Chatting with Joey Piziali in Ping Pong Gallery last Friday was more educational than I knew to expect. Prior to meeting him, I was impressed with his traveling scupltures and the gallery space that he and his fiancee, Vanessa Blaikie, opened in 2005. But didn't know how much teaching continues to be a part of him, since he stopped formally teaching at SFAI. It was an educating talk, hearing about who relates to as influences, such as Rosenquist, Greenberg, Louis, Mondrian, Tim Sullivan, and Darren Waterston. It was exciting to hear about the depth of research he undergoes to create each piece. His concept of each piece tells you that he is quite intentional in all he does and wouldn't have it any other way. I am not sure I would have pursued an interview with Joey, had I not understood part of this about him, when I briefly talked with Justin Giarla about Joey's pieces, hanging in Gallery Three this month.
And so begins our exchange of words.
I liked seeing your traveling "Silver Maple," "Topiary," and "Esprit Sculpture" in different environments. What lead you to do moving sculptures? Was it challenging getting the "Esprit Sculpture" from place to place (due to weight). How were each of them constructed?
I do some performance pieces outside of my object making and one day as I was conceptualizing work for a show at the Lisa Dent Gallery the idea came to me to have a part performance/part object art piece.
The Esprit Sculpture comes apart in two pieces. It's still heavy as hell but I designed it so I could move it by myself, but having help is always nice. The construction of E.S. is made with wood armature, steel and a synthetic concrete I designed. The others are made of various found paper (newspaper, grocery bags, etc) and constructed with paper mache and paint.
Your work has an conversational element to it, in its use of mundane materials and mimicking functional objects, while being quit abstract at the same time. What are you saying through your work? Has it changed much from your earliest pieces to now? Are you working towards a grande theme?
That's good, I think art dies if it loses a conversational element. Art is about dialogue, human interaction. I'm sure the grand plan for every artist is to have the work effect the viewer, to change their way of thinking, so when they leave the gallery, museum or where ever they no longer see the world the same way before they entered.
For me the desired effect seems to change with every show but the underlying theme to it all must be something about "possibilities". That anything is possible, through object, color, composition, material, it all refers to something beyond the "carrier" (a carrier would be the painting, sculpture, photo, etc.), that the work itself, when it's working takes the viewer beyond the moment, somewhere where anything is possible.
It's funny because at times I just see my work as formal abstractions (the paintings). But when I'm constructing them my mind is always racing with the possibilities of what each work "could be", to me and to the viewer. The ideas that create the work are far beyond formal abstraction, but I hope they work on both levels.
Daniel Coffeen wrote up an incredible analysis of your work for your current show at Gallery 3. Is he part of your educational history? How do you relate to his words on your work? What is often your response to other people's comments on your work?
Daniel is a mad man! He was my professor at the San Francisco Art Institute, while I was getting my masters in painting. He introduced me to philosophy as an art form...it's his art form. He kind of changed my whole mode/way of thinking or seeing what was possible by how we read moments. Depending on what philosophy you subscribe to will effect how you come to the work, see the work, the effect of the work.
He always spoke of how everything in our world is made up of various speeds. He would ask "what speed is that?", he could be referring to a color or a passage from a book. So when he wrote that essay it seemed so dead on about the work and myself.
I work at various speeds, I have a massive amount of energy and I think that comes out in the work. But I'm also an observer, so I like to slow way down and watch the simplest of moments...that would be my fascination with the beautiful qualities of decay.
Most people are really turned on or turned off by the color. That's why for the Gallery 3 show I really wanted to play with the white space, the void. I wanted it to have a trajectory, a speed but not with color but with shape and angle, a geometric speed. I wanted the color to still be a bit garish but more understated and was really focused on the idea of layers and space but in a way that they all met smashed up against the surface of the painting.
You use billboard paper in many of your pieces. Do you stealthily obtain the paper from billboards or just go at it out in the open? Why billboard paper? Did you start creating complex mixed media paintings in art school?
No I pretty much try to do it in the day time or early evening, so I look like I'm supposed to be taking it. I've done night runs but it's not really necessary, fun but not necessary. For the most part the billboards are falling off. If they aren't it's really hard to peal them off. The rain is my friend because it will loosen the wheat past and the signs will just fall off.
I also use signs that I find on the walls of the city, like in areas that say "post no bills" and someone has just papered the wall. When I take those down I figure I'm doing a service cuz they weren't supposed to be there in the first place. I used to layer and construct the paper I used and then one day I just realized that the haphazard quality of getting from the street was so much better and free. I was trying to make it look weathered and worn so why not just use billboard paper!
I was using a lot of mixed media in art school, from synthetic concrete, plaster, metal, rust, found paper. I was also very obsessed with mark making so I was dragging plaster covered canvases around the city, letting the scrapes, nicks and what not create the markings and color.
Apart from exhibiting your own work you run Ping Pong Gallery. What prompted you to open your own gallery? Do you have a certain curating style? Do you find that there is a strong community among galleries in San Francisco?
I was always putting up shows of my own and friends before grad school so it just seemed like a logical next step, but Vanessa, my fiancee, who also uses the galleries studio space for her art work, was a huge part of making the final decision. It also helps to keep a healthy art dialogue going with the art community. I was teaching for about 7 semesters at SFAI for the adult community education, but I stopped about a year ago to try and make more work and help the gallery. I miss teaching so I think I use the gallery as a surrogate classroom. That also may be why we tend to show more challenging work, because I like the necessity of dialogue.
There is a strong community of "independent" galleries in San Francisco. I find most of the galleries at 49 & 77 Geary to be very sad. There are exceptions but for the most part those two buildings are like dentist offices with art...the work is dying to breath outside of those walls.
Whitney Lynn is San Francisco based artist with a graduate degree from SFAI who exhibits regularly in the bay area at galleries such as, LoBot, Red Ink Studios, Intersection for the Arts, Swell Gallery, and Diego Rivera Gallery. She is a studio artist at Root Division in the Mission. Her work is true art. She creates sculptural pieces that cause us to reexamine our surroundings and perceptions on life.
In your statement, you say, " I hope to highlight the role visual elements play in forming cultural values." What role(s) do you hope to highlight in particular? I haven't spent much time around Air Force bases. Can you explain what the culture of the bases was like where you grew up? How does that play into your life today?
When I wrote that statement, I was specifically thinking about how formal visual elements such as shape, line, color and pattern influence the way objects are perceived. For example, Persian or ‘Oriental’ rugs are overwhelmingly viewed in the context of their decorative elements, or how well they fit into an interior design scheme. However, the rugs have this rich and complicated history hidden beneath their swirling colors and patterns. I read that carpets are actually the number two export out of Iran after oil, and there have been numerous tariffs and embargoes placed on them. As a result, the production of Persian rugs has been pushed out to factories in places like China, although the design of the rugs continues to reflect patterns originated in Iran.
I’m drawn to how a simple thing like a rug reflects not only taste, but global issues and market shifts. When Marco Polo first started exporting Persian rugs to the west, there were immediately demands for changes in the traditional patterns, colors and sizes. Today, you can easily pick up a cheap ‘Oriental’ rug at Ikea or Target or Macy’s, but with that cheap, mass-produced object, you’re also inadvertently buying into this complicated political history.
As far as Air Force Bases are concerned.. I don’t think that growing up on a base is much different than growing up in any suburban community (except for the fact that many of them are now abandoned or repurposed). My friends all lived on the same street, and we played on the swing set.. or made blanket forts, or played Battleship, or messed around with GI Joes, or playacted ‘war’. If anything, I was a bit of a tomboy, but I honestly think that my and my friends’ infatuation with military games was pretty typical. I think that’s maybe part of my interest in going back and looking at those sorts of games, to show the similarities between civilian and military culture, to make the differences less distinct.
Traveling in Argentina I felt a huge amount of creativity among the buildings, people, cultural interaction, etc. I loved all the surprises. What do you consider to be "familiar or neutral?" How do you think they come about to be this way? How do you see this in the US and abroad?
I think any typical or everyday experience becomes familiar or neutral. Anything that is repeated. Anything that becomes ‘naturalized’. Anything that just doesn’t seem strange, or unusual. I think a big part of my work is trying to make everything strange or unfamiliar again.
I don’t have a lot of experience with countries outside the US, other than brief tourist encounters, but I imagine that most places face the same situation. It’s almost necessity, a way of staying sane, but I think it can also be productive to turn things over and reexamine what is believed to be true.
You are originally from VA. What brought you to San Francisco and has kept you here? What are your thoughts about the artist community in San Francisco? Do you think ever of moving to New York or other larger cities?
I moved back out to San Francisco for graduate school, but I lived here previously in the late 90s. A lot about the city has changed, but I still think it’s a great place to live. I love being so close to the coast, I love not having to own a car, I love the food, and I love that there are so many different views and vantage points because of the hills. I also think the size of the city is great - big enough to offer major cultural attractions, but small enough to randomly run into friends on the street. That’s also one of the things I like about the art community here, it’s a decent size, yet totally accessible. Of course, it is WAY too expensive to live here, but it’s also expensive to live in New York, or Boston, or Paris, or London, or Tokyo, or really any major city.
With that said, I moved around a lot as a kid and I love new experiences. If the right opportunity came up, I’d move anywhere.. but for right now, I’m really content here.
You have been in a good amount of shows recently. What are your thoughts on the current gallery world in San Francisco? What keeps you showing your work? Apart from gallery/studio exhibits, do you contribute to any small publications or zines?
I think there are a lot of great alternative spaces in San Francisco (Queens Nails Annex, Intersection for the Arts, Mission 17, Triple Base, Ping Pong Gallery, etc..) . I’d love to see more open up, but the expense of real estate in SF makes it difficult to sustain non-commercial galleries. (Or commercial ones for that matter..) Lately I’ve had some opportunities to show in Oakland at the LoBot gallery and that has been a great experience. It’s a huge space and you are really free to do whatever you want. They also have a history of supporting sound/music and they’re just a really great, funky, alternative space.
I actually haven’t contributed to very many small publications or zines, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in. I also recently started thinking about some bookmaking ideas, and it’s something I’m going to pursue in the next few months. I really like working with as many different mediums as possible, because each has a different way of communicating.
Apart from the Air Force bases, where does your inspiration for your work come from?
Well.. I feel compelled to make work from tiny discoveries, sometimes it’s from walking down the street, other times it’s from reading something. I have a job where I’m on the computer most of the day, so I’m a bit of a political blog junkie.
As far as visual reference points, Google image search is definitely my friend (although I hope the NSA isn’t keeping tab of all of my searches for ‘bunkers’, ‘fortifications’ and ‘survivalists’)! I really love exhibition and archive displays, artists who blur disciplinary boundaries like Trevor Paglen, and minimalists like Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse. Oh, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. He was – and still is – the best.
Casey Logan says, "I really feel that my studio is always with me, my education is my life, and my creativity is they way I represent it all, " in answering the first interview question. After that, I knew his following words were going to be worth my attention. He is a graduate of SFAI, with several exhibitions in the bay area and Texas, who works and lives in West Oakland. Casey's sculptures are often accompanied by stories and intriguing titles relating to physics and the limitations/freedoms of life. Viewing his work is almost like reading a scientific poem or a letter to someone you love. For one, who is a visual interpreter and enjoys exploring new view points, his art doesn't fall far from the authors he talks highly of.
And so our conversation begins....
When we talked at your opening for "come celebrate the knowledge you never knew you had" at Little Tree Gallery, you mentioned some of your sculptural ideas come from the packaging method you use at work. What do you do for work? Why? It seems that scientific measurements also influence your art. How did that enter the picture?
Well work is just another aspect of my life and I really feel that all my work comes from all aspects of my life and is fused together in some kind of Frankenstein of thought. although crate building/ art handling, my interest in theoretical physics, and the loneliness and isolation I feel when I am without a lover may all seem to be very separate, they come together eventually in the work.
Like the earth and moon covered in porcupine quills always wanting to kiss each other but forever separated by their gravitational fields, or the planet earth being forced to hold still in a traveling crate to indicate its position in the hierarchical realm of things by making it the center of the universe. This is a funny notion when one understands the principles of Newtonian physics which tells us that there is no absolute fixed point. I really feel that my studio is always with me, my education is my life and my creativity is they way I represent it all.
When did you have a studio at Root Division? Have you worked in collective artist studios like that before? What was your experience like at Root Division? Where is your studio now?
I was at Root division shortly after I graduated in 2004. I had a studio there for 1 yr. I really really like what those guys are doing and believe we all have a part to play in supporting arts in the community and those guys are doing a great job. It was however a double edge sword for me. On one hand, I wanted to just be by myself and make my work and on the other, I always felt a sense of obligation to do things for the common good when I was there because there was always something going on.
It is weird; an artist must confront the fact that what they do has an aspect of self serving to it. This is not always the easiest thing to deal with especially in relationships. There is this guilt that you have to overcome by realizing that there is value giving to our culture through the practice of making art and that it is not entirely a self serving prospect. I think artist are all too often perceived this way because our culture dose not appreciate the value of art enough, to change to social consciousness to include art making as a valuable practice for the common good. Currently, I am living and working out of a warehouse space in west Oakland that I converted into a living/studio space, my first real size studio since I have been in the bay area and it just keeps filling up with stuff and then I am forced to work in 100 sq ft, ironic, I think I am forever destine to work in 100 sq ft space.
I like the stories on your website. Who do you like to read?/What do you like to read? The universe is a big theme in both your writing and art. Do you want to comment on that?
I have to admit, I am not the biggest reader and if I can get a book on tape I will. I think this comes from all the road trips I take for work. It’s nice to listen to different things and ponder, especially, when you are forced to be in one place for a long time. It is kinda hard to do much else when you're driving down the highway at 70mph, so I just finished listening to “a briefer history of time” it was very exciting, I just realized, for the first time, how space and time are fused together to create space-time through Einstein’s mind games. I have always known about the twin paradox or the space time dilation theory of how one ages slower under an intense gravitational pull or traveling at a high rate of speed but this book on tape open me up to the way it plays out in a real practical way and it was exciting to see how to let go of the fact that time is not a constant, it was very liberating. I have also been listing to the demarcation of philosophy and science. It traces the path of how science evolved from philosophy and what gives them their unique identity, which is not as separate as you might think. It is actually very intense to understand the way the mind can slip back and forth between philosophical thinking and scientific thinking, very amazing stuff. As far as reading I have just read “canary row” and “The sun Also Rises” by Hemingway and some other Hemingway short stories. I have to say my favorite fiction book is a toss up between “100 years of solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and “Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Books like these can change your life. Really makes me want to make better art.
You grew up in texas and I see a bit of cowboy essence here and there. What did you take with you from your time in Texas. What do cowboys symbolize for you?
Texas is a special place for me. A place I can reinvent into something inspiring. I like to think of the idea that you can find the most brilliant things in the most unexpected places. Not to say that there aren't brilliant things in Texas, but rather something that doesn’t quite fit in, like cowboys thinking of astrophysics. It’s always nice to have your stereo types, belief systems, or whatever binds you to some kind of sanity knocked down, as to create a sense of wonderment. Just to let you know, the world is really being discovered. Texas is known to me because that is where I am from. It makes sense to me to use it as a vessel for my ideas.
Some of your older pieces were incorporated with natural surroundings or built upon objects that were already present. Do you see a difference in those form your other work? Do you do ever make larger installations for exhibits? Is there something greater that you are working towards?
The older works were coming out of a period of thinking about my art in a formal way and when I started incorporating the natural surroundings and man made objects the conceptual thinking side in me became more acute. Nature and objects are embodied with meaning and you can’t get away from that. I think it help make me think about my work as personal extensions of ready made concepts. I look at what the world already says is so and I combine, manipulate, alter, ect... my personal fictitious ideas with what the world already has to say the then make something of it, I call them sculptures.
I have had a few ideas about larger sculptures but it usually comes down to the economy of things, money and space. I guess because I would rather be in a place in my mind I don’t really want to waist to much time and energy accomplishing large scale sculptures. They are indeed powerful and have a significant attraction but I feel that if an idea can be carried through many people’s minds then I can create things on scales larger than any monumental sculpture can.
There is always something greater I am working towards but I don’t know what that is. I think I would call that “wonder”. It’s the thing that won’t let me go and keeps purpose in my life.
Reuben Lorch Miller
I was fortunate to meet Reuben Lorch Miller at Catherine Clark this past spring. He talked extensively about the theories and history behind his work, which are fascinating. The simplicity in his compositions extend much further into their complexity of meaning and the experience they provide.
What was it like growing up in Washington?
I moved there from upstate NY when I was 13 and spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider. I lived in the country/small town areas where there are a lot of trees there and if you want to make something happen, you had to do it yourself. A lot of time was spent hanging out with friends, in cars and later at cheap rental houses. The winter is 4 months of wet darkness. A good climate to do projects indoors and keep yourself & friends entertained. It used to be more of an isolated place than it is now. I suppose there was also the typical drug use.
What got you into conceptual art?
I don't really separate out the distinction of "conceptual" art. As opposed to what? I like belief systems and formalism. I also like perceptual phenomena. Nothing really got me into it. It is how I approach art making.
What is at the core of your work?
From this spring to the present, you were just in two exhibits (at least) in the bay area. How did these come to be?
I have shown with Catharine Clark 4 or 5 times before and so that was my latest show.
"The Beast in Me" was curated by some friends I made, while working at the SFMOMA as an art handler.
Is there any difference for you exhibiting on the west coast than the east coast?
I haven't shown here enough to get a definitive sense of a difference. In regards to showing in NYC, there is a lot more going on by sheer quantity, which is both positive and negative. The only thing that I have really dealt with, are the factors of having a show in a location where I don't live. There is a strange disconnect with those shows. In this past exhibit, I left SF the day after the opening, which can make it feel like it is not really happening.
In the statement on your website, you say "I attempt to create situations where experience can sometimes supersede understanding." Why is this important to you? How do you think you make this happen?
I think it is important to recognize the condition of the the experience in looking at art, rather than trying to define a complete understanding. This also deals with the limitations of language to define a perceptual experience. Understanding is often defined through linguistic or text based systems. I make visual art, it can exist outside of language. I have found that there is a tendency to try to define artworks in understood terms. Trying to sum it up in a narrative or definitive way. A "this is this" kind of equation.
I like a degree of mystery and unknown in work. I think of this as space for the viewer to create their own relationships to the art work. Also I often don't completely understand a lot of my projects. My relationship to them evolve during their making as well as after. A lot of my understanding is in hindsight. I try to be more attuned to the the experience and trust it.
I often try to break up a linear form of display, focusing on a more tangental and cyclical form. Pieces have multiple directions. I always try to leave at least one element open ended. This also is about trying to make the viewer into a participant rather than a spectator. I try to make work that is demonstrative rather than illustrative. I tried to get people to sit on the floor in my Clark show.
Through this action they would become part of the sculpture. In Memphis I made a sculpture that had a set of stairs to climb. The general idea was to try to change your perspective and see things in a different way. Often the physical has to come before the intellectual. A lot of this is related to the fact that I am heavily influenced by music and think about how music is experienced.
It does not have to be understood from a theoretical or intellectual point of view to be appreciated. I have only dabbled in making music, so I don't have a real foundation in understanding it from the stand point of a practitioner but I know when it moves me.
It has to do with looking at art work from an approach that seems closer to a real experience of life.
Text is often present in your work. Where does that come from?
A lot of the text comes from phrases I have collected. They are often song lyrics. Sometimes I come up with them myself, sometimes from books.
Where does it fit in with your other work?
They are often truncated, incomplete sentences. pointed yet open ended at the same time. Taken out of context or contextualized with my other work, they take on other levels of meaning. I also like the words and fonts as formal structures. They became almost captions or suggestive phrases that pushed the direction of the other work.
I am less interested in working with text these days, but I still love words and writing is often the starting point of a lot of projects. I am also becoming more comfortable with titling pieces where while I was doing work with text everything was untitled. Maybe this means something?
Who do you like to collaborate with?
Friends. We have to be friends first to collaborate. I have had great experiences collaborating, but a solid friendship was already in place. It can be a fragile negotiation.
What do you see as a possible next project?
After a period of high production I always enter the phase where I feel like I have barely a clue as to what I will do next. This is a time for a lot of experiments and half baked projects. I used to get really anxious about this time but it is healthy for fields to lay fallow for a time. I am doing some photocopying and monochrome paintings. I am also thinking a lot about different modes production and distribution of artwork. The "studio to gallery" method has its advantages and disadvantages. We'll see in a few months. I always surprise myself.
Check out Reuben's press page on his website for more.
I've been admiring Hilary's work for a while and finally got to have an email chat with her about what's going on inside her head. She's been in the bay area for a decent amount of time and received her undergrad and graduate degrees from CCA. Lately, her work has been in group auction and benefit shows at places like Mollusk Surf Shop and Fecal Face Dot Gallery. Her work will take you to another world.
I've been seeing a lot of collage work lately and really am fascinated with the unique approaches artists are taking. What prompted you to work in collage?
I like using materials, in a way in which they were not originally intended. Collage allows me to reassemble existing information into surrogate images. I attempt to confuse shards from magazine advertisements in an organized manner, however lacking the original signifier designated to evoke the intended response.
Also, some of my favorite artists a few years back were based in collage like Fred Tomaselli, David Thorpe, and Chris Ofili.
What is your approach to using color in your work?
I typically like bright and shiny. Thinking about the way advertisements have a totally unreal approach to lighting, color, and sentiment; I imagine that the future (in cyberspace) looks like this as well.
You are part of the Thin Ice Collective. For how long? What is the idea behind the collective?
Tracy Timmins, Serena Cole, and I were doing our undergraduate work together at CCA. As our graduation approached, Tracy wanted to put together a group that could bounce ideas, collectively propose exhibitions, and act as a stronger entity than just one artist. Together we could form like voltron and take over the world... not really.
We've been together a little over two years and have had the opportunity to exhibit both domestically and internationally. Tracy handpicked individuals who she felt were reliable and strong in their individual practices. She’s a great organizer and quite a painter as well.
What unique or random events in your life have brought you where you are today?
Hmmm... well, as far as drawing goes, there was a TV show on PBS in the mid eighties called The Secret City Adventures with Commander Mark. He wore a space suit and bullet holder with crayons in it and taught kids to draw 3D space ships, cars and robots. It was pretty influential, giving me a leg up on drawing when I was young.
The rest of my life's events are probably pretty normal. I feel lucky to have very few obligations, which allows me to devote all of my time to drawing and painting.
Given any artist (of any medium) who would you like to collaborate with right now?
Recently my boyfriend, Andrew Schoultz, and I collaborated on a few paintings. That was a blast to make. Although the content of our work differs greatly, our mark making complements each other's and the pieces were really awesome.
Also, I’ll be collaborating with Tara Lisa Foley and Andrew Schoultz on a mural for Noise Pop this fall. They are both really amazing folk and I look forward the project. Actually, the bay area is full of rad artists who I would love to collaborate with, if time would ever permit it.
Where do you buy groceries in San Francisco or the general bay area?
I am a terrible cook, and therefore eat most meals out. I shop here and there, try to eat organic, but don't have a preferred store. Oh, but I must add, I do love burgers!!! and would like to give a shout out to the Slow Club in SF for their amazing burgers, which in my opinion are the best in the bay.
Hilary's website here!
View more of Hilary's work on Sketchypad's flickr photostream.
I look at Will's work and see the beauty of taking your time and the importance of giving great value to all that you do or create. Sometimes with an artists work, you need to read about how it was created and where the idea originated. While I do find history and technique strikingly significant those aspects only made Will's work better for me. When I look at his work, I'm captivated, not after reading about it but before I even get to that point. For me, it's a soul connection. Good art pushes me over and leaves nothing but my soul.
Your work engages in a visual and intellectual conversation. What is your relationship with science?
Well, for one, my brother is a scientist. Which may or may not indicate a predisposition to scientific methodology. You know I used to make work that lacked a sort of "structured" approach, and for awhile that was great but eventually I found that I repeated myself.
I've been working with different sorts of structured approaches (I had a show last year at Jeff Bailey Gallery titled "Focused Aggregate Intensity", this is a rough umbrella term for what I've been up to for the past five years or so), and I've found that I surprise myself despite what someone might describe as "restrictions". So things have reversed, which doesn't mean they won't change again.
Living in New York... What is your favorite lunch spot? Place to go relax outdoors? Place to meet friends for a drink? Venue for music?
I love the food at Souen, but sometimes the service is dreadful. I'm not very good at relaxing outdoors, if I'm outdoors there's usually an activity involved. Is that still relaxing? Daddy's, by default (it's down the block). The music is good there but sometimes the dj's get a little too excited about what they're doing and then it gets way loud, particularly later.
If I'm meeting my friends I want to talk to them, you know? I've seen the greatest shows mostly at unsanctioned spots, rooftops etc., otherwise I've seen good shows at Silent Barn and Market Hotel. Truthfully, I don't go to shows that much, anymore.
The geodesic domes remind me of souls or human cores. What do the spheres represent to you? Why that shape as the central object in your art?
I call them "outposts", but they don't signify anything specifically. They are contradictory, though, and that is psychologically significant. Triangles in a sphere shape is contradictory, and I find that mysterious. A lot of these choices, though, are intuitive.
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what to do, I just do them and they evolve. Spheres, dot patterns, waves, triangles, grids are all different "phosphene" phenomena that appear in all different cultures' art, particularly what people call "primitive" art. There are some obvious symbolic reasons some of these tropes exist, but I feel I get more out of my time by painting more and not going down the theory wormhole.
Why did you start using typewriters in your art? Have you messed around with other technical devices? (photoshop ?)
I was typing text on drawings, and all of a sudden I realised that I could do a lot more with it. I like the tactile aspect of it. People have said it reminds them of textiles, weavings, etc. I like the process. I've messed around with some other techinical devices, particularly letter-press. I used pinking shears for awhile. Friends of mine make fantastic work that uses photoshop somewhere along the way in the process, I just never have. My work would be different, though.
How would you begin your ideal day?
If I get up at a reasonable time, have energy to work, and my back doesn't bother me, then I've begun an ideal day. This day happens frequently enough that I feel lucky. I had one today, in fact.
Other talk online about Will.
Jeff Bailey Gallery
I was fortunate to meet Kirk Stoller through another artist, Bill Samios, at a Lincart opening earlier this year. That was the first I'd hear of Kirk's sculptures and that I'd missed his recent exhibit at Ping Pong Gallery. Going with my respect for the curators at Ping Pong Gallery and the little but So, here's to catching up.
The exhibit you had at Ping Pong Gallery reminds me of portals through walls. As if I could stick my hand through and have my body follow to a magical world. How do you see those completed works?
I installed my Ping Pong show, as if the 7 works were relating to each other as one whole larger sculptural form. Each individual piece did have a transitory nature…either moving the eye of the viewer from the floor to the wall (and sometimes to the ceiling)…or from the sculptural plane to the illusionary realm of painting. I’m glad you got the feeling of being able to traverse through the wall. This was the ultimate idea in which I wanted the viewer to experience.
What was it like growing up in a family with six kids? I don't know many people who have families larger than three kids. I imagine you always had someone to hang out with.
There was enough age difference between my 2 older brothers and I, that it really was only my 2 sisters, my younger brother, and I doing most things together. This was especially the case as we four were all home schooled for 3 years. It wasn’t great for learning social skills, but it did allow my mother, the teacher, to gear my lessons towards my interests. I remember there being a lot of history.
While studying French did you know you were you also creating artwork? When did you begin to make large-scale sculptures?
I was always doing art from an early age…so in college while studying to get a degree in French language, I also took a lot of art classes. The French degree along with my participation in an exchange program to Lyon, France. My junior year took me touring Europe, visiting many many museums and galleries. I am sure the subsequent stone and steel sculpture I created my senior year were greatly influenced by what I saw. I didn’t really start creating very large sculpture pieces until going to Berkeley.
I like your new series of owner-assembled pieces for sale on Red Cake. How is it working on a smaller scale? These are self supporting while most installation pieces of yours are supported by a wall. Do you want to comment on that difference?
My Red Cake pieces are more about material than anything else. The owner-assembled idea sprung from my brain’s inability to understand the word / picture instructions that accompany store bought unassembled furniture…combined with the joy I felt when I completed my first paint-by-numbers picture(a wood scene with a deer).
I like working small as it gives me the opportunity to experiment without always struggling to lift and move my life size sculpture stacks. Of course, since they are so small, having them include the wall as something on which to lean is problematic. A couple of them have done so, but not too many people will display such small work on the floor for fear of stepping on them…or having their cat eat them. Because the wall is not there in the small work, they touch less upon my interest in transitory spaces and instead rest more in familiar formal issues of traditional sculpture.
You are traveling in Seattle this week to see the newer sculpture park. How is it? What parts of other artwork do you first recognize?
I was more excited by the park itself than in individual pieces it contained.
Don’t get me wrong…the Serra, Openheimer, Oldenberg, and di Suvero were nice, but it was the way the park design allowed one to zig-zag over a highway and a railroad track, without really noticing you were doing so, that really piqued my interest. The one sculpture, I thought came closest to what my own work strives for was “Love & Loss” by Roy McMakin. He spelled out the title using various types of materials including neon, a tree, and stone tables. I liked how the relationship of the disparate pieces along with the functionality of the pieces brought the sculpture back into the everyday life of the viewer…from which the idea, no doubt, originated.
When I view work done by others, I'm first drawn to the combination or use of material. If the artist combines soft sculptural forms with hard…or graphite with say…plastic, I’m intrigued. Of course attention to formal issues need to accompany this exploration of material. Another thing I look for is how the artist can succinctly say what he or she wants without over stating the issue(s).
You can check out Kirk's site here.
Hello David King!
How would you explain your work to a blind person?
Traditional cut and paste. People often wonder if it is digital, if I used paint, or involved any other technique. By saying, “traditional cut and paste,” I want them to know that I haven’t taken the easy way out and enjoy the challenge of making it intricate and detailed.
How have your collages evolved over time?
My first collages were much simpler, more figurative, incorporated fewer elements, and contained a narrative touching on the surreal which over time became more abstract.
Your largest work?
My largest piece is 4 by 10 feet.
How do you approach a new collage?
The idea for a series is definitely in my mind before I begin. The current series is about the metaphysical energy that exists on a micro and macro level all around us. I have developed a palate of building blocks that I am using and go in with a general idea of what the composition is going to be like.
How do you know a piece is finished?
I know it is finished, when my eye keeps moving around it and doesn’t get tired. Just as painting has a balance when it is finished and I can look at my collages and ask myself, “does it need some more?” but unlike painting when you glue it you can’t paint over it.
You often allude to painting when talking about your collage process. Do you paint as well?
Never painted. But the more I do collage the more I see that the process is similar.
Mostly work with collage but will get artist in residency at the dump in july and will be working with larger scale objects and space….
Why is collage your chosen medium?
Because I’m really good at it. (smile) It’s the medium where I easily find my distinct voice. For years, I did photography but my photos always looked like someone else’s.
When did you realize that collage was your chosen medium?
Maybe in 4th grade. While gluing different cut pieces together in class my principal asked to have my collage as a piece of art in her office.
When I visit museums, I’m always drawn to the collage work. I like that each piece evokes a story.
Where do you get your materials?
I go to thrift stores and look for books. People will ask, “don’t you feel guilty about cutting this up?” and I will say, “no.” By using images from old books, I am giving life to something that would have ended up in the trash heap. By placing them out of context, I hope to be encouraging people to view old objects in a different way.
Describe this other world you are creating.
I am creating the ideal world, the soft peaceful place that we are all longing for. My quintessential image, “nearly there” (’06), was created during a place in my life when I wasn’t sure where I was. Through making collage I was able to quit my day job and felt like I had arrived at true calling. Now I can say that I am an artist and gardner.
John O’Reilly, a collage artists, that works with black and white polariods.
Fred Tomaselli creates large major scale collages and paintings. His largest piece is 10 x 30 and uses thousands of elements in to create complexity.
When I visited India in January 2008, I was inspired by the many shapes, colors, and cultural differences.
Also: artistic detail in buildings, forms in nature, and life that I see in the garden.
I was included in a cluster of six solo shows at The Lab. Ritual Roasters had a solo exhibit of my work.
If you were to share your work with a blind person…
Fortunately, I would be able to say let me give you a tour and direct their finger over the grooves between the different layers of paper.
Where do you see yourself next on the map?
Next place to approach for exhibitions is LA.
Next places to travel:
Southern tip of Chile where it is desolate beauty, natural large open spaces
Hawaii (a good beach vacation)
I finally met John Casey at Sketch Tuesdays, after seeing his name and drawings around galleries and online. Before talking about his work, we discussed the different artists drawing that night, reminding me that John is an artist who takes the time to invest in the bay area art scene, beyond promoting himself. Being one who sees lines in any art work before shading, John's work has always caught my eye. His drawings, sculptures, and installations pick up on the costumes required to carry out different forms of work and lifestyles. Looking at his beings, who resemble the human shape but morphed, causes the viewer to look for themselves, reflected somewhere within the layers of lines. Talking about his beings as monsters in his statement, he says it's appropriate if you use "descriptors like 'vulnerable' and 'fragile' to the definition of monster," which reminds me of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and how much I felt for him.
Read more about John Casey on his site, Bunnywax.com
Also check out his blog.
What do you think about when you don't think about your art work? What precedes a new idea for a drawing in your mind? Do you think about how people will perceive your images?
I think about way too much when not thinking about, or making art. Making art quiets the clamor in my head.
Ideas for drawings come from a variety of sources. I can be looking at someone moving from a shadow into light and I think "That light split on the figure could be conveyed in a abstract but oddly literal way in a drawing." It could be that vague or in the case where I just saw the German Expressionist silent film "Der Golem" from the 1920s, I made a drawing featuring my interpretation of a golem. I have my ideas of what these drawings mean but I don't expect viewers to interpret a drawing according to my own story line. The title of the work might point the way, but folks ideally would be telling themselves an interesting story while looking at my work. At least that's what I'm hoping for.
It's hard for me to see my work as others would see it. I try not be too concerned about the audience per se but... I guess if I could clone myself and look at my work objectively then the clone would be my audience. But then I'd have to fight the clone to the death because you know that making a clone of yourself never goes well.
I saw your recent blog post about collaborating with Cohen. You mentioned that you aren't one much for collaborating, but I liked how it turned out. Do you think you will be collaborating more in the future? What keeps you doing more solo work?
I've done a few. But collaborations can be tricky for me. Some folks are good at collaborating and the give and take. But generally I find that I can look at a first round of another artist's work and be baffled as to how to respond. Maybe art collaboration is like dancing. If I practice, and the dance partner(s) is good, I could learn to tango.
Cohen's work is generally abstract, so the narrative is totally open and fairly available to navigate. Why do I prefer the more isolated approach to art-making? During my process I try to access a personal mind space. It's the nature of my work to execute this process alone.
Many of your beings wear business suits or uniforms. Do you want to talk about that? What, if anything, do you think clothing has to say about a person?
These characters are members of the military/industrial/corporate complex. Actually I see the clothing as a sort of shield or armor. The character has some emotional complexity and vulnerability but the clothing gives them the implied protection of their status or membership in a particular organization.
You are decently present in the bay area art community, yet you went to art school on the east coast. How did you get so connected with folks out here? How does it affect your art and your life?
The east coast and west coast are two very different environments for sure. I grew up near Boston and lived there for many years. At the time, I imagined myself living there forever. I am a product of that environment. A bit of a wiseass, cynical as hell, and fiercely loyal. In New England it can be hard to make friends sometimes. It takes a lot of effort and emotional investment to befriend someone, and even if you get sick of them, you'd fight and die for them like family. You fight the traffic, the weather, and people's stubbornness. You fight the gallery hierarchy, harsh criticism, and old history. For years I thrived in this beautifully contentious environment.
About 10 years ago I migrated to Oakland in the dot com wave. The west coast offered me some breathing room. My blood-pressure dropped and my tastes expanded. There are a million artists here and a boatload of showing venues. A few years ago, post-dot com layoff, I decided to make a big push in terms of my art and art career. I started going to shows. Folks are open and you can talk to them. I always maintained a studio on both coasts but I really started to focus on the work here. The culture of positive reinforcement inspired me to approach galleries. I have my list of "It ain't as good as back east" complaints (especially pizza) but that list is pretty short these days.
Black and red are the colors you are using in your recent drawings. They also are very present in your sculptures. Why these colors? If you were to add others what would they be? Do you like to use only a certain number of different colors in a piece? Do colors or line movements come to you first?
(sorry that question just kept growing...)
I'd say I use these regularly, black and red ink on a creme-colored paper or, lately with sculpture khaki and red paint with an occasional brown. I like working within a set of very tight physical limitations. I seem to be able to develop my characters better without the distraction of many colors or different mediums. I often think that I should expand my mediums and colors, maybe paint in oil or gouache, but I am a creature of habit. If I do change it up, it will probably be so gradual, it will be like watching oil paint dry (or gouache).
What do you have coming up?
I will be executing an installation in the project space at Swarm Gallery in Oakland called "Picket Fencing." I'll be showing seven large-ish drawings on cutout birch plywood. I've been blogging about the process but haven't shown images of the completed work yet. Jeff Eisenberg and Chris Loomis will be showing in the main gallery. The opening reception will be on Friday May 23, from 6-9pm. The show will run through June 22.