Archive of Irena Jurek

Irena has written 11 article(s) for AFC.

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Irena Jurek

Irena Jurek Interviews Billy Grant: One-Time Pyromaniac, Now Artist with a Drill

by Irena Jurek on December 20, 2017
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Billy Grant’s art practice is expansive. He works in virtually every medium from painting, drawing and collage to sculpture, video, and performance. He collaborates constantly—his best known collaborative effort with the Virginia based art collective Dearraindrop which ran from 2001 to 2009. (Grant was one of three members of the group that included his sister Laura Grant and their friend Joe Grillo, and had originally been part of the collective Paperrad, in Boston.) In short, he is a force.

And that force was on full display earlier this year when he displayed a new body of paintings, in his two-person show with the sculptor and installation artist, Rich Porter at Safe Gallery. Grant brought his characteristic exuberance and obsessive attention to detail in a series of maximalist monochromes, which are created by attaching a paintbrush to the end of a drill. And we’ll experience it again January 19th, when his work is again on view, this time at Real Estate Gallery in a group show curated by Joe Bradley and Jeremy Willis.

This past week, I had a chance to sit down with Billy and discuss his childhood as an arsonist, how Dearraindrop evolved into a collective, his dedication to bizarre and unusual ways to make paintings, and why he’ll never be an abstractionist. I got right to it.

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An Interview with Brian Belott: Frustrating Expectations

by Irena Jurek on June 27, 2017
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Brian Belott admits that he’s “anything but subtle.” The artist has carved out a reputation for creating exuberant over the top spectacles wherever he goes. Known for his wildly uninhibited paintings that vibrate with movement and motion, Belott also courts chance and accident in his hilarious, absurdist performances.

Belott’s latest project at Gavin Brown’s Harlem outpost expands on his 2015 show at 247365, (discussed with AFC’s Paddy Johnson here)— and is a multi-faceted homage to Rhoda Kellogg, a little known children’s art pioneer. Her obsessive studies innovated child psychology and contributed to the formation of the Montessori method of teaching that places its emphasis on teaching children based on their own individual interests and skills. By collecting over a million examples of children’s art over the course of her lifetime, Kellogg discovered that universal patterns and developmental stages emerge in all children’s art from around the world.

The sprawling, rambunctious exhibit comes to life in three parts. For the first part, Belott hand-picked approximately 300 pieces of children’s art from the Rhoda Kellogg International Children’s Art Collection, which is the first time that such a large portion of the collection has been shown to the public. The second layer features 50 paintings that Belott recreated on canvas, based off of Children’s paintings, and drawings. The third aspect of the exhibition; is an actual children’s art classroom that’s channeling Kellogg’s own approach, which allows children from around New York City to make art based on their own interests and instincts with very little interference or guidance from adults.

I had a chance to sit down with Belott to discuss the show, the impact of children’s art on modernism, as well as his own lifelong obsession with children’s art that mirrors Kellogg’s.

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An Interview With Painter Alicia Gibson

by Irena Jurek on June 2, 2017
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Alicia Gibson’s paintings are messy in the best sense of the word. Aesthetically, their sloppy paint, muddy colors and worked over surfaces look as if Gibson deposited all her thoughts on a given subject one canvas. Emotionally, they pack the same unvarnished punch. Her paintings overflow with acerbic humor, saccharine sweetness, and an aggressive punk rock ethos that’s impossible to forget.

Now, as the inaugural show at Real Estate Gallery, a new gallery in Greenpoint, started by Lisa Cooley, Jeremy Willis, and Kenan Gunduz, this work is on view.

I sat down with Gibson and discussed her involvement in the feminist girl gang “Ladies in Heels”, the necessity for faux history in her art, and why “Jeff Koons Sucks”.

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An Interview with Painter Trudy Benson: Loving The Smell of Paint

by Irena Jurek on February 22, 2017
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Trudy Benson is a force to be reckoned with. Her painting upon painting upon painting leave artists and casual observers alike gazing in wonderment at the layers in her work. Her best abstractions demonstrate a masterful handling of patterning and color and seem to vibrate on the wall.

This week, I sat down with New York based painter, Trudy Benson on the occasion of her two concurrent solo shows at Ribordy Contemporary in Geneva and Galerie Bernard Ceysson in Paris, both opening at the end of March. We nerded out. We discussed the influence of experimental film on her newest body of work, as well as the evolution of her richly painted, lyrical oils.

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Time Traveling for Gingerbread Totems: An Interview with Theo Rosenblum and Chelsea Seltzer

by Irena Jurek on February 3, 2017
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Entering Theo Rosenblum and Chelsea Seltzer’s “Culture Shak” installation at The Hole, is like walking into a Post-human Natural History Museum arrangement of “2016.” The decadence, absurdity, and pleasures of our fragmented culture are put on display with a monumental gingerbread totem pole, a sexy penguin with a six-pack abs, and a touching sculpture of a volcanic ash encrusted skeleton.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the zany duo, to discuss cultural appropriation and what interpretation a future alien race might bring to relics left behind by our own extinct species.

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An Interview with Eric Mistretta: When to Panic

by Irena Jurek on September 28, 2016
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Visiting Eric Mistretta’s current show, “Bad Doctor,” at Anna Kustera (on through October 2nd), feels a lot like walking into the mind of a mad pop culture meta-physician. He’s turned the gallery into a glowing ultramarine chamber complete with glowing violet crystals and a pentagram painted on the floor. At first glance, the show looks like it’s a celebration of New Age beliefs and all the accouterments that go along with the lifestyle.

A longer look at some of those accouterments creates a more macabre interpretation . “Healing” crystal book ends flank volumes of “When to Panic,” self help books. Seemingly pleasant, yet ominous paintings, give one the sense that all this magic isn’t intended to save the viewer from more malevolent forces at play.

I sat down with Mistretta to discuss superstition, human foibles, the saving graces of humor. We even looked at the importance of belief and the way we construct meaning in everyday life.

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Skin Game: An Interview with Michael Mahalchick

by Irena Jurek on April 27, 2016
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There may be nothing more distinctive than a Michael Mahalchick show. In the past, his exhibitions have included a mural made during a performance in which he affixed piece of bacon to the wall with their own fat, a stack of Playboy Magazines topped with a hypodermic needle, a gallery full of objects arranged as though they were simply the refuse in a used hotel room of a rock star.

For his fifth solo show at CANADA Gallery, Skin Game, Michael Mahalchick continues to find inspiration in sex, appropriated media, and the history of rock and roll to create a gallery full of darkly romantic pop culture shrines.

We sat down and discussed the significance and the meaning behind the ephemera, and discarded objects he chooses. We also discussed his performances, which have always played a vital role in his work; the last iteration will be taking place May 1 at the gallery

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No Justice: An Interview with Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw

by Irena Jurek on April 15, 2016
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Anyone who’s seen Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw’s work, has zero chance of forgetting it. In the past, their work has involved placing a dinner table and its diners on a hydraulic lift, live chickens, pig fountains, a crawfish food truck, a tour Chelsea tour bus that sold editioned knock offs of famous artworks, and a gallery-sized art-world themed Monopoly game board activated by actual players. That’s not even half of the work they’ve produced.

The point of all this, is to poke fun at contemporary American culture and question the belief systems that inform it. Their current show at Postmasters, “Behold! I teach you the Overman!”, uses their trademark high-energy approach to art making to great effect. It engulfs viewers in installation, video, painting, and performance that simultaneously criticize and celebrate the role of decadence in life and art. It includes a chair that lifts you upward into a ceiling mounted video viewing cube. Inside, a parade of morally ambiguous leaders and characters engage in heavenly glee while consuming mounds of food. In the middle of the gallery, a freestanding grove of trees cover an artificial pond with a functioning boat ride. The forest’s canopy consists of a multi-media video piece starring Catron and Outlaw. In it, an intergalactic sunbathing chair propels an orange-tanned woman towards the intense light of an overpowering tanning bed, alluding to either a nuclear doomsday, or spacial bliss.  

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Michelle Segre with Irena Jurek: On the Uncertain Impermanence of Driftloaf

by Irena Jurek on December 15, 2015
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Last month, Michelle Segre’s show Driftloaf closed at Derek Eller Gallery. The exhibition comprised brightly-painted loaves or slices of bread suspended on pediment-like found objects. They’re familiar but strange, and certainly pique one’s curiosity.

Irena Jurek sat down with Segre, and discussed the show.

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Rebecca Goyette With Irena Jurek: The Terrifying Experience of Ghost Bitch

by Irena Jurek on November 24, 2015
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Between 1692 and 1693, more than twenty people were executed in Massachusetts. They were the victims of a series of trials and persecutions against people accused of witchcraft. Most were women. All but one died of by hanging. During that time, Rebecca Nurse, a 71 year old grandmother known piousness and stature in the community was hung for witchcraft.

Years later, her great, great grandchild, Rebecca Goyette tells a new story, inspired by the events that killed her grandmother. I was lucky enough to be part of the live studio audience for the the filming of her new work “Ghost Bitch: Arise From the Gallows”, which imagines the life of a character by the same name doing historical reenactments by day and dominatrix work by night. She is a modern day witch who works hard to fulfill the expectations of thrill-seeking tourists—and art audiences.

The result was improvisational work of theatre and film that so thoroughly impressed and terrified me I reached out to Goyette to discuss the work. It premieres at the Satellite Art Show in a bandshell on Miami Beach next week, as part of her curatorial project “Extra Teats: A Screening of Bad Ass Puritan-Purging Digital Artwork”. The screening includes works by Katie Cercone, Kerry Downey, Dawn Frasch, Faith Holland, Narcissister, Kenya Robinson. We discuss gender dynamics and power struggles, Ghost Bitch, and the filming of that project and the most frightening art I have ever paid witness to.

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