The Fetish of Desire: An Interview with Nino Cais

I first noticed Nino Cais’s work at Art Basel in Miami. Amongst the literal miles and miles of gallery booths and art, Cais’s work – presented by São Paulo based gallery Central Galeria de Arte ­­– had a magnetic quality. His “fruit series” – which includes photo collages of bright ripe bananas, mangos, eggplants and exotic fruit covered in female panty hose, juxtaposed with nude glamor portraits – is a treatise on the temporality that culture places on female youth, beauty and desire. In other works, he plays with neoclassicism and roman iconography – one statue is half woman of antiquity and half stack of porcelain plates. We got a chance to ask Cais a few questions about his art – in the following interview he talks about choosing art versus priesthood and some of his biggest artistic influences. 

AUTRE: Your mother was a seamstress and you grew up in the suburbs of São Paulo, where did you find your inspirations and how were you introduced to art?

NINO CAIS: My relation to art was, and still is, very intuitive. Since I was a kid, I used to manufacture my own toys with some of my mother’s materials, such as fabric scraps. I never thought I would be a professional artist – I didn’t even have a close relationship to art, nor did I visit exhibitions.

At first I entered the seminary to become a priest. I used to decorate the Church’s events and festivities. One of the priests of the seminary was convinced that I had to study art and he managed to get a scholarship for me to study in Santa Marcelina, an Art School in São Paulo. It was then that I started to understand everything I had been experiencing as a kid and young adult and started to have a more theoretical background, to think of art in a more consistent way and to start to elaborate on my production as an artist.

AUTRE: Who were some of the first artists who really expanded your mind – artists who you identified with and were inspired by?

CAIS : At the art school I met some artists that were of great importance in my personal and artistic development. One of the teachers I directly identified with was Led Catunda. Afterwards, other contemporary artists became an important reference for me, namely Constantin Brancusi, Richard Serra, Erwin Wurm, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor Wood and Nick Cave. In a more historical perspective, I was always fascinated by Mantegna and Giotto’s paintings. I also have a great admiration for some surrealist artists such as Man Ray, René Magritte and Marx Ernst. More recently, I am very much interested in some African artists such as Samuel Fosso and Yinka Shonibare.

AUTRE: You studied dramatic arts for roughly 8 years, how do you think that has inspired your work?

CAIS: Although I don’t really conceive a direct continuity between my experience in dramatic arts and my career as an artist, I do think that some theatrical elements are recurrent in my work. First of all, some of my installations are very scenographic and have an underlying dramatic tension, as they suggest a narrative and/or an imminent fall suspended in time. One other convergence of my artistic practice that could also be related in some way to theater is the fact that most of the figures in my work, and especially my self-portrait photographs, enact a persona that mingles with the surrounding objects, and that become some kind of entity. Note for example that my face is always hidden by an object or by a posterior intervention on the image.

AUTRE: Can you talk a little bit about your current ‘fruit’ series  – I saw a few of these works in Miami and they are really stunning?

CAIS: My “fruit series” is centered on the idea of superposition of different levels and the nature of images. The starting point of this series is a recent research about the feminine figure. The pieces juxtapose images of fruits and iconic and beautiful women that harken a model of grace and sensuality. If both the fruit and the women relate to abundance, fertility and life, they are ephemeral and fleeting bodies that fade with the passing of time. In this sense, these images work as a kind of still life.

AUTRE: What’s next?

CAIS: I am working on a solo show that will take place at Central Galeria de Arte, in São Paulo, in February. The central axis of this exhibition is garments and how they relate to different cultures, how they drive projections, clichés and fetishes.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. You can view more of Nino Cais's work by visiting the website of Central Galeria de Arte. 

Public Access: An Interview with Glenn O'Brien

photograph by Margret Links

Before he became the Dapper Dan with lily-white hair and a suit as crisp as the white tablecloths at Mr. Chow’s, Glenn O’Brien was a chronicler of the Golden Age of the New York avant-garde and the subculture underground of the 1960s and 70s. He was the first editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. He was also, briefly, the editor-at-large of High Times magazine. But what he is best known for is TV Party – a public access cable show that featured some of the first appearances of artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Klaus Nomi and Blondie. After 30 years, O’Brien has released three brand new episodes of TV Party on YouTube. Shot at locations such as MoMA Ps1, Le Baron New York, and Lafayette House, the new TV Party – a “television show that's a cocktail party, but which is also a political party” – features a number of luminaries and a smorgasbord of who's whos. In the following brief interview, Glen O’Brien offers a bit of fashion advice and talks TV Party and why it is always important to look ahead. 

AUTRE: You were a part of a fascinating era in New York – with Andy Warhol’s Factory, Basquiat, the birth emerging music scenes like hip hop and punk, a pre-gentrified New York – do you miss those days?   

GLENN O'BRIEN: Well, it was exciting and maybe a more interesting and inspiring community, and I prefer the spirit and tone of the art world then as opposed to now, but if you start to think that way you’re kind of doomed.  I have to deal with the moment like everybody else and keep evolution going, so I don’t think too much about the past.  

AUTRE: Can you remember when the idea for TV Party first came to you?

O'BRIEN: I always wanted to do a TV show.  I have probably mentioned too much that I loved Playboy’s Penthouse and Playboy After Dark, Hugh Hefner’s 2 shows, because they were in a party format that seemed a lot more cool than the typical talk show.  The direct inspiration was going on a public access show, Coca Crystal’s If I Can’t Dance You Can Keep Your Revolution, and discovering that people had actually seen it.  I was immediately motivated to create a public access show. 

AUTRE: What can we expect from the newest episodes of TV Party – there are only a few online right now, are we going to see more in the future? 

O'BRIEN: We want to move the party from city to city, place to place and have guests that aren’t the usual showbiz fare. We’ll see how much stamina we have. 

AUTRE: Many people don’t know that you worked for High Times magazine – can you talk a little bit about that?

O'BRIEN: When I went to High Times it had a bigger circulation than Rolling Stone and seemed more interesting culturally—drugs aside. I was working at Playboy in Chicago and was desperate to move back to NY.  They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Aside from some things dealing with Rasta, I didn’t have much connection to the pharmaceutical aspect of the magazine.  I was kind of the culture czar.  

AUTRE: You are known as a 'style guru' – what is one piece of fashion or style advice you can offer?  

O'BRIEN: I guess my basic advice is don’t follow fashion; express yourself. 

AUTRE: What’s next? 

O'BRIEN: Writing a couple of books.  Working on some films and TV Party.  The usual.

Text and interview by Oliver Kupper for Autre. You can visit Glenn O'Brien's website to read poems and other writings. You can also view all three episodes of TV Party here


Wayward Cognitions: An Interview With Ed Templeton

Mangled, bloodied and raw – Ed Templeton’s photography is a candid document of the halcyon days of youth and rebellion. Anarchy in the U.S.A. reigns supreme with open wounds, smoking youths and suburbia turned upside down, with all the coins shaken loose. There are also private moments captured in Templeton’s photography – of his wife Deanna and his contradictorily quiet life in the laid back hamlet of Huntington Beach, California. As a pro skater, Templeton has been given the unique opportunity to travel the world – luckily he has captured everything along the way. In his new monograph of photography, entitled Wayward Cognitions, Templeton curates images from his archive spanning nearly twenty years. Templeton not only shoots on film, but he also prints his own photography in his home darkroom – an anomalous practice lost to the ages. In the following interview, Templeton talks about Wayward Cognitions, the dichotomy between the skate world and art world, and why he is sticking to film.

AUTRE: Can you remember when you first picked up a camera and started documenting your life?

ED TEMPLETON: It was 1994, I had been shooting photos as a tourist like anyone might, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I had some sort of epiphany where realized I needed to document my life and the lives of people around me. I had already been a pro skater for 4 years getting to travel the world and be paid to skateboard, I thought, "who gets to do that?" I figured there was something there, a story that needed to be told, and I had already wasted 4 years! After that I was very strict about having a camera at all times and ready to shoot whatever happened. Soon after the initial idea to document the subculture of skating I started shooting way more than skateboarders. Skateboarding took me all over the world, it gave be a travel bug and a desire to shoot photos of the people and places I visited that was a wider view than just the people I was around.

AUTRE: There is such a stark dichotomy between the skate world and the art world where most of your art is collected and exhibited – what feels more like home to you?

TEMPLETON: I will always feel more comfortable around skaters I guess. That is how I grew up, and that is the world I have been a real part of. The art world is so much bigger, I'm just one little blip on a ocean sized screen. I think art and skating are very closely entwined, but it's true, speaking in monetary terms, there is a big gulf between art collectors and skaters. That can be weird at times, but in a good way. Nothing makes me happier than to be at an art opening filled with fancy art people in suits and nice dresses and then to see mixed in the crowd young people in hooodies carrying skateboards. Art is for everyone.

AUTRE: Did you ever imagine that your photography would be so widely noticed and appreciated?

TEMPLETON: Not at first. I was starting to collect photo books, and I was out shooting and documenting subcultures and places and could care less. I started shooting seriously in 1994, I first exhibited some photos along with my paintings in 1998. So I didn't feel confident at first. But as time went on, I would be shooting and collecting books of great photographers and holding my work up to theirs to see if I was developing and growing. At some point I started feeling very confident that I had done some good work, work worthy of being noticed. I had started showing photography in exhibitions to the point where it was way more about photos than painting. So I can't lie and say I didn't hope my photos would be noticed by a wider audience, but you have to just plug away and make good work, and participate in the world you want to be a part of. I was able to make a book, Golden Age of Neglect that I feel was a sort of calling card for me. Ever since then all I think about is making books. I just love photo books and want to make them and collect them and be part of that world. 

photograph by Deanna Templeton

photograph by Deanna Templeton

AUTRE: Do you think that being a professional skateboarder allowed you more freedom and opportunities to take photographs?

TEMPLETON: It certainly got me around the world. I think seeing new places and cultures and environments helps to humanize you and gives you a bigger sample of what the world is really like. That helps develop your eye. Of course skating itself develops your eye too, in different ways, but ways that can be applied to shooting photos, like looking ahead, and being ready for obstacles. I use that when walking and shooting for sure, always looking way ahead to see whats coming at you, and being prepared to shoot when it comes near. My style of photography has come purely from doing other things in life. I never travelled somewhere just to take photos. All of my travel has been for skating or art shows, and I shoot wherever I happen to be going. Pro skating gives you freedom from having any set hours to work, and surrounds you with interesting people, so yes!

AUTRE: Who are some photographers that you look up to you?

TEMPLETON: Jim Goldberg, Garry Winogrand, Hank Wessel, Robert Frank, Tom Wood, Anders Petersen, Mark Cohen, Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Tobin Yelland, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, the usual suspects I suppose. I like photographers who approach it like art, meaning outside of traditional photographic ways of presenting it, using collage, ephemera, writing, paint. I think David Hockney was great when he was doing photography, Peter Beard, Boris Mikhailov, Jim Goldberg, even Robert Frank, they all have presented photography from the position of an artist, not just a photographer.

AUTRE: You shoot on film and you develop your own photographs in your own darkroom – you shoot a lot of images, do you ever think about going digital and why is film so important in your work?

TEMPLETON: I like the way film looks, and I can afford it. Those are the major reasons. I'm not anti-digital, but I'm gonna shoot film and print traditionally as long as I can afford to and as long as they are making film. There's a hand done quality to a fiber print that is missing from digital forms. And I think going that extra mile in shooting film and having to focus and expose each shot old school style, and then making your own prints by hand pays off in the authenticity and feel it gives when the viewer sees it ultimately. This is just photo-nerd stuff, because I know that 99% of people do not give a shit how it was made. It's just for that 1% that will geek out on it, like I do when I see the master photographers work in person.

AUTRE: Your new book Wayward Cognitions is almost like a retrospective of sorts – what made you decide to go in that direction versus a more thematic direction like some of your previous monographs?

TEMPLETON: Most of my books have had a pretty specific theme, Teenage Smokers and Kissers are self explanatory, The Seconds Pass was all photos from a car, Deformer was all photos relating to or from suburbia, Litmus Test was all photos from Russia. So I wanted to just make a good ol' photo book. No theme, just photos. But It's not a retrospective because I chose all photos not printed in a book before. It's not an overview of work I made in the past, it's a story woven from my archive. When you shoot like me you amass a lot of photos. To me it's a shame that only a tiny portion of the photos you think are worthy might ever be seen. This type of book is a way to choose from that pool, with no limit on time or place or theme, and sequence the images in a way, very subtly, that a story, however vague, comes through. The name Wayard Cognitions is a more eloquent way if saying "Stray Thoughts" and that is what these photos are. Photos that do not fit in any theme or future project. Photos that have strayed from ever being seen, until now.

AUTRE: What’s next?

TEMPLETON: Onward to more books! I have plans to finally make my big book about my time documenting skate culture, a book on Catalina Island, a book with Deanna Templeton about the town we live in, Huntington Beach. Right now I'm working on a painting only show in April 2015 at Roberts and Tilton gallery. And I will be releasing a new zine and exhibiting some past zines at the LA Art Book Fair in January.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Autre. You can pick up a copy of Wayward Cognitions HERE. You can also catch Ed Templeton at his book signing at Moca Grand Ave on December 18 – 250 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles. 


LIVE LOVE DIE: A SHORT INTERVIEW WITH BRAD PHILLIPS

Canadian artist Brad Phillips' artwork elicits an immediate visceral reaction - like realizing your entire life is a joke and only God knows the punch line. His text-based works, which are composed in watercolor, are quickly becoming what he is best known for. But behind the striking, stinging, slap-you-in-the-face puns and plays on words, Phillips is a writer and a poet at heart - a writer that uses a grander lexicon to explore the darker meaning of life. On top of being a writer, Phillips is also a photographer. His new book of photography – Mother Nature Mother Creature – puts a twist on 1970s naturalist photography by following two women who undress and romp through a forest in the nude. You can also view Phillips’ stunning text-based work at Harper’s Books in the Hamptons. In the following interview, Brad Phillips talks about his obsession with literature and poking fun at Ryan McGinley. 

AUTRE: Your works deals with a lot of love, death and suicide – why are those themes meaningful to you?

BRAD PHILLIPS: Well, I suppose these are classic 'big themes' - and for me my work is always personal, and love death and suicide are all things that I have had vast personal experiences with.
 
AUTRE: Your watercolors are predominantly text based – like subversive poems – how do those quotes come to you?

PHILLIPS: My watercolors are only predominantly text based in the last few months, primarily my watercolors have been figurative. Some of the paintings of text are taken from other sources, like the bible, but for the most part, I can't say exactly how they come to me. I'm far more interested in writing than I am in art. I publish a lot of writing, I've been obsessed with literature and language my whole life and also comedy. So much of it just comes to me spontaneously – sudden puns I come up with, bad jokes, one liners, like art in general, the source is usually a mystery to me, except that I know it begins somewhere in some dark recess of my mind.
 
AUTRE: You have a new book – called Mother Nature Mother Creature – can you tell us a little bit about your new publication?  
 
PHILLIPS: I've painted from photographs for my entire career, but I don't think photography has much currency as an art anymore. I think it's been done to death. So I'd taken these photographs of my friends before I moved back to Toronto from Vancouver. I guess I was interested in making a parody of 'naturalist photography' from the seventies. I don't know that it comes across as being parody and also I wanted to sort of poke at artists like Ryan McGinley, who hire attractive models to appear to be his friends and then photograph them frolicking in the nude. For me it was a way to document two women:  one is my best friend's wive, a mother of two kids, who were both raised in the west coast, just being naked hippies in the forest. It's pretty simplistic, which is what I see as one of the problems with photography. So for me photographs right now are ideally suited to being seen in books, not on gallery walls. 

AUTRE: Is everything a joke or is the joke everything?

PHILLIPS: I'm not sure about this – some things are jokes, some things are deadly serious. The interesting part is to make what's deadly serious and turn it into a joke, and to take what's superficial and light and make it look serious.

Text and Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. You can view Brad Phillips' exhibition Law and Order at Harper's Books until January 5, 2015. You can also purchase 'Mother Nature Mother' Creature here. 

photograph by Lisa Petrole

photograph by Lisa Petrole


Subversive Narratives: An Interview With Ryan Heffington

Ryan Heffington has carved an extremely unique place in the world of dance and contemporary art. If you’ve seen the music video for Sia’s triple-platinum song Chandelier, you know Heffington’s work. If you’ve seen the Sigur Rós music video where Shia LaBeouf goes full frontal, you know Heffington’s work. But Heffington’s real magic exists in his spectacular live performances – where he uses the medium of modern dance and movement to paint a portrait of identity and culture in a fragmentary digital age. Next week, as part of Art Basel Miami, MAMA gallery will present Heffington’s premier of Wading Games – a performance that he describes as a “punk rock water ballet" – at the Ritz Carlton hotel. In the following interview, Heffington explains his upcoming performance in Miami and how dance can change the world.

AUTRE: Can you talk a little about your upcoming performance in Miami – you once described it as a “punk rock water ballet.” Is that an accurate description?

RYAN HEFFINGTON: Yes, the piece will live between a glorious ballet in terms of scale, and at moments aesthetically beautiful, but sharply contrasted by a subversive narrative where the dancers will have to fight from drowning over collectively taking part in a synchronized swim routine.

AUTRE: You have been thinking about this project for a long time – why is this particular project so meaningful to you?

HEFFINGTON: The fact that certain performative spectacles cling to my brain collecting momentum over the years creates a feeling of deep respect and attachment to the piece. I'm not sure exactly when this ballet pushed itself inside, but the element of potential danger, the symbology of over-flooding tears, and a certain societal class - all of this is so dramatic. It has spoken to me in my dreams and waking state as well - at this point it's a part of me and I cannot keep it a secret any longer.

AUTRE: Why is dance important in today’s contemporary artistic landscape?

HEFFINGTON: In this age of digital media, over-saturation of well most everything, dance claims it stake in that it is most simple in its form. Its the body expressing the mind. No need for tools, keyboards, audio accompaniment - just the human form. There is something inherently grounding about this. It's access is given once the being accepts their own invitation to do so - again no money, tools or experience is necessary. It's also powerful in terms of invigorating the soul and once you come to peace with that you dance like no one else on earth - think fingerprint - an endless amount of joy is yours. Really - imagine if every human danced for 1 hour a day, how that would change your life, your work space, your community, your nation, our world.

AUTRE:What do you hope to convey – or what kind of feelings do you want to emote – through your dancers and your choreography?

HEFFINGTON:In rehearsals, sometimes I squint when watching the piece in front of me. I know when I feel something from the bodies before me - I'll get a tingle or goosebumps or rays of energy - I know I've created something visceral and this is what I hope my audiences experience. I can make aesthetically arresting imagery - yet without playing to the heart I'm afraid people leave empty handed. We're over stimulated visually as a society - but to connect emotionally to people or art is how I want to live and have my work experienced.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. MAMA gallery will present Ryan Heffington'sWading Games – with music by Banks and film installations by Osk – at the Ritz Carlton (pool) in Miami Beach as part of Art Basel Miami 2014 on Thursday, December 4 (rsvp@mama.gallery). 

The Ecstatic Body: An Interview with Julius Smack

Under the stage persona Julius Smack, Peter Hernandez is part of a new wave of emerging artists that are trying to define their identity in a century that is trying to do just the same. Often wearing white jeans, his signature white face paint, a white shirt, and a tuft of blond curls hanging out of a white baseball hat worn backwards, Julius Smack combines the slow mortal pangs of Butoh with a sense of definitive post-internet Millennial angst. His performances cross boundaries between music and performance art and he will often sing his own songs, which are produced and released by his own record label – called Practical Records. Most of Smack’s recent songs were produced in his former home in San Francisco (he is now based in Los Angeles) and they have distinct political overtones. In the following interview, Julius Smack (Peter Hernandez) talks political performative art, his recent move to Los Angeles and why he uses Starbucks cups and yoga mats in some of his performances.

AUTRE: Who is Julius Smack?

JULIUS SMACK:Julius Smack is an awoken statue from antiquity that pontificates social and political messages through dance and song. In the past I used make-up to conflate an impression of a Grecian statue and Butoh dancer. I’d paint my face white and wear some white hair under a white hat. I explored vogue and butoh dance mostly at a historic drag bar in San Francisco called Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, where every Tuesday I presented a new track and a new choreography.

AUTRE: How would you define your genre of music – is it art or music?

SMACK: Maybe it’s Los Angeles, but I am beginning to see the two modes as one. I’m interested in music as art and vice-versa. I don’t think of the individual recordings of my music as art, but I think of the physical package of music as cassette or CD-R as being artful. That’s when it can be packaged and asserted as art with the accompanying liner notes and design. When I can convey a narrative arc, I think of the music as art. When I perform, I feel like I’m displaying artistic gestures. When I can give a whole Julius Smack performance, I think it’s art.

AUTRE: You recently moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles – what prompted the move?

SMACK: I’ve long wanted to live here since I was a teenager because I listen to a lot of music from here. There's a wealth of possibility and invention here and that’s partly why I'm here. I’m witnessing exciting and new modes of performance all the time, where there’s little delineation between music or dance or theater. I’m also dating a performance artist and writer named Brian Getnick, who I met when I lived in San Francisco. Being here with him has really shaped my performance practice because we discuss ideas and possibilities and he equips me with rehearsal and studio space. He also has a great performance art journal called Native Strategies that I recommend to anyone curious about Los Angeles’ emergent performance art.

AUTRE:What can you expect from a Julius Smack performance – I read something about yoga mats and Starbucks cups?

SMACK: That performance was at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in San Francisco. There’s a great party on Tuesday nights called High Fantasy. It’s an incubator for new performance coming out of the Bay Area. The night I used a yoga mat and Starbucks cups I performed a version of the song “Choices” from my new album. I arranged three members of the audience in poses that resembled Julius Smack. One person was in the pose of the Statue of Liberty, one was in a Thinking Man pose. Then I placed in their hands a Starbucks cup of varying sizes and directed the lyrics to them --"There's no time to make up your mind, you're not sure of it anyway." I was thinking of ways to delegate the performance to the audience. I’m interested in transforming a place into a performance space through movement and voice. There’s something really exciting about seeing someone step into a performance in their usual garb. What are the possibilities of the spontaneous and unchoreographed present?

AUTRE: What are your performances like lately?

SMACK: Lately my performances involve a deal of surprise and emergence, field recordings and live recordings. I want to affect space as clearly as possible and not to rely on pre-recorded music, which has begun to feel like a crutch for performance. There is so much possibility in witnessing a body in space! Am I going to pose against a wall? Am I going to hold an audience member? In what order will I jump, sing, and dance? To allow that kind of response to space, I have been doing more acapella performances that use field recordings and live instrumentation. At Human Resources last month I used a night vision camera that was operated and projected live as a reflection of the audience. Human Resources used to be a film cinema, but all the chairs have been stripped out and it’s just a big white cube with concrete floors and perfect reverb. So I did an acapella song and then used a keyboard live for my first time. It was so liberating - I don't intend on relying heavily on backing tracks.

AUTRE:Can you describe your new album Everyday Ballet?

SMACK: Most of those songs were crafted in my big bedroom in San Francisco, and then I had a lot of room and space and time for recording. I could focus on audio effects and to adjust synthesizer tracks in a dance music form. I was really inspired by the house dance music that pervades San Francisco's music scene - it was there that I discovered some of my greatest house influences, primarily Terre Thaemlitz. And I was also looking at themes of social justice, progressivism, and gentrification, which are so fundamental to San Francisco's depleting culture. There's a song titled "Living Social," and I illustrate an image of house flippers speculating on the value of the Victorian I was living in. The lyrics empathize with the house and its history and feeling. Or "I Say What I Want," which basically calls out those who claim to oppose climate change with rhetoric instead of action.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photograph and video by Perry Shimon. You can learn more about Julius Smack by visiting his website. You can also purchase music – including his new album Everyday Ballet - here. If you are in Los Angeles, you can see Julius Smack perform on November 29, at the Handbag Factory, 1336 S Grand Ave Los Angeles, California

5 Questions for Jena Malone on the Eve of Her First Solo Show

Actress and musician Jena Malone is set to present her first solo photography exhibition titled, The Holy Other, at MAMA art gallery in downtown Los Angeles, running November 21st through 28th. Proceeds will benefit Girl Determined, a charity which works with young Burmese women to educate and empower them through societal shifts in their country. Malone’s debut solo series features 39 images she captured while traveling through Myanmar, Burma this past summer. She was deeply moved by the way of life and the vibrant culture she experienced. As she took photos throughout her trip, the artist was inspired by the many young women who were finding their voice against the new backdrop of democracy in their government. In the following interview, Jena talks about Myanmar and why photography is important to her.

AUTRE:Can you explain your series The Holy Other?

JENA MALONE:The Holy Other is a series of photographs I took while traveling to Myanmar this year. I was drawn there because it is a country on the brink of great change, from its government to its way of life. I wanted to see Myanmar before the modern world rushed in. It was actually a life changing experience for me.

AUTRE: Why is photography important?

JENA MALONE: Its important to me because it helps me see the world in new ways and it is an absolute time capsule for everything I might have forgotten.

AUTRE: Who are some of your photography icons?

JENA MALONE: Mary Ellen Mark , Nan Golden , Boris Mikhailov, Sebastiao Salgado.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you look through the viewfinder?

JENA MALONE:My mind goes blissfully blank actually.

AUTRE: What do you want people to feel when they look at your photographs....

JENA MALONE: I want them to feel whatever they want! Ahha! I just want the images to evoke stories, small intimate stories that touch on giant fundamental truths.

Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. You can check out the opening reception for Jena Malone'ssolo show – The Holy Other – tonight at MAMA gallery (1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles). The show will run until November 28. 

Liquid State: An Interview with Sculptor Jonathan Prince

The great cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz once said, “Copy nature and you infringe on the work of our Lord. Interpret nature and you are an artist.” This sentiment holds true for a lot of sculptors – those artists that borrow stone and bits of earth in the creation of eternal and impermeable monuments to their artistic vision. This sentiment is especially true for sculptor Jonathan Prince, whose father actually once took him to visit the studio of Jacques Lipchitz. Watching Lipchitz work – Prince became transfixed. Today, Prince works with materials like Corten steel, aluminum and bronze to create sculptural works that twist and tear at basic physical properties and our own perception. In the following interview, Prince talks about his recent sculptural series Liquid State and why there is more beauty in imperfection than perfection.

AUTRE: You have been making sculpture in stone and metal (stainless and Corten steel) since you were young, why is sculpture your mode of choice when you also experiment with other mediums?

JONATHAN PRINCE: I’m not sure why but - I have always had an affinity for three dimensional work. Perhaps it’s because a sculptural work inserts itself into the real world - maybe because there are innumerable angles to visualize the piece from. Whatever the reason - it has always made more sense for me to create a line in 3 dimensional space rather than trying to simulate that same gesture in a 2D world.

AUTRE: How do your experiments in design, photography, painting, and installation inform your sculpture for which you are known?

PRINCE: Regardless of the medium - I am always looking for a new way to inform myself and the viewer about alternative ways of seeing the world around us. If I am using photography - ink and paper or stainless steel - I am always trying to deepen my own investigation of a particular subject matter - to open my eyes and mind in a way that I have not done before. I’m not always successful at accomplishing that task - but I’m always on the hunt for it.

AUTRE: Can you explain the process of evolution regarding your current series Liquid State?

PRINCE: Almost all of my work through the years has looked at the boundaries between internal and external form or what we see on the surface but feel inside. My Liquid State series are the first works that I have done which seem to have no exterior skin - in other words - the forms are made from only internal material in a figurative sense. Liquid State refers to one of four states of matter : liquid - solid - gas and plasma. The works in this series explore the relationship between geometry and fluidity - creating forms that have their roots in geometry but ultimately assume only the barest vestiges of cube, sphere, cone or disc.

AUTRE: Where do you think your interest in the contrasting qualities of perfection and chaos come from?

PRINCE: It is always difficult for me to determine where a motivation comes from - what is important to me is to recognize the interest and look at it from as many vantage points as possible. The thesis that keeps coming back in my thoughts as I go through the process of making work is that - no matter how hard I try to create a perfected object or form - the real beauty of the piece is in the breaks. I believe the same is true in life.

AUTRE: What would you like viewers of your work to experience, whether it be intellectual or visceral?

PRINCE: My hope is that my work will provoke the viewer to have questions about what they are seeing and perhaps why this object - thing or image may be of interest to them. It is my belief that each person will have their own unique questions based on their individual life experience.

Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview and photographs by Abbey Meaker. You can view more of Jonathan Prince's work on his website

21st Century Pin-Up: Under the Hood with Amy Hood

Sex kitten, sexpot, nymphette, Lolita – there are a lot of words that can be used to describe Amy Hood. However, this 21st century pin-up model proves that there may be more under the hood than meets the eye. Yes, blondes probably have more fun, but Amy Hood is proof positive that they can be smart and have a keen curatorial eye too. In Jonathan Leder’s photographs, she plays a recurring role – amidst a world that looks painted with grey cigarette smoke, a splash of floral curtains and an under layer of Lee Hazelwood on an old AM radio. This time around, Hood both opens her legs and her mind to both model and curate the second volume of Leder’s Fetishisms Manifesto, which is a brilliant pastiche of 60s pin-up magazine and the photographer’s own naughty fantasies. In this interview, Amy Hood talks about her favorite fetishes (hint: she likes being spanked) and her many roles besides being just another model.

AUTRE: What’s it like to be a 21st century pin-up model?

AMY HOOD: Simultaneously empowering and inspiring. It’s amazing to embody such a classic sense of femininity and style, and to pursue those ideals as graciously and loyally to the original Pin-Up’s and film starlettes as is possible within this modern day, technologically dependent society. The 21st century does allow one to have more quirks.

AUTRE: How did you meet or first start collaborating with Jonathan Leder?

HOOD: A couple years ago Jonathan cast me for a shoot for Flaunt Magazine, shortly after we shot some video work, our first, and before you know it we became this creative power duo, collaborating on print and film work alike.

AUTRE:What’s your favorite fetish?

HOOD: Hmm...bondage and spanking? Anything lightly Sado-Masochistic wherein I can be the submissive one ;) Voyeurism is always pleasant, maybe a little ‘Lolita Syndrome’.

AUTRE: Can you describe your part in A Study in Fetishisms: Manifesto. Volume 2?

HOOD: I am the curator and design director for the publication, which includes several job details. Primarily, I’m responsible for the design of the publication and the overall creative concept, as well as the theme and production of the individual photoshoots, and the selection of text. Also, I cast and style the girls, occasionally snap their photograph, and style the location if necessary – process, scan and choose the pictures which best befit the publication, etc. –work collaboratively with Mr. Leder – Oh, and a little modeling as well! Put it all together and you’ve got Fetishisms Manifesto.

AUTRE: Do blondes have more fun?

HOOD: After much thought and research... Absolutely! ;)

You can catch Amy Hood and other lovely ladies in A Study in Fetishisms: Manifesto. Volume 2, which is available to pre-order now. With photographs by Jonathan Leder, A Study In Fetishisms: Manifesto 2 embodies the idea of 'Blondes' - from dirty to platinum. It is a tribute to the spirit of America, it's fascinations with life, glamor, beauty and tragedy, and to the women that made, and continue to make, it possible.

An Interview with Tasya Van Ree at the Chateau Marmont

Tasya van Ree steps out from her signature monochrome portraits and presents A State of Mind & the Affairs of its Games a hued-visual narrative, serving as an explication of the modern human mind. For one balmy Los Angeles evening, a salon was held in the penthouse of Chateau Marmont giving collectors, friends and fellow artists a desirable environment to appreciate her newest body of work. Twenty-one photographs in total, printed on metal, with images of dolls, toy trucks, Cracker Jack boxes, and other depictions of childhood entertainment. Titles of pieces include: The Glorified Self, To The Point of Being, and Sparks When Struck. The depth and attention to detail in the collection of photographs is grounded in a intellectually vivid perception that has underlined Tasya's photography throughout her career. Tasya graciously made some time to answer a few questions.

Autre: What inspired the narrative behind this exhibition?

Tasya van Ree: I wanted to visually translate society's function on the human psyche.

Autre: What was your childhood like?

Tasya: I was a wild and curious child with a lot of freedom. I experimented with everything that I could get into and everything that I could get my hands on. It's not much different from my adulthood.

Autre:Were your parents artists in any sense, did you have mentors early on, that had an artistic nature about them?

Tasya: They are artists in the fact that they have great imaginations, and they've always been a great inspiration to me. They both chose careers outside of the arts, but to have grown up with both parents showing you how to tap into your imagination was all I needed to know exactly what direction I wanted to pursue in life.

Autre:What is currently inspiring you?

Tasya: The intelligence of the human body.

Autre:Does music and/or literature play a role in your creative process?

Tasya: There is always a creative conversation between art, literature and music. They are all moving pieces to a bigger form of consciousness. I can't help but be inspired by all of these parts when trying to interpret my own vision.

Autre: Does Los Angeles play a role in your work?

Tasya: I think Los Angeles has a high frequency of creative energy and I've found myself swimming through its channels.

Interview, text and photos by Douglas Neill. You can see more of Tasya Van Ree's art here

Art with Benefits: 5 Questions for Betty Tompkins

It’s easy to have impure thoughts when looking at Betty Tompkins’ large-scale photorealistic renditions of pierced clitorises, double penetrating phalluses, macro coital embraces and all manner of twisting and sinuous tongues taking turns on the human anatomy. Indeed, this is art with benefits. Starting with her first Fuck Painting in 1969, Tompkins has been exploring and confronting a black-bar culture that censors any reminder that our most basic instincts are to inseminate and to be inseminated. Right now you can catch Betty Tompkins’Kiss Paintings at 55 Gansevoort until December 15th. In this short interview, Betty talks about smuggling porn, the inception of her Fuck Paintings, and some of the strange reactions people have had to her work.

Autre: Can you describe the moment when you discovered the inspiration for your Fuck Paintings?

Betty Tompkins: Yes, I can. My first husband came with a set of porn photos that he had imported from Hong Kong. He was 12 years older than I was. At that time, it was totally illegal to use the US mail to transport porn. He rented a postal box in Vancouver BC, drove there from Everett WA where he lived, hid them in his car and crossed the border back into the US hoping he looked like an all-American boy. It was a different time. In 1969, about a month or so after we moved to New York, I was looking at them and realized that if i removed the hands, the feet, the heads, everything but the money shot, that what was left was abstractly beautiful and had the great punch of an aggressive subject matter. I did Fuck Painting #1 in 1969.

Autre:Do you think the internet and the proliferation of pornography has made your art more "available.”

Tompkins: Certainly more people can see my work and the internet has helped make it more accessible. There was always a lot of porn. It is just easier to get now. And getting it is more private.

Autre: Has anyone had any bizarre or strange reactions to one of your works?

Tompkins: At my 2007 show with Mitchell Algus, the main exhibition room had a double penetration painting in the prime spot. A man walked into the gallery, had no problem with the front room, walked into the back room, looked at that painting, yelled at the top of his lungs and ran out. When I show in Zurich, the gallery gets serious hate mail. They sent me some of it. During my 2009 show at Mitchell Algus,Jerry Saltz made it the Show Of The Week feature in New York Magazine. The gallery told me a LOT of people were showing up so i thought I should see for myself. It was true. While I was there, a woman came in with a toddler in a stroller. she parked him near the desk and a painting that featured a breast. she put her hands over his eyes and said, “Don’t look.”"

Autre: Where do you recommend hanging one of your works in the house?

Tompkins:Anywhere the collector wants to hang my work is fine with me.

Autre: What can we expect at your new show at 55 Gansevoort?

Tompkins:Kisses. Smooch. 

Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Autre. Photograph by Nancy Oliveri. Betty Tompkins Smooch will be on view until December 15 at 55 Gansevoort Gallery, 55 Gansevoort St, New York 

Languid Angels: The Photography of Matt Fry

Matt Fry has been taking pictures for only a few years, but his photographs already have a stunning amount of depth and poetic introspection. Like angels trapped languidly in celluloid, Fry's subjects are idols of film's beautiful imperfection – overexposed, underexposed, light flares, polaroid tears and all. Fry, who is based in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, has perhaps found his calling with photography and, like an analog junkie holding on to a fading, beautiful dream, spends all his money on film.  However, it might soon all be worth it. With fashion brands knocking on his door, Fry is a photographer on the rise.  Pas Un Autre caught up with Fry for a very interesting tete-a-tete about his inspirations, aspirations and how he got into the photography racket in the first place. Read interview and see more photos after the jump. 

PAS UN AUTRE: You said you have been shooting for only a couple of years – what brought you to photography?

MATT FRY: I started shooting in late 2009. I had a couple of tumblrs where I posted photography, and it was hard to find the style that I really liked. I decided, rather than just looking at photos, I wanted to create them, how I wanted them. I didn't have the money for a good digital, and I was picky, so I researched the best camera/lens combo that I could get for the least amount of money. So I went out and bought a Yashica Electro 35 and started shooting. Shortly after, my friend Melanie was kind enough to pose for me. Turned out people really liked what I did. I haven't stopped shooting since.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

FRY: I can't remember the specific image, but I do remember borrowing my mom's Canon AE-1 when I was 10. My brother and I had just had just learned how to jump our brand new dirt bike. We were so excited with our little jump; I think we were getting maybe about 7 inches off the ground. After a few jumps, I ran inside and grabbed my mom's camera. She loaded a roll for me and I went out and snapped a few shots of my brother hitting the "big" jump.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the view finder?

FRY: That's a good question. Sometimes I think about my shots; whether I want to frame them higher or lower, whether the light is hitting just right, whether I should bracket or not. Then I check my meter, and slowly set the focus, and wait till I see something I like. But every now and then, you just hit that point where everything is perfect. I can't really describe it. Everything just works and I start snapping away, shot after shot. Nothing needs to be said because there's this connection and somehow we both just know. I hit the end of the roll, and race for another camera that might have film. Then scramble to rip open the next box.. Times like that, I barely remember what I did once I'm done.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences?

FRY: I don't really have a big influence since I never really studied photography. I guess my biggest influence would be the cinema. I used to act, edit, and I directed a short film that I still haven't finished post on. Because of directing and editing, I would watch films that I liked, and I would save screen shots of my favorite scenes. I would study how it was lit, the colors, the cuts, the wardrobe and the framing. I guess I would say my biggest influence is cinematographer Conrad Hall. I love how Conrad would light and frame a shot and the brilliance behind the psychology that completely told a story without a word being said.

AUTRE: You shoot all natural light and film - is there an aversion to digital and studio lighting?

FRY: I think a lot of that comes from the cinema as well. I really liked how Conrad would light by blowing out a window. Every shot he took was logical. You always new the source of the light, and it would be natural and gorgeous. Now I can't afford to light like that, so I use the sun. I would however like to get some strobes to start working with, because I don't like having to rely on a window. I think good lights would really set me free with my shoots.

As for digital, I want to like it. It would make my life much easier and keep more money in my wallet. Unfortunately every time I pick one up, it's not what I want. There is just something about using film. It's real and has a life of it's own. To me, it's like holding a book or using an ipad. They are both nice and serve their purpose, but you can't compare the two. It comes down to what you like and what your priorities are. I just can't bring myself to shoot digital. Hopefully one day I will find something I like with digital because every penny I have goes to film.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FRY: Seems like fashion is the next step. I've been working with Laura Sfez, the owner and designer of L'ecole des Femmes. She loves what I do and she let's me do what I want and use the models that I like. I remarked to her the other day about how every one of the models I have used for her line have been 5'2" or under. I love the freedom to not have to go with what is standard. I think my dream would be for fashion to be done with women of all types and sizes of women. There are so many beautiful girls out there with such character, why go with what everyone else uses.

Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. Visit Matt Fry's website to view more of his photography.

[INTERVIEW] REN HANG: CRUDE AND MYSTERIOUS SPIRITUALITY

originally published in 2011

What is there to say about photographer Ren Hang? His images spill into an obscene wonderland where basic questions become irrelevant and a twisted sense climbs over your flesh like worms on rotted meat. You’re glad they’re just photographs – like looking at the world face first against a closed window on the thousandth floor of some skyscraper. Based in Beijing, Hang is a new breed of 21st century Chinese artists riding the wave of modernization and cultural reawakening in China. But thats not saying we’re not lucky to experience Hang’s work – China is still vastly censorial and harsh against any material it deems slightly immoral. Hang’s work plays with fire, albeit delicately and at times tongue in cheek and never does it seem to shock for the sheer purpose to shock. Hang’s work is evidence of a deeply creative soul who bends erotic concepts like impermeable alloy into immaculate imagery rife with crude and mysterious spirituality. Hang’s subjects are dancers in a dangerous dance of lust and desire. In the following interview, Hang talks about shooting his lovers and friends and Chinese censorship. 

AUTRE: What goes through your mind as you look through the view finder?

REN HANG: My eyes see only what is right in front of me. 

AUTRE: You are based in Beijing – do you get any resistance to your work because of the nature of the content? Can you give any specific examples of how or when they tried to censor your work?

HANG: A lot of difficulties, you know, nudity is not published in China. An exhibition was canceled, someone spat at my work, cameras getting confiscated by the police, and almost going to jail. Although there are so many difficulties, I still like the Chinese.I like to shoot the face of the Chinese people, the body of the Chinese people, and close to me, easier for them to trust me. When I take pictures, I will forget all the difficulties.

AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?

HANG: My lovers…..my friends.

AUTRE: Whats next?

HANG: I’m printing two of my new books, completed in September, called a Damp – the other is called Mom I Hate Myself, But I Cannot Tell You.


You can visit Ren Hang’s tumblr and flickr pages to see more. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. 


A Million Dots: An Interview with Yayoi Kusama

In front of the statue of George Washington across from the New York Stock Exchange 

There is something impossibly magical about a whole world painted in polka dots.  It’s the kind of world an obsessive-compulsive god might create on a mushroom trip. Obsessive, molecular, psychedelic – the world of Yayoi Kusama is an alternate universe of love and surreality connected by a million dots and nets – which she calls Infinity Nets – that seem to always catch her when her imagination flies too high.  Kusama, who was born into a traditional upper-class Japanese family in 1929, has seemingly been misunderstood since birth. Plagued by crippling hallucinations and neuroses since childhood, she found refuge and solace in art. Falling into the currents of multiple art movements, between the waves of post-impressionism, minimalism and pop art, Kusama’s work has remained enigmatic, difficult to define; almost impossible to classify into one particular genre. Yet her dreams of becoming a famous artist would come true during the pivotal (and arguably most productive) years of her career, between 1958 and the late 1960s, when she became a central fixture of the explosive New York City avant-garde movement. She became close friends and collaborated with other important artists, such as Donald Judd and Eva Hesse, and exhibited alongside Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol (with whom, she implies in the following interview, she has had a somewhat contentious relationship).  While she is most known for her dot paintings, which deal with themes of love and infinity, Kusama also experimented with other media such as sculpture, writing, film, installation, and performance during her years in New York. She also held “happenings” in the antiwar sprit of the times, many of them involving mass nudity in public places. Once, she even offered sex to Richard Nixon if he would end the Vietnam War. Perhaps because of a combination of exhaustion and disillusionment, Kusama eventually moved back to Tokyo, where she still lives in a mental institution close to her studio. Today, Kusama is as active and inspired as ever, and will be featured in two forthcoming major retrospectives – one at the Tate Modern in London and one in the summer of 2012 at New York’s Whitney Museum. Kusama is also collaborating with Marc Jacobs on a collection for Louis Vuitton.  Famously elusive, Kusama was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions and share her important message with us all.

Autre: Can you remember the first time that you knew you wanted to be an artist?

Yayoi Kusama: I recall that when I was a little girl, about 10 years old, my mother, who was vehemently opposed to my becoming an artist, tore up a large painting I had just finished exerting my utmost strength and spending almost a month on.

Autre: You are most known for your intricate painting of dots – what is the psychological or spiritual significance of dots? 

Kusama: Since childhood, I have been painting, for no special reason, numerous dots and nets, drawing from the hallucinations that seem to appear endlessly. I can’t explain why if you ask me.

Autre: What is the biggest misconception about your art? 

Kusama: When I was in New York, I staged a large number of happenings and anti-art musicals. The shocking scenes that often appeared in those events caused quite a few people, including artists, to criticize and question my thoughts and beliefs as an artist.

Autre: I watched your documentary and there was a scene with you flipping through press about yourself and it seemed like you had some disdain for art critics - is there animosity toward the people who write about you and your art? 

Kusama: There were times in the past that I got angry at some members of the press whose writings greatly disrupted my serious pursuit of art and my behavior as an artist

Autre: What was it like in New York during the 1960s with Andy Warhol? 

Kusama: Andy and I appeared together before the media on several occasions to discuss art. I found his thoughts and behavior totally different from mine.

Autre: What was your first impression of Andy Warhol?

Kusama: I have never thought about it. I have treaded my own path developing innovative ideas for my artwork. Andy copied my ideas such as repetition and accumulation for his work.

Autre: What are some of your biggest inspirations? 

Kusama: My ideas and creativity are the sources of inspiration for me.

Autre: What is one thing you'd like the world to know about you?  

Kusama: I would like to dedicate to the whole world a great message. It is a message from Kusama who has struggled to survive as a human being and as an artist, and whose life has been brightly lit and strengthened by her pursuit of truth.

Autre: What does the future hold for Yayoi Kusama? 

Kusama: It is my wish to leave a message to the whole world from the universe, a message of love and peace to the people of the world.


Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for AUTRE ISSUE 002


The Anatomic Explosion, Happening in Central Park