Back and Forth: A Studio Visit with Tom LaDuke

IMG_2883In some ways, a Tom LaDuke painting can seem like a tease. Images that are painstakingly rendered to perfection are blocked by smeared daubs of paint or confounding painted reflections, which leads me to feel both an anxiety and a thrill while looking at his work – like a maddening itch that I am just about to relieve with a scratch. I immediately want to “get” his work – to be able to figure out all the references and pick apart the layers which seem so clear, but he blocks you by obscuring the obvious. This effectively makes his work all the more exciting to look at as the bits of information disentangle and augment each other in unexpected ways.

Technically, his work is incredibly precise and speaking with LaDuke shows the precision of his mental acrobatics as well. Both healthy skepticism and complete enthusiasm seem to tie him to his practice. His brain is going a million miles a minute, mulling over the logical and philosophical possibilities of his work and I recently had the pleasure of going along for the ride.

Virginia Broersma: What are you working on right now?

Tom LaDuke: I’m working on a show opening on May 1st at CRG Gallery in New York. I’m making nine paintings and four sculptures – maybe five sculptures. It’s all new work, so I’m terrified as usual, (laughs)  because who knows if they’re good or not?

How do these new pieces and your previous work relate or differ?

Physically they have a link because there’re layers of information that coalesce on the surface. It’s funny: I’m always trying to understand the puzzle of reality. I use bits of reality, known things, or conventions of painting or sculpture to give me a doorway to stand in and a direction to look.

I can’t remember who said this, but knowledge never created anything, and I think that’s right on. It gives you a framework, but “creativity” lies beyond it. They say that the origin of creativity terrifies us because it is unclear to us. All this is exciting to me. My shrink calls me a “Fire Toucher…”

IMG_2890What do they mean by that?

Like you know you shouldn’t so you just have to. That’s kind of a good description of my process too. I like to build something up, like the surface of the painting I’m working on. It has to be perfect (or as close to perfect as I can get) without compromise, and this makes it worthy of being destroyed by the next layer.

With that in mind, how much of your process allows for spontaneity and improvisation? From layer to layer, is there room for that?

That’s a really great question because there’s a combination of spontaneity and improvisation throughout the work. I think it’s a cop out to say I’m using my intuition, or to make a purely abstract painting, because I don’t think either really exists. Anything you do, including the reason you’re doing it, is connected to all this other stuff that’s going on. Inside that framework of my paintings and sculptures there are a lot of moves going on and I don’t know where they’re coming from. They seem to be guided by something else, but I do not think they are arbitrary either.

You have to really get in there and push it over the edge. There’s a lot of control in my work; that’s how I enter making things. But the control is never the interesting part. The interesting part is when you push your control beyond your capacity to allow for spontaneity and improvisation….

IMG_2895This also goes back to the Fire Toucher thing: if it registers as impossible, I’m MOST interested in it.

That relates to one of the questions that I always ask the artists I interview: what is the most enjoyable or most satisfying part of the process for you?

I’m so lucky – it’s all good. It’s all fun. But I guess the best moment is when I get a glimpse of my location. And I don’t mean geographically, I mean where it all seemingly seamlessly connects.

So, when something switches over from the unconscious to conscious, or from the unknown to the known,  an invisible gap is crossed that can be felt in which you know you’ve just learned something. The feeling is satisfaction from having recognized and remembered what was learned, like you’ve always known it somehow.

The switch over between running on automatic pilot (within the ideology of it all) and suddenly seeing an image of yourself in a moment of clarity – that’s a good moment.

You can’t falsely generate it; it just happens.

What’s the most challenging part of the process? Or unlikable, since sometimes challenging can be likable…but where is the struggle?

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I guess that would be deadlines. There are always deadlines, but  also I’m really thankful for deadlines, because if I didn’t have any, I’d be pretty bored or broke. So they’re good to have, but they freak me out, because there’s never enough time. That’s been a big thing in my life that I’ve had to work out. I think that’s the worst part.

How do you see your sculptures and paintings relating to each other? Do they satisfy different impulses for you or are they different means to the same end?

Different means to the same end. I think it’s all the same, basically. Everyone has been trying to fight the static nature of painting and sculpture for quite a long time now. Whether painting and sculpture are seen  in a white cube or someplace else – the viewer still has to be “in the know” to see what it is that they’re seeing so it kills them. We’re all working on corpses and trying to breathe some sort of life into them in our own way.

What do you mean it kills them?

Oh – they use this example in a lot of, what is it – Laconian theory – every word is a tombstone replacement of what it’s referring to. As soon as you notice something, it becomes a still life. The Dutch masters attempted to capture their reality on canvas but the closer they get to it, the deader it became because everything alive is in motion. As soon as you stop it, it kills it.

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Tom LaDuke’s work can be seen here and at his upcoming show at from May 1 – June 14, 2014 at CRG Gallery in New York. 

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Twisted Myths: A Studio Visit With Laura Krifka

laura closeupWith only a quick glance at Laura Krifka’s paintings you could easily miss the deviance of her characters and the surprisingly naughty to sinister innuendos that she concocts. With art historical allusions and adept technique,  her work lures you in and then reveals its surprises that further complicate what you think you’re looking at.  I had seen a few of her paintings in group shows around Los Angeles including the most recent one,  Rogue Wave ’13 at LA Louver, during which Krifka gave an artist talk.  Hearing her talk about her work sealed the deal for me to be totally impressed with her as a painter, artist and all-around engaging person to talk with, so I was very excited to have her all to myself during a recent visit to her studio.

Virginia Broersma: Can you talk a little about what you’re working on right now? What are you most excited about?

Laura Krifka: Right now I’m working on a painting called “Kiss Off”. It’s a female nude, upside-down, half submerged in water with nothing showing but her open, gaping mouth and its reflection in the water. It will be shown at the BravinLee Program’s booth at the Untitled Art Fair in Miami, December 4-8, 2013.

VB: I’m curious about the specific male and female roles in your pieces. You play around with who is the victim, who is the object, who is the perpetrator.  This new one is a good example of that – it looks like a (probably) dead woman – could you talk about how you think about gender roles, how you choose between male and female for your subjects and how you see that decision as being important in your work?

LK: I think when you see a victim that’s male, it feels different than a victim that’s female. In some ways male violence seems…I don’t know…more surprising than female violence. We’re so used to seeing females victimized opposed to male figures because of the things that we fetishize in our culture.

Laura nipple paint

Why did I do this one female? One reason was that I just really liked the idea of the disorienting view of upside down giant breasts, (and not like boltons) like fleshy breasts sliding down a body. It feels it could be sexual but could also be like decay – the way that flesh starts to slide off the bone.

So for me there was an interesting correlation between sexual flesh moving and the scariness of your flesh decaying. I like the idea of how female sexuality is rooted in its transience and its linked with death – the breast will only be perky for so long – and so it seems to me that those two things are really linked culturally: female sexuality and the fleetingness of it leading to our own death. And so for me the painting is about that – the sort of inner turmoil of feeling my own mortality….but that makes me sexy….cuz I’m gonna die! (laughs).

VB: You also have some pieces, for example I’m thinking of “Mine Eternal”, where you have a man who is on display – he’s the object of our gaze. Are you thinking of that as a power play reversal?

LK: The painting “Mine Eternal” is based off of the mythological story the Sleep of Endymion, which is a story about a moon goddess named Selene who falls in love with a shepherd. She thinks he is so beautiful so she asks Zeus to have him; she wants him to be hers. So Zeus puts him to sleep for a thousand years and he never ages and she comes down as a moonbeam and sleeps with him every night and produces fifty daughters.

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Basically it’s a rape fantasy; it’s this eternal rape that happens of this sleeping youth for a thousand years. So yeah, it’s a role reversal. I guess one of the reasons why I love mythology and I come back to a lot in my work is because it seems like it’s always rooted in things that we’re all terrified of but also interested in; it’s just really rich territory to explore visually.

VB: And still relevant.

LK: Yeah, completely relevant.

VB: What is the most exciting part of the process for you – what do you have the most fun with?

LK: It’s all fun. There are so many steps to me making the pieces and each step has its own particular pleasure. I love brainstorming – that’s really fun, where my brain’s going a million miles a minute. Building the models is fun, because there’s this moment where it’s completely from my imagination. It’s completely here in my head and then it’s suddenly there and I can show it to somebody.

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And when I start the painting – painting is just so pleasurable. I love that there’s something that I can do that involves craft still. It’s so fun to engage in that craft. I know craft used to be a dirty word, but I think it’s a really good word now.

VB: Then what would you say is the most challenging or difficult part? Is there one?

LK: Actually making the painting. Even though I love it, it’s challenging and difficult. I have skill but I am always doing something that I don’t know how to do so I stay interested. But painting is really hard! It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, and having to be honest with yourself the whole time. Having guts to do things you don’t know how to do and to just go for it and actually being honest with whether or not you like it. That’s really hard.

VB: You live in Ventura and teach in Santa Barbara, so have some distance from LA, even though you are represented by a gallery there and you exhibit there.  I’m interested to know if you like being on the outskirts? Or if you feel disconnected to the nearby LA art community? I’m curious if it’s difficult? If it’s intentional?

LK: It’s intentional. I really like having an easy life so I can have a difficult studio. I can be challenged here. Other reasons – I just really, really like nature. I like being able to see trees and see mountains and the ocean.  I feel more connected to the things I actually care about. I love looking at art, I love talking about art but my art isn’t about art. And so I need to be surrounded by things that let me think about the things I actually care about.

Laura Miles no text

I love going to Los Angeles, and I love seeing things. I can go and get inspired, or furious…and then I can come home and put it in a box and pull it out when I want to think about it. I feel very autonomous here.

Laura Krifka is represented by CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles and BravinLee Programs in New York. Her work will be shown at the Untitled Fair in Miami at the BravinLee Programs booth on December 4-8, 2013 with a private preview on December 2, 2013 and can also be seen on her website.

Wham! A Studio Visit With Emily Silver

emily2Interview by Virginia Broersma

Emily Silver makes work that is as visually calm as an air horn. Objects, drawings and videos that may have literally been involved in some kind of explosion or had their glitter-and-ribbon brains bashed out with a bat fill her studio, which upon entering happens to look like you’ve arrived just a little too late for the party.  With closer inspection you see that her work has many components assembled in layers – carefully crafted, manipulated, destroyed and rebuilt into something completely unordinary, fun and a little bit dark. I have the advantage of being Silver’s neighbor and get to see the “behind the scenes” of her process on a regular basis, but with her work currently included in the Sur Biennial, I thought it would be great to sit down and talk more in depth.

Virginia Broersma: Your work often looks like you found the remains of a birthday party gone overboard and used the detritus to build your objects. Glitter, ribbon, faux-flowers, balloons and frosting-like paint all make recurring appearances in both your drawings and sculptures. Could you talk about your interest in parties and the Celebration?

Emily Silver: I think the celebration in our lives becomes a time stamp as we grow older, and through memory we remember things that happen in our lives by reflecting back on the celebration. I’m interested in this quick rise of an event and how quickly it turns bad; its something that’s so treasured and cherished, and then immediately becomes garbage and it’s left over and we want to get rid of it as soon as possible.

So I’m interested in using these materials to elevate them  – to give them another life: a new life that’s much more precious than the moment that they live in.  I’m also interested in that there’s a bit of the ridiculous and tragic in these events. When you are going to a party, the idea of it is so much better than actually being there. Because its over – once the day comes its already over, things are already 50% off. I’m interested in that – how fleeting these moments really are.

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VB: In preparing to do this work, you’ve taken jobs related to these situations – you’ve worked at flower arranging, which is usually involved in weddings and other typically positive celebrations, and then you’ve worked in a funeral home with the same purpose.

ES: Yeah – that’s come in quite a bit. I worked in a mortuary for a while doing flowers for funerals. That was one of my favorite jobs. When I moved to LA it was the first job that I got here and it didn’t help me make any friends at all – I’d eat my lunch in the cemetery – but I purposely did it because I feel like sometimes to research you need to be fully immersed in these things. So moving 3000 miles away and then working with the dead was a great experience for me.

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VB: Your work makes me think about the emotional arc of these events- the anticipation, excitement, the delirium that happens at these festive events and then the let-down at the end of them – the psychological comedown. Your pieces have a very celebratory look,- they’re colorful and bright – and then the titles might  allude to that tragedy that you mentioned. So are you thinking about the psychology of the experience of these things?

ES: Absolutely. I absolutely think that there’s something in the moment  -whenever you’re caught in any moment –for example, you get in a fight with somebody, and have had too many drinks at a party, you tend to act or do things that you wouldn’t normally do, and I’m super interested in that emotional curve like you were talking about. I will often put text in or these titles that have a bit of a sting on purpose so that there’s an attraction and a repulsion.

The neon comes in a lot with that because neon is supposed to be a warning. We use them on road cones and when somebody is working on the street – its like a “beware” but we have a rat-shiny problem and we want to go towards the light. I like that kind of attraction and then repulsion; the pleasure and then the sting that happens.

VB: I’ve gotten to see you work in the studio quite a bit and I know you have a lot of fun in the studio. You constantly play with materials and amuse yourself with the sometimes silly and comical possibilities of your work. What role do you think humor plays in your work?

ES: I think humor is important for everybody to have. I know sometimes it’s not something that people think or want to take seriously in art work. I’m not saying you should come and laugh a lot at the work, by any means, but I think having a sense of humor in tough times and having a sense of humor when things aren’t going right, has been for me the best way to deal and to cope with things.

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I also think it’s a great way to communicate to people. If I could be something else it would be a comedian, but I guess both jobs would be failures at the bank. Either way I feel like I’m talking about the everyday and sometimes the mundane in material or in subject matter, sometimes the celebratory, but every time I’m trying to find that space where it IS funny. Right before or right after it was tragic, after I put the baseball bat in.

The moment of bashing something with a baseball bat is really hard to do in your own work, its taking a big risk, it could fail, but then at the same time its very funny afterwards and I think that’s what true comedy is. Post-tragedy, post-accident, or not taking one’s self too seriously.  I do want people to have a good time, but I also want people to have a moment, at least once, that they have with the work that they go someplace a bit dark. And then maybe they bounce back.

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Emily Silver’s work can be seen in the Sur Biennial at Rio Hondo College Art Gallery through November 18, 2013 and at www.emilysilver.net

Dangerous Games: A Studio Visit With Molly Jo Shea

mollypantsInterview by Virginia Broersma

Molly Jo Shea is an artist with a highly  developed sense of humor which is clearly at play in her work. Her art straddles the boundary between satire and an admiring embrace of those things she may or may not be critiquing and invites the viewer to laugh affectionately and be disgusted right along with her. She and I met while working at LACMA in the James Turrell retrospective where we operate one of the installations. While passing time at “the cell” we end up chatting quite a bit.  Topics tend to revolve around security guards, museum visitors and food trucks, so I was eager for a chance to talk more about her work. Recently I visited her studio inside RAID Projects (which also doubles as a performance space she calls Dutch Door) and got to talk more in depth with her about her work and process as she prepared for her solo show, now on display at  WEEKEND.

Virginia Broersma: What are you working on right now?

Molly Jo Shea: Right now I’m preparing for my first solo show in Los Angeles… and first solo show ever, now that I think about it. It’s called “Please Release Me” and will be at Weekend Gallery in October. Basically all of the work that I’ve compiled for the show has been based off of research on trappers and a lot of masculine endeavors that relate to trapping. So setting traps, going to Marine Night at the Adventurers Club, researching pick-up artists – it’s all been a very manly couple of months for me! (laughs)

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VB: Do you think your work needs to be more masculine?

MS: You know, I think it’s funny, because my work has mostly been kind of mystical and fun;  I haven’t’ ever been told my work needs to be more masculine or feminine.  But now that I’ve gone off in this masculine route, I’ve found myself actually being more involved in feminist art making and researching ventures. I don’t know why that really happened, it might be sort of to balance the masculinity, but I think what it is is that these hyper-masculine aesthetics actually just really appeal to me,  like, I’m really into wood paneling and lounge bachelor pads, and I think part of me is actually jealous that I can’t seduce men using masculine ventures. So (laughing) it’s turned into my art practice!

VB: Seduce viewers instead…..

MS: …because you know, as a woman I feel like I can’t light a bunch of candles and play a creepy Barry White record and wear a velvet robe. I mean, it might work for the right kind of guy…  maybe that’s the issue, just not the right bait. But yeah, basically I’ve always been drawn to this 70s sleaze and for some reason hunting stuff has come into my aesthetic range. I don’t really get it.

VB: You work in a lot of mediums – you do performance, installation, sculpture, painting– and you pull from a lot of difference cultural references and situations. Could you talk about moving around between these things and whether or not you see yourself exploring them for an extended period?

MS: I’m not really sure, I feel like these subjects that I kind of bounce off of – I need to be learning how to do something to keep my interest. I think that’s why I jump around with a lot of mediums. Because I like this new adventure – I’ll be like, “oh printmaking, how exciting!” and then I’ll be like “printmaking, how fucking boring!” and then I’ll have to move somewhere else. I think that’s why I refresh my topics or I try and find complex topics for me to really dig through.

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What’s interesting is that even though I branch off in multiple directions there are things that I always do over and over again that bring my body of work back together again. There is always this deadpan humor, or a time frame in pop-culture that I get stuck in. I think I just try to keep my brain going.

VB: One of the other continuities I see in your work is this sort of putting yourself into another identity, or speaking out of the voice of somebody else – I think that’s one of your strengths.  I’m curious if that’s something you set out to do intentionally, or does it happen naturally?

MS: Everything I do ends up being a sort of self-portrait of myself, but maybe it’s an element of my personality that’s downplayed. I feel like I have a lot of conflicting opinions and viewpoints on things and so if I’m able to portray someone who has very strong convictions that it’s a little easier to figure out what I actually think about things because I’ll look at it through somebody else. I don’t know if that makes any sense…

VB: Yeah, well it’s also hard to tell if you’re making fun of these people or criticizing them, or embracing them…

MS: I think that’s a good question, because I don’t even know a lot of the time. I feel like I’m never really saying “I am being this person”, it’s always just like a mutated facet of myself.

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VB: I’m thinking about other of your videos, and then also in your writing/text pieces – specifically the redneck in the tunnel of love (laughs)!

MS: Oh yeah, well….I think it comes out in writing more than any other medium. I get frustrated with people and I find people to be somewhat predictable at times, and so by writing what I think their perspective is I can grow empathy for people, and kind of see what their role is in a greater way, rather than if I’m just “oh that’s just a dumb hick”, well maybe they’re a dumb hick who’s actually a post-feminist.

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VB: So what is the part of your art making process that you enjoy the most?

MS: I think what I enjoy the most, and I touched on this earlier, is learning something and being able to drop entirely into a scenario or way of thinking. Usually I like investigating a different lifestyle that I’m not really familiar with. For this body of work I went to a Marine Corp adventure night at the Los Angeles Adventurer Club which was the most amazing thing ever. I gained so much respect for stereotypical old manly men, but also such fear…so I don’t really want to say anything about them because they are like my secret love…and I don’t want anyone to know what actually happens there!

VB: What’s the most challenging part of the process for you?

MS: The most challenging is self-editing. I will jump around too much, so knowing when enough is enough and trying to maintain some sort of level of cleanliness in the work.

VB: Just out of curiosity since the type of work you do is so foreign to me as a painter – getting up in front of people and performing – does it feel very normal for you? Is it fun? Embarrassing? Is it ever uncomfortable?

MS: It’s always terrifying and that’s probably why I like doing it. Because it’s one of the few things that still freaks me the fuck out. I never trust myself with performance – and I think that’s what’s good – it keeps me on my toes. But I’ve gotten to a point where I’ll plan for about 75-80 percent of my performance and with the rest, I’ll be like you’re on your own, kid!” And that part is the fun part!

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Molly Jo Shea’s work can be seen at http://www.mollyjoshea.com and her upcoming solo show will be at WEEKEND with an opening reception on October 11th 2013, 7-10pm and performance at 8:45pm. Traps will be involved….

ele:mental

Opening Reception: September 27th, 7-9prau
On view through: October 4, 2013 (Tuesday-Saturday, 11a-6p)
Featuring work by: Virginia Broersma, Adam Ferriss, Norbert Garcia Jr., Jeff Rau, and Rachel Stiff

5790projects is thrilled to announce its third pop-up group exhibition for 2013, “ele:mental,” featuring five LA-based artists practicing in painting, sculpture, and mixed media arts. Concurrently, more than a dozen artist studios in the Beacon Arts Building will be exclusively open for viewing during the opening’s hours.

The artists featured in “ele:mental” push the boundaries of our most fundamental components, and in doing so often reduce them to pure abstraction. In the mind of the viewer, these elemental fixations become visual gateways into a conceptual territory – thus simultaneously existing in tangible and philosophical spaces. Whether it’s the meticulously photographed analysis of L.A. air quality by Jeff Rau, or the pixel sorting algorithms coded by Adam Ferriss, the works in this exhibition illustrate the notion that basic, disregarded attributes often affect our overall cognition. At times, such simple details can become alarming or strange when overly contemplated, as is alluded to in Norbert Garcia Jr.’s surrealist sculptures of everyday objects, or Virginia Broersma’s grotesque-yet-alluring oil portraits. When these constituents are packaged as a larger whole, their unsettling conceptualism becomes less daunting; a feeling of resolution felt in the assemblage paintings of Rachel Stiff. Be it a single pixel on a computer screen or the oxygen we breathe, an elemental understanding of the world can be the least believable.

5790projects focuses on providing a pop-up exhibition platform for emerging artists based in Los Angeles. The artists included in ele/mental encompass a diverse miscellany of practice and exhibition history. Virginia Broersma (CA) received her BFA from the Savannah College of Art & Design, Georgia, and has since exhibited at the Museum of Art and History (CA), among many galleries. Adam Ferriss (VA) studied at the Maryland Institute of Arts in Baltimore (MD), and has exhibited extensively throughout Europe. Norbert Garcia Jr. (AZ) studied at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco (CA), and was the 2006 Emerging Arts of the Year from the League of United Latin American Citizens. Rachel Stiff (MT) received her MFA from the University of Arizona (AZ), was the recipient of the Medici Scholars Award from the university. Jeff Rau (CA) received his MFA from California State University in Fullerton, and has exhibited at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery (CA), among other venues. All of the artists live and work in Los Angeles.

For more information on the artists included in this exhibition, please visithttp://5790projects.com/, or email 5790projects@gmail.com.

Image: Jeff Rau, “30 Days Over LA, June 2011” (2011) / ultrachrome print / 20 x 32 inches

Marooned at JAUS

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Painting by Nathan Redwood

Please join me at the opening reception for a group show my work is included in at JAUS in Los Angeles.

MAROONED

Featuring: Virginia Broersma, Mike F. Connolly, Ronn Davis, Nobuki Mizumoto, Max Presneill, Nathan Redwood

Opening Reception: Friday July 26, 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Exhibition runs through September 1, 2013

JAUS is pleased to present Marooned, the third installment of our 2013 group exhibitions related to color. The show will feature paintings and sculptural objects by artists Virginia Broersma, Mike F. Connolly, Ronn Davis, Nobuki Mizumoto, Max Presneill, Nathan Redwood. This exhibition attempts to contemplate themes of abandonment and isolation; subject matter which is replete in the history of art and cultural production. Whether involuntary or self-imposed, this condition of being a castaway or fugitive is something artists, writers and composers have often felt and explored in their work since the very beginning. The works selected, in addition, share a common characteristic in their use of a dark red hue, although the iterations of what may be considered “maroon” vary greatly from artist to artist, ranging from reddish brown to a deeper wine colored palette.

The theme is of particular relevance today, because, in spite of the supposed economic upswing America and the world is experiencing (according to mainstream media outlets), there seems to linger a sense of uncertainty among many, and the sense of being abandoned and let down by governments and multinational corporations who have become increasingly married to each other at the expense of the middle class.

On the other hand, this exhibition can also be thought of as a celebration of the artists’ critical thinking and problem solving capabilities, their self reliance and sustenance, and their generative powers in the face of adversity, isolation, and at times despair. In a world managed by MBA’s, web analytic tools, and online surveys, the independent, creative drive and ingenuity of the artist is now, perhaps, needed more than ever. For that, a little isolation and self-exile may be a good thing.

Studio Visit: Chris Trueman

Interview by Virginia Broersma

chris studio 2I recently visited the studio of Chris Trueman in Upland, CA. His studio was piled deep with paintings wrapped and ready to bring down to his upcoming solo show “Lineage”  at White Box Contemporary in San Diego, which opens June 22, 2013. I was lucky to be able to see the paintings  while still in the context of his studio with that palpable sense of being freshly finished and the residue of “making”. Chris and I had recently learned we both are oenophiles so we sat down to chat over a couple bottles of pinot noir and some cheese while we discussed his work. 

Virginia Broersma: I usually like to start by talking about what you’re working on right now. You’ve got a solo show coming up at White Box Contemporary in San Diego that you’re sending work off to; are you also painting at the same time?

Chris Trueman: Yeah, well I literally just finished the last piece for the show last week. Now it’s just a matter of wrapping them up, getting them down there, and dealing with the practical side of things.

VB: You also have a two-person show up right now in Los Angeles at Art Merge Lab titled Gestural Geometry– I was curious if you’ve heard that phrase anywhere else? It’s such a fitting description for the type of work you do, which I’ve also seen in other artists’ work – this sort of hybrid or pairing of gestural painting with geometric and hard edge forms. Do other people use that term?

CT: That was the first time that I heard that term, but what is also interesting is that term has also been used in a description of a show that I have upcoming that Carl Berg curated at AndrewShire Gallery. That particular description was also there. I think it makes a lot of sense although I don’t know if it implies that it makes gesture out of geometry or if it talks about the combination of these two things at once.

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VB: Have you heard of other ways artists working in this vein describe it?

CT: I think that what is interesting is that “Op Art” had been sort of written off for a long time, and that a lot of artists are exploring these Op and moiré patterns.  Anoka Faruqee has some interesting moiré patterns in her work, and Garth Weiser is another artist that is working in that vein.

VB: I’m glad you brought up “Op Art” because I haven’t even thought of your work in relation to it. Definitely you have some kinds of optical effects happening, but when I look at your work, what comes to my mind is our current connection to technology and the digital (and I associate the more geometric and non-organic forms with that) and then combining those with something that is very human and body oriented like gesture, and so I wonder if it’s a combination of wanting to reconcile those two things a little bit?

chris painting1CT: Yeah sure, I think a lot of this work has a screen-like appearance, where the gesture has been sort of mediated by the stripes or bands, so in that sense there is that connection to the digital. What I am also interested in is this sort of nebulous space that you can get into, where op art is essentially a reflection of how you see things- it reflects back at the body, and you realize that its making your eyes do funny things, or it’s making you dizzy or feel this or that. Gestural painting or abstract expressionist painting historically has always been meant as some sort of a transmission, whether it was an idea or a feeling – non-verbal communication.

VB: What’s the most enjoyable part of the process for you?

CT: Sometimes when I have to mask almost the whole painting, I mask it and the underlying layers are covered up.  I have a game plan of how I’m going to approach the next layer but I don’t really know what that’s going to look like.  It’s either going to destroy or make the piece. And I’ve had both! So when I pull it off and it more or less did what I thought it would do (or sometimes there are some surprises that I’m really fascinated by) then that’s really fulfilling.

VB: There’s risk involved-

CT: Yeah for sure. I’ve destroyed a painting that was 80% done.

VB: What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?

CT: Well, this might sound cliché, but I do subscribe to that idea that each painting is a problem. I have these “ingredients” and these tools, and then I have these ideas about how the piece should turn out and what it should do and what it should act like. Then I have to reconcile my own ambitions with what is actually happening in the piece.  To get it to a point where I think there are some interesting tensions happening, where I haven’t overworked it or beat it to death – I think that’s where the challenge is.

VB: But you enjoy that challenge?

CT: Mmhmm.

chris wine

VB:  Your work clearly addresses a lot of formal concerns;  I’m wondering if emotion and psychology are things you consider?

CT: Oh, for sure. The emotive qualities are there.  I tend to not talk about them a lot or discuss them because I’m really cautious about the language surrounding my work  interfering with the process of experiencing it. So even with the titles… I’ve almost completely eliminated titles.

VB: Yes – that was something else I was interested in– could you talk about that more?

CT: They were originally working titles, and what ended up happening was I came up with a coding system, sometimes based on the colors, or what I think it looks like early on in the painting, and it becomes a series of initials. What I’m doing is denying a certain access to language as a way of describing the work.

Chris detail redVB: Just out of curiosity, do you have any thoughts about how you would like viewers to interact with your work? Do you have any expectations for viewers?

CT: I have speculations.  I have ideas about what I think people will do, or think or how they’ll act. But beyond that, it is out of my control.

VB: Could you give an example?

CT: Well, I know for a fact that certain striped patterns will activate visually at a certain amount of feet away. And I know that the viewer is going to need to go through that space in order to get close enough to see some of the details that I planted there that are much smaller. So I can fairly well expect that they will experience this movement or this shift that happens in the painting at that amount of space. Then I can also predict what will happen at say, 2 or 3 feet of distance, because it changes; the scale changes things a lot. I’ve come to start to anticipate that and set up scenarios where viewers will want to change the distance and angle in order to get these things to work. At least I hope.

VB: There’s an element of surprise, and discovery….

CT: Yeah, different elements are revealed. I really don’t want these to sit still.

VB: Where can we see your work?

CT: I have several upcoming shows and art fairs that open in the next few months in San Diego, Los Angeles, Aspen and Houston, with ongoing shows also in Los Angeles and Washington DC. I will be having a solo exhibition entitled Lineage at White Box Contemporary in downtown San Diego. The exhibition will run through July 20th with an opening reception on June 22nd. I’m also in a two-artist exhibition with Joe Lloyd called Gestural Geometry at Art Merge Lab which runs through August 29, 2013. Then in August I will be a part of a two-person exhibition at AndrewShire Gallery with Mira Schnedler curated by Carl Berg. 

chris studio 4

Chris Trueman is represented by White Box Contemporary in San Diego and Adah Rose Gallery  in Washington D.C.  His work can also be seen at www.christrueman.com