Critique Collective

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

Tag: new york city

Multimedia Black and White Imagery by Richard Borashan

Richard Borashan is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily with black and white imagery. He is currently pursuing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Borashan’s work has been featured in a wide variety of galleries in California including White Gloss Gallery, Gallery Godo, the CCAA Museum of Art – Rancho Cucamonga, BANG Gallery, and at a 2010 UNICEF Invitational Show.

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Untitled (Anna) ; charcoal drawing on paper


Paul Weiner:
What are you working on in your studio right now?

Richard Borashan:
Right now, I’m doing a back and forth thing between some large-scale drawings and sculptures. It’s pretty typical that I work on a few different things at the same time, and I try to keep it that way. It helps me keep a big picture state of mind while I work through so many different mediums.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Describe the various processes you have used to create black and white images over the past few years.

Richard Borashan:
Each work starts with a similar foundation. I develop a concept and then go digging through my archives of source material to see what type of imagery would be a potential fit. It’s pretty much the equivalent to filmmakers going through all of the locations they’ve scouted. Once I have a few picked out, I decide which medium would be a good fit and take it from there.

If the imagery is being translated into a drawing, then I usually just stick with charcoal or graphite and paper. If I’m working with print, then it’s either with silkscreen or a basic laser/inkjet printer. Video is a tricky one because I haven’t played with it enough yet, but the couple videos I’ve made in the past have been either with a DSLR or a VHS camcorder. I’ve been dying to shoot on some 16mm and Super 8, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The sculptures I’m working on now are a mix of found objects, enamel, and, potentially, some sort of resin coating. I’m still working it out. Each of the above mediums has a unique process to it as well. There’s definitely a lot of different things going on from beginning to end.

Paul Weiner:
What do these works mean to you? Are they more conceptual or narrative?

Richard Borashan:
I try to find a balance between the two. The conceptual aspect of the work is very important to me, but I also like creating the opportunity for a viewer to construct their own narrative and be involved in their own way. I spend a lot of time thinking about how each of the works interacts with one another and what kind of environment they create when viewed together. They all have their own individual reasons for being created, but I also think of them as contributing to a whole. I like the idea of smaller things making up something bigger.

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No Title; silkscreen, ink on paper

Paul Weiner:
Many of your pieces have very similar aesthetic qualities regardless of the medium you use to create them. Do you try to create some kind of ambiguity as to how you’ve created these images?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, as far as how they’re created or any formal decisions, I’m trying to accomplish the exact opposite of ambiguity. The mediums I choose for each work are chosen for specific reasons, and they are very much part of their conceptual makeup. As far as the content and meaning behind the images I use, those are things I prefer to leave more open to interpretation.

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No Title; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Where do you find inspiration for your art?

Richard Borashan:
In general terms, just things that are out in the world. That’s the main reason why the appropriation of images is important and why I don’t really work in abstraction. I’m more interested in dialogue with what’s already out there rather than only being confined to art itself.

To be more specific, I use culture, society, movies, music, the internet, books, and really anything that has to do with people or any form of media. All above the above play major roles in my practice. I watch a ton of movies, like, at least 4 or 5 a week, sometimes more. Right now, I’m obsessed with classic horror films and classic texts from Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Homer, Hitchcock, Kubrick, etc. I watched Nosferatu again the other day for like the third time this month. I can’t get enough of them.

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of cultural images and objects carrying meaning through appropriation. Could you name a few of the places where you’ve appropriated the subjects in your images from?

Richard Borashan:
Over the years, I’ve amassed an archive of at least 20,000 images and counting. They’re spread out over a few external hard drives. A majority of them are from the internet from google image search, blogs, yahoo news, or whatever. I’ve also scanned books, magazines, and newspapers and taken screenshots from movies and documentaries. I’ll take anything from anywhere. I’m a digital hoarder to the maximum degree. I’ll save anything that catches my eye for any reason, and, when the time comes to start thinking about using something for a work, I basically go shopping through my database.

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A Moment in Time; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
Why do you feel compelled to draw some images while a print, video, or sculpture might be more appropriate for another image? Give us an example of a specific image you have made and why you chose the medium you did for that piece.

Richard Borashan:
It all comes back down to the conceptual aspect of it. I’m extremely detail-oriented, so things like mediums and titles are just one more opportunity to contribute something to the work. Even when I leave a work with No Title, it’s for a specific reason. The larger silkscreen pieces I’ve made more recently worked better with silkscreen because I wanted the feeling of vintage or nostalgic photographs for each work. A lot of the blemishes and accidents involved with the process really allowed me to get that specific aesthetic, whereas something like drawing or laser printing them wouldn’t have accomplished the same thing; believe me, I tried. The heavy amount of technical process involved also created a lot of distance between the artist and the work, which I felt was important for them.

On the other hand, the images I’m working with right now are being turned into drawings with the intention of doing the opposite of the silkscreens. I’m trying to eliminate distance between the artist and the work. I’m not using any tools other than the actual charcoal and paper, and I do all the blending and details with my fingers. The images I’ve chosen play with the relationship between romance and tragedy. The classic idea of a very hands-on artist putting everything into his work is a very romantic, and potentially tragic, notion. It feels very fitting.

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Supermodel Death Dive; laser print on paper

Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for viewing your work?

Richard Borashan:
Actually, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to have my work displayed in a situation where the aesthetics were a complete contrast to how the work was presented. The drawings and some of my other works have a clean presentation, and I could see them shown in a really beat up abandoned building or something. And since the silkscreens are usually assembled hastily with masking tape all over the place, I can see them in a very sterile environment. Or, you know, there’s always the good ole white box gallery we’ve all come to know and love.

If possible, I’d like to give a shout out to my people, the Time Base crew. It’s a small group of us who get together bi-weekly to discuss and critique time-based and new media work. If anybody is in the NYC area and would like to join, check out timebasenyc.tumblr.com. This has been a ton of fun Paul, thanks a lot.


Please view Richard Borashan’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Samuel Lopez and Portrait Photography

Samuel Lopez is a photographer living in New York City and working with film while developing his own prints. His work can also be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you get into photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I grew up looking at the wonderful photos in Life, Look, and many well know newspapers during the late 60s and through the 70s. The images from Vietnam and other places fueled my interest. Photojournalism was my desire. I have always been an observer. I wanted to bring the world to everyone looking at my work.

Also, due to a set of circumstances, all of the photos from my mother’s life had been lost or destroyed. We only had one photo of her as a child and no photos of her mother, my grandmother. I wanted to preserve our family history by taking so many photos that, even if some got lost, there would always be plenty available for future generations.

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Paul Weiner:
Why do you prefer film photography to digital?

Samuel Lopez:
It is a personal preference. I love the entire process of making a photograph. Seeing the image come out on what used to be a blank piece of photo paper still fascinates me. I have always liked things I can touch and see. It goes along with my personality, also. I have always been a hands on, old-school type of guy. The process holds, for me, a certain therapeutic aspect. When I do prints I am in my own world. Knowing that I took an image from eye to camera, to film, then to print it and see it again before anyone else is, and always will be, magical for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe the sensation you get while developing your own prints.

Samuel Lopez:
When I go in for a printing session, I lock myself away for about 7 hours or until my chemicals are exhausted. I surround myself with all I need for that time. I even have a small refrigerator in my space for food and drink. I play my favorite music.

As I do each print it, takes me back to the exact moment I exposed the photo. I literally get a chill up and down the back of my neck when I see it first enlarged to the size I’ll be doing the print and secondly when the image comes out as it’s in the developing tray. There are times I’ve been moved to tears, not because I think I’ve created some masterpiece of photography but because, at times, the circumstances, the emotions, and feelings come rushing back to me as I’m reliving the moment all over again.

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Paul Weiner:
What are some challenges that you’ve found as a film photographer in the digital age?

Samuel Lopez:
I often feel a bit isolated. I’ve tried to network with other photographers, but because I work in film it’s like I speak a different language. The fact that I am not able to move into commercial work saddens me, but I realize it’s just the way the business is these days. I am also seeing more and more stores I visit for supplies making their film sections smaller and smaller with less choice for chemicals and paper. Archiving my work properly has become a challenge. My negatives and original Polaroid prints have to be filed away properly. I take great care keeping them dust and scratch free, as well as trying to control humidity and temperature. I recently moved from California to New York City, and I was terrified the entire time that my archive would meet some bad fate on the moving truck!

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Samuel Lopez:
Chemicals are becoming harder to find. Photo paper is becoming scarce also. The loss of Polaroid 600 film was a big loss for the photo community. Spare parts for my cameras when they need repair is getting very hard. Most of my cameras are from the 40’s to 50’s.

Paul Weiner:
Do you see yourself more as a photojournalist documenting the world around you or a fine art photographer?

Samuel Lopez:
Definitely a photojournalist documenting the world. Even when I do studio work, I prefer to work with models that can take a concept and move about freely within the idea as I document their journeys in the moment. I rarely use a tripod. I’m always in motion with my subjects.

Paul Weiner:
I can see how supplies must be limited nowadays. Are there any particular materials for film photography that you wish you could still find for sale somewhere?

Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I look on various model photographer sites, and, at times, I’ve put out open calls for free portraits for anyone willing to sit for me. Models will refer me to people they know that fit my work style, also. I will even ask someone I see that looks interesting on the street or subway to model for me. As a freelance photographer, I don’t have the budget yet to hire from agencies.

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Paul Weiner:
Many contemporary artists shy away from the male nude because of expectations and assumptions our society makes. Have you found it difficult photographing nude men, and have you ever received surprising feedback about male nude photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I have only found that finding male models has been difficult. Most are a bit more over-muscled for my choosing. As a former athlete, I formed an appreciation for both the male and female form. Therefore, the models I choose to work with are more lean and athletic, and I try to pose them in natural positions, also.

Photographing males, for me, is the same process as when I work with women. I try and represent the body as a whole, even in my abstract work. I haven’t had any surprising feedback so far. Mostly very receptive and positive.


Please view Samuel Lopez’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Painting Perception and the Human Condition with Aaron Czerny

Aaron Czerny is an artist focusing on ideas within human perception related to behavioral habits. He has exhibited in various galleries throughout San Francisco, Santa Fe, Austin, New York City, Italy, and Lithuania. Czerny’s work is also available online at http://aaronczerny.com/.
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Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Aaron Czerny:
I am just coming out of a period in which I have been occupied with questions related to the human condition and juxtapositions of wildness and domesticity. I am fascinated with the ability of our species to be both brutally wild and brutally civilized, and the interchangeability of these terms depending upon the perceived point of reference.

At the moment, I am taking a break from such big ideas and questions and looking forward to doing some painting solely for the pure joy of it, the pure act and movement of it, for that particular smell of it and the feeling of it under my fingernails.

I will be going back to school this fall to finally finish my BA, and I consciously chose to take a bit of a hiatus beforehand to allow the space necessary for the upcoming new experiences and perceptions that will be stimulated from that environment.

I am also a firm believer in periods of leisure and constraint; these times allow one’s well to be replenished, while, at the same time, facilitating a type of inner expansion to occur. Creation needs ample amounts of time and space to develop. I have found over the years that my best work comes after periods of leisure. I then have an intense period of creative explosion, a personal Big Bang of sorts.

I am looking forward to such a period in the very near future!

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about your beliefs on human perception and how those beliefs relate to your abstract paintings.

Aaron Czerny:
The roots of understanding human perception are so vast, and, in my 40 years of consciousness, I feel as though I have had fleeting moments of intense awareness and clarity (most often while painting or engaged in what we call the “natural world”). Sometimes, on the rare occasion, I have experienced a more sustained level of discovery and lucidity, but never for long, extended periods of time. In some ways, I think this is part of the foundation of our unique form of human animal perception: that our modes and forms of consciousness, and unconsciousness, are always shifting, deconstructing, transforming, and changing with the multitude of dynamic environments we inhabit, and which we sometimes help create, destroy, or alter.

I believe the roots of our perceptions are directly connected to the land we come from. That it is the land (environment), which dictates the type of food that is available, the type of animals and plants that live there, and therefore create specific types of chemical reactions that occur when ingested. All of this can have an effect on and direct relationship to the type of language that is created and, in turn, the type of culture developed (i.e., the type of beliefs, religions, art, etc. that are the vehicles of our perceptions).

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Paul Weiner:
Are you satisfied with the commercial art world as it runs today?

Aaron Czerny:
In answering this question, I could choose to focus on the negative connotations associated with the word commercialism, but I would like to focus instead on the idea of Art as a viable means of commerce.

I remember certain artist friends being incredulous when I started showing and selling for the first time with an official gallery years ago. They thought it was so unfair that galleries took such a large percentage from the artists. My attitude then, and now, is that they deserve every penny when doing their job well, a job most artists neither want to do nor have the time to do. If they (gallerists, representatives, collectors etc.) let artists do their work and are helping facilitate their ability to do work, great! That is exactly what we need.

I, too, held certain proverbial “artist angst” ideals years ago in relation to commercialism. It took the form of getting upset upon seeing work I thought was crap hung in galleries and museums and being sold for so much. It is an attitude that is a waste of time and one that can get in the way of pursuing a viable and joyful career. I believe every artist is searching for his or her audience, and if someone happens to find it, no matter what one’s opinion may be in relation to the art or artist, we should be glad, for we all need an audience, especially one that can give us not only emotional support but monetary support as well. So, in the sense of the exchange of goods and services, the commercial market is important.

I do think that the market could help facilitate, sponsor and further educate the general public in developing a deeper appreciation of the arts, therefore seeing it as a necessary commodity that has social, cultural and personal importance.

I want to stress that a market, which helps provide a platform that promotes a relationship between an audience, individual and institutional collectors and the artists themselves is imperative and an aspect I am working toward being more a part of.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist working in abstraction, do you feel that purely figurative art can evoke the same type of emotional response as abstract?

Aaron Czerny:
To a certain extent.

I believe that what we term as abstraction is directly rooted in and stems from the figurative narrative. Our experience as humans is directly connected to our body’s myriad ways of sensing ourselves, others (sentient and non-sentient beings), and the environments we all inhabit. The art we create is transmitted first and foremost through the body, no matter what part it germinates and resonates within first.

That being said, I think that abstract and figurative work can evoke emotional responses in very different ways, just as different models or makes of cars can give very different driving experiences even though being driven on the same road.

Overall, I think art, no matter my opinion of it, whether it be figurative, abstract, conceptual, performance, or any other form, has the ability to touch others in deep, profound, and personal ways because it is a form of communication, a language. We all, in varying ways, search for and desire connection, understanding and a sense of the mysterious and divine.

Paul Weiner:
How do you begin a painting? Take us through your process.

Aaron Czerny:
The first thing I do is build the panels to work on. As much as I like putting my energy into all aspects of the piece, I would like to have the panels built for me in the future. I like to construct a fairly large number in different sizes to have on hand because, when I begin to paint, I need to be able to grab as many as necessary in the heat of the moment. Sometimes one is enough, but often the intensity of the energy is such that it cannot be confined to one space, but needs to spill over, across, and onto various surfaces. Having many prepared and on the walls, blank and waiting, creates a void of expectancy, a space and place for vision to be transcribed.

My preferred surface to work on is normally Baltic birch plywood. It has a really beautiful color and grain texture that I generally like to leave a portion of partially exposed in my pieces. I more often than not like the wood versus canvas, although I like painting on it as well, because I can be rough with it, use pencils and other hard drawing implements upon it without it ripping, and it has a presence of its own, a substance.

I also like the quality of line the hard smooth surface allows; that’s not to say I don’t also like rougher surfaces, such as the old fencing I used for a whole series because, when using materials one is not accustomed to, it pushes and forces the work to go in new directions. It forces artists to get out of their comfort zones, to go beyond where they may usually tread and what they may normally accomplish, and I like this.

I work foremost from feeling. Whatever I am feeling in the moment or in my life at the time and go from there: turn on some music, usually jazz, to help facilitate entering into that trancelike state of creation, pick up a color, approach the piece, most times close my eyes, and put hand and medium to material. Boom! The big bang begins; the dance is started; the traversing of worlds commences; touch and go; guide and step aside; and most importantly: TRUST; get out of my own way and allow the mystery to unfold.


Please view Aaron Czerny’s work at http://www.aaronczerny.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Simone Rene’s Patterns and Fabric Collage

Simone Rene is a fabric collage artist from Brooklyn, New York who holds a BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Her artwork is available online at http://www.simonerene.com/.

11.75"x16", cloth

City Background B5, 11.75″x16″, cloth


Paul Weiner:
When did you decide to begin with the medium of fabric collage?

Simone Rene:
I began working in it about 4-5 years ago. At the time I was doing some mixed-media pieces, paint/graphite/paper/found objects and making clothing, but I couldn’t commit to either because I was torn between my love of fabric and making visuals. I was making a quilt for my nephew, one of my first. It had figures of cute monsters and their toys on it. As I was cutting, positioning, and sewing, the direction I wanted to go in suddenly dawned on me – I know, I know – Duh.

Paul Weiner:
Having studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts, do you see that impacting your style today?

Simone Rene:
I have always loved the figure, and it is pretty central in most of my work. I studied Fashion Illustration in high school and took it at SVA. I think that I am prone to elongating and manipulating the figure to sell the story much the same way fashion illustrators do in order to sell clothing.

The Ancestors A1, 10"x31", cloth

The Ancestors A1, 10″x31″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
The idea of selling a story is interesting, and I can certainly see how fashion is incorporated in your work. So, as far as stories go, do you read your artwork as a narrative?

Simone Rene:
I think of my images as grasping at just a phrase pulled from a whole story, and for me that is where the emotion is.

Paul Weiner:
How do you start one of your fabric collages? It must be tough determining which fabric to use.

Simone Rene:
Usually my concept begins with a thought, words followed by a visual that is accompanied by color. Sometimes I just find a piece of fabric that wants to be something. After I have the concept, I sort through my large fabric collection and go on hunts, both new and used, for just the right fabrics. Once I have the dominant fabric color or pattern, things seem to fall into place. I experiment with combinations and sometimes make variations of the same image. It may take a while, and I may have to return to that image over and over again while I work on other pieces, but it’s ok because art is about exploration.

The Ancestors A5, 12"x31.5", cloth

The Ancestors A5, 12″x31.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
Is there a particular color or pattern that has intrigued you?

Simone Rene:
I find myself drawn to black and white patterns, cerulean blues, fuchsia pinks, and flesh tones that are cool – not really into the warm autumn colors.

City Background B3, 15"x27", cloth

City Background B3, 15″x27″, cloth

City Background B1, 17"x21.5", cloth

City Background B1, 17″x21.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
You’ve mentioned that your family has resided in Brooklyn since the late 1700s. Could you talk specifically about your “City Background” work and how that relates to your own identity?

Simone Rene:
I grew up embedded in family and surrounded by generations of relatives, both by blood and marriage. We were American, we were New Yorkers, and we were Brooklynites.

When I was little, I don’t ever recall wondering who or what we were. I thought that the diversity of my family was normal. It wasn’t until I began middle school and began to be asked to define myself by ticking off a box that I began to consider “What was I?” note not “Who I was.” It was confusing and disheartening to be asked to define myself and by doing so chance wiping away generations of ancestors that may not be stereotypically present in face or person. It made me a bit of a rebel. I checked all the boxes and when called upon could defend that choice because I knew my family’s stories and history.

I think being generations in the city allowed for the ambiguity that did define my family and I. It allows me to explore aspects of my history with familiarity as well as distance.


Please view Simone Rene’s artwork online at http://www.simonerene.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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