Sunday, December 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Adam Frezza

Adam Frezza was born in upstate New York and currently calls New York City his home. He is currently a Keyholder Resident at The Lower East Side Printshop. Recent solo and groups shows include the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, FL and Society of Illustrators' Educators Symposium Student Sketchbook Anthology, New York, NY.

Adam is one of the 50 finalists of the Myartspace NY, NY 2007 Competition. The finalists were chosen by three very respected members of the global art community-- Jessica Morgan, curator of contemporary art at the Tate Modern, James Rondeau, curator of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago and Steven Zevitas, Publisher and Editor of New American Paintings.

I Guess The Lord Must Be in The Bathroom at The Museum of Modern Art 4, Acrylic Polymer & Graphite on Board, 7 x 5", 2007.

Brian Sherwin: Adam, can you tell us about your early years-- your early interest in art?

Adam Frezza: Apparently, I used to like to draw when I was a kid. My parents tell me that I asked if there was a school for art when I was about 4 years old. I don't remember much of it, but we drove to this small building near our house in upstate New York. There was a large blue and red triangle sculpture permanently mounted in the parking lot. I waited in the yellow station wagon while my father entered the strange building. I saw him talking in the doorway with a woman. He began to look upset and eventually came back to the car dejected--it seems that the instructor thought my parents were forcing me into something that they wanted more than I did. Nevertheless, the school would not accept me until I was older. I have always felt a weird connection, albeit opposition, to triangles-- I can't help but think it has something to do with that day. In a way, it helped me prepare myself for future rejection.

BS: Adam, I read that you studied at Flagler College, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the University of Florida. Who were your instructors during those years? Can you tell us anything about these art programs?

AF: I think those are all fantastic schools for very different reasons. Flagler College, first of all is one of the most unique and beautiful campuses I have ever seen. The college itself is located in St. Augustine, FL, the oldest city in The United States. The art program is like a forgotten precious stone. Former Art Chair, Don Martin is a phenom leftover from the analog days of graphic/commercial design. The things he can do with an airbrush and a rapidograph pen are outrageous. Enzo Torcolleti is a fantastic Italian sculptor who still calls Italy home but has taught at Flagler since 1969 (he retired in 2007). Patrick Moser is a painter with the hands of a piano player and the mind of a scholar. Professor Maureen O'Neil helped bring a more conceptual and poetic element to the program. One of my most engaging and courageous instructors at Flagler, however, was the German artist Uli Whittaker. She has since moved on to further her art career, but the energy and inspiration that woman provided in the classroom really helped me hone-in on my drawing ability.
After receiving my B.A. from Flagler, I attended The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA for a one-year post-baccalaureate. PAFA was the first art academy in The United States, and its reputation precedes it. It was an amazing experience: a full size cast replica of Michelangelo's David in the cast hall, live horses in the drawing rooms, a museum with some of the most important examples of artwork from early America through to today, and a faculty that reads like a who's who of academic art. The studio spaces are fabulous. I really flourished there under the instruction and care of Bruce Samuelson, Kate Moran, Kathy Bradford, Dan Miller, Anthony Rosati, Micheal Moore, and Mark Blavat. The lecture-programs and visiting artist programs at PAFA are really wonderful and provide access to people and information from all areas of the artworld.
From PAFA I moved to Gainesville, FL and attended the University of Florida where I received my MFA in Painting & Drawing. UF was a, somewhat surprisingly, amazing place. The level of instruction and criticism was beyond what I had anticipated for a Florida school. As much as PAFA had a connection to New York and various niches of the artworld, UF seemed to have even more. I think part of the reason could be the fact that the faculty boasts international contemporary artists like Max Becher (son of Bernd and Hilla Becher), Andrea Robbins, Sergio Vega, Arnold Mesches, Sean Miller (JEMA), Ron Janowich, Celeste Roberge, Richard Heipp, Bob Mueller, and art historian Alex Alberro. The Google-ability of all of these artists is pretty impressive (go ahead, try it!). The lectures and visiting artists were amazing and the trips to New York City and Miami were priceless.
Robert Storr, Raphael Rubinstein, Hal Foster, and Charlie White (to name a few) all came and gave fantastic talks, some with enlightening studio visits, and often with the opportunity for even more intimate social encounters with some of the best people in the field. All of this from a school with much of its focus on teaching; Grad students actually teach many of the rudimentary undergraduate courses, so I have quite a bit of teaching experience under my belt. The overall experience at UF was exceptional.

A Beguiling Mechanism For Controlling Substance (installation view), Various Materials on Panel, 96 x 288", 2007.

BS: Adam, I've read that you do not like to link yourself to any movement or genre. In a sense, you feel that linking yourself to other artists in this way may contain your work in a manner that will hinder individualistic growth, correct? Can you tell us more about your philosophy behind this choice? Do you think it is important to place your work in a historical context-- do you give any form of validity to your work by enforcing it with artists who have came and gone --or is that something you avoid as well?

AF: I like to think of history as a flattened fiction, unharnessed by the separation of time or context. It is easy to hear words like 'surrealism' or 'post-modernism' or any other term organized through a specific history and believe yourself to have an understanding of what that is. I am more interested in not knowing-- I like to look at terms and genres that history has mapped out or defined and question or revise what has already been done with them. Not so much in the appropriation of images or ideas but more in the viewing and internalization of these images and ideas. Of course the rules of history are there to keep things organized and understandable, but it is sometimes more productive and enlightening to knock down the walls that separate something like a Giotto mural from a graffiti wall.
I guess it really comes down to my desire to break things down and try to pick them up again: it's never going to come out the same way. So yeah, call me whatever, but I am always going to try to squirm my way out of it. I think this is happening more and more with contemporary curators and the search for different links between artists and history. I like to imagine my work hanging beside a Brueghal painting somewhere in Belgium and also next to the latest by contemporary artists at the Whitney or MOMA. The time and context aspects of history are meant to be played with.
Rosco, Silver Leaf on Digital Print, 5 x 7", 2007.

BS: Adam, you are known for working in a variety of manners-- painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video, performance, and photography. How do you keep your work connected when taking so many creative paths? Do you deal with the same themes from one method to the next? Or do you 'burn the bridges' as you go, so to speak?

AF: If the bridge ever gets burned, I use the ashes from whatever was burned for a future project. For instance, a series of drawings might need to look a certain way, but once that series is over, I am not going to keep making the same drawings. Elements of those drawings may creep into a painting or sculpture, but by that time the imagery has shifted so much that the content has to be dealt with and controlled differently.
Ultimately, I tend to question all of those mediums in a similar fashion as I question history-- and not in a visual way, but in the internalization of the experience of something. Can a performance be looked at like one might look at a painting? Can we think of a video as a drawing or a sculpture? Again, these are not new ideas, but by disregarding medium, to an extent, the focus comes more upon continuing with an idea and expressing it in as many forms available or possible.
The Ill-Magical Use of Tools, vol. 4, Graphite on Paper, 10 x 15", 2007.

BS: Adam, your work seems to have some roots in psychology in the way that it deals with the idea of beauty. It is as if your work is a visual play on the psyche of consumers-- questioning their actions, their fears, and repulsions. Is this so? Can you go into detail about what you are conveying with your work?

AF: 'Consumers' is an interesting analogy. . . I think you might be a sensitive perceiver, and I mean that as the highest compliment. I believe that much of the inspiration for my work comes down to the difference between someone who would scoff at a pile of shit in the street and the person who would inspect, question, and show a little curiosity about the same substance. Our collective perception of our external world is highly manufactured and anything that can lift the curtain and reveal an aspect of reality, or a clearer perception of our surroundings, is worth investigating. There are so many things that leave me feeling unsatisfied; yet if I look at the same things in a different way I become filled with satisfaction. I am interested in altered states of reality and the human's ability, or desire, to control those experiences.

13 Stages of A Broken Nose: The Owen Wilson Memorial Drawings, 11, Acrylic Polymer & Graphite on Board, 7 x 5", 2007.

BS: Is there a spiritual side to your work? You've mentioned that you are interested in how a decayed or broken down form can become a new form all together... does your work, hint at aspects of reincarnation? Do you explore the spiritual side of life with your work?

AF: Spirituality is such a slippery word. I am not a conventionally religious person, but I do believe in the sensation that this understanding of a human experience is just one possibility for existence. Of course, life seems real enough, but I am left feeling curious about the severity of it all; I am not necessarily searching for something else or looking for answers to the world's problems, but I enjoy playing with the idea that this is/or is not an end realm. There is always a bit of tongue in cheek happening with my work between aspects of spirituality, humor, and wit.

BS: It could also be said that aspects of nature influence your interest in decayed forms. For example, the situation of life and death... how a corpse can be full of life-- maggots and other living beings that feed upon a creature that once thrived. With that said, would you say that the essence of nature is captured in your work?

AF: Well, I guess the one thing I left out above is sexuality, and maybe sexuality is something I equate with the 'essence of nature'. However, capturing the essence of something is seemingly impossible, but the effort is still intriguing. All things end . . . By recognizing and respecting the beasts that do and will consume our beings, I imagine an aging process that is expected and appreciated rather than feared and repressed. Sex just happens to be an important and vital signifier of the life cycle.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

AF: I am at the tail end of the first installment of a new project (working title, The Mastery of Unbecoming). The piece is one of a projected five works that will work together to form one large idea and image. The pieces are broken into 12" x 12" squares that can be joined together to create larger images. Each of the five pieces will have 30 squares to make five 6' x 5' images or one 6' x 25' image. It is a gilded and painted pencil drawing. I want to wait until the project is completed to post it, so it may not be up until fall 2008.
Of course, I have other projects to keep me busy while I work on this. I am at the beginning stages of a video project that is really multiple photographs of a sculpture, installed in a specific place, and set to motion. Ultimately, I think of it as a drawing (to riff on the 'medium' discussion earlier). I like staying busy.

BS: Adam, let us talk about some of your accomplishments. It is my understanding that you hold a studio residency at The Lower East Side Printshop in Manhattan. Can you tell us about that experience?

AF: It has been fabulous! I live just a short walk away so it is very convenient and the people there are really great. I actually haven't made any prints there yet, but I have been working on the pieces I just mentioned. The shared space is really a great way to interact with other artists, but it has also been a wonderful place to quietly work on what I am focused on right now. The residency runs until October 2008 so you can bet to see some prints in the near future.

Mason Manila Drawing 13, Acrylic Polymer & Graphite on Manila Folder, 5 x 7", 2007.

The Church Door Drawing 1, Acrylic Polymer & Graphite on Board, 7 x 5", 2007.

BS: Adam, I understand that you plan to have a solo exhibition in January. Where will this exhibition take place? Do you plan to reveal new work? What other exhibitions do you have planned for 2008?

AF: A show of small drawings, Mason Manila & The Church Door, will be on view at The Gallery @ Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, MA (10 miles north of Boston). Both series of works are available to view online, but I am excited to see the work up on walls. All framed works for the show are priced @ $295ea. so get 'em while they're hot! The show will be up from January 10 thru January 27th. Also, in February '08 I will have work featured in the Northeastern publication of New American Paintings (Book 74).
Leigh Gives Birth to A Lucian, Acrylic Polymer & Graphite on Hand-Crafted Graph Paper, 7.5 x 6", 2007.

BS: Adam, what else will you be involved with in 2008?

AF: I hope to drop some Small Bombs of Disgusting Love on the Frieze Art Fair in London next October. I am also keeping my fingers crossed for a permanent installation project in an art village in Korea. Wish me luck.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

AF: Sure, . . .

My temporary experiences
Of this rickety life
Are like color and texture
Being thrown out a window.
But my tears,
Like mescalin,
Clear my eyes
So that I can see this beautiful mess.
Adam Frezza is a member of the community-- login id: frezzart. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Contributing Editor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW, That's my son.