Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ron Amstutz

Right Roads and Wrong Ways is the result of ten years of work for Ron Amstutz. His first solo show at Wallspace is centered around a video that is essentially a compilation of performances within self-constructed sets. These videos/performances are complemented by photographs that he takes during the production of the video. As for influences and references, the press release points to “structural film, Bauhaus theater, performance work of the 60's and 70's, video games and commercial studio photography,” but there are also nods to children's television, Duchamp, Charlie Chaplin, and of course, chair-wrestling. It's up until October 11.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rob Matthews

The Dumbest Man Over Austin TX

The Dumbest Man Over San Antonio #3

Rob Matthews’ The Dumbest Man series from 2004 seems to have begun as a cynical critique of the multi-millionaire adventurer/aviator Steve Fossett and developed into a study of selfish and arbitrary pursuits made by those with money to burn. Fossett attempted to go around the world in a balloon six times and was finally successful on the seventh. Since Matthews completed this series, Fossett has disappeared and while pronounced legally dead, no one has found his plane or his body. It was also the most expensive rescue effort on US soil, costing $1.6 million.

What I like about The Dumbest Man series is that Matthews takes a subtle conceptual approach, but that his jumping off point is not easy to pinpoint. The Dumbest Man Over Austin TX was actually the first drawing I saw of his, knowing nothing about the Steve Fossett angle. The drawing, of Fran’s Hamburgers in Austin, TX, was of particular interest to me because I used to live near Fran’s and I always loved its back-story. As the story goes, Fran opened Fran’s after divorcing Dan, who runs Dan’s Hamburgers. I always imagined the statue of this young girl with a guitar on Fran’s was a kind of f-you to Dan, who didn’t have a cool statue.

The Dumbest Man Over San Antonio #2
all drawings: 2004, graphite on paper, 6" x 8"

Since many of the works of the series are scenes of Texas, I decided to pull these out as a group. Texas, despite it’s many great attributes, really drives it home when it comes to such oddities and excesses. For some reason, this series makes me think of other Texas treats like the new $1 billion+ Dallas Cowboys stadium, border crazies, megachurches, Shrub, and the Big Texan.

Matthews currently has a solo show up through Nov. 15 at Daniel Cooney Fine Art and is in Vocabularies of a Metaphor at Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco. He also has a blog: Matthews the Younger, where you can find links to his works and more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stacy Fisher

I had the good fortune of meeting and working with Stacy Fisher this year in conjunction with The Longest Day, in which she had two great works. On this Thursday, September 12, she will be in a group show called The Grey That Thinks Itself Into Your Head Without Asking at Pace University's Peter Fingesten Gallery. For more info on her check her website and see the interview below.

JL: You once told me that you worked on sketches while on vacation. With works like Mohawk and Untitled in mind, I was curious as to what you might be drawing. It also seems like such a nice notion, to go away and make work, casually, comfortably outside of the studio. Could you tell me a little bit more about this process? How important is it for you to work in different places?

SF: I have always been an artist that loves to draw. I like the immediacy of putting ink on paper and documenting ideas, objects and people. When I work in the studio I don't typically use references for what I am making, I rely more on what I remember about the way something looks, or the details I want to exaggerate. When I am out of the studio, particularly outdoors, I don't like to read because I find I just want to look at things. I've noticed that if I make a drawing of a place that I have a much clearer memory of being there, much more than looking at a photograph I've taken. And though I would never necessarily enjoy taking photographs of strangers, if I'm somewhere like a beach, where people are occupied with activities but remaining some-what still, I have an instinctual urge to find compositions and draw them. It is also amusing at the time, when you can compare the actual person to the person you've drawn. It isn't about documenting them specifically, but an overall moment.

JL: You seem to have a very diverse body of work so far. What is it that fosters new ideas, directions, and different ways of thinking about our own work. Is there a part of you that thinks, "how will these 'fit in' with the rest of my work"?

SF: A friend of mine recently burst into laughter after walking into my studio, saying she never knows what to expect when I invite her over. I asked her reluctantly if that was good or bad, and she said it was good because so many artists make the same work over and over and don't explore new ideas. I definitely think about how the work is tied together, and am always surprised, when digging through old work, to find early sketches for sculptures that I might be currently making. I believe there is a certain sensibility that is carried through. When I start a new body of work, I try to take what I was most excited about in the previous work and really try to get to the heart of that interest. Aesthetically, I really try and push my expectations for what something might look like, and how it could be changed to look like something new.

JL: How important is it that there is a connection between your sculpture, paintings, drawings, etc.?

SF: The connection between my drawings, painting and sculpture is very important in that one informs the other. My abstract paintings greatly influence my representational sculpture, and my abstract sculptures rely heavily on shapes and textures in my landscape drawings. I find that if I'm working one way two dimensionally that I work the other way three dimensionally. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it has to do with the exchange of information.

JL: Works like Green and Plaid Sculpture and Tennis Bricks and Sloping are the result of a very whimsical and sometimes bizarre combination of objects. Could you talk about your attraction to everyday objects and the compulsion to transform, combine, and reproduce them?

SF: When I choose objects to recreate it's often because I have an amplified visual fondness for them, and I either can't dispose of them (the tennis balls) or I shouldn't necessarily own them (metal trash can lids or bricks). It's a little bit like drawing people on the beach-a way of documenting and remembering the way something is or may be. In the end, I use sketches and clay models for determining how they will look rather than the model objects themselves. I like the sculptures to appear as active as possible, so I play around with angles and space relationships when choosing what objects to group together and while the work is in progress. I also consider how the objects are normally used and like to skew their purpose, just enough, to make them look either more stoic or slightly startled as sculptures. I would say I experiment more in terms of scale and painting than I do with the combination of elements. In the new works like Green and Plaid Sculpture, I'm not recreating actual objects but am making my own objects under the influence of my own work thus far.

JL: What influences or sources find there way into these works, artistic or otherwise?

SF: I have come across a couple of ideas that I like from other artists, over time, on the topic of using everyday objects. Claus Oldenburg compared the relevance and desire of recreating objects to portrait painting. An article I read about Frank O'Hara describes his poetry, as quick-paced as it is, as a wish to stop time.

On the Beach, 2008, marker on paper, 10" x 12"
Red & Green Collage, 2006, paper, cardboard, oil pastel, 5" X 4"
Tennis Bricks and Sloping, 2005, paper mache, resin, Magic Sculpt, flock, paint, 17" x 48" x 7"
Book Painting, 2005, acrylic paint on book pages, 8.5" x 11"
Fire Pit, 2007, ballpoint pen on paper, 11" x 14"
Green and Plaid Sculpture, 2008, plaster wood, hardware, paint, 26" x 26" x 5"