At the onset of the pandemic, artist Rachael Wren spent more time than usual in nature looking at trees – noticing the subtleties of space and her relationship to it. The constants of the square canvas and gridded plane provide a stable ground for experimentation with other variables such as mark-making, color, line and shape. While ostensibly about trees, these eleven new paintings -completed in the past two years – depict various arrangements of vertical trunks cropped at the top and stripped of branches and leaves. Yet, the underlying gridlines, left visible amid the overlying composition, hint at something more complex. Wren’s use of the tree and the grid provide the scaffolding around which she constructs her richly nuanced conversations about atmosphere as subject. Wren’s paintings convey a sense of proprioception, or kinaesthesia, in wooded spaces she shares with viewers. This is brought to bear in the gallery, along with the visitor’s relationships to the space and paintings within. These connections are heightened by Rick Wester’s sensitive installation.
Anchoring the exhibit from opposing ends of the gallery are two 72″ square canvases, “Already There” and “Thicket.” The large format is a breakthrough for Wren who generally paints in a 48” or 36” square. Moving up in size enhances the experience of physically entering the fictive space of the painting while concomitantly establishing a relationship to the architecture of the gallery and the other paintings. “Thicket” with its greenish-gray palette draws us into the receding space of a dense composition filled with hazy, foggy light from a source on the left. The trees recede into a darker space on the right, giving viewers an opening to enter the wooded scene. “Already There” is more open spatially with an energetic orange palette that shifts in a gradient to blue-gray moving to the top of the painting. The brushstrokes are loose, barely held together by the freely rendered verticals of the trees. The tension is palpable, as if the trees are on the verge of dissolution, merging into the space around them.
Highlights of the show include “Encounter” which seems to glow from within. The large, cantilevered brushstrokes sit atop one another like haphazardly stacked children’s blocks about to topple. This work functions like a visual retort to “Already There” with its loose verticals. “Spring Rain” shows Wren’s penchant for dispersing space as well as her newly expanded visual vocabulary. Introducing new shapes such as quasi-quatrefoils, overlapping horizontals and verticals, and amorphous ‘blotches,’ the composition becomes more abstract than the others. Wren deftly uses a softly contrasting palette of green, gray and lavender to moor the looseness of her gestures and unify the work.
The visual proximity of Wren’s paintings enables one to see the incredible array of atmospheric conditions observed and Wren’s rich lexicon that masterfully depicts the void as subject. As one moves through Still It Grows, fleeting moments in nature are captured for quiet contemplation; dappled sunlight through spring leaves, the enveloping mist of a humid morning, fog rolling through the forest or the dawn’s gentle side light cutting through a copse. Wren is a master of giving form to the formless in these mindfully conceived and unhurriedly executed paintings that must be experienced in person to fully appreciate their complexity and eloquent impressions of atmospheric conditions.
Artist Gabriel J. Shuldiner demands much of his medium. An artist who creates works by building layers of paint and industrial materials in a meticulous manner, his paintings are comprised of sculptural layers constructed in careful relationship with the preceding layer, existing in a unique and original tension indigenous to the particular work itself. His attention to construction –and just as fittingly, deconstruction– becomes apparent in the singular surface of each of his finished artworks.
We touched base with Shuldiner to gain insights into his studio, and as an Open Call winner, to learn how he has perfected his practice.
ANTE Mag. Can you tell us about your practice, specifically within the context of layers upon layers as referenced in your conceptual artist statement?
Gabriel J. Shuldiner.While painting, I gradually build up a work… layers upon layers. It’s primarily all paint, along with some industrial construction materials. Each layer informs the next: how the materials work with and against each other. There is always a sense of surprise, of tension working with the matter, but intent remains, and as layers compound, remnants of previous layers are left over, hidden, revealed, and exposed, becoming layers upon layers of physical matter which mirror the conceptual layers I also attach to the work.
ANTE Mag. You specifically mention three terms, Brute Minimalism, Hybridsculptural painting and Post apocalyptic black – can you explain how each of these terms define your work?
G.J.S. I was looking for a quick way to explain my work in the most concise manner as possible. I like words and word play. I don’t like definitions; having to define things and describe things that should be seen and experienced is something I don’t like, but I understand the necessity. My work is influenced by so many visual genres, and musical genres. Traditionally my work is steeped in the history minimalism and abstraction and conceptualism. But my work is also brutal…brutal in a good sense. It’s delicate and playful, brutal and raw. The term I use is “bruteminimalism”: it just came to me and it sounded right. I’m a painter who creates Hybridsculptural paintings rather than a sculptor who creates painting-like sculptures. Given that my work fluctuates between painting and sculpture, the works I create are literally “hybrid sculptural paintings” As for “postapocalypticblack”, I felt the word appropriately described my own unique variant of black. It also aptly riffs on the age old falsity that “painting is dead”. I heard that term a lot in graduate [art] school and thought it the most ridiculous statement ever. It seems to come along every few years. Apparently painting has been dying ever since the first cave paintings appeared… this term perfectly played on that absurdity. You just can’t kill it. The physicality of the material, the blackness of the material… it is postapocalypticblack. You know it when you see it.
ANTE Mag. Recently you have shown at Monica King Contemporary, how has it been exhibiting your work during the pandemic and how has it been different for you showing work now than pre-COVID?
G.J.S. I had a piece in a benefit auction Monica King Contemporary set up to help raise money for the CoVid cause. I love her gallery and was grateful to be asked to be in it: I had been looking for ways to help during the pandemic. At the time I was offering limited-edition mini-paintings direct via my Instagram and donating 50% to the CoVid-related organization of the buyer’s choice. And then the gallery asked if I would take part in their benefit. A completely virtual online benefit. Of course I said yes.
Showing my work now, during CoVid, I feel I’ve adapted to the current virtual world quite well. I’ve done several Zoom artist talks, a few interviews and have had several group shows. I’ve also sold work! All virtually. Given the physicality of my work and the crucial importance of light as an actual material, a 2D screen doesn’t do my work justice. I think that’s true for all visual arts. But it’s extra true with my work. There is something magical, experiential and spiritual about standing before a painting and looking at it. It’s a personal experience between you and the work. This pause in showing work in the real world is definitely strange. But at the same time, there are so many new outlets to get the work seen, and seen by so many more. The reality is that most people will initially discover my work virtually. That was probably true pre-pandemic, but now and post-pandemic, it will be the primary way people will experience my work, so I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the way I photograph [the work] and I’m pretty happy with the results.
I see the image as I see my aforementioned descriptive terms: as a quick way to show, explain and attract… with the goal of having that introduction lead to an in person studio visit – which is convenient because my studio is in Chelsea (Manhattan.)
I have several (studio visits) lined up, but I’m not yet ready for in person studio visits, no matter how well-enforced the social distancing and masking.
ANTE mag. Can you tell us more about what you’re working on recently and what direction your practice is moving toward?
G.J.S. Throughout CoVid, I’ve been lucky enough to really focus on creating a new body of work. I’m really tightening the work up, and I feel I’m actually making my best work now during the pandemic. Every painting I have ever created has gotten me to this point.
Working without having any deadlines or distractions has been very freeing, and creatively inspiring. But for the most part, my routine hasn’t really changed all that much during Covid. I still paint every single day. Right now I’m working on some larger pieces. That’s where my head is right now. I’m used to having complete control over my work. I like making work that I can handle physically, as I want to be able to move the piece around as it is created. The back becomes the front, and the top becomes the bottom. I want to be able to twist, cut, rip, tear, punch. The deconstruction is just as important as the construction.
The way I work is sorta manic. I work on multiple pieces at once, bouncing ideas off each work. Eventually certain works tighten up and reveal themselves and then I move in to complete them. The way I show my work is the opposite, super minimal: one piece surrounded by nothing. The majority of my current work has been relatively consistent in size and thus easily maneuverable. The direction I’m headed is larger, so I’m figuring out how to navigate the larger works in a similar manner. I want that intimacy to remain. I’ll figure it out.
ANTE mag. What’s one specific work you’ve made in the past three months, and what about it is inspiring you consider new concepts and formal evolutions in your work?
G.J.S. I have a complex equation in my mind that has to balance itself out in order for me to consider a work complete, and successful. It’s just a feeling I get. With “zTCTdyH<B\,H3h]_system” for example, I feel I have accomplished that. The way the different materials play off each other makes someone wonder: what is the surface? What is the support? Is it a painting or a sculpture? What is it made of, and how is it made? The interplay of light upon the varying shades of black, creating various areas of white and grey. I can stare off into work I consider successful for hours and it transports me.
Ultimately I am painting primarily just for myself… which is a crucial point. And that’s the test, really, to reach that space: that place [which means for] me, someplace calm amidst such concentrated chaos.
Each work looks so simple. It’s a black painting. But the longer you gaze into it, the more the complexities gradually reveal themselves.
Artist Petra Nimtz is the first to admit that a career in fine art was about as unfathomable to her twenty years ago as winding up in New York State from her native Germany. The artist has made a path for herself as an abstract painter, following her academic pursuits from country to country and state to state. Currently based both in Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Nimtz carefully pushes her practice forward with a nuanced look at texture and color. She is unafraid to explore alternative processes in her practice as well. ANTE sat down with Nimtz in her Midtown studio to peruse her recent works and pursue the depth of her considerations in art-making.
ANTE – Thanks Petra for sitting down with us today! So tell us: How did you get your start as an artist?
Petra Nimtz – I was born in Germany and left in 2002, ending up in Vancouver, BC, Canada. After two years, I began to think I should paint. I took a course at the Emily Carr institute and began sharing a studio, it all came together very naturally…
ANTE – And had you painted at all before that?
PN– Yes, as a child – as a student in school, but I had never approached it other than as a student…
ANTE – So not as a vocation?
PN– Right, not until I lived in Vancouver. I began to study the basics of painting by starting with acrylics. I began this way, sharing a studio, working in acrylic before moving onto working with oil paints. Once I began working with oil, I was hooked immediately. I then visited NYC and began to study at the Art Students League in New York under Frank O’Kane, I know he’s still teaching – he’s quite a force of nature, and I love his work. I was writing down notes in his classes like a maniac… he mentioned Abstract Expressionists, all this information that was quite new to me – I had never studied art history, had never heard of that. Their work really resonated with me – he told me to study the painters who I liked, and that’s what I started doing and it helped me evolve my practice at my studio back in Canada.
ANTE – What timeframe was this?
PN– This was about 2005-06 when I began working as a painter, and showing in local cafes in Vancouver. Living there in Vancouver at the time, the abstract art scene was not very active and I didn’t have much to look at, so in 2010 I moved to upstate New York for three months to rent a place to paint – a live/work space. A friend of mine directed me to Woodstock, so I went and spent three months there painting in a barn and going into New York City often. I then decided to move here – exactly ten years ago.
ANTE – So then have you primarily been working in abstraction?
PN– Yes, I work in abstraction. I am an abstract artist, and I’m not interested in drawing or painting figuratively, or creating work with the human figure. I don’t want to pursue it.
ANTE – At the time you began living in Woodstock, were you working on a larger scale?
PN– The largest at that studio was 6×7’ size artwork, working in that barn. Actually when I began painting I started out smaller, but over the years I have become emboldened to try out larger sizes in my painting. I now like working in a 4×5’ format, it’s comfortable for me.
ANTE – Observing a work in progress, I do see some pencil and sketching/drawing, are you working with an oil stick as well?
PN– Yes, all of that – this particular work has so many layers. I work on multiple layers as each is still fresh – the paint is still wet, and for some works I’ll be building up, say, ten layers. I like showing layers and allowing them to shine through, giving them a chance to shine through – suffice it to say that I don’t spend too much time hiding the layers.
ANTE – Can you talk about the brushstrokes you use in these artworks, particularly works in these smaller sizes? There is an expressive energy…
PN– Yes it’s easier for me to use looser brushstrokes – it’s more animated, what I like to call my “messy” paintings. I can work with a more expressive style in a smaller format, using a palette knife and brushes to create a more dynamic work.
ANTE – Do you frequently use a palette knife in your work?
PN– Yes, I use the edge of it: I use it to spread the paint onto the canvas directly. I can make strong and decisive gestures, and the paint can be applied more thickly. It allows me to direct my compositions and make certain areas of a painting stronger. This allows a certain side of the canvas to dominate the overall composition. I have been using the palette knife since I first delved into working with oil on canvas.
ANTE – What is new to your recent work?
PN– The colors I utilize in my practice always change. The color palette varies organically according to my mood.
ANTE – Do you feel influenced by working in Woodstock?
PN– Yes, it’s very inspiring – I’m surrounded by nature, blues and greens and whites. In nature, I’m inspired to paint using these colors.
ANTE – Do you feel that you are inspired by light in your work?
PN– I frequently do use white through the layers of my artworks, and I am often influenced by light in my work. While I frequently use white painting in my work, I don’t often work with purple as a color in my compositions.
ANTE – Interesting to know! And do you work on a single painting at a time?
PN– Oh no, I always work on multiple paintings at a time because I get stuck. I’ll get stuck on a work. I have multiple works in progress hanging on walls – I have quite a large studio space in Woodstock so it’s easier to move from one wall to another to change what I’m working on when I get stuck on a certain artwork. I have never worked on an easel; I always work on the wall. It helps me to work on several pieces at a time – I’ve always worked this way in my process, since I very first started painting.
ANTE – Tell me about your approach to painting: you already referenced infusing gesture with the palette knife, what other considerations inform your painting?
PN– I’ve always worked with palette knife and brush, but now I’ve even used my hands or even gloves to directly apply paint to the canvas. I like working with different methods of application – brush, palette knife, hand – in contrast to create tension and create clear gestures in my work. It’s easier to carefully construct a composition borrowing from these different styles of line and gesture in a smaller format works, however. Smaller size works are easier to control this dialogue within.
ANTE – So you only work in painting? Not in other mediums?
PN– I actually have also worked in monoprint, collage and works on paper. I’ll sometimes create a monoprint. I make monoprints in addition to paintings, but I don’t view this as my main style of work. Painting will always be my medium.
ANTE – In terms of expanded practice: Do you frequently work in collage, or have you worked in other formats than oil on canvas?
PN – In 2015-16 I was working in acrylic a bit in addition to my oil painting, and around that time I started making collage a bit. Some of these works I’ve since covered with oil paint – since 2018, I’ve worked almost exclusively with oil paints. I was working with acrylic before, but it dries so fast and you can’t build up layers, so I returned to exclusively working with oil paints so that I could build up layers in my work. Adding a new element to the work with collage is exciting for me – I was happy to paint over my collage works with oil as it added it an exciting texture for me.
ANTE – Can you talk to us more about other artists whose work has inspired you?
PN – I’m really interested in New York City as a moment in the 1950s and 60s and the artists who lived here then – they inspired one another, challenged one another, and built up a camaraderie. Reading about their lives, they were all wild. They were also great artists. Of course many wonderful women artists of this time period – Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell – continue to inspire me. Among contemporary artists, I love Amy Sillman. In addition to her wonderful practice she also has a great sense of humor that has come through when I’ve heard her speak.
ANTE – So what are you working on at the moment? Have you worked more in one certain style over, say, the past six months?
PN – What I’ve liked recently is that my work has become more gestural, more loose. The style I call “Messy” – I think of Joan Mitchell and her messiness, which I love. I was thrilled to see my style evolve into this messier look – my painting style changes over time without planning out, but the positive feedback I’ve had from others is that while my style changes, it is always recognizable. My changes in style over time do shift, but it remains recognizable and I’m happy to go with the flow.
ANTE – So a few years ago you mentioned that you had a studio in Bushwick before moving to this Midtown location, can you tell me about your experiences as an artist working in Bushwick?
PN – Well, Paul D’Agostino who is very knowledgeable came out to visit my studio. He’s lovely and helped me – really became a great resource for me, he’s wonderful. He hosted a few shows at his studios, and suggested my work to other members of the community. I did enjoy being a part of the community as best I could, but I live in Woodstock – I was mostly in Bushwick on the weekends, most studios were closed and most artists were gone when I was working there. Here being based in Manhattan, it’s an easier commute and I can walk to Chelsea galleries and other nearby galleries to go observe the art exhibitions that are on at the moment.
ANTE – So what exhibitions have you been in recently?
PN – Well, I participated at a group show in Bushwick, and I’ve also recently shown with Julie Torres in a space just outside of Hudson in Hudson Valley, New York. It’s nice to have a footprint both in Woodstock and in New York City, I can appreciate the benefits of both.
ANTE – So what exhibitions have you visited in recent days and months that you enjoyed?
PN – I finally went to the new MoMA, and enjoyed the Amy Sillman-curated section “The Shape of Shape” that they have on view now. Recently, I went to an interesting show in Chelsea (NYC) at Albertz Benda, “Substrate”. The show was really beautiful. I also did get the chance to witness the show at the Katonah Museum of Art, “Sparkling Amazons.” It was an intriguing show and I had the chance to learn about artists who were not previously known to me. There was also an intriguing show recently featuring artist Cat Balco, “My Exploding Stars,” at Rick Wester Fine Art.
A nine-year friendship between Ghanaian-native artist TAFA and Japanese-native artist Tomo Mori forms the heart of I See You, now on view at ChaShama’s 340 E. 64th space until March 8th. As Mori notes, “I feel Tafa and I share a deeply human connection. He knows my work since I stared showing in 2011, when I didn’t know anything or anybody in the art community. I always admired his work and I am extremely honored to do this project together.”
Tomo Mori’s fluid, organic fiber art sculptures are comprised of handmade ropes made from discarded and upcycled fabrics given to her by family and friends. Shown alongside these works are TAFA’s figurative oil paintings are informed by Ghana’s sporting events, public demonstrations and musical performances. Representing the rich diversity and international voices within the New York City arts scene,TAFAand Tomo Moridraw upon distinct imagery and materials imbued with symbolic, cultural and personal meaning, as well as their shared experience as first-generation immigrants: while both of their practices focus on their homeland, they equally embrace their new role as artists residing within the United States.
Personal history and intimate familial connections through material are tenderly woven throughout Tomo Mori’s work. Ropes of discarded baby blankets join together in the artwork Eve to form a loose, heart-like or cradle-like formation, evoking the tender embrace of a mother and newborn child. The prompt, “What do you build when you are given power?” accompanies an all-ages interactive installation of fabric-covered blocks, using social consciousness and inclusivity to shift our cultural narratives about power from division to empowerment. Sanctuary, a dazzling, optically exhilarating patchwork of fabrics, incorporates a vintage kimono, highlighting the comfort, beauty and solace Mori finds within Japanese culture.
Alongside Tomo Mori’s materiality and indirect allusions to place and cultural symbolism, TAFA’s work keeps an eye towards the ephemeral struggles and achievements that mark the human condition. Each painting appears to be in flux, undergoing a state of change, conveyed by thick, rapid brush marks across the surface and expressive, gestural figures with contorted faces in intensely physical acts. From huddled masses gathered around a football stadium to masses in silent protest, the imagery within these artworks underscores the importance of shared social traditions to unify our collective culture in moments of crisis and uncertainty. Where Mori’s works connects in physical space, TAFA’s work unite the excitement of crowds at sporting events in a shared, communal energy. His exuberant painting style captures the enthusiasm and shared sentiments among large crowds. His work shows us an artistic expression of unity.
TAFA and Tomo Mori both approach their work with deep-rooted and complex associations on topics of heritage, history and social structures, stemming from their own experiences as immigrants in America looking back towards the culture of their homeland. I See You encourages active observation, prompting viewers to look closer at their own surroundings and form deeper connections between place and identity.
Supported by ChaShama, the exhibition fulfills ChaShama’s promise to give artists space to present their work while fostering community development through the arts. More information on ChaShama can be found on their website.
The following programs will continue through the exhibition until it closes on March 8th:
Artist Talk: Tuesday, February 25, 6:30 to 8:30pm
Closing Reception, Saturday, March 7, 4 to 6pm
SAT 2/22 Fabric collage workshop by Tomo Mori 2-4pm, all-ages, children with caregiver. RSVP: email@example.com
SAT 2/29 Rope making workshop by Tomo Mori 2-4pm, all-ages, children with caregiver. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUN 3/1 Kora/Djembe Performance by West African musician, Sunday, March 1, 2-4pm
Regular Gallery Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11:30am to 6:30pm
Please see the exhibition website in orde to schedule an appointment to visitoutside of these hours: https://www.tomomoriart.com/i-see-you
Sheer visual pleasure would have been reason enough to visit Patty Horing’s new show Underdressed at Anna Zorina’s delightful new ground floor space on 24th St in Chelsea. But there was much more awaiting viewers there in these large figurative canvases and smaller drawings. Horing brings a novelist’s sensibility to these sensitive contextual portraits, allowing us to enter into a relationship with these fully formed characters: neighbors down the hall with the cat, the woman in your reading group or the happy biracial couple celebrating their new baby. Today’s Edith Wharton, armed with a brush rather than pen, Horing shows us how we live, what we care about, and who we are today with humor and psychological depth.
A decade of embracing Horing’s work has led to the joys of tracing various influences in her work. It is a pleasure to watch her practice mature over time, her New York Academy training prominent in this new body of work. These paintings display the increased confidence of perspective, line and brushwork as well as in this increased foray into nudity. Horing completed her MFA in 2015, but continues working the same vein of largely frontal, full-body portraiture and character study that she’s been pursuing all along.
Horing’s work situates itself in dialogue with prominent artists such as Eric Fischl, David Hockney during the 1960’s Los Angeles period, Alice Neel, and Lucien Freud, among others. Figures in these works confront viewers directly, almost always peering right at us. They are at ease in their homes or personal spaces. Spaces are claimed by these subjects, indicated by the personal touches in each artwork ranging from a jar of Aquaphor on the nightstand, velvet upholstery, embroidery on the bed quilt, or rattan on the floor covering. These details situate the subjects in times and spaces that we recognize. We also feel as though we know the people in Horing’s paintings, or at least we imagine we do – whether the teenager slouched on the sofa with a game controller, tween girls texting, or a couple at the kitchen table, intimate moments feel inclusive to a devoted audience encountering this body of work.
“Betty’s Grandparents” (2018), oil on linen. Copyright, PATTY HORING, Photography: Stan Narten Courtesy Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City.
Since moving from Westchester County to New York, Horing’s treatment of interiors has changed – tall Tribeca windows and loft floors replace the wallpaper patterns and upholstery of suburbia. The figures depicted are also different, but the time is always unmistakably situated within the now. The nudity in this series is also worth delving into, in part since the garments subjects wore in Horing’s previous work often functioned as nuanced identifiers of social cues and status to viewers who have absorbed lots of fashion-industry imagery. Horing encountered many nude models in her years at the New York Academy – a part of that classical training once again gaining currency in art schools, which may account for all this undressing. In this series, people are depicted naked or half-naked, allowing us to contemplate their bodies as the vehicles they get around in: familiar, lumpy or bluish, saggy in places. These subjects are certainly not in any way idealized; yet, still somehow perfect. Their nakedness serves to bring them even closer to us, allowing a lapse into their vulnerability and inviting us to see them as normal people like ourselves.
In the end I think that is reason enough for this work to matter to us. “Simply Connect” may be the best advice we’ll be giving each other in the years ahead. With so many things that divide us, finding simple, wholesome, human ways to reach out to another, to allow ourselves to be touched by another may just become the next great front in the Resistance. Horing’s work can give us a head start.
Underdressed, a solo exhibition of Patty Horing’s works at Anna Zorina gallery, featured at 523 W 24th Street through late February 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In our weekly interview with a ground-breaking international artist, this week we chat with Italian artist Ylenia Mino. Benefiting from her multilateral perspective, we are thrilled to learn more about her nuanced artistic practice, international career and how her varied, eclectic artistic training impacts her work today. The artist has a prevalent career abroad, especially in the United States, with an upcoming exhibit from June 2nd at Gallery Sitka (MA), work in the Artist’s Style in Art group exhibition in June (Los Angeles, CA) and a solo show at Hellada Gallery (Long Beach, CA) in July. The artist has recently collaborated with Aquarium of the Pacific this May in Long Beach, California and exhibited at the Red Dot Auction at Chuck Jones Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
ANTE: Thanks for sitting down with us, Ylenia! Many of your artworks seem inspired by your travels. Can you talk about your exhibitions abroad and what motivates you to travel as an artist?
YM: I love traveling and take inspiration from the energy, different cultures, and beautiful places that I see during my travels. I recently took a cross-country road trip from NYC to LA and it was simply wonderful to see the southern part of the United States. So many states and such a big variety of landscapes and wonders. I think my favorite and the most inspiring to me was exploring a Petrified Forest, a magical and ancient site. What I love to do is to take lots of photos with my camera and in my mind; then, I put these memories on canvas.
ANTE: Your works showcase a broad, international influence. Can you explain how pop culture – and American culture specifically – have influenced your practice?
YM: I spent many years in NYC and I definitely absorbed “the melting pot” culture of the Big Apple. You may notice much in my traditional art and landscapes, but it’s evident in the strong energy and vibes you get from my paintings. American culture has impacted both my art and my experiences, but I still consider myself a carrier of European culture and vibes.
ANTE: You are an artist internationally recognized for your artwork, particularly your landscape paintings. Can you talk a bit about painting competitions you’ve won and international exhibitions you’ve participated in?
YM: I’ve taken part in many competitions. Over the years, I had the honor to be included in international exhibitions in London, England; Austria; and also, the Caribbean as well. The last competition I won was in NYC, called “Design is Everything” at Dorma in Bryant Park. My painting, “Journey”, was very successful, and thoroughly appreciated by the jury and the public!
ANTE: Would you explain your background as an artist? Is your education in fine art or art history? Are you self-taught? How has your education impacted your artistic practice?
YM: I started painting when I was a little girl. Every spare moment away from school, I was drawing and getting immersed into my creative and imaginary world. My parents noticed my natural inclination and around the age of 7 they brought me to a private school run by an amazing Egyptian painter, Mohsen. I studied on and off for about 10 years with this Egyptian master. I then got a diploma degree in classical studies and languages (Latin, Ancient Greek, History of Art, Philosophy, etc). Learning from Mohsen really impacted my art; it was so inspiring to have the opportunity to learn like the old tradition and the greatest artists did, with a student-master relationship. Also, learning History of Arts and Ancient Greek and Latin increased and deepened my passion for culture and the arts.
ANTE: Can you explain how you connect your artistic practice to your support of charities and philanthropic causes worldwide?
YM: I started supporting charities and causes about 7 years ago by donating part of the proceeds from the sales of my paintings. Now, I regularly receive invitations to auctions, galas, benefit dinners, and celebrity events to be a fine artist sponsor at the event.
I believe in helping, encouraging and supporting people, so I support different charities, fundraisers, and causes. I hope my support will help to improve life conditions, give people a chance to develop their full potential and to reach their destiny in their society.
ANTE: You’ve shown internationally in exhibitions and art fairs. What are your most interesting or favorite experiences exhibiting internationally and how have they helped to expand your artistic practice?
YM: I have had so many art shows and exhibitions that it is is hard to decide. They are all in some way my favorite and have contributed unique memories affecting my career as a fine artist, but I can definitely recall the one that marked the beginning of a new chapter in my career and life: International Artexpo New York 2011. It was my first international solo experience, and it opened my mind to a new world. A significant meeting I had during Artexpo was with Craig Kausen, the grandson of the amazing cartoonist and animation director, Chuck Jones, who is famous for creating Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, etc. At the time I was not fluent in English well, but Craig and I had a great conversation about art and my paintings. He inspired me and loved my works. He became fascinated by my passion and the love that I have for doing what I do – a passion that I attribute to my Italian heritage!