La Petite Mort: An Interview With Natalie Krim

The first thing you notice when you meet Natalie Krim is her voice. She has the dialect and pitch of 1940s movie star and the demeanor too. It’s a cool glamour, a poised glamour that is as sharp as a razor blade. Perhaps the Hollywood lineage isn’t too far off – her grandfather was a Hollywood portrait photographer who shot everyone from ---- to ---. Her grandfather is also most likely where she gets her creative gene. Krim’s illustrations, which are highly erotic in nature in all manner of repose, self-pleasuring, orgiastic and mellifluously sensual, are feminine and delicate, like she is, but hint at darker overtones. They are a world all her own, alter-egos, characters from the unconscious, coquettish nymphs, desirous, wanting and wanton – they recall a world created by Henry Darger or the illustrations of Gustav Klimt. Before her current show on view now at Little Big Man Gallery, we got a chance to ask her a few questions about her work, sexuality and secrets.

AUTRE: I want to talk about your origins, and where you started to pick up your first sort ofinspirations and motivations as an artist. Both your parents were artists right?

KRIM: My mom is, and my dad was a mortgage banker. So complete opposite. But he always wanted his kids to be artists and creative.

AUTRE: Was there a photographer in the family?

KRIM: Oh my grandfather! He had a photography studio in Los Angeles that my mom grew up in. And he would shoot all the old Hollywood movie stars, and that was kind of her upbringing.

AUTRE: Amazing, did you ever get to meet him?

KRIM: I didn’t, he died before both my brother and I were born. But I grew up looking at all ofhis photographs and it was very much a part of my upbringing.

AUTRE: So basically he was a glamour photographer that would take pictures of the stars?

KRIM: Yeah, we have photographs from all over.

AUTRE: Did you get to see any of his photography?

KRIM: Oh yeah we have a ton of it. Clark Gable, everyone. It’s very interesting.

AUTRE: Did they encourage you to make art? Or did you know that you wanted to be an artist at an early age?

KRIM: Not until only this year would I even call myself an artist. It was never a thing growing up. It was just how we were taught to express ourselves. I mean I always had journals and my mom would wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning to watch a Channel runway show. It was just a part of our upbringing. I didn’t go to art school.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first drawing you ever made?

KRIM: I don’t know the first drawing, but I do have a drawing from preschool of a panda that the teacher wrote “you should have put more effort into it”. I felt like she was such an asshole.

AUTRE: So it wasn’t an erotic panda?

KRIM: (laughs) It wasn’t an erotic panda. I remember I used to draw girls as rectangles, that was my first go at it.

AUTRE: When did you discover your style?

KRIM: I started drawing the girls that I draw after a breakup. I hadn’t really been creating anything up until that point. It was just a way for me to express myself, and I just had so much fun. Then I started dating an artist who really just pushed me to keep at it, and kind of taught me to wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is draw.

AUTRE: Your persona is perhaps one of the most interesting things about your art. It seems like you’ve developed a persona, because you’ve seemed to take on the characters in your artwork. Is that something that happened over time?

KRIM: Well they aren’t really characters, they’re really self-portraits. So I don’t think of my work as work, because it’s just how I write a diary. It’s all of my experiences, it’s my relationships with lovers, or myself. So I don’t really see a disconnect - it’s just the same.

AUTRE: Do you think your work is feminist in nature? Or is it purely feminine? Do you think about the politicalaspect?

KRIM: I don’t think about it at all. I think it’s just feminine. There’s so many female artists right now that are so focused on just sexuality, and there’s so many other women’s rights that I wish had a little bit more attention. Like education and things like that. I feel like just because I’m a female artist I get classified as super feminist. And I am a feminist, but it has nothing to do with my work. I’m not trying to make a statement with it, I’m just showing you my life.

AUTRE: Do you think that these days people have a hard time understanding sex? Or that pornography especially has tainted our ideal of a positive sexual lifestyle?

KRIM: I find that only in America, I don’t find that in European cultures or other places. I feel like pornography has created almost a violence that goes along with sexuality, or just adisconnect that when you’re with a lover you have to act a certain way or say a certain thing. You’re kind of missing just being with the person. I’m not blaming that totally on pornography though, I know it’s an individual way to be intimate with someone.

AUTRE: Maybe it’s about sex education being so lacking that people grow up and have this weird idea of what it is? You must get a lot of unsavory messages with people who confuse your work.

KRIM: Oh my god I could show you, I have like 50 dick pics in my inbox.

AUTRE: La petite mort. It’s such a poetic way to describe an orgasm. Why do you think the female orgasm is such a mystery to people?

KRIM: I mean I can only speak for myself, but I think as women there’s that saying “disease to please” like you’re so focused on your lover that you don’t put yourself first or you may feel guilty about having pleasure. Or you’re afraid to express yourself sometimes. I just know from growing up that when you know what you want you’re able to communicate that. But often times if you’re casually sleeping with people maybe you don’t say that all the time. Or know how your body works.

AUTRE: It’s a great title for a show because it can mean so many things.

KRIM: It is the small death. For me, most of this work is a closure for me for a certain period of time. It’s a death on my train of thought on pleasing people.

AUTRE: What’s next after the show?

KRIM: I would like to explore making work on a larger scale. Maybe exploring different parts of my life and not sharing just the erotic side of it. It depends on if I fall in love soon because then it’ll be all about that.

AUTRE: Do you think people pigeon-hole you into this sort of erotic illustration?

KRIM: I mean my background is in lingerie. I’ve studied all types of eroticism, and fetish. I’ve been studying that since I was 15, so that is a very big part of me. I think at this point I would like to tap into other formats.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest influences in that world, especially in fetish?

KRIM: That’s a good question. I really am inspired by people not in the erotic world right now. I’m super inspired by Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. I think I’m more inspired by women and their strengths and not so much artists as erotic artists but more of a personality or related experiences I could share with somebody. 

Natalie Krim's first LA solo show "because I love you but you're not here" is on view now at Little Big Man Gallery, 1427 E. 4th Street Unit 2 Los Angeles CA. This interview was originally published in Autre's LOVE ISSUE, which is available in print here. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photographs by Eric Morales

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.


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 Long Strange Trip: An Intimate Conversation With Actor, Artist and Now Curator Leo Fitzpatrick

photograph by Curtis Buchanan

A little over three years ago, I moved to New York to attend a graduate journalism program at NYU. Though I had wanted to get here forever, the very essence of being here didn’t hit me until I was record shopping at Kim’s Video and Music (RIP) in the East Village when I saw artist, actor, and now, curator Leo Fitzpatrick flipping through the bins. Fitzpatrick, to me, was something of a city landmark for young weirdoes that like fucked up art. As a bored suburban teenager I would look at photographer Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d blog where photos of Leo with his uber cool friends—from actress Chloe Sevigny to pro skaters like Jason Dill—and I saw a world and a lifestyle that I knew I wanted a part in. Fitzpatrick and his mega-famous artist buddies like the late Dash Snow and Dan Colen were my New York heroes, much like Lydia Lunch and Basquiat were to a previous generation. It wasn’t just about the work; it was the whole wasted freedom of that particular moment in downtown New York's history.

It’s been a long strange trip for Fitzpatrick since he was discovered skateboarding in Washington Square Park at age 14 by Larry Clark to star in the director’s seminal ‘90s troublemaker film Kids. Though he has remained involved in acting on and off ever since (he’s most likely appeared in at least one of your favorite shows: The Wire, Carnivale, Banshee, and a hilarious turn in this past season of Broad City as a misdemeanor prone trust fund man child), art has more or less been his primary passion since he bought his first Chris Johanson piece at age 17. He gained some notoriety for his austere and slightly brutal painting style as well as for his documented friendships with some of the early ‘00s’ most famous wild child artists like the aforementioned Snow and Colen, Nate Lowman, and Ryan McGinley.

But Fitzpatrick may have found his true calling as a curator. What sets him apart is his unbridled passion for the art that he likes. What he doesn’t like is the financial motivations that sometimes overshadow what art is supposed to be. This notion allowed Fitzpatrick to conceptualize the Home Alone and Home Alone 2 galleries with Lowman. The driving force behind the Home Alone concept was that none of the art that Fitzpatrick and Lowman showed was actually for sale. This freedom allowed them to re-imagine the gallery as a hangout. A place where ideas could flow freely and art could be displayed in interesting and surprising ways. Home Alone housed shows by artists like Adam McEwen, Larry Clark, Klara Liden, and others. The problem, of course, became money. With nothing to sell, Fitzpatrick and Lowman were losing money every month Home Alone was alive. And with Lowman’s busy schedule, Fitzpatrick shouldered much of the logistical burden behind the concept. “It’s tricky to hold up a gallery when you’re working with a friend,” says Fitzpatrick. “When we broke up Home Alone, it was mutual, but you can start to resent your partner at some point.”

But thanks to Marlborough Chelsea director Pascal Spengemann and owner Max Levai, the spirit of Home Alone lives on in the Viewing Room, a space set up in the Marlborough Chelsea location where Fitzpatrick has complete creative control and is again not worried about the constraints of selling. “Financially, [Home Alone] kicked our asses,” he says, “With Marlborough, I have support. It’s all the best parts of Home Alone, but with more stability.” In just a few months, the Viewing Room has hosted a show by 80-year old Los Angeles-based artist George Herms, and is currently holding an exhibition by iconic New York photographer Richard Kerns. “It’s his photos from the ‘80s” says Fitzpatrick. “I don’t know what he would call them, but I call them “streetscapes.” They’re all never-before-seen photos.”

After I profiled Fitzpatrick for my Forbes column last winter, he and I became friendly. I’m not going to lie: I look up to the guy. He is a singular example of someone who was able to carve out a place for himself in the art world without any formal training but a whole lot of sheer passion, hard work, and interesting ideas about the industry. We chatted in the Viewing Room about transitioning the Home Alone concept to a commercial gallery.

Adam Lehrer: How did this collaboration with Marlborough Gallery come about?

Leo Fitzpatrick: I wanted to have a body of work that was different. I enjoy discovering. I’m excited to try new things [with art] in an unconventional setting. In this space, I don’t have to worry about selling art. When you free it up like that, it’s exciting for everybody.

AL: Does making art for a gallery space feel as interesting as working in a more guerilla-type setting?

LF: There are benefits to both. I just needed the help. A lot of people remember Home Alone as something bigger than it actually was. But running a gallery is a lot of work. I don’t have the energy to start anything on my own anymore. We closed it at a good time. And I don’t think I could have gotten a job at a gallery before Home Alone.

AL: Do you see more artists trying to move outside of the conventional frame of showing art?

LF: I think people are moving towards finding ways to show art outside of the conventional gallery. Maybe your friend owns a pizzeria—put your art on the walls, and call that a gallery. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

AL: Getting work out there is more detrimental than ever, with the living costs associated with this city.

LF: The problem is finding space. Artists are living in the same spaces that they work in. It limits the kind of work they can produce. Like, a painting is much easier to make than a sculpture because it takes up less space. But I also like the challenge.

AL: Because with challenge, one is automatically forced to think differently in his/her execution?

LF: A lot of my outlook comes from skateboarding. One person might just see some stairs, but a skater sees a lot of options. How do I manipulate this to work for me? That’s how I view the art world. I can’t compete with somebody who has a lot of money or more education than me, so I have to invent a new way to do what I want to do. I’ve probably made some naïve mistakes, but that’s what you have to do.

AL: Chelsea shows have been the same forever. This is a new concept in an established space. Do you think, if it’s successful, it could be pioneering?

LF: It’s an unusual concept, so I don’t know if it will catch on. But I think it’s a great idea. I would support other galleries that wanted to try it. I never understood why the art world was so territorial. Aren’t we all trying to do the same thing? When you start talking about money, that’s when the competition comes in.

AL: How do you see yourself fighting that territorial aspect of the art world?

LF: When I came into the art world, I was a young kid. I was really intimidated by the Chelsea galleries. They were cold to me. I want to create a space for the kids who are curious. Why would you turn someone like that away? I tried to make Home Alone more of a hangout than a gallery. If one kid comes for a free beer, but gets really excited about making art or starting his or her own gallery—I think that’s really cool.

AL: Is it keeping the culture alive in some sense?

LF: Oh, yeah. You have to encourage kids to do their own thing. They can’t just sit around making the kinds of things that are going to be shown in Chelsea. Start your own movement. And kids need a place to talk about their ideas. Art is [about] growing up with your peers.

"Kids are unpolished. They’ll stay out until 4 in the morning and talk to each other and try to take over the art world. I love that kind of thing. Kids fucking up the system—to me, that’s great."

AL: What are the challenges you see for young artists?

LF: With the Internet, everything is so transparent. It must be hard for younger kids not to compare themselves to their friends. If they see their friend selling something for $20,000 and they’re only selling theirs for 10, I don’t think that’s healthy. They won’t be able to concentrate on making the work.

AL: What is your relationship to money?

LF: I have a very funny relationship to money now, especially money in the art world. I understand that it needs to exist, but it’s hard for the art world to thrive. I probably can’t afford the art that’s being shown in the gallery, but I get to hang out with it for a month. For me, the exposure is more important than the money. I just want to start a conversation.

AL: Is the role of curator fulfilling creatively in the same way making art is?

LF: Maybe more so. I get more out of supporting other artists than I do supporting myself. I’m not very ambitious. I don’t really consider myself an artist; it’s just something I do. If I get asked to do an art show, that’s cool. But if I confirm that I’ll be showing an artist that I’ve been trying to get for months, that’s like, “fuck yeah!”

AL: What has been your favorite part of curating?

LF: Hanging an art show is more satisfying to me than anything. I always tell the artists to not worry about the art they give me. My job is to make it seamless. They get to make whatever they want to make, and I figure it out. And I’ve loved experimenting with how the show is going to look. You want the art to get exposure, but you don’t want it to be too conventional.

AL: Is showing artists that you feel are under-appreciated important to you at all?

LF: That’s not always the case. I’ve done shows with artists who have had a lot of exposure. But I prefer otherwise. George Herms is an 80–year-old from California. He’s a dying breed. He’s a photographer, a sculptor, and a painter. His whole life embodies art. I want this show to set the tone for the rest of the gallery.

AL: Are there other curators that inspire you?

LF: Not really, no. But I do follow a lot of little galleries. I like to support the underdogs. These little galleries are the underdogs, and they’re doing really cool stuff. If I was to compare myself to contemporaries, I would compare myself to these tiny, scrappy galleries that are just trying to get by. I’m not trying to compete with a big gallery.

AL: But if that did prove to be the evolution of it, would you be opposed to it?

LF: As long as you keep your heart in the right place. But I don’t think about competing with the art world. I have ambition, but that doesn’t mean making money. It means putting on great shows that leave people scratching their heads. I also want to prove people wrong. To the people who say, “You can’t do that,” I say, “Let me try.”

AL: Have you had to attune your business savvy to deal with those challenges, or are you letting Pascal and Matt take care of that?

LF: No, I do everything. If you’re a smaller gallery, people might be more eager to help you out than if you’re a more established Chelsea gallery. So we’ve gotten a lot of support. But I deal with a lot of rejections.

AL: For all of your lack of pretentiousness and mellow attitude towards what you do, the name Leo Fitzpatrick is one that is known in the New York art world. Are people starting to recognize you for your connection to the art world as much as your acting career?

LF: Kids have come up to me on the street. At first, I thought they were going to talk to me about my acting, but then they said, “We really like Home Alone.” To me, that was the best feeling in the world. I think of acting and the art world as two different careers. And if you’re not going to sell your art, a kid stopping you on the street to say they like your work keeps you going.

AL: How do you go into choosing work for the gallery?

LF: The work has to excite me first. Everything I show gives me a gut reaction. There aren’t any politics to it. It’s not the artist who is hot at the moment. I’d rather show people who aren’t in the limelight, and give them the exposure. I’ll do more research, dig in the trenches, and try to find artists who were forgotten or who don’t get the respect they deserve. Hopefully, the rest of the audience will find it interesting, too.

AL: What you do makes people realize that it is possible not to come from a certain world or scene, and still be able to do what you want to do.

LF: For sure. I think we need to give these guys a little heat. If you can’t compete on their level, and you still attempt to create (whether it be art or a gallery or whatever), that shows that you have a lot of drive and hunger. From the beginning, you’re setting yourself up for failure, but you say, “Fuck, I’m going to do it anyway.” That’s awesome.

AL: You once said to me that the art world needs a grimy side. Do you think griminess can exist in this Chelsea system?

LF: Grimy can mean so many things. I think it’s the youth that will provide the “griminess.” Kids are unpolished. They’ll stay out until 4 in the morning and talk to each other and try to take over the art world. I love that kind of thing. Kids fucking up the system—to me, that’s great. It’s probably a good idea to get on those kids’ sides.

AL: How should they go about that?

LF: A kid just reached out to me from London and said—“Hey, I want to do a Home Alone in London.” You don’t need my permission. You can even use the title Home Alone. I don’t own it. It’s just an idea. You can sell art out of the back of your car and call it a gallery. Just fucking do it, man.

You can catch Leo Fitzpatrick's current curated show, Viewing Room: Richard Kern, at Marlborough Chelsea until December 23, 2015. You can follow Leo on Instagram: @lousyleo. text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Leo Fitzpatrick and Richard Kern by Adam Lehrer