Saturday, June 14, 2008

Art Space Talk: Zach Stein

Zach Stein's installations, monotypes, and paintings tend to be experimental in nature. This is achieved by the fact that Zach utilizes a variety of mediums in an intuitive manner-- everything from hot glue to rum. He is an artist who is not afraid to test the limits of his materials. Zach is currently a student at the University of Kentucky.

Untitled, Dimensions: 18x24, Medium: monotype.

Brian Sherwin: Zach, you are currently an undergrad at the University of Kentucky. Can you tell us about your experience in the program? Do you have any influential instructors? Also, what are your plans after graduation?

Zach Stein: Finally getting the chance to attend college and pursue a career that I enjoy is great. Out of high school I was not "college material" so I didn’t go. I worked shitty factory jobs but I always managed to keep a journal and sketchbooks to keep my sanity. After marrying my wife we decided that it was possible for me to go to school. I was unsure that I could survive academia until a friend of mine took me to visit George Szekely’s art ed class. His philosophy of artistic freedom inspired me a lot.

The program at UK is trying hard to work with what little we have. There are actually a lot of changes going on right now. New faculty members like Logan Grider and Ebony Patterson have helped to re-energize the department and have taken the critiques to another level. I am seeing better work from many of my classmates and there is a greater sense of community.

As for my future plans, I am trying extremely hard not to think about that right now. I want to go to a good grad school. I also love Kentucky. Since I am already entering the race late I have been very anxious about catching up. Many people say you have to go to New York or L.A. to be successful, but with the Internet and through places like Myartspace, people throughout the world can see my work. So, for the moment I am easing my anxiety by planning on teaching here for a couple of years and then finding a low residency program for my MFA. Ultimately, I want to teach at a college level, I am inspired by the creative energy that circulates there.
There is no Spoon, Dimensions: variable (pvc=8x8x8), Medium: wire, pvc, hot glue.

BS: I really enjoy your installation titled 'There is No Spoon'. In this piece you utilized wire in a manner that reminds one of lines drawn upon paper. It is as if the piece is an 'atmospheric drawing'-- lead has been replaced by wire.Was this your intention? Tell us more about There is No Spoon...

ZS: Every spring there is a student drawing competition that traditionally consists of still life and figure drawings. In 2007 I entered a deconstructed sketchbook of doodles and surprised myself by winning. This gave me a much needed ego boost (some may say too much) and I was determined to come back next year and challenge concepts of drawing and challenge my classmates to push themselves to think beyond tradition.

The title is pulled from a line in The Matrix, which basically states that the only way to bend a spoon is to realize it does not exist. I often pull my titles from pop culture references that may not be directly related to the piece but may help to add another layer depth or spin the concept in another direction for those who get the connection.So, its intention was to be a drawing that challenged drawing.
There is no Spoon (detail)

BS: Can you tell us more about your installations and the choice of materials that you use?

ZS: I have been trying to take a minimalist approach to my work lately. I used to throw everything I had into a piece. I still do on occasion, but I have found more inspiration in the simplicity of an image and slowly building upon that. I use wire because it relates most directly to line drawings. Initially, hot glue was just used as a connector, but as I began to appreciate the webs and drips it created I wanted it to play a more active roll in the work.Recently, I have taken a greater interest in plastic and I have been experimenting in what I can do with them. I enjoy finding new materials and playing with them to find inspiration.

BS: Zach, I also enjoy your monotypes. Tell us about your thoughts behind them...

ZS: My monotypes are actually where a lot of my current work originated. They actually began as a protest toward the new faculty. Any such transition is tough, they had to flex their muscles to let the snot-nosed students know who’s boss and my snotty little ego wasn’t getting stroked enough.

My only safe haven that semester was monotype class. My protest began by making a bunch of quick trace monotypes of "Fuck You" drawings. My intent was to present these crude sketches at the students Open Studio event as "what the new faculty taught me." Being one who never likes to waste process I printed the plate after about 50 small sketches and instantly fell in love.

The process is fueled by my interest in quantum physics, the infinite, and other such things that prove how little I know when I try to talk about them.
untitled, Dimensions: 18x24, Medium: monotype

BS: These works appear to be very complex-- how do you go about creating them? Do you work intuitively or is there a great deal of planning involved?

ZS: My work is very intuitive. I find the process very meditative. My goal is not to place content in my work, but to allow the viewer (myself included) to find their own meaning. I do have interest and influences that may affect my work but I want each viewer to come to their own conclusion. I find myself least satisfied with the work I try to force.

BS: You have also created a number of paintings. Perhaps you could tell us about your paintings?

ZS: My abstract paintings are very experimental. They usually involve a variety of mediums and a lot of mess. I enjoy the crayon paintings because they involve using a blowtorch and rum, but I usually drink as much as I burn and end the night chasing a run away flame around the floor. I don’t make those too often.

My goal when painting is to try and be as hands off as possible. I want to allow the nature of the materials used to play off each other. I also like to use layers of gel medium and resin to help give the painting a physical depth. My use of color is fairly random and probably makes hard-core color theorists cringe.
The Garden of Eden, Dimensions: 24x24, Medium: crayon, oil pastel, acrylic, rum, flame .

BS: What about specific influences? Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

ZS: Early influences come more from music and film. I am a victim of MTV. I am very fond of industrial and punk music, but anything experimental is always good. I have always called Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Ministry my holy trinity.

I actually suffer from looking at too many artists. Influences include: Joan Miro, Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, Sarah Lucas, Banks Violette, Sarah Sze, Carroll Dunham, Sol Lewitt, Diana Cooper, Jake and Dinos Chapman and anything else that passes by.

BS: Which do you enjoy creating the most? The installations, the monotypes, or the paintings? Do you think at some point you will focus on one over the others-- or do you plan to continue branching out with your artistic direction?

ZS: I have to work on multiple things at once. It depends on my mood and what kind of space I am in. I just enjoy creating something. My declared major is Painting, fortunately I believe in loose definitions.
Untitled, Dimensions: 18x24, Medium: monotype.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

ZS: Monotypes, for some reason I can’t stop. Painting in oil, for the part of me that feels I need to do something traditional. Fusing plastic, to do something with the endless supply of grocery bags, it makes me feel as though I can save the planet on my own…not sure where it’s going.

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

ZS: I’m just glad that I am able to make work that people enjoy. It’s great that there are places like Myartspace where I can post my work and get feedback. It inspires me to want to work more just to know someone is looking. Thank You Very Much.
Zach Stein is a member of the community. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

Zach, Love the controlled chaos of the installations and the monoprints. And the way the monoprints and the installations interact.
Also impressed with the depth you get in your plastic bag paintings.

Anonymous said...

Zach, Love the controlled chaos of the installations and the monoprints. And the way the monoprints and the installations interact.
Also impressed with the depth you get in your plastic bag paintings.

Anonymous said...

In it something is. I thank for the information, now I will know.

Anonymous said...

Instead of criticism write the variants.