Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Martin Bromirski

Humberto, God of Knowledge and Rapture, 1991

Two Potatoes Two Worlds, 1989
Celestial Potato, 1989

from Circus on Mars, 2008

Texas Potatoes, 1989

Untitled, 2006

Martin Bromirski's show, Circus on Mars is up now at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY. The works are hung in an old carriage house and it closes on Nov. 2. See a discussion with Martin about the show and his work in the comments...


  1. I've chosen a group of works that could be seen to stem out of the Humberto character in a way...what's happening in this Humberto series? Who is this man?

  2. Humberto!

    Humberto grew out of the potatoes. His brain is still a potato.

  3. Oh right so the potatoes came first...where do they come from?

  4. OMG. i want that texas potatoes piece. martin, you rule. now this is some OLD OLD GOLD!! '89!! hell yes.

  5. jon, our comments passed like two shits in the night.

  6. that happens with two shits in the night?

  7. The ground... dusty brown souls.

    It's hard to remember now what the initial impetus was... previous to the potatoes I was doing mappy landscapes... I think I wanted to get more personal without getting specific... I wanted to have a person or a character. I do remember that I would go to the grocery store and spend a LOT of time pawing through potatoes looking for good ones.

  8. i would photocopy potatoes and collage them (like in the pieces above)... and made potato jack o'lanterns and take polaroids... made potato sculpture things.

    the celestial potato piece above is a photocopy of a potato studded with pushpins that hung from the ceiling.

    i'd let some potatoes get wizened and grow... the "two potatoes" piece above was laid flat with a wildly grown-out and grotesque potato placed on the right side and a perfect potato on the left.

  9. hi martin! are these from undergrad? i did some stuff with asparagus. i am fond of veggies.

  10. the potatoes were from my final year, i graduated in 1990.

  11. martin- that's interesting that you were doing mappy landscapes, esp. given that the Humberto's have a diagrammatic quality and the new works return to the terms of the use of the potato allowing you to get "personal without getting specific," is this what you are getting at with "two potatoes-two worlds” is this a wall/text painting or more of an addendum to the potato series? it does seem like there was a little bit of a need to let the viewer in a bit more… why are the potatoes at odds?

    about food in contemporary painting....i'm trying to think of the better examples...seems like pretty tough ground to cover.

  12. "two potatoes-two worlds, is this a wall/text painting or more of an addendum to the potato series?" - it was a piece that could hang on the wall or be laid flat... when it was flat there were two potatoes that were placed on it. it was part of the potato obsession period.

    "the new works return to the landscape" - you mean the stuff from the past few years? i'm not thinking landscape at all.

    about food - when i started doing these latest abstracts with circles i was eating at stuffy's subs a lot. they had a sub of the season that was super cheap... a meatball sub. i was eating hot delicious meatball subs almost every day... and started to relate my circle abstracts to the meatballs suspended in meat sauce... nourishing, physical, awkward... to the point where i started to refer to my paintings as meatballs, and had a show of them at stuffy's called "meatballs at stuffy's".

    but it became a little problematic because too many people started to call them meatballs and were taking it all too literally, like i was really trying to paint meatballs or something.

  13. and started to relate my circle abstracts to the meatballs suspended in meat sauce...

    that is the most awesome thing i have heard in a long time. for real!

  14. i guess i was just seeing a little casper david friedrich or ryder in some of the newer ones. a moon floating over a field. not really in the ones here, but some others...

  15. wow good eye... there was definitely a lot of friedrich and a little ryder in the landscape stuff from 2003 and 2004.. some of which probably was still in my head in 2005... but i haven't been thinking landscapes for a while.

    2003 -

    2004 -

    you used the word "series" earlier... i don't work in series, it just sort of evolves and overlaps, and gets clumped together later.

  16. about working in a series, are there some ways of working that you have left behind? i mean, do you think you could go back to the potatoes of the humbertos? is it this manner of working that allows has you experimenting with exhibiting your work in unique and non-traditional spaces? could you talk about that a bit...

  17. no, nothing has been left behind… and things pop up unintentionally all the time that recall older stuff… or i will do something in 2000 and in 2005 see the 1995 in it….haha.

    like with these small abstracts with circles, which i was initially referring to as meatballs… it was beyond a year of doing them that i connected them to those small semi-abstracts with circles that i’d called the potatoes. maybe all these things you do over the years are like rolling snowballs getting bigger, and clumps fall off, and it all is just water anyway.

    humberto pops up sometimes… you know.. if you look at the character in “one day in the garden” or “james won’t get out of bed”.. i was recalling humberto. page 12 of “one day…” is the yellow kid, and i had done a yellow kid humberto piece. there is some personality surfacing in some of the very newest paintings in the john davis show… kind of faces that are barely there… it’s humberto. it’s not conscious, and i’ve just this second realized how much that little purple painting in the current show relates to a specific humberto piece.

    showing in anabas - a combo of japanese/richmond sensibilities… and i was getting tuned-in to how much of a charge can happen with art + space…there were these alien seascapes at the belmont library in richmond. they opened my eyes.

    i had my show “meatballs at stuffy’s” soon after. and the markel building was a fantastic building that I just loved, it’s the bizarro guggenheim, and was inspired when the architect was served an aluminum-foil covered baked potato.

    there is a big DIY element there… i think i hit a point where i realized hey! i see how it all works now and i’m not a part of that scene so i’m gonna have to do something by myself. i got sick of slides and self addressed stamped envelopes.

  18. so it just happened that the space in "Circus on Mars" kind of fits your DIY aesthetic? how did you approach this installation for this show?

  19. there is a DIY element when nothing else is happening... i'm not opposed to commercial galleries or anything like that.

    the concrete, cracks and scuffs of the john davis space easily related to previous places and spaces… it’s a totally wabi-sabi type space, unheated… it feels japanese, and also richmond.

    check out my richmond scholar's rock… concrete + cracks. concrete and sunshine.

    the circus on mars part of it came together as i was making paintings and thinking about the space. i’d already made that blue one with the red circle, a distraught pierrot… and was into the one with the striped fabric. stripes are historically associated with the jester and the diabolical. the striped fabric one is made from a striped sock i was wearing when i met daniel buren.

    somewhere i came across the phrase circus on mars… and that fit with the two paintings mentioned above… and gelled with some other things. jack kirby, kenneth anger's rabbit moon, ideas of longing and the unattainable.

    most of the stuff in the show was made after the blue painting, and after i’d found about having the show… the space was very much in mind.

    or did you you mean how did i get the show in the first place?

  20. no that was really what i was looking for.

    you talk about kenneth anger and jack kirby...what are some other influences? now and then? how have these evolved?

    did you get a chance to see the mary heilmann show?

  21. not at the museum, but i saw the one at zwirner and wirth... it was pretty invigorating. i hadn't seen a room of her paintings before... didn't want to leave. have you seen it?

    kenneth anger is only a recent interest.. don't think i could call him an influence... it's just that i watched that rabbit moon a few times while preparing for this show and it resonated. and supposedly he is going to die this october 31st, while this show is up, which made watching the film more macabre.

    influences are weird... they're unwilled, it often seems. there are artists i love and look at and am consciously influenced by, but then later i recognize the often deeper impact of others.

    comic books were major. i drew superheroes all the time as a kid and wanted to draw every single superhero.. even made like "template" figures to which i would just add costume after costume. that definitely happened later on with the humbertos.. he was a template figure onto which i could draw whatever it was i was trying to do.

    and i was looking at david wojnarowicz a lot then.. his collaging and little "windows", photography, so many things. a major influence that i completely didn't recognize at the time was alex grey.. he was one of our teachers... and fairly suddenly i go from potatoes to figures you can see inside of. duh.

    a more recent influence is joe fyfe, whom i spent time studying under in 2003. i look at what i'm doing now and i have to acknowledge joe, but then i also see how much comes from the grand old man of my undergrad program, warren rohrer, who was such a great teacher and painter. and what is so funny is that joe also studied under warren.

    place/environment is a major influence.

  22. you are inspiring, martin. you seem just as curious as you were when you started making art. very cool.

  23. i agree with dubzers. it's a nice quality.

    i'm still wanting to take a look of some of these things. i know nothing about comic books...

    beside that, i didn't see the z-w show...but i did see the heilmann show at the new museum...i think it's a must see, but i wasn't as excited about the later works as i was the earlier. the pink paintings, the thick paint/brush strokes, the wobbly lines seem like a subtle slap in the face of the generation before. i did like how the individual works were hung together in groups...

  24. martin -when you mention the template- isn't this kind of happening with the circles? they are sort of pasted on as something recognizable/solid/dependable?

  25. sorry to interrupt but.. I have untitled 2006 hangin' on my living room wall! Woot! Go Martin!

  26. hello barnaby-no interruption. that's one of my faves from what i've seen. i like the non-circular cut-outs that appear here and there. that one looks like moses with the ten commandments...maybe martin will tell us about those as well...

    is it on stretched jeans?

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  28. dubz - thank you, seriously. i was sort of worrying that too much talking about myself here might be getting obnoxious.

    jon – the template use is long gone. when I was making those H. pieces i almost always started with that figure shape, and built on that. it was like an armature (and I did the same thing with the map pieces earlier).

    these circle pieces (and basically everything since H.) enlist no template, no armature. each piece is blank canvas and just gets worked… most of those paintings are layers of paint, sand and paper discs… and there is no application order or formula. a lot of what in reproduction might look like a final applied disc is in fact something that was re-discovered after scraping layers of stuff away, and some of them are only the negative space from where the buried circle itself was peeled away, a negative space surrounded by an encrusted field… the background space becomes like a solid positive space. i work these paintings flat and am usually not even sure which side is up until it is finished.

    i feel like this sesshu is relevant.

    barnaby’s piece is on denim, yeah they are my old jeans. some paintings use my old clothes… the striped sock I was wearing when I met daniel buren, my ladybug boxers.

    that figure is actually st. jerome, from a bellini painting. i did some pieces in 2001/2002 in which I made hundreds of tracings on acetate of bellini’s caves and rocks, specifically the caves that had saints standing outside of them, and layered the tracings to make like concentrated power mountains. kind of cool because some of them are like asteroids or meteors, and and this one is kind of like a scholar’s rock (sorry, those photos are mostly crap).

  29. those bellini tracings are really nice. i like how they turn into a translucent but solid form, still looking like crumpled up paper sculptures in 2d. there's also an interesting reverse julie mehretu thing happening. not rigid or faux-monumental.

    i know it's a tough/standard question, but what do you think might be next? you're moving right? how might your work be affected by that change?

  30. damn that julie mehretu! i definitely had never seen her stuff when i did those 2001 pieces... but yeah she is the first one that comes to mind looking at them now.

    i don't know what's next... i was hoping to come and spend some time living in new york, but money was a problem even before the most recent cratering... my last three jobs have been farmhand, waiter, whitewater raft guide. i'm looking for an apt/sublet for 2 people, and a job. pretty much anywhere.

  31. mehretu, really? i don't see that at all. she is such a sucky artist. i know someone who went to her studio and she was just sitting around at a computer in one of those big massage chairs from sharper image.

  32. i'm not a fan myself. that's why i said reverse-mehretu, talking aboutthese. more random, fun, intuitive, etc. no systems...

    as far as the massage chair...that rules. wonder if she has a foosball table or a old-timey jukebox that plays mp3s?

  33. they remind me a little of kim jones.

  34. i'm not a mehretu fan either.. they have a blandness. although i did see her big show at williams earlier this year and am not a total hater.

    kim jones is more interesting. we are in agreement.

  35. i really like the tracings a lot. the layering is so nice. also the daniel buren sock work- very cool!