ArtistAlex Guofeng Cao is no stranger to pop culture: in fact, he’s examined many aspects of it down to the cellular, and celluloid, level. An avid admirer of American pop culture with a precise knowledge of photography, film and digital, Cao’s visions produce fantastically detailed hybrid portraits combining celebrity headlines and art history highlights, from the 20th century and earlier, for “Pixelation” at Fremin Gallery.
Artworks with titles such as “Modigliani vs. Marilyn” give some indication as to the artist’s method and artistic process. Through careful repetition of one particular image – for example, an artistic nude of Marilyn Monroe – the artist then creates a composition of another iconic image, such as a famed Modigliani painting. Fremin Gallery explains his unique vision through their show announcement. “Cao meticulously places each smaller image to form a dynamic gradient from dark to light which tricks the eye into seeing one image. This expertise in contrast is exemplified in all of his works, from striking black and white pieces to stunning explorations in high-definition color. He cleverly mirrors this visual contrast in his subject matter by subverting the main image and creating a dialogue between the macrocosm and microcosm.”
Where Cao’s work truly shines is in the detailed attention he allows not only the formal composition of the two interrelated artworks he presents, but also the conceptual license he takes in combining the imagery present in each artwork. Often commenting on social and cultural constructs, such as beauty, sports, and celebrity culture, these works serve as a provocative jumping off point for viewers to form their own connections to these themes. Paying careful attention to celebrities dominating the period of pop culture when Pop Art, with its luminaries such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, both of whom Cao reference overtly, these works give deference to a period in which American culture was beginning to make its mark on the global stage. Cao’s works offer a new perspective on what it means to not only see the potential of art to digest images, but also the potential for the world to see American culture through fresh eyes – or, perhaps, a new lens.
On view at Fremin Gallery through April 10th, Pixelation is worth a visit as a potent reminder that there is definitely always more than meets the eye on view, particularly when viewing these extraordinary works. For more information, visit the gallery’s website: http://fremingallery.com/exhibitions/
On view now at The Yard: Flatiron South (234 Fifth Ave) through April 17th, Akeem Duncan’s curatorial magnum opus, “TOGETHER.”, takes center stage, featuring works byMarguerite Wibaux and Dhanashree Gadiyar. The interlocking, tightly executed hybrid of pattern and hue permeate the portraits painted by Wibaux, while Gadiyar’s works on paper astound in complexity and detail. The two artists complement one another in tone, temperament and preciousness. Whether outlining the marvels of the Aurora Borealis or probing the subtle corners of a subject’s smile, these artists focus on wonder, and the connections we seek out that make life meaningful and memorable.
Curator Akeem Duncan (Editor-in-Chief, Quiet Lunch) has come into his own intimate understanding of the space which he is curating, taking time to place paintings in contrast with specific architectural details and with the viewer’s relative position to each artwork in mind. Wibaux’s paintings in particular, with their ornate fabric pattern-inspired swaths directing the viewer’s eye across the canvas, present an interesting opportunity to contrast against white walls and brick in equal measure. Visitors to the exhibition encounter these works, imbued as they are with a playful yet precise air throughout the Yard’s space.
Wibaux’s intimate knowledge of her subject are on display in the captivating in which she paints their emotional state, ranging from anxious to assertive, self-assured to hesitant. The artist’s loose and fluid brushstrokes approximate the subject’s current state, while fabric-inspired patterning flanking each of these portrait subjects brings an alternate reading to the composition. Combined, these two elements create a striking balance in the portrait in an effect that Wibaux notes helps…” to focus on the human figure.” “Generally speaking, my art practice aims to challenge common representations, the way we look at ourselves as a society,” remarks Wibaux. “As an artist I don’t feel I can change the world, but I can help shifting representations. Getting your portrait painted in art history has mostly been a symbol of power. Through my portraits, I want to give power to our young and diverse youth, to give them a voice, to have people really SEE and LISTEN to them.”
Intimate framed paintings by Dhanashree Gadiyar are interspersed throughout the exhibition. Her works frequently depict figures immersed in resplendent landscapes, or brightly colored scenes also capturing bright and undulating patterns. Gadiyar readily reflects on the impact that pattern exerts on her work. “My love for patterning comes from my exposure to the folk art forms of India such as Madhubani, Gond and Patachitra,” explains Gadiyar. “I incorporate these traditional forms of mark-making as well as intuitive and automatic patterning. Also, as a trained embroidery artist, I tend to treat the paper like fabric, filling it in obsessively with my marks.” Also notable is the artist’s use of organic line, curve and color to create rounded and smooth compositions, seemingly expanding off into the distance of the picture plane.
The artist works with watercolor and acrylic on paper, as opposed to canvas, adding a precious quality: a feeling of delicacy. ” I love working on paper,” notes Gadiyar,” since it lets me let go off control and gives me the feeling of freedom.” This freedom is evident in the impression the artist’s works leave on the visitor, who feel emboldened to step into the composition and roam the surroundings themselves.
TOGETHER. is on view at The Yard, Flatiron South by appointment through mid-April. Please email curator Akeem Duncan to schedule a visit: email@example.com
Bodies, surface, and space take center stage in MaryKate Maher’s “Echo Echo” on view recently at Gold/Scopophiliagallery‘s space in Montclair, NJ. This was the artist’s first show with the gallery, and consisted of a presentation of recent collages and sculpture work.
Maher’s edges are alternately rough and clean, combining a comfortable familiarity with line, form and gradient to create an elusively unsettling space for encountering her “Surfaces” (the artist’s collages) and “Shards” (the artist’s sculptures.) Interrogating the liminal qualities defining reality and simulacra, Maher’s ability to shift between mediums to hint at the same compositions brings an enticing quality to the viewer, demanding further inquiry. The interplay between dimensionality and plane allows visitors the ability to observe different qualities in each artwork dependent upon their perspective within the gallery’s physical space. Her works (small shard) pink (2020) and (small shard) blue (2020) both suggest a composition vacillating between two- and three-dimensional space: a result of the artist’s keen grasp of sculpture as a medium in her practice.
“Echo Echo” is an exhibition which deftly juxtaposes sculpture against a body of collage: two-dimensional works in dialogue with the arc of space determined by Maher’s swift, organic curvatures forming the outlines of her “Shards.” Maher treats the absence of space as preciously as she delineates the changing hues and gradients of occupied space, allowing visitors to experience different artworks according to their vantage point regarding each of her sculptures, or “Shards.” She provides a similar treat for viewers encountering her “Surfaces”: each collage work creates volumes of space by carving the picture plane into light or dark hues, alternating between an absence and a presence. These self-contained, two-dimensional works enchant while also creating cavernous structures seemingly carving their own static sense of movement that exists beyond the realm of logic.
Maher’s interest in the natural world and our relationship to it is apparent not only in her “Shards” but also in her “Surfaces.” She observes our exploration of space, interrogating interlocking concepts such as form, body and landscape. “Many small movements combine to create a larger, voluminous structure,” notes Maher, and observers of her work within the space will begin to note the various elements which combine yet jostle within her collage works, in particular, forming a cohesive composition from disparate elements. The strength of Maher’s two-dimension works lies within the precarious balance these elements exert on one another, and the tension of line, form and hue that engage and delight the viewer.
“Echo Echo” exhibited at Gold/Scopophilia gallery from January 16-February 27, 2021 in Montclair, NJ. The artist holds an MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a BFA from Arcadia University. Maher hails from Philadelphia, PA and is based in Brooklyn, NY. She has been an attending artist at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2008), and has exhibited with Socrates Sculpture Park, Triangle Arts Association, and many more. Keep up with her projects at https://marykatemaher.com/ .
““What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The rich, fertile soil from which “Everyday Magic: Artistic/Gnostic Impulses,“ on view now at the National Arts Club on the south edge of NYC’s Gramercy Park, all began – as rich soil often does – with the consideration of what has been reclaimed to the earth and how it nourishes what comes after. The result of the combined forces of Rebecca Goyette and Jenny Mushkin Goldman, both of whom have cultivated significant artistic curatorial experience, respectively, in the NYC art world, “Everyday Magic” was given the right nourishment it needed to fully bloom into the rich and multi-layered experience that it embodies, welcoming visitors of all walks of life. On view from March 2- April 27th, 2021, the exhibition accepts guests via timed entry at the above link.
Show organizers Goyette and Mushkin Goldman, excited to embark on this joint quest to present an art exhibit engaging with themes around ‘magic’, envisioned this group show featuring over 20 artists as a platform for exploring aspects of magic and occultism, particularly through the lens of empowerment: seeking ways in which indigenous, femme/non-binary and queer practices in turn rise above and gain agency over colonial, patriarchal and gender-normative narratives. Mushkin Goldman noted this in her observation of how the exhibition has unfolded. “This is a diverse show rooted in many ways in a femme presence, or energy, a story that had to be told which isn’t the hegemonic dominant narrative but is still such a force in itself.”
Echoing the utterances of revered postcolonial critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a woman’s position in society is tenuous at best, and artistic voices of women from the Global South are further suppressed. “For the ‘figure’ of woman, the relationship between woman and silence can be plotted by women themselves,”(1) Spivak notes, revealing the truth that the voices who notice this absence are most acutely those being oppressed, rather than the oppressor. Voices absent from a Western-centric, patriarchal-oriented art history make their presence felt in this powerful exhibition, with something for everyone to connect with especially along the root themes of community, ritual and heritage, nature and the Spiritual. Perhaps what this fully realized show impresses most on the viewer is the power of the unknown, or the unseen, and how this wealth of intuitive ‘seeking’ on the part of the exhibited artists can reveal a wellspring of power, resilience, beauty, understanding, and love.
Two very different aspects of this exhibition make it especially unique: first, the timeline, as the show was intended to open early Summer 2020 and was pushed to this March due to the pandemic. Second, and more importantly, the wealth of this exhibit’s treasures lies in the rich array of cultural forces that propel it forward in the viewer’s imagination, as rituals, traditions, and magical elements span a range of heritage evident on a global scale. “In the exhibition, artists who transmute personal struggles through their art practice are in dialogue with those who have traditional magical and occult practices,” observes Goyette. “Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions, South American traditions, South Asian traditions, Nordic traditions and more are reflected from the artists’ many places of origin.” As Mushkin Goldman reflects, “This show isn’t about one thing, because for every person (who visits) it is their own. We wanted to create (an exhibition that approaches these topics) from as many perspectives as possible.” In this vein, spiritual practitioners of all backgrounds can take away potent reminders of the diversity of occult practices the world over, with a body of evidence laid out in “Everyday Magic” like a cornucopia upon which visitors can feast to their heart’s delight.
Returning to the roots of the exhibition, Goyette remarks upon the artists who spoke to her as her approach to the show became fully realized. “When I saw artist Tamara (Kostianovsky)’s latest series tree trunk sculptures, her work(s) resonated with me because of their sense of ritual and alchemy. The metaphor of the rings visible in the tree trunks is powerful.” Kostianovsky’s practice of adapting her late father’s clothing into art installations provides a nuanced reflection upon her own roots and the tactile presence our loved ones exert even after their departure from our lives. Similarly, Mushkin Goldman encountered the works of artist L, and was mesmerized upon learning that each these jars presented in the artwork she encountered contained a multitude of spells. With themes of transmutation, alchemy, and transformation of trauma and life experiences into whatever meaningful form the artist conceives, the power of “Everyday Magic” lies in the agency exerted by individual – and collective – artists to challenge accepted narratives and subsume existing power structures.
In addition to the power of ritual present throughout the exhibit, the influence exerted by community and, alternately, by nature are both strongly felt presences emanating from the exhibition. Both Goyette and Mushkin Goldman commented on the power of nature’s inclusion in such work as installations by Lina Puerta, Alexis Karl and Elizabeth Insogna as placing nature, and in turn, touch and healing central to the visitor’s encounter when entering the exhibition’s center where these installations are located. In addition, many artists’ practices, either spiritually or artistically, formed nexxus points linking them to other artists exhibiting in “Everyday Magic”: revealing interconnected links between practicing artists who were engaging with spiritual approaches to art-making. Artists such as Jesse Bransford, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Alexis Karl and Courtney Alexander had all encountered one another in various ways prior to the exhibition’s unveiling, while artists such as Elizabeth Insogna and Kay Turner collaborate to produce performance work and art installations. Courtney Alexander’s “Offering to God Herself” presented the opportunity for gallery-goers to encounter her presence, embodying divinity, through a communal offer of deference, love and respect to the Artist.
Artists such as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge are known among audiences for the incisive, bold and alchemical work they created, while other artists bring their own unique perspectives to the ideas of alchemy and transformation to bear. Goyette highlighted the works of Abichandani and Najm as particularly powerful demonstrations of art’s ability to express artistic impulses that transcend societal pressures and expectations. Goyette reflected on the power these artists’ work possesses and how it upends societal norms. “Jaishiri Abichandani’s work alters views of Hindu goddesses by subverting patriarchal structures, incorporating people she knows into sculpture portraits in her depictions of these goddesses, including feminist and LGBTQ+ artists and activists. She also uses self-portraits in her work, as sculpture self-representation. Her work takes a feminist approach, challenging how goddesses are depicted in the canon of Hindu mythology, and how sculptures can be made to play with taboo. Meanwhile, Qinza Najm engages with Muslim traditions of her native Pakistan, particularly how patriarchal ideologies affect women. Her interactive installation, “Pleasure and Veil” utilizes spiritual (hijab/head covering) and sexual (Nara-trouser strings) textiles collected over the past 3 years from Muslim/Jewish communities (women, minorities and LGBTQ+ community) in the U.S. and Pakistan to explore the sacred and forbidden aspects of sexuality. In Pakistan, it is considered shameful for women to show or allow others to touch their Nara. Najm asked women close to her to reveal their Nara, and when she did, the women released shame and personal narratives. She asks viewers to engage with her work, gently touching a chosen Nara from her installation, in magical feminist solidarity to release shame. Both Abichandani and Najm engage ideas of what is taboo in dialogue with religion.”
Mushkin Goldman offered the works of Lina Puerta and Sahana Ramakrishnan as avenues by which visitors can engage with meaning around sexuality, feminism, vulnerability and fertility. “Lina Puerta explores the intersection between synthetic and natural, commenting on both consumerism and life’s fragility. Sahana Ramakrishnan in turn reflects on ideas of fertility as alchemy and means of transformation.” Artists use a range of synthetic and natural materials, of abstract and figurative approaches, to all reach the core of a reality which we can grasp through experience and intuition, rather than research and academia. “Everyday Magic” is an exhibition about the truths we grasp, the experiences we know, and the underlying hidden links that bring us back together as spiritual beings and root us to natural forces who remind us of who we are.
“Everyday Magic:Gnostic/Artistic Impulses” is on view to guests who RSVP via the show’s website through April 27th, 2021. The exhibit is on view at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park S in New York, NY. The show’s organizers Jenny Mushkin Goldman and Rebecca Goyette can be reached for sales inquiries or exhibition specifics via their respective emails, Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca at email@example.com.
Founded in 1898, The National Arts Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts. Annually, the Club offers more than 150 free programs to the public, including exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures and readings, attracting an audience of over 25,000 members and guests. For a full list of events or to learn more, please visit nationalartsclub.org.
Spivak, Gayatri. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988.
Since the exhibition has been extended through March 20th, 2021, make sure to set aside time to go check out the space (and check in on their hours via their Instagram – @the_border_project_space on IG.) The exhibit employs some tongue-in-cheek wordplay around the idea of art being incorporated into everyday life – and vice versa – a la the city’s laundromats: a ubiquitous presence around the five boroughs. Sculpture, installations, hybrid ready-mades and more confront the visitor to the puzzling yet provocative exhibit, with its cousin at Lower East Side’s Home Gallery offering its own delightful take on the show’s theme with an “advertisement” complete with faux quotes, faux-n numbers and more delectables.
In the words of Curator and The Border Project Space Director, Jamie Martinez, the exhibition at the Border allows a space to emerge where, “things don’t appear as they seem, but things, once unseen, begin to appear.” This quixotic phrasing makes the most sense when re-read at the doorway of the gallery itself, before engaging with the delightful, if deliciously manic, presentation of human torsos and limbs, clothing fragments, and laundry paraphernalia present within the space. A space for reflection on the types of abstract thoughts one might begin to descend into when waiting for the second round of heavy linens in the dryer, works in “Last Wash at Midnight” confound, delight and exceed expectations upon closer inspection.
Much like the lint that continually clings to a pair of just-dried socks, a strangely comforting smell envelopes the visitor to the space upon encountering the exhibition. If you ask the curator, you’ll find out this is the smell of laundry detergent (is it for sale?) just out of view in the gallery, complementing the show’s sudsy sensibilities. This lingers as a filter just out of reach for gallery guests perusing installations on view in dialogue with one another in multi-sensory and syncretic ways – Nicholas Oh’s floating amalgamation of upturned male human torsos just off center from the gallery’s entrance provides the expected ‘figurative’ element in an oh-so-unexpected way, as the viewer begins to admire the curvature of this installation unfolding toward the floor. Oh’s use of a range of skin tones of each torso becomes readily apparent as the artist draws from his Korean heritage to question cultural values and challenge systemic oppression. Directly opposite, in the line of sight of this composite topsy-turvy figure, a recreation of a washing machine lurks: figurative, yet surreal. Chelsea Nader’s trippy laundry ‘machines’ bring up domestic labor in a exhibit where artists are referred to as “night shift workers” and the curator, as “the manager.” Labor is intrinsic to the art world, with artists and creatives often working overtime to be able to afford the materials and space to create their work. Nader taps into the labor that women, in particular, are expected to perform: her sign/signifier style of presentation only reinforces the existing gulf between unrealistic expectations and reality. Nader’s work centers the space in a poignant alternate reality for the visitor.
Jamie Martinez, the night shift “Manager” exhibition curator and exhibiting artist, presents “Metamorphosing into an Owl”: the owl serves as a harbinger of death, being the first to notice death’s approach in Native American traditions, and Martinez is reflecting on this journey through the underworld, with a plea to native spirits he trusts to guide him on his journey after death. Martinez’ careful treatment of his material and attention to detail heighten the sense of psychological weight approached in these themes.
Finally, Jaejoon Jang’s works on view in both exhibits are both immediate and subtle. Material lends itself toward veiled references while the subject matter is straightforward, questioning reality and the limits of our understanding of what surrounds us. His subversive works are both humorous and nuanced, forcing a reconsideration of what we take for granted. Finally, Home Gallery presents a suite of works by these artists, curated and presented by Jamie Martinez in partnership with Home gallery’s Director William Chan, in dialogue with appearances – and how they can be deceiving, and/or invite further reflection. Chan notes of Home gallery’s unique street-facing presence that, “in a normal week, the window attracts hundreds of unique interactions among the thousands of passersby. I often have people come up to me and tell me how excited they were when a new exhibition comes out. People who wouldn’t go to museums or galleries. I hope to see more window galleries, especially after the pandemic, and more of these conversations.” A faux advertisment for a real show is certainly a compelling reason to reconsider where, and how, the boundary lines of art are drawn and how challenging – and rewarding – art can be when society is re-imagining new futures for a vibrant culture.
Don’t miss your chance to see “Last Wash at Midnight” at The Border Project Space, 56 Bogart Street, up through March 20th. The Lower East Side “Advertisement” portion of exhibit will remain on view at Home Gallery, 291 Grand Street through Sunday, March 14th – and hey, if you can’t make that, photographer/ videographer Andrew Littlefield made this dope video experience of encountering “Last Wash at Midnight” on its opening night at Home gallery.
ANTE is excited to be partnering on this International Woman’s Day with PARADICE PALASE: a women-run platform providing artists, creatives and patrons in the emerging art space room to connect.
As a long-standing fan of what PARADICE PALASE has been doing, we are excited to launch a week-long takeover of the ANTE mag Instagram account by the initiative. ANTE has also selected an Edit of 10 artists on the platform that really caught our eye.
Below, our Editor-in-Chief Audra Lambert’s wide-ranging chat with PARADICE PALASE founding members Kat Ryals and Lauren Hirshfield, who began the platform as a curatorial initiative back in 2017 focused on raising awareness of amazing contemporary artists through community-building.
ANTE mag. Hi Kat, Hi Lauren! So, can you talk to us about the genesis of PARADICE PALASE? How did your team identify a need and seek to address it with the platform’s founding?
PP. PARADICE PALASE started as a project space with a simple goal – to get artists paid.
We met in the fall of 2016 and after only a couple encounters realized we had a lot of similar opinions about the contemporary art world and the art market at large. We planned a meet up for drinks and after 2 hours of constant brainstorming we immediately decided to work together on this project. The frustration we both kept circling back to was the normalization of the “starving artist” – that most working artists had to give so much unpaid and underpaid labor toward their careers, work multiple jobs often in industries or sectors unrelated to their practices. We were exhausted by the lack of transparency around these conversations. Especially for emerging and underrepresented artists, the lack of stable infrastructure surrounding their burgeoning careers was and still is troubling and we sought to solve it through the unique model we developed.
Our project space opened in June of 2017 in the basement of Kat’s apartment after the successful funding of a Kickstarter campaign launched in April. Our model was inspired by the power of crowdfunding, a notion rooted in Renaissance-era arts patronage (for context, Google the Medici family – Ed.). We invited the artists in our exhibition to also produce small original works or reproductions (along with PP branded in-house collectibles) at a price scale reasonable for the everyday patron to collect, and shared transparent costs related to production of each exhibition in the space that included a fair artist stipend for participation.
The goal was to encourage the public en masse to be directly involved in the success of an exhibition, receive a token of their support, and get every party paid for their time and labor involved. For us this model felt like the beginning of a new era for arts patronage and artist sustainability. Regardless of whether the works in the exhibition sold, artists were able to receive an even, fair wage for their labor surrounding participation.
ANTE mag. Can you walk us through the ways in which artists can be involved with the Paradice Palase organization as part of a community?
PP. Yes! Artists can be involved as part of our public facing community through our programs and events, as well as by joining our members network. This content comes in the form of public programming (often virtual), engagement on social media, and in person exhibitions. Our private members community works as a symbiotic relationship – artists and art lovers join at any of our 3 levels to receive perks, networking, and creative opportunities. Some of those benefits include monthly round ups of artist opportunities, connection to a network of peers online and in person, exclusive access to partner rewards and discounts, and exhibiting their work IRL at our annual members exhibition. Our monthly membership fees are low ($5-$15/mo) and allows for both accessible arts patronage as well as affordable professional career support.
We invite a mix of both member artists and non-members artists to collaborate with our platform’s curatorial content – whether it’s including their work in our online collections, designing apparel editions with them, inviting them as guests on our programming, or simply posting about their work online. The benefit of being a member is that you’re often receiving both sides of our community building – internal and external.
We’ve also been working towards creating not just a digital community but also a physical one with our storefront space in Brooklyn that supports 10 artist studios, an exhibition space, and the brick-and-mortar version of our marketplace. We’ve developed our platform in this way because we understand that community building, as well as access to resources, are some of the most important factors in contemporary artist careers. We want to support our Brooklyn community, and we also want to reach artists and art lovers outside of the NY (art world-Ed.) bubble too.
ANTE mag. When did you found your Brooklyn storefront and how does it (multi-) function?
PP. We signed the lease on our current storefront location over Labor Day 2019. It was a whirlwind day for us because the process of finding, touring, and applying for approval happened over the course of only 5 weeks. We had been discussing the options and possibilities with a commercial space as at the time all of the ideas we had surrounding programming expansion were beginning to outgrow our basement location. The incredible benefit with operating in Kat’s apartment was we never factored her rent into operating expenses, so the idea of taking on a commercial lease was as daunting as it was exciting. However, we knew we were ready to take the plunge and expand our blueprint.
We settled on a fairly common footprint of sharing the exhibition space with studio space. Our storefront is 1900 sqft. housing a front-facing gallery, a feature wall for the latest apparel editions and in-house goods, 10 semi-private studios, a common lounge area, and lofted artwork storage.
We are incredibly proud of the small community we’ve built in our Oasis Studios program and are grateful everyday for the artists that work there. With our mission of expanding our emerging artist community ever present, the bulk of our gallery programming are exhibitions from each of the artists in our Oasis Studios program. Our starting calendar also mapped room for 2-3 internally curated exhibitions, but as we’re sure you’ve gathered from the timeline, soon after moving in we had to shut the doors for the pandemic. This rapid and heavy blow to our operations gave way to a lot of soul-searching about how PARADICE PALASE would move forward strategically, succinctly, and still in consideration of everything we built before that moment.
ANTE mag. How do you plan your exhibitions and programs, both in-person and online in the virtual arts programming you produce?
PP. We thrive off spreadsheets, extensive note taking, and long hours surfing the web! Our model first began with curating group exhibitions, usually 4-6 artists per show. We wanted to work with and support as many artists as we could and not be limited to an exclusive group (side effect of being truly passionate about contemporary art!) We would research artists on Instagram, we’d attend lots of local shows and art fairs, Kat would meet artists at residencies, etc. We look mostly for emerging and underrepresented artists to work with, as we want to help nurture budding careers.
More recently after the pandemic hit in 2020, we really started reevaluating our operations and ultimately decided that with everything we were beginning to grow online, it was time to close the chapter on curating in-person group shows. Our storefront gallery calendar now consists of our studio member exhibitions (10 per year), our annual Open Call show, our annual Members’ show, and a handful of invited pop ups organized by external curators or groups. We focus our internal curatorial efforts now 100% online, curating collections of original works under $800, art objects, and artist designed apparel editions. This move online brings a new level of visibility to the artists we work with, and our focus on affordable art helps us further drive sales and expand our market reach. Our in-person shows are now more collaborative with lots of people involved, which helps foster community engagement within our physical space.
When selecting artists for exhibitions and programming, we tend to pull from both our internal pool of talent within our membership program and our own “wish list” of artists who we are fans of. We both keep running lists of artists we’d like to invite to participate in specific types of opportunities, whether it’s consigning artwork from them, or inviting them to be part of our Virtual Visit series. Different artists we come across might be good for one opportunity but not another, depending on what type of work they are making, and we keep notes about this and discuss during curatorial meetings. Our curatorial taste I would say is best described as “bold” and we typically curate new collections and do guest outreach for programs every few months. We now split up our labor, and Lauren largely handles curating and outreach for online collections while Kat manages and plans exhibitions in person.
ANTE mag.Can you talk to us about the ways in which you make art sales more feasible, and collectible art more affordable, for consumers (your recent Limited Edition mask artworks come to mind)?
PP. This is pretty much all we talk about now, haha, so we love this question! Our favorite part of our journey is the aha moment last year when we realized we’ve been dancing around the same goal since day one. When we began planning our line of apparel editions we drew on our first crowdfunding campaigns for inspiration, recognising the sales success of artist prints and collectibles from our brand.
A lot of galleries and arts organizations open with a clear vision of how they will grow on a road they rarely stray from. When PARADICE PALASE launched we had so much passion: a high stakes mission, but little else. Our goal all along was to make art collecting more accessible, and to create a sustainable revenue model for both artists and art organizations in the emerging art sector. Our passion and drive encouraged us to explore the dirt paths off the main road, but our mission to expand artist visibility and arts patronage has been there since the beginning and our current curated programming drives home all of the above.
So when we moved our curatorial programming online this year, we also narrowed in on selections of original works priced $800 and below as a way to remove stigma around artists producing work at accessible price points, and to lower the barrier to entry for novice collectors or general art lovers who want to get in the game. Through our collaboratively produced apparel editions, we are meeting those same intersections at an even more feasible scale of $55.95. We definitely see our apparel editions as a version of flat files programs, except wearable! And keeping the editions at a small production availability creates added value to their exclusive design.
ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the arts as we move into 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions to gaining recognition through artist talks, honors, appointments and prestigious residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move further into 2021.
Here we present, last but not least, our final cohort of artists in the 21 for 2021 feature. Each artist has images included with their respective coverage below, but be sure to click through to their websites – linked through their name in the header – to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!
Lead image: trade:gene, Acrylic, screenprint, oil pastel, colored pencil, collage, and puff paint on canvas and paper, 32 x 33 1/2″ (2020) Image courtesy artist Neil Daigle-Orians.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY – by way of Newark, NJ
ANTE mag. 2020 marked your solo show with Arcade Project Curatorial, Rainbow Country, at Paradice Palase. Congratulations on this milestone! Can you offer some reflections on that experience?
KD. Thank you. I had just moved from Newark to Brooklyn after living in Newark for a very long time. The solo offering in spite of the pandemic summer was extremely encouraging. It was early in the pandemic so we were one of the few galleries in New York to open a live exhibit meaning we had to figure out the guidelines for engagement without much example. We also had no idea if people would come, who would come or how to follow up the opening. Fortunately, the show was well received and got some great press. It was a pleasure working with Arcade Projectand Paradice Palase on that show. Rainbow Country was pop art, a mash-up between Caribbean and American culture longing for a 70s approach to traditionalism while revisiting our post-WW2 origins. Its narrative is a fantasy, not expected to be complete or make sense, told through something we hoped to see: A Caribbean comic-book! I never saw the series as a look at race, it barely makes it visible. It was quite interesting to see how it was interpreted as the BLM protests happened.
ANTE mag. Can you talk to us about your Artist/Muse series, which was featured by Ground Floor gallery in Brooklyn?
KD. So the Artist/Muse series I updated to Selfie World and it is my current work. I became interested in vernacular digital photography as source material and how it shapes the way we experience sex, desire and intimacy. I work in small intimate watercolors. If I find something problematic I complicate it. At times the body is located in multiple places as in Her Window My Window. Other times I use the watercolors to revisit the casual capture of the photograph as in The Visitor where you find an air of caution and discomfort given the current climate. I have much of this series done and will continue to work on it as is but this year I hope to move on to canvas. I also began work on a relational performance piece for it.
ANTE mag. How has the past year allowed you to focus on creating new work in your studio?
KD. Just working on new pieces. I spent my days scanning and preparing for opportunities. I haven’t watched any online exhibits. I had never applied for a grant before but in 2020 I won a few which helped me to ready more work. When the year was a grind at times I broke it up by pulling records for my weekly DJ set. I still managed to meet some great people and make some good contacts who are ready to collaborate.
ANTE mag.What do you have on the horizon in 2021 that you can share with us?
KD. I was gifted a temporary space and set up an installation of my new work where I host private viewings. Offerings include a figurative group show and a public art piece but with Biden now as President maybe things will get moving.
ANTE mag.Can you introduce us to the mediums you work within? Would you call yourself an interdisciplinary artist?
JK. It’s useful to think of my work as a series of projects that each incorporate whole constellations of objects, performances, videos, websites, etc. I start by researching and writing short essays that pull from many places: scientific journals, historical accounts, autobiographical reflections, etc. Once that is finished, I begin to think about what kind of artworks best communicate the essay’s sentiment.
For example, I began my upcoming exhibition, How The West Was Won, at Rockford Art Museum, by writing out a historical timeline like something you might see in an archeology museum. I traced the North American continent from its geological formation as Pangea to the recent Trump administration. It was a thought experiment, charting a relationship between geological time, colonialism, white supremacy, and golf. The exhibition will feature sculptures that look like archeological golf remains, prints, and an immersive three-channel, superwide-format video that I shot in California. For the video, I brought two older white Trump supporters out to the Mojave Desert and asked them to play an ad-hock feral-style golf game across the landscape. A website accompanies the show, where you can buy a baseball cap that I designed.
ANTE mag. Talk to us about how your work involves the audience as participant: how did this become a factor in your work and in what ways do you seek to implicate the viewer?
JK. I am interested in bodies, identity, and landscape. When you look closely, the distinction between a person and their surrounding ecology is very diffuse. Focusing on this destabilizes cultural beliefs that separate us, delineate identity groups, and construct an artificial separation from nature. I want to bring viewers into the process of exploring this collectively.
For example, In Bodies Of Water, an exhibition/ theatre performance in 2019 at Dublin Fringe Festival, an audience was invited to an exhibition’s opening night. The exhibition was supposedly by an artist who had disappeared at sea a decade ago. The curator, the artist’s assistant, leads the audience through the video works displayed. As she goes, both the exhibition itself and the curator’s emotional state fall apart. She shares the weight of her grief with the audience for a relationship that never gained closure. As the entire experience’s fictional nature becomes increasingly apparent to the audience, the artist becomes an avatar for sorrow and the ocean, surrounding the audience through video projections, a metaphor for loss and the unknown. In cases like this, I think a lot about the viewer’s bodily relationship to screens and objects on display. I think of an exhibition as a performance score guiding the audience through a complete experience.
In All My Friends Are In The Cloud, the show centers on an ever-expanding digital archive viewed via a pillar of monitors. Images of people embracing gently spin and scroll upward like video clips in a social media feed. As the images ascend, they unfurl into a whirl of digital fragments. By the time each embrace reaches the top of the screen, its image has disintegrated completely. Viewers coming to the gallery enact the embraces in a separate chamber. Through a real-time 3D scanning system, they see their own likenesses ascend, unfurl, and disintegrate.
ANTE. Can you speak more on how your background impacts your practice and frames the type of work you create?
JK. My mom was an archeologist. As a teen, I would work on digs in the Irish countryside, Stone Age burial chambers, and religious sites four or five thousand years old. I loved to imagine the communities that once lived there across those great breaths of time. I was struck by how completely different their worlds were despite sharing the same territory. Ireland itself is a country characterized by centuries of colonialism and territorial warfare premised on layers of opposing belief systems.
ANTE.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
JK. I’m about to open my first solo museum show at the Rockford Art Museum in Illinois this February*. It’s a large hall that I am filling with sandcastles, relic-like sculptures made from golf equipment, and an immersive video. The title, How the West was Won, is shared with the 1962 ultra-widescreen American western film, which opens with this narration: “This land has a name today and is marked on maps. But the names and the marks and the land all had to be won. Won from nature and from primitive man”. This unnerving quote about westward expansion contextualizes the entire exhibition. The two men I invited to participate are stand-ins for pioneer cowboys. They are like two ghosts, forever destined to haunt the barren landscape, not with rattling chains, but with swinging golf clubs.
ANTE.Tell us more about your practice as an artist – how do you conceptually seek to break down boundaries between mediums in your work and engage with the viewer/participant?
NDO. Before embarking on a project / making a thing, I always have to undergo a self-imposed existential crisis. Something I realized during grad school is that medium plays an important role in my work in that I have this need to conceptually tie the object/thing to the materials/medium. I have to ask myself; why this process? Why this thing? Why this medium? I have to justify the process and the object to make sense with the final product. As a printmaker, I often connect to the history of the process as well as the relationship we have with printed materials. Print media has a sense of authority in our world (publications/books, news/magazines, etc.) but often require a human hand to give power (checks, legal documents, etc.) I make a lot of zines and other books to connect with the intimate practice of journaling or diary keeping. I like to use plastics and other synthetic materials when discussing mental health and pharmaceuticals, sort of a metaphor surrounding the synthetic nature of my serotonin. Materiality and process have an equal role in the conceptual process as aesthetics do, so in spite of the chaotic nature of my work, I try to have meaning behind what I’m putting together and why.
ANTE.Your performance for Home Room, you mentioned, was a new direction in an ongoing series, can you tell us more about the genesis of Whin(e) and Pain(t)?
NDO. In 2018, I was commissioned by Artspace New Haven to create CONVERSION THERAPY, a site-responsive installation and performance in the former presidential suite of the Bayer headquarters. The installation included a series of performances called “Micro-Group Therapy”, where I engaged the public in a 12-step manual of my own creation. This led to me reconsidering how my practice could/should focus less on object making and more on creating spaces and experiences.
In February of 2020, I embarked on a project called A LITERAL FIRE SALE. It was an attempt to cleanse myself of my previous works and projects to start anew. I listed most everything I could catalogue of my previous work on my website, especially undergrad and graduate work, and anything that didn’t sell I destroyed during a performance called ritual for a phoenix. The intent was to restart my practice focusing on social practice, performance, and directly engaging an audience in my installations. And then the pandemic hit, and suddenly there was no longer a social with which to engage.
Whin(e) and Pain(t) was one of the projects I had started working towards producing after ritual. At the time I had access to a nice studio space and even larger performance space, and wanted to create performative engagements with groups of people using process-oriented making as a ritualistic group therapy. But like my other work (and life, let’s be real,) humor is used as a coping mechanism, so exaggerated performative actions were necessary. When the pandemic hit, I was furloughed and had a lot more time on my hands, so I started making weird little performances streamed through Twitch. One of them, The JOY of PAIN(ting), was sort of a way to explore the ideas of Whin(e) and Pain(t) by myself in my basement.Home Room allowed me to reconsider how this project could exist — I’ve long been fascinated with YouTube as a platform and have been wanting to create YouTube-specific projects, so I think this will be the next step in this project.
ANTE.How has working from home during 2020’s quarantine improved or detracted from your practice?
NDO. Weirdly enough, especially in this latter half, quarantine has forced me to focus on what I actually want to make as opposed to what I think will get me attention or boost my career. I have a full-time job in curating and arts administration at a contemporary space, and as a result I’m often filtering my own work through our own programming — what will get us a grant, what work is interesting but undiscovered, etc. Sort of like an internal dialogue of if this was displayed at my day job, what kind of critical attention could I get for it? This has been limiting in a very unfortunate way, but quarantine forced a shift in priorities.
Since October, I’ve started returning to my roots with a project focused on exploring my posthumous relationship with my estranged father, leading me to creative problem solving in terms of process and technique, and I really love the work I’ve been making in this project. And the funny thing is, as I focus on what I want to make more, I think I’m making work that better fits into the unnecessary, self imposed filter.
ANTE.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
NDO. I’ve recently been researching how to make paper using plants and harvest clay from riverbeds. I’m hoping to connect with the current residents of the houses I lived in during my childhood in Mount Prospect, Illinois and Omaha, Nebraska to collect plants and clay to create a series of works about my disruptive childhood, sense of identity, and how I came upon my queer identity. I’m hoping the current owners of these respective properties will be understanding of the ridiculous nature of my ask, however hopefully including return postage and containers I’ll be able to convince them further. I’m hopefully going to receive some travel assistance and/or residency that will help me collect the clay myself to then create vessels and other objects in addition to the paper-based works.
Utilizing materials directly tied to the places these events occurred, I’m interested in further pushing just how conceptually tied my materials can become to the objects themselves. My work about my father, patre in absentia, is a further attempt to connect with my past and ancestry through various ritualistic mourning practices, both historical and of my own creation.
It’s funny — I didn’t think of it until now, but I’m very invested in exploring my history right now as a means to further understand my contemporary sense of self
ANTE mag. Tell us more about your career this year: you had a solo show at the gallery Art of This Century, along with participating in other exhibitions. Reflecting back, what were you proud to accomplish in 2020?
KPM. Overall, I am proud that I kept moving through 2020. There is so much to be proud of. Besides the solo, I am proud of my work atUprise Art Gallery. All the work in online shows, I am proud of the show I curated at Olympia in the summer, I am proud of writing about Joel Adas in Hyperallergic for Artists Quarantine With Their Art Collectionsby Stephanie Maine. I’m proud of putting pieces inAlong the M Train at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge with ANTE that were truly the first things I made in lockdown. And I am proud of the way my community came together.
ANTE mag. Talk to us about your practice over the past year: how has your process, and the imagery present in your paintings, shifted in response to the pandemic?
KPM. I went from drawing from observation in cafes to drawing plants in window and imagery scenes. I began painting emotional responses to missing my friends and family. I made a painting of a bicyclist drifting away from a car crash, A woman cutting a dead leaf from a plant using them both as veiled ways to talk about the tragedy. I had paper all over my living room floor, I was paintings shapes of color on them.
Then more cycling paintings came and I was really doubling down on a feeling I wanted to be in my paintings last year: mindfulness, inner peace inside of the people within the painting. I needed to make paintings about that this year.
ANTE mag. In addition to your work as a painter you also function to support the artistic community in your role as part of artist-run space Underdonk in Bushwick. What can we look forward to in the space? How has your work as an artist changed in response to this role as cultural producer at Underdonk?
KPM.Underdonk is an artist-run gallery and this year we have asked ourselves a lot of big questions about what we can be and how we can serve differently. The pandemic has asked that question of alot of us. We hosted a new residency of one artist at a time in the summer and are going to do that again this winter. We have used Instagram to host fundraisers for artists when a lot of us lost work in April. Underdonk has still had physical shows, online shows, and shared artwork on Instagram to highlight individuals. We are trying out a lot of new things, and as the coronavirus spreads into uncharted waters, we will continue to evaluate our roles.
I am still getting used to the role of cultural producer as an artist. I think I have trouble connecting the two, painter and curator, but here I am. I am using both roles to achieve similar goals.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
KPM. I am half joking when I say: I am looking forward to making a many paintings as physically possible while I am still being asked by public health officials to stay inside. I don’t consider myself an introvert but I want to paint all the time.
ANTE mag. Can you tell us about your educational background as an artist and what specific medium(s) you’ve developed in your practice?
LS. I’m an Iranian interdisciplinary artist based in New York. I received my MFA in Painting from Yale University School of Art in 2019 in New Haven, CT, and my BA in Painting from the University of Science and Culture in 2013 in Tehran. I work with hand-dyed cloth and cotton rope, acrylic paint, and poetry. My current project uses textiles and other malleable, foldable materials that may appear to have nothing to do with natural landscapes.
My work represents landscapes and interactive spaces with materials that are typically the results of agricultural productions. I aim to construct a mobile landscape in a contained physical space, where the audience feels the environment shifting. Using space as material, the connection between human and land is woven through the fibers of both textiles and imagined landscapes.
The work embodies my own recollections of various landscapes in Iran while residing in the United States’ landscape, carrying my former memories in the latter. Dwelling in between two worlds, one present and the other absent, writing and speaking two languages, drives me to think about my voice’s physicality represented as climax and base. The visual image of the frequency of my voice diagram resembles the peaks and valleys in mountain ranges. This is another reason the metaphor of the mountain is important to me.
ANTE mag.From our conversations related to your show at The Border project space, “An Absent View”, you bring the life experience you’ve accumulated into your practice and specifically into your installation for that exhibit. Can you describe how you merge the personal with the universal in your practice?
LS. My site-specific installation—influenced by Persian miniature and landscapes—contemplates the “dwelling in between two worlds,” the chasm between presence and absence. My pieces are saturated with dichotomies: physical and non-physicality, inner and outer space, weight and weightlessness, transparency and opacity, and altitude and gravity.
As an expatriate living on the east coast of the United States, I have struggled to connect to Western landscapes. In turn, I assembled an installation that is reminiscent of Tehran: “I have been carrying my memories of the mountains of Tehran, and I’m trying to recreate them.” To pay homage to my native land, I use materials imbued with cultural and symbolic profundity: my poem in Persian, “The blue sky,” large hand-dyed fabrics, and Persian hand-woven Jajims (Jajims are a type of handcrafted rug, usually woven from cotton or wool by nomad people in Iran.) tactfully construct peaks and contours with ropes and folds, a contrast to the rigid, stable structure of the Jajims that lay beneath the vibrant and playful collage of cloth. My work integrates my narrative—extractions from my subconscious—into my installation, which manifests into an expansive, dynamic reflection of an absent view.
ANTE mag.Tell us more about what recent series/body(/ies) of work(s) you’ve been focused on in the studio.
LS. My recent bodies of work include two paintings. The first one is made of hand-dyed silk and cotton cloth, found cloth, fringe, ribbon, and a dowel rod. It’s a frontal mountainous view from my memories. The Persian miniature inspires me to decide on the color, texture and making a frontal painting on a large rectangular piece of silk sewn with golden thread to the dowel rod. The Second one is acrylic paint on a wood panel. It’s based on a collage made with photographs of National Geography magazines from different times. I collected various images of different landscapes from around the world and re-created a landscape out of it. This landscape doesn’t belong to any specific place, and it’s related to the idea of Placelessness.
ANTE mag.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LS. I want to expand the idea of making a landscape in another landscape. The idea of an absent view is about connecting my memories with my current experience in the USA. I brought most of my materials with a suitcase from Iran, and I am creating mobile landscapes from them here in the US. This combination brings a lot of opportunities to develop in my work.
ANTE mag. Can you start by telling us about the disciplines that you work within and how you approach each medium to realize your vision as an artist?
RN. I make media-installations that mash together eras, continents, and modes of consciousness. I combine video, animation, and text to describe the emotion-driven political ambiguities of our contemporary moment. My drawings and animations explore power dynamics and how we internalize systems like gender and sexuality. The characters are stuck in emotional situations of pain or desire – they dance, stretch, and contort in an attempt at metamorphosis, showing the turmoil within. In my video installations, I reconstruct and deconstruct locations I have documented, overlaying them one on top of the other or cutting holes into them to fuse together histories. My installations utilize all of these components, interacting with the architecture, reflecting off surfaces, conjuring specters.
ANTE mag. I find that often your new media work embraces aspects of the natural and built environment to speak to deeper topics about inequality in society (The Hunter (Playing Dead) and Would Have Been.) Can you provide some insight on this approach in your work?
RN. Many times the structures I document, whether in the built or natural environment, are abandoned. They allow me to think about the backdrop, about what is not being said, about the forces that dictate the way we perceive these structures and the way they orchestrate our movement around them. It allows me to engage with absence – empty spaces and place holders for unpresent bodies; empty structures that were erected to embody different ideologies that failed, creating unintentional monuments in the public space.
In “Would Have Been,” I documented a house that once stood proud overlooking fields, and now stand in its ruins, overtaken by weeds and trees. A silent witness to the depletion of the land and the exhaustion of the dominant historical narrative of Israel. My aim was to use the private story of this house to bring to the fore universal questions about borders, land, belonging, and yearning.
In a recent installation titled “How To Undermine the Horizon Line,” I explored an abandoned hotel in Israel. I documented the view out of the stripped-bare rooms, that all overlook the sea. In the video, an invisible narrator engages with the viewers, offering to help them explore the location. As the text keeps contradicting itself, the historical narrative turns out to be an empty construct of nostalgia, and demonstrates how the horizon can function both as a promise, a future to be obtained, but also as a prison, a border that cannot be traversed.
ANTE mag. You were recently included in the 2020 Immigrant Artist Biennial (TIAB). Can you tell us more about your work on view in this exhibition at EFA?
RN. For TIAB, I was included in the exhibition “Mother Tongue” which was curated by Katya Grokhovsky, Mary Annunziata, Allison Cannella and Anna Mikaela Ekstrand. I had the opportunity to show the first two parts of an ongoing media installation project titled Temporarily Removed.
The videos were shot in historical and ethnographic museums in NYC and Israel (where I’m from). Each video brings together two locations to examine how national narratives are produced through these institutions, and what is missing, hidden, or purposefully removed from the display in order to cultivate a sense of belonging or exclusion and reinforces the dominant national narrative by jumping between eras, continents, and modes of consciousness.
“Daydreaming” was shot at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem (formerly the Palestinian Archeology Museum) and at the Met Cloisters. The video follows the daydreams of a statue as it contemplates its life choices and possible futures by daydreaming of other places.
“Weaponizing Vulnerability” brings together artifacts from The Prehistoric Man Museum in Kibbutz Maayan Baruch, Israel, and the Museum of Natural History, NYC. I use these artifacts to ask the viewers questions regarding the different ways in which cultures touch each other, how these relations reflect the power imbalance between these societies, the meaning of freedom and the possibility of escape.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
RN. I am currently working on a video-installation titled “Mouth Full of Water.” The work revolves around conversations I had with fellow immigrants since the beginning of the pandemic regarding protests, visibility, limits of expression, and the desire to take action. In our conversations, we often discussed the gap between the understanding and experience of a political system as an outsider and insider, and how the experience from one place can inform the potential for action in the other, or serve as a warning sign for where we can end up.
For this project I combine sculptural elements and digital manipulations creating hybrid spaces that allude to ethnographic displays (the artist Milcah Bassel created the suminagashi prints I use in the video). The title, “Mouth Full of Water,” is a play on the Hebrew saying “filled their mouth with water,” which means that someone is choosing to remain quiet about an issue. In this case, my protagonist’s mouths are full of water not by choice, as participating in protests here can endanger their visa status here in the US.
Another project in the making is a drawing and sculpture series, which a friend described as a “bodily alphabet.” The figures create a transformative dance trying to maintain equilibrium, shapeshifting to support each other. I’m still experimenting with materiality and scale and I’m excited to see where I’ll end up.
Lives and works in New York, NY and Long Island, NY
ANTE mag. Your work was recently featured in a debut exhibition at Public Swim, Not in My Backyard and with Quarantine Quotidien at Cristin Tierney. Can you talk to us about the works you exhibited in each show?
MO. ThePublic Swim exhibition included paintings I created about suburban homes, pruned trees and barbecues that have a playful mix of figuration and abstraction. Curators Madeleine Mermall and Catherine Fenton Bernath created a suburban backyard setting within their gallery down in the Two Bridges neighborhood, complete with lawn chairs and astroturf. It was incredibly light and joyful but sadly fell on the eve of the mid-March 2020 lockdown. Mixing my paintings of these mundane suburban rituals with the sculptures by Meryl Bennett and Sarah Hughes the exhibition became an installation unto itself totally departing from the white box gallery.
One of my paintings was that of a large lemon tree that lives in a forgotten corner of my mother-in-law’s backyard in Santa Monica, and I was invited to continue the painting onto the wall of the gallery. I have always been interested in this tree because it is entirely neglected yet in the California sun it grows wildly. It has been hacked back repeatedly to slow it from getting to someone’s idea of ‘out of control’. As a result it grows at an awkward slant like it is injured and crouching. I love this tree, I love its deformity and it captures so much about how we treat the natural world and how it rebounds.
My paintings in the exhibition also included those of barbecues, which depict a ritual that is an explosion of color and light but embodies a contradiction: safety of a controlled burn yet an indulgence of our most primal urges. There were also a number of my paintings of ordinary houses from the 1970s that are strung out across middle class Long Island neighborhoods. As a painting motif when these houses are in light they break apart into abstract graphical problems as blocks of pure color and form. The paintings are a reflection on their privacy, modesty and individual personalities.The Cristin Tierney exhibition (visible now in their viewing room) got out of the gate early to capture what the pandemic felt like when we were just a few months into it. I found myself focused on the inner workings of my house, on the little of my neighbors that I could see from my windows, and on the anonymity of driving on the road when out on a rare errand out. My paintings depicted routine activities like midnight snacks, cleaning the yard alone and, especially, watching someone drive away, how that creates a sadness even if you don’t know the person. The painting of the man looking for food in the refrigerator, with urgency and panic, is about the feeling that you know you don’t have something and can’t get it. He is swallowed by the light of the appliance and an outline drawing of the milk carton imparts a sense of emptiness.
ANTE mag. As a painter, have you faced specific challenges in producing new work during the pandemic or has this proven an opportunity for you to create new bodies of work in your studio?
MO. I think many painters are used to spending time alone and even gravitate to a somewhat monastic existence. I certainly do and this mitigates the impact of a lockdown. But I have been lucky to have been healthy and to have had access to my studio during the entire pandemic and to have been able to get supplies. It has actually been a really productive time for me even though I think daily about how people are suffering and of my friends who have tested positive or gotten sick.
Being limited to pixels to connect to the outside world does take its toll. I greatly miss being able to visit museums and exhibitions to take in the materiality of other work by other painters, their surfaces, things as simple as how thickly or thinly they applied paint. And to speak to curators, writers and other artists in person, not to mention friends and family.
ANTE mag. Your recent works often approximate the human presence within the built environment (landscapes featuring apartment blocks, for example) or are explicitly portraits. Can you talk about the dichotomy between these two themes in your work and/or the similarities in process that are shared across these two different themes?
MO. When painting a portrait I always hope that the person will sit in an integrated way within his or her surroundings and I like to pick an object to show with them that somehow speaks to their idiosyncrasies. The similarity in process to depicting the built environment is that all painting problems for me reduce to light on form and the tension between verisimilitude and the look of the paint on canvas itself. We live in a world so dominated by perfect things and images made by machines that I think it is also important to see the hand of the artist in a painting, even as mistakes. It creates a human connection with the viewer about what it means to touch.
Whether in a work about the built environment or a portrait, I create paintings as someone might write in a diary: essentially putting down my shifting preoccupations and responses to what I encounter. I like imperfection, I feel it is very human. For a portrait, I try to step back and think what do I feel about this person, what flaw or charm has drawn me to them. Likewise for the built environment, the barbecues, or suburban houses or pruned trees that I paint, they are a record of how people interacted with the natural world, more often producing mistakes or showing their fragility than creating new beauty.
ANTE mag.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
MO. I am really excited about finalizing the work for an upcoming solo exhibition at the Custom House in Mayo in western Ireland. It will be about how modest American homes are a metaphor for the Irish diaspora. As a second generation Irish American, immigration is a very much a part of my life, my mother was born in Dublin and I am dual citizen of the US and EU. This is my first chance to put together an exhibition that grows out of being an Irish American.
I am also focused on group portraiture and family portraiture, something I experimented with for the American Wildernessexhibition in Japan in late 2019. When you have multiple people in a painting the dynamic of how they relate to each other can be quite charged. I’m interested in exploring that while also keeping alive an interplay between the abstraction and figuration of their surroundings. Also, a part of my practice includes photography and I have a second book of photographs coming out in 2021. It will be published by the Midwest Center for Photography and is about the aesthetics of civic structures, structures that we have created as a society and how they make us feel. In the photographs I am looking for beauty in mundane aspects of bureaucracy where it would seem most unlikely to find beauty.
ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the art world in 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions, to gaining recognition through artist talks, recognitions, awards and international residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move into the new year.
Below we center on the second group of artists forming our 21 artists selected for 2021. Each artist has images included with their respective coverage below, but click through to their websites linked through their name in the header to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!
Lead image: Medusa Green Screen, Oil and Watercolor on Canvas, 24″ x 30″, image courtesy artist Rina Goldfield.
ANTE mag. You’ve been busy participating in digital performance series (such as INVERSE) in 2020 and co-edited a book that launched last month. How do you feel your artistic practice has shifted in light of less in-person performance and more digital and editorial work happening during the pandemic?
AE. Well, I had to admit Institution is a Verb which I co edited with Elizabeth Lamb, Tsedaye Makonnen, and Esther Neff (who was the main organizer of the project and founder of PPL – the performance space that the project largely archives), was in planning long before the pandemic hit. I was also included in We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World edited by Jasmin Hernandez, which is available Feb 2nd, but that also was planned a couple years before it came out… so to some people this looks like a pandemic shift in my practice, but in truth those projects just happen to be coming out now, at a time that is perfect for staying home and reading! Pre-pandemic I had been thinking a lot about how archiving (not just photos but written archives) can help elevate performance art, that’s why book ideas and catalogue contributions were on my to-do list.
As for how my performances shifted… maybe thats a more complex answer. I performed a lot on Instagram and Zoom throughout 2020. Early on (March/April) I decided that worrying about having an audience was not going to help me artistically. I decided that it was best to focus on what you CAN DO online in performances that you cannot do in a live performance. For example, I can’t spit into the faces of audience members or expect them to get extremely close to my eyeballs* (*right now) but that can happen on camera. I also showed every area of my tiny apartment online, usually destroying it in some way because I have a lot of pent-up anger. Vulnerability became more important as did looking into the camera. Normally when I perform I don’t look at the camera at all. It happens to be there to document the event, but I feel the important part is the feeling that is given to the audience in person… suddenly in quarantine it became about the feeling given to the audience through the camera. Not to say I felt like I was acting, but more like I used to camera to get my point I was also sick a lot and then went to a lot of protests. I think that coupled with living alone and not having a romantic partner… made my performances shift as I moved deeper into quarantine. Things definitely grew more abstract and darker in theme as the year went on. (I should say though I did go to Chicago for two and a half months to quarantine with my parents and nephew, and the performances were a lot happier then!)
Overall I prefer IG because it is easier for everyone to access and I can control the camera view with greater ease. The one beautiful thing about the pandemic is that i feel access to art has opened up greatly. We are all now buying work, viewing artist talks, shows and performances online and they are all being advertised on social media. NOW watching something online is not the same, but there are a lot of things I get to see online now that I never would have seen before. And there are many artist talks happening now that never would have occurred before. We were so stuck on the interviewer and the artist needing to be in the same room! -plus people are a pinch more open when they are talking to you from home. I also think because we all went through a collective trauma that is hard to explain in words, many people who once thought my way of expressing myself in abstract actions as “weird” or “not for them” now look at the work and say “YES! Drink your bathwater on camera with a half pulled down ball gown on… I feel like that too. Do you.”
ANTE mag.What are some recent, ongoing and/or upcoming collaborations that you want to share with us as we enter 2021?
AE. Aside from the books, I think I am most excited about a collaboration that I just did with University of Michigan. Students in Professor Rebekah Modrak’s Dressing UP and Down Class made these beautiful costumes that I designed and then students from the theater and music department performed a score that I created and wore the costumes from Modrak’s class. They even had beautiful customized masks! The performance was a celebration of Black femmes and the fight, resilience and love of Black people. It took place on one of the Michigan football fields and even some of the cheerleaders joined in to participate. And just as with my own practice there is a large part of it that was improvised in the moment by the performers even though a loose plan was laid out in advance. It’s entitled “You Better Be Good To Me.” The video hsa premiered as part of the Penny Stamps series they have annually on campus, but is now online. I’m super excited about this. It marks a new way of making work for me and feels more expansive than just working alone. online info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKPYxgYFkVy/
ANTE mag. Your practice has had some incredible coverage in 2020, not limited to the fantastic NYT article featuring you that was published in June 2020 in which you spoke about social and political matters. Can you expand on how your often physically punishing work embodies both a personal and universal component? Feel free to point to a specific example/performance.
AE. For me work that includes deep labor like running to my friend Lisette Morel repeatedly for 3 hours in the summer heat is as much about acting out friendship as it is about the struggle of being a woman of color, or the fact that both of us come from families that worked jobs that involved intense labor while we never had to – hence the running with parasols and matching dresses and yet doing it for hours in the heat is exhausting. Just like trying to make it in the art world… Morel is a painter whoI have known for over 18 years. If you know that about us the work’s meaning deepens. But no matter what, the personal and the political are always present. I like the work to have multiple meanings in this way. For others the act of carrying passersby or audience members at a museum gallery for hours while wearing heels “I Carry You And You Carry Me” (2016, 2017) is a political act that shifts depending on who I carry (a white male, a Black woman… a child, etc.) At the same time, I was thinking about intimacy, friendship and breaking hierarchies when I made this piece. Sometime you carry your friends and sometimes they carry you…and sometimes they drop you, lol. And once you have your legs wrapped around an artist, the typical artist-to-audience-member/collector relationship is broken. We are two people talking in each other’s ear and they are trusting I won’t drop them. No one is better than someone else or acting out “usual” roles in that scenario. For me there is a beauty in that. I hope people take that with them and exercise it in small ways after leaving my shows. It is not social activism in the sense of telling you what to do, but rather showing you what it feels like to do it differently (meaning more freely and fairly) and what it feels like to NOT do it differently (meaning harshly tied to society rules and capitalistic ideals) – Hence the harsh acts of labor.
Lately, I have started to focus more on participatory exchanges than harsh labor so acts like demanding a group of conference participants at the College Arts Association conference to impromptu “Catch this Black body!” are starting to make having my audiences perform the labor with me just as important as my solo actions. I think they both yield similar results.
ANTE mag.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
AE. rest…. hahah just KIDDING! Rest? Who is She?
Seriously though, I am looking forward to being more balanced in my work life and private life in 2021… People that know I spent two years with a sign on my back that said “I Just Came Here To Find A Husband” will be happy to know I have found a loving relationship, so I plan to take time to nurture that while I make work in 2021. As for the work of making art, I plan to make works that experiment with collaborative groups of people and short films. I think making and showing this work outside of institutions literally projecting it onto buildings is what’s next for me. Making my work bigger in the world is my goal.
ANTE mag. I’m more familiar with your sculptural work but I’ve noticed that during 2020 you embarked on a series of two dimensional works on paper. Can you talk to us about this shift?
MKM. During the initial Covid shutdown and chaos of those early days here in NYC, I, like many people, didn’t really leave my apartment for a long time. And I wasn’t sure how safe it was to go to my studio, let alone finding the mental capacity and physical energy to make work. Those early days were weird and I needed to figure out how I could incorporate my studio practice into this chaotic world of home schooling children and my spouse and I both working from home all at the same time. I gave myself a daily project just to jump start my brain and break out of the worry cycle. I printed out a stack of collagable papers, based on ‘images’ I was already using with my work, of gradients and orbs. I would use the cut paper and rearrange it to create a new work each day. My only rules were to use the same papers over again, and if it got too stressful to put it away and start fresh the next day. There was no commitment. It began as a sketching exercise and then I really got into the work I was creating. They were very abstract and began to focus on color and space in a way that I hadn’t necessarily dealt with in my work before, but it was an interesting tangent. Usually my work is muted in color, lots of greys and blacks with an occasional pop of something acidic, but now I found myself using these really vibrant fuschias, oranges and blues. These collages grew out of a need to let go of what I was focusing on in the studio prior to the shutdown and just work from pure, primal feelings. Maybe the work would have ended up here eventually, but something about the immediacy and unsettling energy of the pandemic pushed it there.
As the project evolved, I began keeping the collages as finished works, gluing them down instead of reworking them the next day. There are a few that are digital prints of small editions from the earliest days, but now most of the works are uniques. I’ve begun making small sculptures that relate to the ideas of space within the collages. It’s going to take me longer though to figure out the sculptural works.
ANTE mag. Early last year you had your work on view in the West 10th Window, which read as an installation. Can you talk about your sculptures and your process in terms of responding to a solo show or a space where you have freedom to create an installation (versus being included in a group exhibit)?
MKM. It was a nice challenge to make work for the West 10th Window. I wanted to use the space in its entirety and it reads as a diorama or a small stage in that format. By thinking about it as an installation, I could experiment with flatness and spatial perception within the window. Recent works had been addressing sculpture and the correlation between flatness and depth within landscape and playing with how our eye perceives that, so I wanted to continue with that tangent. I like finding ways to make sculptures that have width but no depth, the surfaces flatten or grow as you walk around it. The Window was a place where I could experiment with this and create those layers of subtleties. And material-wise, I wanted to go between surfaces and forms that were abstracted yet familiar with materials that were referential to raw sculpting materials like plaster and clay. But then they get all mixed together, so a “rock” is just a blob of clay, and a curved piece of aluminum with wallpaper can read like a mesa or mountain-like form. It’s always exciting when you’re invited to create whatever you’d like. It’s followed briefly by a moment of panic of what that project should be, but then production mode takes over.
I was also there installing for a few days and I got to meet a few of the residents and the super of the building as I occupied their laundry room with all of my tools and wallpapers for the week. I would pop in and out of this hole in the wall. It was one of the more fun, non traditional spaces I’ve had the chance to show with.
ANTE. In my conversations with artists lately I’ve noticed a spirit of innovation, either in response to lens studio time due to more demanding schedules at home or even a lack of studio space. How have you seen your practice innovate in response to quarantine?
MKM. I think we’re all still in survival mode and as artists that’s making work with whatever you have around in whatever place you can. It makes me think back to being in highschool, when you had to work in your bedroom and you’re sleeping in your bed with sketch pads all around. Only now I have an even smaller apartment with an entire family. I split my time between working in my bedroom and working in the studio ( I count my blessings I still have a studio available). Since I can’t get to the studio as much as before, my bedroom floor or the kitchen table is my new workspace. I also think that if the quarantine hadn’t happened I might not have produced the work that came out of it. From those super dark days came this really colorful work that is an exciting departure. Artists persist no matter what, we’re wired for that. It’s not always easy but it seems like everyone is finding a new way to create or present in these weird times. I like hearing stories from friends who are making work in their bathtubs or creating these awesome video projects that never would have happened without quarantine and isolation.
ANTE.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
MKM. I currently have an exhibition, “Echo Echo,” on view (opened Jan 16th) at Gold/Scopophilia Gallery in Montclair, NJ of work I created throughout Covid times, and another two person show with Douglass Degges at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, PrattMWP Gallery in Utica, NY opening Feb 5th. Additionally, I’m really looking forward to purging a lot of old things that I’ve been holding onto and realize I don’t need anymore. I want to keep working on these new tangents and spend a bit of time revisiting the work I had to abandon when quarantine hit. I think going back into those pieces with fresh eyes and new directions will uncover some good things.
I’m honestly just hoping for more time there, and feeling comfortable having people over again.
ANTE.Tell us more about your practice as an artist and the mediums/disciplines you work within (ie – painting, collage/works on paper, etc.)
RG. I make two-dimensional works. I mostly use oil paint and watercolor on canvas. I also make works using ink, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper. My work is figurative, but of imaginative subjects. I am interested in themes of mythology, loneliness, origin stories, and embodied experience. A lot of my pieces reference collage, but they are not collages. My surfaces are (almost) always a single surface that I’ve worked in a variety of ways. In addition to surface, I am interested in color.
ANTE.In your paintings you evince a methodical and meticulous approach to your process, carefully creating the Milky Way in your “Mother Earth makes the Milky Way” work, for example. How did you develop this particular attention to detail in your work?
RG. It feels important to me to find joy in my practice. I love getting lost in minutiae; my pleasure in that process is why detail shows up so much in my work. I think I’ve always worked this way. Even much earlier, more abstract fabric work included lots of tiny stitches, or painted pinpricks.I get into primordial imagery — snakes, water, stars — and I love the idea of capturing cosmic forces with tiny marks. The contrast in scale feels resonant.
ANTE.You sometimes adopt pop imagery in your work and references to everyday life, while contrasting these elements against nature (Worm with its Lover, Pizza, comes to mind.) How do you mine imagery in your practice to bring together disparate elements in your work?
RG. A lot of my ideas come through language first: phrases like “Worm Climbs Mountain” and “Giving Birth To Yourself Over And Over Again Through Your Head” are starting places. Imagesthen arrive through intuition or osmosis, floating against the frameworks of the phrases. Like everyone, I soak up the visual culture that surrounds me: the digital languages of memes and photocollage; religious imagery; ads; “fine art” painting. All of these sources percolate, and I try not to be too fussy about what imagery I use.Some of the juxtapositions are rooted in online visual culture, especially stock photos. Pizza is apop image, but so is the Apple screensaver galaxy. With “Worm with its Lover, Pizza,” I wanted to make a really lonely painting of a worm with its lover, comfort food, floating in a screen-inspired “galaxy.” I hope the galaxy here is a kind of simulation of a romantic destination.
ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
RG. So much!
I’m working on several Goddess paintings. In particular, I am working on two new Medusa paintings, one of her transformation into her snake-haired form, and another of her going on vacation with her boyfriend, a stone head. I am also working on a painting based on a phrase I love from the Odyssey: the “rosy-fingered Dawn.”I’m additionally working on a series of works on paper called “Giving Birth To Yourself Over and Over Again Through Your Head.” This phrase was inspired by myths of head-births, including Athena springing from Zeus’s head and Medusa birthing Pegasus from her severed head. The works have departed significantly from this source material, though. The imagery includes fibonacci spirals, chromosomes, DNA helices, nigella seed pods, and pacman. The process of making them has a lot of components, and includes paper marbling, gouache, and watercolor. They are fun to make! I feel like this could be an infinite series for me, which aligns with the works’ themes of repetition, recursion, and infinite looping.Finally, since the pandemic began, I’ve returned to drawing as a fast, expressive practice. I’ve made hundreds of sumi ink and watercolor drawings. Most of them are really bad. But I hope to gather a selection of them into an artist book.
ANTE. Your commitment to your practice is evident in your participation with Materials for the Arts (2018) The Laundromat Project’s Crate Change program fellowship (2017) and your most recent 2020 artist-in-residence position with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. It is evident your work speaks to a wide audience, can you speak about your vision for your practice and the audiences you attract with your work?
DO. I think my practice attracts a diverse audience because it speaks to the soul, it sparks thoughts of humble beginnings, especially for people of color who immigrated to the United States. I was able to experience this while in residence at Children’s Museum of Manhattan. I was able to have had conversations with children and parents from places like India, Africa, China, Russia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Everyone had a different appreciation for my art making process like mixing acrylic paints, cutting shapes out of paper or vinyl tiles, or adding cyanotype solutions to a vinyl tile. It’s all about stimulating the mind through combinations and experimentations.
At Materials for the Arts, I addressed the loss of my father and created a memorial through the use of their objects inside their warehouse, I made cyanotype prints using their jewelry and crocheted doilies on bedsheets, sculptures out of books and furniture legs. I juxtaposed imitation flowers bursting out of speakers, vinyl tile collages. During the Create Change program with the Laundromat Project I had children and their parents painting lightbulbs as a form of recognizing the light within themselves. It was a response to gentrification and the number of families that have had to move out due to the increase in rents. By painting a pattern and/or writing their name and the years they have been living in Harlem, marks their resilience in being able to continue to live in Harlem despite the significant increase in the cost of living, thus the “Give Me The Light” Project was born.
The found object is sometimes the realism and I study objects to find a way into the practice, it’s similar to jumping rope. You have to pay attention to your timing of when the rope is about to touch your feet to know when you need to jump.
ANTE mag. You hold a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from Hunter College (CUNY). Can you speak to the professors and mentors who have influenced your practice as it developed along the way over the past 15-20 years to where you are today?
DO. I was fortunate to have some incredible art professors throughout my time in Purchase College. I will always remember artists like Leonard Stokes, Murray Zimiles and Judith Bernstein. They encouraged me to reinvent my process of making art and push the process further, add more steps and examine the effect it has on the piece, then for the next piece take less steps out, and then look at the two and notice the differences, what does it say to you? Or l would focus on how I am using perspective or be mindful of who I chose to include into my paintings. Instead of famous icons I would pay attention to West African rituals that I could juxtapose into my paintings.
At Hunter, I worked with artists like Nari Ward, Juan Sanchez and Paul Ramirez. They pushed me to further develop my vision of the objects I choose to work with, to use the materials and make many things out of it to reveal the possibilities. Sometimes less is more or it needs density to get a message across to the viewer. Not everything has to count to make it a successful piece and yet sometimes it does. I develop the rules behind what and how materials can be activated. I felt as if I was working from the inside out. To be open to suggestions, yet use what you feel will help you along the way of realizing an artwork.
ANTE mag. Can you speak about viability and representation in your work, and the vision you bring to your practice as per your artist statement noting that your work, “illustrates..the Dominican American experience, masculinity, vulnerability, the supernatural, family and spirituality”?
DO. I think the Dominican American experience recognizes the challenges of adapting who you are within the confines of the United States. You have to recognize who you are, your worth and stand by it unapologetically. I think my practice talks about deep abstract feelings that are challenging to put into words and more effectively addressed through the combinations and the treatment of the materials. I am interested in the ownership of what I make. There is freedom behind creating your own rendition of things versus honoring someone else’s. For me, there’s a limitation to working with the readymade, like the vinyl tiles. I can only produce patterns with what is there. It addresses one side of the effects of aspirations behind materialistic artificial objects that evoke monetary wealth. At times, I think about my mother’s style of working as a beautician, she wanted hair to have flare, she wanted the customer to be excited about how they looks, so she was very patient and cognizant of hair and the materials she needs to achieve a specific look and get inventive when things don’t go her way. I think there is a lot of value in recognizing your parents skills and recognizing how some of those characteristics become a part of you. The best part is that I am elevating those traits and passing it off to my son. I think that the evolutionary aspect of inheriting your parents’ skills is always interesting to see in how it manifests itself in the quality of the work. I do want my work to be aesthetically pleasing, however, I want to trigger a memory, make a connection of sorts that is relevant to you. I want to make your cells tingle with a good vibration.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
DO. I am looking forward to using objects that have been affected by another person, for instance, cigarette butts, shattered glass from car windows. I am interested in finding a shining light in these objects that have a harmful effect, yet is used to keep calm or been broken to infringe on someone else’s property.
Editor’s Note – Ortiz most recently exhibited in a solo show with Empty Set gallery in the Bronx, through Jan 7, 2021. The show, titled Heaven and Earth, is visible on the gallery’s instagram – @Empty.set.gallery
ANTE mag.Can you introduce our audience to your practice? And can you speak to whether/how your work invites and encourages collaboration?
LRS. My practice is built around the idea of doing rather than making. An activity is interesting to me, aside from its result or product. It’s not that the result is not relevant to me, but the question I ask myself is not “what do I have to do in order to get xy result?”, but rather “i wonder what the result will be if i carry out xy activity”.I began noticing or understanding this about my work when I was experimenting with sculpture in art school and started videotaping the process of building something until it became much more about the process than the sculpture itself. I started staging performances in which I gave myself the task of climbing through one of the huge rooms at the Art Academy Düsseldorf on a specific axis, for example the diagonal, or along the ceiling. It wasn’t about the acrobatic act, but about the attempt at something that the space wasn’t designed for, an autonomous relationship of the body to (architectural) space, that could also fail, and sometimes did. This was around 10 years ago, but I remain excited by the choreography or the pattern of a process or procedure. A sequence of actions or movements or markings that is the result of a certain plan or idea. This is true for both my algorithmic drawings which use a grid as a structured space for patterns to unfold, and for my performance based work which extends into video as well as into dance and choreography.
The question about collaboration is an interesting one. Although much of my work is designed to be solitary, it is also made for collaboration. When I work on my grid-based drawings or series of drawings I experience time in a heightened way. My attention is directed at observing the visual information that is happening in the grid. This is a solitary process. I become a kind of observer of my own activity, and there is an inner monologue which comments on the sequence of “events” as if I was watching a play. Sometimes I write these comments down and sometimes they find their way into performances or artist books.
This aspect of not being in control of aesthetic choices while in process, of letting chance, random numbers, or outside determinants shape the process is why collaboration is particularly interesting to me. It carries the appeal of the unknown. This is especially true for my choreographic work. Choreography allows me to let go of the linear path that I pursue in my drawings and thus invites collaboration. I love working with dance makers; my world expands by learning someone else’s movements or approaches to movement and space. I also think that the times we are in inspire connection and collaboration on many levels.
ANTE mag.Your practice seems to embrace a wide realm of influences, from theoretical physics to themes of repetition and spatial dynamics. Can you speak to some of the more potent influences on your work and how they inform what you consider when you make work?
LRS. Learning is a strong impetus for my work. I like to dive into a certain area of knowledge for a while. There was a phase in which I was very interested in meteorology. Besides learning about the evolution of the earth’s atmosphere, what fascinated me was the way that meteorologists use data to draw conclusions about the future and how, even if they understood every kind of reaction on a micro and macro level, the sheer number of factors is too large and the scale on which reactions take place too small to really lift the mystery of the weather.
The idea of scale was the main formal principle of my first artist book in which an algorithmic system was repeated page after page but the scale of the grid went from one square being bigger than one page to one page containing a 224 by 224 square grid. When turning the pages of the book the first page and the last page resemble each other, similarly to how an image through a microscope can resemble the sight of star dust through a telescope.
One paper that has influenced my work in different ways by stage artist and evolutionary theorist Rod Swenson is called “Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production: A Principled Foundation toward the Study of Human Ecology”. The ideas developed in this paper have influenced the way I think about my work. His paper speaks about order and chaos in thermodynamics and at the same time he applies these principles to other areas like, for example, tornados or cities. He describes them as self-organizing systems. His thoughts inspired me to think about choreography in new ways: a choreographic system which is both rules-driven but unpredictable and allows for both chaos and synchronicity, and also for individual moments. A tapestry of movement, sound, visual elements, and perhaps language in which no one inside or outside of the performance has the full picture, the score being divided between the participants who are operating on cues.
I also draw influences from books about history. I find it extremely interesting and helpful to learn about the past and to be able to see the connections from my point in time. Understanding some aspects of the past empowers us to recognize patterns in the situation we find ourselves in and perhaps understand the roles we occupy. I often draw parallels between things I learn about, and my own work. For example I could compare a dancer’s coincidental position in a choreography to the position any one of us could be occupying in the course of events in a family, a community, a city. This is likewise true for the patterns in my drawings. But I don’t use these comparisons or metaphors as material or scripts. I just see it happen like in a complex mirror and hope that others are inspired or challenged to see something too.
Usually when I read, there is something behind the details that communicates to me a broader idea. And I relate this idea to my work, sometimes to work that already exists. Learning, reading, and working, and also experiencing life as a complex web of relations, of causes and effects, of intersecting timelines – all these things are to me different facets of an interrelated experience.
ANTE mag. I’ve been particularly interested lately in the drawings you feature on your Instagram page that feature repetitive drawings in geometric, linear fashion. These seem easy to access in a moment in which many of us are sequestered at home and repeating our daily lives with little variation due to the pandemic. Can you talk about the genesis of this series and how it is evolving?
LRS. I have been making these kind of generative drawings for about eight years and when I first started using a grid and filling it with simple color sequences it felt like I had discovered a huge playground. It promised so many possibilities. In these drawings I impose a specific rule, using an invented alphabet of lines or shapes, and without knowing what the end result will look like, I fill the page or canvas (or sometimes a wall or a roof) in, like you say, a linear fashion. In some ways I am like a computer, working through the commands of a program or instruction set. Of course, I am a very bad computer and I make mistakes. The mistakes somehow become part of the work even though I have an urge to conceal them. This causes a friction that I find interesting. I like the idea that these drawings are relatable during these times of the pandemic. The repetitiveness of making them resonates with a life of less transit and more seclusion. While the parameters often change, I usually come back to the same rule or algorithm. It is all about repetition and slow growth. I think that that is how the series is evolving, too. I come back to the beginning, and then I go a little further. At the moment I am experimenting with integrating random numbers into the sequence in order to make the pattern less predictable and more opaque.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LRS. First of all I am looking forward to 2021 in my studio! For all the things that 2020 has been, it has gifted me with the kind of time and focus in my studio which I hadn’t had in a long time. I’m curious to continue experimenting with virtual performances and the layering of screens and places. I’m grateful to ANTE mag and Radiator Arts for creating a platform for virtual performance this past December! There are several projects I’m excited to work on, a residency at MH Project on the Lower East Side and a show at Simultanhalle in Cologne where I want to show a choreographic work. In general, I feel that this will be a year of connecting different parts of my work and bringing people together whose work I admire.
ANTE. – Can you tell ANTE readers more about your practice and the disciplines you work within as an artist?
RS. I am a multidisciplinary artist working in video, photography, painting/printmaking, ceramics, and poetry. Lately I have been mainly focusing on video. I recently transformed my painting studio into a film set and that has been my artistic playground. I have been developing a kind of DIY experimental filmmaking process where I basically do everything myself…the design, shooting, lighting, editing. I worked in the film industry before this so I had some experience in that realm and it’s been exciting to apply those skills to my own vision. My current video projects involve improvisation and character work exploring my alter ego. I get to the studio, put on a costume and some music, get into character, and start shooting. Sometimes I have a clear vision; sometimes I collect footage based on what I am excited about visually and piece it together later. I get really excited about specific props, like my assortment of miniature crystals or my Leonardo di Caprio pillow, and I build work around these objects. Letting myself be playful has been a big part of my process. The external covid world has been so harsh — I really needed a space where I could escape and feel safe and cushioned by warm colors and soft fabrics and my imagination.
ANTE mag. I’ve been impressed with how you’ve developed your artistic practice to acclimate to the restrictions resulting from the 2020 pandemic, including creating evocative animations and digital paintings for your Instagram page. Can you talk to us about some of the themes you worked with in 2020 and how the pandemic and surge of Black Lives Matter protests had an impact on your work?
RS. When the pandemic hit, I was kicked out of my studio at RISD and I turned to digital paintings and animations as an outlet. That was such a difficult moment and I used drawing to process everything I was feeling. I made digital paintings of isolated women sprawled on the couch watching 400 episodes of Love Island, cartoons snuggling, a sad girl making one last toast to Bernie Sanders. Some paintings are comedic and some lean directly into feelings of hopelessness, solitude, loss, transformation. The animations always occur at night with sparkling stars — it has something to do with night being a symbol of the unconscious or the underworld, a space where profound change can occur. I found lots of comfort in sharing these images on social media since I was missing connection in real life. During the surge of BLM protests across the country, I wondered what the artist’s role could be. Direct activism is much more of an urgent necessity than visual art. However, I do feel that it is important to address the situation in my artwork. I thought the burning cop car painting would be good to put out in the world as a visual representation of dismantling the oppressive racist systems that are ingrained in our society.
ANTE mag.Can you shed light specifically on Ashley, your performance art alter-ego and how you’ve envisioned these performances transitioning from 2020 into 2021?
RS.Ashley, my alter ego, is a spiritual woman who is desperately seeking meaning in her life through absurdist measures. This character was born directly out of my own search for meaning and purpose. Over the years, I have turned to alternative healing to get through difficult times. I would find myself chanting mantras I found on blogs, using debilitating nostril breathing exercises to connect with the divine feminine. I both genuinely enjoy these practices and recognize that it’s all getting filtered through a white millennial feminist branding that makes it full of hilarious hypocrisy. Spirituality is hot right now. I am fascinated by how it plays out in capitalist society, technology, on social media, in sexy mysticism-themed tattoos. A major theme of the Ashley project is seeking answers outside oneself and the absurdity of this impossible, never ending task. I grew up Jewish, and I think that being surrounded by religion in my youth influenced my interest in faith and an obsessive questioning of existence. Ashley is surrounded by her spirit guides, her wildest fantasies, her psychological regressions. She has an angel guide who lives in a miniature locker. She is haunted by her love for 90’s Leonardo diCaprio. As I move forward, I’ll be exploring some of Ashley’s shadow side, her weaknesses, and her flaws. This character has been an outlet to work through things that I’m going through, but in an exaggerated way. It’s cathartic.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
RS. This fall, I spent time constructing a film set in my studio which set the stage for Ashley’s world. Now that the set is constructed, I can dive more deeply into creating within that space. I have lots of work to do before my thesis show at RISD this spring. I am amassing materials in the form of video, paintings, writing, and ceramic objects that all belong in Ashley’s world. I am thinking about how I can use humor as a tool to draw people into deeper questions and ideas. I have a vision of transforming a gallery space into Ashley’s world, with purple walls, accompanying video and sound installations, and physical art objects. Overall, I am very excited to take this project as far as it can go.
Lives and works between Amherst, MA and Santa Fe, NM
ANTE mag. Thanks for chatting with us, Ligia! To start us off, can you explain a bit about your practice and the disciplines you work within? Do you ever combine/overlap different mediums when making artwork?
LB. My work is based in sculpture and interactive engagement. But, I also use video, photography, textiles, a wide range of drawing methods, and installation techniques to examine found narratives in the hopes of highlighting the contrast between the ritualistic and mundane, the performative and the genuine, and to ask questions about how we, in our bodies, practices, and institutions, locate ourselves in these spaces. Each of my projects wrestle with issues of functionality as well as narrative, relying on our inherent understanding of household objects, clothing, and tools. My work fully embraces the overlap between mediums as I allow the story I am trying to tell dictate the overall form each piece will take.
ANTE mag. Would you walk us through what considerations and influences you take into account when making new work?
LB. My research around each narrative initially guides the project’s structure. For the last ten years, I’ve been interested in sites that go beyond the physical characteristics of a space or architecture. I attempt to engage with the historical, political, economic, environmental, and social stories embedded in each place. For example, I have drawn upon narratives from classical literature, American comic books and films, fairytales, and documentation of Victorian séances. However, I do not consider myself to be a storyteller. Instead, after first using these found narratives to create shared understanding in my work, I then subvert this initial sense of familiarity, leaving the viewer suspended in an in-between space that highlights the roles and characters we all play in everyday life. I use sculptural objects in multimedia performances and installations to actively engage and immerse viewers. However, the desire to “try on” different identities does not equate itself in my work with a need to become someone or something else. Instead, by recreating these roles, I intend to push against the boundaries of the body in the hopes of enacting an understanding of exactly what makes each body separate from everything else.
ANTE mag. How has your practice evolved as a result of 2020’s lockdown during the pandemic?
LB. The pandemic has been challenging. Initially I did not have access to my studio which is outside my home. In many ways I feel that my own well-being is tied to my daily practice and I find myself adrift if I can’t work regularly. In those early days, I created a space for myself in our basement and tried to work on small pieces. However, it was hard to find meaning in those works in the face of the immense pain and suffering being experienced across the world. Slowly, my home practice has grown and I am only now beginning to unpack the evolution of the works that I have created during this period. Although all of these pieces have ultimately resisted any kind of resolution and remain unfinished, they are evidence of an ongoing inquiry that have given me a sense of accomplishment.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LB. In early 2020 I was awarded an Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian to do research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I want to spend time looking at the Astronomical Photographic Plate Collection which holds hundreds of thousands of photographic images of our universe from as far back as the 1870s. In particular, I am interested in exploring the observations of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, one of the first women “computers” who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from 1895 until her death in 1921. I will use this fellowship to investigate the work and processes of Henrietta Swan Leavitt by tracking variable star clusters on glass plate photographs held in the collection from the 1890s to the 1970s. I hope this will result in a sculptural multimedia installation that will use the medium of kiln-formed glass as a means of reflecting upon shifting celestial light patterns. Harvard is currently closed to visitors until May 2021. I am hoping that by this summer the vaccine will have been widely distributed and I will finally be able to begin working on this project.
ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the art world in 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions, to gaining recognition through artist talks, recognitions, awards and international residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move into the new year.
Below we center on the first 7 of our group of 21 artists selected for 2021. Each artist has images but click through to their websites to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!
Lead image courtesy the artist. Melissa Joseph “That pink van took us a lot of places, but never got us here” (2020) Needle, felted wool, inkjet print on Indian duppioni silk 21 x 27 inches
ANTE mag. Can you tell us more about the use of “layering” in your practice and how it applies to all artistic disciplines that you work within?
Cecile Chong. My work is about cultural interaction and interpretation. I layer different materials where they become signifiers representing a place or a culture for me. I was born in Ecuador to Chinese parents and lived in Macau with my grandmother for five years between ages 10 and 15. After that, I returned to Ecuador for high school and then came to New York at age 19 to study art. I came to realize that my early life and cultural experiences were very intense, with the transition from one culture to the other being very abrupt. It was as though I was the character of one story line and was suddenly plucked out of it and placed in another narrative in a different setting, speaking a different language. Those experiences also included different religions, socio-economic statuses and family dynamics. Looking back, sometimes I feel like I grew up in some epic movie. At age 10, I went from spending weekends celebrating indigenous festivals like Inti Raymi near the family hacienda in the Ecuadorian Andes, to spending school vacations in the rural family village in Canton China during the Cultural Revolution. I think that these experiences have giving me a lot of subject matter and insights to work with.
I love finding materials that I can incorporate into my work that have meaning or bring some kind of memory. My paintings have 25 to 30 layers of encaustic (heated beeswax, resin and pigment) and I embed different materials (rice paper, volcanic ash, circuit board materials, figures from different books) within those layers. I usually have other projects going on where I apply a similar layering approach with materials. In my “Strainger” Series I use beads from donated necklaces and accessories that are mostly plastic or glass and combine them with beads from different types of rosaries. I also use natural materials and seeds mainly from the Amazon forest like acai, tagua, pambil and huayruro. In my tapestries beside the conventional yarn and ribbon, I’ve also been finding meaning in different materials that I include like utility cords, tassels, feathers, LED lights, metal charms, pom poms, which makes me think of things like colonialism, natural environment and indigenous communities, current technologies, colonialism, industrialization, labor, women’s issues, rebellious teenage years, etc. In 2019, I started working with stop motion animation and began layering languages that I grew up with at home (Spanish, Cantonese, Hakka and English).
ANTE mag.Your practice is influenced by such a range of issues, including economic factors, environmentalism and culture. How do you balance this wide range of influences in your practice?
CC. I react to different issues that resonate with my personal experience. I work intuitively. Some issues bother me, then nag me until they come out in my work.
I started EL DORADO – The New Forty Niners in 2017. It was a result of the president’s hostility towards immigrants. I was also a public middle school art teacher for many years in Sunset Park. In 2016, I saw how the president’s politics and words were affecting my students, their families and, I’m sure, thousands and millions of immigrants in this country and beyond. The atmosphere in my classroom was somber and tense with students being fearful of family members being deported. I then read that 49% of NYC households speak a language other than English. I held on to that number and developed 100 colored “guagua” (Quechua for baby) sculptures. I painted 49 of them gold to honor that 49%. EL DORADO (The Golden) – The New Forty Niners became a public art installation traveling to each of the five boroughs of New York City, one borough per year, and presented as a contemporary archaeological site. The installation has been installed in four boroughs of NYC. It is now installed at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor on Staten Island until March 28. Towards the end of this year, it will be installed in Manhattan as its final borough.
In 2018, I created a series of paintings addressing the cruelty and absurdity of the family separation policy at the US and Mexico border, which is driven by underlying racism towards people from Central and South America. This policy is a manifestation of the xenophobia and the general opposition to non-white immigration. The titles of my paintings such as DNA Matching, Bully, Border Crossing, Caged In, Nearly Full Capacity, Not Summer Camp, Day in Court, all came from reading about this issue and feeling frustrated and shocked about the cruelty being perpetrated. Unfortunately, as we know, up until last month, the parents of at least 628 migrant children still have not been located.
I have also been creating large scale installations. I have always used nature as a setting for my paintings. Earlier in my practice, I created installations with the idea of the viewers becoming the figures in my compositions. In 2019, I was spending part of my summer visiting my mom in Quito when the fires in the Amazon forest were everywhere in the news. Being one country away from the epicenter, I was devastated and numb. I thought about how we treat nature as though we are not part of it. We destroy, burn, divide the land and we treat mother nature as the other. For the title of the installation I took the “m” out of “mother nature” and created “_other Nature” at Smack Mellon at the beginning of last year. _other Nature was a room-size installation with a fence dividing the room with one side lush and thriving and the other side stunted after human intervention.
I think that “balancing” the influences in my practice happens when I confront what bothers me. It is that “nagging” feeling that happens and that tension that needs to be released that makes me address different issues through my work.
ANTE mag. Can you speak more on how your background as an immigrant artist impacts your work?
CC. The migration experience of my family and my own experience has allowed me to have multiple viewpoints and an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps “fresh eyes,” to look for clues and inspiration in the materials, history and people of a place, physical or spiritual, and to draw insight about its core essence. In the many places I have lived, I think I have been seen by most as somewhat of an outsider. In Ecuador I was “la china”. In China I was a “ghost girl” (foreigner). In the US, I’m an Asian woman with a Spanish accent. I’m okay with that. I look at my life’s travels as a gift. As a result, I feel very connected to my community. I just define my community maybe in larger terms than most. I think when people arrive at a new place we try to find similarities between our old and new environment to anchor ourselves. I think when you spend enough time doing this you come to the realization that we’re all more similar than different. In my work, I do want to depict those commonalities that we all share as humanity.
Nature is very important in my work. Culturally the move to Asia from South America was extremely abrupt and disorienting for a 10 year old. I struggled to look for clues to my previous life in Ecuador. Initially it was difficult finding a common thread in food, language or people, but it was easy finding the connection that I was looking for in nature, in grass, flowers, plants, rocks, clouds, the sky, the sun and moon. That finding was extremely comforting and reassuring. Living in a city (Quito, Macau, New York), many of these natural elements could be found in the cities’ green spaces . My own experience of relocating makes me wonder how newcomers benefit from city parks, and how city parks evolve and feed off of the arrival of these different immigrant communities. I’m excited that this year I will be participating in the Urban Field Station Artist Residency program to research the connection between city parks and their surrounding immigrant communities. This project somehow feels like an extension of EL DORADO to me.
Outside my studio I also want to collaborate and create opportunities for others and help recent immigrant artists navigate the NYC arts scene. Last year I participated as a mentor in NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and loved it. I feel at this point that I have a lot to contribute as an immigrant artist, but also as a mentor to immigrant artists.
ANTE mag.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
CC. I look forward to be working and expanding on my “(in Blue) series” which is based on Blue and White ware, and its role throughout history in transmitting ideas and imagery across cultures. I love how it traces a global journey of migration and cultural exchange. I’m excited to be doing formal research on Blue and White ware through a fellowship which will complement the work I’ll be doing in my studio.
Lives and works San Juan, Puerto Rico and New York City
ANTE mag. Can you tell us more about your practice and how it evolved as a result of global forces (pandemic, travel bans, etc) during 2020?
Lionel Cruet. Surely, my studio space has evolved this past year 2020; and it has got completely reduced to the essential, more than before. I have focused more on visibility and communication using social media. I noticed that this year allowed me to communicate with my audience about nuances of my practice in a more effective way. In regards to the practice I have done much more research than before and I have managed the ways to use and language and communicate the ideas of my artworks effectively. I will say that after all it has been productive. Traveling has been a bit stressful and risky but I have to say that getting all the correct information has been the key.
ANTE mag. Your exhibition at Yi Gallery, Dusk/Daybreak, in 2020 was immersive, forcing the visitor to focus and slowing their gaze. Can you expand on how encouraging the viewer to encounter your work in a specific manner is important to you? Is it critical to slow the gaze when encountering your most recent body of work?
LC. When I was thinking about the exhibition there was a constant thought on making it immersive – as all other projects that I have created before – but this one was crucial to have an ambiance with a tinted red light as it made reference to multiple experiences. Most, importantly I wanted the audience to readjust their gaze and enter into an overarching visual and environmental effect. Recently there has been studies that state that the use of red light in coastal spaces helps to keep a balance and protect species like sea turtles that come out to land at night to nest. These red lights have been installed in some areas and I see it as a way to negotiate the spaces that these animals inhabit as well as different communities. Since the body of work references these alternative views of the coastal spaces, and the effects of natural and artificial light as well the relationships that happen in these areas, I thought it was necessary to flood the exhibition space with a red light.
ANTE. How has your ongoing work as a teacher impacted your artistic practice and vice-versa?
LC. I have to be super honest, I see both of them integrated. In my practice as an artist as well as an educator I perform lots of research, including social interaction and community building dynamics. In one way or another they feed each other. For the past year all academic activities have moved online and I think this is a positive new challenge to overcome. I have to bring all these dynamics into the virtual space and being in the academic practice as well in the arts for a decade now, moments like this make me rethink what I do, reduce and be more pragmatic and effective.
ANTE.What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
LC. Wow, I’m actually grateful to say that there’s much I’m looking forward to in 2021, starting now with the release of this interview with you for ANTE mag. I’m also creating an installation art project at the Center for Contemporary Art in Quito that is inspired by the entangled memories of mangroves. Additionally, I’m participating in a residency program in Quito, titled Ventisca, organized by La Planta. I will be focusing on subjects of ecological awareness and alternative forms of education. I’m also part of an upcoming exhibition Seascape Poetics curated by Bettina Pérez-Martínez at the 4th Space Gallery in Concordia University in Montréal. Last but not least, I will be participating in an upcoming online event titled Charla Fun from a microgrant project by the USLAF U.S. Latinx Art Forum. Stay tuned on my social media – including Instagram @lionelcruet @lionelcruetstudio – for updates.
ANTE.Tell us more about your journey as an artist: how did you get your start in your practice as a sculptor working primarily in wood?
Mark Eisendrath. I was working in paper and the things I was making were getting perilously close to falling apart due to the volume of texture, collage, and other media I was applying to the works.I was also using fire in my pieces to get the effects I wanted. So I needed a more substantial material.
ANTE.During your virtual studio visit with Pelham Art Center, which I enjoyed greatly, you spoke to the conceptual approaches you mount in your sculptures, both free-standing and wall mounted, and I wanted to hear more about what you are considering in terms of philosophy and the other influences that impact your work.
ME. What grabs me and pulls me into the shop is my materials. Not what they are but what they can be. I get an idea, I sketch it out, and sketch it again, and again. If it becomes an interesting drawing then I know it’s worth considering bringing it into the physical world as an object. But I have to be careful- sometimes the drawings become so enticing that I try to make the sculpture exactly like that – and that’s not enjoyable.
ANTE.We’ve spoken in the past about your narrow escapes from death and resulting impact on your everyday life in terms of visual impairment: in what ways do you think coping with the effects of your injuries have positively impacted your work?
ME. I don’t see the world in stereo – I see it in mono, which makes certain things pop out to me; while others are unavailable. This is a gift. I am drawn to flat picture planes- sidewalks, building facades, the earth at my feet, the end-grain face of cut firewood. All of these contain their scars and imperfections which is more than likely why I work with wood the way I do. I am stimulated by what I see, my injury causes me to miss some things, but I ‘see’ so much more.
ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
ME. I love how I feel after a day in the studio – I am physically and mentally taxed. It’s a beautiful thing to have your work be a workout. I look forward to what’s possible. Specifically, I am looking forward to making a series of prints from both my raw materials and sculpture created specifically for this printing process. There is also a series of pieces in my sketchbook that are hungry to see the light of day.
ANTE. You participated in the Smack Mellon exhibition “Bound Up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.” Can you shed insights on your contribution to this exhibition?
GOODW.Y.N. Performing Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): Kingston Legacy II at Bound Up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment revealed to me how much of women’s history in the country is tied together in an entanglement of destiny. The struggle for freedom from oppression, the necessity to carve out our own futures, both with and outside the hands of men really made me think about my female/fem ancestors who were trying to create a place for themselves in this world free of bigotry. Our voices are imperative and our presence is needed. I push for that to be seen in my work.
ANTE mag.This past year you produced several iterations of your performance series, “Ain’t I A Woman” across New York City. How did you choose the sites for this performance and how did you consider it as site-responsive in these multiple contexts?
GOODW.Y.N. When it comes to choosing sites for Ain’t I a Woman (?/!) I lean on historical, political and/or personal intricacies behind the “life” of each site. For example Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): Black August was a response to the history of Black August and its celebration of Black radical leaders, and how that is tying into the BLM movement and murals in New York City now. When I did Ain’t I a Woman (?/!): HOMEBound, HOMEComing however, I was performing and crafting from a personal, internal place and time within the history of my life and I connected that to the ancestors who were resilient enough to survive slavery in the United States. I don’t truly know if the site is responsive or not until I am performing on it. Every place has its own spirit, its own energy signature and I like to tap into that onsite.
ANTE mag. Can you tell us how your practice is developing/has developed as part of your MFA education at DIAP at City College (Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice)?
GOODW.Y.N. When it comes to my practice I’ve learned to lean on my words a lot more than I have in the past 6 years. The portraits I paint studying digital arts, and combining that with my other passions (body-performance, poetry) gives my work a unique flavor, a richness that never resided in it before. I am learning more and more about how I wish to tell stories, whether it be my own or someone else’s.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
GOODW.Y.N. We’re remodelling the home studio to include these classic posters around the walls, I really love the new energy that is coming to me from these posters! I think that they will inspire me to create new works that center around the state of affairs today and what tomorrow may look like.
ANTE mag. Can you introduce our audience to your practice and the type of mediums you work within?
Melissa Joseph. Hi Everyone! Thanks for taking time to get to know a little more about my practice. I am a visual artist and I work with fibers, found objects, my family photo archive, ink, watercolors, and collage. Most recently I have been exploring different types of felting with wool as a way to paint. I am also making an experimental video, my first video project, as part of a residency at BRIC. My entire practice is an endless investigation of how different bodies are permitted to occupy space.
ANTE mag. During our discussions on your work, it’s become evident that you’re very dedicated to perfecting your methods working with fiber art. To this end you’ve completed a residency with the Textile Arts Center among other residencies you’ve completed. Can you tell us how you’ve arrived on the methods you use in your fiber art work in particular and the type of content you feature in these series?
MJ. I am a material artist, so connecting to an object’s presence is important to my process. In my 20s I was trained as a textile designer, which has broad applications, but was a language that felt natural to a childhood found object maker like me. Humans’ connection to textiles and the relationship textiles have to body and memory are so compelling. Fabrics hold the form of the body long after being removed. They become emotional and political spaces, which is content that I could mine forever. In my work, I often start with Indian silk that is part of my material memory of my childhood and of my late father. He wore this material often. I print photographs from my family archive onto the silk, and then use needle and wet felting to create interventions or distortions to the imagery so that it more accurately reflects my lived experiences and memory.
ANTE mag. Can you talk to us about how your work as a curator feeds your practice as an artist, and vice versa?
MJ. I love this question! Seeing art feeds my soul, and by extension feeds my practice. I often stop to think about how, as artists, we all make such oddly specific work. I never get tired of looking, connecting and discovering new art. Curating provides the space to analyze, celebrate and share artists and work that I love. Some I love because it feels familiar, some I love because I think the message is important, some I love because I find it beautiful, some I love because it is technically mesmerizing– the reasons to love artwork are endless. When this enthusiasm meets the evolutionary tendency to sort and categorize things, magical things happen, like curation. Curating also gives me a chance to zoom in on particular artists and artworks in a way that I might not get to do otherwise. It is a way of discovering relationships between people, ideas, and conversations that are happening across disciplines and content. I have a habit of obsessively sharing work with others if I think they might like it. Sometimes I even send images of art to strangers I follow on instagram if I think they might relate to it.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
MJ. I am looking forward to my upcoming Workspace Residency at DieuDonne! Tatiana and Amy are so generous with their mastery of paper making, and I can’t wait to see what is possible and how I might incorporate it into my practice.
ANTE. Can you introduce your practice to ANTE readers, starting with your “Chapters” series?
Elaine T. Nguyen.Chapters is a reflective body of work addressing my lived experiences without the nostalgia that memory can bring. It is a recap of the significant moments in my life where my perspective and world shifted. The series is colorful and honest, each painting a new chapter with a cast, theme, or symbolic meaning described in words or displayed through imagery. With descriptions setting a scene or time such as “I Pepper Sprayed my Ass in the Anzo Borrego Desert” or “The Summer of Snark, Playlists, and Chocolate Chip Waffles @ Midnight”. It is a visual story and one that is less emotionally driven than previous works.
As part of my studio practice, I keep monthly sketchbooks, a process that dates back to 2015. It was through these books that I found myself in a reflective mood and one insistent on honest self-evaluation and growth. Chapters started out as a summary of different segments of life and that was made purely for me to reflect on and not something that was ever intended to become paintings. It was upon rereading those words that I realized how easily it could be transitioned into paintings with imagery and more importantly, how much I wanted this to exist not just as words in my journals. I created a ton of sketches of all these moments and the colors came easily, more about the feeling of certain colors than the colors in real life. It was the desire to have these be colorful that led me to the traditional stretched canvas and paint. I work on multiple paintings at the same time which allows me to continue making as one piece is drying and it also supports my color palette and how that can be seen across different paintings pulling them closer together. I go back and forth from painting to painting to sketching out new ideas and flipping through old sketchbooks when I am a bit stuck on a shape and sometimes even color combinations I created previously and never used.
ANTE mag. “Chapters” marks a departure in many senses from your 2017 series I admire, “I Can’t Wait to Remember This,” although they share a sense of bright colors and memory-making. How does memory play in impact in your paintings?
ETN. What I find interesting about memory is every time you remember something it becomes less and less accurate. That’s what started my series I Can’t Wait to Remember This, this need to remember these glorious moments and more importantly how it made me feel. That’s where the color came in, the vibrance and playful nature of mixed media with sparkles and tinsel, and a blend of colors is a reminder of how saturated these moments were with childlike joy.
This series, Chapters, was not so much about remembering or processing but about being honestly reflective of past events, the factual moments rather than the romantic nostalgia of memory. I didn’t draw inspiration from the most beautiful moments in life but the most impactful, the times where my life and my perspective has shifted. Each painting is a new chapter, there is an element of growth and difference with these. Though my past events are memories, the focus here is on a larger idea of collective storytelling piecing together a visual book of sorts and an ode to all of the impactful things that shape who I am currently.
ANTE mag. During our conversation as part of your recognition in the ANTE mag 2020 open call win, we discussed your text-based works on fabric. Can you speak with us about the beginnings and evolution of this body of work?
ETN.Blue Talks, the text-based works we had previously spoken about, invited audiences in to discuss, the work not necessarily about me, but the experiences that I share with a marginalized group of people. The transition between Chapters and Blue Talks began with a creative break. During this time I read books and I also reread my old sketchbooks, all 60 of them. I went through years of my life finding connections, observing common themes and ideas, seeing my younger self grow. It got me thinking about how I would section my life: the conflicts, the friendships, the moments and places of significance. What started out looking like an outline to a book became intertwined with imagery, paintings easily coming to mind representing each new chapter of growth. Chapters is an autobiography, or rather, a memoir due to its selective memory and fluctuation in the timeline. The color choices are always based on how that memory feels, occasionally pulling from the actual colors of objects but it does lean more towards the colors that excite me, the ones that feel more accurate based on emotion. The beginning works of this series are paint based, but as I continue I find myself incorporating mediums I previously used such as cyanotype, fabric, and embroidery. I have become more invested in breaking out of the frame and being intentional with the display.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
ETN. As my work evolves, medium-wise, I find myself delving back into the draped fabric and a combination of that with stretched canvases. I am also finding myself incorporating the embroidery that I was doing but on sturdier surfaces and on top of the paint. Conceptually, I am moving away from real lived experiences towards making up memories that don’t yet exist. I’m interested in this modern concept of “manifesting’ our own realities and have been focusing on dreaming up my own future. There is so much unknown currently in the world but there is a lot personally known of where I would like to be and the memories that I want to eventually make. I am looking forward to manifesting my goals, envisioning trips and friendships, and also writing and painting my own future chapters. I’m looking forward to this body of work is the culmination of work I’ve made so far, one that you can observe and say it all speaks to each other in a fluid way rather than a part of a progression.
ANTE mag. You have an ongoing exhibition on view through February 18th in NYC and an upcoming show in Singapore. Can you talk to us about each show, and what work you have included in each?
ZW. I’m showing my most recent project Where Did Macy Go? in both shows. The show in New York includes the main video and a large print (video still). The upcoming show in Singapore (My first solo exhibition in Asia) will include a large projection of the main video, 5 prints (video still) on aluminum, and a giant inflatable of the protagonist Macy (18 x 7 feet).
Where Did Macy Go?is an 11-episode animated video told through a series of reports of Macy’s encounter with the epidemic, life during the quarantine, search for his grandfather’s farm and his revival. The video discusses the collapse of old community structures, the emergence of a new community after decollectivization, Confucian obedience vs. social obedience, as well as the new tele-republic of home, “mask politics” and social justice under the pandemic. Originally posted on TikTok to challenge the possibility of online exhibitions, the work is a response to this era of volatility, complexity and confusion.
Heavily inspired by Homi Bhabha’s The Third Space theory, my project often includes setting up a multi-layered system to trigger the collision of various conflicting or seemingly unrelated elements and topics from different social and cultural backgrounds. Due to Covid-19, it’s the first time we seen so many thinkers from all over the world writing about the same issue at the same time, from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agemben’s techno-totalitarism, to the argument between Slovenian philosopher Zizek and Korean-born German philosopher Han Byung-Chul: The re-invention of communism vs. the vigorous restoration of global capitalism, to French philosopher Bruno Latour and French writer François Gemenne’s argument on COVID’s influence on climate change, to Paul B. Preciado’s Pharmacopornography and Tele-Republic of Home. By juxtaposing all the complex and even conflicting arguments above, I was able to examine the “in-between” space of different social and political ideologies using COVID-19 as context.
ANTE mag. As an extension of your practice you’ve been creating AR filters which are regularly becoming wildly popular across social media. Can you talk to how these filters expand your practice outside of perhaps a narrower view of what constitutes Fine Art studies at the university level for example?
ZW. Similar to posting the videos on TikTok, these AR effects and Instagram filters, which is a part of the project Where Did Macy Go?, are also my response to the current time where many exhibitions were trying to recreate an IRL experience on their own websites, while I prefer to take advantage of what Internet and social media does the best: sharing and redistributing. So far these AR effects have been shown over 100,000 times on Instagram.
I think they opened up some new possibilities for my work. For example, when using the Macy (Split Face) filter, every user becomes a version of Macy. When thousands of users post their own version of Macy, the dimension of this project are widely expanded (both conceptually and geologically), which is very important to the in-between space I was seeking to achieve. Additionally, when using the Macy (Playboy) application, for example, dozens of characters’ faces in the scene are replaced by the user’s face, which creates a new possibility for a collective narrative. It could also be seen/used as a new tool for performance works.
This mode of exploration and experimentation exists in all my works: They often start from an event, a moment, an emotion, or a stimulation that I have strong feelings about. I will then start my research including studying the related philosophy and history, collecting archives and data, and finding the most appropriate medium to realize the project, which often includes learning a new technique or collaborating with professionals in the related field. It is very important to examine what each medium is best at, and be able to choose the right medium that could convey your concept the most successfully and efficiently. Especially, each medium and genre have their own established ways of experiencing the works. When we utilize a particular medium, we already have a long history in its own field that serves as the context of experiencing the work, which could be either taken advantage of, and/or be used to challenge and subvert.
ANTE mag. Speaking of academia, you are also busy working as an instructor at SVA and ITP. How do you find that teaching impacts your practice in the studio and vice versa?
ZW. As a visual artist, I have always believed that my responsibility and function (or what artists are best at) is to ask questions by constructing a visual experience, instead of solving problems (For example, activists, scientists and politicians are so much better at solving problems than artists).
What teaching brought me, is the notion of solving problems through education, and achieving something through a collective manner, especially in today’s unique context. I have been making a few collaborative projects in the past few years, and I’m hoping to do more in the future.
ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?
ZW. I’m currently working on a project titled Networked Ecosystem (in collaboration with artist Mark Ramos) – A live-simulation project that presents an ecosystem built of a variety of AI senses. Commissioned by NEW INC, Rhizome and Nokia Bell Labs, Networked Ecosystem takes LIDAR (location and distance), GECKO (temperature, humidity, air pressure and gas density) and other robotic vision and sensing data collected by Bell Labs’ experimental robots and sensors over the past few decades, re-purposing it to drive a 3D environmental simulation that viewers explore and interact with the simulated world and each other in an ever-changing environment. In particular, the simulation will present AI’s past, current (Covid-19), and future encounter and experience of climate change based on the massive collected climate related data, to contemplate questions about human’s sensory relationships with robot and AI, and how they survive in the chaotic world we’ve created.
For this interview series, we sat down with the artists of “Intrinsic” – an exhibition on view at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge in 2020 – to gain insights into their practice and learn more about what inspires them and the background informing the artworks they had on view in the exhibit (visible on the “Intrinsic” exhibition page on Antecedent Projects.) Artist Melissa Joseph shared her reflections on how her work with textiles and fiber art has evolved, the images her work expresses and the projects she is tackling end of 2020/start of 2021!
(Above work: New Wefts (2019) by Melissa Joseph, Inkjet print on Indian duppioni silk, twine, found stones and yarn. 24 x 24 x 2″)
ANTE mag. For “Intrinsic” at The Yard, Williamsburg Bridge, you featured works embracing a range of processes, including weaving and working with felt. Can you talk to us about the range of processes you engage with and how these have developed in your practice?
Melissa Joseph. I understand the world through materials. I use intuition and my image archive as points of inspiration and reference, and then filter them through media, often textiles and fibers. I feel a deep connection to natural fibers, stone, and heavy metals more than other materials. They always find their way into my work. I admire weaving, but I am a novice and it makes my brain work in a different way than it usually does. It’s a way to explore structure and have less control over the final product than I normally do. I like to challenge myself with things like this from time to time, but I will always return to the ways of making that feel more natural for me.
ANTE mag. Can you tell us about your recent work in residency with the Textile Arts Center and your recent exhibition there?
Melissa Joseph. The Textile Arts Center is an amazing place. It allows for play, skill-building, experimentation and growth. It is also the most supportive and empathetic community I have ever encountered. I was able to try several ways of making and in the end, I landed on felting. It was a way to paint with fiber, and I loved it right away! From the name to the process itself, it reflects the themes of my practice and personality. In my most recent exhibition there, I showed a collection of felt works alongside some found objects that I have collected. Any image-based work I make is always related to the emotions of the materials.
ANTE mag. What aspects of your practice have you been deepening during lockdown and quarantine in recent times? Have you embarked on new projects, series or processes?
Melissa Joseph. I am a double Capricorn, which might not mean much to some people, but to some it might explain how much I have thrown myself so fully into my practice during quarantine. It’s partly a survival mechanism, but it’s also a way to process some of the things that are going on. I really only started felting in March, so it’s been a covid-tinged discovery. I am in the middle of a pretty deep dive with it, trying to see where it can go.
ANTE mag. What upcoming projects can you share with us that are in the pipeline?
Melissa Joseph. I am excited to share that I am curating a few shows late 2020/early 2021. One is at a gallery called Shelter in Place. The gallery is 1/12 scale, so all the artworks are tiny. Another will be online through the Textile Arts Center. More info on shows I’m participating in and my curatorial projects on my Instagram, @melissajoseph_art . I am also a Video Artist in Residence at BRIC Media House in Brooklyn, so I am trying out some animation and video software right now that I hope will lead to something cool eventually!