Social Distanzine Interview for 10xCommunity: “Give Artists as Much Visibility as Possible”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Social Distanzine is a joint effort by co -editors Allison Remy Hall, a Jersey City-based curator, and Detroit-based artist and illustrator Narciso Espiritu.
The Instagram platform features art created during the Zeitgeist of the CoVid-19 Pandemic. We discussed their initiative to learn more about the ripples it has made in the larger arts community.

 

ANTE:  Allison, Narciso, thank you both for chatting with us about this project – can you start by sharing the genesis of this with our readers?

Allison Remy Hall: Like a lot of people in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, I was following an impulse to start a project that would help to pass the time indoors. For me, the primary joy of curatorial work is that exhibitions are generative of community. I wanted to do something that would manifest virtual elements of those in-person encounters with art and people that we are all missing now. I asked my friend and illustrator @narcisoespiritu if he would come aboard as co-editor, and together with a few other contributors we have set about creating a document of the experiences and work of the global arts community during this time.
 
Narciso Espiritu: Initially, Allison approached me with a few tentative names for something that would function as a document of this time in the arts, and I quickly embraced the idea. I’ve had experience with art publications of my own, so I felt like I could lend a hand in this effort. Also, we have worked pretty well together on previous projects, so it feels like a smooth collaboration.
Images published as part of “Social Distanzine” on Instagram (@social_distanzine)
 
ANTE: Social_Distanzine serves as a platform for the wider art community to unify (remotely) in the time of CoVid-19; can you talk to us about what you are hoping to highlight with this initiative?
ARH: I think sharing the work of all mediums that artists are making now, as well as interviews with people across the arts community, is a way to collect and connect subjective experiences and impressions of this moment. This in turn creates a record through which we can consider the whole of this time, and perhaps be reminded of the smallness of our current physical separation from each other. Of course we also want to give artists as much visibility as possible–Times are tough psychically and materially.
NE: This time is important for everyone. It allows for everyone to pause, take note of what they really appreciate, and evaluate what’s broken or doesn’t work quite as well as they want it to. Artists of all disciplines are kind of the arrowhead here. Folks are absorbing what’s going on, and they’re gonna funnel that energy into something. Even if it doesn’t quite make sense now. There has to be a way to express this strange feeling a lot of people are living with.
 
ANTE: Does the platform have a particular lens on art that engages with the covid-19 pandemic, or merely works made during this time, and why?
ARH: As described, this is kind of an overarching archival or historical approach–we’re doing our best not to exclude any works–Even if they don’t reference covid-19 directly, they are still products of the time. We are really keen to maintain a diverse exhibition in terms of medium, and are hoping to see more performing arts, writing, and musical works in addition to all of the amazing visual arts submissions we’re receiving.
 
NE: I think we’re all processing the pandemic in our own ways. We could be checking the numbers every day, zoning out to some activity, or actually helping on the front lines– but it doesn’t diminish the importance of it on a granular level. Because we all matter here. Personally, the work I’m making is not reflective of the pandemic. Maybe I’ll make something related to my mental experience during this time later on, but it’s just a lot of information and anxiety that I don’t quite know how to transform.   
ANTE: You’ve provided insights through interviews on remote residencies and opportunities available to artists; what about this aspect of engaging the art community is critical to your team?
ARH: The interviews were Narciso’s idea. This is a really tough time for the arts and other related creative industries, and we felt there could be some practical benefit to sharing not only opportunities, but a kind of inside-perspective. We describe these interviews as lo-fi chats with people in the arts community across the world. We hope that adding these voices to the chronicle will lead to a better understanding of what people are doing/dealing with now, and what the arts might look like later. Our first one was with Matt Davis at @perfectlyacceptable, a risograph press and publishing house based in Chicago.
NE: Interviews with creatives and other notable folks in the local Jersey City arts community was something I used to do with a publication I used to run, called Instigatorzine. It was a vehicle for me to meet people and learn about how they got to that point in their lives, but I also just enjoyed the process and results. Sharing the personalities and work of many people with many people fulfilled me in a unique way. Doing the SD Interviews is very special for the moment we’re all in, because we’re delivering this perspective that you won’t likely see in other media. Inviting folks to see and listen to the people behind the artwork is important, especially now.
Interview featured on Instagram, “Perfectly Acceptable” (visit @social_distanzine)
ANTE: In terms of the submissions you feature on the platform, can you speak to the challenges in presenting certain mediums given the format of the platform (are some projects/works easier to present than others?)
ARH: Totally. We are doing our best to do justice to everything that is submitted. Instagram isn’t ideal for some works, which is why I also set up a webpage for the webzine at nosucharts.com/social_distanzine (a work in progress). We are playing with the idea of creating a print edition, which of course would pose other challenges for our inclusive approach.
ANTE: Can you walk us through the types of responses you hope to inspire in your audience?
ARH: I want people to feel less alone, and have the opportunity to experience a small form of collective engagement aside from our inexorable shared suffering.
 
NE: I moved to Detroit a few months before COVID got serious in the States. While I’ve been to the city several times over, it’s still new and I have a relatively small social circle compared to when I lived on the East Coast. Working with Allison on SD helps me feel less alone out here. It’s good that the SD audience can experience this unity, too.
“Untitled” featured on Intsagram (work by @artbyjosephinec | @social_distanzine)
ANTE: What are your plans for this platform post-pandemic?
ARH: It is so difficult to think beyond the end of a single day right now. There’s kind of a fog over the future, but we are doing some brainstorming about creating print issues (though that may happen before the end of pandemic?).  Who knows!
 
NE: Honestly, I get kind of upset that I cannot note time passing some days. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves because of that. I tend to go galaxy-brain on this stuff, so I write things down instead and return to them later. I’ve always believed in printed material, but that’s a bridge I can’t see yet.

Artfully Learning Interview for 10xCommunity: “Lifelong Learning via the Arts”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews, 10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Artfully Learning was founded by art educator, artist and curator Adam Zucker, and mounts an experiential and critical cross-examination of the fine art world and educational sphere. We caught up with Adam to learn more about how he is adapting his coverage to suit a post-CoVid19 society.

ANTE: Thanks for chatting! So tell us about your community. What urgent need inspired you to begin your work with Artfully Learning?
Adam Zucker: I entered the arena of art education (K-12) coming from a background that was largely in the fine arts field, so I had far less experience and training than many of my fellow students upon entering the Master’s in Art Education program at Brooklyn College. I was a bit apprehensive and timid initially. I felt out of place. However, my professors, Linda Louis and Toby Needler encouraged me to combine my prior knowledge of Art History and my professional experience as a curator and arts writer, with the experiential education I was receiving in art pedagogy.  I also took a class on Visual Culture with Dr. Cheri Ehrlich, where we were prompted to create documentation of our journey to become art educators, and that was the birth of Artfully Learning. It was initially about finding my comfort zone to approach topics related to teaching and learning, but it has evolved into a resource that has helped a variety of individuals integrate contemporary art practices into educational frameworks.

 

ANTE: You root the content and resources you provide in critical theory and in vanguard knowledge (such as the Lincoln Center’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning programtalk about your priorities when you are selecting what you include on the platform?

AZ: I select material and content that I find interesting and that I am passionate about. Because I believe that learning to create and respond to art is intrinsic with the human experience, I have taken a very constructivist approach to my platform. I present ways that contemporary art can benefit social, emotional and cognitive development, and suggest how works from a wide range of artists might be incorporated into K-12 curricula on a macro and micro scale. I am in full support of art-centered learning throughout the curriculum, which means that the arts are in partnership with the other subjects, not in service to them.
ANTE:  Does the platform have a particular lens on engaging the wider community and producing necessary resources during the CoVid-19 pandemic, and how?
AZ: There is a specific page on Artfully Learning on social distance learning, where I have been posting my own lesson plans (that can be scaffolded for instruction and realized at home), as well as other resources from the field in response to the sudden transition to remote learning and homeschooling. The page will continue to be updated for as long as educators and students are away from their physical classrooms.
ANTE: Artfully Learning has received incredible critical reception in light of the pandemic – can you tell us about where the platform has been featured and share insights into feedback you’ve received from your audience?
AZ: I am always most grateful and excited when I get feedback from readers of my blog. I speak to my educator friends on almost a weekly basis, and have been so inspired by their devotion and passion for both adapting and pushing the boundaries of the unique situation we’ve been facing. We constantly share ideas and resources. The education community is one of the most selfless and tireless professional communities. As far as where my blog has been featured, I have seen a lot of recent traffic coming from BOMB Magazine, Bushwick Daily, and various University listservs. I feel most rewarded for my work when teachers and school administrators share my writing with their own networks.
ANTE: What urgent need does the community have right now for greater access to art education?
AZ: Education in general needs to be more accessible to reflect the diversity of the community. More resources are needed for students and teachers, so that they’re able to collaboratively learn and thrive in a safe and healthy environment. It is painfully clear how underfunded and unprepared our education systems are to support the most vulnerable students and provide teachers with materials and aid that they need. There is enormous inequity. All students should have access to resources that nourish the mind, body, and spirit. The arts do this by giving students a means for personal expression, and fostering a sense of self and collective values. Everyone has the ability to think and perform in an artful manner, despite their technical skills. The arts strengthen our ability to be flexible and make judgements in the absence of clear cut solutions. In this day and age of unknowns and uncertainties, it is the critical and creative thinking we acquire from art education, which will keep us innovating and responding to problems in an empathetic manner. Just look at how many artists are currently making and donating masks for essential workers.
ANTE: Who do you envision as your audience for the content you share and has that shifted since the pandemic began?
AZ: My audience has always been in flux since day one. When I began, it was mainly my own network from art and art education circles. Later, my writing started to reach the larger arts and education community. It has grown and expanded to where I can’t define any one specific group or groups of readers. I want my content to be accessible and useful to anyone who comes across my blog.
ANTE: What actions are you taking in the near future to contribute to the wider community, and how can ANTE readers get involved and support?
AZ: I am going to stick with what I do best, which is to write about the relationship between the arts and our human experiences. What I hope that I can provide is a spark and a thirst for my readers to continue their quest for lifelong learning via the arts. As I mentioned, I’m maintaining a page where I’ll contribute my own original lesson plans and other resources from a variety of sources that focus on creating, viewing, and presenting art remotely. I’d be happy to connect with more people who have similar and different experiences. I’m always looking to expand and diversify the content that I write about. ANTE readers can feel free to make suggestions, share their experiences, and let others know about the blog!

Waves and Archives Interview for 10xCommunity: “Fashion as a Medium of Art”

ANTE Mag is focusing on ten projects that span creative disciplines and seek to build wider community ties between creative disciplines in our new series of interviews,10xCommunity. Featuring artistic projects, community-building initiatives and interdisciplinary platforms, ANTE is sharing these interviews on the mag and across social media that spotlight these endeavors through the current social crisis to pivot to sharing positivity and uplifting creative news to our audience. Waves and Archives founded by Manan Ter-Grigoryan, Marianna Kosheleva and Julian Jimarez-Howard in 2018, endorses fashion as an art form across academic, instutional and art world settings. For our very first 10xCommunity interview we sat down to learn more on the Waves & Archives leadership team’s perspectives on fashion as a radical artistic platform.

 

ANTE: Thanks for chatting! Let’s start with your beginning – was there a specific catalyst that brought Waves and Archives into being? What was your initial vision for how Waves and Archives could change the landscape for fashion-related projects and their presence in the greater art world?

W&A: As it often happens with projects such as this, many stars had to align for things to start coming together in a concrete form of an exhibition and a certain plan for the future of Waves and Archives. For me, Manan Ter-Grigoryan, the motivation for this project was a certain reluctance I faced in graduate school from faculty members who were tacitly implying fashion was not art, and therefore I could not write my thesis on then still alive Alexander McQueen. Things became increasingly concrete when several years ago I got a call from a friend and colleague Julian Jimarez Howard wanting to start a publication that would focus on fashion as a medium of art. But it wasn’t until Marianna Kosheleva joined our trifecta with her strategy and vision that we all got the push we needed to move our project forward. So to answer your question, I think more than any occurrences, PEOPLE are catalysts. The vision for Waves and Archives has always been to promote fashion as a medium of art, and the need to do so in all domains simultaneously with a library, a publication and a gallery seemed like the most organic response.

 

ANTE: Can you walk us through your “manifesto” present on your website? How do you envision this Statement of Rights as charting a new course for the relationship between the overlap of Fashion and the Art World?

W&A: For as long as I can remember, I felt that fashion was not only one of art’s media, but that it was a medium most challenging- in terms of curation, complex- in terms of analysis, and profound- in terms of conceptual underpinnings. As fashion started to enter art museums, without the platform of a gallery and without any academic and institutional backing within the art-world proper, it became prescient to create a space for one of the richest forms of artistic production, to flourish without the imposing limitations of its own industry. The manifesto which comes in a form of a statement of rights is there to highlight the injustices and reaffirm the goals. As things change, so will the manifesto, so its date becomes a part of its own archive.

Above: Install view of Sinead O’Dwyer’s solo exhibition, “In Myself” at Waves & Archives; Below: “Lace Up Martina II” (2019) by Sinead O’Dwyer, both views at Waves and Archives for the artist’s solo show “In Myself” (images courtesy of Waves and Archives and the Artist)

ANTE: Talk to us about Sinead O’Dwyer’s “In Myself”: you note that O’Dwyer’s work”retain(s) a distinctively grounded relationship to the reality of experiences and forms of the persons whose bodies they originally emulate.” Can you elaborate on why O’Dwyer’s works became your first exhibition as an entity? 

W&A: Sinéad deals with the question of body politics in a way that not many fashion artists have dealt with before. As fashion has largely responded to this question by blindly promoting arbitrary inclusiveness, and in the process only re-establishing binary dichotomies, such as normal/ alternative, Sinéad does not use the “norm” as a departure point to suggest “the alternative”. She uses each body as its own departure point, thus over and over – whether it be with her silicone pieces or the woven ones – establishing the original body as the authoritative subject. I think this is a very important statement to make in a world where the fashion industry drives women into body dysmorphia, and on a larger scale – archetypes drive people to mental illness.

ANTE: In addition to the Gallery exhibitions, your online presence incorporates an Atlas and a Journal: can you explain how these materials are crucial to the W&A mission? 

W&A: As mentioned earlier, it was important for us to suggest a drastic change in the space that fashion is given in institutional, academic or art-world settings, and it was important for us to make that change as organic as possible. It is not simply about giving fashion artists gallery representation, or creating a gallery that has fashion as its focus, but also about creating a space where academic thought on fashion can freely coalesce without having to be confined to either art or fashion publications, and about providing access to the type of knowledge that is made available to many artists working in traditionally accepted art media to artists working in fashion by creating a library. The Atlas is a knowledge visualization map that gives access to the way Western academia studies art criticism to anyone who might be interested to learn. I have spent 3 years researching connections between 150 thinkers who have produced knowledge most central to art (in all its adjacent disciplines: anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, visual studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis, political studies, etc.) mapping five categories of relationships between those thinkers, and mapping those relationships in a visual atlas. This project that we call Waves and Archives Atlas maps out 12,551 connections, thus sharing a visual key to art criticism as it is today. It is important for us that when we do represent fashion artists, it is not in a vacuum.

Above: “Frontal Fragment” (2018) by Sinead O’Dwyer, on view at Waves and Archives for the artist’s solo show “In Myself” Below: “Torso Fragment I” (2018) by Sinead O’Dwyer, on view at Waves and Archives for the artist’s solo show “In Myself”(images courtesy Waves and Archives and the Artist)

ANTE: Art Theory and Semantics are Woven into the mission of W&A as your Instagram and website link to critics such as Adorno and Derrida: what was missing in the art theory/art critical landscape with regards to Fashion’s role in the greater field and how does Waves and Archives fill that role?

W&A: In reality nothing is missing, except assignment. What I mean is that the knowledge that we apply to the study of any form of art is not necessarily produced with that application in mind. Adorno did not write directly about art, Foucault did not write about art and frankly neither did Derrida. We, as art academics, have applied that knowledge to art criticism because art does not exist in a vacuum. Similarly, we ask that the same knowledge is applied to the study of fashion as a medium of art, leveling the playing field of intellectual rigor. To give an example without calling out names, a famous art publication described the MET “Heavenly Bodies” exhibition with the words: “Will make you feel all godly…” – the kind of vocabulary clearly inadmissible in their coverage of any other art exhibitions.

 

ANTE: How do each of your founding member’s backgrounds inform the mission of W&A? 

W&A: Growing up in six countries, in a constant state of embracing and adapting to new cultures while my cultural references kept being re-contextualized, dress and visual culture in general, allowed me (Manan Ter-Grigoryan) to recognize patterns and find my footing before I could gain fluency in languages. I am very academically inclined, and Waves and Archives is my dream and life’s mission, so I am making an effort to ground it in reality. 

Marianna Kosheleva who has graduate degrees in Rocket Science and Press Relations, has a healthy distance from the subject of our endeavor, while maintaining a strong passion for the complexity of its realization. I think it is this knack for realizing complex multi-faceted projects that drives Marianna within this project.

Julian Jimarez Howard is a bright gallerist, writer, and a contemporary art curator, with an amazing grasp of a perspective that is not purely Western-centric, a rare understanding of textiles, and a visionary outlook on fashion’s prowess as an art form. He is an awesome partner who can talk to you about Derrida while installing a drywall.

 

Installation view of Sinead O’Dwyer’s solo exhibition, “In Myself” at Waves & Archives (image courtesy of Waves & Archives)

 

ANTE: Talk us through your recent initiatives and where W&A is headed in the near future?

W&A: Our most recent initiative was the launch of our gallery Waves and Archives with an ambitious solo show of works by Sinéad O’Dwyer. In signing a contract with us, she became the first ever fashion artist to be represented by an art gallery dedicated to showing fashion artists exclusively. We are hoping that our next show (a group show of both emerging and established fashion artists) coincides with the launch of our Waves and Archives journal. Let this serve as a call for papers 🙂 In the meantime, we continue working on the design of our Atlas – the knowledge visualization map and its interactivity. 

The Essence of Making: An Interview with Designer/Architect Paul Mok

ANTE – Thanks, Paul, for speaking with us today! Your practice spans Architecture, Design and Art; yet, you’ve noted in past interviews that you work across different disciplines in order to best translate a “concept” into reality. Can you explain more about this philosophy of working to adapt concepts into the real world, and how that has manifested both in artistic projects and commercial projects with clients? 

Paul Mok – There are two tricky terms here: concept and disciplines“Concept” is tricky because it usually means a “clear idea”, and that is precisely what I have gradually walked away from in the past few years as a designer. I was trained to derive iterations of design from a clear concept very early on in my career. However, the more I worked in the design field, the more I have come to realize that concepts are too often just alibis to rhetorically justify certain irrational, personal design decisions. I find the irrationality productive and even necessary, but not the alibis. 

To unlearn anything would be a years-long process. I started rejecting my acquired design method, subconsciously at first, then consciously, gradually replacing the void that used to be the “concept” with collections of seemingly unrelated elements – short writings, aimless strokes on paper, gestural forms made of clay and a few other projects – some art installations, some small commercial projects, and some academic works – have been delivered through this process. So, in a way, the concept I am adopting now is precisely the lack of it [the lack of any defined concept]. It is not about bringing a concept into reality. It is about letting reality – a specific set of circumstances – be translated into and – more importantly – addressed through the design process. And because of that, I am skeptical of the confinements implied by the notion of “disciplines”. Architecture, design and art are different only in a practical, circumstantial sense, I think, not in the essence. 

New York-based Hong Kong architect/designer/artist Paul Mok
Installation image at Gallery GAIA: “The Story of Mundane” a solo exhibition by Paul Mok

 

ANTE –  The value of the projects you’ve worked on is not only respected by clients and your peers, it is also shown by the awards they have received. In 2014, you worked on a project that won the AIA’s Honor Award for Interior – just as you entered Harvard for your Master’s degree in Architecture. Can you tell us about this project? Can you also discuss how this experience informed the beginning of your studies at Harvard?

PM – That [project] was a dining hall renovation that I worked on during my two years as a designer at Index Architecture Ltd.: a small architectural office in Hong Kong led by an AIA architect. We were given an existing space with lots of pipes and ducts that were to remain along the walls, and we proposed to conceal them with some curved panels made of weaved synthetic rattan. We also embedded lighting fixtures and storage spaces within those panels. The project won the AIA International Regional Award, I think, because we managed to resolve almost all the given site conditions and programing requirements with a minimal, singular design gesture. That was one of the last projects I worked on in the office before moving on to grad-school. 

In those 2 years of practicing in Hong Kong, I was working full-time in the architecture office and, on the side, working on a house renovation as a personal project, along with a monastery renovation and an idea competition (with Dennis Chau and Florence Lam, which we won third place) all at the same time. My “normal” work day would begin at 9am and end at around 3-4am. I thought the more I worked, the clearer my vision as a designer would be. I recently saw an interview with [recently deceased artist] Ulay in which he described how he tattooed and cut his own skin off as an art project but after all that effort, he said, “it still didn’t deliver the answer”. That was how I felt by the end of the second year practicing in Hong Kong.

Entering grad school gave me the time and space that I didn’t know I needed to explore the more abstract, essential, and fundamental side of design. Instead of what and how to design, I needed to know why I design. 

 

ANTE -Your professionalism and dedication to your studies has earned you multiple scholarships and Dean’s List mentions, both during your architecture studies at the University of Hong Kong, which honored you with a prestigious study abroad exchange semester at Princeton University, and during your Master’s in Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Can you talk to us a bit about your dedication to your academic development: what were some of your favorite classes and how have they translated to success as a professional architectural designer?

PM – I was drawn to both the theoretical and the making aspects of design education very early on. At the Harvard GSD, I took an option studio with Ken Smith, a New York-based landscape architect. It was one of the first studios in which I explored a design process driven primarily by the making process. I rhetorically titled the project “Project Noctambulism”, hinting on the idea of taking actions subconsciously. In the same semester, I worked on the Komorebi Pavilion with Professor Mark Mulligan, Japanese engineer Jun Sato, and a team of schoolmates at the GSD. It was a plexiglass pavilion that was weaved together in a somewhat ad-hoc manner. 

Both experiences had a significant impact in reinforcing my confidence in the essence of making, which later became a method to address abstract issues, and gradually becoming a core design philosophy.

Project Noctambulism, material study (below) and final outcome (above,) Images courtesy Paul Mok

Komorebi Pavilion, material study (below) and Komorebi Pavilion (above,) Images courtesy of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Images courtesy Paul Mok.

ANTE – Can you walk us through your Harvard Graduate thesis project and the concept of “play” both as it relates to your studies and your professional projects?

PM – I titled the thesis “To Play”. In developmental psychology, “playing” could mean negotiating the perception of reality through the act of creating. 

I began the thesis by asking “how is reality perceived?” I soon came across a demolished social housing, and I found it a perfect architectural anchor point – social housing is the most objective architectural typology, but its demolition made it a highly subjective event. 

Through a series of drawings, architecture models and conversations, I reacted to a found Youtube video of the housing recorded by a former tenant of the housing who went back to record it before its eventual demolition. The final outcome was an absurd speculative proposal for a student-housing in LA based on the idiosyncratic personality I deduced from the 12-minute video. Looking back, it wasn’t a thesis that set out to resolve a specific problem, but it demonstrates a crucial self-awareness as a designer that opened up the design process to intuition, personal realities, subconsciousness, and the notion of craftsmanship. And it was from a very similar process that I have designed the installations <A Fountain Head> and <You Killed A Kiwi – A Situation Comedy For Those With Wounded Egoes>, and the two displays – <Gross Grows> and <Out Of Thick Air> – that I made for lifestyle brand WORM NY.

Above and below, alternate images from Thesis: To Play, Images courtesy Paul Mok.
“A Fountain Head”, Image courtesy Paul Mok.
You Killed a Kiwi – A Situation Comedy For Those With Wounded Egos, Image courtesy Paul Mok.
“Out of Thick Air”, Image courtesy Paul Mok
“Gross Grows”, Image courtesy of Paul Mok

 

ANTE – Since graduating Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2018, you have worked as a designer at nARCHITECTS PLLC in New York: this experience comes after you have worked at both Michael Maltzan Architecture in LA, and PARA Project in New York. Can you walk us through some of the key projects you have contributed to during each of these roles in your career?

PM – At Michael Maltzan Architecture, I worked on the schematic design of a student dormitory for Art Center College of Design. At PARA Project, I worked on the schematic design of an artist studio extension in New York.

I have been working as a designer at nARCHITECTS for almost 2 years now. The first project I worked on was a 5-story warehouse renovation project commissioned by the EDC. We were tasked to convert the 200,000-square-feet existing building into a new Made-In-NY campus for the garment industry in New York. I worked through the Schematic Design phase, the Design Development phase, as well as producing the final construction documents. Currently, I am working on the renovation of Ciszek Hall – a dormitory for the Jesuit men-in-formation in the Bronx. 

 

ANTE – Can you walk us through a few recent projects that have demonstrated your achievement and engagement as a leading architect/designer in your field? 

PM – Aside from all the professional and conceptual projects I previously mentioned, I have been working on a school design with Joe Qiu, my former classmate at the GSD, since 2015. It is a primary school design that pioneers small-class-teaching in rural China. 

The decades-long implementation of one-child policy and rigorous rural-urban migration have led to a significant reduction of students in rural China. Small-class-teaching, as an alternative model of child education, implies a reduction in teacher-student ratio and increasing opportunity of group activities among students.

In terms of layout, we proposed to break down the typical teacher office into smaller “satellite” offices, and pair one with every two classrooms to form the primary module for space planning. We further proposed to reduce classroom sizes from 45 students per class (typical in the city, as recommended by the codes) to 36. The additional floor areas are given to the semi-outdoor “pocket” spaces, distributed along the corridors, where inter-class activities could take place.

The project is near completion and was scheduled to open in September 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the opening date will very likely be delayed.

Erdu Primary School, Image courtesy Paul Mok

ANTE – How has building your architectural career in the US contributed to growth in your professional practice?

PM – It’s been almost six years since I moved to the States. So far I find the US – and particularly New York City – a productive context for both my professional and conceptual practice.

I have worked with quite a few collaborators and designers here. When I first moved to the city, for example, I met Isabella Bhoan, the founder of ILF Landscape. Coming from similar professional backgrounds, we saw how each of our specific interests could lead to meaningful collaboration. We worked together on the project Outside In – a speculative design proposal for Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers – before she relocated her practice to London in the end of 2019. 

It is also a city where I could find the audience to have productive conversations about my conceptual interests. I have exhibited my works periodically in various venues. The most recent exhibition – The Study on Mundane – is currently on display at Gallery GAIA.

Above and below, Views: “Outside In”, Images courtesy Paul Mok

Voices in Unison for “Conversations: Artists in Dialogue” at FIT

Curator Lobsang Tsewang (FIT, Fine Arts Alum ’17) arranged the exhibition “Conversations: Artists in Dialogue” to invite the greater FIT community to come together in solidarity by contributing their unique voices into this group show. Featuring FIT students, alumni, faculty and selected guest artists, the exhibit opens up the conversation around contemporary art that is inclusive of all perspectives in the university community.
Artists on view include students Camelia Giannouklas, Ellen Marszalkowski, Daniel Elias Pascual, Sienna Prater, Matthew Stewart, John Xavier; alumni Dimitri Dimizas, Carly Fitzsimons, Madjeen Isaac, Kathleen Johnson, Claire Jones, Olivia Reckert, Briget Villanueva; faculty and staff N’Ketiah Brakohiapa, Pansum Cheng, Bill Pangburn, Melanie Reim, Jeff Way; and guest artists Meny Beriro, Jay Feigelis, Amanda Guest, Brece Honeycutt, Molly Ann Walker. In light of the current viral pandemic, the exhibition is temporarily closed but will re-open to the public and is still visible for those living nearby who pass by the windows of FIT campus that run along 7th Avenue.
Installation view, “Conversations: Artwork in Dialogue”at FIT’s Art and Design gallery
A mix of material, color and line are interspersed throughout the exhibition space. Form and composition intermingle across sculpture, mixed media works and paintings, with a range of artistic practices on display. The exhibition is a master class in contrasting scale: the volume of space is appropriately used to feature the range of artwork incorporated in this group show.
Standout exhibitors include illustrator Melanie Reim, installation and print artist Bill Pangburn, painter and interdisciplinary artist Jeff Way and mixed media artist Amanda Guest. Associate Dean, School of Art and Design at FIT/ artist Melanie Reim‘s careful linework and intricate detail are a pleasure to study intently in the gallery space, and are carefully arranged in dialogue with nearby artworks. FIT Faculty member Bill Pangburn’s expansive style of abstraction encompass the visitor with a studied calm, blending color and line in careful harmony.
FIT faculty member Jeff Way displays paintings from his recent Eccentric Squares series, which showcases Way’s carefully coordinated sense of depth in the composition constructed through controlled lines delineating the picture plane. Guest artist Amanda Guest displays powerful mixed media work that sparks a dialogue around the visceral aspects of formal composition and texture.
Installation view, “Conversations: Artwork in Dialogue”at FIT’s Art and Design gallery
Installation view, “Conversations: Artwork in Dialogue”at FIT’s Art and Design gallery (Jeff Way painting featured in front left)
Exhibition curator Tsewang notes that his vision for the exhibition is that the exhibition… “enables each voice to be heard in the context of the exchange as a whole.”
Premised in the ability for differing artistic practices, mediums and processes to situate contemporary discourse within a harmonious discussion instead of a cacophony, “Conversations: Artwork in Dialogue” mounts an impressive survey show of artists engaging with FIT’s creative community with something to contribute.
While the exhibition is temporarily closed due to the viral pandemic, stay tuned at the FIT website – here – to learn more about the show hours during Spring/Summer 2020.
Installation view, “Conversations: Artwork in Dialogue”at FIT’s Art and Design gallery

The Fine Palette of New York-Based Artist Petra Nimtz

Artist Petra Nimtz is the first to admit that a career in fine art was about as unfathomable to her twenty years ago as winding up in New York State from her native Germany. The artist has made a path for herself as an abstract painter, following her academic pursuits from country to country and state to state. Currently based both in Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Nimtz carefully pushes her practice forward with a nuanced look at texture and color. She is unafraid to explore alternative processes in her practice as well. ANTE sat down with Nimtz in her Midtown studio to peruse her recent works and pursue the depth of her considerations in art-making.

Petra Nimtz’ painting in situ (image courtesy the artist)

ANTE – Thanks Petra for sitting down with us today! So tell us: How did you get your start as an artist?

Petra Nimtz – I was born in Germany and left in 2002, ending up in Vancouver, BC, Canada. After two years, I began to think I should paint. I took a course at the Emily Carr institute and began sharing a studio, it all came together very naturally…

ANTE – And had you painted at all before that? 

PN – Yes, as a child – as a student in school, but I had never approached it other than as a student…

ANTE  – So not as a vocation?

PN Right, not until I lived in Vancouver. I began to study the basics of painting by starting with acrylics. I began this way, sharing a studio, working in acrylic before moving onto working with oil paints. Once I began working with oil, I was hooked immediately. I then visited NYC and began to study at the Art Students League in New York under Frank O’Kane, I know he’s still teaching – he’s quite a force of nature, and I love his work. I was writing down notes in his classes like a maniac… he mentioned Abstract Expressionists, all this information that was quite new to me – I had never studied art history, had never heard of that. Their work really resonated with me – he told me to study the painters who I liked, and that’s what I started doing and it helped me evolve my practice at my studio back in Canada.

ANTE  – What timeframe was this?

PN – This was about 2005-06 when I began working as a painter, and showing in local cafes in Vancouver. Living there in Vancouver at the time, the abstract art scene was not very active and I didn’t have much to look at, so in 2010 I moved to upstate New York for three months to rent a place to paint – a live/work space. A friend of mine directed me to Woodstock, so I went and spent three months there painting in a barn and going into New York City often. I then decided to move here – exactly ten years ago.

Petra Nimtz works between her studios in Woodstock and Midtown Manhattan

ANTE  – So then have you primarily been working in abstraction?

PN – Yes, I work in abstraction. I am an abstract artist, and I’m not interested in drawing or painting figuratively, or creating work with the human figure. I don’t want to pursue it. 

ANTE  – At the time you began living in Woodstock, were you working on a larger scale?

PN – The largest at that studio was 6×7’ size artwork, working in that barn. Actually when I began painting I started out smaller, but over the years I have become emboldened to try out larger sizes in my painting. I now like working in a 4×5’ format, it’s comfortable for me. 

ANTE  – Observing a work in progress, I do see some pencil and sketching/drawing, are you working with an oil stick as well?

PN – Yes, all of that – this particular work has so many layers. I work on multiple layers as each is still fresh – the paint is still wet, and for some works I’ll be building up, say, ten layers. I like showing layers and allowing them to shine through, giving them a chance to shine through – suffice it to say that I don’t spend too much time hiding the layers.

ANTE  – Can you talk about the brushstrokes you use in these artworks, particularly works in these smaller sizes? There is an expressive energy…

PN – Yes it’s easier for me to use looser brushstrokes – it’s more animated, what I like to call my “messy” paintings. I can work with a more expressive style in a smaller format, using a palette knife and brushes to create a more dynamic work. 

ANTE  – Do you frequently use a palette knife in your work?

PN – Yes, I use the edge of it: I use it to spread the paint onto the canvas directly. I can make strong and decisive gestures, and the paint can be applied more thickly. It allows me to direct my compositions and make certain areas of a painting stronger. This allows a certain side of the canvas to dominate the overall composition. I have been using the palette knife since I first delved into working with oil on canvas.

ANTE  – What is new to your recent work?

PN – The colors I utilize in my practice always change. The color palette varies organically according to my mood. 

ANTE  – Do you feel influenced by working in Woodstock?

PN  – Yes, it’s very inspiring – I’m surrounded by nature, blues and greens and whites. In nature, I’m inspired to paint using these colors. 

ANTE  – Do you feel that you are inspired by light in your work? 

PN  – I frequently do use white through the layers of my artworks, and I am often influenced by light in my work. While I frequently use white painting in my work, I don’t often work with purple as a color in my compositions. 

ANTE  –  Interesting to know! And do you work on a single painting at a time?

PN  – Oh no, I always work on multiple paintings at a time because I get stuck. I’ll get stuck on a work. I have multiple works in progress hanging on walls – I have quite a large studio space in Woodstock so it’s easier to move from one wall to another to change what I’m working on when I get stuck on a certain artwork. I have never worked on an easel; I always work on the wall. It helps me to work on several pieces at a time – I’ve always worked this way in my process, since I very first started painting.

Work by Petra Nimtz in situ (image courtesy the artist)

 

ANTE  – Tell me about your approach to painting: you already referenced infusing gesture with the palette knife, what other considerations inform your painting?

PN  – I’ve always worked with palette knife and brush, but now I’ve even used my hands or even gloves to directly apply paint to the canvas. I like working with different methods of application – brush, palette knife, hand – in contrast to create tension and create clear gestures in my work. It’s easier to carefully construct a composition borrowing from these different styles of line and gesture in a smaller format works, however. Smaller size works are easier to control this dialogue within. 

ANTE  – So you only work in painting? Not in other mediums?

PN  – I actually have also worked in monoprint, collage and works on paper. I’ll sometimes create a monoprint. I make monoprints in addition to paintings, but I don’t view this as my main style of work. Painting will always be my medium. 

ANTE – In terms of expanded practice: Do you frequently work in collage, or have you worked in other formats than oil on canvas? 

PN  – In 2015-16 I was working in acrylic a bit in addition to my oil painting, and around that time I started making collage a bit. Some of these works I’ve since covered with oil paint – since 2018, I’ve worked almost exclusively with oil paints. I was working with acrylic before, but it dries so fast and you can’t build up layers, so I returned to exclusively working with oil paints so that I could build up layers in my work. Adding a new element to the work with collage is exciting for me – I was happy to paint over my collage works with oil as it added it an exciting texture for me. 

ANTE  – Can you talk to us more about other artists whose work has inspired you?

PN  – I’m really interested in New York City as a moment in the 1950s and 60s and the artists who lived here then – they inspired one another, challenged one another, and built up a camaraderie. Reading about their lives, they were all wild. They were also great artists. Of course many wonderful women artists of this time period – Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell – continue to inspire me. Among contemporary artists, I love Amy Sillman. In addition to her wonderful practice she also has a great sense of humor that has come through when I’ve heard her speak. 

ANTE  – So what are you working on at the moment? Have you worked more in one certain style over, say, the past six months?

PN  – What I’ve liked recently is that my work has become more gestural, more loose. The style I call “Messy” – I think of Joan Mitchell and her messiness, which I love. I was thrilled to see my style evolve into this messier look – my painting style changes over time without planning out, but the positive feedback I’ve had from others is that while my style changes, it is always recognizable. My changes in style over time do shift, but it remains recognizable and I’m happy to go with the flow.

ANTE  – So a few years ago you mentioned that you had a studio in Bushwick before moving to this Midtown location, can you tell me about your experiences as an artist working in Bushwick?

PN  – Well, Paul D’Agostino who is very knowledgeable came out to visit my studio. He’s lovely and helped me – really became a great resource for me, he’s wonderful. He hosted a few shows at his studios, and suggested my work to other members of the community. I did enjoy being a part of the community as best I could, but I live in Woodstock – I was mostly in Bushwick on the weekends, most studios were closed and most artists were gone when I was working there. Here being based in Manhattan, it’s an easier commute and I can walk to Chelsea galleries and other nearby galleries to go observe the art exhibitions that are on at the moment.

ANTE  – So what exhibitions have you been in recently?

PN  – Well, I participated at a group show in Bushwick, and I’ve also recently shown with Julie Torres in a space just outside of Hudson in Hudson Valley, New York. It’s nice to have a footprint both in Woodstock and in New York City, I can appreciate the benefits of both.

ANTE  – So what exhibitions have you visited in recent days and months that you enjoyed? 

PN  – I finally went to the new MoMA, and enjoyed the Amy Sillman-curated section “The Shape of Shape” that they have on view now. Recently, I went to an interesting show in Chelsea (NYC) at Albertz Benda, “Substrate”. The show was really beautiful. I also did get the chance to witness the show at the Katonah Museum of Art, “Sparkling Amazons.” It was an intriguing show and I had the chance to learn about artists who were not previously known to me. There was also an intriguing show recently featuring artist Cat Balco, “My Exploding Stars,” at Rick Wester Fine Art.

Beyond the Pale: Zac Hacmon at the Border Project Space

by Mariel Tepper

 

Artist Zac Hacmon uses form, space and sound in Beyond the Pale: an immersive and unflinching look at the U.S.-Mexico border crisis located at The Border Project Space. Curated by Eva Mayhabal Davis, this site-specific sculpture installation reflects on the material and conceptual barriers humans create and the devastating, far-reaching consequences of these obstructions.

Artist Zac Hacmon exploring the US/Mexico border (photo credit: Dana Levy)

The installation is centered around two abstract sculptures, Hedgehog 1 and 2. Their militaristic design inspired by Czech hedgehogs, barrier fortifications used for the Czech-German border in World War II. The imposing sculptures create a sense of tension and claustrophobia through hard-edged geometry, while the white ceramic tile surfaces of the sculptures evoke the sterility and asepsis of domestic and interior spaces; bathrooms, kitchens and hospital walls. The sounds of voices and ambient sounds can be heard from vents in the sculptures, creating a collective murmur that recedes and fluctuates in volume, enveloping the listener. With audio consisting of on-site interviews conducted by Hacmon at the Arizona border, the dialogues convey the hardships and human rights atrocities experienced by migrants, Native Americans, asylum seekers and undocumented workers through poems, stories and firsthand accounts. 

A devastating and visceral poem on the death of a newborn baby on the Arizona roadside, NO ANSWERS–NOW OR EVER by Marie Vogl Gery, is read by Gali Kocourek, a member of Tucson Samaritans. In another interview, Sarah M. Reed, Program Coordinator at Casa Alitas Program – Aid for Migrant Families, describes the trauma experienced by asylum seekers coming from Central America and southern Mexico to the U.S. to flee gang and drug related violence. If captured by border patrol, migrants face inhumane conditions in detention centers, where they are cramped in tight cells, deprived of sleep and adequate food, all their possessions forcibly taken. 

Interspersed with the interview snippets are the sounds of field recordings, rustles of footsteps on migrant trails in the Sonoran Desert during a water run. The crisp, caustic sounds remind the listener of the long, harrowing journeys migrants take, trudging through miles of unforgiving desert heat on rough ground, all in the hopes of achieving a better life. 

“Beyond the Pale” in situ at the Border Project Space (photo credit: Etienne Frossard)

Making the connection between borders and environmental devastation, Jose Rivera, Director of Tohono O’odham Culture Center and Museum, describes how the U.S. border wall physically disrupts local wildlife by preventing animals from moving freely between nesting and feeding areas. It’s clear that imposing arbitrary physical barriers on land disrupts not only the flow of people, but the flows and processes of the natural world. In an age of climate refugees and ecological collapse, the negative implications of border walls and the bigoted, non holistic ideologies (nationalism, xenophobia) fueling them are even more apparent. Zac Hacmon’s prescient and thought-provoking Beyond the Pale installation confronts the divisive and brutal reality of man-made borders. Shining a light on the cycle of pain, fear, violence and devastation that occurs when we deny the humanity of others.