Sunday, March 04, 2007

Art Space Talk: Fernando Mastrangelo

I recently interviewed artist Fernando Mastrangelo. I observed Fernando's 'Eastasia' at the Scope Art Fair 2007 (New York). Eastasia was wonderful to view. The photos included within the context of this interview do not give it justice.

Fernando Mastrangelo strives to embody a Dionysian ethos with his work. His goal is to represent a world riddled with ecstatic energy. His pieces ask questions that can only be answered with a visual language.

Fernando is like a visual philosopher whose sculptures question the condition of life and who takes risks to accomplish a language that sings its own divine lullaby.

You can observe more of Fernando's work at:

Q. You were represented by RARE Gallery at Scope (New York). Your work seemed to be a point of interest for many observers. Care to share any of your experiences during the fair?

A. "The weekend of Scope Art Fair, there were so many fairs, parties, events, and exhibitions’ going on that it was difficult to just experience Scope. A few interesting things happened just while I was setting the piece up. A family walking by thought that the entire sculpture was made of snow… I thought that was pretty funny. A few minutes later the producer of the "early show" on CBS walked by and loved the sculpture. He gave me his contact info and asked me to email him about perhaps working together in the future. It’s always interesting to put work in such a public arena… you just never know who’s going to be looking at your work or the publics reaction. I just heard from the curator that a little boy was throwing snowballs at the figure… I guess criticism comes in all forms…"

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

A. "Art is important in my life because I need to make a living. I discovered that it would be an important part of my adult life when I was getting too old to start another career. Once you make the decision to be an artist… and the years start to go by, one has less options of leaving the lifestyle because so much is invested. In many ways, I feel that my options of moving into another career are slim mainly because there is a lot of money in the arts and working for someone else will never be fulfilling. What’s most important in my adult life is that I find a person to share my life with, and enjoy the small pleasures… many of which are not tied to making art."

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

A. "Social implications are what motivate my work at this point. I feel that art that is not influenced by society is limited and frankly, uninteresting. I can look at an abstract painting or sculpture, and enjoy the formal aspects (color, shape, composition, etc…) of the work, but as far as it’s importance to the contemporary art dialogue… well… that’s not the kind of work that is going to add to the progression of art. It can make for great wall decoration, or even market success, but without a point, it’s simply limited, and that’s not the kind of world we live in today."

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

A. "The piece for Scope took 3 weeks. I am currently working with an apprentice, who has been very helpful in expediting some of the process. I feel as though my fabrication has become more and more refined, and this helps get the work made faster. For the piece "malicia" it took me about a year to complete, but that includes working on other smaller pieces and trying to finance the high cost of making such a large sculpture."

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

A. "I believe that artist should pursue their interests outside of art and then return to the studio with subject matters that are expansive, and not self-absorbed. This usually creates access for the audience to become engaged with the work, rather than making art about a closed subject matter… such as oneself. So… go live life, experience the world, have a lot of sex, read, have more sex, and then come back to the studio witj something to talk about. AND DON’T MAKE ART ABOUT ART!"

Q. Has your art ever been published? What magazines?

A. "New York Times, Sculpture Magazine, Richmond Times, Seattle PI, Scope Art Fair Catalogues."

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

A. "My first solo exhibition in New York "malicia" has been my most important exhibition. This show changed my studio practice, and has expended my ideas of how I want to pursue sculpture in the future. The show incorporated Brazilian Capoeria, 19th Century German philosophy, and current political themes. This became the framework for making formal and conceptual decisions. Through sculpture, I’ve been able to explore varied topics of interest, and manifest them through narrative installations."

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. "My studio is a place where I go to fabricate. I don’t do much thinking there, just work. I walk through the crazy streets of New York with my ipod on to think about my sculptures."

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 in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU is the best Graduate School for sculpture in the country. If people decide to apply there, they will understand why."

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

A. "Last year it was Rainbows and Dear. This year it’s Skulls."

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

A. "I once did a show upstate NY, and the gallery wanted to put my piece in the back, away from the windows just incase families walked by. Once the show opened the New York Times photographed my piece and published it… sometimes things just work themselves out."

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

A. "It’s hard almost every day. Money, people, hierarchy, popularity, all the bullshit that has nothing to do with the merit of ones work. Being judged on what you have on your resume rather than the actual work. Rock bottom will be the day that I quit making what I want, and start making pretty things that look good behind someone’s Italian furniture."

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

A. "Money, Fame, Power."

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

A. "New York City. Make smart choices before you move here. Go to one of the top Grad Schools. Make sure you make friends. The art scene here is all about your Network. If you think that just good work will get you a show forget it!"

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

A. "Religion and Faith have no place in my life. Therefore it does exits in my work, but only in my critique of it."

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

A. "I hope to show in the project room at the Whitney, and I want Shamim Momin to write the catalog."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Fernando Mastrangelo. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...


Kai said...

Ego. and coffee. plus fragile, and black.

Kai said...

Ok- ego jostling aside, Fernando sounds like he's driven by money and fame. Totally true. From the first time I met him, he's been running past me saying there's not enough time in the day to get your life's work done. Those moments shook me up. I thought he was going to be consumed by his own heat. It's been years and the fires still fast and hot. For all the hollering and wacky posturing I've seen from him, the thing that sticks with me is his intense curiousity and fairness.* His ego is honesty driven as much as it's fed by ambition and positivity.** He's the total package. I would like to offer up an ego building qoute from his Mother but Fern would be embarrased if I told you all. Let's just say that she's got much better things to say about Fern than most of our own mothers can attest to, mine being the farthest from an exception.

And yes, fragile