Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Art Space Talk: Miky Fabrega

I was introduced to the art of Miky Fabrega while attending the Collector and Press Preview for SCOPE NY07. Mr. Fabrega's work was presented by the DEAN PROJECT gallery. I decided to contact Miky for an interview.

Fabrega's body of work includes the portraits of Latino maids from his native Panama City, paired paintings and photographs and his virtual "friends" in the MYSPACE cyber community.

Mr. Fabrega has exhibited in the The Central American Biennial (El Salvador), The Cuenca Biennial (Ecuador), and The Valencia Biennial (Venezuela).

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "When I was a kid!"

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Yes, lots of social influence and implications...it is basicaly the main focus of my work....I am very interested in the way we as humans live among other humans....for someone comming from the third world and making art for the "first" it is very important for me to capture that reality and bring it to the work."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "It totaly depends on the piece....sometimes they take years....sometimes just minutes...so there is no way of telling."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "I believe that art has no limits....I believe that the IDEA is what creates the Medium...so depending on your idea you can switch from Video to Watercolor with no limitations..I believe that art is alive and it is a process."

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "Probably the Central American Biennal...I was representing my country in a giant museum and all of the top people in the region where there.... so I guess thats pretty cool!"


Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "If I am painting in my studio I like no sound at all...and I paint in my underwear!!!!"

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Jajaja....I think that people who like my art are the ones who want to feel challenged by art...they do not buy art simply because is a pretty picture...they like the whole idea behind it....it gives more value to the final product...it is a product you know!"


Q. Discuss one of your pieces.What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "Well...let's focus on the work shown at SCOPE...the two giant MAID pictures (image above): Latino maids are more than a stereotype..(just check that Movie:BABEL)....they are a social group within a social group....they are a reality inside a Bubble...it doesnt matter if it is in the States...here in Panama or anywhere in America (the name of the continent is america so if i say America I mean from Canada to Argentina!!--thought you should know!!)--these people become a part of a family...they are there inside someone's reality- knowing every aspect of them but trying to keep a distance....it is a fascinating subject....I will send you more pictures of that series.


Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "Ok..I studied Marketing and adverising in college....I've done a million art courses, photo, culture, language....I've done courses in Cinema at Saint Martins in london...I've done a whole lot...but as far as choosing a major in college I would never recomend studing art...or just art...the thing is: No one can teach you art!!!--they can show you around...they can show wat works for others...but they cannot show what is going to work for you!!!.....besides....do you know how many people are graduating each year with art as a major...thousands!!!!! How many of those people are actually becoming real artist????? 10%???5%????---For me marketing and my knowledge in that field have hepled a lot....so that's what works for me....I belive it is a Whole...it is a big picture...you have to fill it with the most amount of info available...."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "They choose me."



Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "Well...up until this year it was mainly Latin America...I was in three very important Biennales in the Last year...But now everything is changing...after SCOPE we are showing in a very important Fair in Puerto Rico... I believe it is called Maco??--Then I have a show in Panama in June and then at the end of the year we are planning something big in New york and something in London with Jaguar Shoes ( a very cool group of people).....You can check out http://deanproject.com/ or just type Miky Fabrega in google....you will see loads of stuff."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "I'm represented by Mateo Sariel un Latin America and DEANPROJECTS in NY etc."


Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "Right now??? Fairs, fairs, fairs and the role of the Internet...that has changed everything....but in essence art right now is all over the place...I travel a lot...I've been in the last 18 months to: Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennale, Armory, Basel the whole PGA tour...and you just get the feeling that everyone is trying to do their own thing...there are no clear movments."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Dont loose it!!!!! Don't bother the dealers/curators/ etc let the work do the talking...and once the work opens the door for you grab the opportunity by the balls!!!! You have to be very aggressive......do the whole slide Bank thing....White Columns, Artist Space etc...that shit works!!!!-----dont wait for something big to happen...MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!"


Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "Yes....and it was even better!!!!!!!!---There is lots of Porn or politics in my art...because there is lots of porn and poitics in our lives...sometimes people get pissed...but that is evenr better because it proves that your work is making people feel...at least they feel it!"

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "Not yet!!! jaja...there was a time arround 2000 that everybody was doing video and installation and I was doing painting....that was kind of a rough time because most curators where like" Why are you painting, painting is dead"....but we all know what happend so FUCK THEM!"


Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "It is the natural thing to do."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I live and work in Panama....I spend half the time travelling but this is the place that I call home....it is a place full of contradictions...My city looks very contemporary but it has the cultural sence of a hundred years ago...people here are a fraid of what they dont know...so for someone to be always poking fun at our sociaty...well you can figure that out.


My country has had its share of "identity loss" first it was discovered by the spanish, then the Colobians came with Simon Bolivar, then the French came to build the canal, then the gringos came to build the canal, then George Bush senior gave power to Noriega, then 10 years later he took Noriega out, killing a couple of thosands more in the process..and the on fine day...the first day of the year 2000 everything was gone...and for the first time Panama was 100% panamanians...so we are struggling to get our identity...it is a fun place to live!!"

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "If you see the MAID paintings shown in SCOPE you will notice that each of the maids has a giant Crucifix...aging...religion is the opium of society it gives them hope....it brings meaning to a life that is totally meaningless....should I go on??"

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Just pay attention."


I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Miky Fabrega. Feel free to critique or discuss his work. Check out Mr. Fabrega's site: http://www.mikyfabrega.com/ . There is a wonderful selection of paintings to observe.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Monday, February 26, 2007

Art Space Talk: Norman Carlberg


I recently interviewed artist Norman Carlberg. Mr. Carlberg has received international acclaim for his sculptures. He is one of the fathers of Modular Constructivism and was instructed by Josef Albers at Yale University (Albers studied and taught at the Bauhaus in Germany). Mr. Carlberg was the director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He remained at MICA for 35 years.

Sculpturally, Carlberg is known for working in plaster, brass, and steel. He created objects with few preliminary sketches- if any. He also produced photographs as well as prints of city details he found sculpturally interesting, such as concrete columns, "ribbons of freeways that float," and textures of rocks and dirt on the ground.

Mr. Carlberg's work has been widely exhibited: Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Carpenter Center, Guggenheim Museum... just to name a few.


Q. You are noted as an exemplar of the modular constructivist style. Can you tell our readers about that style of work and why you embraced it?

A. "My sense of it is that "Modular" constructivism is making a work of art within the limitations that modules impose on the object. They restrict what can be made but the restrictions also give meaning and value to the object, just as a poem is beautiful, in part, because the rules, or limitations, give the words a structure that the mind finds pleasurable over and above the message.

When I began working with modules I wasn't thinking about "embracing" or being part of any movement. It was simply that, after seeing the work that Erwin Hauer was doing I was excited about the idea of modular constructions and wanted to explore the idea of modules for myself.

I think Erwin Hauer joined the Yale sculpture department in 1956 and I designed my first "finished" module in 1957 as part of my thesis project which was due the following year.

Jose Mayoral, a student from the Yale architectural school, had asked me if I wanted to work with him and develop a series of sculptures in conjunction with his thesis project, which was also due for presentation in the spring of 1958. The idea, to make a series, or group, of sculptures for his project, was very exciting and my first thought was to design a single module which I could use to make a variety of sculptures. It was a natural first step. Three situations were present at the time.


Besides having been offered the opportunity to design a group of sculptures for Jose Mayoral's architecture project, and the presence in the sculpture department of Erwin's modular screens, the head of the sculpture department, Robert Engman, had given me a sculptural problem earlier to create forms from basic geometric shapes which would retain elements of the original form. I had made a number of sketches using cubes, spheres and tetrahedrons but I had always thought of them as singular objects; now I looked at them differently, as possible building blocks and the cube and the tetrahedron could easily be visualized as the basis for units that would grow in all directions.

In George Rickey's book "Constructivism" there is a wide variety of work which falls under the definition, "constructivist art". It does not depend on other pre-existing objects for meaning and, although math and logic often lend an underlying structure, they don't impart artistic value to the work any more than the social standing or beauty of the sitter would give artistic value to a portrait.

Like some of the other movements that developed in the first half of the 20th century, constructivism finds it's meaning in the work itself, not as an interpretation or artistic reflection of an outside image. Although constructivist art is linked to logic and math, especially the geometries, good craftsmanship is also apparent in most of the work. I didn't think about it at the time but I am sure these are two of the reasons I found constructivist art attractive.

Although I was an average student in math, I did enjoy it, the geometries especially, where being able to visualize the problem helped solve it. And I always enjoyed the craftsmanship required in building the airplane models of that period. But after spending so much time and care building the balsa wood skeleton I was reluctant to cover it with tissue-paper, it was beautiful just as it was. In the end though, practicality won out, because I knew that I wouldn't see it fly without the paper covering. But there was a small reward, when water was brushed onto the paper, which would cause it to shrink and form a taut surface, the ribs and underlying structure could still be made out and I could remember the structure which gave the skin it's form. Later, in the late 50's and early 60's some of my minimal-surface sculptures would have a similar skin-like surface determined by edges."


Q. You are also known for your minimalist work. Can you recall any of your memories about the advent of minimalism?

A "Because many of my pieces are linked to outside images I hadn't thought of myself as a minimalist. The work was not pure enough and I think of minimalism as being spare and pure in concept. I was aware of various movements going on at the time but I was focused on the work I was making and not giving much thought to it's place in the world of art."
Q. It is not difficult to see the connection between the rigorous, disciplined compositions that you created and those of your Yale teacher Josef Albers. Can you discuss some of your experiences working with Mr. Albers? How did he influence your art?

A. "If one admired him, and I did, you tried to emulate him to some degree. What his values were, and the kind of person he was, was a model to learn from. Whatever he said, I paid attention to. I would think about it and often agree with it - but not always. But because I admired his qualities I never dismissed any idea without having thought about it.

One of the first of his principles that I became aware of was how a color was perceived depended on where the color was - what other colors were around it, how large or small they were relative to each other, what kind of light was illuminating the color - everything changed one's perception of the color. Relativity wasn't a word that belonged exclusively to scientists.

I liked Albers way of teaching because he didn't cop-out during a critique by using vague terms and phrases. He tried to be specific and talk about what could be seen and defined. There is a lot in art that is difficult or cannot be defined in words - that's why we use color, form, and line. But for those aspects which can be defined with words it was good to listen to someone who valued clarity.

The Yale School of Art, in the 1950's, was defined by Josef Albers, his philosophy, his own work and the people he chose to run the different departments of the school. Almost everyone studied with him in one or more of the basic classes on color or drawing.

These were large classes which he taught with assistants from the other departments, most notably, when I was there, Sewell (Si) Sillman who had worked with him when he was at Black Mountain, Norman Ives from the graphics department, Neil Welliver and William Bailey from painting and Bernard Chaet. There were so many good artists in the school, teachers and students, and arguably, the best artist/teacher in the country directing it all, it's hard to single out specifically where information and ideas came from.

At Yale, I found a school of art that linked reason with passion and, which also happened to be a part of one of the world's great universities. By accepting me into the school, Albers changed my life."


Q. At Yale, Erwin Hauer was an important influence who prodded you in a stylistic direction. Both of you employed curvilinear forms as modules. However, you used more geometric, hard-edged design units, often combining curves with straight edges (or flat planes) in the same module. How did Erwin influence you... or did you influence each other? Can you share any of your experiences working alongside him?

A. "I can't say that I influenced Erwin's work, but there's no question that he influenced mine. Seeing his modular screens changed the direction of my own work from thinking in terms of singular objects to designing units which could be multiplied and made into sculptures. His modular screens and walls that I remember were cast in concrete, powerful, but also graceful and complex and it was the quality and beauty of the sculpture, as much as the "idea" of modules that generated my interest and desire to work in that direction.

You mention differences in our work, I "used more geometric, hard-edged design units, often combining curves with straight edges (or flat planes)". This is, in part, a result of the different ways we used modules. I think, at that time anyway, Erwin would design and perfect a unit that made a single screen or wall that he had envisioned. The module was not intended to recombine in other combinations. I wanted to design a single unit which I could use to construct a variety of sculptures. I wanted the unit to be versatile and the cube seamed to be ideal as a basic form to begin from. An obvious reason was that all it's surfaces were identical and it could grow in any direction.

I began by making a unit that was a variation of one of the models I had designed while working on the problem Robert Engman had given me. It was a saddle-shape within a cube which I liked as a piece by itself. That basic design became a starting point for a number of my modules.

The "curve", you mention, is the saddle-shape (hyperbolic parabaloid) and the "straight edges (or flat planes)" are what remains of the original cube's surface. They play a part in the design and also provide contact areas for joining one unit to another.

I also like the idea of the versatile unit because, even though I could visualize different combinations or possibilities before having made any actual units, I discovered I would find new combinations once I had the units in hand and could "play" with them. The units would, in a sense, tell me what they could do - information was going both ways."


Q. Your work was featured in "Recent Sculpture USA", a 1959 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Can you recall this experiences? Care to share with our readers?

A. "The Museum of Modern Art, 1959, was probably the most prestigious space in America to have your work exhibited and as a young artist from a small town in the midwest, to say I was impressed is an understatement.

At the opening were artists whom I had read about in art magazines and I was feeling more important than I had been the day before, and it was a great feeling for a day or so.

There were four other artists from the Yale sculpture department whose work had also been accepted and, as I heard it explained later, an important factor in why we were included in the exhibition was that Albers had used his prestige to get the judges to consider our work. I think the museum was reluctant to consider the work of students but Albers pressed the point that we were artists, from different areas of the United States and should be considered in that sense. So thanks to Albers, and, I believe, the quality of the work itself, it was reviewed, and accepted.

My piece in the exhibit was "Minimal Surface Form", carved from white marble and was purchased by the Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy in Andover. Whoever lighted the exhibit made the piece look better than I had ever seen it. There were a number of spotlights, in line, which created overlapping shadows and it was very dramatic. My only regret is that I never took a photo of it during the exhibit."


Q. Your sculptures are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art and Architecture Gallery at Yale University in New Have, Connecticut, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Did you ever expect your work to be that well received?

A. "When I was young and my ego was larger, I don't know if I expected my work to be in museums but I did think about it. I think some of my work is quite good - whether it is valued by others or not is another question.

Also, the list of museums can be misleading. For example, the sculpture that is listed as being in the Yale Art and Architecture building was damaged in the fire and, I was told, later destroyed. The Schenectady Museum (not mentioned) has, or had, a large steel modular piece and one in black granite. The information was correct some years ago but you never know what happens to work over time."

Q. What do you think of sculpture today. Do you like where younger artists are taking it?

A. "I like work I can relate to but is not so familiar that there is nothing for me to discover. But, given my age, many of the ideas and concerns which interested me have either been answered or are no longer relevant to younger artists.

Today, there are many more factors that are a given as being part of sculpture, it's so complex. Color is a given, movement, sound, gigantic scale, high craftsmanship, no craftsmanship, if it exists, it can be used as material for art. These were all around a century ago but today the magnitude of expectations is overwhelming.

For me, it seems that It's a shift away from making art as a way to understand to making art to inform. Both directions have always been with us but the need to learn from making art seems lost in the noise of the loudspeakers. With almost total freedom to work in any direction it would suggest that it must be more difficult than ever for a young artist to find a direction. If nothing is forbidden, the choices are infinite. That's good - I guess."


Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "In September, 1950 and the beginning of classes at the Minneapolis School of Art. It was a revelation to find that there were so many other people who were interested in the same ideas that I found important - like being with old friends or having found your right place in the universe. It's also one of the good reasons for a young person who loves art to go to art school.

Some would say you shouldn't be that comfortable - it's not good for your art. I think it depends on the kind of artist you are. There are many reasons and passions that drive artists. You need to discover what drives you."

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. ""The Proposal Gallery" exhibition in 1979 was important and especially meaningful because the gallery was created and run by some of my former students who invited me to inaugurate the opening of the gallery with a one-man show.

They had spent hundreds of hours cleaning, repairing, painting, changing a second-floor, rather depressing room into a light-filled, pristine space. They worked hard and did a wonderful job turning it into a desireable show-case and I was honored when they asked me to have the opening exhibit."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I like to sit quietly with a cup of coffee and look at what I have been working on - or what I'm going to work on - and just think about it. It's a way to find a kind of calm that helps concentration and focus. I want to look forward to what I'm going to do and I want to finding pleasure in working."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "That's not something I think about."


Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "The "Twist Column / Variant 2" 1958 or '59 (Image above: The photo is of myself with the twist column, taken in the sculpture department) It is constructed of modules which are mirror images of one another (there is a left-twist and a right-twist unit). This unit is the second variation, the first module which was also a twist-unit was more spatially complex.

I think it was Jose Mayoral who suggested making it a simpler form, more like a building block. It was the first unit I made into a larger size unit - 8 inches seemed big at the time. The simpler form also meant that the mold was less complex because of the flat top and bottom. This was another area where Erwin brought in new ideas. He used epoxy resin and fiberglass to make his molds which I then used to make the two 8 inch twist molds. Epoxies were a rather recent technology at that time and Erwin showed me the basics about working with them. It was an excellent material for making molds and sculpture.

As a mold, when it cured it had a very tough surface which accurately reflected the surface of the master unit and it had next to zero shrinkage or expansion during curing. It didn't warp and was relatively light in weight. It was almost the perfect material. I say, almost, because after a few years of working with it I became allergic to the fumes and would break out in rashes that were rather painful. Today, I just have to stay away from it in it's liquid state.

I mentioned "molds AND sculpture", I used epoxy on a series of sculptures that I mentioned earlier as having a surface like taut skin defined by an edge. (see "Construction/Minimal Surface" Hirshhorn Museum). The sculptures began with an edge, usually brass, which would be shaped into a configuration that seemed significant (as opposed to arbitrary). The edge would determine shape of the minimal surface which was formed using plaster or hydrocal. The surface of the mass was then taken down about 1/4 of an inch and a layer of epoxy would be added as an outside shell. After filing and sanding this epoxy shell I would paint the surface with automobile lacquer, sand the entire surface with 400 grit wet-or-dry paper, remove the paint from the brass edge and polish it."


Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Did you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "I never hit "rock-bottom" but there were times when worries would short-circuit the ability to focus on work. Quite often there was no apparent reason for feeling down but I found, though, that doing physical work often helped. Nothing like dealing with "real" problems which are more easily identified and resolved. If nothing else, it's a good time to clean the studio."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Norman Carlberg. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, February 19, 2007

Art Space Talk: Dan Wooster

I recently interviewed artist Dan Wooster. His imagery is confined to the classic subject matter; landscape, still-life, and figure. The process involves a build-up of plaster and paint. Both are scraped away, and then added again, in an often vigorous interchange.


Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I watched my baby sitter making charcoal drawings when I was six years old. Art- making was all I wanted to do since then."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "The society I grew up in frowned on art as a profession, though approved of art as a hobby. The art I make is always about people, and how they relate to each other, and their environment. I try to remove any overt social context that would limit my expression to a certain time period."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "The paintings I make take about 6 weeks for a smaller piece, and a year for a larger one. Occasionally I get lucky, and a painting is complete sooner. I’m not always sure what image I’m after, so reworking the art is what extends the process."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "Creation is most pure when you remove your brain and ego from the formative process. Not like you don’t think, just that you allow the infinite possibilities of paint to manifest themselves in the process of making an image. Your brain has a very limited scope when it comes to planning a piece of art."

Q. Has your art ever been published?

A. "My large painting " Music to my Ears" was stolen from an outdoor artshow. The story was published by Art and Antiques magazine."


Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "The exhibition most important to my growth was in New Orleans , at Bryant Galleries . I over-worked the paintings, over-framed them, and over-priced them, all in the misguided belief that I had "made it". Projected myself into an imagined future was a mistake that lead me to disappointment and discouragement."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I go to the studio and get excited as soon as I unlock the door. I turn on the exhaust fan, turn on all the lights, and turn on the espresso maker. I listen to music mostly, all kinds. Sometimes I listen to NPR news."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "The people who collect my art are generally between 30-50 years old, have gone to college, and are professional people. They are usually more quirky than the average person, and are looking for something different."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "3 Graces—( on my website, 60" x 48" oil on panel)
I showed, and sold this piece recently at J.Ferrari Gallery in Atwater Village CA . This painting started as a figure in the center, competent and ordinary. As I worked, I became frustrated with its sameness to most other figure paintings. Usually it is my realization of mediocrity that breaks me into unchartered realms. I added the 2 other figures, in different styles, and the piece became an icon of my three influences in art. I struggle to combine the major approaches of 20th century art: Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse. The synthesis of these influences is what 3 Graces is about."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I attended The Art Institute of Boston, and have a BFA from there. The school is now defunct."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I took oil painting lessons from a few local private teachers when I lived in new york and Massachusetts. I grew to love the depth of the colors, the smell, the texture."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "I have a show up now at JFerrari Gallery in Atwater Village CA http://www.jferrari.com/"

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "I represent myself. Please go to my website to see my upcoming shows for 2007."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "The emergence of "low brow art " is an important step toward the re-establishment of technique, craftsmanship, and loving care. The conceptual trend that the art world has binged on for 30 years is now in decline. Hopefully there will be a synthesis of the 20th century styles and the new ground broken by conceptualism."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Work at your chosen craft, as much as possible. Other activities can be distractions from your work."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "A nude of mine was removed from a show. I did not protest. It is the prerogative of the gallery to determine what is shown. If I don’t like it, I can show somewhere else."


Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "I hit rock bottom after the show in new Orleans. I had high expectations of success- I sold just a few small pieces, got a low turn-out, only one review, and felt unappreciated. It took me over a year to accept my responsibility for the failures of that show. I was too depressed to send out any slides for over a year. I wasn’t sure I was really going to make money ever again from my art."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "I make art to celebrate my life, and share that joy with others."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I live in the san Fernando valley, in southern California. The art scene here is vital, but disjointed. We need more dialogue between artists."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "I painted a portrait of President bush, but it was rejected by the gallery. Otherwise, no political art from me."


Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "My faith is based in my spirit. My spirit is a part of the infinity of the universe."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Art movements evolve as artists talk to each other, help each other, and look at each other’s work. Egos and competition can get in the way of real movement towards a greater goal."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Dan Wooster. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Art Space Talk: Brian Andrews


I recently interviewed artist Brian Andrews. Mr. Andrews is a part-time instructor at the Art Institute of California and the Course Director for Ex'pression College of Digital Arts. He is a very well-respected educator in his field. He has a firm belief that artists and cultural producers must possess the abilities to evaluate and adapt their ideas in the constantly shifting world of art, and develop their reasoning and production techniques with breakneck evolution of technology.


Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I went to my first real contemporary gallery opening on Valentines Day in 1997. It was a very good day."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "It is a goal of my work to question the boundaries between contemporary culture and the construct of nature, and to inquire as to how elements of artificiality and technology compound and distort these relationships. I like to confront the viewer with images and objects that reside on the uncomfortable line between natural and technological, the living and the automaton."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "As I get older my works seem to get more detailed, and therefore more time consuming."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "I see art as a process of continual redevelopment and examination of ideas. My studio practice is a practical investigation into what and who we are as animals and cultural beings, as well as what an artwork can be. My pieces attempt to get the viewer to ask the same questions I’m asking myself."


Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "An inconsequential group show in 2001. It was the first time I felt that people were engaging with my work and understanding what I was trying to do."


Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I wish. My studio process is as disjointed and unpredictable as it can be. Usually I’m highly distractible during the early phases of conceiving a project. Once a piece is rolling in production, I like to hermit myself and just power though and get it done. In those moments multi-tasking is overrated."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Dark senses of humor and a keen eye."


Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "In Bunny (Chimpanzee) (image above) and Tiger (Chimpanzee) juvenile chimpanzees are discovered in their environment clothed in animal costumes. The photographs ask the viewer to inquire into the cultural personifications imbued in our ideas of the animal and the human, as well as the living and the technological, as they observe these atrophied primates clad in children’s costumes."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I have an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a bunch of other degrees form the University of California San Diego. I liked art school so much I began teaching so I wouldn’t have to leave."


Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I choose the medium for a piece based on the audience experience I wish to engage with for that moment. I mostly use photographs and video because I like their directly mediated presentations."

Q. Where can we see more of your art? Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "I am represented by 40000 in Chicago and have a show there coming up in May, I also have some work up at Rio Hondo Art Gallery in Whittier as I speak. Otherwise visit http://www.brianandrews.org/."


Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I can’t wait for this shitty low-craft proto-nostalgic drawing movement to end."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Get rid of any romantic notions of the artistic process. Making good work is an everyday job. In the end the tortoise beats the hare."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because I live in a world where I can."


Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "San Francisco has a very horizontal rhizomatic art scene. There are some great artists and institutions here, but very little real cross communication. On bad days I think there’s a lot of style over substance. On good days it’s full of neat hidden nitches."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "I think politics are useful in a work only via implication. Otherwise it tends to become didactic and dated."


Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "No, although my work does ask the viewer to pose foundational questions of themselves and our species as a whole. The viewers personal beliefs become part of there framework of that investigation."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "See you out there."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Brian Andrews. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Art Space Talk: Charles Williams


I recently interviewed artist Charles Williams. Mr. Williams is an original member of the Stuckist art group (London). His work is inspired as much by the Simpsons as by the Anglo-French tradition. Charles studied at the Maidstone College of Art and Royal Academy Schools.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "When I was about 18. I got kicked out of a Teacher Training degree, due to not ever turning up for anything, and realised there was something I badly needed to do, other than lying around getting stoned all day and wishing I wasn't such crap with girls."

Q. You are a founding member of the original Stuckist art group. How did you meet Charles Thomson, Billy Childish, and the others?

A. "I bumped into Charles Thomson in Safeways in MAidstone a lot when I was still at the Academy Schools. Billy I had seen perform a few times. He was a cult figure. He still is a bit of a cult. "


Q. You attended the Royal Academy of Art, London, where in 1992 you won the top prize for painting as well as the prize for anatomical drawing. How did your studies at the Royal Academy of Art shape the direction of your work? Or did it hold you back?

A. "You can regret things or you can embrace things. I try to embrace things."

Q. In 1996 you were elected to the New English Art Club (NEAC). You now serve as a committee member. Can you tell us a little about NEAC?

A. "The NEAC is an exhibiting society of artists which has an extremely distinguished history and a not so distinguished past. I am as embarrassed by being a member of the NEAC as I am by being a Stuckist."


Q. Your art was featured at the Stuckists Punk Victorian, at the Walker Art Gallery, during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial. Can you recall any of your thoughts going into the exhibit?

A. "Not really, the dealer I had at the time dealt with the whole thing, and I was sidelined. I do remember thinking that I'd much prefer to have been in the John Moore's exhibition, which was running concurrently."

Q. I've read that your work is inspired by the Simpsons as much as it is by the Anglo-French tradition of Sickert and Degas. How do you make all of these influences come together in your work?

A. "By dint of hard work and pure talent."


Q. You've been known to say that "An artist has few choices in these times." Can you go into detail about your observation?

A. "When the hell did I say that? Absolutely rubbish. Artists have every choice. You can do what you want, just don't expect any money. As my mother used to say to me."

Q. It has been said that your paintings are a 'love-letter to the human race'. Can you shed more light on your goals as a painter? What do you wish to convey with your images?

A. "My goal as a painter and as a man is to remain an enthusiatic and discerning consumer."

Q. What is your personal view of conceptual art? How do you feel about the work of say... Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin?

A. "I have nothing against either of them, any more. They are my generation, and to be honest, they're both a bit old hat nowadays. I knew Tracey Emin at college, and I thought she had special needs. I mean that in the nicest way."


Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "There is no average. Could be a day, could be six months, could be two or three years."

Q. Can you share some more of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "Creativity is about trusting yourself and trying no to be embarrassed by what you produce. Your enemy is censorship, either yours or anyone else's."


Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I listen to Radio 4. I used to insist on total silence in the studio, but I ended up talking to myself all day, and I got sick and tired of hearing the kind of crap I was coming out with, so Radio 4's middle class liberal do gooding condescension has replaced the drone of my own personality. Which is good, although my studio mates do get to hear rather too much of my ghastly right wing views when it all gets too much and I scream at Jenny Murray or that dreadful illiterate that presents You and Yours. Sorry."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "Oil painting seems to come naturally to me. I have been painting for twenty years though."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/yourgallery/, http://www.thompsonsgallery.co.uk/, http://www.newenglishartclub.co.uk/"

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I don't get pout enough to tell you much on this one."


Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Don't do it unless you have to."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "It does get censored sometimes, but I just persist."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "My first one man show sold one picture, for which I got £700. I had spent £3000 on framing. That was hard."


Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because I must."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I live in Hackney. It's the centre of the Artistic Universe, but noone talks to me about it. Good thing really, because the kind of work you see in the chic little exclusive galleries that you can only get into by prior appointment or if you are Pete Docherty is utter utter shite."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "My work is my life. That and curling."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Charles Williams. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, February 16, 2007

Art Space Talk: Jonathan Weiner (a.k.a VINER)

I recently interviewed artist Jonathan Weiner (a.k.a VINER). Viner is known for utilizing traditional methods of oil painting to create images that explore the state of man in the 21st century. His work has been featured in Juxtapoz Magazine.

Viner's art confronts significant themes facing contemporary society such as violence, rapid change, alienation, power, and morality. He achieves this by combining allegory, stylization, and surrealism. A strong sense of symbolism can be observed in every image he creates.


Q. Your art confronts significant themes facing contemporary society, such as violence, rapid change, morality, power and alienation. What made you decide to focus on these issues with your work? What do you hope viewers gain from observing these works?

A. "There are probably many reasons why I focus on these issues, but in the end it all boils down to the simple answer that this is just what comes out of me when I pick up a brush. It isn’t a conscious decision.

As for what I hope viewers gain, I guess I want them to see something special, and for them to be moved by it. I like the idea of strangers connecting with my work. Other than that, I don’t worry too much about what they specifically gain. In all honesty, my motivations as an artist are far from charitable. I paint because I’m compelled to and I’m rewarded for it."

Q. There seems to be a great deal of psychology within the context of your work. Have you studied psychology? If so, do you utilize that knowledge when creating?

A. "I’ve never studied psychology, but I’ve always been a kind of "armchair psychologist". People who are close to me have pointed out that I tend to poke and prod, and engage their defenses. It’s a bit of a character flaw on my part, perhaps.

I’ve dealt with some serious anxiety issues since adolescence. In a way, I’m sort of spreading the hysteria through my artwork. Misery loves company, right? Actually I don’t really think my motivation is that sadistic. I think I’m just grappling with shit through my artwork, ultimately trying to not only normalize these anxieties, but to find the beauty in them. "


Q. Your family moved often during your childhood. Do you think those memories are reflected in the work you create today? If so, how? Is this where the theme of alienation came from? Having been moved from one place to another when you were young?

A. "That sounds like a pretty good analysis to me, though I think the alienation would still be there had we not moved around. I think being Jewish plays a factor, as does being an identical twin. Before we ever moved, these things made me feel special on the one hand and strange on the other. Moving around and often being the new kid sure didn’t make it any easier to feel like I belonged."


Q. You have stated that you are influenced by Velasquez, Carravaggio, and Sargent (among others). Can you go into detail as to how these artists have influenced you?

A. "I was attracted to dramatic images, with charged atmospheres. These painters made images that felt authentic and sincere, and powerful. I was impressed with artists who displayed impressive technical skill, and I set out to absorb the various elements that made their work great. I’ve always considered myself to be another link in this chain of traditional oil painters that spans centuries."


Q. You have said that art is the "battlefield upon which the mind vies with reality. Whichever force triumphs, the result is art.". Care to go into detail about this statement? What is the philosophy behind your creative process?

A. "At some point in my early twenties I realized that I made my best work when I remained flexible and stopped trying to control the outcome. It’s always a blend of the intentional and the unintentional. For example, I may imagine a scene with a red wall in the background, but when I try to paint it, I’ll wind up struggling with that red until I have to back off and recognize that it just shouldn’t be red. It doesn’t want to be red. It’s a stressful, tumultuous, challenging, but ultimately enjoyable process. I get satisfaction from painting, but at the same time I’m never entirely satisfied with the final outcome. I always want to try again."

Q. Your work has been published in Juxtapoz Magazine. This is considered by many to be a major accomplishment. Care to share any details of that experience? How did you feel afterwards?

A. "It’s just one step on a long path. I have a strange relationship with that magazine. They seem to lean more towards graffiti and tattoo culture, and I have no real connection with that stuff. It’s another example of feeling like I’m an outsider (even among the outsiders)."


Q. Your client list includes Playboy, Rolling Stone, Darwin, Harvard Business Review, Forbes and many more. Did you ever expect your work to be so successful? Or is it kind of like living a dream?

A. "It was actually nothing like living a dream. And it started to dawn on me that perhaps I’m not best suited to be an illustrator. One of my teachers at RISD had observed that I work in reverse, from an illustration standpoint. First I paint something and then figure out what it’s "illustrating". Obviously you can’t work that way in the illustration world.

When working on an illustration assignment, I had to change my natural process and do several preliminary sketches, then make changes to suite someone else’s needs, and then execute a painting that adheres to a predetermined sketch, all within about a week. It’s rather rigid and stifling, and I believe the quality of my work suffered.

Also, my work is considered to be a bit too dark and edgy for many publishers. While I received much recognition from the illustration annuals and organizations, I didn’t really get much work, and the work I got didn’t pay that great for the amount of time I worked.

At this point I make a much better living off of selling my work in galleries. Now I have the time and flexibility to make better paintings, and I can finally afford to pay rent for a roomy painting studio where I can devote myself full time to my own work. That’s more like living a dream to me than seeing some painting I had only two days to paint get printed on the bottom left quarter of page 63 of so-and-so monthly."


Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "There was no specific point where I discovered that. It’s like asking at what point I discovered food would be an important part of my adult life. It’s always been there, and I’ve always known that it always would be. Even if I wound up becoming an electrician or something, I’d be painting in my spare time."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "It’s hard to calculate. I rarely have the luxury of spending enough time on a piece. I probably wind up spending about two to four weeks average. Six to eight weeks for a larger painting. I like to work on a few at the same time, going back and forth. Basically, I can honestly say that I have never had enough time to complete a painting. Usually I run out of time. I have a nagging suspicion that this is a metaphor about life."


Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "My solo show "The Attacker’s Move" was my most important show to date. To be honest, it was rather stressful. It coincided with the release of my first book, Tranquil Aftermath. In addition to working on the book, I had to deal with some major moves in my life while preparing for that show, which took a toll on the amount of work I was able to produce. That upset the gallery owner, and eventually led to some damaging exchanges which we are still struggling to recover from. I’m now working on producing work for an even bigger show at the same gallery, and the problems from "The Attacker’s Move" are still hanging overhead like an ominous cloud. It’s a complicated, emotional business, but at least it’s interesting."


Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "It takes me a while to actually start painting. I need to get comfortable first. I usually start with something enjoyable and not directly painting-related. I put music on right away. Then I might answer some emails, update my website, catch up on the news, read, flip through magazines, etc. After an hour or two, I feel ready to start looking at whatever I’m working on. After some looking and thinking, I’ll get up and start painting. I repeat this ritual several times a day. "Day" is misleading, since I often prefer to work at night."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "I have an informal policy of not discussing the meaning of specific paintings."


Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I really had no choice in the matter. I’d love to be able to paint with, say, acrylics instead of oils, but I just can’t. I paint in oil because that’s what I’m best at. I think it has something to do with the slow drying time. It’s a very forgiving, malleable medium, and you can work in infinite layers. And there is a depth of tone and color I can’t get from anything else. I work on panel because I dislike the texture of canvas and linen. I like the smooth surface and solidity of panel."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "In person, you can see some of my work at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, in the Chelsea gallery district of NYC. He has several of my painting in his inventory, and will pull them out for anyone who drops by during their business hours.

You can also see printed reproductions of my work in my book "Tranquil Aftermath", which is available through http://www.murphydesign.com/ and http://www.jonathanlevinegallery.com/.

And you can see my work online at my website http://www.vinerstudio.com/ ."


Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "I’m currently represented in NYC by Jonathan LeVine Gallery. My next major solo show will be there in January of 2008. I’d like to find galleries to represent me on the west coast and in Europe as well."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "No new trends that I’m aware of. The same old stuff, I think…graffiti is still hot, the na├»ve, folky stuff is still hot, tight oil painting is hot…I dunno, honestly, I’m afraid I’m blissfully unaware of trends in the art world."


Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Hone your skills, be authentic, resist gimmicks and popular trends, be patient, be persistent, and have faith in yourself. Be your own biggest fan and biggest critic. Enjoy the process but stay humble. If possible, do not get a "day job". Do what you have to do to devote as much time as you can to your art."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "The only magazine that ever killed one of my illustrations due to its content was "The Progressive", which is kind of funny if you ask me. I dealt with it by shrugging and scratching my head."


Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "Well, after the 9/11 attacks, which coincided with the bursting of the tech bubble, work dried up for over a year. I had to find creative ways to make rent each month. Tried painting backgrounds for an independent animator (didn’t have the temperament for that), and then tried being a dog walker for a while (that ended with a client threatening to take legal action against me). In the end I just lived off my credit cards, painted for fun, lived cheaply, and played lots of soccer at the park (it was free). Rock bottom was actually rather liberating."


Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because I’m good at it."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "As I’ve mentioned, I’m not very aware of the art scene in NYC. I’m mainly aware of the whole Juxtapoz art scene, which isn’t really relegated to one area. So in terms of this whole Lowbrow/Pop Surreal/New Art scene….it seems to be booming, and as the saying goes, you gotta make hay while the sun shines."


Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "Yes to all of the above."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "Nope, I think I’ve given you everything I’ve got!"
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Jonathan Weiner (a.k.a VINER). Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin