers.

It’s part of a larger investigation around what performance in everyday life looks like. I’m really excited about moments I see throughout the day, moments in public space, that shake me out of my head, that make me see the world a little differently, or moments that feel like a strange gift. I saw this guy walking down the street bopping his head with headphones on, and as he passed this long building, his blue and white North Carolina Tarheels head-to-toe outfit matched the building exactly. And he walked along the building for like five minutes just perfectly matching it. And I wondered if he was even aware of this moment. For me, it felt like seeing a shooting star.

So I’m doing a lot of new performances in public space, things that are unannounced and can exist quietly as part of the fabric of the city. Some of the performances are for people in rush hour traffic. What if I continue to accidentally break a beautiful pot at the same time and place each week, creating a loop or forced deja vu for commuters? Another work involves working with performers to cry in public spaces like Chipotle or the post office. These performances seemed like a departure for me until I realized that they still have everything I cared about in the previous work, like repetitive behavior, a blurring of art and life, and a vulnerability and sincerity that can be confusing and hard to reconcile with the idea of performing.

I think my project Nowhere Voyage was the beginning of this. Going on a cruise ship hosted by Grindr, I essentially created this quiet week-long performance aboard the ship. I told people I met that I was there as an artist doing a performance, and then let things expand from there, as strangers became involved and audiences came and went and contexts shifted over time. I gogo danced on stages in empty bars, I gave my room number to everyone and waited for interactions, I performed for poolside cameras which connected to closed circuit televisions in the staterooms. It was an important gesture for me, to embark on a performance without knowing what it would entail, a performance with layers of audiences and other performers, something that sat so closely to the everyday that it could be confused as nothing at all.

13401124_10104037092915333_2071133160_n

@adammilner Instagram, December 24, 2015

Paul Weiner:
We live in a time where the barriers between artistic mediums are breaking down. Painters, for instance, are making sculptures or videos and calling them paintings because of the philosophy with which they approach those mediums. When I see your drawings, I often feel as though I’m watching the direct result of a bodily action of yours taking place on the paper, particularly in the cases of your sleep drawings and the recent pieces involving bodily fluids. Your videos create a similar sense of voyeurism. Is it fair to say that these works, though not directly existing in the medium of performance, have the essence of the performative practice?

Adam Milner:
I’ve recently become comfortable introducing myself as a performance artist. I think this is important. Often these categories can limit the reading of work, but in this case, I’m really excited about other people starting to see the performative action involved at the root of all my work. It’s always a document or artifact of some performed or embodied behavior that happened previously. I think performance is inherently about repetition, about learning from what has come before and embodying that history, using the body to store and share knowledge. Performance is always about some pattern or repetition and using those modes to share experience. Whether I’m making a drawing, video, or intervention, I’m thinking about these things through the lens of performance, as actions of the body that the viewer is not always privy to. Sometimes we only see the resulting object. Thinking of things this way automatically creates distance and desire, to be reminded as the viewer that you are getting a glimpse into something but not seeing everything.


Please view Adam Milner’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Painting with Chance: Jenny Brosinski on Giving up Control and Inviting Erasure

Jenny Brosinski pummels her viewer into a state of emotional resonance with intoxicating pinks and lightning yellows dichotomously painted over a surface of raw, faded canvas. Building on sensual marks and spray painted poofs, Brosinski layers her paintings by bringing them to her laundromat where, in a post-Cagean play on chance, she washes and dries them to create the striking appearance of chromatic distress that dominates her work. She works in a mad rush, producing six or more pieces at once in a tornado of painterly action rivaled only by the creative energy of the Berlin neighborhood where she resides. The result is an eccentric range of aesthetic sensibilities and paintings that are outfitted with magnificent personalities.

Brosinski, who holds a postgraduate degree from Weißensee Academy of Art, lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She is a 2015 recipient of Leipzig’s Pilotenküche residency and member of the 2014 Berlin Art Prize shortlist.

IMG_20150608_092701 (1)

Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your studio and the way you work there.

Jenny Brosinski:
My Studio is a nice, bright place on the third floor of an old factory in Berlin-Wedding. There are many other artists on the grounds, but also many people doing totally different things. On the second floor, for example, there is a mosque. If you ask me about my studio and the way I work there, you have to know that my working method has a lot to do with contemplation, which surely applies to a great member of artists too. But often I am sitting there for hours only looking and thinking. I do that, as I remember, since I was a little girl from two years old. Steadily since that time I have been looking for a calm place with no toys or entertainment. So, as my first studio, I found the second bathroom on the first floor of my grandparents’ house, which nobody normally used during the day. Sometimes, it feels like you are here alone thinking or dreaming. I like that. Now, a few years later, I have my own studio – and I think it’s still the same (even if I have my notebook with me – just in case). I like that place where nobody will come in, disturb, or cop me. I am not the kind of artist who is painting all the time. I work in waves, doing different things at different times, and I need most of the time to look at things, to feel what they do to me – or don’t. Then I paint quickly. This is a shame because I really love painting. Often, I paint more than six paintings at the same time.

IMG_20150926_234258 (1)

Paul Weiner:
I’ve noticed that your paintings are often unstretched and unprimed when you are working on them. Why do you do this?

Jenny Brosinski:

When I have “finished” my paintings, after some weeks of living together with them, I take them off the wooden stretchers and bring them to the laundromat, where I wash and tumble dry them. It’s hard to surprise yourself; perhaps this is the reason that I am not interested in celebrating myself with every brushstroke I make. That is really important for my working process. I love to destroy, to lose control, to react to something. This is the point where my paintings get unstretched and unprimed in my work. Also, the canvas changes its materiality when it is washed and dried. It looks and feels a little like bedclothes, and at the same time it reminds me at graffiti, landscapes, and old surfaces.

IMG_20150907_221856 (1)

Paul Weiner:
Many of your paintings contain pastel colors. Is there a reason for this kind of color palette?

Jenny Brosinski:

Certainly I have my own favorite color palette, like most of us, but the washing process also decides what happens to the base coat colors. So, for sure, I am interested in those kinds of colors because they are washy and symbolize the past for me. In contrast, I use strong colors for my final intervention. Likewise, I observed that different colors react different to the washing process, but I try not to get influenced by this information. I think it is important that I am only interested in to making a good painting first, whatever that means to any of us! – and as a second step I have to destroy it. That’s part of the game, to erase something that you really set store on. After I finally paint notations on, I stretch them. This is a special moment for me, a little like a metamorphosis. In the end it becomes a painting AGAIN, telling you a story of trying to remember or misremember something.

IMG_20151012_144715 (1)

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your interest in keeping a calm studio. Do you also find your paintings to have this sort of calm to them?

Jenny Brosinski:
This is a difficult question. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but I don’t think so. I think I use this kind of calm or quiet to offset parts of my inner personality – whatever that means.

Bambi_neu (1)

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of surprise in your painting process being achieved by washing away the paint as an act of erasure. When did you start washing your paintings?

Jenny Brosinski:
I think I first started in 2012/13 with showering my paintings, but only for a short while because I got really frustrated about the control I had in this process. After that experience, I started washing my paintings with machines.

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about living as an artist in Berlin today and how this place has impacted your artwork.

Jenny Brosinski:
Berlin is, for me, the only city in Germany I want to live in. My decision to move to Berlin came nine years ago, and it was a practical one. Berlin was one of the cheapest cities in Germany with interesting immigrants/artists from all over the world and a lot of culture. So I moved to Berlin in 2006. It was a good decision, even if the rents are higher, and it’s overcrowded with artists now. Everyone is, or becomes, an artist in Berlin. Anyway, I got lucky, and Berlin has supported me with fellowships, culture, and an interesting art scene so I can become more and more professional in my work. I often ask myself if the city I am living in has impacted my artwork. I think maybe my preference for spray paint is due to Berlin’s street art stuff that I come across everyday. What I really love is that every hood in Berlin is different and has it´s own rules – Wedding (my working-hood) for example is strange but honest and makes me feel grounded.

BerlinArtPrize2014_Kuelker_021 (1)

Paul Weiner:
The market for contemporary painting has been very strong as of late. It’s becoming common to hear critics and artists alike saying that money is now influencing art to make it trendier or more easier to sell. Do you ever feel impacted by the market’s demands?

Jenny Brosinski:
No.

Paul Weiner:
A large contingent of art critics are referring to contemporary abstract painting as “zombie formalism”. The most recent Venice Biennale focused heavily on conceptual art. As a contemporary painter, do you feel pressured or tempted at all to move into other art forms such as sculpture, video, and installation or are you dedicated only to painting?

Jenny Brosinski:
For me, it’s not interesting or useful to jump on a running train. Even if critics invent interesting neologisms for my kind of painting, it is not my job to think about something like that. I am painting. They’re writing. Everybody should do what they’re best at. To be focused on my work includes being honest with myself as well as with the material I have to use. So, if it would be important to use video or installation for myself and my artwork someday, why not? As an artist, you should have the freedom to do whatever you want, even if the market for contemporary painting has become very strong. I am a painter painting paintings.


Please view Jenny Brosinski’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Gert Scheerlinck: Painting with Materials

Gert Scheerlinck’s paintings extend into the field of material interventions through which he studies the poetics of everyday life. Scheerlinck presents found objects and arrangements that approach conceptual ambiguity, allowing for open interpretation while offering intensely minimalist aesthetics reminiscent of Arte Povera. Splitting the difference between painting and sculpture, Scheerlinck complicates his found objects by entering a world of intense yet blasé anecdotes commenting on the fabric of society. He revitalizes discarded materials to catch his viewers in a web of imprecise or displaced signifiers and develops tension in a reconstructed, banal conversation.

Scheerlinck is an artist from Belgium who has exhibited his work at Museum M in Leuven, Belgium; Campo site, Ghent, Belgium; Patrick Studios, Leeds, UK; ABK, Aalst, Belgium; Entrepot Fictief/Jan Colle Galerie, Ghent, Belgium; Flux Factory, Long Island City, NY, USA; and in a variety of other international spaces. He has upcoming exhibitions at Bozar De L’abattoir in Bergen, Netherlands opening October 17th and at Oude Beurs in Antwerpen, Belgium opening October 21st. Critique Collective previously interviewed Scheerlinck about his early paintings before he transitioned to a material based practice. Further images of Scheerlinck’s artwork can be found on his website.
Old News


Paul Weiner:
Since we last spoke, you made a transition to a largely material based practice. Could you explain what prompted you to stop using so much paint, or at least to use it differently, and pursue the assemblage of materials and objects?

Gert Scheerlinck:
As you know, I’m trained as a painter. During the training, the most important tools were canvas and paint. The canvas could be replaced, but painting without paint was not addressed during my education. Even after my training, paint remained a way to express myself for quite a while. When you interviewed me the first time, the canvas was already replaced by non-artistic material, but I could not let go of the paint yet. The real turn came when a curator asked me about the importance of paint in my work. At that time material had already taken a prominent role, and the paint was incidental. That was the moment I started to see painting differently. I still apply the same principles, but I replaced paint with materials, and the interaction with space is even more intense now. I paint with material.

Paul Weiner:
Do you expect your viewers to have the same thoughts or interventions with these materials as you do?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Absolutely not. Every material evokes some association or arouses certain feelings. I often refer to daily life, the natural environment, cultural stratification, relationships, and contradictions. But this does not necessarily correspond with the viewer. The interpretation can vary from person to person because my work is suggestive. My work is often described as poetic. An art reviewer formulated it as follows: “Each of these art works are an image of life itself in small and higher expectations, in dreams and nightmares, in findings and concerns … The artist profiles himself as eyewitness of everyday life”. I couldn’t say it better myself.

Come In ,Watch Out

Paul Weiner:
Where do you usually find the components for your work and how does this impact the meaning behind the assemblages?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Actually, I’m not even consciously looking. It seems, rather, that the objects find me. In one way or another, they grab my attention through their shape, color, or texture, and, of course, the object must also evoke suggestions to me. Most people think I have a studio full of smelly and dirty stuff. Nothing is less true. I just pick up the objects I feel connected with. The object must speak to me. It’s hard to explain. It is a feeling, a kind of sympathy, an understanding. It feels good or it doesn’t.

The place where I find an object is of interest to myself, but it has no effect on the final assembly. This encounter is needed because I want to bring back that what is removed from society.

Untitled (slippers) (1)

Paul Weiner:
Though you have moved away from using paint in your work, some of your pieces still reference art materials. For instance, in Untitled (slippers), you rest a pair of slippers against a bent canvas that has been stretched and primed. Other works, though, totally eschew art materials. After your transformation in moving away from paint, how do you feel about the removal of any traditional art making materials?

Gert Scheerlinck:
The piece with the slippers you refer to can be considered a transitional piece. The broken canvas does, indeed, refer to my past as a painter. The slippers belonged to my wife, the one who supported me in my career choices. She understood fast enough that a canvas was limiting me and motivated me to go beyond the obvious. In that way, she played an important role in who I am as an artist.

When the word ‘canvas’ was mentioned, I felt ill at ease because it needed to be used in its original meaning. In this piece of art, I don’t use the canvas in its original function, but as mere material with a connotation to painting. That’s a big difference. I found distance from the use of canvas and paint in their traditional means to create art from a different approach. In that way, I don’t see why I should take full distance or never use them again.

In Transit

Paul Weiner:
As you mentioned, your work can reference life, the environment, and cultural stratification. Since you are using found objects, do you allow the objects speak to their own implicit politics or are you constructing stories out of these objects that serve your own political views?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Every artist working with materials needs to be able to feel the material, both physically as well as emotionally. There needs to be a kind of affinity with the material. I never start working with the object right after finding it. It stays in my studio for a while. I observe and scan its form and color, its emotional value, memory, or happening. And this takes time.

When – in time – the object can be on its own and tell its story, I don’t have anything to add. I need to accept it as ready-made (e.g. Mattress). In other cases, I work on the object and create my own story. I scan it and transform it by combination or deduction. Often, I put hard against soft or warm against cold. I search for dialogue. A good example is ‘In Transit’, a recent artwork where two objects, a chain and a piece of tire, form a relationship. The tire symbolizes a movement towards the future. The chain refers to the past, dragging along the burden and desire to break out of the routine. On the other hand, it is also symbolizing a bond (the Dutch for bond is band, which is also the word for ‘tire’). This piece was made for the benefit of an educational center where they support youngsters with serious and prolonged issues.

Untitled (apple)

Paul Weiner:
Your work often takes on muted hues, black and white shades, and minimalist or abject presentation. Are these visual choices made for stylistic purposes or is there a conceptual reason for the simplicity many of your works take on?

Gert Scheerlinck:
I consciously work with minimalism because I want to keep the focus on the found object that needs to be observed in its simplicity and beauty. Because of the fast and evasive society we live in, we take approximately 8 to 15 seconds time to look at a piece of art. To learn how to look at art is a thing of the past. Every detail and all questioning escapes the viewer. As an artist, I feel it is my objective to put that in the spotlight and to invite the viewer to learn again how to watch and appreciate the little things in life.

To come back to your question, in short, the answer is both. I don’t consider the artwork acceptable when both conditions aren’t met.

Take the “sock and apple” as an example: visually, this a very aesthetic piece of art, but it makes you think. Why has the sock been stretched? And what is the apple doing there? These are two very recognizable materials most viewers can relate to. It invites them to think. For me it is a very personal piece. The sock belonged to my daughter when she was 4 years old. Stretching the sock symbolizes her growing up, and the apple refers to the apple of my eye, the one I love the most.


Please view Gert Scheerlinck’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Robert Szot Relentlessly Pursues the Seduction of Lyrical Abstract Painting

For fourteen years, Robert Szot has been a constant in the fluctuating Brooklyn art scene. The artist, who arrived in New York from Texas as a twenty-five year old and has since felt the pressures of New York’s stage, embodies honesty in his work. Szot does not shy away from beauty or painterly skill, instead pushing lyrical abstraction forward while rejecting the ever-present pull of zombie formalism. His work is hard to pin down, evincing canonical references in his formal techniques and relationship with beauty and music that seem connected with the abstraction of Synchromist artists such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright or Morgan Russell, a movement that predated Abstract Expressionism by 30 years. These references, though, are mediated by the history of color field painting, at times reaching washy paint handling and breaks between colors reminiscent of Helen Frankenthaler. Regardless, the clearest position in Szot’s work is a deadly sentimentality, the kind of pride in the American painting lineage that leaves Szot’s work poetic, vibrant, emotional, and unapologetically divorced from the often-cold embrace of contemporary painting paradigms.

Robert Szot is represented by Muriel Guépin Gallery, also the site of his 2014 solo show, Woke Up on Broadway. Szot’s work has exhibited in a variety of galleries across the United States from New York to Los Angeles and Texas. His works have been collected in America and abroad. Szot’s paintings can also be found on his website.

earlyvotingsuperhi

Early Voting, oil on linen, 64″ x 53″


Paul Weiner:
Your paintings are largely created with oil on linen. What draws you to these particular materials?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always used oils. Oil paint is a much more particular and fussy medium than, say, acrylic paint, but once you’re accustomed to its personality, oil paint can be worked with for a much longer time before it dries. That’s important to me because I am a constant editor. I also often utilize underpainting with just a thin layer of overpaint, just a suggestion of another color, and I find I can only achieve that with oils. The linen came into play just a few years ago. It feeds my love of history to use linen prepared in a very traditional way. The linen I use has a medium tooth surface that is sized with rabbit skin glue and then double lead primed. It is extravagant, and I often wonder if I should be ruining it by painting on it. It truly is a love affair I am embarrassed to say. Painting on oil primed linen provides a much slicker surface, too. I find oil just sits on top of it and dries very vibrantly. I use the best art supplies I can afford because when I sell a painting, I want, at the very least, to feel confident in the materials. I hate the idea of selling someone something cheap.

exitcalisuperhires

Exit California, oil on linen, 54″ x 62″

Paul Weiner:
Contemporary abstract paintings are often labeled as being decorative. Do you consider your work as having any decorative influences or would you reject this interpretation?

Robert Szot:
I would reject that interpretation where my own work is concerned, but I understand why that thought is out there. There is so much access now, which I encourage, but with access comes a flood of under developed and under thought-out “abstract” paintings. Really, there has been a flood of under developed work, abstract or otherwise, lately. I think many of these paintings are created for decoration and are not meant to be interpreted or studied as serious creations. It’s the climate we are in now, fame over everything. Be outrageous, show your ass, whatever it takes to get the attention of strangers regardless of its ability to last or how much thought it will provoke. As a result, the impetus for a painting often becomes a couch and not contemplation. I don’t paint like that. I won’t lie to you and say I don’t appreciate attention, but more than that my work is fiercely personal to me, and I won’t customize it to match decor. Often, I will get a request for a commission that comes with conditions from the client: color, size, etc. I get it. It’s an investment, and something you are going to have to live with hopefully for a long time, but I have to politely decline because I am a painter and not an interior decorator. If you ask for a painting from me, you really are asking for a piece of my life during the time it took to complete that painting, so my ability to compromise is very limited. There are plenty of people printing paintings out on a computer that will gladly go into photoshop and change a color to match your drapes. It’s as empty as it sounds.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting as far as the physical process goes?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always been at my best when I am fixing things on a canvas. I must intentionally make things difficult on myself because I make such bad decisions so often. Fixing them helps me advance the painting as a whole, and my frustration with them provides a real velocity to the work. Starting a painting is very difficult for me because there is nothing to solve in a blank space. So, day one for me is really just putting down marks and choosing colors that will hopefully stand out later in the composition. Lately, I have been getting into a lot of line work, almost like a Brice Marden, dark veiny lines cutting off certain areas of the canvas that may or may not influence the final composition. Nothing is permanent, and I will sacrifice any portion of the painting if it’s dragging the composition down. My paints are also mixed with mineral spirits and walnut oil, so everything is very loose and quite thin.

Vulgar Nobodies, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
How do you come to a title for your work?

Robert Szot:
I get this question a lot. The short answer is that I read too much Walker Percy and listen to The Smiths on heavy rotation. I’ve always liked clever people who could string a punchy sentence together. The longer answer is I keep a running list of things I hear or see during a regular day, little things that sound good to me in realtime that I may or may not come back and use. I’ll give you an example. Last year, I did two paintings with the same title, “Flood Law.” “Flood” and “Law” are two cross streets in New Orleans that I just happened to be on one day, and the two words just fit together. That is the perfect situation for me because not only does it provide a title but it has the bonus effect of leaving a little hint of my life behind for someone to find. That’s very appealing to me, to make up little mysteries for people to stumble into. It’s a long shot, but someone might find those cross streets one day, think of my painting, and then think what a cleaver bastard that Robert Szot was. I have a deep love of history too and find endless titles in textbooks and historical documents. There is nothing like resurrecting a term like “Demirep” to make you feel like you’re freshening up the language a bit.

lookinroomssuperhi (1)

Look in Rooms, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
Do you usually have an idea or emotion in mind before starting a painting or does that develop together with the painting process?

Robert Szot:
I think emotion builds with the painting, and ideas are generated by other ideas as I work. My process is very kaleidoscopic. One decision leads to twenty others and ideas die and are reborn over and over again. I think, though my process can frustrate me, it provides for an original work every time. I mean, I am certain that I have made similar choices in several different paintings, but, depending on how far I took one idea or another, each painting can stand alone. It is very important to create singularities, objects that don’t repeat and can maintain authorship throughout. Doing this naturally creates a history of work that others can look at and actively participate in. It is very seductive to spend time with a piece of someone’s history, especially if it is one that won’t ever be repeated. Your painting has now become a watermark of your life, and more than that, strangers can come and interact, empathize, and discover parts of who they are through your work. It’s a conversation with a person they never had the opportunity to meet. I never got to meet Philip Guston, but I feel like I know him. I think DeKooning and I make the same mistakes. It sounds sentimental, I know, but it’s a reality for me. I love those guys.

Philistine, oil on linen, 23″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned Brice Marden and his style of painting. Are there any artists who you think have influenced your practice, whether historical or contemporary?

Robert Szot:
I like Brice Marden well enough. I wouldn’t say he was a direct influence on my work, though. Going away, Francis Bacon is the best painter. There is no separation between who he was and his work, which I think is the ultimate goal of any artist worth contemplating. We are all expressing ourselves, I guess, but how many really lay everything out for strangers to review? Not many. Egon Schiele falls in Bacon’s camp too. Philip Guston, who I mentioned earlier, ranks big for me. That guy changed direction midstream and didn’t care what people thought of it. That’s great stuff. Maybe it’s not the work so much that influences me, but the people who made it. Certainly, it is difficult to pull Francis Bacon out of one of my paintings. It’s chalk and cheese, but if I am lucky the approach is the same. I want the energy of a Francis Bacon, the recklessness of a Philip Guston, and the sorrow of a Mark Rothko to all come together in one frame, a terrible sucker punch that unfolds into a deeper story.

Contemporary painters are something new for me. I tend to isolate myself and, as much as I hate to admit it, I look at other painters as friendly competition and would rather be free of their influence. Only recently have I been getting to know other artists, and my new affiliations are pleasant and worth having. Galen Cheney and Christina Foard are wild painters who regularly make decisions I am too afraid to make in my own work. Suzanne Kammin is an extremely talented painter out of New Jersey. You can’t leave Patrick Diaz out of the conversation either. He is spearheading the painting scene in Austin, Texas at the moment. It’s a good news, bad news scenario that these exceptional people exist. God love them, but the competition is too much sometimes.

ftworthsuperhires (2)

Fort Worth Collects, oil on linen mounted on panel, 18″ x 24″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you have a sentimentality for some 20th Century New York artists, especially DeKooning and Guston. Is that why you came to New York?

Robert Szot:
Yes. Probably, in the end, it was. I have family here too, my brother, and he will always be important to me.

The very idea of being able to have a shared experience with someone you admire is irresistible, especially when you’re young and idealistic. I think that drives a lot of people with potential. Imagine you have a very small idea, just an ember of desire to want to do something special with your life. Now imagine there is a tangible place where people who you perceive to have a commonality with spent their formative years. You’d go there, of course. New York City was my school, and, never having had any formal art training, it became this incredible do-or-die life for me. You’re here, and you’re working on surviving whilst painting at night and in between whatever job you can muster that month. It all finds its way back into your painting. Then, at some point, it becomes less about what you do and more about who you’ve become. I remember my first studio was on 14th and 6th Avenue, and I would ride the F train very late at night back to Brooklyn, where I lived. One night on the train, it just struck me that I was very happy to be where I was. Broke, yes. Without prospects or interest in my work, yes. But damn alive. I left everything prior to that moment in the past. I resolved that anything that happened before that little moment on the F train at two or three in the morning was just going to be some warm memory like a story I heard in a bar a long time ago. Maybe that is what happened to people like DeKooning and Guston. Maybe they had that same awakening on the shitty F train. I had to come to New York City to dialogue with the same entity that all great artists seem to know so well that they can incorporate it, use it, in the work they produce.

Paul Weiner:
How long do your paintings usually take from start to finish, and how do you know when you are done?

Robert Szot:
Forever and Never.


Please view Robert Szot’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free. 

Tom Melsen’s Timely Paintings Address the Drama of Contemporary Life

Tom Melsen’s paintings fuse the dramatic and aggressive into a melancholy that can be seen as a result of his peripatetic travels, a reflection of the places he has experienced. His paintings emerge out of a liminal space between the intelligibility of representation and abstraction’s poetic theatrics. Indeed, Melsen’s paint handling exists in a space that makes odd bedfellows of Peter Doig and Cecily Brown as his compositions blend unsettling passages of quietude and conservative color choices with consistently bold punches of intuitive paint application and occasional layers of glowing chroma. With an unflinching gaze, Melsen captures the jouissance of painterly turmoil through which a balancing act between discomfort and pleasure reveals the psychological essence of captured identities and landscapes. He is at his best when representing fictional, anonymous people such as a man in a brown suit, someone blowing out birthday candles, or a partygoer. These paintings feel free and inventive while maintaining the hawkishly staring study present in his more objective works. This lens is most apparent in his painting of a woman in the hospital, in which Melsen unloads layers of fleshy paint blurred into a bruising, purple container to develop a piercing poetry of desolation and grief.

In 2014, Melsen exhibited his work at Firehouse Gallery in Dublin, Ireland; somoS in Berlin, Germany; P60 in Amstelveen, the Netherlands; and Kunstwerk aan de Winkel in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This year, he has exhibited at Gallery Nomad in Berlin, Germany with a forthcoming show to open in April at De Kristal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Melsen has also been nominated for the Palm Art Award, filmed for a documentary by Brazilian filmmaker Leticia Simoes, and collaborated with techno record label Lateral Fragments. Melsen is also a poet and musician who has composed soundtracks for independent films.

tommelsen-thewalk

The Walk, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 60 cm

underfoldingbranches

Under Folding Branches/Autumn Leaves, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm


Paul Weiner:
How did you first come to painting as your artistic medium?

Tom Melsen:
Ever since I was a child, I have gone to museums and read books about art. My father studied art history, so we often went to a museum, and he introduced me to many great painters. I remember going to a museum with my father when there was a special Picasso exhibition going on. It was an exhibition with works from his blue period. After seeing that exhibition, I knew I wanted to become an artist. I started reading more and more about Picasso; it was all really inspiring. I became interested in his life and work. At the same time, I started working with acrylic and oil paint, trying out different things.

picasso

Portrait of Picasso, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm

van gogh

Portrait of van Gogh, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 40 cm

Paul Weiner:
Your paintings often represent historical artists such as Picasso or Van Gogh. Which artists have had the greatest impact on your work?

Tom Melsen:
Besides Picasso, Francis Bacon became a huge inspiration for my own work. I think what drew me to the works of Bacon is that it is very dramatic. The images he portrays, the colors that he uses, and the stories behind his works are very interesting. I love how Bacon portrays intense loneliness, despair, and inner turmoil. I think that is much more interesting than a painting of ordinary flowers or, for example, a man on a horse. When people tell me they think my work is too dramatic, I take that as a compliment. You can never have too much drama. I’ve learned that, and a lot more, from the great painters.

tommelsen-self-portrait-small

Self-Portrait, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 70 cm

Paul Weiner:
When blending abstraction and the human form, to what extent is the human condition or emotion as important as formal concerns such as painterly beauty or composition?

Tom Melsen:
I think the emotion in a painting is very important. That is also why I love doing portraits. You can capture a lot of emotion in a face. I never attended art school. I have no specific way of working. I really just paint what I feel. Composition and painterly beauty is, of course, very important, but I would say emotion in art is what makes a painting unique. I think it’s the same with music; some people may be very good singers, but when there is lack of emotion, it does not have any effect on me.

tommelsen-memories

Memories, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm

Paul Weiner:
Do you see your poems and musical works as being similar to your paintings or does your thought process change drastically between artistic mediums?

Tom Melsen:
A painting can be an inspiration for a musical piece. For example, when I go to a museum and look at a piece of art, it sometimes happens that a melody pops up in my head, just a certain melody that fits the image. I have often been inspired to write something after visiting a museum. But there is no real connection between my paintings and musical recordings or writings. I keep them separate. Although everything I do seems to have a melancholic feel to it. I don’t know why that is, actually.

tommelsen-maninbrownsuit

Man In Brown Suit, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 cm

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the emotions behind your painting, The Walk, which seems to be an abstracted landscape.

Tom Melsen:
I wanted to make a painting of someone who is walking through this landscape, a landscape with a clear, blue sky and tall grass. In front of the painting, you see a man. I’d like to think that this man is on a journey. Everyone questions where their life is going sometimes. This painting is about dealing with yourself and following your own path. This painting was also inspired by some of the landscapes van Gogh used to paint.

womanatpartysmall

Woman At Party, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

birthday

Birthday, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that your art is often seen as dramatic. Do you see your paintings as being stories that continue from one work to the next or is each painting representing a new idea or emotion?

Tom Melsen:
Each painting is representing a new idea. I like to travel, and when I do, I always carry a small notebook around with me. I’m often scribbling down new ideas for a painting. I’m always exploring different things. I do not want to repeat myself. Over the years, I’ve written so many things down that there is still so much I have yet to paint.

tommelsen-womanathospital

Woman At Hospital, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

Paul Weiner:
Who is the subject for your painting of a woman in the hospital and what led you to paint this woman?

Tom Melsen:
This painting is completely fictional. Last year, I wrote a poem about someone in a hospital. It goes something like this:

“you say your mother is ill. She doesn’t get any better. All your life you’ve never learned how to go without her. No roses by the window. No one’s on the phone. And all that you wonder is how to move along. And all the things you’ve never done. You never do them now. You say your mother is ill. The hospital is empty now.”

The original poem was a bit longer, but I made this painting because I wanted to put some of these writings in a book. I cancelled the book, but the painting survived.

tommelsen-treeatnight-small

Tree At Night, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

Paul Weiner:
Your painting of a tree at night attempts something formally complicated as you attempt to represent something that, in reality, is barely visible. How did you handle this challenge to create a scene that embodies this tree?

Tom Melsen:
I could say that I studied this or did a lot of sketches beforehand, but that would be a lie. As with most of my paintings, this happened by mistake. I’m not a master painter. I actually don’t really know what I’m doing. My way of working is that when I make three paintings, one of them survives. I have to throw away the other two because I don’t think they are any good. It’s a frustrating way of working, but, when a painting works out, it’s a great, almost magical feeling. With this particular painting, Tree At Night, I knew that I wanted to create a night scene with red tones. I had this picture in my mind, and all these colors in my head, and it, surprisingly, turned out pretty much the way I wanted.


Please view Tom Melsen’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free. 

David DiLillo’s Documentary Investigation of Nick Drake’s Hometown

David DiLillo’s multimedia artwork has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Calumet Photographic, Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the City of New York, State of the Art Gallery in Ithaca, Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, Art Takes Times Square, Liverpool Lift-Off Film Festival, on SICTV, and in a wide variety of other galleries, festivals, and publications. He also works as an art instructor and as the Co-Founder/Co-Director of Aquehonga Cinema, a Staten Island community film series. During his interview on Critique Collective, DiLillo illustrates his recent trek to Tanworth-in-Arden, where he documented the town that cult-music icon Nick Drake lived in. Further images of DiLillo’s artwork can be found on his website.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_3

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_10

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire


Paul Weiner:
When did you originally find your interest in working as a multimedia artist?

David DiLillo:
The exact point in time is hard to pin down. I’ve been shooting photographs since middle school and drawing long before that. I’m immensely lucky and proud to come from a family of photographers and painters on both sides. They taught me that visual art is not only an important act of expression but also a form of preservation. I grew friendlier with a slew of diverse artists during my time in school and beyond who fiendishly got me involved in film production, sculpture, humor illustration, and other mediums. I love creative collaboration, but I also have an often-overwhelming amount of interests and passions, so I try to have my hands in many projects at once.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_1

Three Hours From London; Wilmcote Station, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Who is Nick Drake, and how has his music impacted you?

David DiLillo:
When a close friend first showed me Nick’s music years ago, I devoured it obsessively only to find myself continually rediscovering new layers up to this day. Nick Drake was born in 1948 in Burma and grew up in Tanworth-in-Arden, a small hamlet in Warwickshire, England. His music never gained the recognition or visibility he desired, and he was eventually stricken with depression. Nick mysteriously died from an antidepressant overdose at the age of 26.

You can read a lot about the details, either known or rumored, about his tragically short life, about how he didn’t quite fit into rigid British norms of the time. What speaks to me most is this: Nick had an almost mystical ability to communicate timeless meditations on love and nature, and I’m one of many who deeply relates to his thoughts and struggles. But I believe he was just trying to share his mind and heart with others in the best way he knew how. His music never gained the audience and response that it deserved, and he was eventually overcome with depression. His lyrics shifted between cryptic psalms and beautifully descriptive accounts, and his guitar style blended English folk, American blues, and even Eastern tonality later on. Nick’s fragile music and words of romance and universal connection have consistently given me new eyes to see myself and the world.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_20

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider your Three Hours from London series to be a documentary, narrative, or more conceptual sort of project?

David DiLillo:
The phrase Three Hours from London comes from one of Nick’s darker songs about escape. Interestingly enough, it took me about three hours by train to get to Tanworth-in-Arden from the English capital. When I stayed in the village, I solely listened to Nick’s music and shot without a strict objective in mind, which was a bit non-academic and liberating. I was writing, too, but the series is a very personal visual journal of sorts. It can act as a narrative if certain lyrics of Nick’s are paired with particular images, and it can act as a documentary piece about the town and surrounding areas. I shot in black and white to evoke the time in which Nick lived, though – to use another of Nick’s lyrics, a time of no reply. By visiting Nick’s final resting place, I had the chance to bridge the chasm of decades and feel like I was meeting him.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_22

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of trying meet a dead artist and experience the town he lived in. When you were in Tanworth-in-Arden, did you meet and discuss Nick Drake with any of the locals or was this more of an immersive experience of everyday life in the village?

David DiLillo:
I spent a large amount of time hiking the area in solitude, unplugged from most technology and my common distractions. I attempted simply to observe and document what was around me – the shades of leaves in the afternoon, the sounds of children playing in the distance, the brushes of wind from the hills. My immersion seemed sacred, familiar, and rustic all at once. It reminded me of Nick’s songs of isolation. This wasn’t a negative feeling but more a type of connection with the graves and green pastures and people around me. In a strange and welcoming way, this demystified the idea of idolizing a musician whom I’ll never truly know and instead helped me to deepen my understanding of him as a young man who lived a vibrantly creative but far too short life.

I was also completely warmed by meeting and talking to those who lived and worked in town. They were brilliantly and immeasurably kind-hearted, open-minded people. Many patrons at the inn heard my accent and might have assumed that I had come to visit Nick Drake, the singer buried among their many other loved ones and friends. One day, in the cemetery, I met a man sitting on a bench close to me where his wife and he used to sit together. He was there in remembrance of the woman he’d spent most of his life with, and I felt as if I were remembering a man I’d never met. We spoke for a long while, and it was a bond I’ll always cherish.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_8

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Are there any particular songs that you used as inspiration?

David DiLillo:
Beyond “Three Hours,” the song “From The Morning” was especially resonant with me. It’s the final track on Nick’s third and last album released during his lifetime, ‘Pink Moon,’ and its lyrics are engraved as the stark epitaph on his tombstone: “Now we rise / And we are everywhere.” Nick’s music is poignantly spiritual, but there are recurring, naturalistic element and motifs without adherence to one single denomination of faith. I interpret this line as a beautiful and hopeful vision of the constantly cycling energy in this world, reborn again and again.

From a different angle, the song “One of These Things First” paints a very stark and grounded image of regret. It’s a perpetually fascinating song. As the litany of paths not taken and responsibilities unmet grows, Nick’s somber words float over brightly swung major chords and piano rolls. I view the piece as an admission and apology to those whom Nick might have neglected while still being an enlightened and wise acceptance of the choices he actually made. I sincerely relate and try to reach this awareness.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_4

Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Were you at all surprised by what you saw in Tanworth-in-Arden?

David DiLillo:
I felt like I had been there before in an old dream. The English Midlands are not unlike the hillsides of eastern Pennsylvania, but the newness of the scents and sounds gave a unique and raw experience. The passing of time, or my perception of it, surprised me. The days seemed long but ethereal and illuminated. I was rendered stunned by the emotional impact that one individual artist’s work and life could have on me, and I was taken aback by a town not frozen in history on the countryside but, rather, breathing with lives and stories that come and go.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_11

Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_14

Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Was this series shot digitally or with a film process?

David DiLillo:
I shot with my father’s Canon AE-1 and used black and white film. I nearly forgot to request that the rolls be checked separately at the airport, an important reminder for all other picture makers and photo takers who still travel with film. I was also collecting digital video footage, but it was important for me to use an older process to shoot this project because of the investment of time and care required. There’s the inherent risk of not knowing the look of images taken until much later, but I put trust in my knowledge with the process and in whatever outcome I’d end up with.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_13

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Has your project with Nick Drake affected your way of thinking when creating new works? Did you learn anything about your own practice either technically or conceptually throughout this process?

David DiLillo:
Going into the project, I knew it would be important for me to present the area around Tanworth-in-Arden from an observer’s point of view. Since then, I’ve tried to take the many creative influences I have and make work that can be seen as a reinterpretation of inputs instead of representation and reflection. The isolation of the project and the trip also had its significance and place, but I think I’ve become more drawn to collaborative work in any medium; exchanging ideas with others has become invaluable to me. And I’m still learning to focus less on how a photograph, or any other creative pursuit or piece of art, might fit into the greater whole of an outlined project and more on how I can best genuinely express my own thoughts through art.

David_DiLillo_Three_Hours_From_London_6

Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire


Please view David DiLillo’s work on hiswebsite and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

JJ Brine’s VECTOR Gallery Explores Cultural Hybridity

VECTOR Gallery is among contemporary art’s foremost installation spaces, located at 40 Clinton Street in New York City and constructed by JJ Brine. The gallery operates in its own futuristic time zone as a means for disrupting reality within what Brine calls the PostHuman movement. VECTOR Gallery stands out from other avant garde installations as a space decoding cultural hybridity. VECTOR assimilates growing cultural movements under its PostHuman conceptual framework with an unabashed interplay between old and new as Brine intertwines religion and identity politics, the internet and physical space, colonial government structures and liberation, the future and the present.

Throughout the interview, Brine uses some terms that he has coined such as nevent, Alan, and antity. Please find definitions of these words in the VECTOR glossary. Further information about the concept behind VECTOR can be found in Brine’s artist statement and updates from the The Government of The Satanic State of VECTOR are also available online.

7VECTORFRONT

46


Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the way VECTOR Gallery and your title, Crown Prince of Hell, came to be.

JJ Brine:
Eye have had that title for as long as Eye can remember and VECTOR Gallery came into being when Eye embraced it.

Paul Weiner:
Many religious and pop culture references are made in your work, including a comparison of Charles Manson to Jesus. Could you describe the religious aspect of VECTOR Gallery?

JJ Brine:
VECTOR is itself a religion, and it manifests according to the observation of its own tenets. It reveals the nature(s) of all who engage it, and at the same time it reformats their nature(s) as it sees fit.

Paul Weiner:
Do you see your work as site-specific and strictly contained within VECTOR Gallery or are you open to exhibitions in other gallery spaces or museums?

JJ Brine:
Eye had a militantly site-specific policy for some time but Eye have developed an expansionistic agenda as of late. One recent manifestation of this is my PostHuman Mass Grave.

Paul Weiner:
Describe your PostHuman Mass Grave and how it came to be.

JJ Brine:
It is the Guarantor of the coming events. You have to bait the reality to make it bite.

Paul Weiner:
Could you describe a few of VECTOR’s religious tenets?

JJ Brine:
Shall Eye invert the entirety of Lord Universe in order to describe Lord Universe Itself? Everything is in alignment with its Antity. There is no need for semantic distinction between “is” and “becomes” when We know that everything is happening All at once – The Infinitoment. The AntiChrist is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is The AntiChrist.

Paul Weiner:
Do you recruit new members to join VECTOR? How many followers do you have?

JJ Brine:
There are infinite ways to count to One, and there is One way to count to infinity. You might find me saying, in some other time and place: “Oh, but this was all prearranged, Baby.” And that would be true. But Eye have no need for followers, for Eye am herding neither cattle nor sheep! If We are to be together, forever, We need only share a passing thought. And in that thought the entire world is following me, and vice-versa.

Paul Weiner:
Would you like VECTOR to expand outside of New York City?

JJ Brine:
Do Eye have a choice? As if it could be contained…!

Paul Weiner:
Do you see your music and installations as aesthetically linked? Do you create them simultaneously?

JJ Brine:
They are different formats for One incantation.

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider VECTOR to be linked to an exploration of sexual identity?

JJ Brine:
VECTOR can be used as a prism for the exploration of any identity.

Paul Weiner:
Do you believe VECTOR is a forum to disrupt historical cultural norms and offer a new kind of history?

JJ Brine:
Yes.

Paul Weiner:
VECTOR Gallery recently hosted a PostHuman wedding. What other kinds of ceremonies or events does the gallery host?

JJ Brine:
We are linking up the beginning to the end, the end to the beginning. We serve the interests of infinity in its infinite forms. We are especially interested in hosting Nevents – events which cannot and will never take place.

Paul Weiner:
Anything you’d like to add?

JJ Brine:
The Satanic State of VECTOR is looking for attachés to appoint to the following territories: Japan, Tunisia, Yemen, China, Zimbabwe, India, Vanuatu, Sweden, Somalia, Argentina, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, Suriname, Mexico, France, Germany, Syria, Lebanon, and Benin, among others. Please be in touch if you know that We are waiting to hear from you.

13

9

8

12 17

48

37

1

25

23

5

6

47

40

17

13

12

7

5

11

38

19

3

21

12

20

39

41

16

22 18

45

43

28

27

33

22

14FRONT

10

6

5

4

2

47

36

35

34

29

26

24

9

2

1

5

12

6

7

10

16

19

20

21

23

11

3


Please view VECTOR Gallery’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Peter Yumi’s Process-based Collages Evoke Timely Technological Concerns

An aura of technological apprehension envelopes Peter Yumi’s process-heavy collages, an atmosphere of undulation that forms a tornado of imagery. The collages slip into a vacuum of illusory space with limits defined only by the syntax of Yumi’s rigidly predetermined, formulaic process, which would read as a specter of formalist painting if it didn’t act as a signifier for the cold effectiveness implicit in contemporary digital interactions. The collages also evince intuitive tropes as seen in the artist’s working materials from dilapidated selfies to gift-wrapped patterning.

The Denver based artist and former tiger handler for a Las Vegas magic show studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and his work has been featured by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Palm Springs Art Museum, Andenken Gallery, and various other venues throughout the United States. Yumi was also recently interviewed in Westword‘s 100 Colorado Creatives series. More images of Yumi’s work can be found on his website.

faces

Faces, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014


Paul Weiner:
How do you find imagery to use in your collages?

Peter Yumi:
Mostly, the materials are found. I collect junk walking around, and people give me a ton of magazines. I also go to estate sales and buy vintage Christmas wrapping paper. I admit it. I have a gift wrapping paper fetish. I started asking friends to pose for me for my newest work. I just send them a text and say, “hey can you send me some selfies?” and they do. The internet is a miracle. I own nearly every single issue of Playboy and decades and decades of National Geographic. I have also taken to collecting soda cans I find or consume on my own and crushing them with my car to use in my collages. I create most of the imagery in the collages on my own, though. I paint quite obsessively. I scan those paintings or photograph them, and they are eventually added to the collages.

ladiesinthehouse2

Ladies in the House, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
There are often figures embedded within your collages. Who are these figures, and what meaning do they bring to the work?

Peter Yumi:
Most of the images are of friends or of people from current events. Some are from my Playboy collection. I have been working on my artwork pretty intensely the past few years, and I have not been that social as a result, so I started going out to galleries and photographing people I know as well. Mainly, I wanted to have my work express this general feeling of being cut off from what makes us human, being creative and having the balance of being an individual and part of a community. Today, we have all sorts of gizmos like the internet and our smart phones to be part of a world wide global nervous system, but the payoff is to maintain that you have to give up some of the freedoms of being a free spirit. Everything this measured now. In the workplace, keystrokes and other behaviors are measured, but behaviors that can not be quantified are being forgotten: how well did my cashier at the grocery store make someones day? Those types of behaviors are becoming less and less important. We are losing individual expression at the cost of productivity, and that is really a shame. But, at the same time, I am fearful and know others often feel oppressed by our new technological world but love the rewards that it gives. So, the images are supposed to reflect that feeling of being human and being part of technology or the age of technology anxiety. The subject matter is something important to me because I know that I am not the only one who feels this sense of alienation and dehumanization.

city

City, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your physical process for collage. What kinds of techniques are you using?

Peter Yumi:
I wrote three different versions to explain how I make these collages. Basically I paint a lot, and as a painter I am very expressive. I have always had a love of patterns and textiles and try to use those in the paintings. I try not to think. I have been a mediator for over twenty years, and that plays an important role in my process. If I start thinking things like “this is really good” or “this is really bad,” I just say to myself, in my head, “you’re thinking,” and I welcome myself back to painting, and I go back to painting. I have created all of these steps to keep as much of my neurotic self out of my process. Once I start making the final collage works, I have a much more methodical means of production.

The work involves a lengthy process of creating paintings and drawings that are scanned and catalogued by color, pattern, and subject matter for later use. Vintage wrapper paper and found photos or selfies and model photos are hole-punched and paper cut involving a process that allows for random cuts to limit the editorial choices. Each and every step of the process involves a set of rules in an attempt to leave the self out of the editorial process. Once the images have been prepped, they are scanned and catalogued. Later, the images are harvested for use in the creation of new images in Photoshop. They are worked through a process that again prohibits many editorial choices and leaves much to chance operations. Once that process is completed, the multiple images are printed out and cut apart using scissors, hole punchers, and circle cutters. They are then laid out on sheets of plexiglass, where they are in turn photographed or scanned. Then the process is again repeated 8, 13, or 21 times. The following rule is used to express the number of layers:

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.17.00 PM

Once the layering is completed, sanding of the finished object occurs. The collage is scanned and then processed in Photoshop using a 3% black layer with noise filter set at 348.21%. The images are then saved and sent to production using an HP5800 large-format printer.

Johnbabcock

John Babcock, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Where would you ideally like to see your artwork displayed? Does it fit in a traditional gallery or more of an alternative setting?

Peter Yumi:
I have been looking at joining a few co-op galleries here in Denver. I have spent the past five years or so wood shedding and really editing and working out my process, experimenting. I have been hesitant to show a lot of my work for that reason. I think of the process that writers go through, writing and rewriting and editing and reediting their work, is something that artists should embrace more. In the past, I would make work specifically for a group show, but now I have taken to creating an entire body of work that reads more like a delicious book of poems, and I have found that’s what it requires. I have shown my older work in a number of galleries, but for my newest work I want full control of what I am creating and the environment. I am essentially creating a space that is fully immersible with sound, light, and imagery, so it is important to me to be able to work with the rules that I have set up and do what the work demands. Right now, some of my prints might be ok with a group showing, but ideally they all need to been seen in a space together. They are brothers and sisters. It is my job, like any father, to raise them right and make sure that I provide a good place to nurture them. I work for them. They don’t work for me.

playboy1a

Playboy, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you see the images you use from Playboy or National Geographic as having appropriated meaning when taken out of their original context or are they only for aesthetic purposes?

Peter Yumi:
I like using the images from anywhere I can find them, really. Sometimes, I will see an image, and it will really hit me like a punch in the gut or it will make me laugh uncontrollably. I have really been doing my best to use images that are older than ten years old, mainly because I want my images to look very contemporary. I think many collage artists fall into the trap of making work with old images because they are copying collage styles from the past, but, when those artists made much of that collage originally, those were new images to them. It is important to me to see those distinctions between new and old images. If the image in the magazine is old, and I like it, though, I just treat it like any other image. In the end, it is about the result. I remember talking with a collage artists about how he used images from a book printed in the 1930s, just cut them up. He seemed proud of this, but to me, that’s what the work demands of a collage artist. You cut stuff up just like a painter mixes paint. A painter does not regret mixing pure blue with red to make purple, so a collage artist shouldn’t have those regrets either.

abe2

Abe, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
How did you come up with the rules and equations for your process?

Peter Yumi:
John Cage has been an enormous influence on my work. I used to use I Ching to make my rules. Now, I make my rules through planning and observation of what other artists are doing. Sometimes, it will be a simple rule like only one image can be used in this collage, but you can have multiple copies of that same image. Sometimes, it will be no green. Other times, I will construct elaborate rules based off of language of some poets. Steve McCaffery does it so will with poetry, and I borrow a lot from the poets from that school. The equation I shared earlier is an expression of the Fibonacci sequence and it is used by artists all the time. Sometimes, they don’t even know they are using it with golden ratios. For my layering of images with glass, I decided upon the number of images layered at any given time based on that sequence. It goes like this: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21. I can have one image by itself, that image with a second image, or a third, but, if I add any additional layers of glass, there has to be five because 2+3=5. So on and so forth, it makes it fun to have those limits. All sorts of strange things start happening during that process, things that happen just because of those rules.

palaceofwater2

Palace of Water, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How may collages would you estimate that you create over the course of a month?

Peter Yumi:
That’s really hard to say. I usually make ten to twenty images a day or more. Then my final finished collage work, I make twenty or more a month. I have created all sorts of ways of automating how the work is shared online with programs like Hootsuite. I use other means to randomly generate tagging of images on social media. I take all that data that is generated from views to my page to create a spreadsheet so I can track the highest number of views and where those people are coming from. That is a project of its own. I am working on a program now that will output all that data visually on my website so people can, if anyone cares but me, see in a beautiful way what they are looking at exactly.

ladies

Ladies, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the Denver art scene. What art venues do you go to when you want to see something interesting?

Peter Yumi:
I mostly go to galleries on Saturday or Sunday afternoon by myself and look at the work when no one is in the galleries. I will go to any space that has shows with friends or folks whose work I am interested in. I am very egalitarian in my choices of artwork. I honestly don’t know a lot about which galleries are currently trendy one or the ones people think are not that great. My thing is that I feel if people are making work that is thought provoking and downright interesting, I am interested in looking at it. I love artists, and anytime someone is making art, I don’t care who they are or who people think they are or aren’t. I feel joy that people are making artwork. We need more people making artwork in our world filled with strife and suffering, creating, getting out of their habitual thinking patterns, and being generally more alive. I just love artists and art.


Please view Peter Yumi’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

The Antic Staatsoper Critiques Contemporary Life through Hybrid Photography

Encountering the Antic Staatsoper’s work for the first time is like watching a romantic date end in heartbreak. The artist, who originally hails from the south of France and currently lives in San Francisco, sets the stage with masteresque, chiaroscuro lighting reminiscent of Caravaggio’s paintings. He fills his images with classical references to various gods and spiritual scenes throughout his beautifully spacious compositions. But then he introduces the critique, illustrating contemporary issues through old figurative, bodily vessels within a digital landscape. The Antic Staatsoper covers material from censorship to perversion and the narcissism of today’s popular selfies in hopes of reviving art’s historically political conversation in a time when many artists are so preoccupied with the new tools at their hands that they forget about content. These pieces take on the contemporary nude, questioning the Puritan covering of the body that can amount to censorship, especially in the digital space. Oddly, the formally romantic setting of this work recalls the reactionary tendencies that the artist critiques, bringing historical context to the forefront of the work.

The Antic Staatsoper’s work can also be found on his website.

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Abroted_Goddess_Of_Confidence

Aborted Goddess of Confidence

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Venus_And_The_Dark_Veil_Of_The_Censorship

Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship


Paul Weiner:
You were born in the South of France before moving to San Francisco, California. Do you feel that your art is influenced at all by geography and the cultures of the places you have lived?

The Antic Staatsoper:
Of course! I’m hungry for all cultures and experiences that life can give me.

On a personal level, I consider myself a lucky guy to have the chance to visit the most famous classic and contemporary museums in Europe. In those conditions, your curiosity is better than any art school. Europe gave me a huge culture, keeping me curious about old and contemporary art or popular and underground culture. I’m still surprised every day by the European culture and its diversity. My art is born in Europe, and I can’t do anything to hide that. I only realized how much my photographs appear European since I have left Europe. I wasn’t conscious of that before. The old Europe raised me, but I felt like a teenager who has read too many books of the Beat Generation, dreaming about things bigger than life, still waiting for a train to come.

I’ve always had a craving to live in the American culture. I’ve played in a lot of indie, rock, post-rock, and experimental bands influenced by American music. Some rock runs in my veins. I’ve eaten up the American literature of the 20th century, adored movies from the counterculture, and finally felt the call of a new kind freedom as a way of expression. I think that my thirst for liberty and the dynamism of my work comes from the United States. This energy, this power that pushes me forward, is my American part. I’m proud of it.

My heart, shared between these two loves, has found a perfect balance. Today, my only dark point remains how to be accepted in the galleries with nude pictures in the United States, even in the fantastic Frisco.

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Perverted_Pieta

Perverted Pieta

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Artemis_cutting_off_her_hymena

Artemis Cutting off Her Hymen

Paul Weiner:
Your works often reference Gods of various different religions and mythologies, as in the case of Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship or Perverted Pieta. How do you select the Gods or religions to be used in each work?

The Antic Staatsoper:
“Use what you know” could be my motto. I can’t struggle against my Western culture. I really love the mythology. It seems very human to me. I love the imperfections and the deviant behavior, so simple but true of these gods. There is a real pleasure to play with these creatures. Each character has a specialization. That helps me to focus on my topic. I also like to manipulate their bodies. Their poses, the contraction of the muscles, or the position of each member in the frame can say more than any word can. Also, I need to show naked bodies to remind people that nudity is not pornography. Once again, it’s a way for me to directly ask you some questions about your acceptance of your body as a natural device for communicating with your environment. I don’t understand the prudery today. I tend to see this trend of fearing nudity as the root of many frustrations and conflicts in the world.

I use Christianity too. There are so many things to say, but I didn’t want to walk the easy an outdated path of profanity. Here again, my connections with the painters and sculptors were obvious. Their art take us farther away than the religion they’re supposed to be a part of, like Bach gives you the most powerful perceptions of spirituality with his passions. At the begining, Christianity was the first love revolution of history. But it’s really interesting to see how we have perverted it and used it to abuse others. I show religions as biological systems. This sociological phenomenon is subject to a tragic decay from the dynamic and positive youth to the dark age of its own Apoptosis. However, I think that we cannot ignore the relationship of this system or the people who lead it with their environment. Every religion and their distorted visions could unveil many humorous situations. We are only able to represent our divinities in every religion through our own prism with human or, eventually, animals features. Or, sometimes, religions avoid any representations so as to avoid questions about their origins.

Of course I don’t forget the other religions. For Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship, the idea came from many female friends of mine in Europe who told me they could now get in trouble for wearing dresses or skirts in certain places. Some of them have been threatened by puritans asking them to put on veils. I can not let this be silenced. As I said, the body is the key: less gods, more spirit!

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Troie

Troie

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the physical process for making these works. To what extent are they digital versus photographic?

The Antic Staatsoper:
It’s hard to answer. I never considered myself as a photographer. I always have doubts when I see the work of other photographers. Actually, I’m just a frustrated painter who is not able to hold a brush or to mix two different colors to get something consistent. I was very impressed by the Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. He is also one of my favorite contemporary artists. I had the chance to see the five parts of the Cremaster. I discovered that he was, in fact, a plastician. He shot movies only to set up his scenery. I think that is what I do too. My pictures could be movies or paintings or sculptures or even music because in the beginning, I’m a musician. Photography was, well I have to admit, easier for me to manage. Maybe it’s a kind of sketchbook.

My digital process is based on old painting processes. Yes, it’s very old school. The scenery is the same that you could use for a drawing, a very simple set up and a simple light, as natural as possible. I need the models to express struggle and the instability of the situation, the moment before the conclusion. At the end of the process, I try to be a painter, so I use a digital brush because it is less harmful than a real one. I try to paint some texture on the pictures as if I had made and shaped all these pictures with my own hands.

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Alcatraz

Alcatraz

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Narcissus Cloning_aka_The_Curse_of_the_Selfie

Narcissus Cloning (The Curse of the Selfie)

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your formal interest in merging classical imagery and contemporary, digital methods of creating. Your Decorum series seem to reference, for instance, 17th Century Dutch paintings such as landscapes by Rembrandt and Vermeer while the Gods series has a Baroque feel about it, perhaps sourcing from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro scenes.

The Antic Staatsoper:
Three years ago, after a long love story, something broke in my relationship with art. I realized that something was missing, but I didn’t know what.

I needed to come back to the classical imagery. I needed to go back to the true aim of art, a way to reach an upper consciousness, a gate to the spirituality. I wanted something less fed by itself, something less self-centered. I was bored by the “me, myself, and I” inspiration. The second point was technology itself. Today, the technique and technology seem to be more important than the intention and the meaning. These perfect tools distract us from our goal. That’s what was missing for me in contemporary art: a real purpose, a yearning, and a real battle for these values. That is what I found in classic art, a strength and a complexity that can haunt you for days and days. In the end, you get your own questions and maybe some answers. This is an active art. It lives inside you. It brings you out of your material contingencies, above the poor representations of the religion and its false perception. This art opened new doors for me. It gave me a window toward spirituality. I use a classical imagery so as to talk about our world.

I also wanted a Lo-Fi approach like in lo-fi music. The aesthetic didn’t need to be perfect, punching digital imagery straight to her face. But using digital technology was necessary too. I don’t want to be seen as passé.

I started the project DECORUM in 2012. At the beginning, I just wanted to ask questions about our uses of these new technologies in art and not about the tool itself. My first intention was to show the lack of sustainability of the contemporary imagery. I imagined digital pictures rusted in our hard drive. Some of its rotten pixels reveal our world like it will remain after us: empty spaces with simple lights, old artifacts of humanity, an old-fashioned vision, the last sustainable form of imagery, and the lights from a vanishing world.

Most of these pictures were taken in the north of France and Paris. The European painters and their uses of natural light were an important influence. In this back-to-the-roots project, I played with the old imagery and its powerful symbolism fulfilled by different meaning and hidden messages. In this way, I began to ask questions about our behavior. It created a place for new experimentations.

I used DECORUM as a starting point for my work-in-progress, GODS. It would be its birth place.

For this project, I chose contrasting imagery. I want you to feel the struggle even in the lighting with only one light above each character, the light of spirituality. The contrast is in the Manichean symbol of their battles. Gericault and Il Caravaggio are my masters, of course. The language of their bodies and the strength of their scenery were decisive and definitely helped me to initiate the project. The body, the pure, naked body in all its beauty is the perfect interface between the material and spiritual world. Only a natural light can express this union, this dialogue.

At this time I realized that I was horrified by a world which is falling again in a new obscurantism and puritanism. Just read the news, and you will get an idea of what I’m talking about. But the thing that scared me the most was the lack of opposition from the world of art. I don’t think that most of our creative producers are really involved in these conflicts.

I needed something powerful in order to ask my questions to the world.

The topics are various, but they all lead to the same basic issues: the misunderstanding between religion and spirituality, the new behaviors between generations, the new medias and how they modify us, large corporations and mass-media, society and entertainment, new relations, empathy, love, fertility, creation, and our ability to reach universal peace. Together.

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Atlas_abandoning_our_world

Atlas Abandoning Our World

The_Antic_Staatsoper_Cassandra_vs_Pandora

Cassandra vs. Pandora

Paul Weiner:
How did you begin your Gods series and what emotions are you trying to evoke?

The Antic Staatsoper:
After having launched the Decorum series, I realized that I created a new universe, a Tabula Rasa where I could experiment with more ideas.

I’m very slow at work, and it took me more than 3 months to complete each picture. Each time, I let my ideas becoming clearer, collecting information to enhance the accuracy of my purpose. I stretched all the interrogations and statements I had in this universe until I got the scenario of the scene. It was the starting point.

Decorum is my Mount Olympus. I filled it with characters coming from mythologies and old beliefs. These characters, these gods, were created as a mirror of our own behaviors or trends, playing with distortions to gain more efficiency. Their symbolism still works in our world, but sometimes the conclusions seem to take unexpected paths.

My first God was Altas. He carries the world on his shoulder, but why should he continue? Do we deserve this privilege? All these Gods evolve live in a blurry world in tandem with our world.

I never intend to give emotions through my pictures. I would like to be able to play with your emotions, but I don’t know how. Emotions are correlated to your own life, so they are different for each person. At each exhibition, the feedback always surprises me. The viewers most of the time describe my pictures as disturbing, erotic, provocative, or mesmerizing, and the reasons were always different for each picture. Rather than giving emotions, I prefer to ask questions. My pictures represent the last step before your own conclusions are made. You could guess how it will end, but the conclusion will be your own one.

I would like after seeing my pictures that you keep them in mind, wondering if you agree or not. Are my questions relevant? Does this picture bring you other questions? Do you feel a new need? Maybe this is the kind of emotion I want you to feel.


Please view the Antic Staatsoper’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free. 

Donald Gialanella Repurposes Everyday Objects as Monumental Public Sculptures

An eclectic restlessness fuels Donald Gialanella’s artwork as he reclaims objects and conjures a nostalgic awareness of the cultures in which he is embedded. Gialanella is known for his use of household objects such as spoons, pots, and pans in constructing monumental public sculptures. In his private work, Gialanella goes so far as to compare the reuse of objects in an artistic setting to Buddhist reincarnation. The works pair a shrewd sensibility for displaying the contemporary moment with commentaries on the universality of utilitarian objects to develop the kind of discussion that so unfortunately eludes many contemporary artists: pop art that thinks. Gialanella’s works are dizzyingly intricate, filled with materials loaded with cultural significance and masterful, poetic metalwork.

Gialanella, who holds an Emmy for his work on Monday Night Football and a BFA from the Cooper Union, lives and works in Los Angeles. Having taught internationally at Bilkent University in Turkey, Gialanella has returned to public sculpture. His sculptures can be found in Napa, CA; Pasadena, CA; and Albany, NY with a forthcoming piece to be installed at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital on the campus of Stanford Unversity in Palo Alto, CA. Last year, he was included in shows at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, CA. Gialanella’s artwork can also be found on his website.

DG3

 

DG10


Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your interest in creating sculptures out of recycled and reclaimed objects. Where did this inspiration come from?

Donald Gialanella:
I have been working with recycled and reclaimed materials for decades now and can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m drawn to these objects. What I can say is that I have a deep connection to working with odd assemblages of objects, and I enjoy act of shaping metal.

When I begin to work with these materials, I feel the juices flowing and enter into a kind of creative rapture. The process is beyond logic. I can begin working, and something poetic grabs me, and changes me, and the work begins to exist on its own terms. I am there as a medium to guide the process.

The inspiration to use discarded objects to make art started when I was a boy. I used to rummage around in the scrap box underneath my dad’s table saw. I would take these odd shaped bits of wood and glue them together to create little figures of eskimos, genies, knights and animals.

Looking at things differently is the role of the artist. Art reflects our culture and offers a new perspective about ourselves and the world we live in. When I see discarded objects, I think about them as raw materials for art. I look at trash differently than the average person.

DG4

Paul Weiner:
In your LA BUDDHA and LIBIDO works, you introduce the two-dimensional painted surface to these reclaimed objects. I read The Buddha as a symbol, perhaps one for the Buddhist concept or reincarnation, in association with your way of giving new life to objects. Are you consciously constructing these symbolic webs?

Donald Gialanella:
The Buddha series serves as metaphor for the reincarnation of the objects that lived their initial lives and are returning in new lives. I used a two-dimensional or low-relief approach to these wall-hung assemblages.

The pieces explore the problematic juxtaposition of planned obsolescence versus modernity and substance over spirituality. It explores our relationship to materialism and probes how we look at permanence. What emerge are ideas that prompt the viewer to ponder environmental responsibility and our cultural relationship to waste and sustainability.

Art critic Dave Quick wrote about these works, “The genre is also a nod to Southern California multiculturalism. (Indeed, one of the area’s largest Buddhist temples is located in the San Fernando Valley not far from Gialanella’s studio.) All nine works are mounted on recycled plastic pallets, which hang on the wall and create space between the wall and the work to create a more three-dimensional, sculptural effect. The pallets themselves continue the metaphorical reincarnation — pallets that once carried other loads, now carry Gialanella’s creativity.”

DG5

 

Paul Weiner:
What is your reasoning behind the use of multiple common objects, like spoons and gears, to create your assemblage sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
The commonplace things we use every day are important elements in our lives: pots, pans, silverware, dog bowls, coffee cups. We have a relationship with them, a kind of emotional bond. We use them to nourish ourselves, to cook with, to put food in our mouths, and to drink out of. They are an extension of our humanity.

People’s connection to these mass-produced utilitarian objects fascinates me. I’m interested in their lifecycle, the almost living lifecycle of the modern object: production, marketing, ownership, and destruction in the end. That’s the typical story of these modern objects. I interrupt this story by using accumulations of these objects in my art.

By disrupting an object’s normal lifecycle, one looks at things differently. A spoon is not just a spoon anymore. A pot is not just a pot. The object’s normal lifecycle is interrupted by using it as an element in my sculpture. It is saved from destruction. It is frozen in time.

When it is embedded in an assemblage, you stop the moment. You see it as a memory of objects that nurtured you all your life.

DG9

Paul Weiner:
Your Youtube account, livesteel, features a wide variety of videos from your own art exhibitions to bison running from a volcano and a mysterious space ball dropping on Namibia. Some of the videos on the odd side have gone viral, gaining millions of views. Is this some kind of elaborate ruse, a foray into video art, or are these just videos you’ve taken and compiled out of your own interest?

Donald Gialanella:
The Youtube channel contains an eclectic mix of videos that range from a slightly skewed look at natural phenomena to some not-so-mainstream people at the fringe. I do think of them as video art.

The content is hard to categorize, as some are satirical send-ups or cartoon-like puns, some are re-edits of available footage, some are raw video of events I shot, and some are elaborate video productions involving a crew and post-production facilities.

These videos are both an offbeat way of telling stories and a way to illuminate environmental issues I am concerned about.

It all started when I photographed a desiccated dead dog I came across while hiking in the high desert of Taos, NM. I put a move on the still photo and posted it as a short video on Youtube. It got a million views and was embraced by the cryptozoologists and conspiracy theorists alike. I made some obvious parodies after that which also garnered big views, the humor in them being largely ignored by people looking for proof of the existence of monsters and aliens.

One section of the channel is dedicated to my art videos, showing a glimpse into the creative process as well as time-lapse creation of artwork, painting videos, welding, art events, and commentary.

 

Paul Weiner:
The sculptures seem to take on the influences of the previous uses for the objects you incorporate, intrinsically loaded with cultural values. As such, the places you find these objects impacts the meaning of the work. What are some of your favorite places to find the objects you use for your sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
I am always on the lookout for materials where ever I go. It’s a bit of an obsession. House sales, garbage cans, the side of the road, flea markets, auctions, auto repair shops and scrap yards are all places where I find interesting objects. Sometimes I buy things in bulk, a gross of spoons or coffee creamers.

A toy drive was held at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to gather hundreds of toys needed for building the assemblage cow sculpture I’m creating. The drive yielded seven very large boxes of toys that ranged from matchbox cars, dolls and action figures, to transformers, Legos, animals, and Sponge Bobs.

The toys then have to be processed in order to be able to use, meaning I have to remove all batteries and sort by size, color and material. This makes the search for a particular shape and color toy much easier during the application of the toys to the cow armature, or what I call populating the surface.

A Los Angeles filmmaker, Scott Trosclair, is making a documentary that shows the entire process of building the cow, from inception to installation.

DG1

Paul Weiner:
What originally drew you to creating public sculptures and expanding out from the commercial gallery art scene?

Donald Gialanella:
Twenty years ago, commercial galleries were the main outlet for art sales. Today, that has changed. It just doesn’t make much sense for an artist to give away 50% or even 60% of his sales to the gallery. With the visibility afforded by an online presence, the artist can now present their work to a large audience more affordably than brick and mortar gallery prices. It’s a win/win situation for the artist and their clients.

When I lived in Taos, I met artist Larry Bell, who had studios in both Taos, NM and Venice Beach, CA. I remember him referring to galleries as “upscale consignment shops.” That about sums it up.

However, there is a clear distinction to be made between commercial galleries, the consignment shops if you will, and the academic/museum quality galleries that show cutting-edge work and site-specific installations.

This past summer I was part of an exhibition, Art and Democracy V, at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. Also, last summer, my work was included in a three-person show at OCCCA (The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art) in Santa Ana, CA.

DG8

Paul Weiner:
You have quite a bit of experience working with art in a public setting, including your time working with graphics at ABC-TV in New York. Do you see any ways in which your current art reflects your older work with graphics, either in process or in thought?

Donald Gialanella:
My background in computer graphics has helped me greatly as an artist by allowing me to understand and use digital tools that can visualize and communicate ideas through compelling images.

The process of designing a TV project and a sculpture begin in the same way – with sketches to work out the preliminary ideas. There is nothing better than a drawing to quickly realize your design. It’s a valuable skill to be able to draw something in a simple and direct way that contains the basic form and layout of your idea.

Every creative endeavor can benefit from making early adjustments on paper before progressing to construction. It’s easier to use an eraser than it is to use a bulldozer.

DG2

Paul Weiner:
Public sculptures are intriguing because they exist more directly for people outside of the art world. For instance, it isn’t uncommon to see children climbing around on public sculptures or people staring out of their car windows at them. Do you ever return to the sites of your public works to see how the public interacts with them?

Donald Gialanella:
I enjoy seeing my work in the public arena, but I usually don’t have the luxury of revisiting the sites after installation unless the sculptures are damaged, which is exactly what happened to a piece installed on Main Street in Napa, CA. After the sculpture had been up for over a year, I received a call that vandals had gotten on top of the stainless steel orb overnight and rocked back and forth until it was loose on the base and listing to one side. I had to fly up and repair it. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: you must over-engineer outdoor sculpture to be able to withstand the vagaries of public display.

That brings up another point. There is really no way to make a piece of art completely damage-proof. Public sculpture is susceptible from taggers and vandals 24/7. The only thing that can dissuade attacks is the very public and visible placement of the piece, adequate lighting at night, and solid construction and mounting. But, again, nothing is immune.

DG7

Paul Weiner:
You must run into a wide range of structural issues when constructing these sculptures. What are the challenges of building a chassis or armature for some of these works?

Donald Gialanella:
When commissioned to do a public sculpture, it is imperative to have a structural engineer work out details of how weight and size stress the armature and base attachment. Public safety and durability are of paramount concern. Based on the engineering report, I use the specified gauge of materials and recommended welding certification.

The larger the sculpture is, the more challenging it is to construct. It’s many times more difficult to build an eight foot tall sculpture than a four foot tall piece. Safety in the studio is a primary concern as plasma cutting, welding, grinding, and manipulating heavy objects are all inherently dangerous operations.

A new project I am doing in Blue Springs, MO, involves two large pieces of 1/4” thick steel that weigh in excess of 500 lbs. each being delivered to my studio. The final sculpture will weigh over half a ton.

Paul Weiner:
How does your work function within a gallery space? Do you create the same kind of work for a gallery or academic space as you do for public works?

Donald Gialanella:
I approach public art design by focusing on the goals of the project, analyzing usage of the site as it relates to the local culture and community, and finally developing a plan of action to fulfill and balance the complexities of the project effectively and compellingly. My goal is to implement public art in a way that has a lasting positive impact on the local community. This is a much different process from mounting a gallery show.

A gallery show is usually a more personal statement with work that is created with an introspective motivation. It’s a chance to experiment and get feedback about new ideas.

DG6

Paul Weiner:
Which artist, either historical or contemporary, do you feel has had the greatest impact on your work?

Donald Gialanella:
I had the privilege of learning from some well-known artists while I was earning my BFA at The Cooper Union in the late ’70s. My teachers read like a Who’s Who of contemporary art. I studied with Hans Haacke and Vito Acconci, Kenneth Snelson, Jim Dine and Louise Bourgeois. But the greatest impact on my career was made by Louise Bourgeois, who asked me to become her assistant after graduation.

I was both thrilled and apprehensive when Louise asked me to work for her at her home in a Chelsea brownstone. Always the wry provocateur, she tested my resolve on the first day. Ushering me up a flight of stairs, she opened up a closet door and pointed to an inside wall. “You will make a portal,” she said and then walked away. On the floor was a lone pickaxe. When she returned a half-hour later and saw the hole I put in her wall, she smiled and said, “You break through a wall without knowing what is on the other side?” She then added a terse, “Very good.”

I made several more portals in the walls of her house over the years. She used to scurry through these odd shaped archways to escape from exasperated gallery owners and art dealers.


Please view Donald Gialanella’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,182 other followers