Soft Power: An Interview Of Nathaniel Mary Quinn

 
KJD_6861.jpg

text and interview by Adam Lehrer
portrait by Kyle Dorosz

 

In the late artist Mike Kelley’s 1993 essay on visualizations of Freud’s “uncanny,” a term referring to the feeling of confronting something simultaneously alien and yet familiar, he connected manifestations of the sensation to memory. “This sensation is tied to the act of remembering,” wrote Kelley. But Kelley also made the claim that the uncanny sensation is typically one of dread or muted horror. And to be sure, many of the art works that Kelley wrote about in regards to the uncanny and showed in the exhibition he curated based on his text; Hans Bellmer’s anatomical dolls, Cindy Sherman’s photographs of fetish dolls (partially influenced by Bellmer’s constructions), Ron Mueck’s hyper-realist figurative sculpture of a teenage girl in a black swimsuit, etc; are connected by horror. But is it possible for an object, or an art object more specifically, to evoke the uncanny in a positive light? Can an uncanny artwork actually uplift the viewer or make him/her aware of his/her alterity and connection to the universe at the same time? Historically, I would have said no. But that was before I came to know and love the work of New York-based artist Nathaniel Mary Quinn.

Quinn’s work, renderings of bold and psychologically dense painted and drawn portraits, often look like collages upon one-dimensional viewing. Quinn depicts the human face with a network of symbols that often illustrate the humanities and complexities of his subjects infinitely more than a realistic rendering of facial attributes ever could. It is upon closer inspection that these fragmented faces are actually created with oil and pastel paint applied through a highly skillful technique of using certain oils to prevent the component parts of the portrait from bleeding into one another. The result is a very peculiarly uncanny image.

From one perspective, the fragmentations and symbolizations of human faces can feel strange and disorienting. But Quinn’s work is also deeply humanitarian. He himself has lived an incredibly painful life, having lost his mother and been abandoned by his father at a young age, and has emerged at the other end as one of the most important artists of his generation. It’s not that his work suggests anything close to the neoliberal dictum of “pick yourself up by your bootstraps,” on the contrary, it suggests that all humans are connected by our traumas, our sadness, and our pain. But this notion in Quinn’s work isn’t horrific in the sense that the uncanny is usually understood to be. Going back to Kelley’s essay, Quinn’s work does evoke troubling memories but it also addresses the fact that we all are haunted by uncomfortable memories and finds beauty in the universal nature of trauma. Quinn’s work is an uncanny that makes you feel more connected to the world than isolated from it. Perhaps this emotional resonance is what has pushed Quinn’s work beyond the confines of art world insularity and into the spotlight of mass recognition and, evidently, major collector interest. “Even when people look at something that might be alien to them, or even disgusting, abject, uncomfortable to look at,” says Quinn. “They know they are looking at something with a real emotional resonance to it.”

When I last spent time with Quinn in 2017, he was on the cusp of major art world success. And now, after having been signed to Gagosian Gallery in April and about to be the subject of his first Gagosian solo show in Beverly Hills, that success has undeniably arrived. Over the last two years, Quinn has been pushing his practice deeper into an inner psychological space. The work that will be on display at Gagosian plumbs the depths of his psyche. More and more, his work seeks to render his own insecurities and difficult remembrances. The kernels of self-doubt that are omnipresent but often left unspoken are filtered into Quinn’s pictorial space. The aesthetic of the works that will be shown at Gagosian hue closer to abstraction than works made by Quinn in the past, generating a space of empathy and consciousness raising for both artist and viewer alike. “What does it look like to make a work that renders an insecurity?” asks Quinn. “I would say this: empathy and vulnerability are tools in my practice as important as charcoal and pastels. This is what I’m pursuing.” 

Quinn’s first Gagosian solo show, Hollow and Cut, will feature thirty-six works ranging from 16x13 inches to 96x48 inches. Talking to Quinn by telephone, he is equally excited and restless. This is a monumental point in his career: his first solo show with the world’s most profitable gallery.  He understands what the weight of a show at Gagosian, a gallery subject to praise and criticism in equal measure, holds for his future. But he also is filled with an immense sense of pride, and he has earned it: Quinn has emerged as one of the most important contemporary painters in the world. “You want to make sure you come out strong,” he says of the impending opening. “But you can't think about the public when making your work. Your concern has to be your practice and creating.”

ADAM LEHRER: So, last time we were together you were on the cusp of success. Now you're on your first solo show with Gagosian.

NATHANIEL MARY QUINN: The good thing about Gagosian is you can create the bedrock of a career that you want. They have the resources to materialize that for you. Larry, c’mon man, he has relationships with all the museums, the directors, even if they have somewhat of a...

LEHRER: Weary relationship...

QUINN: Yeah, they have to deal with him. He's like the emperor. Gagosian generates up to a billion dollars every year in art sales. David Zwirner is number two and they earn 500 million dollars. I was in a different place the last time we met, I was growing. Now, here we are again, man, with Gagosian Gallery. I can't believe it.

NATHANIEL MARY QUINN
C'mo' And Walk With Me, 2019
Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel on Coventry Vellum Paper
50 x 38 inches / 127 x 96.5 cm
© Nathaniel Mary Quinn
Photo: Rob McKeever
Courtesy Gagosian

LEHRER: What is the psychological impact of knowing that you are at the top of the art world food chain, so to speak? Is it pressure-inducing or is it freeing to know that so many more people are going to be seeing your work?

QUINN:It is freeing on one hand because of the gallery’s resources. As of five years ago, I had to pack all my own work. I remember [my wife] Donna and I used to ship it all out ourselves. We don't do that shit anymore. That's exciting.

In regards to the pressure, I think it would be fair to say that I feel some pressure. Any time you're making art in the public sphere it will present some pressure. If you're the kind of artist like myself, engaged in the exploration of the self, or finding ways to lay your wounds and memories bare and trying to make that visual, it presents pressure. But that is then coupled with the fact that it's Gagosian Gallery! Now, there are collectors interested in the work for any number of reasons. You start to think, “What would happen if someone finally places my work on public auction?" But you can't worry about it. Some collector is always going to be seduced by the alluring nature of generating a large profit off the work.

With that, I'll tell you, I'm very excited. For me, it's a big deal man. I think it's quite an achievement.

LEHRER: I'm psyched for you. Given these last few years, your work has obviously evolved a bit. What would you say distinguishes the works in this show compared to works of the past?

QUINN: This [show] is very personal. It’s called Hollow and Cut. When you remove whatever you've been taught to believe in, when you have cut and hollowed out all the exterior layers, what remains? This show is a courageous pursuit of excavating my internal self. I have deeply rooted insecurities. I don't talk about it much, but I don't feel worthy sometimes. These works are reflections of my fears and doubts. I did a piece called “How Come Not Me.” It's a small work on paper. When I was in high school, we had a thing called Parents’ Weekend. At that point my family was gone from my life. And I'd think "How Come Not me?” Until this day I struggle with that.

These ideas, these insecurities about my life or my looks, are tied into the actual creation of the work. I'm constantly pushing my practice. For this show I knew that I had to move to that next level in my work, so I used a more abstract approach. Even doing that was very challenging because you go through high school, college, grad school and you are making art the whole way through and then you find yourself making art a certain kind of way. That doesn't mean the work you are making is a real reflection or what you can do; it just means you've been trained or conditioned to make art in a certain way. But to make work that is closer to where you are emotionally in and of itself requires a lot of courage and doggedness. You have to go for it. l. 

LEHRER: Yes, this reminds me of that quote by the great pessimist philosopher Emil Cioran "Chaos is rejecting all you have learned. Chaos is being yourself." In a sense you are tapping into this inner turmoil, or chaos, to boldly visualize your psyche, and push yourself further into the art making process.

QUINN: Yes, that’s perfectly placed. For example, normally in my work I would draw an eye, or a nose would represent a nose, but if I'm trying to articulate these deeply embedded insecurities within me, my fears and my doubts and a sense of unworthiness, then what I am trying to articulate is not actually definitive. It's not a real figure. It's an affectation. How do you visualize that? I'm not saying I achieved that in the show, but I've made progress from work one to work thirty-five. By the time I got to the 35th work, it began to take on the kind of abstraction I had been aiming for. It feels much more palpable to me, much more honest, much more real. Much more free. Most people don't want to be free. They want to comply. And fall in line. Freedom requires real courage. You have to fight to be free.

LEHRER: Despite the often uncanny aesthetic in your work, you have broken out to a mass audience. What do you think it is that enables people who aren’t so versed in the avant-garde to connect with your work?

QUINN: Let’s go to Beyoncé. I love Beyoncé. She makes great songs. She’s a superstar. We all know this. Then you got Mary J. Blige and she can't sing anywhere near as well as Beyoncé. And, although she can't sing that well, she's good! She's not Beyoncé, or Aretha, but what she does is real. Potent. Visceral. You know what she's saying and how she's saying it is honest and pure. But when you present something real, people believe it. 

LEHRER: Is this bravery, this courage to find freedom, something you are constantly looking for in art across all media?

QUINN: I think it's important to understand that you can't grasp the scope of humanity within one tradition of art. You have to look at all of it: comedy, film, poetry, reading essays and books. Public speaking. Not just art but all forms of work and all traditions of creation must be dealt with and confronted or perused at the very least. So I'll look at a Dave Chapelle; this guy works very hard to be free. Because this guy's fighting for his right to speak his mind as a comedian, his first job is to be funny. And in addition to being funny, he's a cultural critic. He observes the culture, and criticizes it, and tries to portray it in a different light. 

I look at the works of artists like Yue Minjun, Adrian Gheni, or Neo Rauch because they have a certain freedom in their work. So many artists are afraid to confront who they are. They continue to feel empty in the face of their achievements. Why is that? [Art] isn’t just technique, skill and rendering, it is an activity in which empathy and vulnerability are necessities. I'm not just moving the needle in my work; I'm moving the needle in me. I'm not a walking Instagram page. I'm not putting up a highlight reel. This is real life. No one is happy all the time. It's impossible. I want to use the work to push back on this era’s values. An era where people are ashamed to be real. 

LEHRER: In your portraits you often shun direct representations in favor of symbolic representations. But these symbols seem to illustrate the depths of you and your subjects’ complexities infinitely more than a direct rendering of physical attributes ever could. Your ability to use symbols to pierce the symbolic order and address the... 

QUINN: Make no mistake, I like to think that every artwork I make has some representational element. But there's still evidence [in this show] of me taking that courageous step forward to push beyond traditional forms of representation. We should shoot for a higher ground. A higher level. The first comedians would walk down the street and slip on a banana peel, and that was funny. That's surface comedy. But deep human comedy is where the fragility of men and women are brought to the surface. That's deep comedy, the kind that Dave Chapelle engages in. That Pryor engaged in. I wanted to make art like that.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn “Hollow And Cut” will be on view until October 19, 2019 at Gagosian Beverly Hills. 456 North Camden Drive Beverly Hills, ca 90210

NATHANIEL MARY QUINN
Jekyll and Hyde, 2019
Oil paint, paint stick, gouache, soft pastel on linen canvas, diptych
14 x 22 inches
35.6 x 55.9 cm
© Nathaniel Mary Quinn
Photo: Rob McKeever
Courtesy Gagosian

Unearthing Embedded Knowledge: An Interview Of Rosha Yaghmai On The Occasion Of Her Exhibition At The Wattis Institute

interview by Summer Bowie
photographs by Oliver Kupper

Walking into Rosha Yaghmai’s studio is a little bit like walking into the laboratory of a junkyard hoarder/mad scientist. There’s a distinctly pleasant organization to the vast collection of Los Angeles detritus that extends from the studio to the backlot outside. The walls are plastered with images from torn magazine pages, postcards, posters, watercolors and collage works. It’s as though you could hold a microscope to any detail in the room and discover a tiny world within. This is especially the case when viewing the centerpiece of her upcoming exhibition Miraclegrow at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco. In the center of the room sits a giant sculpture of a human hair. Pubic? Maybe. This mysterious hair sits on a floor which acts as a pedestal of giant, reflective bathroom tiles. Encapsulating this familiar scene, the walls are covered in large black tiles, effectively wall works that appear to drip with the glistening traces of warm condensation. The hair itself is a sedimentary composite of industrial materials, cleaning products, bathroom products, nail polish, and so much more. Layers and layers of genetic material soaked in personal history. I had the chance to sit down with Yaghmai just a few days before the works made their way up to San Francisco to talk about her upbringing as a tinkering, junk-collecting Angeleno, her work and its relationship to personal heritage, and how she so compellingly defines the cosmic in the microcosmic.

SUMMER BOWIE: I want to start by just talking about your beginning. I understand that you started as a photographer and then transitioned into sculpture. What kind of photography were you making, and why did you lose interest in it?

ROSHA YAGHMAI: I started off making photographs really young. In the sixth and seventh grade. I was really interested in taking photographs. Really quickly, when I went to photo school, I spent most of my time trying to use the chemicals to do things you aren’t supposed to do. So, I never was making straight photographs. I was always altering the image, adding weird color.... I was trying to make the photographs more like paintings, but I think I was just trying to make sculpture. I would combine Xerox’s so there was this approximation of the real that I was really interested in, which seems like a natural link between photography and sculpture. I eventually started making fake diorama-like environments with the photographs, so again, pushing into sculpture. I was at SVA in New York at the time and I ended up transferring to CalArts. As soon as I got into the desert landscape, photography was gone, and I started making sculpture. I haven’t made photographs for a long time.

BOWIE: That is interesting because you often hear of artists coming to LA, discovering its unique light and then naturally pushing into photography.

YAGHMAI: I am also from here, so it was less about that, I just wanted to create environments when I moved here.

BOWIE: The work you presented at Made in L.A., Slide Samples (Lures, Myths) includes projected slides from photographs your father took when he first emigrated to California from Iran. Have you always wanted to work with these images, or did the urge come to you recently?

YAGHMAI: They’ve always been around our house. We had this one print, and I thought it was just an eighties photo, and I didn’t think much about it. My father was interested in photography and that’s how I got into photography. I had all his cameras. etc. and I saw those slides and started making slides, but nothing like that. They [the slides] have always been lingering for years. I finally just asked him about them. I knew he had made them in Berkeley. I knew he used abstract color, they were trying to be psychedelic because of the timing, 1969-72. When I asked him about it, just the process of his thinking, it was very similar to how I was making resin that I was calling slides. He was taking hunks of glass from the Coca Cola Company in Oakland and using different sources of light and filters (light from the television, etc.) to make reflective surfaces. I thought it was an interesting, strange way to connect with a new culture but also realizing there were some similar physical properties with my work: the resin, using lenses and different filters. I think up until the Hammer most of the work that I have made was some sort of screen or a way to alter a site and I linked it with that work once I knew he had made it.

BOWIE: You were born right around the time that the Shah of Iran was overthrown.

RY: He [my father] emigrated here in the mid-60’s and my parents got married and they moved to Iran... and I was actually conceived in Iran and we lived there...then the revolution broke out and we came back to the United States...and I was born.

BOWIE: Growing up in Los Angeles, what was it like being in the wake of these events as a first-generation Iranian-American?

YAGHMAI: I think my dad was so involved with being an American person that we never really talked about that stuff... I didn’t really understand until later but I feel like...I am realizing...how in much of my work there is a subconscious draw to that...or a feeling of wanting to traverse long distances, or different perspectives comes into the work. I am so disconnected from that part of my lineage, and I could ask my family, read more about it, and I do; but, I feel like I am in the process of unearthing some embedded knowledge and I think the misunderstanding and not knowing is really generative for me.

BOWIE: That makes sense. Maybe your dad was seeing America through a lens that is slowly revealing itself to you.

YAGHMAI: He only went back to Iran maybe five or six years ago, maybe because it was so awful and painful. It never really came up.

BOWIE: You said once that you take pleasure in the sort-of trashiness of LA. What aspects of that trashiness appeal to you most?

YAGHMAI: I don’t know if it just being that I am a beach-desert person, and there’s moments in that hair that are in this zone. You know, like a piece of glittering trash like in a desert landscape. Just these little moments of collage really interest me. But in terms of trashiness, I really thrive and enjoy a casual environment. I don’t know if trashiness is the right word, but I feel like (it’s not this way anymore) the feeling of complete freedom here. But now it is not quite like that. I grew up between Alta Dena and by the beach, we would just ride our bikes out, and go to the junkyard and find weird stuff, and my grandfather was a bit of a hoarder and a handyman type. We would just be tinkering. I think that is it. Thrift store shopping and finding some weird historical gem. I also have a real interest in outsider architecture.

BOWIE: I can see the psychedelic influence of your father’s work with those weird remnants of Americana that seem to litter the streets and the junkyards that used to exist. Santa Monica and Venice were very different places back then.

YAGHMAI: It was so wild there when I was growing up and trashy. It was great! The beach towns were abandoned—it was a bunch of old people and skaters. Weird remnants. It was magical, I feel lucky I grew up here during that time.


“I am realizing how much, basically, “dusk” is my color palette. That is where the light and space of California comes into my work. It is “dusk” but it is city dusk; that moment when the sky has that color and there is the neon turning on. That in-between time...”


BOWIE: You use a lot of found materials, industrial metals, liquids, resins, do you have any favorites or least favorites?

YAGHMAI: They are all a pain (sighs). I definitely do like working with materials that are liquid to solid. In terms of favorite, detrimental to my market, I just move through and use what I want. I don’t really have the usual approach. So, this show has a completely different approach than the one at the Hammer. I do like working with transparency, like this super clear, very toxic resin. My work relates to light and space because of my history and the physical properties of the work (color and all that), but I feel like for me it is much more about collaging. So, if you have one thing that’s transparent, you're altering what you see behind it, and for me that altering and blending of sight is really important. I also really like using silicone, the type of silicone you make prosthetics out of. Platinum silicon. And that has a translucent quality too but I like using that material as an approximation or stand in for the body, clear resin and that are the two things I go back to.

BOWIE: Your work has a quality about it that invites viewers to temporarily enter a foreign world and quietly meditate there for a moment. Is this an experience you look for when viewing the work of other artists?

YAGHMAI: I think you always fantasize that you make different art. I like going into a full on crazy installation...just something that looks like a playground. So, I am not always drawn to a contemplative space... I think that in my work that kind of emerges because up until very recently I was very stubborn about (sternly, “I make objects, I want to make objects”). Yet, it is teetering on installation because these objects when in relation to one another create this sort of psychological environment and their relation to each other creates an oddity you want to linger with. I feel like this show is the first time in a while that I am making an environment. I mean each object in the show... like the floor is the pedestal for the hair and the panels are paintings and they can be separated so they are still existing as objects kind of coming together for this moment but they are not props and still are works of art, or sculptures. I really think a lot about putting things together that are a bit perplexing or strange that makes one want to linger a bit and figure it out. I think that may be the color palette. I am realizing how much, basically, “dusk” is my color palette. That is where the light and space of California comes into my work. It is “dusk” but it is city dusk; that moment when the sky has that color and there is the neon turning on. That in-between time... which I think is a very contemplative time, when you are driving around that time.

BOWIE:  Always in LA... I think you said that your color choices are kind of the most intuitive part of the process...

YAGHMAI: I made this whole series of silicones for this show in Germany and I realized they are all colors from my childhood--wetsuits that were around. It just emerges, “oh, of course, that’s why I’m doing that...”

BOWIE: In this show, you said you wanted to create an environment that takes on a spider's perspective on the floor of a bathroom. What inspired this particular perspective?

YAGHMAI: I was really torn about what to do for this show. I feel like the Hammer project was sort of the end to a couple years of thinking. So I felt a bit stuck, to be honest, and I was trying to figure out what the next step was. I knew I wanted to make an environment. I was super frustrated, came home to the studio, threw down my jumpsuit, and I noticed (I hate spiders. Sorry, I’m trying to change my perspective on that) a spider trying to crawl into it, so I snatched it away. And the spider kind of stopped, and I was just watching, and thought, “what the hell does that thing think just happened?” So, I had this moment where I thought, if I am trying to make work that alters perspective in a very physical, literal embodied way, why wouldn’t the next step be to try to empathize and project myself into something of which I could never understand what their perspective would be. In terms of psychedelic properties, I think that’s the most honest way to go about it. I just wanted to physically remake it, but in a skewed way.

BOWIE: Has it changed your feelings towards spiders at all?

YAGHMAI: My husband got me this Louise Bourgeois book, and so obviously, she has those big spider sculptures, and she talks about them as a symbol of renewal. So, I’m trying to get into a Louise Bourgeois way of thinking about it, rather than just thinking about them crawling on me at night. So, I think I can empathize with them a little bit more. How scary must it be? I just wanted to make a direct approach to the show.

BOWIE:  There are so many materials that went into that hair sculpture. It has this sort of sedimentary value to it...can you just talk for a moment about the different materials that you used in creating it?

YAGHMAI: I mean... it is the hardest sculpture I ever made, not in a physical way, but just that you’re really fighting the form. Not to be too literal, but your hair is a shedding of some kind of skin, and I knew I wanted to cast my body and incorporate it into the work. Almost like it is carved out of some kind of stone, or I wanted to make it seem like something that happened or something that is really forced. You don’t work on growing your hair, it just happens, but if you think about all the energies that go into making it... I used a lot of materials that I’ve used before, like limestone, graphite, household plastics like shampoo bottles, laundry soap, and shopping bags. I melted those down and put them in. It’s almost like coral where it absorbs anything that is in the environment...I was thinking about that with all the chemicals in the body and how they can all be traced in a single hair. And also, thinking back to my father and my parents, and just thinking about what you absorb in your DNA, what is trapped in there, trapped knowledge that I don’t know about. I wanted to have this sort of spacey, geological tone and I was looking at images of the sand dunes on Mars, which is basically the whole brochure for the show, which is a reach, but it’s cosmic level shit. You know, like you’re sitting here and now our molecules will be tangled forever. Things that are blowing my mind. For me it is kind of fake because it is cast and modified material, but I was trying to be really genuine and putting together a lot of stuff that I’m around on the regular.

BOWIE: There seems a deep desire to capture moments or feelings in your work; to encapsulate and oppose the forces of entropy. Would you agree with that interpretation?

YAGHMAI: I think so... there is so much in my work that is the familiar becoming foreign, and so there's this flip all the time of something so familiar (that maybe you take for granted) turning on you. I feel just that awkwardness—making you aware of your existence, of your body interacting with the object.

BOWIE: You have referred to the desire to freeze time, but is that something you feel like you want to do permanently or temporarily, and if so, for how long, what is that desire to hold things in space?

YAGHMAI: I mean that’s sculpture (laughs). If I had one power, it would be to stop time. You know when you play that game. Just slowing down the process and pointing to that one thing and using force to stop that moment or those moments and to have it on display. Not that my work is usually that figurative, but to slow it down. Having a one-on-one relationship between the object and the viewer.


Rosha Yaghmai's exhibition
Miraclegrow opens on January 15th and runs until March 30th at The Wattis Institute. 360 Kansas St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Rough Cuts: An Interview Of Chuck Arnoldi On The Occasion Of His Show At Desert Center Los Angeles

Some interesting facts about leopards: they are solitary animals that hunt in open terrains, they are difficult to track in the wild, they are extremely adaptable to new environments, and they often leave claw marks on trees to mark their territory. In Chuck Arnoldi’s expansive Venice Beach studio, a dusty, taxidermied leopard is perched, mid-roar, above the kitchen alcove. There is something strangely symbolic about this once ferocious, now inert genus of panthera.  Arnoldi is not a hunter, but he is quick to note that this leopard is one of the best examples of taxidermy in the world. Among the Cool School cohort of artists, like Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, and Larry Bell, Arnoldi may be the lesser known, but he may also be the most prolific. His chainsaw sculptures – which can be quickly described as chunks of painted wood with blade marks slashed into them – are his most well known, his Girl From Ipanema. They are dangerous and allude to his misfit youth. These hyper-mystical geometries can also be seen in his Machu Picchu paintings, which mimic the mysterious architecture of the ancient Incan citadel. Arnoldi’s latest show at Desert Center, entitled Rough Cuts, includes a number of recent chainsaw paintings made in and around the Yukon. A day after the Woolsey Fire broke out and threatened the artist’s home in Malibu, we sat down at his studio for a chat.

OLIVER KUPPER: First off, I want to talk about the fire because it came very close to your property in Malibu, what did you do to fight off the fires? 

CHUCK ARNOLDI:  We weren’t going to leave because I have so much art in the house--I have a little Warhol I got for nothing...that is worth two million dollars, you know. We felt comfortable, because the house is quite high up there. We knew if the fire came, we could always go to the beach. If you go up to our roof, you could see the stuff coming. They looked like atom bombs, flames a hundred feet tall. I didn’t think my house was going to burn. I took the Calder and the Warhol...I got a lot of stuff, about a hundred-fifty pieces of art at least in the house. I took it all outside and put it in different places. It took me 25,000 steps to take it out and 25,000 steps back to take it back.

KUPPER: The fires tune in to your work in a way, because some of your most well known works deal with using discarded materials or recycled materials, like your stick paintings, which came from a burned down orchard, can you talk a little bit about that?

ARNOLDI: I had an artist friend from Malibu and he told me one day, there is an orchard...and it had oranges and avocados and he told me to go steal some fruit. It was his special little thing…he’s an odd guy. So we were out there stealing oranges and avocados. The perimeter had all these leaves that had burned off, and they looked like charcoal lines. I thought those are beautiful, so I took my sticks back to the studio. The first piece I made, I took four sticks and tied them together at the end and I put two nails and hung it on the wall. It’s really about something being the sum of its parts, gravity.

KUPPER: Is it true that some of your stick paintings have come from your childhood home in Ohio?

ARNOLDI: No, but you see those thorns up on the wall? When I was a little kid growing up, those were from a tree in Ohio. So I made those paintings from thorns. I’ve been avoiding Ohio like the plague. I have a very dysfunctional, bad family. 

KUPPER: What was it like growing up there?

ARNOLDI: Most of my buddies are dead, a lot of them went to prison. I was just in a bad place. I had no art history at all in my childhood. I have an uncle who was a portrait painter, he wore a beret and had a little painting studio. I used to go there and I really liked the smell of oil painting. He was my only exposure to art and at one point I got a modeling job at an art institute. I was broke and they would pay me to pose. One of the directors convinced me to take my clothes off and then he wanted me to get a hard on. This fucking guy, I’d like to meet him today. No fucking way.  

When I was a kid, I made tree houses and forts and if I saw a Tarzan movie, I would make bows and arrows and spears. As I got older I got involved with cars. When I graduated, a teacher told me, “You are the most talented with the least amount of vision of anyone I have ever met,” and it made me feel terrible.... See, when I was growing up, I got attention for doing stuff, I was really good with my hands.

KUPPER: Seems like the whole Venice School came from places like Dayton, the mythical American city, what was it about LA that was such a beacon for you guys? 

ARNOLDI: I was a senior in high school and I had gotten in a little bit of trouble, they were gonna put me in a foster home. My father was living in Southern California with this woman he ran away with and he flew me out to California. I had never seen a freeway. It blew my mind. When I got back to Dayton I wanted to move to California. After I graduated high school, my mother had about six dollars and twenty-eight cents, so she gave me that and I left with four buddies of mine. I had a ‘55 Chevy with a ‘53 engine. We were terrible thieves.

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KUPPER: When did you get serious about art?

ARNOLD: While in Los Angeles, it was time for me to go to school. I drove out to Ventura and I chickened out, I just couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even go to an art history course. It was way over my head. I would just go to the art classes, ceramics for instance. The guy who ran the art department, Mr. Deets, saw my work and he came to see me and said, “You know son, since Picasso, everything is bullshit. You need to be an illustrator. I can make you one if you do what I tell you.” I could draw perfectly. I had the skills.

KUPPER: How did your later experiences at Art Center influence your perspective?

ARNOLDI: I’d be doing a painting and the guy would come and go, “That’s done.” To me, it wasn’t finished, but to them I was ruining it. They would take your work away from you. In painting class the first thing they taught you is that you have to wear a tie and how to wear it so you don’t paint on it. This was all bullshit to me. I’m sitting there thinking this is fucked and I quit.

KUPPER: You seem like a bit of a daredevil – can you talk about your chainsaw sculptures, because those sort of put you on the map in a way?

ARNOLDI: I just liked the way it looked. But one little slip and it’s really bad. I’ve been doing the Machu Picchu thing...these multi-paneled paintings. But the chainsaw sculptures were just one of those things that was on my mind. I don’t like to make sculptures because they are bulky. But these sort of made sense.

KUPPER: Some of the work at your current show was made in the Yukon?

ARNOLDI:  I went up there not expecting to make work, but I was sort of coaxed into it. The guy who owned the property has a gold mine. He asked if we wanted to get to work, so we go down to a river to find some wood. There were these two rough kids – one of them had recently slit a wolf’s neck that tried to attack him. So we are up there and they start to cut down some trees for me to make a sculpture. One kid said, “What do you want me to do?” I tell him to cut five slabs off and to get me some kind of platform. I said, “Kid, you’re good with the chainsaw. I’ll draw the line. You want you to give me this much of an angle.” (makes the vroom, vroom, vroom sound of a chainsaw) I look over and the other kid wants to do it too (vroom...vroom...vroom). We worked for two hours and made a few pieces. By the end, we made nine... and the new chainsaw pieces were painted in red, black and yellow. When I used to make the old chainsaw paintings, there would be splinters all over, so I would torch them away. I went and bought a serious blowtorch and all the kids were so excited.  The kids cut trees down like crazy, and never thought of doing anything beyond that. I bet that within a year these kids would be making furniture and shit out of logs.

OK: Your upcoming show at Desert Center is called Rough Cuts – there is a connection to your work and some of the other Venice artists to music, the improvisational nature could be compared to jazz?

CA:  Somebody once told me something and I felt rather flattered:  “Your chainsaw paintings are the closest thing I can think of to Pollock.” The reason is....Pollock in a sense did a dance, it was spontaneous, you know--he was physically involved. Man, then you start cutting in references and you are making hundreds of decisions a second, but it's a physical thing, you’re actively engaged in it.


Chuck Arnoldi: Rough Cuts is on view now at Desert Center Los Angeles, 7466 Beverly Blvd. Email for appointments: desertcenterlosangeles@gmail.com. Text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


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Baby, Will You Fix Me Again: An Interview Of William Eggleston In Memphis

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text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

portrait by Bil Brown

 

When legendary photographer, William Eggleston, whiskey on the rocks clutched in hand, is telling you a story about Dennis Hopper saving him from falling off a 1000-foot ledge at the Continental Divide, and then asks you to stay for Chinese food, it's hard to say no. What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night in Memphis? 

In Memphis, you learn about romantic and tragic things: The last song Elvis ever played before dying was "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" on his upright piano in the over air-conditioned racquetball courts at Graceland. In Memphis, the cicadas grind like jammed gears in flooded engines. On a dime, the sky can turn from sunlight to shade, like a sheet pulled over a half-living corpse, slowed to a dull kind of subsistence by the tepid humidity. This is the ecosystem, the hallowed Southern environment where William Eggleston's most well known work was born and gave the world a glimpse of its hard edges, saturated colors and sad geometries. If you look closer at his work, you are looking at a microcosm within a microcosm, the moments where the mind drifts and imagines mortal uncertainties - the fragmented glow or nuclei of sunlight reflected through a glass of Coke on an airplane, a girl laying on the grass zonked out on Quaaludes, or the tailfin of a Cadillac and some kind of unaware Americana on the horizon. But, if you look closer still, you will see hidden things, secret things, lost perspectives, living shadows, forlorn personage, but always on the periphery or just under the surface. Indeed, his photographs are very plainly obvious, but there is a certain kind of gossamer stillness that is poetic and serene, and reminds you that life's simple details, the ones that are oft overlooked, are the most important ones. 

I’ve wanted to sit down with Eggleston for a few years now, and sit we did, in his Memphis apartment – crowded with a looming Bösendorfer grand piano in one room and gizmos and gadgets in another. Eggleston has always been obsessed with mechanics and the way things work – lately, his new obsession is quantum physics. Over cigarettes and the intermittent break to play piano we talk about everything from classical music to photography to the films of David Lynch. Our interview ended after day turned to night and there was no more whiskey.

Oliver Kupper: Do you enjoy classical music?

William Eggleston: Quite a bit. Mostly. My hero is [Johann Sebastian] Bach. 

Do you listen to rock & roll music living in Memphis?

There’s not much around Memphis right now. I like all kinds of music. 

You grew up with your maternal grandfather, he was an amateur photographer?

My grandfather? He did a little bit. 

And did you learn about photography from him, or were you first introduced to photography through him at all? 

No, most of the things he did long before I was around. Most of the things he did were of our family.

I saw a few portraits maybe he took of you when you were really small. Was that in Sumner, Mississippi? 

Mmhmm.

What was it like growing up there?

The whole family grew cotton and it still goes on.

You didn’t want to go into the agriculture trade? 

No, well there’s not much to do. Running a plantation – that just gets kind of boring, sitting around watching cotton grow. It’s not too interesting. 

Of course, so you turned to more artistic pursuits. Classical music and photography.

Yeah, I’ve played the piano since I was about four years old. 

And you play piano every day? 

Yes, and the night too. 

And you talk about Cartier-Bresson having a big influence on your work.

Yeah, I still think the world of him. He was one of the greats. 

When did you first discover his work?

I suppose around the 50s. His photographs were all black and white and he worked in black and white for a while. 

So how old were you at that point?

Oh, I had a best friend in prep school, we went to Vanderbilt together in Nashville and he got me interested in his work, and this was 1957. 

I wanted to talk about another photographer that I’ve always sort of loved and reminds me a little bit of you because he started taking pictures of his friends and family. His surroundings. His name is Jacques Henri Lartigue, do you know his work? 

Oh yeah, Lartigue I know his work. 

Yeah, there’s a lot of kindred similarities between his upbringing and also his introduction to photography that is really interesting. 

We never met, but I know his work.

I read somewhere that you were given a Brownie at ten years old to shoot with, and he was given his first camera at seven years old. Did you study his color photography, because he took a lot of color photography too.  

I don’t have any around here right now, but in the other house, I have his books. 

John Szarkowski, the curator at MOMA New York who put on your first show, he showed Lartigue’s work a couple years before your show actually. I think he saw something too, which I think is really interesting.  

Yeah, me and John were very close. He died a couple years ago. He would show me a lot of things I didn’t know about. We spent lots of time together when I was in New York. 

Did he teach you a lot about photography or the history of photography?

I suppose. 

And when you first showed those color slides, what was his initial reaction? What was your reaction to showing your work for the first time? Did you feel hesitant at first? 

We never much talked about it. I was quite happy to show it at MOMA, a good place to show it. 

And that show got a lot of really interesting reactions. Because I think people were confused about fine art photography in general, not just color photography, but fine art.

Yeah, it was something, photography as fine art had to be in black and white – primarily large negatives. And that didn’t much interest me.

And one of the critics was Ansel Adams.  

I didn’t care for his work to begin with. 

When you first started taking pictures you were largely self-taught, technically speaking. Was it difficult to get the exposure right, did you have sort of a hard time clicking into what you were doing...or you latched onto it pretty quickly?

At first I had to use a meter, I don’t really anymore. Film is very forgiving now. 

Can you remember those first few pictures that you took with the Leica camera? Do you remember that experience? What that felt like? 

No, but I was happy with the results. There weren’t really many other cameras out besides Leicas that I could use. 

Are there fine artists outside of photography that inspire you? 

Lucian Freud was a friend, he died too. He does great paintings. I was in London and I saw one of his last shows. I think when I saw that last show, it was probably right before he died but it was some time ago in London. 

So, speaking of legends, I want to talk about your meeting with Cartier-Bresson for a second. You got to meet him once, right?

Yeah, we were sort of friends. He was absolutely not interested in color.  

Do you believe in photographic masterpiece? 

Not much. 

They’re all masterpieces. 

I really don’t have any favorites,  

Because there is one work by you that sort of sticks out – the glass on the airplane, I know that a lot of people talk about that one. What was the context of taking that photo?

Oh, that was an ex-girlfriend of mine having a Coke, I think we were coming from Dallas to New Orleans.

It’s a really gorgeous photograph. 

Thank you, I liked it too. 

How did you come up with using your particular process or did someone mention it to you?

Do you mean by that, the dye transfer? I saw it first when, I forgot where, but it was commercial advertising pictures and fashion pictures. The process was really so good that I should use it for my own work and still do. 

And C prints but not as much; you try to stick with dye-transfer. 

I use both. I use dye transfer and pigment.  But the transfers are really, well whoever is doing the lab work, exposes them through three primary filters, black and white, big negatives of the exact sizes of what it’s going to be.

Interesting. 

And it’s just...I’ve been around and watched them be made but I’ve never tried to do it. They’re using black and white film, true to the size of the final print. 16x20 inch negatives, three negatives of that same size. It’s really just black and white through filters. 

Right, which is why your images are sharper. 

Well the filters are there to separate, rather than to mix together, all of the colors in the picture. The lab technician really had to know what they’re doing. 

Winston was saying that you’ve been studying quantum physics. What turned you on to that?

That’s right. I can’t figure out how to answer that, I don’t know. It’s just physics and then quantum is, of course, close to physics but it’s, I don’t know how to put it, but it’s...the end result is what probably will happen, not what accurately will happen, but will probably. 

Do you apply those thoughts to photography ever? 

I don’t know. 

There’s something about capturing a moment that was moving before, on film, you know? 

That could be related in some way. It’s like Mr. Einstein once said: no such thing exists as a point absolutely in one place. That’s kind of what quantum is, the probably but not exactly, if that makes sense. I feel probably close to quantum because I think it’s related to my own work, because whatever that picture is, it’s what I thought probably should be there. Not anything exact. 

One of the documentaries that these people have done, at the end of one, you were talking about a dream and then waking up and then the dream being gone completely... 

That happens so many times every day. I’m dreaming about music and I’ll get up and rush to the piano...(snaps) Gone. 

Wow, full compositions and such? 

Yeah, every note, it’s just so beautiful in the dream and then I sit down and face those 88 keys, and I don’t know which one to push.  

That’s really interesting. Do you ever think about music when you’re shooting? Is music related to shooting at all? 

I think that’s probably true, there’s some connection. Whatever that is, I wouldn’t even begin to talk about it. 

There’s a mysterious aspect to how music relates to making pictures.  

I look at it that way a great deal, probably. Working in quantum physics and theories about pictures – it’s not a bit unlike a symphony or let’s say a set of symphonies or sonatas. 

I mean the Democratic Forest, it is like a symphony in a way; it is like a multiple part symphony. 

I think of it that way.

It seems, artistically, you’re driven by pure intuition and you don’t over-think things, and you leave all of that to the quantum physics and the mechanics.

That’s right.

Inside the Eggleston Trust, Memphis

Inside the Eggleston Trust, Memphis

I want to talk to you about another photograph of yours that was used for the cover of a Big Star album. 

Oh yeah, that red one? 

The red one, yeah. 

I can’t explain it.

Yeah, you knew Alex Chilton’s mom, right? She had a gallery. 

Mmhmm. Well they lived here. Her husband played the piano and is in the staged lighting business, but as a hobby. He also plays jazz, which I don’t like. 

You don’t like jazz? 

I think jazz musicians are really good. In fact, they’re so good; I don’t really know why they’re playing jazz.

There’s a myth that you gave Peyote to Alex Chilton from Big Star. Is that a true story? 

I probably did. I don’t remember that but...I think he was a teenager and he was just starting to play music. 

That was probably a big moment for him. Then there’s that other famous photograph of the girl lying on the grass and she was on quaaludes, right? 

Mmhmm. It looks like she’s asleep, but back then they were so popular. 

And I want to talk a little bit about your time in New York because that was important. A lot of people don’t imagine you in New York, especially at the Chelsea Hotel. 

Yeah, the person I was mostly with was Viva, the Warhol actress, we both lived at the Chelsea. The old Chelsea. 

What was that experience like?

It was fun, but now the hotel is being re-done. 

Did you ever meet Andy Warhol?

He was rather a distant kind of person. 

Did you ever appreciate his work, or you guys kept in your own separate...

Basically, probably, no. He’s not at all one of my favorite artists. 

Did you ever go to the factory?

Mmhmm. 

You did. Who was around at that time?

Oh people like Paul Morrissey, Edie (laughs).

Malanga? 

Oh Gerard, yeah.

And Viva, she lives in Palm Springs now. Do you talk to her?

She lives in both Palm Springs and LA now. I see her every time I’m out there. 

William Eggleston at home in Memphis

William Eggleston at home in Memphis

And you’ve shot photographs all over the world? Is there any specific location that you enjoy shooting the most?

Not any particular one.

Yeah, it’s democratic. 

It doesn’t make a bit of a difference where, physically, I am on this Earth, most everything is the same picture.

You were just recently in Sao Paulo. 

In Rio. 

Oh, in Rio. 

It was an exhibition and I took pictures of people all around.

Yeah, and you get a lot of assignments. You’ve been commissioned to shoot a lot of stories. 

Well, but they’re not assignments, I don’t do those. Those are what I call "open commissions" without any guidelines. It’s quite open with what’s going on right now. The people at Cartier let me do whatever comes to mind. 

You shoot in Paris? 

Anywhere in the world. 

Oh anywhere in the world. And that’s for a show coming up.

Mhmm.

It seems like Cartier and Agnès b, they’re sort of great supporters of the arts and your work. 

Agnès and I have been very close for decades.

Decades?

Yes, a long, long time. She works with my daughter right now. 

You’ve always been very fashionable. Do you find it important to have good style? 

I never really think about it. I don’t know what to say.

Did you get your suits made in London at one point?

Mhmm. Several designers, and Stella McCartney just made one for me. She’s just a very swell person.

[William Eggleston takes a break for approximately 20 minutes to play Bach and improvise on the piano] 

Do you improv more than you play specific pieces and numbers? 

Probably, yes. Probably more. I love to improv.

There’s something jazzy about that.

It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s got to be the right tune and if you make too many mistakes it just falls apart.

Where did you meet Allen Ginsberg?

Oh my god, I don’t know exactly where or when but a long time. 

Yeah, Allen would have found you, you all would have found each other. It would have been circular...

That’s sort of the way it was.

Where did you meet David Lynch?

I don’t know. It’s been a long time, but I don’t know where or when it started. Or what it was even about. But we just get along easily.

What’s your favorite film by David Lynch?

Probably a cross between Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet is up there for me. 

I don’t think there is a better film than Blue Velvet. I’ve said this before to a lot of people, I consider David the new Hitchcock. 

Yeah, I agree. 

Because most horror films aren’t scary. David’s are scary.

Untitled, 1970-74 (Dennis Hopper) by William Eggleston ©Eggleston Artistic Trust

Untitled, 1970-74 (Dennis Hopper) by William Eggleston ©Eggleston Artistic Trust

Yeah, without even trying, it’s sort of natural...

Exactly, and my old late friend Dennis Hopper. Dennis and I were very close. 

I heard a story about Dennis Hopper saving your life?

Yeah, he did! In the Continental Divide! 

Did you almost fall?

He bought some land up there, but there’s nothing there but rocks. I stepped on the wrong one and he grabbed me...it was about 1000 feet down. 

So, he saved your life.

Yes.

Blue Velvet – especially Dennis Hopper’s character - was one of those films that I saw when I was younger that really changed the way I saw film. 

I completely understand you. Also, I don’t know whether it was an accident but it was perfect that he found Dennis. That’s the key ingredient to making it so scary because Dennis was just...

Terrifying. 

He was the sweetest person in real life – he was just a superb actor. 

You know what he said about that role? He said, “That character is me. That character is inside me.” 

I guess what you’re saying is that he wasn’t acting. 

Essentially. He played those really bad-guy roles but there’s something really natural about that intensity for him as an actor. 

If Blue Velvet was the first, well he’s been filmed so many times, but the first place where he really did that character to the nth degree. 

Yeah, definitely. 

Terrifying. That was a truly scary movie. 

Yeah, atmospherically too. Even the silent moments were scary.

That’s right.

It wasn’t just the ear – the graphic moments, the actual silence of that film was terrifying. 

It was Dennis and David Lynch, no other two people could have gotten together and done anything like that. 

Yeah, no one will ever listen to Roy Orbison the same way.

I have a funny story about David. David was with a screenwriter friend – do you know Michael Almereyda?

I know the name, but I don’t know the person. 

He’s a very close friend and he was telling me about this person that David had a falling out with who had written, in what David’s hands, could have been a wonderful script. Guess what it was about? I could just tell you, but it was about two cows dreaming. 

That seems like a David Lynch painting come to life, in a way.

Mmhmm.

Are you looking forward to Twin Peaks?

Mmhmm.

Did you watch the first iteration of it?

Mmhmm.

There’s nothing like that out there.

What ever happened about that, did the public not like it or something? Something happened, that it was canceled or stopped. 

Well, I think there's a new one coming out. When you were watching that show, there was a subconscious sense that what you are watching isn’t like television. 

Exactly. Hey, you know what – I have to say – it’s so nice to have people visiting me that are so nice and smart.

Well, thank you! It’s rare these days. 

Well, good.

Good, right? I feel that way too. 

That’s the way maybe it should be.

I agree. 

Baby, man, it is hard to be an artist in general and anywhere. Memphis is not kind to the arts.

It seems to have this weird idea of what the arts actually are.

This goes back to quantum. We’re probably never supposed to figure that out. But you’ve only made one mistake while you have been in this city: you went to Graceland.

That was more like an anthropological...

That was a lesson, we can put it that way. 

It was very sad in a sense.

In many senses, yes. In fact, I don’t know anything better to describe it than ‘sad,’ can you?

No. A decorating tragedy. 

Just the word 'sad' is enough. It means so many different things at the same time. Priscilla hated the place. Elvis was not kind to her, she said that, very privately, and that was reflected in her taking me to every little square-inch of the place, which took several days, afternoons. And she knew what a horrible, sad place it is and she didn’t say it quite plain, but she had no happy memories of being there.

Are family members that still work and maybe even live there?

There are not any left. They’re not allowed there. The last person, she was very nice to me, was Aunt Delta, and she was the last person allowed to live there. She had one big room.

Someone said she would come down and yell at the visitors.

She was very nice to me. The only thing I remember about her, she would cook enormous amounts of fried chicken, I mean enough for 40 people and I was pretty hungry – and she would not offer me a scrap. She was not a gracious lady. There’s a certain tradition around here: to be gracious is next to godliness and without it, you might as well not exist. 

I agree with that. 

It’s hard to disagree with that. That’s what I was raised with. 

[Lighter flicks. William Eggleston requests another drink: “Baby, will you fix me again...”]


This article was originally published in our Summer 2017 print issue. Go see William Eggleston: Los Alamos on view now at The Metropolitan Museum of Art In New York. On view until May 28, 2018


Untitled, from Los Alamos, 1965-68 and 1972-74, Dye transfer print, Private collection. © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Untitled, from Los Alamos, 1965-68 and 1972-74, Dye transfer print, Private collection. © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Shit From Shinola: An Interview Of Curator Dylan Brant

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Dylan Brant, a young curator from New York, is quietly and maturely making a name for himself within the hallowed, oft impenetrable walls of the art world. Sure, his pedigree helps, but he surely has a knack for putting together some of the coolest art shows around. His show Rawhide at Venus Over Manhattan – which was co-curated by Vivian Brodie –  was a masculine cowboy romp through post-Modern Americana. Bandana wrapped, and pistol wheeling, the show included artists like Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha, but also queer artists known for their muscle toned homoerotica, like Bob Mizer and Tom Of Finland. And just recently, Brant curated a show called Heatwave, which is open now at the UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles. The exhibition, which includes artists like Dash Snow, Rob Pruitt, Nate Lowman, and Cady Noland, takes a more abstract route in its curatorial expression, but it is probably Brant's most personal. The artists involved are artists that he grew up with or knows personally - or knew personally, like the late Dash Snow. According to Brant, the show really came together after watching an interview of Lux Interior (of the Cramps) who talks about music having an inherently youthful energy - no matter the age of the musician or the audience. We stopped by the gallery to ask Brant a few questions about the show and gained a unique insight into his ambitions as a curator. 

AUTRE: You mentioned that you had an initial idea for this show that didn’t go through. Can you talk about that at all?

DYLAN BRANT: It’s complicated. It’s emotionally complicated. I still want to do that show, so I can’t talk about it.

AUTRE: But you had an initial idea and they were wanting to move onto another thing?

BRANT: Umm, it just..it was more like it wasn’t the right fit. It was a little too spazzy.

AUTRE: Too spazzy?

BRANT: I’m a spaz. I’m all over the place. Just to give you an idea, I like things that have a bit of a “Fuck you” sort of undercurrent to them and it was a lot of that and it was a lot of that with really big words and the words are often very redundant and actually mean absolutely nothing at the end of the day, so something that maybe I think is cool is just absolute mumbo jumbo.

AUTRE: Do you think it was too smart for Los Angeles?

BRANT: It’s not that it’s too smart. Okay, you know when you’re in college and you think you’re really hot shit because you’ve maybe had just like one semester and you’ve learned all this stuff and you start writing and using all these big words, but then when you look at that in hindsight, it’s just a lot of big words that mean nothing? That’s the majority of my ideas, so it’s not that it’s too smart, it’s not that it’s too smart for Los Angeles, it’s that it’s not smart enough.

AUTRE: So, then you arrived at Heatwave, and you mentioned that the idea for this show came to you after watching an interview with The Cramps?

BRANT: Yes, I love The Cramps, you guys love The Cramps, we love The Cramps. Lux Interior, I think is just an absolutely phenomenal singer. As far as a performance artist, as far as a singer and songwriter, I think really he epitomizes what I like about music, particularly rock and roll music. He gave this interview somewhere in Denmark or something and I found it on YouTube. He was asked a question by the interviewer: “Who is the audience of your music?” and he sort of defined it as, you know, it’s teenagers and young people and stuff. From that, the guy responded, “well you’re old so how can you justify making youth music at your age?”  He responds by basically going into rock and roll music inherently has this youthful energy. So ultimately, “real” rock and roll is about youthful energy and spirit and not about your age. When I was thinking about ideas for the show, I was kind of thinking to myself, what are the things that really mean something to me? I feel there’s a vitality that innately attracts me to music and in this case, art. So I began to think to myself, "Who are the artists that I've really liked over the last six to seven years?"

AUTRE: Like, what artists?

I remember my first major exposure to art. I remember the first time I saw a Rob Pruitt painting and learning about the history he had with Leo Castelli. I really remember for the first time actually seeing Jonathan Horowitz’s mirror piece and learning about his home and entire history. I remember for the first time seeing Josh Smith’s work that really was like “woah that’s so cool” and I just thought it was so tough and bad-ass. I remember the first time I saw Joe Bradley’s work and I thought it totally sucked and then I ended up really liking it. I remember the first time I saw Cady Noland’s work and it absolutely blew my mind. It was actually here in Los Angeles at a collector’s house. She for me is the queen, she’s everything. She is the most amazing, the most influential artist in my eyes. So the conception of the show started with Good Music For Bad People, it’s a great record, that interview and it started with that Cady Noland piece you see in the show. I wanted to do a show with Cady Noland involved in it and that sort of expanded into that Raymond Pettibon piece over there and then eventually expanded into the Dash Snow pieces. Do every single one of these pieces perfectly exemplify the spirit that I am talking about? I am not going to say ‘yes it does’ because that’s a really broad, sweeping statement that says ‘I made a perfect show’ and I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect show.


AUTRE:  So is music a main drive for most of your curatorial efforts? I mean, the Raw Hide show you did at Venus Over Manhattan - what were you listening to?

BRANT: Marty Robbins?

AUTRE: Yeah, like old country music.

BRANT: Yeah, Marty Robbins, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, Mama Tried, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Junior. Yeah, music and film predominantly. Everything starts as an X factor for me. Music was the first way I understood creativity. From there, you know, all of us have learned about art history and then kind of fell in love with that. But every time I think about how you do something, you know, it’s like making a record or playing a song or something like that and it would translate from there.

AUTRE: Yeah, music creates this really interesting energy that sort of follows you everywhere you go. Do you have a particular type of music that you make?

BRANT: Nothing that’s worth remarking on that’s inherently good, no [laughs]. But my uncle that I am staying with, Mike Andrews, is a very good musician, a very good musician and he’s a professional musician. My father Tommy Andrews is also a very good musician and a professional musician. My grandmother was a piano teacher and an opera singer. I don’t know, I wish I had some sweeping, magical, prolific thing to say but no...



AUTRE: No, I think it’s hard to talk about because it’s sort of abstract.

BRANT: Well, it’s the art of the people, the most emotional, and it’s one of the rawest forms of expression. So if you sort of consider that, in the respect of an art context, which I feel like in many ways is a captured moment, you know, that innate drive of creation, there is a singular x-factor within all the creative formats. So you know, how you get there and what it translates to, it’s like, ok cool whatever, that’s your thing. But we all have a way to kind of getting there and mine is music.


AUTRE: Yeah, and again, Raymond and Cady, I am sure in their studios, there’s like endless amounts of music blasting throughout their lives.

BRANT: Yeah, Joshua loves hip hop, Rob Pruitt loves Miley Cyrus, Joe Bradley was in Cheeseburger, Julian Schnabel played bass in a band for a little bit. Uhm, Cady Noland I am not sure about and Dash Snow I am not sure about. But Spencer Sweeney in the back, he’s a drummer. He owns Santo’s Party House. So yeah, I never even thought of that, you could say that.

AUTRE: So if you were listening to a lot of Prefab Sprout, what kind of show would you curate?

BRANT: Prefab Sprout is fucking great. I love their production style.

AUTRE: It’s cheesy but it’s so good at the same time.

BRANT: That’s the coolest fucking question ever. Let me actually think about that seriously… I would probably curate a show about commercials or I would do performance, like ballet.

AUTRE: Or?

BRANT: I don’t know. I actually really think that that record Steve McQueen is a really good record. It’s really strong and I get a lot of crap for listening to them.

AUTRE: But the lyrics… It’s profound. There’s something profound about it.

BRANT: Dude, it’s so cheesy, come on. It’s not like Talk Talk or Spirit of Eden or something like that where it’s, you know, oh my god, these revolutionary production techniques and stuff. It’s just kind of like early, college rock radio from late 80s, early 90s…

AUTRE: You also worked at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. What was that experience like? What did you learn from that experience?

BRANT: What did I learn from that experience? Art’s awesome. This could actually be something that you could really do and make into a career which I’d never thought was a real possibility. I never thought being in the arts period would be a real possibility. So, that was cool. Also, being at the Peggy Guggenheim and experiencing a different country and culture was mindblowing. I learned a whole lot; it was the whole cultural experience. That country’s a whole lot better than the U.S.A., intellectually.

AUTRE: Yeah, I mean it’s almost more important to have a culturally impactful experience, especially when you’re younger. How old were you when you were doing that?

BRANT: Sixteen.

AUTRE: Sixteen—so you were super young.

BRANT: Yeah I didn’t know shit from Shinola; I still don’t know shit from Shinola, but definitely didn’t know anything then. I just had this opportunity and was like “okay.” I mean the first time you do performance art it’s like “oh my god, I can express myself and be okay;” the first time you write an article and somebody is like “oh, this isn’t that bad” and you’re like “what do you mean it isn’t that bad?” My expectation level is that it’s just going to be terrible so when it turns out decently well and it’s well-received, my first reaction is to try that again.

AUTRE: Interesting. You also grew up around a lot of art—

BRANT: I grew up around a tremendous amount of art, that’s a fucking understatement. My father Peter is without a doubt one of the most intense critical eyes I’ve ever encountered in my life. Being a young person who had the opportunity to go to art openings and see the things he saw and not understand what was going on and, in hindsight, processing and understanding that all the stuff was made: this really crazy. As a little kid there was this game that we’d play where if I named one of the artists right I would gain a dollar and if I named one of the artists wrong I would lose a dollar. Seriously. Straight-up being brainwashed. Going to the Warhol Estate when Vincent Fremont still ran it and seeing that in the 90’s, being able to see Tony Shafrazi’s gallery in Soho when it was sort of at it’s height and peak, being able to see the Last Supper show that Warhol did at the Guggenheim when it was still downtown, being a little kid and seeing...I could go on and on...when Kenny Scharf still had his kiosk in Soho.

AUTRE: So you caught the tail end of a generation.

BRANT: Tail end? No, it just keeps going. Seeing all the early Richard Prince photography and works pop up in the early 2000s. He and my father starting to collect that again, seeing the paintings, and seeing him leave [Barbara] Gladstone and go to Gagosian, find out who he was, meeting Urs Fisher after he did the “Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns?,” getting to know him as a person, getting to know any of these people in this room, it’s exceptional. Dash Snow, of course. I mean, [my dad] is the consistent X factor in my life of why I got into art. There is absolutely no way I would have ever, ever, ever, been interested in art if it wasn’t for him. I would have totally just been only interested in music and I’m a mediocre musician, so that for me was the X factor when I realized, “Oh my god, I could actually work in the arts and maybe I could be a catalyst for artists rather than be an artist myself.”

AUTRE: That’s interesting because most people aspire to be the artist but there’re so many other positions in the art world that are just as important, it’s amazing.

BRANT: Collectors, advisors, dealers, museum people. It’s a fucking eco-system. You don’t get somewhere just by being a good artist, there are tons of good artists. A lot of luck and a lot of really good, smart, thoughtful dealers. All these guys really, I mean Gavin Brown is pretty much one of the most important dealers in New York City for twenty years and going strong. Luhring Augustine - one of their early artists was Christopher Wool. Just think about that shit.

AUTRE: Yeah, it takes a lot of experience. And intuition, too.

BRANT: Yeah. And seeing things. It’s like getting married, working with an artist for a lifetime and I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.

AUTRE: I think we could talk about art forever.  

BRANT: I know, isn’t it kind of sad?

AUTRE: It’s endless.

BRANT: I know, it’s like a snake eating it’s own tail.


Heatwave will be on view until April 18, 2017 at UTA Artist Space, 670 S. Anderson, Los Angeles. text, interview and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram:  @AUTREMAGAZINE


Unseen And Immaterial: An Interview Of Amanda Turner Pohan

text by Abbey Meaker

 

Science, alchemy, technology, and the process of distilling and translating bodily expressions – Amanda Turner Pohan’s art practice is rooted in processes that call into question the intimate relationship between bodies and the histories of embedded power structures. In one such work, Pohan has created a custom-formulated perfume using captured carbon dioxide exhaled during thirteen of her own orgasms. The milky concentrate of the artist's expressions of pleasure is contained within a glass jug, and its scent is emitted through a long plastic tube that meanders from the mouth of the jug to a dispenser across the room.   

As an organizer, Pohan fervently seeks opportunities for connectedness, community, and collaborative practice, striving to create space that promotes inclusion and blurs the boundary between art and life. I had the pleasure of speaking with Pohan on a cold winter Sunday about her interests in alchemy, temporal expressions of the body, sexuality, and blended practices as artist and organizer.

Abbey Meaker: Hello, hello! Are you in the city or the Catskills?

Amanda Turner Pohan: Catskills!

Meaker: So tell me about your place there- you're interested in starting an artist residency called Diamond Notch? It seems like a more holistic approach to supporting artists and creating a community.

Pohan:  I didn’t quite realize how much Temporary Agency and The Social Club really helped bolster this residency desire. I feel like the ideas we talk about up here mix the two, in addition to literally mixing the groups of people involved.

Meaker: I wondered how those two organizations came to be and if they played a role in your decision to take on this new endeavor. 

Pohan: Temporary Agency was built in the spirit of collective practice, and we wanted to facilitate an open engagement with the work that we showed by pairing it with public events, remaining mindful of responding to what was happening socially, culturally, and politically at that moment in time.

It’s necessary especially in this climate. In nine months we hosted something like two shows a month and an event for each show: Poetry readings, performative lectures, screenings, round table discussions, the gamut.

Meaker:  Did Social Club overlap?

Pohan: Yes! When I graduated, the first studio I got was at the Bakery Brooklyn, where I remain today and where the Social Club is held. But when we went nomadic with Temporary Agency back in 2015, our first event post Ridgewood gallery was at The Bakery. The studio and the Social Club have a similar sensibility to Temporary Agency. The Bakery was created in 2013 by Asa Pingree and Jason Kachadourian. It’s a wood shop that Jason and Asa share with studios built out in the back. Jason is a painter, furniture designer, and art events organizer. He's always worked in a collaborative vein and two years ago, around the time Temporary Agency formed, worked on creating a collective for artists and designers to think about showing work in way that isn’t "white cube." The collective concept ended up manifesting as the Social Club. Jason asked Asa and I to join him as the core group in organizing the monthly event in the gallery space built out from the wood shop, and the first one was in October 2015.

This year we are trying to introduce prompts that will influence peoples’ behavior within the space more pointedly. An idea that holds the Social Club together is giving participants agency over the vibe of their environment through collective actions and collaborative efforts, encouraging people to directly engage with the work. 

Meaker: Would you define a scenario as a kind of happening, whereby the public comes in and isn't quite sure what's planned, what's real, staged, what their role is in creating the work?


Pohan: Happening, yes. It has a Fluxus lineage for sure. I also would hold movement based meditation groups in grad school, and while it was planned, what came out of it was always unexpected.

Meaker: Why do you think this kind of work is particularly important now? Why the interest in moving exhibitions, performances, etc. outside of the gallery?

Pohan: The idea of inclusion, of in-between-spaces, of art/life as one expression resists individuation. And individuation is what perpetuates this current polarization that is happening politically. To divide and conquer is so dangerous, particularly now. I am, and the collectives I'm involved with, are interested in individual empowerment and collective action. Or collective actions amongst empowered individuals. This may be getting a bit heavy handed!

Meaker: Does your practice as an organizer/curator inform your art practice?

Pohan: Yes. A lot of my work is about intimacy. Working in collaboratives is an intimate, emotional, and challenging experience. It helps me become more and more aware of my relation to others. That is a fundamental aspect of my work. I make work by spending a lot of time outside of the studio gathering experiences and allowing for them to digest and settle into my system.

I spend my time in these various pursuits and then enter condensed periods of time reading and writing. Then, I make the work. I would neither be making the work that I make nor be involved collaboratively without all of these wonderful people. If there is a struggle to do it all, it serves as the fuel!

Meaker:  Do you consider all experiences as fodder?

Pohan: Yes. Fodder, I like that. Very apropos to where I am currently.

Meaker: I deeply admire that you've created a reality in which there is no distinction between life and work.  

Pohan: I’m really serious about it. I've been working with a meditation teacher for about seven years now, Dina Kushnir, from whom I really came to understand the depth of this. But putting it into action is what makes it embodied as knowledge and wisdom, otherwise it’s just words. As I said before, Temporary Agency and Social Club served as the groundwork for Diamond Notch [Diamond Notch is the place upstate, its namesake is the road it's on].

Meaker: What are your dreams for Diamond Notch?

Pohan: Jason Kachadourian is my partner, by the way, and is also partner on this project. Part of the dream is related to the art/life blend, but more than just art. I'm interested generally in the question of how to live together; it structures my thinking on this residency/school/program, whatever it ends up becoming and then becoming again. Jason and I are both interested in how living, making, and working collaboratively might look like. So for now it’s the Diamond Notch Hiking Club.



Meaker: The frontiers of your work are so rich and layered, often translating and recontexualizing ephemeral expressions of the body—breath, sweat, orgasms into various media: video, installation, sculpture. These are often bodily processes we aim to conceal—where does your desire to capture these temporal experiences come from? There's a lot to unpack there.

Pohan: It is a good one whose dense answer ties my art and my collective practices together. My mother's death. Her death is what initiated the desire or longing for this capturing, de-coding, translating, and re-presenting the body both materially and immaterially through smell, sound, light, color, text, video, sculpture, a total immersion. Her death is also what partially financed the acquisition of the land upstate. Her literal dematerialization materialized a house on a property to facilitate a community as well as most of my art work to date. I have always worked with the body as a material, but eight years ago upon her suicide, it really put it into a different framework, allowing me to question and unpack my own subjectivity.

The capturing of the ephemera of the body using electronic sensors and digital devices utilized in my art making process are methods of data collecting and disciplining bodies currently used by power structures both in the public and private spheres. So from a very personal experience is tied larger politics of the disciplined body, the marginalized body, the incarcerated body, the medicated body, the working body, the female body, etc. I suppose also on a basic level, even as a child, I have been deeply curious about the undercurrents that move our lives, desires, choices, that which is more refined and ethereal than is typically seen, and I long to dig into that undercurrent. The fruits of those moments result in my work. My commitment to a meditation practice and bodywork method of releasing trauma from the body also serves as doorways for seeing the unseen, immaterial.

Meaker: How would you say sexuality fits into this scheme?

Pohan: Well, I did make a piece that was titled Orgasmic Exhalations and was represented in various forms. In one aspect, the orgasmic is a just an expression, it could have been a meditative exhalation, for example. In the end it’s about perception. The female orgasm is a form of production and a form of labor that is commodified by the porn and pharmaceutical industries, or to which Paul B Preciado would call the pharmacopornographic. A mouthful of a word, no pun intended.

The private experience of the orgasm, mine in this case for making this piece, this intimate private experience and the je ne sais quoi-ness of it all is recorded in a way that then abstracts it into numbers using an electronic sensor to record the orgasm. How? It’s always a hurdle for me to explain! I hacked a telemarketers headset, and replaced the mic with CO2 sensor. The sensor was connected to a microcontroller, which was hooked up to a computer running a software program that recorded the fluctuating values of parts per million of CO2 emanating from my breath. I took the numeric recording and applied my own scientific method to it, as you said. I took the data and massaged it, as data-ists and statisticians say, which I find so comical, and I created an algorithm from it. I applied the algorithm to two different instruments for output to produce both a scent and a form. I applied the algorithm to a perfume formula to create the scent. I plotted the algorithm in 3D space on a CAD software program, which allowed me to have it 3 dimensionally cut by a CNC routing machine. This produced a sculpture.

There’s a Neils Bohr law about light. It goes, you can observe light as either a particle or a wave, depending on the instrument you use to observe it. You see what you want to see, in short.

In this work, Orgasmic Exhalations, I represented this orgasmic breath in a semi scientific and aesthetically clinical way, but what is most important about it all was that the same breath, the same exhalation data, was used to make both a scent and a form, depending on the instrument I used to observe it. This work is about the production of desire as its base material, the digital distribution of intimacy as its method of creation, and results in two forms that confront the viewer with various perceptual questions. (I hope!) Answers to which are unknown. I like watching the process of inquiry. There is also something gendered about this, the perfume as feminized and the machine sculpted form as masculinized, and the space of the installation is what I’m interested in as the space in between this binary, between the zeros and ones of production.

Meaker: Can you describe the scent of the perfume?

Pohan: It happens to smell a bit like turpentine, a bit earthy, but also slightly like burnt plastic. I chose two essences, rosemary and myrrh, and the combination of the two and the alcohol to carry it produced this smell.

Meaker: It's interesting, too, that the expression of a woman's orgasm could be perceived as masculinized. Makes these definitions of gender all the more arbitrary, however hammered in they may be.

Pohan: There is something problematic in the potential male gazey-ness of it. Well the hammering in is what causes a lot of pain and suffering. Its real in that sense, a concrete effect on the body these constructs that are habitually reperformed binarily.

Meaker: Which brings me to the question regarding Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. In this essay she analyzes and rejects the boundaries that separate 'human' from' animal' and human from 'machine’ and calls for a need to move away from essentialism and toward the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender. Are you interested in the subversion of concepts related to the body and gender in your work?

Pohan: I think I am more interested in what holds together the structures and constructs that govern and form our understanding and relation to gender than a direct subversion of gender. I want a viewer to be confronted with their own embodiment, their own structuring, I think it offers the possibility of opening up to a level of vulnerability that I find compelling. 

Meaker: Tell us what you've got going on now, outside of Diamond Notch. Where can we see your work? 

Pohan: I have the work we discussed earlier, Orgasmic Exhalation Form and Device for body Spray, in a group show up now at The Knockdown Center in Maspeth Queens, up until Feb 26. I also have work in a benefit auction for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, for which I received a nomination, on February 13 at Derek Eller Gallery. Opening March 19 will be The Whitney Houston Biennial where the perfume Linqox Criss will be on view with the work of many other female and female identified artists.

Astral America: An Interview Of FUCT Founder and Artist Erik Brunetti On His New Book Astral America

Looking like a cross between a rogue border patrol agent and a cowboy dandy, Erik Brunetti is the founder and fearless leader of one of the most iconic American street wear brands. The brand’s name alone, FUCT, harkens a kind of dissidence and lassitude belonging to that doomed generation that came before the digital dark ages and the millennials struggling to survive in its cold pixelated miasma. While street wear brands like and Supreme and Stussy opted for safety in numbers, the FUCT brand, which was conceived in Brunetti's Venice Beach bedroom in 1991, remains uniquely intact and connected to its DIY roots. Starting off as a graffiti artist in New York City, FUCT became a kind of extension of Brunetti’s seditious ideals. Just recently, Brunetti teamed up with Paperwork NYC to publish a book of new drawings. Entitled Astral America, the book is an ode to post truth with a smattering of India ink renderings of drones, US military propaganda, pop iconography and psychologically damning, accusatory, and anti-consumerist slogans aimed squarely at the gluttony of American culture. We got a chance chat with Brunetti about the book, the current state of FUCT and why it’s not cool to justify war with hashtags. 

AUTRE: Okay, lets start off with your upbringing in Jersey, which is close to New York, but seemingly a world away, what was your first introduction to culture and did you get a chance to escape to the city?

ERIK BRUNETTI: I was born in New Jersey, I grew up in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I only started visiting NYC in the late 70's early 80's with my mother, going to punk boutiques, CBGB, etcetera. I eventually moved to New York on my own and became a bike messenger when I was 18.

AUTRE: You were in New York during the halcyon days of graffiti writers – what was it about this world that was so romantic to you?

BRUNETTI: I discovered graff through a friend of mine named Darnell. We went to school together, and I noticed all the tags on his school books, same style of graff that I would to see when I went into the city, so naturally I inquired about it. He then took me to the yards and opened up an entire world to me. I then started writing for many years since throughout the tri-state area.

AUTRE: When did the idea to start the FUCT brand come to you – was it something that you decided to start right away or did you mull it over?

BRUNETTI: It was an accident that I had to cultivate. There was no blue print or business plan, there still isn't one to this day.

AUTRE: Did you have any idea that it would become this multiple decade brand experiment?

BRUNETTI: I knew it was different, I never think too much about it's future. 
 



AUTRE: Do you feel like it would be hard to start a brand like FUCT in this day and age?

BRUNETTI: The opposite. It was hard to start a brand FUCT in 1990 due to the fact that nothing like it existed. It would be much easier to start today. The groundwork has been carved out and people are more indoctrinated and accepting of subversive ideals because due to the internet.

AUTRE: It seems like the message that you are trying to get across with FUCT is more important than ever – it seems like subversion is crucial, especially in our current political climate?

BRUNETTI: It depends how it is presented I suppose. It could swing either way.

AUTRE: Let’s talk about Astral America – can you talk about the central focus of the book?

BRUNETTI : The books title comes from a chapter in Jean Baudrillard's book, "America." In that book he writes about the grotesque aspect of our country that American's seem to celebrate. My drawings in Astral America are observations and critiques of today's wasteful country. Unnecessary oversized parking lots, shopping mals, fast food feeding overweight people, televison and movie stars becoming activist to save the day. The USA starting as many wars as we possibly can in the Middle East and then justifying them with hashtags and social media slogans.

AUTRE: How did the book come about – was it a collection of work that you’ve been meaning to put out for a while?

BRUNETTI: I had began working with India ink as a medium again last year, just drawing much more and compiling a body of work that was based on the above mentioned theme and ideals, with no intention of showing them. Fast forward, Mike, from Paper Work NYC contacted me earlier in the year and came to my loft to visit and saw them and thought they would be great in a limited edition publication. So, we laid it out and it was done. It happened very naturally. I work with people much easier when meeting in person rather then via email or social media. If we
hadn't met, it wouldn't have happened. I like to see people, develop a working relationship and become friends, it shows in the quality of work that is then put out.

AUTRE: Where do you see FUCT in the next 20 years?


BRUNETTI: Done, hopefully.

AUTRE: What’s next for you as a fine artist – any exhibitions in the works?
 

BRUNETTI: I'm in the studio working everyday, I don't really make plans, if someone approaches me I'm into it. The art world in general is in a weird place right now. I'm also terrible at networking and putting myself out there. Art in the states is boring and contrived right now. I might move to Spain.


You can purchase Astral America on the Paperwork NYC website. photographs by Mike Krim. Interview and text by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Brutal Beauty: An Interview of Artist and Muse Michele Lamy On Organizing Rick Owens' First Furniture Exhibition

On a cold, rainy night, the day before the private opening, we huddled in the cab of a moving truck to chat about furniture, music and fashion. It may have been a symbolic coincidence that Michele Lamy was in the driver's seat, clutching on to the huge steering wheel, but maybe it wasn't. It's true – although the furniture line is a true collaboration, Lamy does most of the general contracting and she is organizing the exhibition all on her own. But it’s obvious that she is used to it and loves the process, and Rick is happy to take a back seat. 

Despite her diminutive frame, Lamy’s primal and mystical energy seems enough to muster ample kinetic energy to move hundreds of tons of concrete, alabaster and marble. The way she talks (with a thick, rough French accent), gesticulates, moves her eyes - the way her jewelry and stacked rings move with an orchestral clattering - is hypnotic. It is no wonder that the creative class has flocked to her – like an oasis in an indefinable desert of sameness – for the last couple of decades. It's no wonder why she and Rick have become a centrifugal force in the world of fashion and art.

Lamy is anything but ordinary. In some circles, you may know Lamy because of her relationship to fashion and furniture designer Rick Owens. Indeed, there are many clichés to describe her relationship to her partner: muse, alter ego, better half, right hand woman and so on. But more than anything, Lamy is a vital counterpart - a long lost spiritual and creative twin. That Owens and Lamy found each other in this modern artistic wilderness is kismet in the form of nuclear fusion, but it is not terribly surprising. Before the two were globally recognized, Michele owned a famous restaurant in Los Angeles called Les Deux Café and Owens was honing his craft in a studio across the street. While both Michele and Owens are mercilessly creative - Lamy really took the reigns with the furniture side of their output. Lamy almost exclusively heads all production, which takes her on material buying trips around the world looking for rare skins and fur, wood, bone and marble.

Open now at MOCA's Pacific Design Center outpost, you can experience an immersive exhibition of new furniture pieces designed by Owens, but spearheaded and organized by Lamy. A large alabaster wall, marble benches, camel skin ottomans and an ox bone settee - you can move your fingers across and through all the pieces. The furniture is a perfect, brutalist, and antiestablishment vision for a bombed out future where we must carve out our palaces from the ruins of factories and government headquarters. Complimenting the furniture are works by the late sculptural painter Steven Parrino, whose works capture the same anarchy and vision as the furniture. 

In the following interview, we chat with Michele Lamy about the exhibition, her past as the iconic ringleader at Les Deux Café and what she misses most about the Los Angeles she left behind before leaving for Paris with Rick Owens.

BJ PANDA BEAR: How have you been? I’ve been seeing you pop around and I know you’re working on this upcoming exhibition. How is everything coming along with it?

MICHELE LAMY: So, we are almost done. Just finishing up. I like the process so there is a thing that we’ve built and it’s just outside of Paris. We have this big atelier and then we did a warehouse in Los Angeles. For example, we do a lot of pieces in concrete, which is difficult to move, paying for the weight of the concrete for sending on a plane because we are always late. And then we found this great warehouse that’s on Highland and Romaine. Now we move in to MOCA and there is a little bit of adjustment because it’s still an institution, but it’s cool. We can break stuff, we can repair stuff up there, but for example you cannot drink a cup of tea. I don’t know why - it’s just the rules. When you’ve finished building something, you cannot have tea. I’m sure you can come in with a gun, but you cannot have tea.

BJ PANDA BEAR: That's insane! Where did the origin of the furniture come from? 

LAMY: When we move somewhere, we always do the furniture. We moved so many times. A gallery said it looked like a collection so I took it from there to produce it. It turned into two collections. It turned into gallery showings, we have dealers. We just keep doing it.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You’re always so hands on when we see all the documentation of your work. Have you always been so hands on with every single detail and the luxury.

LAMY: Which luxury?

BJ PANDA BEAR: Like all the images of you picking out slabs of marble and everything.

LAMY: Yeah you know I completely fell in love with doing this. The material, and there is something about the story behind making the pieces. We have a collection where everything is coming from Pakistan. In another collection, we are finding camel fur in the Empty Quarters desert in Abu Dhabi. But everything is produced just outside of Paris. That’s just where we find the right people.

BJ PANDA BEAR: What type of music is inspiring for you? What have you been listening to lately?

LAMY: I’m very into techno, house. I love radio stations, but now they are so lacking. There were so many and they’ve disappeared. I listen here on the internet from France like continuous house music, but I like LSD from A$AP [Rocky], I like his music.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You and A$AP are close, right?

LAMY: Yep. We just did a performance together at Art Basel Miami. It was fantastic. I was so happy. It was in the Design District on a roof. Silencio, a club from Paris, opened it. It was this space and it was a performance with Caecilia Tripp. Where you never see her, but she is there. We were there. It was a nice courtyard in the design district, so the location was good. It was not a hotel, it was more its own space.

BJ PANDA BEAR: When you were laying out and organizing the exhibition, was there a central focus or drive for this particular project?

LAMY: Yeah, There was a special focus. The one thing is the prong. It is represented everywhere even if you don’t see it, because it’s the way that we attach a bench of six meters – by two prongs, there is flow. It is floating. It looks like you need to hammer something, but it is about floating. The paintings are hung on the side. The space was sort of difficult, because it is very high and there’s not so much space on the first floor. Then we made this huge wall in alabaster that is a weeping wall. That piece - you know, I did feel good because coming to LA, I was sort of seeking a home, found the right warehouse, and then we were able to make this space our space. And changing the dynamic of the space, that’s usually what I’ve seen is always a challenge.

BJ PANDA BEAR: You’re used to transforming spaces, right? Your place in Paris doesn’t have a specific living room, or even a specific kitchen.

LAMY: Right right.



BJ PANDA BEAR: It is often said that you are the muse behind the show, but also that you’re kind of spearheading all of it. What are your personal muses and inspirations for design? Do you have a muse yourself?

LAMY: I don’t know what a muse is in that way. When you are with someone and you are doing things together and people say that because it is too difficult to say what exactly it is. I’m sure there is something I am inspired by. I’m old enough that all of these pieces of inspiration are melting into something more personal for me. People I admire is more because they have the guts to do what they’re meant to do and especially now with what just happened in the election, I think people have to be strong and do something they believe in.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Since this is like a comeback to LA for you, have there been any restaurants or places new here that you really love?

LAMY: I came a couple of times to do this exhibition. So I’ve had time to visit many places here. This time around, I live at the Chateau. When I was with Rick, we lived for two years at the Chateau, because we got attacked at the house we lived in. I have some friends and I gave them a tour of Traction Avenue and where there used to be factories are now galleries. I am really, really happy to see that little part of downtown – it is still the same, sort of, like SCI-Arc is still there. It was always good, except Al’s Bar is closed, but American Hotel is still there. They always say there was no one there before. They were there. We weren't so underground, but the prices were different. I always liked Little Tokyo and Koreatown – and Korean baths! My favorite thing, I think they are better here than in Korea. Of course the beach, it is beautiful. I was at the beach for Thanksgiving. There were not many people there – just people skateboarding on Venice Beach.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Can we chat a little about Les Deux Cafe or is that something you’d rather not? Cause I’ve heard so many stories.

LAMY: You know it was fantastic. It has been like twelve years of doing this. It was great, it was a time. Me and Rick were living across the street. Now it’s set to be demolished in a few months. Everything there is going to be demolished because it is going to be a mall. Another mall.

BJ PANDA BEAR: That’s so nuts…

LAMY: You know there has been a story in Another Magazine written by Chris Wallace who was a maître d' at Les Deux Cafe. Then we had this great artist, Konstantin Kakanias, who did these drawings, because at the time people did not have cell phones so it was preferential to taking a picture. And because it was a private place, the drawing was so much better to help tell the stories.

BJ PANDA BEAR: I love hearing the stories.

LAMY: It made it even better. There was no Instagram. Can you believe? It was so long ago. It worked though, we had so many great stories.

BJ PANDA BEAR: They’re so epic. I don’t even know if some of them are real.

LAMY: That was a very great time.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Are you going to be spending more time in Los Angeles? What took you guys so long to come back? Does Rick ever come here?

LAMY: You know before this MOCA story, we never came back. Rick you know, he is not coming for the exhibition. We don’t want to be analyzing all of this, but at the same time it’s a lot of things that are happening so he decided not to come here and let me do all the work alone. I know that next year, we are going to be in Europe a lot. Lots of time in Venice for the Biennale, so it seems like these things are happening and then Rick is going to our show in Milano. But I feel very at home in New York.

BJ PANDA BEAR: In New York, really? I’ve heard stories about Rick not liking New York. Does he ever go there?

LAMY: Yeah he doesn’t come there.

BJ PANDA BEAR: I was going to ask about the crystal and foam you’re planning on working with. How did you guys get involved with that kind of material?

LAMY: One thing to the next. Right now in this show, there is foam. The main thing in this show that changed the old perspective is a big wall of carved alabaster - the weeping wall. That is so heavy. There’s a lot of totems. It’s difficult to explain without seeing it.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Can you talk a little bit about Steven Parrino’s work in the show?

LAMY: It started because we are doing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. It was a Carol Rama show and they asked us to be guests with our furniture. It was this combination because there is something on the wall, and then something on the floor. So then when Phillipe Vergne asked us to do a show, we thought it would be nice to work with somebody, and who is better than Steven Parrino? I know that we always liked him and his work is very related to our work. Lot’s of canvases that you think are collapsed, but are actually very controlled.

BJ PANDA BEAR: Did you get to meet him when he was around?

LAMY: Not at all, because all the years he was in Europe, I was here. I did know about him. I could have met him in Paris, but I didn’t. He was more known in Europe than in the States and he had a lot of collectors in Geneva. Did you like his work?

BJ PANDA BEAR: I like his work and his minimalist sort of nihilistic work. It reminds me a bit of Alan Vega’s work from Suicide and I like that deconstructed sort of connection between music and fashion.

LAMY: Steven Parrino’s work is very connected to those worlds. It speaks very well to this show at MOCA.


Rick Owens: Furniture will be on view until April 2, 2017 at MOCA Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. Interview by BJ Panda Bear. Intro text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Wish I Wasn't Here: An Interview of Maritza Yoes and Sean Monahan On Their Art Basel Collaboration With Snapchat and Artsy

The gap between technology, advertisement and art is nearly sealed. With years of philosophical rants over context, technique and accessibility often polarizing the art crowd. Today it seems unrealistic to not have some internet served with your art. During Art Basel Miami Beach, Maritza Yoes, one of the founders of LACMA’s social media channel and Sean Monahan, one of the founders of trend forecasting darlings K-HOLE, collaborated with Artsy and Snapchat to bring an array of artists out of the galleries and onto our phones with a range of special edition Snapchat geofilters. The filters were located around the city at prominent art locations featuring a grouping of artist including Chloe Wise and Katherine Bernhardt. I caught up with them to find out how this meeting of art and technology is just the beginning.

BJ Panda Bear: So, can you tell us about the project?

Snapchat is our favorite platform for creativity. We were excited to help make this project come to life to give artists a chance to play with the platform in a deeper way and for Snapchatters to have an accessible art experience. Without going into too much detail, Snapchat had a great idea for artist-designed geofilters. Sean and I helped bring Artsy and Snapchat together to make the creative initiative happen.

BJ: Have you worked with Snapchat in this art context before?

Yes, I have a relationship with Snapchat from my LACMA ties. I was an early art pioneer on the platform through my LACMA work so there's some good mutual trust.



BJ: Is it true that you got LACMA on Snapchat? 

True! I developed LACMA's Snapchat account and the strategy of meshing pop-culture and art history. The pairings are meant to be simultaneously irreverent and thought-provoking. LACMA has continued to maintain the strategy and it's still seeing a lot of success!

BJ: What drives a project like this?

An interest in how art, culture, social media, and technology can converge. We're constantly thinking about opportunities to explore new technologies in an art context. Finding ways for the worlds of art and technology to work together is at the heart of our participation with the project. 

BJ: What does cultural strategist mean?

"Cultural strategy" is our definition for bringing creative people and culturally relevant opportunities together. Full time I work as a social strategist with an emphasis on arts, tech, and culture, but I also love introducing people and helping make collaborations happen, this is something I do naturally! Sean is a full-time freelancer and branding genius. He was a founding member of the art collective K-HOLE where he worked with businesses that had the uncompromising creative integrity of art.


text and interview by BJ Panda Bear for Autre Magazine. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Ritualized Catharsis: An Interview of Hyon Gyon

text by Adam Lehrer

South Korean New York-based visual artist and painter Hyon Gyon’s Chinatown studio is hard to miss. Walking down Canal Street past the skateboarders that grind the rails along the bike path at the bottom of the Manhattan side of the Manhattan bridge, the markets that smell ripe of fish and assorted edible sea creatures, and the dizzyingly busy intersection of a diverse population, you finally take a right on Eldridge Street. Quite visibly from the opposite end of the block your eye catches an out-of-place looking two floor building with a massive sign that reads “Hyon Gyon.” The building looks more like a hut or a place of worship than an emerging visual artist’s studio. Considering Gyon’s aesthetic and work, that notion could feel rather deliberate on part of the artist. But talking to Gyon for any length of time quickly dispels that notion. Her studio is just an outgrowth of her practice, and her practice lacks any grand conceptual conceit. She channels energy into her art. What you see is simply what has come out of her.

Inside that studio is a visual world perhaps even more rarified and indicative of Gyon’s work than the locale’s exterior. The first floor is half work space and half gallery displaying several of Gyon’s large-scale and quite spectacular paintings that combine the markings of abstract expressionism and traditional Korean shamanistic imagery alongside Gyon’s scattered work materials. The room is accented by vibrant Korean carpets that cover almost the entirety of the floor. Upstairs, Gyon maintains a sizable collection of art and design books and has been stockpiling an assortments of garments that Gyon has taken to painting, deconstructing, and refashioning. At the center of the artifacts and tasteful junk is Gyon herself: ethereally beautiful, petite, and adorned in a sparkly pink top over a Rolling Stones t-shirt, she abstractly resembles the ideas that flow out of her in her work.

Gyon was attending university when she decided to be an artist professionally. Initially interested in fashion and having even worked at a studio that designed traditional Korean garments, Gyon’s decision to work in the fine arts was catapulted by the death of her grandmother. When Gyon’s grandmother passed, her family took part in a gut (pronounced: “goot”) ritual for her; in these ceremonies, a Korean shaman leads a series of sacrifices, physical gestures and prayers to the gods that theoretically enable a peaceful transition for the human spirit to leave the physical plane and enter into the spiritual plane. But in a more tangibly relatable manner, the gut ritual serves the purpose of allowing the deceased’s loved ones to move on. To purge negativity. To experience catharsis. That ritualized catharsis had a deep impact on Gyon, and she knew then that she had found her subject manner. “It’s hard to describe what happened to me,” says Gyon referring to her catharsis felt during the gut ritual. “Something in me had changed. I knew that I wanted people to experience emotion through my work.”

Gyon focuses on bold paintings and abstract sculptures with textile elements that use the faces and bodies of monstrous characters, or “incarnations” as she calls them, that are emblematic of specific emotions from the wide scale of human feeling. After working and developing her practice in Japan for 13 years, Gyon moved to New York in 2013 on a residency supported by her new dealers at Shin Gallery. The residency first resulted in a pop-up show entitled Hyon Gyon and The Factory that referenced Warhol and saw Gyon producing at truly Warholian (or should we say Herculean?) rates. This year, Shin included Gyon’s work alongside titans like Balthus and Salvador Dali in a group show entitled I Wanna Be Me that used its Sex Pistols aping title to celebrate utterly personal expression in a world of appropriation. But the greatest testament to Gyon’s talents at this juncture was her first eponymous Shin Gallery solo show that ran over the summer. The centerpiece of the show was the sculptural Headpiece that saw Gyon applying oil paints to pillows. Every pillow was its own face unlike any of the other faces and, according to Gyon, each represented a human emotion. The stacking of the pillows on top of one another and fashioning them to collide into one another was emblematic of any single human being’s psychology: chaotic and disorganized but still working together to create a definable whole. While so much of the conceptual art world explores the anxiety and paranoia that technology has unleashed upon the world populace, Gyon looks toward a concept that is, if not divine, than spiritual. Her work is awake and tapped into something that lives above the cacophony of daily existence. I had to talk to her.

LEHRER: What were you going through emotionally while in university that led you to transition into creating art works?

Gyon: During my first master course, I was working through my own personal experiences with my grandmother having just passed and that prompted me to focus on my work. I was enjoying making art, but really didn’t know what I wanted to make and I wasn’t sure what my subject matter would be. I was looking for something. We held a a “gut” ritual for her and that had a big impact on me.

LEHRER: Obviously having your grandmother pass away is an emotional event, but what was it about the ceremony specifically that you connected with making artwork?

Gyon: I was not very close with my grandmother.  I was not a good grandchild. I did very bad things to her. I regretted this. After she passed away, I couldn’t do anything for her. It made me so sad and I wanted to meet her again. 

LEHRER: So you felt making art somehow would connect you to your grandmother in the way that you couldn’t while she was alive?

Gyon: Yes. During the Guy Ceremony, I felt I could meet my grandmother, like I could talk to my grandmother. I had such negative emotions in my mind and after the ceremony, they were gone. Not completely gone, but my emotions changed.

LEHRER: Your artwork is obviously very emotional. I was curious, I read that as a child, you liked burning textiles and that this became a part of your process later on. For you, was that destructive act also a creative act?

Gyon: Mhmm

LEHRER: Could you explain that a little bit?

Gyon: As a kid, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to play with my friends. I just wanted to be alone. My mom had a lot of fabrics and I wanted to do something with them. Draw, paint, write. But, I used a lighter. It didn’t work. It all burned

LEHRER: I’ve read articles about the fashion designer Margiela when he was still around.

Gyon: I love him

LEHRER: When people asked why he sent ripped clothing down the runway, he said for him ripping clothes is just another creative act. It’s like you’re destroying something to create something else. 

GYON: I use that process, always. When I make a painting, I’ll destroy it, remake it, destroy it. It’s much better in the end. 

LEHRER: Your work has been broken down into these five different ideas: Incarnations, hair which I guess is a metaphor for life and how life can continue after death, the stigma of the shaman lifestyle of being ostracized or put away from your community, but called upon for important funerals and things like that, and catharsis. That sounds very specific. What sort of lead you to focus on these five ideas?

Gyon: I don’t think it’s so specific. It’s about life and death. Happy or unhappy.

LEHRER: So many contemporary artists now are dealing with the paranoia surrounding the digital age and surveillance technology. But your work is still dealing with the big themes of life, death, and spirituality. Obviously you have have a laptop and Wi-Fi, but do you feel yourself consciously disconnecting from technology to get in touch with your work?

Gyon: I’m not a huge technology person.

LEHRER: That helps

Gyon: I have to use laptop, i have to use iPhone. Instagram brought you and I together, it has a power. It’s so amazing. I use it, but I am very human.

LEHRER: Are you religious or just spiritual?

Gyon: I don’t have any religion. Shamans aren’t about religion, they are spiritual. 

LEHRER: Right, and they can be like medicine men too? Healers? 

Gyon: Yes, healers. That’s why I’m interested. I’m not very interested in religions. I mean, I used to go to church and used to go to Temple. You know, the Temple is a very interesting place in Chinatown. 

LEHRER: I was wondering, too, because your work does have elements of abstract expressionism and also some figuration to it, were you influenced at all by the conventional schools of art history? Are you trying to blend these concepts of ritual with the traditions of art history?

Gyon: Blend. Everything is hybrid. I always use juxtaposition—so high culture and low culture. I am always trying to juxtapose emotion and culture. My work does not just focus on shamanism. 

LEHRER: Yeah, because it still is in the context of contemporary art and art history and things like that. So for some of your work, Headcount for instance, when I first saw it I was amazed by the way it almost implies an explosive imagination. How do all those faces and characters appear to you? And how do they flow out of you?

Gyon: They just came out. And each piece is different, with different faces. I didn’t make them as a portrait, I just filled them in with emotions. I was transformed by other people. It just came out. 

LEHRER: Do you think that they’re all feelings? 

Gyon: Yes. I don’t know, it just came out and I can’t explain why. I made it by myself. 

LEHRER: You don’t use assistants or anything? 

Gyon: Some people helped me with the sewing and stuffing the cotton, but basically I do it by myself. 

LEHRER: That’s what’s so interesting about art criticism is that sometimes we take meaning from the work that’s so much different than what’s intended. 

Gyon: So different, yeah. And I really hate that people want to know what the meaning of the painting is, of these characters. It’s too much for me. I really don’t want to explain everything, every marking

LEHRER: One thing I did want to ask you though is you used to design traditional Korean garments? When did you notice the potential in those fabrics for other creative purposes? 

Gyon: I always loved clothing. I always loved the fabrics. I wanted to be a designer more than a painter. I don’t know why I’m a painter. That experience was really amazing. I didn’t even want to be an artist because I thought that it was impossible to live as one. I just went to the interview and had no idea how to make the clothing, I still can’t do it, but the designer hired me because I was really good with using color and good at drawing. And so that’s how I started working there. It was amazing. Amazing. I didn’t know how beautiful the traditional Korean dresses were. I’m very proud of it. It’s super inspiring. I mean, that’s why I went to Japan, because I wanted to study fashion. 


Follow Hyon Gyon on Instagram. text and interview by Adam Lehrer


Riding The Conceptual Wave: An Interview Of Alex Knost And Daniella Murphy On Founding The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center

Costa Mesa, California isn’t necessarily a place where you would find a conceptual art center. Typically, you’d find miles and miles of industrial centers of commerce, nondescript retail hubs, shopping malls and franchises. Under the Southern California sun, Costa Mesa is more a setting for a novel about a society on the verge of a postmodern existential crisis. But within this crisis, you’ll find a bit of catharsis with the brand new Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center. Founded by surfer, surf historian, artist and musician Alex Knost, who recently came out with a collaborative album with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and curator Daniella Murphy, the CMCAC is a small haven for creativity in a wide strangulating vortex of urban commercialism. Located on a boulevard that looks like a hundred other boulevards – about an hour from Downtown Los Angeles – the CMCAC is conceptual in and of itself. It is not a large fancy art complex with multimillion-dollar donations and starchitect design – it is a simple storage facility acting as a gallery and a launching pad for local artists and musicians. The first artist to show at the space is Justin Adams – his exhibition, Dancing Baby, is on view now. Autre got a chance to catch up with Murphy and Knost to discuss their art center and what it means to the art world as a whole. 

Douglas Neill: What was the impetus for opening the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center with the work of Justin Adams?

Daniella Murphy: Justin lives in Alex Knost’s garage, informally. He made a spate of paintings in a really short amount of time. Alex came back from tour and Justin had made a ton of paintings, the bulk of which you see here. I think that’s how it came together. We saw what he had made and we prompted him to let us show it.

Neill: Is Justin’s process part of what interested you in showcasing his work?

Alex Knost: Justin’s process is more or less constantly participating in deconstruction. As far as being an artist who showcases his work, that’s not really him. Most of these paintings were produced in steps. All over the place…on the bed, on the ground. He’d just always be in there, tinkering about. It wasn’t really something that he presented to us at all.  It was more us prying and taking away the blankets and tee shirts that were covering all the work he had been making over the six months or so and actually looking at each other and being informally persuaded on our own recognition. I think we’re still talking him into it. He’s generally quite uncomfortable.

Murphy: We had to draw it out of him. The prime artistic act, that’s what he is.

Neill: It looks like he really digs in...using his hands.

Murphy: He uses paintbrushes and his hands and whatever he has. A lot of these canvases were found. One of the works is actually part of his car.

Neill: Lots of emotion.

Murphy: It’s definitely an outlet for him, an emotional outlet.

Neill: How did you guys come together to start the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center?

Murphy: We kind of talked about it and yeah I went to school and studied art and I used to manage a space in San Francisco that was similar in that I facilitate people’s shows coming together. Whether it be someone asking to show at a particular space, never really soliciting artists, just kind of helping people.

Neill: Connecting people.

Murphy: Yeah, at Adobe Books in San Francisco. It’s nice working with people who aren’t established and Alex was kind of keenly interested in my background, thought it was interesting and a different perspective.

Neill: Did you two meet there?

Murphy: No, we met down here actually, in LA.

Knost: My artistic background is in creating my own body of work, which at times is a tug of war because it’s hard to promote something that you create on your own. With Daniella’s knowledge of art and being selfless towards it...I thought it was charming that Daniella’s resume was in art appreciation. It created a platform. She works in LA.

Murphy: I work at a space that’s a residency and exhibition space. It’s a non profit called Fahrenheit and it’s sponsored by the FLAX Foundation which is a French foundation that facilitates French artists coming to LA and having a cultural exchange and introducing French artists in the LA context. But moving away from that, being here now more so than in LA, there’s this palpable feel here. There aren’t that many art spaces like in Orange County or this direct environment.

Neill: For better or worse there’s a lot of art aimed at tourists and the real housewives in Orange County.

Murphy: We like to see these works insinuating themselves in those homes though.

Knost: In any creative sense, I feel artists or musicians or people that are striving to create art, there’s a heart and a vibe, there’s the original area where they started and then where they’ve gravitated towards. It’s getting harder and harder for artists who solely want to create and not have to work at a café or bank off their inheritance or whatever they got, to live in places like Los Angeles and New York or San Francisco. It’s so expensive.

Murphy: As it always has been. It’s nice to have this space here, as opposed to LA.



Neill: What makes Costa Mesa the place?

Knost: From my perspective, my way of romanticizing it is we came here because this is where I grew up. I always thought of it as this bleak flat mesa in which a lot of people, since the 70s and even more so in my generation, have been great artists, musicians, who have solely been able to abide by their own facilities because there’s a lot of industrial buildings. There’s a large Latino community and they’re not as uptight and then there’s this sharp contrast with Newport Beach where it’s very consumer. You’ve had a lot of these artists and musicians residing here out of affordability and it’s always kind of seemed more of a comfortable habitat rather than a stepping stone or pedestal or something in order to grasp for vantage to be in Hollywood or something like that. It’s much more feasible.

Neill: A different headspace.

Murphy: It’s also as if socializing is a curator and artist’s metabolism. You have to go out and make those connections. So we’re trying to facilitate those connections down here. This space will hopefully be generative of it. Not just with this show, this space will be for other kinds of projects as well. 

Neill: Will CMCAC be primarily visual art or will there be music or performance?

Murphy: There’ll be performance and installations. When I walk into a space I just always want something experiential. You know something affecting, not necessarily nice art on the wall.

Knost: I believe that in calling it the Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center is that, although you can look at this body of work and regard it as a decorative or abstract expressionism or anything like that, this environment becomes valuable. Justin’s work, for example, it’s very much an excruciating manifest. It’s not as if he’s a type of fellow that would go here or schmooze there to gain his repertoire. I think that in having him present his body of work as the first show is a flag in recognizing that something conceptual is obviously the thought process taking the precedent or the state of being and I think it’s very well exemplified in his work.

Neill: Is there an ultimate goal for the space? Do you want to expand it or take it as it goes?

Knost: I think the content of what passes through here obviously will amount to much more and spread its tentacles, but as far as expansion, it’s a humble environment. It isn’t as much of a progressive capitalist type thing. That’s why we called it a center, as to kind of make it communal and never ending expansion. Not ‘here’s our ceiling, here’s our goal, here’s this acute area in which to achieve.’ 

Neill: Would you ever display your own work?

Knost: Of course. The refreshing thing about doing something like this is that you’re watching all the pieces fall and being at ease with that.

Neill: Do you have roles when you’re working together?

Murphy: It’s definitely collaborative. It’s not the most formal of spaces, but it’s true to Alex’s ethos and he’s generously allowed me to partake. It’s fluid. As far as decisions with the show here, we’ll both have a say, we’ll both contribute.

Knost: We’re very open, very lax, very non-appointed. I think maybe in the first year of developing galleries and exhibition spaces, it’s always a push and pull thing. It’s usually quite aggressive, as if there are chiefs that appoint Indians that can take credit and vice versa. You know, a lot of hunter-gatherers doing so strictly to have a resume. Where as here, between Daniella and me, with the artists or musicians, poets or writers, the people that want to showcase their work, there’s more of a general consensus. 

Murphy: It’s based on aesthetic considerations, of course. We have a lot of friends who make work who we won’t show here.

Knost: We’re not scratching people’s backs. That’s not our goal. There has to be something present in it that we find circumstantial.

Neill: Has surfing influenced how you perceive art and how the creative process?

Knost: Of course, it’s an existential struggle. In surfing, there’s a balance of greed between this macho hunting for waves, outsmarting the other population, but then there’s also the embarrassment. I feel that great artists are willing to obtain greatness from despair and the complications that arise from that. In that sense, you realize that sometimes a stride can be an embarrassing one…at most a very human one. I believe that art that I find intriguing has its faults.

Neill: How did you and Kim Gordon meet/come to create together?

Knost: We had mutual friends...one gal who sells and shows her art, her husband is a filmmaker who I know. One of the groups that I’m in, performed for his after party for one of his films in New York maybe two years ago. I met her at the event, we played pool. She was working on her body of work, but needed fiberglass. I work with fiberglass, so I eventually assisted her on some works for a show she had coming up. Along the line, her being a musician, we had some free time and we ended up recording and making that record [Glitterbust] and she went on to have her show and it was great to be a part of that. The record was something that I believe we’re both quite proud of.


Justin Adams' exhibition Dancing Baby will be on view until December 17, 2016 at The Costa Mesa Conceptual Art Center, 930 Placentia Blvd unit B3 Costa Mesa, CA. text and photographs by Douglas Neill. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Being Sandro Miller: An Interview of Photographer and Artist Sandro Miller

text by Adam Lehrer

 

Sandro Miller has been using photography as a medium for storytelling for over 30 years. In both commercial work and fine art endeavors, Miller has shown time and time again that the still image can be imbued with as much emotion and theatrics as a 90 minute film: “ I strive to make images that move people and facilitate conversation,” says Miller.

Many of Miller’s best known projects are loaded with Freudian subtext and even pathos. His images examine the psychologies of his subjects to find out what drives them and simultaneously fulfill a kind of personal fantasy for Miller. For instance, his project American Bikers looks at life in a biker gang and finds out that bikers don’t ride Harley Davidson motorcycles because they are the fastest or smoothest bikes; on the contrary, they ride them because they are the loudest and most obnoxious bikes. These bikers ride bikes to communicate to the world, “I am here, goddamn’ it!” His portraits of Cuban boxers capture the pain and agony of training that go into the athlete’s quest for personal improvement and glory. All the while, Miller admits that a part of him has always wanted to be a boxer and a biker. “I fulfill these fantasies through my photography,” says Miller. “Since the biker project, I’ve been riding a motorcycle for 20 years.”

Another artist that uses images to explore his own fantasies and dreams is of course David Lynch. Miller has long worked with the Steppenwolf Theater Company and its actor John Malkovich. Malkovich has served as subject to numerous Miller projects, including one in which the pair paid homage to 36 iconic photographs (by the likes of Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibowitz and more) entitled Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Now, the duo has turned their efforts in recreation towards the master of cinematic surreal horror, Lynch. In a short film recreating characters from Lynch’s output entitled Playing Lynch, Miller films Malkovich as Lynch himself, Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper and Log Lady, The Elephant Man’s John Merrick, Blue Velvet’s Frank, Eraserhead’s Henry Spencer and Lady in the Radiator, and Lost Highway’s chilling Mystery Man (once played by the utterly horrifying actor Robert Blake). One fascinating caveat of the film is that the characters, while selected by fans using a social media poll, are all emblematic in someway of Lynch himself. It’s arguably a conceptual personality analysis.

The film premiered last weekend at Lynch’s music festival The Festival of Disruption amidst performances by art-pop band Xiu XIu and Sky Ferreira doing the music of Twin Peaks, St. Vincent, and Rhye. The film is available upon donation through its website, and all proceeds will go to The David Lynch Foundation that promotes Transcendental Meditation as a means of overcoming trauma. Miller and I spoke about the project as well as a life spent in the creation of imagery. 

LEHRER: So, I just wanted to start off asking you: judging from your prior work with Malkovich and also the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, I understand that you most likely have a deep love for performance and that probably extends to cinema. How did cinema become important to you?

MILLER: I came from a home that was run by a single mom who came over from Italy. The arts weren’t emphasized. My artistic soul developed at an early age I discovered photography at the age of about fifteen, seeing the work of Irving Penn. What really began my great love for cinema was seeing The Godfather in my teens. With that film I finally really began to get it: the importance of cinema, the impact of cinema, and what it really means to visualize. It was a way for me to begin to heal a lot of the early years of a very dysfunctional childhood.

LEHRER: That’s interesting to me, too, especially with you being Italian. As much as I love [Federico] Fellini and [Michelangelo] Antonioni, ‘70s Hollywood cinema and [Francis Ford] Coppola and [Martin] Scorsese and [Brian] De Palma are my guys. Hollywood at that time was pouring a lot of money into really bold, artistic statements which is something doesn’t really happen anymore.

MILLER: Right, for the really big productions, like Ben-Hur, it was just so grandiose. That chariot race was so unnerving. I remember as a youngster, sitting at the end of my couch, and watching, going ‘Oh my god! There’s going to be this huge accident!’ You could feel it. That was the golden era of cinema.

LEHRER: Especially now, with the big studios the superhero films eat up most of the budgets and they’re super safe and they’re going to make a billion dollars anyway. There’s only a few auteur American directors that can still get funding whether they be PT Anderson or Wes Anderson or [Quentin] Tarantino. Most conceptual filmmaking has gone towards TV or streaming.

MILLER: You know Adam, I have to tell you: just this week I received fifteen Woody Allen films in the mail. There’s a guy who just made [cinema] very very simple. It was just great scripts that he would write, great humor, a great connection with all of his actors and actresses, and they all wanted to give him so much. It was really film at its basics.

LEHRER: With that, he was really able to create a clearly defined aesthetic. Manhattan I think was the one that I most identified with. I love that movie.

MILLER: Absolutely, absolutely. I like New York Stories, which I just watched. It was kind of a three piece film that Coppola and Scorsese shared with Woody Allen. There’s so many great Woody films.

LEHRER: I’m just curious, did you watch the De Palma documentary?

MILLER: I have not seen that yet.

LEHRER: Noah Baumbach did it. It’s basically just DePalma in his office talking about every single one of his movies. It’s fascinating. He starts off by saying pretty much everything he does he ripped off from Hitchcock and just modernized the Hitchcock aesthetic by saturating it with color. It’s pretty awesome.

MILLER: Well, I give him credit for putting his Hitchcock influence out there. [DePalma] has done so many great things. He has definitely earned his place in cinema.

LEHRER: Yeah, absolutely. It’s hard to imagine a studio funding a movie like Sisters or Carrie now. It wouldn’t happen.

MILLER: Yeah, it wouldn’t happen. Exactly.

LEHRER: So, I wanted to also ask you, leading into photography, do you think photography and images have the capability for narrative tension and emotion that theatre and cinema does? Or, is that at least what you’re aiming for in your photographs? Because they are rather emotional.

MILLER: That’s a great question. I do believe so. I made my name doing commercial photography and I got hired from all over the world to create very emotional portraits: people crying, people laughing, people dying. Whatever it might be. I always tell people that photography is the big educator. If you think about it, most of what you know—about what wars are like, what a tsunami or AIDS looks like— it isn’t personally experienced. Photography is how we know. Photography, along with travel, has been my education.

LEHRER: We’re living in such a photograph heavy society, with digital photography and cell phones, and I read this quote by a photographer, it might have been Collier Schorr but I can’t remember, who said something like, “everyone’s a photographer but there are very few image-makers left.” Do you agree with that at all?

MILLER: Absolutely. It hurts me to see that the photographer and the photograph isn’t as important as it once was. I’m being passed up on jobs for people who are now called “influencers,” people who buy fans or “friends,” who are instagrammers and who get hired for jobs because of how many people that follow them on social media. It’s disgusting. What about the great photographers? We’re guys who eat, sleep and breath photography. I’ve been doing this for forty years. It’s my life. There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not involved in image making. When you hear of these young kids who take photographs from their iPhones, put them on an app, and they have hundreds or thousands of friends and all of a sudden they’re considered photographers? I have a problem with that.

LEHRER: So, moving on to the David Lynch project. He’s probably my favorite artist of any medium. It’s fascinating to me that he hasn’t even made a film in ten years but he’s still discussed by every artist around. His aesthetic is eternally powerful and copied. What draws you to his aesthetic personally?

MILLER: You know, there is only one David Lynch. If you take a look back at one of the most important film ever created, Eraserhead, that was an art school project and today it’s probably one of the greatest films of all time. David is one of those people who, when you sit down and watch one of his films, some [latent emotions of yours] is going to come up. You’re going to feel something and it’s going to be powerful.

LEHRER: You project your own feelings.

MILLER: Yes, you project your own self and fears into his own films. He is a monster. I just don’t know of any other director that moves me the way that David has moved. The characters that he creates are so memorable. Iconic. And whether you like the film or not, you’re not going to forget these characters.

LEHRER: And also his films don’t need to be understood, they are experiences. Like Lost Highway, which is underrated I think, I didn’t start to think about it narratively and what it meant until several views in. It begs you to keep watching it until you understand it. Like the scene in Mulholland Drive where they go behind the diner and they see the monster. Every time I watch that movie, I want to close my eyes because I have no desire to see that monster again and every single time, I watch it.

MILLER: When I watch Blue Velvet, Frank Booth creeps me out so bad. I’ve got a freaky side to me, but he is so out there, so freaky, that he totally wigs me out every time I see him in Isabella [Rossellini]’s apartment. I mean I just don’t want to watch it, but I do! What is so scary is Lynch’s people are real. They’re out there. They’re walking the streets of Chicago, New York, LA. That’s what makes it even more upsetting. And more gripping.

LEHRER: I have a theory about why you used the characters that you did in your series and you can tell me if I’m in the ballpark or not. To me, all these characters; David Lynch himself, Cooper, the Mystery Man, Frank; They all represent or communicate something about David Lynch himself. Cooper is his more rational, deductive side. The Mystery Man is his guilt. Frank is his rage. What do you think?

MILLER: I think you nailed who these characters are. But we actually used a social media blast to find out who were David Lynch’s fan base’s favorite characters. It was a two week survey where they gathered all this information and they gave me ten names and I was able to pick seven of them to recreate. I think you’re right on when you say that those characters are absolutely different characteristics of David.

LEHRER: That’s kind of fascinating that his fanbase is so rabid that they picked the characters that are most emblematic of his creative process.

MILLER: Tomorrow night is the VIP party where we’ll be premiering the film and Saturday night is the big press production. I’m sure it’s something you’d have loved to be able to attend

LEHRER: Yeah, he has a relationship with sound and music that no director on Earth has and I’d love to see him put together a showcase of music. It sounds amazing. There was actually an article that came out yesterday in Pitchfork where they interviewed Angelo and a bunch of other musicians that have worked with him talking about how he interprets music and how he processes music into his work. David’s in-house engineer Dean Hurley was talking about Lynch hearing Kanye West’s Yeezus for the first time and how he can tell when David likes something. [David] will get a “serious death stare” and that’s how Dean knows he likes it.

MILLER: I’d love to read that. It’s in Pitchfork?

LEHRER: Yep, yesterday.

MILLER: I’ll have to check that out. He has a new album in production that’s being released this weekend, actually. I’m anxious to get ahold of that.

LEHRER: I’m just rabidly waiting for the next season of Twin Peaks. In your videos, I love seeing John in there repeat this dialogue and playing up the camp of it. I thought it really amplified the humor in David Lynch’s work, which is something that is often missing in his critical analysis. Is that all intentional?

MILLER: Well, it’s funny because we really did it as a serious homage to David. Have you seen the whole film?

LEHRER: I’ve only watched them as individual clips.

MILLER: I look forward to when you get to see the whole film which really uses John as David Lynch as the thread. It wasn’t meant to be comical. When you pay homage to someone, (I mean David is a master) you want to recreate it in his honor. Even though it might come off slightly as a parody or a little comical, both John and I wanted to go in and tilt this thing into perfection. John put so much into each one of his characters and the amount of research and detail we put into every single shot, every set, every stitch of clothing was so that we could pay a great homage to David. Really to say, ‘thank you for what you have given all of us.’ 
 

LEHRER: When you were creating this, were you in contact with David or any of the people that worked with David? Was John in contact with Kyle McLachlan, for instance?

MILLER: I sent the script to David thirteen times for his approval on all the dialogue, the sets that we were using, and the characters. We got on the phone with David just once, and one time, with Kyle. David wouldn’t have given me direction. He had a lot of trust. David had seen my homage series and was really blown away by it and when he offered me to do this film, he knew I was going to do it justice. After he gave me the approval on the dialogue, David let me run with it.

LEHRER: I can imagine him being quite curious in another great artist’s take on his work.

MILLER: David was working seven days a week, fourteen, sixteen hours a day on Twin Peaks while we were shooting. So he was so wrapped up with Twin Peaks schedule. He really didn’t have the time to obsess about our project. He loved everything though.

LEHRER: That’s great. I want to say congratulations. It’s a great series.

MILLER: Thank you so much. I really look forward to you seeing the whole piece. When you see the David Lynch part that really intertwines everything together, it’ll really come together. There’s a great story there. When John delivered the “Lord is my Shepherd” Elephant Man Speech, the crew was crying.It was such a beautiful delivery. I mean you really felt John’s heart.

LEHRER: John is such a terrific, dextrous actor. Especially in his facial expressions. What was that movie that was kind of an action movie, but better? With Clint Eastwood?

MILLER: In the Line of Fire.

LEHRER: That movie is so emblematic of how good he is. It’d be terrible without him, but he brings it this eccentric element that makes it a ‘90s action classic.

MILLER: John brings a dynamic presence regardless of the size of the role. He plays characters you don’t forget.

LEHRER: I was discussing with a friend whether Being John Malkovich could have been Being someone else, you know like Being Billy Bob Thornton. And there’s no way. It wouldn’t have worked.

MILLER: He’s got an incredible presence.

LEHRER: While I have you, I wanted to ask you about a couple other of my favorite projects of yours. I’m really into The Blood Brothers project and also the project you did with the bikers and I really feel like those series and more of your projects are almost Freudian in their ability to use imagery to examine what makes these characters tick. Like in the bikers project, we find that these guys like Harley Davidsons not because they’re the fastest or the easiest, but almost because they’re the most obnoxious and the most masculine. Are you always trying to examine how someone thinks and what makes them tick?

MILLER: Most of my projects like that explore a culture I long to be a part of: I would have loved to be a biker or a great boxer. I did another book on a bullfighter: I’ve always fantasized about being a bullfighter.

LEHRER: By that reasoning, does a part of you want to be David Lynch?

MILLER: Uhh, no I don’t think I want to be David Lynch. I think he goes non-stop. I mean I think he just turned seventy and what he just did with Twin Peaks, putting in almost 3-4 months, seven days a week. I don’t know where he finds that stamina to be able to keep on going.

LEHRER: That’s interesting though, because a lot of contemporary fine art photographers shoot people in their own lives. A lot of people are very good at it, but I really feel like that classic photographer, the one who maintains a healthy distance between him/her and his/her subjects, is missing.

MILLER: Thank you so much. It’s been a great 40 years of being able to explore the world. It has been an unbelievable way of life.


Click here to explore Playing David Lynch – each download will help support The David Lynch Foundation. text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Danny Sangra On Working With Metallica For Brioni’s Enlivening New Campaign

Metallica is a quintessential American band. However, there is nothing American about Brioni (an Italian menswear brand founded in Rome in 1945) and there is nothing American about its new creative director Justin O’Shea (a former womenswear buyer who hails from Toowoomba, Australia). So, its interesting and very bold that O’Shea would ask the heavy metal band if they would be the new face of Brioni, a stale brand that he hopes to reinvigorate with a bit of American cool and muscle car masculinity, mixed with Brioni’s lineage of tailored Italian gentlemanliness.  Today – Independence Day – also happens to be the same day that O’Shea is showing the first collection under his direction during Paris Couture Week. Brioni has also released the first of a series of short films directed by a London-based filmmaker Danny Sangra. Most of the films star O’Shea as a caricature of himself, which Sangra has written to perfection. The character could be described as exigent, obtuse, out of touch, and self obsessed – everything that you may expect from someone so entrenched in the fashion world. In Brioni’s standout film – starring James, Lars, Kirk and Robert – O’Shea plays a ditz who has no idea who Metallic is. It’s silly and ridiculous, but fun and Sangra is too talented of a filmmaker to not pull it off. We got a chance to ask Sangra about the new Brioni campaign, collaborating with the brand’s new creative director and what the hell it was like to work with Metallica.

AUTRE: So how did this collaboration come about and what was your first reaction when you were told that you'd be working with Metallica? 

DANNY SANGRA: Actually, Justin asked me last minute. I was supposed to be shooting a Balenciaga project and then filming his other film project for Brioni the day after that in Europe. I wanted to do the Metallica job but felt it would be too crazy to try and fit in a three day shoot in San Francisco two days before I was due to shoot seven films in three days.

However I knew the ideas Justin had for the film were funny and I really wanted to write the script. It would have killed me not to be able to do it as we have made 5 films together already. But as luck should have it, my projects all got moved around. 

After I sent the script to Justin, I kept asking him ‘I don’t know man, do you really think they will do this?’

AUTRE: It looks like you've collaborated with Justin when he was a buyer for MyTheresa - how did you two first meet?

SANGRA: We met when Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week asked me to write a film with him as the main character. I wanted to meet him before I wrote a script but he’s always traveling and I’m hardly in one place all the time. Luckily I flew into London when he was staying at the Edition. We had a few drinks and once I got home I wrote a script immediately. 

AUTRE: What were your first impressions of him? 

SANGRA: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he was actually really easy going. I thought there might be a wall at first, many people are worried that you will make them look bad. However, he straightaway said that he wanted to make fun of himself. That film turned out pretty successful.

On set I was really impressed at how well he remembers scripts. I wrote a pretty heavy amount of dialogue for him and he turned up with it memorized. I don’t remember him making a mistake - and there was a lot more dialogue than what’s in the final edit of that film.

AUTRE: Where did the concept of the short film with Metallica come about? 

SANGRA: Justin called me about shooting Metallica and that he wanted to do a ‘behind the scenes’ but make it funny. He wanted to be the guy that had no idea who Metallica are. He had a bunch of ideas about how he could interact with them. Then I wrote a script that could work as a series of films.

AUTRE: Was much of it improvised?

SANGRA: I’ve been writing Justin as a certain character lately. It’s not really him, I think it’s a hyper version of what many people think he might be like (It’s also a character he likes to play up to). We’ve spoken enough that it’s easy for him now to play around with his script. For Metallica, we only had a few takes to get it right, so there wasn’t much room for major improvising on set. We mainly came up with ideas before the shoot. I was also working out each band member on the day – trying to work them out before asking them to do things.



AUTRE: What were your initial thoughts about Brioni before making the film, because the brand is a little bit old fashioned?

SANGRA: To be honest, I didn’t know too much about them and what I did know about them, didn’t make me think we could make films like this for them. I thought I’d have to make something more serious. Justin and I developed two film projects once he became creative director, both of which are far from old fashioned. There was a moment when we were filming the second project in the Brioni head office and I couldn’t believe we were allowed to do it with no restrictions. Many of the brands that people believe are the coolest brands don’t have that much freedom. For me it’s about a brand that is open to new ways of doing things. Some things work and some don’t but it’s being open to new ideas is what counts for me.

AUTRE: What do you think about these major fashion labels bringing on maverick designers or anti-designers, do you think that it allows more room for filmmakers to have budgets to work on bigger projects?

SANGRA: It allows filmmakers to develop new ideas for brands. Ideas that might have been typically binned with previous designers. I’m not saying a new maverick designer makes it better than the previous, it just makes it new. Fashion always demands ‘new’. I’m not sure about the budgets side of things. They are getting bigger in some respects, but I think it mostly allows for filmmakers and creative people who aren’t as established, to get the jobs they couldn’t before. This is down to the new designers wanting to work with people they know and lesser-known creatives that are developing new things.  If anything, maverick designers and anti-designers allow for risk. The creative progress devours risk.

AUTRE: What was it like working with Metallica, what was the atmosphere like on set?

SANGRA: They’re actually pretty relaxed, I think by now they are pretty used to it all. The set was relaxed because my DP and my wife (who is often my producer) were working with me. We’ve all worked and hung out with Justin and Zack before (Zackery Michael - the campaign photographer) when we shot the Carolina Herrera film in LA.  I also used the sound guy who worked on the Some Kind of Monster documentary.

AUTRE: Was there anyone in the band that you got along with more? 

SANGRA: Not really, I had about an equal amount of time with each one. However I spent more time with Robert because I ended up putting him in more scenes. I started putting him in the background of James’s scene but I cut out the bit where you catch him trying to head bang side ways in the mirror. Plus I gave Robert the punchline scene of the film.

They did have a guy with them that thought Justin was serious. He kept telling the band ‘I don’t know if you’re doing what he needs’. None of the band told him that it wasn’t serious. The guy left the shoot thinking it was real.

AUTRE: What's on the horizon for you, Justin and Brioni?

SANGRA: I have another series of films I made with Justin. We shot some in Paris and some in Rome, at the Brioni head office. I think they have just come out today for his 4th of July show.

AUTRE: We featured one of your earlier projects, a more personal film, do you feel more of a responsibility when you are working with a big fashion brand? 

SANGRA: I guess I feel more responsibility to anyone that’s paying me to make something. Big fashion brand or small label just starting out. They are expecting something for their investment. When I make things for myself, I don’t expect much. I just have an idea and make it. It’s the time I get to experiment. I’m lucky that the majority of my films for brands allow me to make what I want. Most of the scripts I write, you can tell are mine. You know when it’s not really my film.

AUTRE: Anything else that you have on the horizon? 

SANGRA: I’m shooting another film with MyTheresa and Balenciaga, which I’m pretty excited about and I have just shot a series of shorts for The Standard Hotels. I’ve also just got word that people will be able to see my feature film, Goldbricks In Bloom, in October. There’s some other things but as usual I’m not allowed to say!


See the Brioni "Behind The Scenes" film below, starring Metallica, directed by Danny Sangra. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photos provided by Danny Sangra. Follow Autre on instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


What She Said: An Interview With Photographer Deanna Templeton

Most may know Deanna Templeton as the wife, muse and woman behind skater, photographer extraordinaire, Ed Templeton. Just the same, though, you could say that Ed is the man and muse behind Deanna. But the truth is that they walk hand in hand – sometimes literally – especially when they go on their daily stroll through Huntington Beach photographing the seaside community’s sun drenched denizens. Indeed, Deanna and Ed are truly one of the greatest artistic duos in recent memory. While their work isn’t purely collaborative, both of their identities as artists and photographers are wholly unique, dynamic and alive with a searing, youthful vibrancy.

Just recently, Deanna released a beautiful book of photographs that explores the human form under water.  One day, Ed jumped into their pool naked and Deanna grabbed her camera. The images would result in a continuing series of nudes – swimming bodies of friends, shooting gracefully through the undulating laps of the pool water, trailing bubbles behind, leaving the swimming figure abstracted and refracted in the reflection of the net-like sunlight. A limited edition version of the book comes with a number of extras, like an additional printed page, a signed print and a special cover.

Tomorrow night, Deanna will be exhibiting a more personal series at Little Big Man gallery in Los Angeles. The series, entitled What She Said, which borrows from the Smith’s track of the same name – features images of female youth (that remind her of herself) juxtaposed next to excerpts from her diary when she was a teenager. Indeed, Deanna’s photographs harken back to early punk days – a studded, spiked and tattered rebellious youth in Southern California, where she met Ed when they were still teenagers. The photographs, which were taken over the course of a 15-year period, exemplify Deanna’s own transition into adulthood and womanhood.

I got a chance to chat with Deanna before her solo show to discuss her photographic history, getting her friends to swim naked in her pool and her plans for the future, which include more collaborations with her husband Ed.

OLIVER KUPPER: I want to go back to when you first started taking pictures. I read somewhere that your mother gave you a camera as a coming home present after running away. Is that true?

DEANNA TEMPLETON: Yes, it is. It had nothing to do with my own home life. I was supporting my best friend, at the time, who couldn’t bear living at home. We were fourteen or fifteen. It was only for one night. I went with her so she wouldn’t have to do it by herself. It sucked so bad, of course. We basically just stayed the night on the street. We tried to sleep on a little patch of grass. Some guys tried to invite us into their van. By the time morning came around, she found a friend’s house that she could stay at, and I was like, “OK, I’m going home.” I think my parents were so freaked out, like “Where did this come from?” And I never told them I was doing it for a friend. So they said, “We’ll give you whatever you want, just don’t do that again.” And I said, “I would like a Canon T90, please.”

KUPPER: That’s a perfect gift. That really opened up a lot for you.

TEMPLETON: You would think that that’s a little too much camera for a fifteen-year-old girl. I didn’t deserve it. Maybe a year later, I was on the way back from visiting family in Guadalajara. I packed it in my checked luggage, and it wasn’t there when I came back. I didn’t respect the equipment. After that, it switched to a point and shoot for quite a few years.

KUPPER: Did you get any pictures out of it?

TEMPLETON: Nothing that I saved. Just shooting around high school, with a bunch of friends. I don’t think I have any from that time. I have all my negatives in books. I catalogue them in years. I have two catalogue books called “Crap.” I couldn’t bear to throw them away, but I couldn’t look at them either. I imagine that if they were still around, they would be in there.

KUPPER: What were some of the things you were interested in shooting? Your surroundings, punk shows?

TEMPLETON: I wasn’t doing punk shows, because I didn’t have a dedicated flash. It was mostly my surroundings. I would do a little bit of high school, home life. I wasn’t focused. It was new to me. I didn’t really know what I was doing. The reason why I wanted a camera in the first place was because I had a girlfriend who would shoot the punk bands at shows. I watched her develop her film, and that’s what got me hooked.

KUPPER: When did photography become an art form for you?

TEMPLETON: That was in 1998. I was still shooting with a point-and-shoot, but Ed started to see that I had an eye for it. He bought me a Canon A-1 and said, “Let’s see what you can do with it.”

KUPPER: Were there any photographers that you looked up to?

TEMPLETON: The first was Hiromix, because he did the point and shoot. He was the first that caught my eye.

KUPPER: In a previous interview, you talked about female photographers feeling alone. Why do you think that is?

TEMPLETON: In the beginning, when I first got the money to upgrade my gear, I felt like I was a part of the boy’s club. It’s always been more male-dominated. I know there’s women out there. There’s just not as many females represented.

KUPPER: Male photographers seem to get more attention, especially street photographers.

TEMPLETON: You could say that more generally about art. The Guerilla Girls movement was all about the under-representation of females in art, at galleries and museums. It’s not just photographers. Even right now, I’m going to be in a group show in Portland through the Dead Beat Club. Clint, the main guy, is really supportive of female artists. But the main core of artists doesn’t have many women. Even the gallerist asked why there weren’t more women in the show. I do feel now, the older I’ve gotten, I’ve met more women photographers, even in skateboarding photography. I don’t feel alone anymore.

KUPPER: You work a lot with Ed, your husband. You shoot a lot and collaborate. Do you teach each other lessons?

TEMPLETON: I would say there’s probably more from him on me. I’ve been very fortunate. I don’t need to go to school for photography. I have real-like lessons when I go out with Ed, just from watching him, how he works. I’ve always compared his style of photography to the way he skates. He’s constantly looking ahead. He’s always weaving in and out of obstacles to get to what he wants to get. I feel like he took that to his photography. He walks faster than I do, so I am constantly behind him. Just watching him work, it’s really impressive. I try to take what I see from him and apply it to my work. But there is something in my gut that makes me stop and run up to people.

KUPPER: You both have distinct style. I think he shoots very fast, while you take your time.

TEMPLETON: When we come back from trips, I always have one roll to his three.

KUPPER: There’s two types of photographers: people who will stop and ask, and someone who will just get in their face. Either works, but you have to have a personality for both.

TEMPLETON: He’s not getting in their faces. For the most part, he’s just passing by. You don’t even notice. He’s so smooth. The camera is so quiet. People look up like, “Did I hear something?” If there’s someone who notices and looks upset, I usually say something like, “That was so cute,” to diffuse the situation.

KUPPER: Do you think photography has lost some of its magic? Not just digital photography, but the sheer number of people taking pictures?

TEMPLETON: It’s hard for me to talk about that because I’ve never shot digital. My experiences are only with film and analogue. I, personally, think that there is a difference when I’m looking at a print. Everyone needs to do what’s best for them and how they want to work. I do want to explore and grow, but some of the new ways of photography don’t interest me. It’s good to have a wide range though.

KUPPER: People are starting to go back to film more. There’s a romance and a depth to it. I remember being able to go to the drugstore down the street and buy film for a Polaroid. You can’t do that anymore.

TEMPLETON: Maybe fine art photography will go back to fine art photography with film, because it will be special again.

KUPPER: It seems like more magazine are starting to employ photographers that use film. You just shot for Wonderland Magazine?

TEMPLETON: That was fun. I don’t know how many film photographers they used, but they were surprised by the turnaround. They were like,  “We need it now!” And I was like, “OK, I need to take it to the lab to develop them, I’ll have to scan the negs and then scan them larger.” It’s the same with Ed. Any editorials that he’s done for magazines have always been film. People are starting to want that again, which is nice.

KUPPER: I want to talk about your new book, the swimming pool book. It’s different than your previous work. How did this series come about?

TEMPLETON: It started about eight years ago when Ed decided to take a skinny dip in our pool. I decided to grab my camera and shoot some photos of him. Later, when I got my print sheets back, it looked different from anything I had ever shot. I really liked it. It was only eight frames, but I thought it could be interesting. I asked a couple of friends if they would mind swimming for me. I did a show with what I shot that summer, but I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t done yet. I kept shooting. About two years ago, a publisher saw some of the work and was interested in it. When I look back at that first show, three or four images made it into the book from back then. I really felt that it took eight years to sit with the images and explore what I liked and didn’t like in a photo. That didn’t happen until, like, four years in. For instance, if the swimmers swam more aggressively, there was a lot more distortion in the images. The images, now, are quiet and calm.

KUPPER: You were developing a new style. A lot of photographers don’t do that; they just stick to one style. It’s nice to have that freedom.

TEMPLETON: It just came with time. If I had been offered a book that first year, it would have had a completely different feel. Just so everyone knows, when I say eight years, I mean eight summers. I don’t know how to work our pool heater. The sun played a big role; in the summer time I had a longer window before the shadows would creep into the shot.

KUPPER: You’re having a show coming up at Little Big Man Gallery? What is the work you’re showing now?

TEMPLETON: The director of Little Big Man was over in my office, looking at all the projects I was working on. He really connected with a series called “What She Said,” which I’ll be presenting. It’s photographs of young women who remind me of myself when I was a teenager, either how I thought I was, or how I wish I could have been. I’m pairing each photograph with a diary or journal entry from my personal diary when I was 14 to 18. It’s personal. It’s a little embarrassing.

KUPPER: Do you have any new series that you’re working on?

TEMPLETON: Eventually, I’m hoping to get “What She Said” into a book form. Ed and I go out shooting together every afternoon in downtown Huntington Beach. We talked about doing a two volume, “his-and-her” take on Huntington Beach. We’re constantly working on it, but we don’t have a set date for that yet.


You can purchase Deanna Templeton's book The Swimming Pool from Um Yeah Arts. Her solo show What She Said opens tomorrow night and runs until July 31 at Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles. Portrait of Deanna by Ed Templeton. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


That's A Damn Fine Painting: An Interview With Artist Adam Parker Smith

text by Adam Lehrer

 

Painting. Multi-media. Installation. Sculpture. All of these tags have been applied to the practice of New York-based artist Adam Parker Smith. All of these tags are or have been correct in their labeling of Smith’s work. But as wild and conceptual as Smith’s work gets at times, he roots his art in the fundamentals of painting. Whether he’s making mylar balloon sculptures or putting together an exhibition of works stolen from other artists (as he did with his Lu Magnus Gallery exhibition Thanks), he’s doing so with acknowledgement of the fundamentals of painting: “I think my work can be jarring but a lot of times it is smooth and cumulative,” he says while laboring over the installation of his current solo show at The Hole in NYC, entitled Oblivious the Greek.  “The work moves well, it’s balanced, and its colors compliment it. One of the elements that make a work successful is being attractive.”


Polite, mild-mannered, and welding a distinguished moustache, Smith is humble while also knowing that he’s onto something. In past interviews, Smith has claimed that he is often short on ideas. That isn’t the case any more, and Smith says in some ways his practice has evolved past idea-oriented work. It seems that he has comforted into the idea that he is good at this art-making thing, and his voracious work ethic indicates that he wants to share his work with the world as much as possible. “I’m not saying that I have a unique gift but I’m hoping that I do,” says Smith. “There’s a possibility. I probably have a less narcissistic way of saying that…”

To clarify, Smith holds the belief that there is a difference between art that “looks like good art,” and art that is “actually good.” A smart and lucky person and can make art that looks like good art. But to make “actually good” art, one has to be gifted. He has grown more comfortable with the fact that making art might be his gift. His current show at The Hole is certainly testament towards this sentiment. Using synthetic materials (purchased with free shipping on Amazon, he adds), Smith created a range of sculptures like mylar balloons cast with resin along with fake foods, fake bronze, fake flowers, and lots of things fake. The faux qualities of the work are important to the aesthetics of and ideas contained within the objects: the materials used are always secondary to the outcome. The outcome is beautiful. These are “actually good” works of art.

Smith and I spoke at length a day before his show at The Hole opened, harping on the differences between art that “looks like good art” and “actually good” art, the virtues in cheap and synthetic materials, applying the fundamentals of painting to different mediums, the benefits of cruel professors, and what being “gifted” at something really means.

ADAM LEHRER: I was reading an old interview of yours where you said you liked the interdependency of materials and ideas. Is that a notion you still subscribe to?

ADAM PARKER SMITH: Yeah, that for me is constant. And I don’t normally like to adhere to rules, or at least arbitrary rules I make for myself within my practice because there are a lot of them. I find myself realizing the rules that I made, and then wondering if they’re necessary to abide by. 

LEHRER: Do personal rules help you push back against institutional rules or general rules within the art world?

SMITH: Well no, I mean my life is pretty conventional outside of my practice. Normally there are severe consequences for doing things in an unconventional manner. But I think when you’re making art that’s the preferred method. So what are the implications of that resistance outside of my practice? I’m not quite sure [laughs].

LEHRER: So you mean that’s the one arena in your life where you sort of get to go against the grain? I’m thinking of someone like Dash Snow, who seems to have gone against the grain in his art and his life and of course paid a price for the latter.

SMITH: I don't know, it’s hard to say. My practice takes up a large part of my life though so it’s nice. A lot of times I get to do what I love doing. I make a lot of work and spend a lot of time making work. It’s nice to be in charge of...something.

LEHRER: Going back to that original idea of interdependency of ideas and materials, how does that manifest? For this show for instance, how do you go from the original ideas to conceptualizing the materials to bring those ideas into fruition?

SMITH: Ideally, they conflate simultaneously. I got my Master’s degree in painting so a lot of times I think like a painter would. One of the big conversations people were always having involved how what you’re painting relates to how you’re painting. I felt like there always had to be that relationship for the painting to be successful so I had to use all these materials to try to find that connection. And further along in my practice I found myself getting closer to more two-dimensional painting, which has a more subtle or intellectual link between what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So when I’m beginning to generate new ideas or developing an idea I try to think in that mode in-between the two questions, of what is it that I’m painting and how does the process relate to it. After enough practice it becomes second nature to a degree.

LEHRER: I read that you initially started making sculptures to give yourself figures to paint. But now you create sculptures to make and show sculptures, correct?

SMITH: Well there are a lot of painterly aspects (color, composition, form, line, positive and negative space) that I use in sculptures because they’re all beneficial. Although important, construction and utility are my secondary thoughts and I approach my sculptures with really simple painterly ideas.

LEHRER:  Do you often know the idea you’re trying to communicate before you put together a collection of work? Do you know what it’s going to look like but aren’t really sure how to express it?

SMITH: Ultimately I’m not interested in creating an idea-based work because I hate the idea of someone coming in and feeling finished with the work once the idea is communicated to them. In Ernest Hemingway’s Movable Feast (not that I’m really inspired by modern painting or writing because all those guys are bullies), there’s a part when [the characters] go to each other’s studios and say something like, “That’s a damn fine painting!” That’s their only critique. I want to make work that can make people say something like that. I don’t want to make a work that’s just good or pleasing. When they say ‘that’s a damn fine painting’, they’re not saying that it’s a good or pleasing painting but rather that it fulfills a place or purpose to exist in the world. However, the second you start talking about that too much the intentionality starts overshadowing any kind of magic.

 LEHRER: It’s hard to explain but I think I understand.

 SMITH: This is going to sound a lot like bullshit...but I think if an individual is a gifted writer or musician or painter, it’s difficult but not impossible to make a work that looks like what it should be. Making a painting that looks like a good painting is different from making an actually good painting. I think you’d have to be highly intelligent to make a painting that looks like a good painting. It’s possible and it happens a lot since there are lots of really smart people out there. But I think to make an actually good painting, you have to be gifted. That’s more rare. I’m listening to any sort of gift that I may have or working to find it.



LEHRER: Do you feel like you’ve found the exact thing you are gifted at?

SMITH: I don’t know, I’m making art and hoping that’s it [laughs].


LEHRER: It’s refreshing to hear that, actually.

SMITH: Or some people are just good at things. And if they just listen to their natural instincts, I think it’s possible for them to do something that they didn’t expect. You know when you see work that looks like it’s emulating good work and work that just looks like good work. I guess my point is that I try to make art in a way that comes from the gut and hope that if there is a gift, it comes through. That’s pretty corny [laughs].

LEHRER: That show you did where you stole all your friends’ art works: was that an exercise of you trying to juxtapose “art that looks good” versus “actually good art?”


SMITH: That was more of a social or conceptual project in terms of showing each theft as sort of the material I was working with. I’m not a curator and wasn’t really curating that show, even though I acted as curator in the way that I was making a painting. But with that said, all of the acquaintances of mine in the show are valued as artists and the works of theirs that I apprehended I thought were strong. As far as any further judgment on how gifted any of those artists were, there’s always a spectrum.

LEHRER: I hate to refer to the press release that The Hole put out, but I’m going to. It said something about how a lot of the imagery in these sculptures has this faux quality but in that fakeness there’s something real. Is that at all accurate in your thinking, and then if so, what is that truth?


SMITH: Painters go to the store to get paint that is a chemical-based product like zinc or aluminum. Those are the brushstrokes. Those are the elements of the composition and the composition is beautiful. Whether you’re going to propose to your partner on the beach or the parking lot of McDonalds, it’s a beautiful thing. Or if your child is born in the bathtub with monks chanting or in the backseat of a taxi, it’s still the beautiful birth of a child.

LEHRER: The outcome is still beautiful, the circumstances or materials used are less important than the final outcome.

PARKER: Yeah, so that’s just the material that I’m using right now. I like it--its accessible, it’s cheap, I can afford it, and I can order it online on Amazon prime for free two-day shipping [laughs]. But actually these synthetic materials are super technology: if you showed mylar balloons to someone 500 years ago they’d be mind-blown. And these were people sculpting beautiful figures with marble. I doubt that they’d be sculpting with marble after seeing these thin, mylar-inflated balloons that can float and weigh nothing. I think that any artist in any century ultimately would be drawn to these materials, because they’re undeniably beautiful. I think marble and bronze are incredible too. But it’s more expensive...and there’s no free shipping [laughs].

LEHRER: Your PS1 studio visit said you “Create elements to cultivate environments that are haunting, familiar, and alien." I know that the installation part of your artworks is important too, so are you trying to create a similar headspace? Should the installation have a similar quality to how you felt in the environment that you made the work in?

SMITH: No, not for me. I try to think of where the work is going to show as I’m making it. I envision it in that space and make it so that it’s appropriate for that. For instance, a lot of the work in here is way too large for my studio, so I had to put myself in this place while I was making it. So I think of the studio as a purely utilitarian place for myself. I

LEHRER: It’s always funny because I feel like journalists especially try to attach these pseudo spiritual qualities to the ways in which the artist works. But you don’t get the sense that maybe how you work or what you create changes with different tweaks and adjustments to your studio space or anything like that?

SMITH: I mean if I were to get a studio with higher ceiling I would make taller works. [laughs] Yeah, artists are like goldfish in the way they sort of expand and contract based on their environment. So it definitely affects me but living an interesting life is as important to my practice. It’s like a pressure cooker to be enriched in life and the studio space is like a small part of that.

 LEHRER: I read somewhere that you like incorporating illusion. I guess this show with the perceived weightlessness of these objects could even qualify as illusion. Do you have an intended effect for using illusion? Is it supposed to throw the viewer off or make the viewer connect with it?

SMITH: Everybody loves magic because it’s fun. We all know it doesn’t really exist but it’s fun anyway. I probably would do things the right way if I could afford it. Making undulating marble and gigantic casts of mylar balloons like Jeff Koons—that’s not a possibility for me. Much of the illusion comes from adversity: “how do I accomplish the things I want to accomplish with the means I have available?” But people like magic so it’s cool.

LEHRER: I read something about this volatile professor that you had in your grad school that lit a fire under your ass. Do you feel like you make best work under a lot of stress or duress?

SMITH: It’s hard to say because it’s been a long time since I’ve been at school and that stressed out, so I’m not sure what to compare that against. But I like to have some sort of agitation, whether it’s self-induced or an external factor. But after the initial shock of having that professor really go after me, I kinda’ dug it. It takes a lot of energy and consideration for someone to come in and lay into my work in a really aggressive manner. So I appreciated that from him.

LEHRER: Was he harsh to other classmates too?

SMITH: Not any that I knew, but I did hear he did that sort of thing to other people. He really singled me out, which made me feel even better in the end. I observed him years later with other students that were talentless in my opinion and probably his as well, and he just didn’t really give a shit about them. He would just say, “Looks good,” or whatever. Not to be egotistical again, but when he came into my studio I felt as though he saw potential. He felt obligated as a teacher to get on my ass about it.

LEHRER: It’s like that movie Whiplash.

SMITH: That’s funny because you watch that movie and walk away thinking if that guy was a bastard or was doing the kid a favor. 

LEHRER: I read that you sometimes struggle with ideas but I thought it was interesting because you’re making art all the time. So how does that work?

SMITH: Generating ideas has become less of a problem for me. I definitely do a lot of experimenting. I think you have to learn to read this new visual language that you’re speaking and it takes a while for you to be fluent in it. Sometimes I hit it right away but a lot of times I have to wait into it a little bit. To answer your question there are a lot of things that are produced in the studio that never leave. Or they take a walk into the dumpster.

 LEHRER: How do you know if something is worth showing? Is it intuitive or trained?

SMITH: I’ve never really been good at articulating those qualities. I know when it’s right for me and just rely on that.


Adam Parker Smith "Oblivious The Greek" is on view now until July 24 at the Hole Gallery, 312 Bowery, New York. Text, interview and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


A Dark and Fluffy World: An Interview With Galen Pehrson

text by Summer Bowie

 

Watching one of Galen Pehrson’s films, like his most recent, The Caged Pillows, starring the likes of Jena Malone and James Franco, is like stepping into a psychedelic cartoon where you can’t help feeling a tinge of déjà vu – you’re not sure if it was a dream, a childhood memory, or an omen. It’s as though a mixture of real life memories and old movie scenes were plucked from your brain and rearranged into a brilliant new narrative. They’re the renderings of a world that most of us have inhabited for all our lives, but for Galen, who spent the first 12 years of his life in rural Nevada City, without access to cable TV or any other means of consuming pop culture, this world can be seen from a slightly outside perspective.

His exposure to MTV was a wild awakening that led him into making music videos and working as a cartoon artist. His harrowing tale of running away, moving to New York, studying at RISD and eventually spending the first 7 months of his life in Los Angeles at a halfway home for dual-diagnosed criminals with psychiatric disorders in South Central is one that deserves a film in itself, but it certainly set the stage for the world of Caged Pillows that he has been creating for the past several years.

Former iterations of this world are clearly seen in previous projects such as El Gato, a collection of hand-drawn, animated vignettes that was part of James Franco’s Rebel project, a multi-artist exhibition presented at MOCA during Jeffrey Deitch’s sadly missed reign. You can also see further developments of this vacuous, celestial world filled with characters that behave like humans but look like ducks, dogs, cats, wolves and mice in Mondo Taurobolium. This short film that is as much a music video for Devendra Banhart’s track Taurobolium as it is a film that carries its own, not only features the same starring cast and characters as his other films, but the score is also masterfully mixed and produced by the brilliant Noah Georgeson.

His new film, The Caged Pillows, is a short that was originally intended to be a feature, but Galen says this introduction is just a pinprick into a world that will encompass several mediums and film projects in the future. Until then, in under ten minutes, this short is a vortex of mind blowing musical and visual narrative that will be premiered this Wednesday night at MAMA gallery alongside a celebration party for Ruins Magazine, an editorial content site that produced the film and will be launching online with the premiere. We sat down with Galen over green tea in his Hollywood Hills home/studio to talk about his process, his inspiration for the film, and the meaning behind the Caged Pillows.

AUTRE: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or none of the above?

PEHRSON: I think of myself as a director. But the art is cartoon art. I more closely align to cartoon art than animation. The style is taken from my memories; when I was a kid and would watch DuckTales. I’m interested in how those worlds could mature with you. So as an adult, what would that be like? You can always trust cartoon characters. You don’t have to build up characters like you would in a film. There’s this consistent moral overtone. It’s very light. If there’s a bad guy, it’s clear he’s a bad guy. With a cartoon-style arch, you can get away with a lot that you couldn’t get away with in a shorter amount of time. It helps with the compressed stories.

AUTRE: Are you drawn to any other mediums?

PEHRSON: Cartoons are just one facet of it. I have other projects that I’m working on. I produced a bunch of audio on this, like music stuff. I see it as all under the umbrella of this world of Caged Pillows. 

AUTRE: What mediums were you drawn to when you were a kid?

PEHRSON: I’ve been painting since I was a kid. But then painting seemed pointless. As though everyone had already done everything you could possibly do with it. What could I contribute to this? It’s a medium that is so deeply covered. And it didn’t resonate very deeply with me. We’re in such a pop culture-driven society that paintings feel like something people do to remind them of the past. It seems extremely irrelevant. For me, the excitement of creation is bringing out people’s imaginations, immersing them in a different place for a while. I think that’s what the old painters did, like Heironymus Bosch. They had these whole worlds. During that time, it was very contemporary and edgy. For me, it’s trying to be innovative with technology and to create a reflection of our current society.

AUTRE: It’s interesting that you feel Caged Pillows is a reflection of the present. It feels like an ambiguous representation of what could be the present, or likely a dystopian future. It makes sense that you’re working in a medium that is present/future.

PEHRSON: I wanted to be reflective of our current society, which has fascinated me since my childhood. I was raised off the grid until I was twelve years old. I didn’t have television, electricity, any contact with popular culture. We had a Magritte book, and a few others. That was my connection to art. Besides that, we had nothing to do. I drew, painted, or played with dirt. That’s all there was.

AUTRE: Was that a conscious decision that your parents made?

PEHRSON: There was nothing else to do. We were really poor, so we had pens, paper, and dirt. It was something I always did. There are photographs of me, in diapers, smearing paint all over something. I never thought, “Oh, I want to be an artist.” Most of the time, I wished I could do something else.

AUTRE: What was your first introduction to pop culture?

PEHRSON: MTV.

AUTRE: What was that experience like?

PEHRSON: To me, it seemed so bizarre. Pop culture in general does this. Imagine landing on Earth and seeing people singing and dancing like this. That never went away for me. A lot of my work is coming from this place of being young and seeing all these images on TV. “Dress like this to be cool.” I think it’s different if you grow up with it naturally and slowly. It becomes something you adapt to. But at 12, I was like, “I don’t have the right shoes. I have to wear these pants.” There was this extremely fast rush of information on how to fit into society. Plus it was so limiting to be an individual. There were these groups you could be in – nerd, jock, bad guy, whatever.

AUTRE: When you first started watching it, did you feel indoctrinated in it? Or were you immediately critical?

PEHRSON: I loved it. I went on to do music videos.

AUTRE: How long have you been developing your style, these psychedelic, celestial, animal worlds?

PEHRSON: The first time I used the duck characters was 2005. That was for the cover of Adam Green’s Jacket Full of Danger. I didn’t know what to do with it yet. I sat around with a lot of ideas, with a very particular aesthetic in mind, for a while. In 2012, for the Red Bull exhibition, they wanted to commission an animation. So I was like, “The ducks!” That was the launching pad for it.

AUTRE: That one was very erotic too.

PEHRSON: Yeah, each one has its own experiment to it. That piece focused on the erotic. What’s interesting, all the dialogue in that is dialogue from Rebel Without a Cause, just mixed up. That was the first iteration of the characters. They’ve become more and more human over time. I think eventually they’ll just turn into humans.



AUTRE: Your work deals a lot with Hollywood, fame, and money worship. Where do you see yourself in this landscape?

PEHRSON: I have a pretty patronizing point of view. I was never asked to be a part of society. I find myself with all these rules, conditions, and responsibilities that don’t make any sense to me. I constantly feel like I’m walking through a preset maze. It’s so limiting.

AUTRE: It seems like people don’t know they’re in a maze, and that's the scariest part.

PEHRSON: Yeah, it goes back to pop culture. The best artist is not the most popular. Everything is essentially a commercial, even music, and now in art. We’re in an art renaissance. There’s so much content. But it’s all funded and propelled by how and who is making money. Art, to me, has been an honest, accurate reflection of society, without commercial interests. That’s the kind of stuff we get from design. Though they are close, design is for a purpose. Art isn’t necessarily for a purpose.

AUTRE: In many ways it seems like artists are starting to ask themselves how they can commodify their own work before they've even made it. Or a brand is already finding ways to commodify it for them.

PEHRSON: Exactly.

AUTRE: Originally, this was going to be a feature length film, but then Ruins came to you?

PEHRSON: Yeah, I was really excited. I thought of it as an introduction to the world of Caged Pillows. What started as a very linear feature film morphed and grew in many directions that go beyond the film. They gave me a lot of freedom to do whatever I want with it, which is rare and very refreshing.

AUTRE: Who are the Caged Pillows?

PEHRSON: We are the Caged Pillows. Our world is very comfortably jailed. We’re sedated, distracted by television. Everyone is on medication. Our society as a whole, Western culture, has completely driven itself away from the natural human state. That’s such an interesting topic. The Caged Pillows are us. I’m susceptible to this. We’ve been programmed to respond to what success, beauty, and happiness look like – and from a young age. The film is about that. People get these ideas, that success is a beautiful pool, a Bugatti, probably some gold chains.

That’s what the gem in the film represents. At one point, he says, “I’ve been with you since you were a baby. Touch me and I’ll go crazy.” It’s the phones, the screens, touch-touch-double-tap, the instant gratification. There’s a line, “I fed you a lifetime of lies. I can’t even look in your eyes.” The screen can be talking to you, but it’s a one-way communication. There’s no singular accountability because it’s a culture.

AUTRE: We’re all victims inflicting culture on one another.

PEHRSON: Exactly. That’s the overarching idea of the film. There’s a fantasy that we will someday break that and learn more about ourselves as individuals rather than an idea of a society.

AUTRE: Did these ideas become more pronounced when you moved to LA?

PEHRSON: Yeah, definitely. This is Los Angeles. Everyone here is here for a reason. You can separate your friends into two categories: people you would actually call if you had a problem, and people you call for a drink or to go out with or whatever. It’s not a negative thing. Everyone here is ambitious, and acceptably so.

AUTRE: It’s a superficial fame factory. Your work really dives into that.

PEHRSON: The whole film in itself is commercials and the commercials are starring so-and-so. Everything is tied to the celebrity. Even unconsciously, we’re drawn to these figures and the meaning assigned to them.

AUTRE: And the isolation on the other side of that.

PEHRSON: Yes. I made Mondo from a very personal experience. All I had been doing was sitting on a screen. The only experience I had to tell was the experience of sitting on a screen.



AUTRE: Do you ever have to go through a digital detox?

PEHRSON: Every time I finish a project, I go hiking to the Sierra Nevadas for a week. Or I drive through the desert. I go out there and there’s just nothing. I have to hear my own voice. It’s a very strong contrast from, like, literally listening to top forty while I work, because I’m so fascinated by pop culture.

AUTRE: What’s your work process like?

PEHRSON: I’ve worked twelve to fourteen-hour days for the past few years. I wake up at 4[pm], I work from 5[pm] to 9 in the morning. Working all night, I don’t see anybody. It’s all done from a very isolated place.

AUTRE: When people do voiceover, do they have to conform to your schedule?

PEHRSON: No. I do all the voices first. There’s a fun version, which is just me. I send them that version and then they work independently. This piece being so much about pop culture, celebrity, dreams of “being something,” I wanted to involve people that live that lifestyle. I don’t give them much direction. They’re collaborators. They all seem to find joy and release in it. And all the actors are able to find the cracks in the system. They are involved with other things. They appreciate the art. But still, it is pop culture. If that’s the palette we have to work with for people to see it, that’s the right medium.

AUTRE: What about the process do you enjoy the most and the least?

PEHRSON: I enjoy all of it. The hardest part is sitting still for so many hours, and the isolation of not having connection or touch for weeks, or months even. I also feel like this piece called for it. That’s what it was about. It was a bit of method animating (laughs). The best part about it is working with my friends and people I’m genuinely a big fan of. Bar none, to collaborate with a community of ideas and artists who are like-minded.

AUTRE: Is this world going to keep developing?

PEHRSON: Oh yeah. This is just the entrance. It’s a primer to a much larger narrative, extending across music, film, sculpture. There’s a whole set of stuff. As a creative person, it’s all communications – writing, music, art. Any time you can take your vision and make it work in a different medium you’re improving that communication. I think that’s so important, to set outside of one channel of expressing something. I think everybody in the project feels that way. The Caged Pillows world is going to provide a place for people who are stuck in a genre to come and do something completely new.

AUTRE: Are you excited to share it at MAMA?

PEHRSON: I’m very excited. One side is that I made the piece in isolation, as I wanted it to be viewed in isolation. I asked people to call a 1-800 number when watching the film, and I got over 20,000 messages. They’re all about people feeling isolated, feeling like an alien. There’s this disassociation from the world around them.

AUTRE: Can you tell us about Ruins Magazine?

PEHRSON: Yeah, this film is kicking off the launch of Ruins Magazine. It’s a cultural digest that focuses around urbanism and the future of cities. It’s architecture, design, prose and imagery that all somehow express the human condition in present urban environments.

AUTRE: Like a crossover between urbanism and art?

PEHRSON: Yeah, urbanism, art, and culture. And it’s an amazing set of people. I think they’re going to publish a lot of content that otherwise wouldn’t get made.

AUTRE: When does the site launch?

PEHRSON: June 1st.


The Caged Pillows will premiere at MAMA Gallery on June 1st, in conjunction with the release of Ruins Magazine, at 7pm. Follow Galen Pehrson to learn more about the world of The Caged Pillows. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Text by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Chaos Theory: An Interview With Multifaceted and Legendary Artist Nick Waplington

Talking with photographer and painter Nick Waplington is akin to viewing and pondering his work. There is a lot of information to sort through. But if you can find some order in the onslaught of ideas, or the “chaos” as he likes to call it, you will find a perspective wildly and almost enviably unique. The subjects of his conversation are as varied as those within his photographs and his paintings. While Waplington’s work has dealt with environmental concerns, rave culture, the creative processes and inner struggles of the late Alexander McQueen, and (as in his paintings) his own inner monologue, a 40-minute conversation with Waplington darts around discussions about his creative process, international politics, the contemporary art world and the business surrounding it, and even skateboarding.

It’s sometimes difficult, as a journalist, to dilineate between being a journalist and a fan. And I am a super fan of Nick Waplington. He was one of the photographers that radically altered my perceptions of the form, and it was difficult to not lean all my questions towards his photographic practice even when now his paintings are a large part of his artistic output, especially with his incredible exhibition of recent paintings at These Days gallery in Los Angeles entitled, ‘A Display of Panic in a Moment of Absolute Certainty.’ In that, it’s important to note that Waplington is not simply, “Nick Waplington the painter,” or “Nick Waplington the photographer,” but that he is “Nick Waplington the artist.” All the mediums he works in (also including video, computer-generated imagery, sculpture, and found material) become part of a cohesive, if almost manically diverse, body of work. While his photos reveal an almost poetically chaotic point of view on Waplington’s external world, his paintings offer the viewer a look inside his internal world allowing us to examine his beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. “I’ve been making art daily since I was 15-years-old.” Now, I’m nearly 51,” says Waplington. Ultimately, what you get is this large body of work that progresses. A lot of artists, especially photographers, have a short phase. To stay fresh, and to not make the same work over and over, is a challenge.”

The These Days exhibition is a result of Waplington living in Los Angeles for the past year and devoting his entire practice to painting. As with his photography, the paintings are sensitive to the environment that Waplington created them in. They are exploding in color and contrast, mimicking the city’s consistently beautiful weather in the face of global climate challenge. There is a glorious randomness to the imagery, almost as if Waplington finds himself searching for beauty amidst cultural marginalization Waplington and I caught up via Skype while he was at a skate park in England with his son.
 

NICK WAPLINGTON: This is the only spot where I can get Wifi in the skate park.

LEHRER: Are you skating right now?

WAPLINGTON: Yeah, I’m skating with my son.

LEHRER: That’s fantastic. I wish my dad skateboarded with me.  He was always trying to get me to golf, and then would get frustrated when I couldn’t make the shot.

WAPLINGTON: [Laughs.] It’s a nice day here.

LEHRER: I’ve been looking at your paintings, and they’re beautiful. First, I was really curious, do you feel like you artwork is reflective of the environment you created it in? I ask because I felt like your early photographs had this chilly, muted feel to them. While your paintings, which were primarily done in Los Angeles, were more bright, exploding in color and contrast. Is that at all accurate?

WAPLINGTON: Well, these are not the first paintings I made, but I can’t help but be affected by [the LA] kind of environment. The light really influenced my time in LA. I have an outdoor studio that I enjoy painting in. I’ve been immersed in painting since I’ve been in LA. There’s a flow [to my paintings]. Ideas move from one painting to the next. Everything is a progression like that.

LEHRER: And you like Los Angeles?

WAPLINGTON: Yeah, yeah. I’ve lived there before, so for me, it’s very easy to get back to where I left off.

LEHRER: Do you feel like you’re the type who can find something to love about every type of place you go?

WAPLINGTON: Yeah. I find everything interesting. Being in different places for long periods of time - I really feed off that. In my life, I’ve spent extensive periods in Sao Paolo, Zurich, Los Angeles, Sydney, London, New York… I’ve used that as a catalyst for making work. It’s always good to throw everything up in the air every once in a while, you know?

LEHRER: Absolutely. One thing I’ve found most compelling in your work is that there always seems to be, at least to me, a central conflict driving it. With the McQueen photos, there was this contrast between this masterful artisan at work and a guy struggling with exhaustion and massive expectations. With West Bank, there were obvious political conflicts inherent in that region. Are you purposefully looking for these conflicts?

WAPLINGTON: I have all sorts of problems. I certainly wouldn’t want to do therapy to straighten myself out. I deal with my own personal edginess. Often, within my work, there’s a kind of autobiographical stream to it. All the projects – including McQueen, to a certain degree – were characters similar [to me] in some respects. The title of the McQueen book refers to my working process as much as his.

LEHRER: I feel like that’s why you’ve been so successful. Your subjects are so varied, in painting and photography. But they all feel a part of one, definitive vision. Is that something that you strive for?

WAPLINGTON: Yeah. I’m always trying to order out some chaos. I’m not an artist that has one thing. I can’t really understand that limited scope. “I’m a geometric artist… I’m a body artist…” You know? I’m always looking for the next thing – reading, meeting people and finding new things to make work about.

LEHRER: I feel like it’s almost implemented by the industry. Even on the media side of things, I like to write about everything – music, art, news, fashion, whatever. But I have editors that will tell me to stay in my lane, to pick one thing and focus on that. I can’t imagine ever writing about one thing.

WAPLINGTON: That’s the problem with the galleries. They want artists who are known for a type of work. Collectors want to collect a type of work. There’s a narrowing of perspective. It makes it harder to sell work. But in the long term, it makes the work much more interesting. I haven’t allowed my work to be defined by people other than myself.If people like it, they like it. If not, it’s okay.



LEHRER: So it’s not Nick Waplington, the Photographer AND Nick Waplington, the Painter? It’s just Nick Waplington, the Artist?

WAPLINGTON: I just see it all as my work. I don’t need to separate things.

LEHRER: I feel like These Days was an appropriate gallery choice in that way because they do anti-establishment stuff. Your work’s core has a sense of, “I’m going to do what I want.”

WAPLINGTON: It’s not a gallery that’s functioning in the art world, as such. It’s basically a space where they put on shows that they like. It It was interesting to take over the space and use the space as functioning for the art world, even though it’s not known for having art world shows. We like that. I like that side of Downtown. I’ve been interested in Downtown [Los Angeles] since the late 90s when I was living in Eaglerock. I was going to a lot of rave parties down there at that point. 

LEHRER: Yeah, for sure. LA, at that time, was really defined by skateboarding and surf culture.

WAPLINGTON: That’s changing too. But all these new concrete skateparks are popping up. I try to get to Glendale skatepark whenever I get a moment. At my age, if you want to keep skating, you have to skate. 

LEHRER: I see some of these guys, like Andrew Reynolds, frontside flipping twenty stairs at age 38. How are his knees not collapsing right now?

WAPLINGTON: I saw a video of a 55 year old Lance Mountain kickflipping a table. It’s crazy. 

LEHRER: I don’t want to get too off on a tangent, but I remember when I was really into skateboarding in the early 2000s, and the first Flip video came out. I remember thinking, “This is the best that skateboarding is ever going to be.” I watch a video now, and the kids who are skating now are sorcerers. 

WAPLINGTON: Yeah. But you have a generation of kids who are growing up with concrete skateparks. My son is 11, and he’s here every day he can be here. Obviously, they’re going to be doing all sorts of shit that wasn’t possible 10 or 15 years ago. 

LEHRER: I wanted to talk to you about the chaos you refer to in your work. Is this chaos an internal or external chaos?

WAPLINGTON: I am dyslexic and left handed, so everything is slightly chaotic with me. I’m drawn to the fringes of society, in the world in general, but especially in LA. Republican states have been sending all their homeless people on buses to California. I’ve been quite influenced by these very large tent cities that have been growing along the freeways, as you go down towards Long Beach. I’ve been hanging out there and vibeing off that a little bit. I’ve been thinking about how these things compare with the 1940s when people were moving from Oklahoma and Tennessee to California, and they were living in the LA River in tents instead. Somehow, it seems like America is in need of a New Deal again, as you were lucky enough to get with Roosevelt. There’s a strangulation of the economy right now. It doesn’t transpose itself directly into the work, but there’s a psycho-geographical feel to some of the paintings. 

LEHRER: It is an interesting time to live in the US. It feels like the US it at a huge crossroads. A good portion of the country wants to move forward – vote for Bernie Sanders, get universal free healthcare, raise the minimum wage. And then there’s this other half that is completely reactionary and places all the blame of minorities and immigrants.

WAPLINGTON: There’s a contradiction in the GOP point of view. They want to bring down the trade barriers that exist between America and the rest of the world, so there is a mobile free trade area. But then they want America to be separatist from the rest of the world and still have the higher stander of living. They don’t want to engage with the rest of the world; they want to use the rest of the world as a production facility. If they’re going to remove the trade barriers, they’re going to have to engage with everyone else. They can’t have it both ways, but they don’t really understand that. It’s interesting times, definitely. 

LEHRER: What feels more at peace for you in art? Is it photography or painting?

WAPLINGTON: I like doing both, I really do. Maybe as I get older, I might be out there taking pictures less than I am in the studio. But I’m still taking pictures all the time. I had this book a couple of years ago, the Patriarch’s Wardrobe, in which I combined photograph and painting. Now, I’m making a new body of work that includes some of the paintings in the show. I’m going to combine photos and paintings again. I might add text, too. I’m very much a solo worker. I don’t have a team of people working with me. Everything that’s made by me is really made by me.

LEHRER: I really loved the Brooklyn Museum exhibit you were featured in, ‘This Place.’ I included it an article for Forbes about the best exhibitions of the winter. I got a weird email about it from a publicist. I wrote something about it being political, and she said, “No, no, can you take that out? It’s not political.” I was thinking, “How can anything about the West Bank be not political?” I want to know what your take was on that experience, and if you think politics can be removed from a discussion about The West Bank.

WAPLINGTON: I don’t think politics can be removed, but I tried to make work that wasn’t dealing directly with politics. I wanted to make work that had connectivity and time to it. I wanted my work to be a catalyst for dialogue about the West Bank. I want to make work about Jews in the West Bank that wasn’t about conflict with the Palestinians. It was, “Here is the landscape. Here are the Jewish people. What do you think about that?” The sculptural element was adding the Palestinians into the equation in a hidden way. It reminded me of being in South Africa during apartheid, when they managed to hide black people away somehow. I know that it’s very contentious to compare the West Bank to South Africa, especially amongst Jewish people, but the parallels are there, unfortunately. I am Jewish, you know that?

LEHRER: Yeah, I’m Jewish too. I don’t think, from a moral standpoint, that I can totally condone the hiding of an entire group of people who have lived there forever.

WAPLINGTON: Yeah. It’s just not fair, this collective punishment. I really believe that it would be possible to make a kind of deal that was to everyone’s advantage. I think it’s really doable and possible. There’s this idea that the other group will just go away at some point. It’s ridiculous.

LEHRER: It’s insane to me that Bernie Sanders is our first Jewish presidential candidate. He just said that he would support a two-state deal, and he was called anti-Israel by every publication in the country.

WAPLINGTON: Yeah. Well, the West Bank is the biblical land of Israel. They’re not going to give it up. Let’s be honest about that. I think the two-state solution looks great on paper, but it seems impossible. It’s not going to be split, so it’s about finding a solution with both groups of people within one state, in my opinion.

LEHRER: It does seem like that. The optimist in me wants to think anything is possible, but I haven’t been there.

WAPLINGTON: 25% of the people in Israel are Arab. I just believe that if it’s one state, they might as well incorporate the West Bank, give everyone the vote, and have a constitution that gives people their rights. They can be called Israel and Palestine. Why not? We already have a country with two different populations. Half of Malaysia is Chinese and secular, whereas the other half is Muslim. And they make it work. I think if they do it, after a few years, they’ll be wondering what all the fuss as about.

LEHRER: Once peace is actually achieved, people start to realize, what was the fighting for? This is so much better.

WAPLINGTON: I believe it can be worked out. People think I’m crazy for believing that. 


Nick Waplington "A Display of Panic at a Moment of Absolute Certainty" will be on view at These Days LA until June 5, 2016. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


What Will Become of Us: An Interview With The Bonnie Parker of Photography Julia Fox

text by Mike Krim

 

I first met Julia Fox two years ago in Manhattan. As I scanned the floor trying to figure out how much longer I felt like subjecting myself to $20 drinks and if “operation get rich girlfriend” was going to become an actual reality, I noticed from the corner of my eye a gorgeous brunette with an hour glass figure draped in sparkly diamonds, controlling her little corner of the room. As I thought to myself, “who the hell is this chic,” I immediately noticed her Man Ray tribute tattoo, inspired by his photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse with a violin grill superimposed on her back. I walked over, introduced myself, and immediately she informed me she was in the company of an African Prince. She filled my glass with expensive champagne and for whatever reason we discussed abortions, which offered an amazing and entertaining five minutes. Operation "get rich girlfriend" was a Benghazi-like failure, but at least walked out with a new number searing a hole in my pocket. Moving forward, Julia has been nothing short of controversy and success over the last couple years. She has been featured on various fashion sites featuring her clothing line Franziska Fox with co owner Briana Andalore, she has made Page 6 multiple times, and self published her acclaimed photo book Symptomatic of a Relationship Gone Sour: Heartburn/Nausea, which chronicles three relationships that have had a significant impact on Fox’s life; both of which have became instant cult classics amongst the zine world and collectors. With all this going on, Julia packed up her bags and left New York City to go to Louisiana for the last six months where she has been playing outlaw in the blue bayous with Salem's John Holland and Jack Donoghue, only to return with a new solo photography show curated by Richie Shazam and a new book titled PTSD, which will open and release May 1st at Magic Gallery in Manhattan. Below, I got a chance to ask Fox about the dangerousness of her work, drug use, gun play and PTSD. 

Autre: Let’s first start out with what made you leave NYC?

Julia Fox: I wanted to be scared. I forgot what that felt like. I hadn’t been lost in so long. I hadn’t tried anything new.  

Autre: It seems like you’ve lived many lives and you’ve explored a lot of these lives through your photography, why do you think the camera has been such an important tool for documentation?  

Fox: It definitely has. A camera tells the truth. It's such an honest tool and so very humbling. 

Autre: You explore sex, prostitution and drug use, why do you think these things are so fetishized in culture?  

Fox: Because people are attracted to things that are forbidden. 

Autre: Sexual images these days are being repressed and exploited on social media daily and porn is becoming more violent each year and considered the norm. Your work tends to showcase both worlds. What effect do you think this is having on young adults learning and exploring sexuality?

Fox: A woman is taught to be silent and to sweep things under the rug when things get messy. When she does speak up she is labeled a "drama queen" or a "crazy bitch.”  I think there comes an immense sense of power in expressing the truth about violence in love and during sex….exposing ones vulnerabilities and creating a dialogue surrounding different sexual and emotional experiences….women have urges. Women have fetishes. Women don't always have to be the sweet innocent ones who only have sex when they're in love. Women can exploit men as well as the other way around.  In my new book I explore my sexuality with a few prostitutes, male and female, gay and straight. 

Autre: What is it about you that allows people to feel comfortable having their most intimate and dark moments documented in your photography?

Fox: I'm an active player in the game so when I'm taking pictures, the camera is being passed around and I just want people to have fun.  I also know when not to take pictures. Some things shouldn't be documented, they're too special or sensitive. It’s gonna sound corny but it's more about the memories than it is about the pictures. The book [PTSD] is more for me, Jack, John and Harmony. So we can look back at it 20 years from now. It's just a scrapbook, really. 

Autre: Most photographers stay behind the lens, which gives them a safety net, especially when it comes to being judged, they can conclude that they are “simply documenting”. You on the other hand, are participating within your photos; may it be sex, drug use, or anything else for that matter. What are you trying to convey or is it simply “this is take it or leave it”?

Fox: My main concern isn't how I'm being perceived. My main concern is being transparent. I'm a huge part of my own creative process. Most of it couldn’t have happened if I wasn't actively participating and I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I was “simply documenting”.  I would feel like a fraud and coward if I hid from the viewer and I never ever lie. 



Autre: You have stated recently that you do not want to be grouped into the “feminist” art sub-culture that is trending these days, or for any group for that matter. Can you explain the importance of creating your own lane? 

Fox: I want my work speak for itself. I don’t want to label myself as anything; I feel like, in doing so, I would be limiting the impact that my work might have regarding other issues. I would rather leave it open to interpretation. Some may find what I do empowering, others have told me its demeaning. I’m not sure and I don’t have a right answer. 

Autre: Your previous book Symptomatic of a Relationship Gone Sour: Heartburn/Nausea was really successful, what was it about that book that really hit home with people? 

Fox: In today's culture, dysfunctional/abusive relationships are so frequent (with friends and lovers), that people minimize the significance of these major traumas. Truth is, it's agonizing and a lot of times the people going through it feel alone and helpless. Sometimes you begin to question if you will ever be the same again. Anyone that picks up that book isn't alone anymore. I ripped my guts out on that book so that they wouldn't be. 

Autre: It seems like you were always drawn to the darker side of culture, what about this dark side is so tempting and was it a panacea for your own psychic torment? 

Fox: I'm just drawn to what I know. I find comfort in chaos and I feel at ease around drug addicts. I'm not sure why this is. I tend to really adore people who are suffering. They are so beautifully broken and poetic. I think I just like to find beauty in unsuspecting places. That's how I survive, by taking something awful and turning it into something spectacular. 

Autre: You post a lot of pictures of you and your gun, do you use your gun for protection? 

Fox: I like to say that my gun is my dick. In that it's so phallic in both its appearance and its significance. When I had it on me, I felt the same security that a man must feel. As women when we are born we are given this diamond and then taught to defend and protect it for the rest of our lives. When I have the gun, all that goes out the window. I'll just kill anyone that comes for it. In Louisiana it's customary to have a gun. Most people have one on them or in their car at all times. I didn't really have a choice. I'm not bringing a knife to a gunfight [laughs].

Autre: Tell us about PTSD and what you want people to walk away with after viewing your show?

Fox: I would love if I could inspire at least one person... Maybe inspire them to speak up. I would love if I could inspire someone to take something awful that they always hide and expose it under a beautiful light Or maybe just inspire someone to pick up a camera. Or inspire someone to travel with no real destination. Inspire someone to become friends with someone they wouldn't normally. I just want to inspire someone to try something new, really. 

Autre: How did you meet Richie Shazam and what was the curation process like for your new show? 

Fox: I met Richie in high school. We met at a party. I was in a fight with this guy and he threw an ashtray at me and I lost it. Richie always recalls that moment as the moment he realized he wanted to be my friend.  Richie is so professional and the most thorough. He never disappoints and has never half ass'd anything. When he told me he wanted to do this with me, I didn't think twice. I think anyone would be dumb to pass up anything with him. 

Autre: What’s your favorite saying in Italian? 

Fox: It's not really a saying but this one phrase pops up in my head all the time: "Che ne sará di noi?" Which means "what will become of us?" I ask myself this referencing my generation and the young people. We are so fucked! 


Julia Fox's show PTSD opens May 1st 6pm to 9pm, at Magic Gallery, 175 Canal Street, 5th floor May 1st. Text, interview and photographs by Mike Krim. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Life's A Gasssss: An Interview with Oliver Clegg

A short walk from the main gallery where Oliver Clegg’s first solo exhibition opened over the weekend, at Erin Cluley Gallery in Dallas, is a former ice factory where the artist’s pièce de résistance is on view. “Until the Cows Come Home” is a kinetic sculpture in the form of a round table – split at the center with armless diner-like chairs and surface hues reminiscent of a Corbusier color palette. The sculpture spins manually every twenty minutes. This week, during the first leg of the exhibition, entitled Life is A Gasssss, the sculpture will be host to a series of interactive dinners. The sculpture, along with much of Clegg’s work, is a statement on our culture’s addiction to information and subsequent information overdose. The dinners will force participants to face each other, sans digital devices, in a one on one interaction. The dizzying centrifugal motion is symbolic of our incessant need for change and new visual stimuli.  It is a theme that the U.K. born, New York-based artist is carrying on with his distorted trompe l’oeil portraits of cartoon icons in the form of deflated balloons painted on canvas, which will also be on view – perhaps artifacts of a culture laid to waste and a collective spiritual ennui. We got a chance to catch up with Clegg in his studio to discuss his work, his process and his upcoming book, which will encapsulate ten years of the artist’s work. 

SCOUT MACECHRON: How is being a father and doing your work?

OLIVER CLEGG: The point is, when you have the more responsibilities that you have in your life, you have to schedule your day more effectively. You’ll go in, and the hours that you have to work, you’ll work hard. Sometimes you’ll be more productive. Sometimes you’ll be less productive. You have to work with more routine and less spontaneity. You end up maximizing the time you have.

MACECHRON: Tell me about your history. Were you a kid who loved to draw or paint?

CLEGG: It’s really a case of whether you are good or not good at something. My work has always revolved around painting and drawing. There are other expressions that have happened since I’ve started making contemporary art, but the starting point has always been painting and drawing. That’s what I’ve always had talent and interest in. That starts young, drawing dinosaurs and rabbits or whatever. You also have to make decision in your late teens, whether you’re going to university in art, or whether you’ll do something art related, but not in the practical sense. Within the time of my late teens and early twenties, I spent two years in Italy. I studied portrait painting. It was less about painting portraits, and more about the technique of painting in a naturalistic style. After I finished my degree, I had this quandary. Do I pursue a career in art as an artist or not as an artist? I did some internships at galleries and a magazine in London. Then, I decided that it wasn’t for me. At that point, I pursued my master’s. The rest is history. I was very lucky; there was always a consistency of interest.

MACECHRON: Did your time working for galleries and magazines inform the way you work?

CLEGG: It’s a case of broadening your understanding of art, in terms of theory and tradition. I wouldn’t say that it encouraged the drive you need to get into this world. But I was able to look at the art that was being made, and I wondered what I could contribute to the dialogue. It was useful, but not complete. It helped me augment information.

MACECHRON: Did you work oil painting?

CLEGG: I was always working oil painting in the beginning. I knew that was what I wanted to do. When I was doing my degree, I taught myself how to paint in oil. I was interested in technique, pigmentation, and the archival nature of the medium. The works that I sold initially were all oil variations of traditional paintings.

MACECHRON: At what point did you start incorporating other mediums?

CLEGG: I started printmaking, and I realized that I didn’t just have to do painting. I could have a break from painting, and I could do something else. I would come back to painting with a fresh perspective. It was like taking a vacation from one practice in order to explore something else. I would come back refreshed. I became more confident and had more opportunities.

And it all depended on the context. At the Freud Museum at 2008, I got an opportunity to present work. It was Freud’s house, like a domestic setting. Suddenly, the paintings fit in, for obvious reasons of relationships to childhood, etc. I was able to work in different mediums that were more suitable to the context. I made a chess piece for Freud’s desk. I made a floating light bulb above his table. I made different sculptures and embroideries that went in Anna Freud’s room. It was really a reaction to the environment.

But when I was started to think of a new idea, I would always go back to painting. Painting was the initial impetus. You have a show, and there’s a foundation around painting, but then there are other things that are necessary to express the message more coherently. That’s what happened with this show. It’s happened organically. I do a lot of sculpture now, but I still imagine my studio as a painting studio. The sculptures are made outside of the studio.

MACECHRON: What do you mean by outside of the studio?

CLEGG: The sculptures belong to a more conceptual side of my practice. I get a lot of the pieces fabricated because they would be too big to be built in my studio. I have a carpenter, a mold-maker, a metal guy. We all work together. The ultimate scenario is that you would have a studio to house all the skills together. But these pieces come out in a more random fashion. I just use them when I need to. And they know me well enough that I trust them to make something that fits both my aesthetic preferences and their practical needs.

MACECHRON: How has the work developed into this show?

CLEGG: I feel there’s not much radical change in my work in the past 10 years. There’s always been a sense of being born in 1980, without a lot of technology. If we had computers, they were only used for games. When I went to Southeast Asia when I was 19, we only used email to let our family know we were okay. Same with when I lived in Italy. I didn’t get my first laptop until I was 26, and it was a shitty thing. A lot of my work looks at the implications of this change. That’s why there’s a sense of the neglected object. There’s a strong feeling of nostalgia, being evoked by shadows. Shadows connote both existence and time. There’s a balance of contrasts in the work – past/present, melancholy/ecstatic, accidental marks/deliberate marks. There are always two points of view. I straddle the digital and analogue generation. When I became an artist, that’s how my life was changing. In this show, I take iconography from my childhood – Donald Duck, Garfield – and reimagine it as deflated helium balloons. Some of the people from this generation might not recognize those figures. What are the implications of this fast technological change? What are we losing? What is the difference between a culture with simple, definite cultural icons to a culture that has an oversaturation of imagery and information? We start beginning to not care about anything.

MACECHRON: What’s it like to see your daughter interact with technology?

CLEGG: She’s too young to watch television, but she has started to put the phone up to her ear. She can use her finger miraculously to turn it on. But she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She has accidentally sent emails because she just wants to press the buttons. We want to spend more time in places where she is outside all the time. There’s a world outside of the computer. If we do something now, maybe she wont’ be so dependent. But whether you like it or not, you have to use the tools of your peers, or you’ll become isolated.

MACECHRON: Which of these figures have personal significance to you? Or did you just choose them because they were recognizable?

CLEGG: The choice was based on what I could get my hands on, and there's a focus on pop icons from my generation. I don’t want it to be confused with street art. I don’t want them to feel like one-liners. I had to create unity through the body.

MACECHRON: You don’t want to be confused with street art?

CLEGG: No. Pop iconography is appropriated by street painting. I want the paintings to be more connected with traditional paintings. There’s also repetition by the scale. There are twelve paintings. They are not individual messages. They are one body. They have relationship to the sculptures in the show. They’re not one-liner half-funny, half-serious paintings.

MACECHRON: Let’s talk a bit about your sculptures. You have a multimedia room?

CLEGG: I don’t like the word “multimedia.” It makes it sound like it’s in a science museum. There is an external space that’s a garage. There will be a disco ball spinning around, with a poster refracting squares of light. The light will say, “Me,” in my handwriting, a thousand times. There will probably be a sound element. That was one sculpture. The other sculptures is an eighteen foot bar coming across. Hanging off the bar is a single wire. At the bottom of the wire, there’s a golden carrot. There will be a plinth underneath it. There are two of these. A wooden stick hangs off the other one. So you have incentive and disincentive. There’s a sculpture that will say in neon, in my handwriting, “Life is a gas.” We’re also putting in a spinning table, where we’ll host a series of dinners. People will come see the show, and then we’ll have this social experiment. A lot of the work of the show has this sense of a party – disco ball, balloons, childlike references. The spinning table is a personification of the relationship to the “good times.”

MACECHRON: You have a book coming out as well?

CLEGG: Yes. We’re publishing a book at the same time as the show. It will have text by Darren Bader, a New York based artist; James Webster, a psychoanalyst; and Antony Hynes, a comedy writer. They’ll all be contributing to this catalogue. Because the book is coming out, I wanted to make a show that related to the diversity of my practice.

MACECHRON: The spinning table was from your first solo show. Why did you want to bring it back?

CLEGG: I wanted to give it context. I wanted it to relate more to the practice and the art as a whole.

MACECHRON: The disco ball sculpture that says, “Me, me, me,” does that relate to your feelings about the digital age?

CLEGG: In a few ways, it relates to the show. I see these paintings as avatars. The avatar is the way we present ourselves to the world around us on a digital platform that encourages narcissism. Any time someone meets a famous person or goes to an event, they have to take a picture. It’s a horrendous, horrific presentation of the self. The irony is, the people who want to counter that are just as prolific. Their righteousness is more narcissistic. It’s the medium where these ugly sides of our personalities become more exploited. “Me, me, me,” relates to that. It also relates to this existential question: “Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going?” Ultimately, however hard we try, we all come down to just really caring about ourselves. The infinite struggle of humanity is to be more compassionate. But I see it becoming harder and harder in a social and cultural climate that forces you to consistently question your relationship to other people.


Oliver Clegg "Until the Cows Come Home," 2014


MACECHRON: And the carrot and the stick?

CLEGG: What anchors the exhibition, for me, is this sense of irony. Irony is built on contrast. The title, “Life's a gassssss,” doesn’t mean just “Life is great.” Around your thirties, you start to question your mortality. You have the idea of being lured by a carrot, to move forward. But you’re going to get hit by the stick anyway, if you don’t move. It’s a cool image, but it has more profound implications. You’re going whether you like it or not, basically. When you question, “What is the point of my existence?” it becomes a difficult thing to answer. For me, I think you’re on this journey, and you just kind of have to do it. That’s the message of that piece. But it retains the playful, cartoonish imagery. It’s comical, the way the show is, though it has more serious commentary.

MACEACHRON: You’ve got a monograph and a book coming out.  How did the monograph come about?

CLEGG: It’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of years—it started as a book of painting.  But I made so much other work that it became something a little more diverse.  There was an imbalance in the amount of painting and the sculpture. As I continued to make sculpture work that was more socially engaged, like the games side and the foosball table, it ended up becoming a book that was hard to know when to finish. When I was given the opportunity to do the show in Dallas, I was able to have a different focus.  And I can make a book that brings things up to date.  It’ll give a coherent representation of Oliver Clegg in 2016.  I like the idea of self-publishing. I like the idea of me commissioning the text. I like the idea of making those choices myself, so it can become a model for what I do in future shows.  Part of my whole thing is wanting to do things my way, developing an organic network. Rather than the museum saying, “We’ll do the book for you,” and you don’t get to meet anyone along the process.  I don’t want to end up having done lots of interesting stuff without having met people along the way.  For me, a lot of my experience is about making friendships - with my fabricators, with my designers, photographers.  I think it’s the best way for our culture to survive.  I’ll ask a friend and a friend will write something, and that way it’s genuinely born out of integrity.

MACEACHRON: Did working on the book make you reflect on your work in ways you hadn’t before?

CLEGG: Yeah.  What happens with these lists is you end up writing the same thing again and again. Then you end up making it.It might be something you first wrote when you were twenty-eight years old, and you make when you’re thirty-five years old.  Sometimes you need that kind of push.  The book gave me a vehicle for motivating myself to do things that I said I was going to do but hadn’t gotten around to.  These parts of the process are very useful. In terms of the work, you’re able to see it all together, which is either satisfying or horrifying, whichever way you look at it.

MACEACHRON: Was it a bit of both for you?

CLEGG: I think the point is you’re never happy with anything.  And if you are, then there would be no point to really continue to do anything, creatively.  At a certain point, you commit to something and you just do it, and you look back at it and question it after.  So I suppose it can be horrifying sometimes, yeah.

MACEACHRON: How did you end up at the Dallas Art Fair?

CLEGG: I was asked to be in this auction called Redefine, which is hosted by the Goss-Michael Foundation.  It’s focused mainly on young British artists, YBA’s.  I gave a piece for that, and made some contacts while in Dallas. I was approached by a curator of exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary who had an amazing space and offered me a solo show over the fair.  In the course of doing that, I’ve been there a couple of times and met the community.  We’d never been to Dallas before—you always pick LA, New York, or even New Orleans.  But Dallas has a great art scene, which is refreshingly optimistic, great people. We love Dallas. We have friends there now. The whole thing worked out.

MACEACHRON: What’s it been like, prepping for your first solo show?

CLEGG: Well, it’s my first solo show in the states.

MACEACHRON: Right.

CLEGG: You know the year before I came to New York I was in fifteen shows.  The difference with this is it’s a different context.  Everything is an up and down, love and hate kind of thing.  Suddenly, it could be the last minute that you make that intervention or piece that changes the whole perspective of the show.  Everything feels complete at every point. That is, until you do something that adds to the exhibition and you think, “I can’t believe it ever existed without that.”  Microcosmically, I think that happens with individual paintings.  It’s the same process with anything creative.  That’s why I feel it’s necessary to make a book.  It’s in response to things in the show, not a self-aggrandizing thing for myself.  It’s like a dinner party. You give people five minutes to talk about the same subject, and you get to know more about them and their response to the subject.  I want that to inspire people.  I feel like books have a longer shelf life in transmitting messages that can inspire people.

MACEACHRON: Do you feel like the shelf life of work can fade after a show is over?

CLEGG: With a book, you put it into a context in which the work is joined.  You’re basically saying, “This is the show.”

MACEACHRON: When do you work, how do you work?  Do you have a process or ritual?

CLEGG: It depends on what you’re making.  Some days I’ll start at midday and work until ten.  I feel like I can only really do painting for six hours in a day before I get distracted.  I want my paintings to have a sense of immediacy, colloquialism, or a vernacular in the use of brushstroke.  A lot of it has to do with preparation, and the execution is actually pretty quick.  The more you understand process, the more confident you can be with execution.  Living upstairs and working downstairs, I can get up late and work late, get up early and work early.  We have a lot of dinner parties, and I can work until seven o’clock and have a shower before dinner’s ready.  I’ve set up a studio practice where I can accommodate what I want to do, and I don’t have a routine.  If I have a deadline I just make sure the work gets done.  I don’t have a nine to five job.  When you’ve got something to do then you do it.

MACEACHRON: What sorts of dinner parties do you have?

CLEGG: We put up a table for about twelve people.  I’m interested in bringing people together who don’t know each other.  I like people meeting people, they can burgeon a new friendship or contact or whatever.  You have to plan things long in advance, which is not a very New York thing, it’s a British thing.  For people with kids, spontaneity is less a part of your life.  It’s in juxtaposition with a city, or a culture, where people don’t plan ahead more than an hour or two.

MACEACHRON: Do you think there are different reactions among Americans and Europeans to your work?

CLEGG: Yeah. If it were shown in London, it would have a different feeling than it being shown in America.  It has to be more powerful in London, because it has particular figurative imagery.  When I was painting in London, I had a very restrained palette. Here there’s more color.  When you make figurative work, you’re catering to a specific audience.  Sometimes you don’t know who that is until they come in and have an emotional response to it.


Oliver Clegg "Life Is A Gasssss" will be on view until May 7, 2016 at Erin Cluley Gallery. The gallery will also be showing work by Clegg at the Dallas Art Fair from April 15 to April 16. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview by Scout Maceachron. Photographs by Adam Lehrer. 


A Cartographer's Pastel Dream: An Interview With Artist and Photographer Ward Roberts

The pastel color palette is so unforgiving, because it connotes a sense of false security. It is a palette that is rare in nature, but bathed in artificial nostalgia. It is a painterly color that harkens the horror of the Easter bunny and super market birthday cake. This is where New York-based artist and photographer Ward Roberts, who has two shows of separate series opening concurrently this evening in Los Angeles and Dallas, comes startlingly into the picture with a splash of postmodern angst. In his ‘Courts’ series, muted pastel portraits of lonely and seemingly deserted tennis and basketball courts are like archives of lost civilizations that give the sense of a mass extinction. Not a single soul in sight – just looming apartment blocks, labrynthian stairways, and a beautiful forever, and nowhere, extending miles from the periphery of the photograph’s frame. In his Cartography series, Roberts’ faded pastel chiaroscuro portraits of people seem like the last photographic proof of those lost inhabitants. Perhaps Ward Roberts is trying to tell us something. Ward, who grew up partly in Hong Kong, spent much of early childhood on the very same courts he would photograph later in later in life. And it was on those courts that Autre snapped a few portraits of the artist for this interview. Not only does Ward have two solo shows opening tonight, he is also busy finalizing the second book featuring his Courts series – it is scheduled to debut this June to coincide with the US open. In the following interview, we chat with Roberts about the meaning of life, growing up in Hong Kong and his fondness for synchronized swimming.

Autre: Your work very much deals with the finiteness, ephemerality, loneliness – does this reflect your personality or are making a statement about present existence in general? 

Ward Roberts: I’m simply interested in the state of loneliness - or how reacts to being alone - so I only shoot what feels pure. I’m interested in exploring how increasingly emotionally detached we are and how we experience emotion through technology.

Autre: You use words like excavation and catalyst to describe your cartography series; do you look at photography like a scientific or anthropological experiment rather than an artistic medium? 

Roberts: There are so many components to my process in shooting film. I don’t view myself as a photographer. While the medium itself offers me elements of spontaneity, nothing I create is accidental. I’d say I’m in interested in sociology, human interactions and reactions. 

Autre: What was it like growing up in Hong Kong and how did it inspire your work? 

Roberts: Hong Kong made me curious. Curiosity is at the core of everything I do. I was rushed out of Hong Kong quickly due to a family separation so returning to the courts I loved as a child was somewhat healing. Through reconnecting with that part of my childhood I suddenly found new appreciation for the stillness and aesthetic beauty of them. 

Autre: When you were younger, did you remember wanting to capture the courts you were playing on, or did the concept for the series come later? 

Roberts: I left Hong Kong when I was 8 years old so the desire to capture courts came later in life. I definitely remember the thrill of connecting to the first court I photographed – a court in Hong Kong. It just felt right.

Autre: Who were some of your photographic inspirations – were your parents’ artists and did you have access to art museums or galleries growing up? 

Roberts: Massimo Vitali and Joseph Schulz. My parents are very cultured, well-traveled people. We rarely spoke directly about art.  My father was a pilot and documented his travels with photography extensively and my mother was really open to me trying everything from hockey and tennis to  horse riding, gymnastics and I think she even suggested ballet at one stage. There was a huge emphasis on sport every Saturday.  



Autre: You have traveled all over the world capturing various courts, what country has the most beautiful and for what sport? 

Roberts: Basketball courts in Hong Kong, most definitely.

Autre: Do you play sports or would you consider yourself athletic – an art jock?

Roberts: I don’t play sport as much as I’d like to. In NYC sport is a bit of a luxury - you require a health club pass or to be on a team. I ride everywhere on my bike however so I guess that keeps me fit. 

Autre: Your courts display a sort of a feeling of modern isolation, but the pastel colors and hue are actually quite happy – obviously there are a lot of bland courts out there (typical asphalt and green), do you spend a lot of time seeking the most colorful?  

Roberts: I've been shooting courts since 2007 so at this point I've amassed a tightly curated selection and am currently reviewing a larger archive of unreleased courts with the thought of including some in an upcoming book project and limited-edition poster series launching in June in the U.S.  Some of the unreleased courts aren’t particularly vibrant or happy. I do aesthetically favor the more colorful courts, but I’ve invested a greater amount of time seeking out and capturing more courts that I suppose you could say are somewhat dull.

Autre: Are there any countries you haven’t visited yet, but have heard have beautiful courts – do people tip you off? 

Roberts: Nobody tips me off - yet - but I’ve seen some images of Singapore courts that look incredible.  

Autre: Is there any particular itinerary or preparedness before you venture off to shoot and do you shoot alone or with a team? 

Roberts: In the early days it was always very impromptu: I’d have my camera and literally play MTR (train system) lucky dip in Hong Kong. Over the years I’ve had to become more strategic with my time however so I usually venture out alone to explore or on occasion a friend will accompany me. 

Autre: A lot of artists find their color, but you have sort of found a family of colors under the pastel umbrella – did this journey take you a long time? 

Roberts: All of my work is connected through color and you could say that’s essentially what I’m seeking when I shoot but I wouldn’t say I’ve found anything concrete or a particular color way that is integral to having me photograph a location or space. Courts are public spaces, so there is always an element of no control in some respect. 

On the other hand, with Cartography, a separate body of work I’ve been developing over the past years, I really enjoy creating saturated neon colors for each of the portraits so you could say through that I’m definitely evolving my pastel palette. In a way the Courts palette has transcended to saturated and monochromatic in Cartography. 

Autre: What is your favorite sport?                                 

Synchronized swimming is always interesting to watch. To play however, I like Tennis.


Ward Roberts 'Cartography' series will be debut tonight at Ten Over Six, 8425 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. His 'Courts' series will be on view for eight weeks starting tonight at Ten Over Six at the Joule Hotel, 1530, Main Street, Dallas, Texas. Roberts will also be a part of the Saatchi Fresh Faces exhibition, which will be on view from March 24 to May 13 at 1655 26th Street, Los Angeles, California. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photographs by Jason Capobianco