Marking the Unseen: “HERE, DATA” by Gabrielle Mertz at SL Gallery

Wenesday, Jan 30th from 6-9 pm marks the opening of the exhibition HERE, DATA by Gabrielle Mertz at SL Gallery (335 West 38th Street, New York, NY).

An exhaustive look into the various ways in which data pervades our everyday lives, HERE, DATA re-imagines pathways by which these unseen interventions can be translated into an experiential, participatory artworks. Mertz possesses the uncanny ability to convey the process by which data gets transferred into stunning visuals and installation. Works that appear to be abstract and subjective actually express data sets, in some cases taken in real-time, augmenting and imaginatively capturing the nuances of the world surrounding us. A world that mostly remains invisible comes to life in HERE, DATA.

installation view of Gabrielle Mertz’s HERE, DATA, at SL Gallery (courtesy the artist)

On view through March 22, 2019, HERE, DATA brings news and film media into the physical realm. While some works are on view in the gallery itself, more works can be accessed via cell phone/tablet. Part of the artist’s Album series, these digital works bring an intimate, carefully structured viewing experience to the visitor.

Mertz is a New York-based visual artist and choreography who works across sound, light and installation. Her site-specific works have been exhibited in the US and abroad in Europe at a variety of venues such as the New Museum Ideas City, Cultural Center of Krakow, Rialto Center for Performing Arts and more. HERE, DATA remains on view at SL Gallery (335 West 38th Street) through March 22, 2019 – for further information, please contact Tony Long at the Gallery, or visit our website www.sl.gallery/

The Thrill of Trill Matrix at The Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Vélez Center

Occasionally an art exhibit meets a space perfectly suited to its concept;  this is happily the case with Trill Matrixon view through Jan 19th at the Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Vélez Center. Trill Matrix, conceived as a site-specific exhibit for the Center, is curated by artist Elizabeth Riley and features works by contemporary artists Nancy Baker, Jaynie Crimmins, Christina Massey, Elizabeth Riley, Christine Romanell, Linda K. Schmidt and Etty Yaniv. These artists frequently exhibit collectively: while each is firmly rooted in their own unique artistic practice, their dialogues and discussion form interstices linking the works on view in Trill Matrix. Showcasing a blend of sculpture, mixed media, and installation works, Trill Matrix showcases ways in which contemporary art can tease our senses. From texture to color, volume to light, Trill Matrix teases aspects of reality into new, uncharted territory for all who visit. On view at the The Abrazo Interno Gallery (107 Suffolk Street) through January 19, make sure to visit during the show’s final days – if you can, catch the closing party on Sat, 1/19! Free and open to the public – come and celebrate art while also celebrating the network of women artists behind the works, a perfect way to close out the Women’s March events in NYC!

 

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Christina Massey, “Crafty Collusion 2” on view in Trill Matrix.

 

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Elizabeth Riley, “Prototype 2 – Canopy” on view in Trill Matrix.

In Trill Matrix, “trill” alludes to a moment in hip-hop culture where the words “true” and “real” blended together to suggest authenticity and cultural ascendancy. Playing off this idea of reconciling two distinct words, artists on view in the exhibit remix disparate mediums to form new hybrids. Strips of fabric gathered together form a soft-sculpture-turned-light-installation, while works composed of glass and aluminum fragments hold court with another work re-claiming electronic wires and plastic into a single immersive sculpture. The network these works forms invites closer inspection, often bringing the visitor to realize a greater understanding of the beauty that lies in waste.

Christina Massey is one of the exhibiting artists whose works present the meeting point of upcycled materials and careful composition. The artist’s Crafty Collusions series brings together fragments from upcycled craft beer cans with a blend of other materials, cleverly juxtaposing the male-dominated industry of craft beer with the “femininity” of crafting. Massey reflected on the work involved in bridging the gaps while making mixed media artworks. “The materials in themselves bring certain complications, where one material doesn’t easily adhere to another,” noted Massey. “A certain amount of experimentation has to be done to find the right glues, mixture of paint, thickness of thread, etc., but I love that experimentation, that’s where you discover new things that maybe you didn’t realize were a possibility. That can be very freeing…  just allowing yourself to manipulate, play and learn, admitting that the material is going to have a certain mind of its own.”

Elizabeth Riley‘s artwork, “Prototype 2 – Canopy”, slows down new media by imprinting video stills onto paper and fusing these frozen scenes with aluminum, paint and duralar, a form of acetate. Fusing different modes of representation and interpretation, Riley questions our subjective experience of reality – whether through new means of looking and questioning or by forcing the viewer to re-think what they are observing in her mixed-media works.

Artist Jaynie Crimmins similarly plays with both ideas around reality depicted through material and notions attached to craft. The artist shreds promotional mail she receives – catalogs, flyers, etc – into minute pieces that she then re-arranges into abstract geometric compositions. Reminiscent of the cardinal directions and visually capturing a format found in the most ancient cultures, Crimmins compiles works with muted color tones and fantastic textures to witness that one woman’s trash can become the world’s treasure.

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Jaynie Crimmins, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost#7” on view in Trill Matrix.
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Linda K. Schmidt, “Panels 50+51+52+53” on view in Trill Matrix.

Linda K. Schmidt‘s work embodies another style of geometric abstraction, with strips of semi-sheer fabrics in block colors meticulously arranged to form striped patterns. Evoking stained glass windows or dress-making patterns, Schmidt brings color field painting and craft together in one transcendental visual form. Suspended from the floor, larger than life size, these installations induce a sense of wonder in visitors encountering her installations at Trill Matrix.

Works by Nancy Baker display a skillful assimilation of sublimation into striking visual compositions. Recalling networks of neurons, or perhaps a private eye’s visuals connecting elements of an investigation,  Baker’s installation for Trill Matrix ventures as many layers deep as the visitor is willing to explore. A New Yorker by birth, Baker also plays off the idea of linked infrastructure such as that found in the NYC subway; yet, her compositions incorporate found language indicating our current social anxiety and uncertainty.

 

Nancy Baker, “Shredded Cold Victory” (detail image), on view in Trill Matrix.
Christine Romanell, “Dah Noqte” on view in Trill Matrix.

Artist Etty Yaniv plays with color and texture to reference abstracted nature through sublimely arranging upcycled materials into organic, yet repetitive, patterns. Blending networks of cords and cables into fragments of materials from discarded paintings and used plastic, Yaniv draws out the inherent beauty of detritus. Her work plays with notions related to unity and disparity, tracing harmony and dissonance through her playful use of scale and masterful composition.

Christine Romanell‘s work brings mathematical formulae and data analysis into the visual arts sphere. Applying color to patterns derived through mathematical equations, yet identifying where math also traverses organic and non-repetitive functions, Romanell’s installations make visual the corners of rationale and analysis where making sense begins to break down: with beautiful results.

Don’t miss the final days of Trill Matrix! Make sure to witness for yourself this stunning survey of the possibilities present within a mindful collection of connected yet disparate mixed media artistic practices.

Winter is Lit: Julia Sinelnikova’s Ice Pores at Lazy Susan Gallery

The cold, muted winter sky doesn’t hold a candle to Ice Pores, the upcoming exhibit by innovative rising star artist Julia Sinelnikova. The artist’s interactive holographic environments entice visitors to engage with sudden temporal realities created by installations of Sinelnikova’s Fairy Organ sculptures. Curated by Brian Shevlin, visitors to Ice Pores are invited to the exhibit on view Dec 13-21 from 12-6 pm at Lazy Susan gallery and to interact with a dazzling array of light-reacting, immersive sculptures. The exhibit opening on Dec 13 from 7-10 pm will include a performance by the artist and spoken word performance that will entrance the opening night crowd.

Detail from Chlorophycaea by Julia Sinelnikova

Sinelnikova notes of this new series of Fairy Organ sculptures on view at Lazy Susan the importance of engaging individual visitors to the exhibit, remarking, “Interaction with the audience is my primary
artistic focus, in an age when art is increasingly presented in 2D and digital formats”. The artist presents a multi-sensory feast of temporal pleasures, with shifting viewpoints resulting in mutable fantasies, environments of light and shadow enveloping the viewer. This changing sensibility reflects the mutable sensibility of fairies in Russian folklore, which the artist grew up with during a childhood in Russia. Beauty and illusion lure the visitor in, yet this experience is both dazzling and deceptive. When interacting with the work, Sinelnikova takes on a character called “The Oracle”: this alternate person is comprised of an otherwordly Sinelnikova, whose persona translates the artist’s installations through a handmade costume and alchemical processes.

Detail from Narkadine by Julia Sinelnikova

Sinelnikova lives and works in Brooklyn, and holds a BFA in Sculpture from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The artist’s installations have been exhibited internationally, and she has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, VICE, and Artnet, among others. Huffington Post. Don’t miss the opening of Ice Pores on Thursday, Dec 13 from 7-10 pm to experience first-hand the mythical presence of the artist’s newest iteration of the Fairy Organ series.

Feminist Perspectives: Impressions from Pulse Art Fair During Miami Art Week 2018

by Katie Hector

 

Slightly north of the beating heart of Miami Art Week, Pulse Art Fair – anchored at Indian Beach Park, as always – continues to keep art week feeling fresh! ANTE. toured Pulse to pick out the top presentations not-to-be-missed at the 2018 iteration of the fair, open through Dec 9.

NY FEM FACTORY image courtesy Jessica Yatrofsky

NY FEM FACTORY A Tree Grows at Pulse

What happens when a booth is really a tree? NY Fem Factory observed this alternative to a white cube space as an invitation for giving visitors a moment of rest and reflection along with a healthy dose of feminism with their project Pink Privacy. Neon signs created by artist Dana Caputo depict the venus symbol and hang like strange fruit from a sea grape tree. sprouting whimsically from the fair floor. The signs are visually striking and attract attention from across the South Tent, imploring viewers to come a little closer with enticingly soft pink light. Landline phones positioned on glass coffee tables at the base of the tree play pre-recorded voices reciting each individual’s experiences as women. When asked which came first, the tree or the installation, NY FEM FACTORY elaborated on the project. “Originally, we planned on receiving a space with walls where we could create an immersive installation,” observed NY FEM FACTORY artist Jessica Yatrofsky. Pink Privacy represents a cohesive collaboration featuring female-identifying artists who have created a safe space to connect, relate stories, and express creative impulses together as a community.

installation view of Mindy Solomon gallery courtesy the gallery

MINDY SOLOMON GALLERY Florida Vibes

Step into Gallerist Mindy Solomon’s bubbly and colorful world presentation (Booth N-102), which boasts a healthy collection of ceramics and paintings highlighting an innovative array of perspectives. Established in 2009, Mindy Solomon Gallery is palpably integrated into the fabric of the Florida art scene. Where some showings by NY-based galleries cram booths with gaudy saturated palettes, pop imagery, and shiny finishes, Solomon seems right at home on her own turf. As a practicing artist, educator, advocate and collector, Solomon views her gallery as an incubator for dynamic artists who are in the process of establishing their voices. Solomon’s genuine, trained eye seamlessly integrates male and female, national and international, emerging and even established artists all within one cohesive environment. Solomon deftly utilizes color as a unitifing factor as the great equalizer, incorporating a variety of perspectives and striking a balance between artwork, race, and gender. In a gallery world held increasingly more accountable for inclusion, striking a balance between artwork, race, and gender can be a contrived quota – not so at Solomon, who offers what I can only describe as pop sincerity and vibrant, celebratory diversity exuded through a balance of color and form.

Pulse PLAY installation view, courtesy Project for Empty Space

Pulse Play Project For Empty Space The Beauty of Violence

The Project for Empty Space (PES) activates their booth with Pulse Play, screening of video-based work showcasing the perspective five artists from various parts of the world who address the theme, “A Violence”. By relying upon an open call system, Project for Empty Space founders Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol democratize an artist’s chance at showing work during one of the highest profile art events of the year: Pulse Art Fair. By boldly representing video-based work within an art fair dominated by objects, PES upholds their mission to produce instances of social engagement, education, and dialogue through art in order to encourage systemic change and cultural tolerance.

This collection of videos include striking surreal images along with audio cues that reveal how universal the impact of violence is. “So much beauty is born from so much devastating pain. What was particularly important for us in this project was to exemplify a span of subjects that ranged from the personal to the public; it was significant to choose voices that engage in nuanced and complicated understandings of systemic violence and the fallout that comes with it,” noted PES co-directors Wahi and Jampol. Pulse Play offers viewers a moment of philosophical reflection through the storytelling of video and serves as an unexpected humanitarian respite from the fair frenzy.

Ann Lewis, One in Five image courtesy the artist

 

ANN LEWIS One in Five

From afar, Ann Lewis’s booth looks like a minimalist contemplation of space and light immediately conjuring references to the lineage artists such as Eva Hesse and Ruth Asawa. Get a little closer and the hanging garments reveal themselves to be underwear: twenty pieces of underwear, in total. A sharp pang of revulsion floods the body as one can’t help but notice a considerable number of the undergarments are soiled, stained, and ripped. This visceral reaction, a moment of disgust, is something Lewis employs in her work as a means of addressing the topic of rape culture in America. “I created this work during the Brock Turner hearings back in 2016,” Lewis explains. She goes on to explain that the title One in Five directly references a statistic published by the CDC that one in five women will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime. “I base many of my works on accessible data as to give the viewer unencumbered access to the facts of these issues through visual representations.” As a multi-disciplinary artist and activist, Lewis focuses on creating work in public spaces in order to address American identity, power structures, and social justice. Lewis’s work is visually and emotionally striking, yet pensive and refined standing as a powerful statement within the fast paced commercially driven environment.

Knot Expected: Elevating the Everyday with artist Windy Chien image courtesy Sunbrella

Knot Expected: Elevating the Every Day The Odd Couple

The pairing of artist Windy Chien and Sunbrella, an outdoor textile manufacturer, seems like a relatively unlikely duo to find  at Pulse. However this unexpected collaboration offered something that most highbrow commercial booths overlook: the importance of the human touch. For Chien, this is just the latest in a series of collaborative outlets that allow her to express her creative impulses. After stepping away from an executive position at Apple, Chien submerged herself in the ancient, nautical craft of knot making – learning a different knot each day for one year. Her  intense level of intrigue and dedication to a medium which is often only valued for its functionality caught the PR eye of Sunbrella. Large canvas bags containing small bundles of cords in neutral earth tones were positioned in the middle of the booth amidst an installation of various knot types the artist had created. “Would you like to tie a knot?” a Sunbrella representative asked, coaxing my curiosity with an invitation to touch. Within the setting of the art fair, a place that commercially epitomizes the artistic hand the intimacy of touch and the ability to encounter a material is a rare and meaningful experience. Chien’s desire to elevate the mundane knot and share the joy of textiles allowed for a less conceptual and more intimate moment of interaction and storytelling to take place in the most unlikeliest of settings.

On the Road Series Debut Stuns at Jenkins Johnson Gallery

Vertiginous folds of fabric climb in an ambitious ascent, weaving the identity of its creator into every stitch. Basil Kincaid’s voluminous “Love As Patient As the Hillside” (2018) anchors Jenkins Johnson’s spacious first-floor gallery space for “On the Road: Caroline Kent, Basil Kincaid and Esau McGhee”. Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, this exhibition, on view through Jan 12, marks the first installment in the exhibition series by the curator. Referencing Jack Kerouac’s influential On the Road, Ossei-Mensah applies the concept of documenting a cross-country journey toward charting the contemporary African-American experience – beginning here with a specific lens on the Midwest. The cohort of artists on view in Jenkins Johnson’s debut “On the Road” work in St. Louis and Chicago, and have lived in and worked throughout the region.

Works by Basil Kincaid including “Love As Patient As the Hillside” (2018) (on right) Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Projects

“Approaching Kerouac’s On the Road, on this cross-country art journey I found myself asking: where are the black and brown bodies?” Ossei-Mensah, Senior Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit (MOCAD), reflects on his curatorial approach leading up to “On The Road”. In introducing the exhibit and its artists, he mentions being inspired by works by Derrick Adams and Ebony G. Patterson who exalt black bodies, portraying these figures in states of leisure and celebration. These scenes recurred to the curator as he initially viewed works by St. Louis-based Basil Kincaid. Standing in front of Kincaid’s portraits of a picnic, family members relaxing on the grass in the sun on the same quilt on view in “On the Road”, Ossei-Mensah recounts Kincaid’s emphasis on incorporating his family’s history and his own personal memories into these quilted works. This soft sculpture anchors the space, the folds of the fabric softly outlining an absent human figure, anticipating the edges of a subtle form. Kincaid’s works both reveal and conceal the human form and memories, his own and those in his immediate social circle. “Kincaid creates quilted works as portraits of his own family and markers of memory, and his collages and drawings taken in consideration alongside these quilted works express a variety of modalities. It’s important for audiences to be exposed to the breadth of his practice,” Ossei-Mensah elaborates.

Works by Esau McGhee (L and R) flank a work by Basil Kincaid (Center) for “On the Road”, Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Projects

Nearby mixed-media works masterfully contort inside their custom-built frames, wrestling against the weight of anticipated right angles with their calculated curves and bends. Wooden frames and compositions both bear witness the masterful range of Chicago-based Esau McGhee‘s practice. Working from his studio in East Garfield Park, McGhee takes his initial training in photography through the filter of working as a street artist to construct complex compositions, some with a graffiti mark-making tool, in vivid patterns and hues. Applying an intimate repetition of found pattern, McGhee combines a balanced approach to construction and composition to exquisite effect. These collages flatten notions of ownership: referencing found imagery as a diagram of public space, McGhee integrates patterns, colors and printed materials found within the mass-produced and the everyday. McGhee observes, “This collective experience that we all share with public spaces… it’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours: it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us.”

“Summer Love” (2018) and “Star Gazing” (2018) by Basil Kincaid, Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Projects

Approaching Jenkins Johnson’s lower gallery space, Ossei-Mensah expounds on his initial approach when formulating this inaugural iteration of “On the Road”. “As a curator, it’s key to find ways to challenge myself to not subscribe to a particular style,” reflects Ossei-Mensah. We take a moment to gaze around at the show before he continues, “As a project space and commercial gallery, Jenkins Johnson is the perfect place to mount “On the Road” – I’m thankful that they were willing to take a risk on a show of artists whose work audiences here may have never encountered, providing a platform for these artists in an accessible, domestic space where diverse audiences can feel a sense of belonging.”

Ruminating on the importance of crafting inter-regional dialogues with diverse artists whose work may not (yet) be featured on Artforum or headlining Christie’s auctions, Ossei-Mensah presents a measured viewpoint on why he began this series with Midwestern artists. In addition to his role building a platform for artists from across the region (and the US) at MOCAD in Detroit, he observes the area is full of sometimes overlooked talent. “Artists in the Midwest are making interesting work, and can be diamonds in the rough whose work merits new platforms. These are artists whose work shouldn’t lie undiscovered: there is a narrative guiding each artist’s body of work. These artists are all committed to their practice – what they will produce next will be truly remarkable.”

“To Summon the Objects in the Room, Pt. 2” (2018) and “Alterior Motives” (2018) by Caroline Kent Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Projects

The final gallery yields exquisite works by artist Caroline Kent, whose work spans text and abstraction. Ossei-Mensah identifies what first caught his eye about her abstract works: the forms placed within a black ground. “Using a black ground in these works asserts her position,” notes Ossei-Mensah. Our conversation centers on the relative dearth of black women artists working in abstraction, and how by foregrounding these works within a black space the artist subtly re-orients the context of these compositions. Meanwhile, two text-based pieces nearby include the artist’s own written work, placed in dialogue with monochrome hues of paint created by the artist’s finger marks. Aspects of Kent’s identity intermingle in these works, while her larger abstract compositions evoke disparate actions and forms. Taken comprehensively, Kent’s body of work absorbs a multitude of influences while incorporating her own precise palette: what Ossei-Mensah refers to as a “a pictorial index she sees built into the world of gestures around her.” We stop in front of two works by Kent, “Carmicheal and Eloise” (2016) and “I Would Call…,” (2016), before Ossei-Mensah continues.  “Kent’s work demonstrates her commitment to pushing the limits of abstract language, with her focus on building a syntax and toolbox: a reservoir of forms and colors placed upon a black ground. When taken in context with her text-based works there exists a variety of aspects in her practice, a remarkable plurality.”

Reflecting on Kent’s practice, Ossei-Mensah inadvertently observes the power propelling “On the Road” forward. “This work pushes the visual language to its breaking point,” he observes. Works on view by Kincaid, Kent and McGhee push the envelope, breaking boundaries across mediums in a well-balanced survey of formidable contemporary artists living and working in the Midwest.

 

The Lure of “Color Matters” at Galerie Richard

(cover image, artworks by Jamie Martinez for “Color Matters” at Galerie Richard on view through Nov 17)

 

Color Matters, a group exhibit featuring seven artists on view at Galerie Richard through November 17, presents a detailed exploration of contemporary artists’ use of color. A fascinating juxtaposition of color expressed in both analog and digital artworks, Color Matters includes masterful explorations of color by artists Koen Delaere, Dennis Hollingsworth, Kim Young-Hun, Jamie Martinez, Noriko Mizokawa, Carl Fudge and Joseph Nechvatal. The exhibit continues a dialogue initiated by the art critic Saul Ostrow-curated summer show, Position Matters. Spanning a range of cultural and stylistic approaches to color, these artists are re-defining how color impacts composition in the contemporary moment.

Gallery view, Color Matters at Galerie Richard

Combining multiple mediums including ink, oil and digital printing methods, the artworks on view converse in a wide lexicon reflecting the present moment in art-making. The show is introduced with works by Kim Young-Hun and Dennis Hollingsworth, flanking the front of the gallery space. Evincing a painterly approach, Young-Hun’s work balances a delicate sense of line with a post-abstract style expressed through the traditional Korean method of painting known as Hyukpil. In contrast, Hollingsworth mounts his oil paints onto the canvas or onto supports attached to canvas by sculpting the medium onto the surface. This juxtaposition of works charts the use of color on a global and chronological scale, particularly when one considers that these artists perfected their practice in the interstitial period between analog and digital art.

Works by Koen Delaere, Color Matters at Galerie Richard

The vibrant underpinnings in Carl Fudge and Jamie Martinez’ digital paintings continue the theme of contrast appearing throughout the exhibition. Both artists evoke a graphic sensibility in the exhibition: Fudge’s screen prints trace a subtle gradient of color, marking individual artworks within a cohesive new body of work. Martinez similarly presents a graphic, geometric sensibility in his compositions. The artist’s formulation of his digital paintings in accordance with his principle of Triangulation, composing his paintings of various triangles. The dynamic effect this exudes throughout the artist’s works are palpable, with compositions seeming to leap from the surface of the works. Martinez mastery of his craft is evident in the expert balance between line and color defining the artist’s practice.

works by Noriko Mizokawa, Color Matters at Galerie Richard

Works by Joseph Nechvatal, Noriko Mizokawa and Koen Delaere complete the exhibit. Nechvatal’s works reflect a targeted approach to color, as each hue reflects tones found throughout the human body. Brown, orange and pink shades permeate the artist’s digital paintings and allow an intimate means of experiencing the figure through a nuanced, abstract perspective. Koen Delaere allows color to infiltrate his scattered pattern of lines, with neutral tones and bright hues alike seemingly dancing across the surface of his paintings. Mizokawa draws from a homogeneous lexicon of forms: her organic shapes and dots similarly arrange themselves across the surface of all of her works. The artists range of color from bright hues to pastel tones articulates the unique approach she mounts in creating each unique artwork. Congruent yet surprising, Mizokawa’s compositions delight both long-standing fans of the artist’s work and those new to her practice.

Color Matters is on view at Galerie Richard, located at 121 Orchard Street on New York’s Lower East Side, through November 17. Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-7pm and Sunday 12pm-6pm.

 

 

Global Gateways: In Conversation with Contemporary Nigerian Artist Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo

Globetrotting, international philatropist, collector and artist Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo has demonstrated through his dedicated, multi-faceted career that he is one innovative artist. Unafraid to experiment with colors, textures and mediums while firmly rooted in a devoted spiritual core, Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo considers his artistic practice as a part of his wider mission to elevate African artists on the world stage. Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo frequently produces art exhibits and advocates for contemporary African artists in addition to his practice as an artist. Featured in solo and group exhibitions from Minnesota to Montenegro, New York City to Florence, Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo’s fearless approach to experimentation in his creative process is rooted in seeking harmony and balance and bringing the world to his culture on his own terms. We caught up with Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo in the days leading to his upcoming exhibit with Retro Africa at London’s 1:54 Art Fair, at London’s Somerset House from Oct 4-7, 2018.

Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo, Path of Oduduwa, 2015

ANTE. Thanks for taking time to meet with us! So far your work has been exhibited both in the US and abroad, in Italy, Nigeria, Montenegro, and soon at 1.54 in London. Can you explain how you hope different audiences perceive your work? Are there common threads across cultures that you hope your work speaks to? Is there a common universal language to your work?

OOAG. I actually don’t care about how they (others) perceive it (my work). It is none of my business how they see it, but the one thing is that they should not make up labels for it if they do not understand. They should accept their level of misunderstanding, or seek out knowledge from the artist directly, or seek out knowledge through the journey with the work or the culture from which the work stems from.

Meaning the culture of the artist, and his or her origin.

Quite honestly I don’t think I owe any other culture in the Western World any explanation of identity, or similarities.
I’m from a different realm, completely different civilization, the only thing I have in common with those outside my culture, “ Western Cultures,” is that I am a human being. Therefore it is my duty as living history of my culture and ancient history of my culture to teach others about my culture.

Accepting this difference means that one can come to a possible similarity culturally , which could help alleviate the ignorance of trying to force the notion of similarities in order to satisfy selfish desires. But if others choose to be ignorant about it (other cultures), they will fail their own cultures.

In conclusion this question does not justify my culture being significant. Therefore I say no to colonial mindsets and western perceptions of African people and its main indigenous cultures, I say no to neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, and even socialism as a gateway to teaching my culture to those different from me. Frankly I think those concepts are poisonous to the creative world, while they also diminish the emphasis of the human being, or person.

There is no common universal language to my work. No to a common language, because my language is distinctive to my culture, and in fact an apex language that gave birth to others in terms of enriching the art and social practices of my people. There is a common sense to my work, which is the notion that what I create breeds life and sustains the spiritual creation of life. Which opens up the gateway for people to have permission to question their
previously acquired intellect.

 

ANTE. Your work across painting, sculpture and mixed media embraces both figurative and abstracted elements. Can you speak about your process and how these elements fit together? Do you incorporate the figurative and abstract to evoke different meaning, or are they integrally connected to communicate an overall message?

OOAG. My work is neither figurative nor abstract. It is an embodiment of spiritual knowledge and my purpose in this world. It does not succumb to categorization as figurative and abstract nor will I fit it into that institutional logic, in fact those things are limiting the honesty of the work.

These works, across all media, are a vessel: a catalyst for viewers to question everything around them, their ideologies, their manmade comfortability, and their logic around their preconceived notions. It is a very intellectual process and a very deep spiritual process, and it comes from within.

Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo, Untitled, 2017

ANTE. In your practice, you incorporate Yorùbá imagery within larger, complex compositions. Can you elaborate on the relationship of these individual objects and expressions to each work as a whole? Can you explain some of the specific symbolism used throughout your work?

OOAGIn the case of my creations, not all my creations, sculptures, drawings, or paintings have Yorùbá imagery. It would be very cliche and stereotypical to assume that all my works have Yorùbá imagery simply because I am from the Yorùbá kingdom. Although I am from this ethnic group, the essence of being Yorùbá is the ability to articulate ones ideas and thoughts in multiple honed ways, to better support a diverse narrative that goes within the culture,

Hence, my art reflects diverse narratives within my life, which incorporates, timeline (simply a diary of my life;
situations of my life) my culture, Yorùbá spiritual concept, and the way humanity treats itself in the positive and the negative. My work is a gateway for individuals and collectives to question their previously and recently acquired intellect. And also a testament in holding accountable the Western lens of false narrative surrounding African cultures globally. Which pushes for the relevance to the social importance and economic significance of African culture and art.

There is specific symbolism I can explain. The dots you see in my work, relate to my love of astrology and mythology and even a love for archeology since I was young. In time as I grew and was more self aware I realized that using the dots, even creating in a none present way, was a calling back to my origins, which would be Yorùbá culture with an emphasis on its spirituality and its spiritual concept, Ifá. It was a calling to focus on balance and how to be a better human in a world created by a nonhuman entity. I also often use cowry shells, which is a representation of Yorùbá spirituality and also a form of currency, and was something that was worn by the Yorùbá elites. This symbol itself represents one of the strengths of my culture.

If my works don’t have Yorùbá symbols, it does not mean that it’s not work coming from Yorùbá culture. My very being creating the work is the symbol of the Yorùbá people, with an emphasis on its contribution to collective human existence throughout time.

 

ANTE. Can you explain your journey into art-making as a career? Did you begin with painting then move to sculpture, or have you always worked in an interdisciplinary style? How has your practice evolved over time?

OOAGYes, I can. I don’t see art-making as a career. For me, it is destiny to create art to reach a higher calling. A higher calling that is predestined for me. I don’t even call myself an artist. It’s a boxed-up, contrived notion. What I am simply doing is adding to human history with positivity. But, if you would like to know, I, without any one person’s advice decided to use my art to make money. I always choose who I work with, not the other way around. I understood business and saw how business and art come together, and so, in that way it is a career, but it is not the primary concept I live my life by. I’ve been making art since I was a child, it’s a part of who I am. I didn’t really begin anywhere, I just have made what my soul tells me to, and the only place I began was my mother’s womb with the blessing of Olodumare.

Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo, Ifa Ni Oba, 2016,

ANTE. Which artists or artistic styles have impacted your work? Are there any artists whose work you admire who are working today, or artists from the past whose work you draw inspiration from?

OOAGNumber 1, I dislike Picasso. I do not have a specific style that has influenced me nor do I adhere myself to any movement. I feel that they alter the truism and purity of one’s work, and output in various social contexts. Although one could be influenced by many things and many cultures directly and indirectly, it is important to realize that we can still choose and invite those things to influence us or not. Choice allows one to be a purist in one’s craft. As an artist, and creator of art, it is disheartening, that as a African man in a global setting, that a past context is
often placed upon my present content. For example, the notion that by being African, you are influenced by Basquiat. Without anyone asking you otherwise, people assume this influence and time is spent dispelling it and breaking down the historical timeline of contemporary art that didn’t even originate with Europeans.

I don’t draw inspiration from any particular artist but definitely from the culture of my people and human existence; the turmoil, the discord, the peace, the love within humanity. I will say this, I am not influenced by, but I respect individuals like Julian Schnabel, his stance on artistic autonomy I respect. Also Fela Anikulapo Kuti, his creation and output to reach out and commonize the situation of people globally to be made aware to progress. And, also my family, the strength of my family, the strength of my grandmother, I draw part of my inspiration from them. As well as the strength of black people everywhere. Most of all my inspiration comes from Olodumare.

ANTE. What themes and concepts are central to your practice, particularly in regard to your
installation work?

OOAGMy work has no category, whether painting, installation, or drawings. To clarify: I don’t categorize my
work. It is merely a sole embodiment of my being. My history, my journeys and my origin. In terms of concepts; I ask for man to question everything, to selflessly try to produce solutions to sustain betterment other than for himself or herself. I have a conceptually strong focus on spirituality and how it’s significant for the development of our planet. And not spiritually in the Western fetishized sense where it’s more so about self indulgence and narcissism instead of selflessness and the reverence to its origins.I also the focus on the concept of iṣẹ, meaning work in Yorùbá language. iṣẹ (work) is very important to the Yorùbá people. The concept of work that is beyond the concept of work , if you get my point. Work is beyond it’s definition in Yorùbá language- its expansive to philosophy, the way you live your life. It’s expansive to how you sacrifice for your family, how you lead your people as a royal. It’s expansive to create a circle of balance.

Òmó Oba (HRH) Adetomiwa A. Gbadebo

ANTE. Supporting cultural, artistic and human rights are also important endeavors for you.
Can you share some of the initiatives, both in your home base of Minneapolis and
elsewhere, that you support that are important for you personally?

OOAGMinneapolis is not my home base. Nigeria is my home base. My country is my home base. The United States is part of my journey in my life.

I would tell you about my endeavors for the future and now. My endeavor for the present is to create paths for artistic philanthropy and build cultural bridges between the United States and Africa alongside the global art world and build infrastructure in my country (Nigeria) for people in need of infrastructural presence. For example, affordable homes for people in my country who are in need of homes or have been displaced and the push for cultural re-education to understand what it means to be African for the purpose of self-sustainability.

Part of what my philanthropy focuses on is African art, with special attention to traditional and contemporary Nigerian Art. I advocate for the preservation of African culture, specifically that of Nigerian cultures, even more specifically Yoruba culture. I support African artists economically and in a way that they are seen and respected as much as their Western counterparts. Not to say we need to prove ourselves, it’s more about educating the West to how we are relevant due to our own cultural experiences and adaptations. I collaborate with other like-minded peers who want to see the sustainable growth of Africa. This is necessary in keeping with the integrity of my vision and principles for how African art and culture is valued not only in the art world but beyond, and how it can teach and influence others beyond its cultural boundaries.

I am interested in expanding touristic outreach in the arts and cultural sectors by building a museum and galleries in my country. Focusing my energy throughout the educational, cultural, and economic sectors, all of this will be done within my philanthropic practice in collaboration with other African philanthropists and visionaries.

In terms of human rights, I advocate for cultural rights, specifically those of indigenous cultures to practice their cultures freely without Western intervention.

Transcending Reality: An Interview with Artist Marion Grant

Artist Marion Grant is a lifelong creative innovator, with a career spanning fine arts, graphic art and textile design. Her work strongly aligns itself with spiritual growth, and her strong use of color and lyrical compositions follow the precedent of other spiritual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Anselm Kiefer. For Grant, however, spiritual development and transcendence serve as key attributes in her art-making. Her focus as a fine artist distinctly embraces self-empowerment. Combining a decades-long artistic practice keenly melding color field theory and harmoniously blending distinct visual elements, Grant’s work continues to speak on a personal level to her collectors, peers and all who encounter her works.
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Grant, Marion. Blue Dragonfly (2018) 16″x 15″ alternative media on handmade transparent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. You work in a very multi-disciplinary style, from digital art to fabric to mixed media. What originally encouraged you to develop your talents as an artist across different mediums? How has your practice evolved?
 
MG. I feel like all my life experiences coalesce into how I approach art-making. After studying Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, I got my dream job working for the artist Frances Butler who was a huge idol of mine. Working with her, I was responsible for silk-screening fine art textiles. Butler was truly an influential artist for me.
Eventually I returned to New York to pursue a career in the textile industry which was headquartered there. I attended classes at Parsons to learn some specific skills for the industry, eventually going on to work professionally in the textile industry for the following twenty years.
 
While I worked in the textile industry full time, I continued developing my career as a fine artist. During this time I was creating large scale multi-media paintings which involved silk-screening, chemical patinas, assemblage and painting. I sold artwork to corporations such as Pfizer and Signet Bank.  And I was also silk-screening on fabric, making award-winning, one-of-a-kind tableware.
I see my process evolving, with every stage leading forward to something new. In this way, my process acts like an open continuum. I don’t see myself as the type of artist who works exclusively in one medium: in fact, after working in the textile industry I transitioned to work as a graphic designer using contemporary technologies to create digital designs for marketing materials in the dance world. Through this evolution, I realized I’m the kind of artist who likes to explore and discover new things. I like applying an interdisciplinary approach to art-making, uniting the corporeal, metaphysical and psychological. I tend to experiment with unique elements and alternative processes, particularly if it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Once I innovate, I’m then ready to go on and explore what’s waiting to be uncovered. I just don’t like to repeat things because my impetus is to explore the unknown. My work exists at the boundaries of past tradition and new technology. 
ANTE. Your work draws from a deep, richly nuanced understanding of color combinations and color theory. How do you balance colors in your work? How do you see color as a key factor in how your artwork is experienced? 
MG. When I attended art school, color theory was rooted in a scientific approach. I recall choosing not to enroll in color theory classes because my approach to color is purely intuitive. I studied enough to understand complementary colors and the color wheel, and from there I was able to instinctively grasp color combinations.
After working in the fine arts industry, I transitioned to become a designer in the garment industry. There I developed my skill set and realized I excelled at selecting colors for fabrics. Eventually I transitioned to working in home furnishings as a colorist. I was in charge of painting several different color combinations in gouache paint to define different fabric “looks”, then going to the textile mills to oversee the printing of the selected color combinations. This was a very specific job which required a keen understanding in learning how to balance color. The colors that live with you in your home set a mood and reflect your taste, making color a key element affecting sales in this field. 
Great color combinations speak to people. They want to live with furnishings because the colors they’ve selected make them feel good and reflect their personality. I feel like color is experienced on a visceral level and can evoke certain emotions. I wonder in some sense if color evokes emotions similar to how music does, maybe on a subconscious level? It’s my hope that throughout my career in home furnishings that I helped set a tone of comfort and joy in a home.
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Grant, Marion. Primordial Space (2014) 40″x40″
image courtesy the artist.
Through my spiritual development, I have learned how colors have profound spiritual implications and can greatly effect our vibrations and how others perceive us. Each chakra is represented by a color, and it’s helpful to have some understanding of energies and the colors representing them. For example, blue indigo is affiliated with an increase in peace, tranquility, and devotion. It is symbolic of the inner mind, intuition and the vast cosmic consciousness. It is also the color of the third eye chakra. To increase clarity of thought and intuition, it helps to meditate with indigo. Interestingly enough, I see my artwork innately incorporates some of these color meanings. One example is my fine art print Primordial Space”, which is about meditating in a vast cosmic consciousness – an investigation of both inner and outer space.
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Grant, Marion. Indigo Sky (2017) 22″x18″
alternative media on handmade translucent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. Can you walk us through how you approached your acrylic “skins” series found on your website under “Alternative Media”? When did this process enter your artistic practice, and how is it evolving over time?
MG. I began work on the acrylic skin series about six years ago. When I left the textile industry, I returned to Parsons in 1999 to take classes in new computer programs specific to design in order to build a wider skill set. Through these experiences, I began making art on the computer. My style of digital art involved combining portions of my previous artistic processes. This included painting, silk-screening and various chemical processes and patinas. After working and developing my digital art, I wanted to switch gears and to experience working with my hands again. I wanted more than just a flat surface in my artwork.
Around six years ago when this series began, I discovered two things simultaneously: first, was the book Digital Art Studio which was published in 2004 outlining how three artists combined digital art with traditional art materials. Secondly, I encountered the work of Catherine Steinmann on view at the Tibet House in New York. I saw her show “Vanishing Tibet” with artist Danny Conant. They were combining digital and traditional processes in photography to create mixed media artworks. I was very inspired when I encountered these works, which were printed on traditional handcrafted paper. I was so excited because I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do, and the spirituality present in the work also spoke to me. 
I subsequently discovered Mary Taylor’s work. Taylor was an assistant to a co-author of Digital Art Studio. I took Taylor’s class on working with digital and traditional materials and this launched me into experimenting with digital art and combining it with analog processes. This mainly resulted in using acrylic materials as I don’t like to use anything with chemicals or solvents if it can be avoided. I also happened to meet Catherine Steinmann in this class. We struck up a friendship, and I’m happy to have a peer to share this experimental approach to unusual processes and techniques with.
I started to develop my own process as a combination of digital art and handmade surface details. The process is labor-intensive, and many things can go wrong along the way, but it is exciting in its unpredictability. As a result, this process is continually changing and evolving. Putting the handmade surfaces through a printer is intimidating, as the sticky quality of the acrylic surface can ruin the extremely expensive printer I have to use in this process. These skins also possess a raw quality that in a sense makes them feel alive. They don’t have a stiffness to them, or feel overly polished: instead, they feel organic. This process is aided by layering iridescent paints and hand-embellishments with digital designs in between the different layers. 
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Grant, Marion. Mother and Child (2013) 26×18″
alternative media on handmade acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. Admirers of your work often appreciate its spiritual and soothing effect. What subject matter and concepts are you investigating in your work? Is it meant to be spiritual, and if so, how do you see this affecting your audience?
MG. My art is intrinsically connected to my spiritual identity. I’ve devoted my life to spirituality, creativity and transformation. Making art is my life’s purpose and serves as a visual meditation for me. I mindfully strive to create works that are uplifting, transformative and healing for the viewer.  My work introduces harmony and a sense of compassion to a wider audience, and my artistic practice reflects my spiritual development and vice versa.
I’ve been drawn to and inspired by Buddhist and Hindu imagery because it is so beautiful and soothing. That has been a big source of inspiration, especially for the prints on display in the Fine Art Prints” Section of my website. I have met those who encountered statues of the Buddha, or viewed representations of supernatural deities, who reported feeling a strong, energetic presence. Through the years many people have recounted these transcendental experiences to me. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this phenomenon: once, I met a viewer of my work who described a powerful experience they had while viewing my fine art print at a Buddhist retreat. I felt overjoyed and humbled to be a part of this transformation in some small way. 
The series I’m currently working on is centered around the dragonfly, which serves as my spirit guide. I serendipitously discovered a dragonfly on the door outside of my building in Manhattan in May. This was a very unusual circumstance as Spring is not dragonfly season, and dragonflies are also not commonly found in urban spaces. The dragonfly is revered as a symbol for transformation and empowerment. It embodies creativity and light: reflecting the sun and bringing us out of illusion. Dragonflies encourage us to apply creativity and imagination to transform our lives and discover ourselves in new ways. The dragonfly appeared at a significant time in my life, and I appreciate its meaning and message for me. I hope that others can connect to uplifting messages that the dragonfly brings as well. 
While I don’t feel that people have to connect spiritually to my work, I do hope that my work positively impacts the viewer regardless of their own philosophy. I hope it enriches and uplifts others in their life’s journey.
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Grant, Marion. Thousand Petals Gray (2009) 45″x43″, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. You often incorporate nature and fabric patterns into your work. Do you see these motifs as contrasting or complementing one another? How do you create an interaction between the two throughout your practice?
MG. Contrast is a key element in my work. As long as I can remember, I’ve always combined geometric patterns with organic ones. This balance of subject matter persists throughout my practice, from painting to  collage and throughout my digital work. I see both contrasting and complementary elements at play in my compositions. For example, in my work “Blue Dragonfly the architectural draftsmanship in the background of the work juxtaposes with the delicate anatomy of a dragonfly’s wing. 
In the series Illuminated Miniatures on my website, the contrast lies between the organic, hand-painted watercolors and the textile patterns which are then overlaid in Photoshop. That series elicits a sense of being worn away: of layers being pulled apart and deteriorating as these contrasting elements are combined. In some of my works, iridescent paints between each layer unites the different overlapping layers of natural and man-made patterns. I often incorporate minimal elements, such as flat gray lines, that then create a sense of geometric contrast with the organic elements in the composition. Dorothy Krause, co-author of Digital Art Studio, unwittingly described my work when she wrote that the best digital art “combines the humblest of materials… with the latest in technology to evoke the past and herald the future.” It is this union of opposites, ranging from old to new, from geometric to organic, that creates transformation. 
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Grant, Marion. detail image, Pink Brocade I. (2016) 10″x10″
transparent acrylic skin on wood panel, image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. You often layer objects and concepts in your work, both physically and metaphorically. What importance do you ascribe to layering in your practice as a whole? Do you see this as crucial to your creative process, why or why not?
MG. Layering is the most crucial element in my artistic practice. It acts as a key factor in my artistic expression, whether using computer programs to make artwork or creating work traditionally by hand. Layering allows me to combine different elements which may otherwise be disjointed, but when separated and re-arranged, allow a sense of complexity and depth. When finished hopefully this combination of imagery coalesces into a harmonious whole giving the work a new meaning. This is the essence of my work. 
It’s exciting to work in layers because you can’t really plan it. As a result, you’re never really sure what the end result will be. This method is perfect as it helps me discover new aspects of my process. I might plan a concept in advance, but then let the layering process lead me, allowing it to take over and guide me to unexpected results.
I am now seeing a similar pattern in my spiritual development, made evident by peeling away layers of personal development to reveal more truths underneath. Only after one layer is peeled away can the next layer underneath be worked on. It cannot be rushed. I never thought about this before, but I think it’s interesting to see how this compares to my process of making artwork.
The word “palimpsest” has been used to describe my practice, alluding to my practice of scraping and masking certain elements in an artwork in order to reveal others. By revealing traces of what is left behind, my work shows a worn quality, evoking a sense of history and alluding to mysteries of the past. 
ANTE. What new challenges are you looking forward to in your work? What new mediums are you anticipating working with and how would you like your practice to develop in new ways?
MG. Currently I have acrylic skins that I’ve made in a larger format than I’ve previously worked with. I want to print images onto them but I haven’t tried it yet. Printing onto large acrylic skins is challenging on my printer and can be risky. This is one reason why I’ve been working in a smaller scale until this point, but now I want to take on the challenge in this next phase of figuring out how to scale up. 
My work has also been developing toward working with multi-dimensional surfaces. I like the extra dimension as it brings out the reflective quality of the paints I use. As well as utilizing transparent and translucent surfaces, multiple layers in a work results in the image changing depending on how light hits the surface. This imbues the work with a sense of movement and helps to keep it from feeling static. It takes thought and experimentation to recognize how to best display my artwork, particularly when it comes to framing. The process is very different with each artwork. It can take time to find the best position and angle for artworks to hang onto the wall in order to truly capture the depth and shadows present in an artwork. It’s not the same as working with an opaque or rigid surface, because each work requires a different approach in order to enhance the work. 
With my artwork, the types of energy incorporated into each layer can change as the artwork builds. More layers mean a combination of energies can be present in each work, adding a feeling of depth and complexity.  This can almost be considered a type of alchemy in which an artwork transforms as layers are added. My hope is that this will lead me to explore new aspects of my practice I haven’t considered yet.  
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Grant, Marion. Fairy Music (2018) 11″x11″
alternative media translucent collage, image courtesy the artist.

Seriously Playful: The Hybrid Forms of Katie Hector

With a wink to contemporary aesthetics while unabashedly pushing the envelope, interdisciplinary artist Katie Hector, who lives and works in New York City, has rooted her emerging practice in painting with a focus on two main bodies of work: large-scale paintings on canvas and three-dimensional wall sculptures. In addition to her studio practice, Hector works as an independent curator and the Co-Director of Sine Gallery. She has worked to organize and fundraise a variety of projects, including an international exhibition in 2017, multiple collaborative and environmental installations, and over two dozen group shows, screenings, pop up events, and panel discussions.

Hector, who holds a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2014, has lectured at Mason Gross on professional development in the arts all while gaining recognition through scholarships, residencies, and awards including the 2017 Picture Berlin International Residency, the 2016 Merit-Based Scholarship from Urban Glass, the 2014 Scott Cagenello Memorial-Prize, and the 2013 Ruth Crockett Award. We sat down with Hector to get an update on her current artistic endeavors, scope out her upcoming projects and learn about whose work inspires her own experimental practice.

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“Tumblr Grl 2″, Katie Hector (22″ x 18”, acrylic an spray paint on shaped boards, 2017). Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. Your practice examines, conceptually, parameters of virtual engagement across social media and the implications of modern technology on society. Can you talk us through your two series, FOMO and Interface, and how each examines these phenomena through a particular lens?

KH. I believe both series attempt to describe how new technologies and interfaces, specifically smartphones and social media have created shifts within communication and the contemporary psyche. Through large-scale painting the FOMO Series seeks to address social anxieties and how they relate to internet culture through utilizing abstract mask-like imagery. Repeating ovoid forms allude to a floating face with large staring eyes that take up most of the picture plane. For me, these mask-like forms reference selfie culture, emojis, and online personas while also signifying ancient desires to capture one’s likeness or establish a legacy.

The Interface Series meditates on the fetish object itself, that being smartphones and personal devices. To determine the scale for this series of work I utilize the dimensions of various tablets and monitors as a template. These pieces are comprised of two to three layers of geometric forms cut from various materials and collaged onto each other. I typically slather the base shape in a high gloss industrial enamel, which in effect mimics the sleek reflectiveness of a black screen. Additional layers are then affixed to this base surface and are three dimensional casting real shadows. I think of these subsequent layers as computer tabs, each containing their own set of painterly information and surface qualities. Palette as well as content unite these parallel bodies of work. Hyper-saturated prefabricated colors are sourced from commercial advertisements, anime, clickbait, and memes to create visual lures.


ANTE. You consider pop culture and the presence of the internet in society today through your work, specifying that you “anthropologically observe and document.” Can you walk us through this process and what drew you to this subject matter?

KH. I am acutely aware of the time and place I am a part of. I am a twenty something, a proper millennial, who was taught in grade school how to write a postal address and use the Dewey Decimal System in one class followed with how to type and proofread an email the next. I am a female, mixed-race American: born and raised in a capitalist democratic society. These are my personal truths and they all come into play at various points in the work, sometimes they’re subtle, but it’s all there.

There was a time I felt insecure about my subject matter, that speaking about social media was too Pop-ish and wouldn’t have any lasting impact, but time and time again I couldn’t help coming back to it. Looking back at my experience growing up it was radical to come of age during a time in which sending a handwritten letters became novelty and infinite spans of information seemingly became ubiquitously available. I am particularly fascinated with how we as a society are dealing with this incredible access to information. We essentially have free education where all of human history, the known world, any workshop, or book is downloadable, Google-able. We are living in an age where no one has to wonder anymore it’s all right there, at your fingertips, and one click away. However most people tend to use the internet for pleasure, entertainment, and communication. In American society we have subconsciously ascribed a hierarchical moral value system to how we utilize our internet time, one that is tied to puritan and capitalistic ideologies. Anything that falls outside of the parameters of smut-less, dutiful, goal-oriented work makes us feel kind‘ve undefinably bad: guilty, weird, gluttonous and indulgent. I take note of these patterns of behavior both in myself, and broadly speaking and focus my work on describing this failure to cast off the physicality of our humanity, namely our insecurities, even during our cognitive assertion into a virtual realm.

 

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“FOMO Green and Purple”, Katie Hector (22″x 22″, acrylic, latex, and spray paint on panel, 2018) Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. Works from your FOMO series were recently on view in Brooklyn’s culture neighborhood of DUMBO, sponsored by DUMBO BID, as part of an arts + culture event. How were you hoping that visitors would interact with your works and did this transpire?

KH. The space was truly unusual and fun to navigate. Noted as, “likely the tiniest, most inconsequential gallery in NYC, maybe on the face of the Earth”, it was a 32-square foot pop up cubicle erected within the archway of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO. The This Friday or Next Friday Space Station is a pure product of NYC, and the limited spaces available to artists. It’s a testament to the fact that anything is possible anywhere and that lack of space is not a roadblock, but rather an invitation for innovation. When I was first invited to show in this space I immediately envisioned an installation; however, in the weeks leading up to the show I was particularly obsessed with making large-scale paintings on drop cloth as the latest extension of the FOMO series. I choose five of these paintings to show and installed them on the interior of the gallery making an effort to completely cover any white wall space. I covered up the cobblestone ground as well with a colorfully speckled soft insulation material that transformed the space into a hyper saturated cubicle. Considering the tiny confines of the gallery itself set within a high traffic public space the level of public engagement with the work was any artist’s dream. It was pure joy watching kids stomping and rolling around on the carpeted ground, people taking selfies in the space, and passersby coming back to peek into the space three or four times like moths drawn to a rainbow flame.

 

ANTE. Can you walk through how your work has evolved? How did your education in the art field evolve and what mediums do you work within?

KH. In a way I am making the same paintings I always have. I was fairly skilled at rendering faces during high school, and I guess the FOMO paintings can be interpreted as a portrait of a mental state. In that regard the largest shift in the work has been one towards abstraction over the years. Instead of describing an individual the work now comments more broadly on the human condition, the psyche, and asks whether humans are bad or whether they are simply creatures of folly.

I find myself constantly chasing the work, pursuing anything this body of paintings requires. For example I needed to scale up the image to see how gestures would translate at 10’ which was not possible in my first studio, “well I guess I have to move studios and get a bigger wall then.” Each time I take that leap of faith to follow the work and make a big change I become significantly more sure of myself and my ability to make the right decision when it needs to be made. In school I used to think that I wasn’t a serious painter because I didn’t toil over layering and sanding down primed canvases, practice drafting my compositions, or fuss over mixing my paints. I learned each lesson of course, but secretly didn’t care too deeply about those particular processes. Eventually over time all those things fell to the wayside and I realized that they were someone else’s methodology and although it’s cool, and works, it had no place in my practice, so I was able to let them go. I am quite grounded in my content at this point and feel satisfied that it is focused yet will leave enough meat on the bone to sustain my curiosity later down the road. I’ve come to a wonderful point where I am confident about my process, the materials I use, and the speed at which I work. So it’s more or less full steam ahead for now.

ANTE. Work from your Interface series is on view in Burlington, Vermont as part of the “Optimist Prime” group exhibit at New City Gallery. Which works are included in this show and how do they fit the theme?

KH. “Clickbait”, “Double Tapping Moon Vibes”, and “Tumblr Grl 2”, are the three works which are included in the “Optimist Prime” exhibition. Curated by Michael Shoudt, a long time friend and talented painter, the show focuses on gesture and surface in a way that walks the line between painting and object. I’m certain that Michael would dig his heels in the ground and declare that this was  purely a painting show, but to me there is a playful testing of those boundaries and a “who says this isn’t a painting” spirit to the collection of work.

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In the studio, FOMO paintings, 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. What other exhibits are your works a part of currently and what do you have upcoming?

KH. I currently have four works (“Golden Toupee” (2015), “Filter Bubble” (2017), “Untitled” (2017), and “Versace Versace” (2018)) all from the Interface series included in an exhibition entitled “Small Paintings(ish)” at BS Projects in Houston, TX. I’m tickled that my work made it to Houston before I did.

Along with being a painter I am also an independent curator, and Co-Director of Sine Gallery. We recently teamed up with Light Year and the DUMBO bid to curate a massive public screening of six interdisciplinary artists: Damien Davis, Patricia Brace, Yali Romagoza, Dominique Duroseau, Jesus Benavente, and Joiri Minaya. The videos will be cast onto the side of the Manhattan Bridge Aug 2nd, 8-10 PM in DUMBO, with the best vantage point being from 155 Water Street. I am extremely passionate about this collection of artists and am so please to represent their work in DUMBO, a community which has time and time again embraced my alternative white cube curatorial slant. Huge thanks to 68 Jay Street and Ardele Lister and Steve West for being eternally supportive.

I am also a Curatorial Assistant for Art in Odd Places 2018: BODY and will be helping to organize various aspects of this year’s performance art festival under the vision of Katya Grokhovsky and Ed Woodham. BODY marks the first exclusively female, non-binary, and trans line-up in the festival’s 14 year history and will include the work from 45 artists from all over the world in a four day performance art festival along 14th Street Manhattan October 11th – 14th. In conjunction with the festival there will be an exhibition and public programming held at Westbeth Gallery throughout the month of October.

As far as upcoming shows go, I have a few projects in the works for the studio this Fall, stay tuned.


ANTE. Can you walk us through some of your contemporary influences? What artists are you looking to as you develop your own practice?

KH. I love Joyce Pensato, I love her imagery, process, her use of gesture. Katherine Bernhardt is another contemporary favorite. I look to her as a example of how an artist can glean new sensibilities from travel and blend them into an ongoing work. Poly Apfelbaum is a classic and I frequently look to her installation-based work, her color, and use of commermerically sourced materials. I have profound respect for the trailblazing forms of Susan Murphy, and what she introduced to painting, and can’t help but gush over the sleek graphic refinement of Tauba Auerbach. Along with these giants I have the deepest respect for the work of my peers: Amie Cunat, Denise Treizman, Katie Bell, Leah Guadagnoli, the list goes on.