From the category archives:


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

by Irena Jurek on December 20, 2017
Thumbnail image for Irena Jurek Interviews Billy Grant: One-Time Pyromaniac, Now Artist with a Drill

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.

Read the full article →

Andrew James Paterson on Publishing Decades of Wisdom and Criticism Today

by RM Vaughan on July 26, 2017
Thumbnail image for Andrew James Paterson on Publishing Decades of Wisdom and Criticism Today

Every city should have an Andrew James Paterson. Pity we cannot clone him.

Since the late 70s, Toronto-based Paterson has produced a mountain’s worth of material in a mountain range long list of disciplines: from seminal New Wave music to Super 8 films, neo-noir novels to ground-breaking critical texts blending art writing and fiction (aka ficto-criticism), diaristic video pieces and digitally sourced art to performed lectures to concrete poems to performance poetry to theatre works. And that’s the short list.

He is arguably one of the most influential figures in Canadian art alive today, and I do not make such statements readily nor lightly. A Toronto without him is unimaginable.

And now, there is even more proof. Collection/Correction, an anthology of Paterson’s critical writings, concrete poems, and film scripts provides a kind of Paterson 101 to new readers and confirms what the rest of us already know – Paterson is an agile and beautifully free thinker, and has always been way ahead of his time. What the hell took this book so long to arrive?

I reached Paterson by email and asked him to “have fun with my questions”. You get what you ask for.

Read the full article →

An Interview with Brian Belott: Frustrating Expectations

by Irena Jurek on June 27, 2017
Thumbnail image for An Interview with Brian Belott: Frustrating Expectations

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.

Read the full article →

Displaced in Denver: A Discussion With the Artists Kicked-Out of Rhinoceropolis and Glob

by Michael Anthony Farley on June 26, 2017
Thumbnail image for Displaced in Denver: A Discussion With the Artists Kicked-Out of Rhinoceropolis and Glob

On December 8th of last year a dozen artists in Denver were forced from their homes unexpectedly. The warehouse building at 3551-3553 Brighton Boulevard had for over a decade illegally housed artists and musicians in two roughly 2,000-square-foot units that doubled as venues at the epicenter of Denver’s DIY scene: Rhinoceropolis and Glob. Just days before, 36 people had been killed by a fire at Ghost Ship, a warehouse live/work venue in Oakland, California. That tragedy has since inspired a series of raids on artist-run spaces nationwide—often leading to displacements.

For months, the landlord and tenants have been trying to get the spaces brought up to code and reopened. The outpouring of support from the art community has since inspired Denver City Council to draft legislation aimed at dealing with issues of illegal live/work spaces, and turned a local zoning violation into a national discussion. I sat down with Warren Bedell and John Golter, two of the displaced artists, to talk about the displacement, the process of reopening the venues, and the politics surrounding the current war on DIY spaces.

Read the full article →

An Interview with Aleks Slota: Language is a Shell Game

by RM Vaughan on June 9, 2017
Thumbnail image for An Interview with Aleks Slota: Language is a Shell Game

Years ago, if you read Derrida, Lacan and their fellow travelers and then came to the conclusion that language is inherently unreliable, you were considered at best pretentious and at worst mentally ill. Here, for instance, is Lacan on one of the various, maddeningly indirect ways in which words acquire meaning, or a lack thereof: “… insofar as it forms part of language, the signifier is a sign which refers to another sign, which is as such structured to signify the absence of another sign …”. Um, yeah, exactly. Language is a shell game.

Now, in the post-truth era, all that giddy philosophizing (presented in a style as nutty as the ideas it proffered) suddenly rings true. Hell, it clangs. The relationship between words and their assigned meaning(s), never all that comfortable in the first place, now strikes us as illusory, if not deceitful. You can’t trust your own reading glasses.

Multimedia artist Aleks Slota’s latest works ask a further question: if all of the above is true, how can you trust an artist?

A Berlin-based Polish-American, Slota has built a career out of being, in the larger and best sense of the modifier (signifier?) an irritant, or “irritainer” as the Canadian artist Andrew Harwood coined; an artist who puts his audience’s his own comfort aside in pursuit of new, less easy revelations. His performances typically involve acts of endurance, for both artist and witness, and no end of noise.

But in his latest projects are markedly more pensive. We met for a chat at Berlin’s Ex Girlfriend Gallery on the final day of his understated exhibition of text works It Happened Here. And a few weeks before our get together, Slota presented Meat Puppet at the Berlin literary centre Lettretage – a concise performance wherein he attempted to verbalize into sense a word salad derived from President Trump’s barking. Better him than us.

Slota’s new works acknowledge the simple fact that we are all part of the now-heightened language/meaning problem, because unless you’re a hermit you too are contributing to the constant cross-talk and, by extension, the reduction of words to mere noise. There is no getting away from the collapse of the familiar formula of words = distinct (or at least agreed upon) meaning. We burned that barn down. Nor is it useful to simply blame this slippery slope on Trump and his imitators and not acknowledge our own complicity. Slota wants us, instead, to own the chaos.

Read the full article →

An Interview With Painter Alicia Gibson

by Irena Jurek on June 2, 2017
Thumbnail image for An Interview With Painter Alicia Gibson

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”.

Read the full article →

Pulp Friction: Deborah Castillo on Her Politically-Charged Fotonovelas

by Michael Anthony Farley on April 21, 2017
Thumbnail image for Pulp Friction: Deborah Castillo on Her Politically-Charged Fotonovelas

Deborah Castillo wears a lot of hats as an artist. And wigs. Originally from Venezuela, Castillo often blurs the lines between performance, video, photography, publications and even jewelry making. What binds these endeavors together is a sharp, critical wit (usually trained on political institutions) and flair for the dramatic. That might manifest as necklaces in the shape of misogynist slurs in Spanish or over-the-top fictional narratives involving art world kidnappings and embezzlement.

I met Castillo (who now lives in Bushwick) at her book launch at Mexico City’s Aeromoto, an artist-run library of contemporary art and artist books. She was celebrating the release of “La Dama Profunda / Profoundly Yours”, the third installment of her “Dramas Museísticos” series. I was immediately drawn to the format of the publications—they’re fotonovelas, comic-book like novels that use photography instead of illustrations. They were a popular form of mass media in Latin America, but are less known in the US. They’re fun and extremely approachable—even though Spanish is my second language, they’re easy reading, and the third book contains an English version of the story. 

The books follow the soap-opera-like story of Castillo’s alter ego Profunda Mol, an ambitious woman who social climbs through the art world of her native Venezuela. Profunda navigates (often through seduction) a world of corrupt officials, along the way becoming the Venezuelan Minister of Culture, an Ambassador to the United States, and ultimately Donald Trump’s fourth wife.

We talked about fotonovelas, sexuality in the art world, and the crappy political climate.

Read the full article →

The Shape of Indoor Space: An Interview with GIPHY Artist Peter Burr

by Paddy Johnson on April 7, 2017
Thumbnail image for The Shape of Indoor Space: An Interview with GIPHY Artist Peter Burr

Peter Burr’s GIF environments are hypnotic visions of dystopia. Now, with a new commission from GIPHY, he’s bringing more futuristic digital space straight to your browser.

We sat down to talk pixels, megastructures, games, and Arcosanti.

Read the full article →

Long Live Dusty Whistles’s New Flesh (with no apologies to David Cronenberg)

by RM Vaughan on March 28, 2017
Thumbnail image for Long Live Dusty Whistles’s New Flesh (with no apologies to David Cronenberg)

Berlin-based, NYC-born artist Dusty Whistles practices a purpose-driven drag that blends futuristic post-gender, post-human iterations with front line political messaging. In Berlin, where mainstream drag can be boiled down to two show types, Cabaret/Sally Bowles re-castings and Hausfraus in bad wigs low comedy, Whistles is part of a new drag generation that wants to put the pocket knife back in the queen’s purse. Drag is political, and always has been. Sometimes, however, drag culture needs a bit of a tune up. Whistles is here to help.

Read the full article →

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

by Irena Jurek on February 22, 2017
Thumbnail image for An Interview with Painter Trudy Benson: Loving The Smell of Paint

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.

Read the full article →