CHRIS BOGIA

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Chris Bogia works in a studio in Long Island City, Queens.  His most recent works, hybrid paintings/sculptures (or better yet, sculptures as substitute paintings) made of yarn and plywood continue his longstanding use of techniques borrowed from craft to create works that reference decoration and design.

In a 2012 essay in October, George Baker identifies the notion of the effigy as a central trope of the work of the artist Mike Kelley.  “Like  Allan McCollum‘s notion of art as a ‘surrogate,'” Baker writes, “Kelley’s thinking of art as an effigy positioned the work of art not as presence, but as an inevitable substitute, a stand in – one usually under the threat of violence, however, or as a memorial to that which is gone, a product of decimation.”  Baker explains that Kelley treated modernism itself as an effigy, presenting “the products of high culture in a deathly guise” via a chain of substitutions and displacements in which the artist plays amongst and hybridizes prior forms to open them up to substitutions that manifest “other drives, other ‘cultures.'”  Kelley’s engagement with form as effigy carries not only a “negative, critical ambition” that is “a modality of anti-art, a strike against the dominant culture,” but also, Baker concludes, “participates in a deep way with the cultural or popular forms of acknowledging loss and bereavement.”

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The concept of art as effigy is useful in considering Chris’s work.  As the artist himself writes below, there is a sense in which his recent works function as transformed substitutes for art of the past (cubist and mid-century modernist painting in particular), transforming high-cultural objects into their negation – the theatrical or decorative prop.  Though playful, generous, and unassuming at first, extended exposure to the work results in a feeling of historical vertigo.  One begins to encounter in the work a sense that one is encountering something remembered, forgotten, recalled, and then transformed into something else.

Reading Chris’s work as engaging in the logic of the effigy is also useful with his prior works, large sculptural installations that incorporate and transform design objects, sexual ephemera, and record sleeves into altar-like structures that the artist has used as sets for photographic works in which he enacts personalized rituals.  As Baker writes of Kelley, Chris critically engages with popular forms in view of postmodernist concerns.  In so doing, Chris brings new life to these forms in a joyful protest that playfully enacts the wonder of making.

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Q. Tell me a bit about your studio.  How long have you been there, and how did you find it?

A. I’ve been in this studio for about five years.  It had been split up in to three spaces by some NYU MFA alums, and when a slot opened up I took it.  Later, I took over the lease from them, and here I am still.  It’s close to home — literally on a bus line that goes from my studio’s corner to my apartment’s corner, a convenience I relish.

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Q. What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?  Do you have any habits, rituals, or practices that help you work?

A. I usually get to the studio around noon, having taken care of personal and work emails in the morning.  I like to always tidy up a bit first.  It’s really hard for me to work unless I have everything in its right place.  From there it depends on where I am with a piece.  If most of the big decisions have been made and I’m in production mode, I’ll just get cracking.  If I finish a section of yarn application and need to stretch out, I will play on my phone a bit, and then get back to it.  If I am starting new work, I will usually make a few works on paper, taking time in between to consider new possible directions in the work.  About 4-6 hours is what I can do before I get antsy and need to head home.  There is always music playing, and in heavy rotation are Kim Deal, Neil Young, and music that I’m trying to learn (I sing with the New York Choral Society, one of the largest and oldest choirs in New York).

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Q. A lot of your work involves the use of yarn.  What is it about yarn that intrigues you?

A. A lifelong interest in craft and an affinity for non-professionally hand made object have always been important starting points for my own creative process, but how I came to use yarn was very specific.  I was a junior at NYU and I got my 90s college dream job – working at the Todd Oldham store in Soho.  Todd was doing incredible things with textiles, incorporating embroideries, beadwork, and especially yarn/crewel into his collections.  Every day at work I’d be feeling these beautiful surfaces in my hands, and when I realized that I was responding more to the fabric on designer dresses than my contemporary art history classes, I knew I needed to incorporate it into my practice or go to design school. Yarn has been a primary medium for me ever since.

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Q. You recently moved from work with more overt content (for example, specific design objects and record sleeves) in a more abstract direction.  What prompted this shift?

A. You know I am still figuring that one out.  I had been working full time as the academic administrator for the NYU Art Department and didn’t feel like I had the opportunity to risk failure by experimenting.  Every second needed to go towards something I felt would be “successful.”  After working for five plus years on these larger shrine-like pieces you mentioned, I wanted to be a different kind of artist.  I wanted to be able to move through ideas and images more quickly, with more opportunities to experiment.  I started by challenging myself to make works on paper, with little or no forethought to the result, everyday.  This might seem like a normal thing to do for any artist, but I was used to creating plans for something laborious and working on it for months.  One work on paper I did during this period was a frame-like shape with geometric shapes balancing within it.  I don’t know why I made it.  Another sort of looked like an altar, another a mask, and they all started to relate to one another in a way that felt intuitive to me.  I started experimenting with the drawings, creating them as flat wall pieces made of yarn and wood.  I was working with abstraction for the first time, and it felt so easy and right in ways that nothing had felt before.

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Q. Do you consider these works paintings?  Why or why not?

A. The most consistent series of abstract works I’ve done so far have been the “frame”/balance pieces.  I thought the sketches looked like what a set designer might quickly sketch for the set of an apartment of someone with distinguished taste in décor and art – like a scene from Madmen or something: “For this scene I need an abstract painting over that couch in front of the grass cloth wall.”  When I started to flesh out the drawings and build the actual pieces a formal sincerity emerged in the compositions that did not feel cynical or derived from a narrative like the one above – it felt like mystery.  Now I look at them as their own thing, “sculptures of paintings,” or “painterly sculptures.”  I am trying to stay as fluid as I was when I started making them by staying not too sure of what they are.

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Q. Looking – at other art, at films, at objects – plays a role in so many artists’ process.  What visual sources excite you?

A. Other artists, music, literature, dance, all of the usual artsy things, but I do have one unique place of inspiration that I’m always excited to talk about.

Since I was very young I have always played video games.  I have literally grown up with the medium from its infancy.  Though problematic to me now, it was a comfort that gaming seemed to be a boy’s domain when I was an awkward middle school sissy, uncomfortable with sports and in need of a safe refuge.  I spent thousands of hours by myself in flat, dark landscapes – achieving goals and re-affirming a fragile sense of social normalcy that was constantly being threatened.  That pre-adolescent experience still informs the way I make images and think about space, and though gaming continues to evolve and fascinate me in profoundly nerdy ways today, it was the flat yet vast wilderness of early video game landscapes that continue resonate formally within the work.

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Q. Your work references, among other things, the traditions of handcrafts and housewares/decor.  What effect do you hope this produces in the viewer?

A. I think my work reflects my own social compulsions to be friendly, approachable, and perhaps less optimistically – “perfect” – while also hopefully possessing some depth.  Alex Jovanovich, an artist whose work I adore, once told me that striving to achieve a perfectly crafted “thing” is a common practice for gay male artists, and perhaps it is – always trying to politely win a viewer over who could dismiss you at any moment is how many gay men are socialized.  I know I feel a strong compulsion for the work to make you like it before it can ask you to think more deeply about its inner workings.  I achieve this by crafting surfaces that are, culturally, decorative and perhaps familiar on some level.  I want to lure in my viewer, give them an “ah-ha” moment, encourage them to feel like they are part of an imminently approachable, generous exchange.  The darker sadder parts are there, but they wait patiently to be discovered by viewers who spend the time.

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Q. In 2011, you and Evan Garza co-founded the Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR).  Has directing FIAR changed your practice?  If so, how?

A. FIAR has been life changing for me, allowing me to quit my full time gig and spend more time in the studio unfettered with the fear of making mistakes and fully engaged in creative risk taking.  I really can’t say if the content or form of my work is changing as a result, but I have had many meaningful conversations with past residents about what it means to be a “queer artist,” and I know that those conversations have broadened my understanding in major ways.  Trusting my own forays into abstraction was made easier after conversations with FIAR alumni like Travis Boyer and Gordon Hall who shared similar journeys.

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Q. What makes a good studio visit?

A. I like the ones where people tell me my work looks AMAZING for like, a couple hours, and why.

Q. Is there anyone you have by on a regular basis to discuss your work?  Or any particularly important conversation partners who have informed your practice?

A. I am fortuitous to have the amazing artist Rachel Mason just down the hall from me at the studio.  Rachel is like creative Valium.  We went to Yale for sculpture together ten years ago, and being able to have someone to walk away from your work to that doesn’t take you too far away from it is a release valve I cherish.  I have so many other great artists and curators in my life whose opinions are like gold: Hein Koh, Mamiko Otsubo, Dave Hardy, Marc Swanson, Bill Arning, Evan Garza, just to name a few. I am lucky to have lived in NYC for half my life – and I’m so grateful for all the support my community gives me.

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Chris Bogia was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1977.  He studied art at both New York University (BA 00’) and Yale University (MFA sculpture 04’).  He has been showing is work in New York and abroad for over 16 years.  Bogia currently lives and works in Queens, New York.  Chris Bogia is the co-founder of the Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR), the first LGBTQ artist residency program located in Cherry Grove, on Fire Island, NY. He teaches at both New York University and Bruce High Quality University.  He was awarded both the Alice Kimball Traveling Fellowship and the Larry Kramer Initiative research grant for Lesbian and Gay studies from Yale University.

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LIZ COLLINS

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Liz Collins works in a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  Her practice walks the line between art, design, and fashion, confounding and traversing the distinction(s) that are sometimes drawn between the three.

While one could read Liz’s promiscuous use of each mode of production (art, design, fashion) as a commentary on the artificiality of these distinctions – and this is certainly a valid read – I think it more useful to think of Liz’s practice as a strategic deployment of ideas in each mode of production equally.  Liz takes an idea, an emblem, or a strategy, and works through it in various iterations in order to flesh out its significance.  One body of recent work, Optic Pattern, is exemplary in this respect.  Liz is working with assertive zigzag patterns that call to mind everything from warning signs to dazzle camouflage to op art, in a wide array of media including housewares, fabric, painting, installation, and more.  On one level, the series is a propounding of a particular sort of aesthetic; the works’ bright colors and lively angularity invigorates the eye with a pleasing sense of order.  On another, the array of references from which the work is drawn creates symbolic associations that vary wildly depending on the mode in which they are presented or received.

For example, certain of the works can equally be considered fabric swatches, paintings, tapestries, or templates for design objects.  Yet the content of the work – the optic pattern itself – takes on strikingly different meanings depending on which is perceived as the operative mode.  In the mode of painting or tapestry (that is, art), the pattern draws on a history of geometric abstraction, conceptualism, and op art; Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, and Sol LeWitt come readily to mind.  In the mode of a fabric swatch (that is, as fashion), the pattern’s origin in warning signs reads as a playful subversion of the ordinary aim of clothing design; it seeks to repel, rather than to allure.  In the mode of a carpet (that is, as design), the pattern’s association with dazzle camouflage also has a subversive read, conflating the domestic with the militarized – or, perhaps more interestingly, the opposing desires for objects that assert themselves (and their value) and for objects that tastefully recede into the background.

Liz is also interested in production as a species of labor.  Her KNITTING NATION project involves the presentation of fabric production “live” in hyperabundant quantities as a species of contemporary art, forcing the viewer to consider the conditions in which even the most everyday of materials are produced.  As Liz herself puts it, “The project functions as a commentary on how humans interact with machines, global manufacturing, trade and labor, brand iconography, and fashion.’’  KNITTING NATION, like much of Liz’s work, draws on her deep experiences outside of the “contemporary art” context.  Rather than discard or disavow her “commercial” work – which many artists unfortunately do out of an apparent fear of publicly acknowledging the need to practice a trade or earn a living – Liz leverages the skills and knowledge she has gained to create work that is both visually stunning and politically potent.

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Q. Tell me a bit about your studio.  How long have you been there, and how did you find it?

A. I’ve been here two years.  I found it through K8 Hardy, who was in this building for a second before moving to another space nearby.  I love this space.  I share it with a dynamic and wonderful knit designer named Wade Jensen.  We’ve recently started collaborating, which is nice, as I love working with other people on creative projects.

Q. What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?  Do you have any habits, rituals, or practices that help you work?

A. There is no typical day.  No matter how I try to routinize my work life, it just won’t cooperate.  When I am at the studio, sometimes I just do computer work, other times I am making things for hours, or having visitors, or organizing stuff, or moving things around endlessly (which is my productive procrastination).  I always clean the studio before I start working, and by working I mean making things.  I can’t concentrate if the space is messy.  I’ve been doing this for years.  It’s definitely a ritual.  

Another thing I do constantly is drink tea or water.  When I do tedious, repetitive work that isn’t noisy, I watch TV and movies on the computer for hours.  Then I end up secretly associating whatever show I’ve binged on with the piece I’ve made.  Sometimes a piece will have an alternative title like the L Word, or Peep Show.

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Q. Textiles/knits are such a specific medium – how did you find your way into working with them?

A. I was introduced to fabric as an art form when I was a child.  Both my mom and my dad’s Mom were really into textiles and clothing, and my dad made sails for sailboats.  I learned to sew when I was really young and just wanted to make everything, so it came naturally as well as passed down from family.  My mom had some good Marimekko dresses, which turned me on to big, bold, iconic prints at an early age.

I didn’t find knitting until I was a young RISD grad living in NYC.  I came out of a textiles program but was fixated on weaving.  My housemate Olivia Eaton taught me how to hand knit on one of the many days we were hanging around our loft and I got the bug.  Knitting offered me things I couldn’t get from weaving – specifically a concurrent fabric and garment making process, and something direct, easy, stretchy, and portable.  That was 1991.  I was working at a textile studio in the garment district at the time that made novelty woven fabrics for the fashion industry, so I had access to some beautiful yarns.  They made lots of brushed mohair fabrics, so I in turn started to make some great mohair sweaters.

In 1997 I returned to school to do an MFA in Textiles and Apparel with a focus on knitwear and knit textiles.  It was then that I started using knitting machines.  I haven’t woven since.

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Q. You’ve recently been working with strong, optical patterns that resemble dazzle camouflage or warning signs.  Where do these patterns come from, and what interests you about them?

A. They come from many places: the backs of trucks and ambulances, highway signs, and all the other places a message is being given to the viewer to stay away or stay back.  I spent many hours driving highways from 2010 – 2013, so the optic patterns I was already thinking about and looking at from other sources expanded greatly with observations from the road.  I’ve taken many pictures of the backs of trucks from my car.  It gets a little crazy trying to get close to the trucks to get a good photo!  It’s something marvelous to me – this universal graphic language of shapes and pattern that registers the same message wherever you see it.  Some of the truck patterns are really beautiful, especially the reflective coned trucks and ambulances.

The patterns also come from a deep internal place that is very old.  I looked at my portfolio of woven fabrics the other day for the first time in many years and discovered that my obsession with the zigzags and other vibrating patterns was as present then as it is now, but it feels different, of course, because I am 25 years older.  I fell in love with Janine Antoni’s Slumber piece when I saw it in the Soho Guggenheim in 1991.  It deeply affected me on many levels and influenced my performance/installation project KNITTING NATION.  The EKG machine measures the heart, and the EEG measures dreams … or something like that.  I love the lines that represent being alive.

The patterns can be, at once: warning signs, visual manifestations of energy fields, anger, ecstasy, and images of vibrations – maybe sort of like auras of space.  They act as a soothing and stimulating visualization experience for me, both when I imagine the patterns and when I make them.  I also like to see how straight of a line I can make freehand over and over again.  I never get tired of this challenge.  It’s about being totally present.  Time falls away.  Visual experiences can produce altered states.  I’m so into that.  The hypnotic aspect of pattern.  

The dazzle camouflage concept is smart and confusing and strange.  Does it work?  I first learned of it when I read Lynda Barry’s unforgettable novel Cruddy many years ago.  There was a character who dressed in a manner akin to dazzle camo, with a cacophony of bad prints, so that it almost erased her from being seen.  I love that idea because it doesn’t really work.  So there’s something that is about getting the viewer’s attention in a brash offensive way, and seducing them at the same time through vibrational hypnosis.

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Q. We looked at a few paintings on paper from this body of work, but also works in thread on paper as well as textile work.  When you’re painting, do you have the idea of how the pattern might translate into an object in mind?

A. Sometimes, but lately I’ve been painting just to paint, and then I move some of that work into textiles afterwards, when I see things that will translate really beautifully through one process or another.  Because I’ve been working with textiles for so long, it’s easy for me to envision patterns translating into a broad range of results.  I like expansive ideas that can travel across a body of work and manifest multiple times in different languages of texture, scale, technique, and material.  On the other hand, if I’m doing a piece where I know the end result is going to be made a certain way through a specific textile process, I might make the work on paper somehow simulate the textile work, so I can get closer to the effect it will have once made into cloth.

That is the case with the black chenille zigzag fringe on white paper.  I was going for a woven look and treated the yarn as I would have wound a warp for a weaving loom.  It was a truly revelatory process and the photos that documented the making of that piece are maybe even more exciting to me than the final work.

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Q. One thing I was struck by when we met is how flexibly you alternate between speaking of many of the pieces as design, as fashion, and as “fine art.”  Do you see yourself problematizing the design v. fine art distinction, or is that a distinction you intend to bypass entirely?

A. Well, maybe both.  Sometimes it’s just not a conversation I need to have, and the work defines itself through its context.  This is the case with so many things that interest me.  Context can be everything.  And then there is the reality of function, which is a slippery word.  Everything has some sort of function.  I’m finding lately that through installation work I can merge my art and design visions.  Space has become my new body.

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Q. In addition to working within what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call “the art world,” you work as a freelance knitwear designer.  How do you balance these sides of your professional life?  How do they inform one another?

A. Balance is hard, because I can’t pull all nighters the way I could when I was younger and I still have the same desire to produce prolifically in whatever spheres I am working.  I am a more effective knit designer now, managing projects and deadlines better because of years of experience and super stressful moments both here and abroad.  Fashion deadlines are intense and relentless.  I feel like after many seasons, I can finally say I’ve got special strategies in place that help me steer clear of the nightmares that can happen.  I do design projects very selectively now because to do great work, which I want to do, I need a lot of energy and focus.  I can’t spread myself thin, so I generally do one or two projects and then spend the rest of my time on artwork.  

Working in the fashion and textiles industries was a big part of the impetus to start KNITTING NATION, and the deeper I got into doing design work on site at factories the more reference material I had for that project.  The current narrative I call “optic vibrations/energy fields” is a seamless convergence of my textile designs for knits, carpets, embroidery, and wovens with my artwork – paintings, wall pieces, installations.  But this design work is not for a client so I’m only dealing with satisfying my needs (and hopefully those of the market, somehow) versus my collaborators’/clients’.

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Q. From 1999 – 2004, you produced a ready-to-wear line. How did that experience change you as an artist? Is there anything you miss about it?

A. It was a wild and amazing ride that gave me a great deal of experience in managing large scale projects that involve many people.  Doing KNITTING NATION was so much like producing a fashion show, so it never has felt daunting to deal with big productions, lots of details, and public venues.  I don’t get overwhelmed, and actually love engaging with big spaces.

When I first started my line, it really felt like I was making art.  My early work was very visceral and talked about sex, desire, and my emotional landscape, alongside all kinds of other references and ideas like punk, DIY craft, bondage and fetish, and geometry.  The forms came out of the fabric, always.  I actually came out through that work.  It was an intense time where I felt like I was doing self surgery and my clothing effectively acted as a metaphor for this and also was the place where I sublimated many of my desires.

As I went on I learned – sometimes the hard way – that at the end of the day I was selling clothes to make a living, not just to get good press and great editorial for my innovative knitwear.  Some of the art part had to quiet down and become more “accessible” so I could survive.  I will forever worship Rei Kawakubo, who I truly feel is just as much artist as designer, and has stayed on that edge for her entire career.

I don’t miss the hard parts of it, which ultimately outweighed the less-hard/feasible parts for me, although fashion shows were so fun.  I loved that whole process of showing when I loved my collection.  Selling was always something I was less excited about.  Business was and is a constant challenge for me and I didn’t know enough about production and manufacturing to sustain my product line.  But I had some great stores, like Barney’s and Kirna Zabete, and it was rewarding working with great buyers like them.  We made everything by hand domestically so that was special.

I had one show – my last – where my heart wasn’t in it so the show was not as strong.  But I had some really beautiful ones and still love to see the pictures and reminisce about some of those days.  The music I chose was always a really powerful and memorable element.  Gary Graham and I collaborated on a capsule collection one season called GRIZ, which was a non-commercial pursuit that we treated as an art project, and that was amazing.  Mike Potter, the artist responsible for Hedwig’s looks, did super wild hair and makeup and it was all so incredible.  I miss that crazy raw energy we had, but appreciate and love where we all are now.  I am a healthier person now, which makes me happy.  I don’t miss the ego roller coaster that I was on.

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Q. What makes a good studio visit?

A. A good connection.  I had an amazing studio visit with Valerie Steele, from The Museum at FIT.  She is brilliant, funny, and easy going, so we had a great time, in addition to a positive exchange about my work.  I was a longtime fan of hers so when she came I was so excited and honored.

I think a good studio visit is like any other satisfying and productive exchange: there is a connection between all parties involved, questions are asked, answers are given, and people feel like something happened – a spark, possibilities, interest, appreciation, ideas, suggestions, laughter (?), connections; any or all of the above.  I thought your visit was excellent, Grant.  [Thanks, Liz!]

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Q. Is there anyone you have by on a regular basis to discuss your work?  Or any particularly important conversation partners who have informed your practice

A. Julia Bryan Wilson has been my prime conversation partner for my art endeavors for 10 years now.  I feel so lucky to have such a great connection with her as a friend, colleague, and collaborator of sorts, and I value her feedback tremendously.  E.V. Day is someone I share a lot of my work ideas with and talk through things.  She has great insights and advice and we are truly kindred spirits.  Same goes for Gary Graham.  I love living in NYC because there are such great friends, peers, queers, and community here, and even those who don’t live here often visit here so I probably see them more than I might if we lived in the same town.  I feel really supported.  It’s an exciting time.

Liz Collins is a New York City-based artist and designer.  She has had solo exhibitions at, among others, Occidental College, Los Angeles; the Textile Art Center, New York; AS220 Project Space, Providence; and the Knoxville Museum of Art.  Her work has also been featured in exhibitions at, among others, the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York; the Museum of FIT, New York; Participant, New York; the Milwaukee Art Museum; and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.  Her ongoing site-specific installation/performance project KNITTING NATION, which involves a small army of uniformed knitters and manually operated knitting machines, has been featured at venues including Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga; and the Museum of Modern Art.  Collins was a United States Artist Target Fellow in Crafts and Traditional Arts (2006), a MacColl Johnson Fellow (2011), and is member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Modern Painters and Textile Forum.

 

ERIK HANSON

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Erik Hanson works in a basement studio in New York’s Lower East Side.  We had an extended conversation about his work and his life over a bagel from Essex Street Market (thanks Erik!).  Though I’ve known Erik for a few years and seen his work in group shows, this was my first time visiting his studio and seeing most of the work.  The first painting of Erik’s I saw in the flesh was one of the wood grain paintings you can see below.  I was particularly taken with its spatial and textural complexity, and the way it toyed with my sense of space in a mysterious yet comforting way.  That series of paintings was made in the same studio you see here.

Erik studied comparative literature at Columbia University, but knew he wanted to be an artist from his childhood in Minnesota.  Much of Erik’s early work involved photography.  Subsequently, he began making drawings and eventually paintings that documented the experience of listening to particular albums that were significant to him (Erik was a punk DJ in Minnesota and still spins on occasion in New York).  These took a number of forms, including grids of paint chips representing albums whose size was determined by the length of each song, as well as spirals whose size was determined by the length of a song.  This body of work initially began as a way of introducing content to more formal/minimal contexts, but the work evolved and moved in unexpected, painterly directions.  This painterly move eventually found expression in the wood grain paintings Erik recently made that I first saw in shows.  Erik describes them, and how his most recent work is taking the use of wood grain in new directions, below.

Erik also makes beautiful sculpture.  At the moment, among other sculptural works in Erik’s studio there are two works hanging on the walls, wood grain branches that project from the wall with simple clay flowers affixed.  Each branch represents one side of an album and the flowers individual tracks from each side (the tracks are written on the flowers).  As the albums are ones that were significant to individuals who are significant to Erik, they almost function as portraits as well.  Having only seen Erik’s work in painting previously, viewing his work across media in the context of his studio really helped me understand his practice as a whole.

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Q. How long have you been in your studio, and how did you find it?
A. I found my studio on Craigslist in 2006.
Q. What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?  Do you have any habits or rituals that help you work?
A. No rituals or habits.  I like to spend an extended period there each time I go so that I can let myself experiment and try new things without feeling like I have a deadline to meet.  I like to pray and/or meditate before I get started so that I can be open and have faith in trying something new, being willing to experiment and make mistakes on the road to finding something new.

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Q. The experience of listening to specific albums and songs, sometimes under specific conditions, is a theme in some of your work.  If you could only pick five or six albums (or artists, if albums is too tough!) that you could listen to in the studio, what would they be?
A. My taste is all over the place.  My last obsessions have been Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories, Elton John’s Captain Fantastic, Nick Drake and David Bowie are enduring favorites, as is Dusty Springfield, she kills it every time because she really inhabits the song.  Lately I’ve been listening a lot to Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin.

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Q. Your practice encompasses drawing, painting, and sculpture, and you made photographs in the past.  What prompts you to take on a particular subject or theme in a particular medium?  Do you go through phases of working primarily in one medium or the other?
A. I definitely go through phases. Since my last solo at Sunday in 2010, I’ve done major projects in photography, drawing, painting and sculpture.  I use whatever medium is correct for the idea I have. There’s also a feeling of getting a medium down, like I’ve got it and I’m not surprised by it anymore; then it’s time to set it aside and move onto the next project.
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Q. Take me through the process of making a particular painting. How do you start? Do you take breaks from making a particular painting and return to it later, or do you work on one piece at a time? How do you know when a piece is finished?
A. The In My Mind painting, which is what I had just finished before you came over, is a great example.  It’s based on a selfie I took of myself in the hospital last March after I had had an operation to remove a bit of blood that had collected between my brain and my cranium after I fell off a stair railing.  Before that had happened, I had been making paintings of these abstract rooms with multiple chambers and contrasting colors and intense wood grains, which I had always thought of as interiors of my brain or body.  So I had this photo of myself after a tiny hole had been drilled into my head, and it seemed perfect to depict this as a way into my wooden paneled brain with all of its multiple chambers where secrets and the parts of me that make me feel too vulnerable to share are.  I pretty much work on one piece at a time and I know when it’s finished when it looks the way I want it to look and it’s still lively.

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Q. What do you love about your studio? Is there anything you would change about it, if you could?
A. I love that it’s so close to my apartment, I can be in bed five minutes after I leave.  It’s relatively cheap and warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it’s a basement.  If I could change it, I’d make it three times the size for the same price.

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Q. What makes a good studio visit?
A. A smart, open-minded visitor is the best, someone with no preconceived ideas about what I do and if they do have them, a willingness to see where I’m going now is important.

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Q. Is there anybody you have by on a regular basis to discuss your work? Or any particularly important conversation partners who have informed your practice?
A. Frank Liu has been one of the most consistent visitors to my studio.  I’ve learned so much from Frank and his enthusiasm is infectious.  I often talk about my work with AA Bronson, he knows my work pretty well but welcomes changes.  He’s open-minded and smart and likes it when his expectations are challenged, he’s been a great mentor to me.

Erik Hanson lives and works in New York.  He has had solo exhibitions at HORTON / SUNDAY L.E.S., Printed Matter, Eleven Rivington, Derek Eller Gallery, Allston Skirt, and Esso Gallery.  His work has also been shown in exhibitions at Andrew Edlin Gallery, Envoy Enterprises, White Columns, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Von Lintel Gallery, PS1 MoMA, Sculpture Center, and D’Amelio Terras, among others.