Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Studio Visit with Sandra Mack-Valencia by Carrie Rubinstein

“I’m very obsessive. I like detail, I find joy in obsessive work…I mean I pay someone to clean my house because if I do it, I’ll be there all day on the tiniest square of the kitchen.” When Sandra Mack-Valencia said this to me two weeks ago in her spacious studio in Long Island City, something clicked for me about her work. I am a huge fan of her work and have been since we met in a 2005 Hunter College graduate drawing seminar. Her paintings on board are ornamental, narrative, decorative, and powerful. She uses a standard photocopy transfer method as a point of departure and definitely takes it to another level.
Sandra’s most recent work focuses on the little known but terribly interesting story of King Edward VIII who chose to abdicate the English throne in 1936 in order to marry the wealthy American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Britain’s governors and its Dominions gave Edward an ultimatum, which led him to choose abdication. Mack-Valencia is fascinated with this love story and created one of her most beautiful pieces which features the couple at the top of the picture, bands of delicate detail work on the sides and a magnificent crown with the word “Abdication” written across it. The center of the work remains empty. Sandra wants this space to be something to ponder, explore and discover in relation to the narrative she has assembled on the perimeter.
Another striking piece in progress relates to this theme of bizarre love stories with the subjects placed more in the present. In 2007, the female astronaut Lisa Nowak made headlines when she apparently wore adult diapers as she drove 900 miles across five states in an attempt to attack her former lover’s new mate. Sandra was drawn to this absurdity and created a piece which begins with the face of Lisa Nowak in photocopy transfer and then expands to use two animals to represent the lovers in the triangle. Sandra is a dedicated animal lover and the sheep and tiger that adorn Sandra’s interpretation of Nowak come across as tender as well as eccentric. The sides of the picture include a wonderful blend of acrylic wash over transfers of rockets that I am so drawn to in Sandra’s work. 
I loved when Sandra got down to the brass tacks of her subject matter and her process. One of early her inspirations came from a mistake back in her time living in her native Colombia while employed at a chemical company. One day she was caught in a rainstorm and a notebook she had became soaked with all the pages blurring together when opened. She was fascinated by this and asked her work colleagues about methods she could learn to reproduce this in her artwork. Thus, she found her way to the transfer process.
Sandra told me of a sweet belief she had as a six year-old girl. She believed that all the animals up in heaven could speak to each other. They have a world all of their own. We talked about this kind of utopia and from that developed the idea of an idea for a future piece in the vein of a challenge: making a piece that only had animals as the subject. I admire how she takes narrative and translates it into something in comical and sympathetic. And I look forward to seeing this animal piece and any others with her specific brand of obsessive tendencies; it produces such rich work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Studio Visit with Carrie Rubinstein by Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow (June 9th, 2012) From life, to drawing, to life again

 My recent studio visit with Carrie Rubinstein was nothing short of pleasant. Her live /work space was very tranquil. A contrast to the sounds and sights of her Prospect Park neighborhood which  bursts with such liveliness and activity which seemed to be no distraction for her as she works intimately with each of her series of drawings of architectural rooftops of dwellings amongst plants and city lights.

As I walked in Carrie’s colorfully detailed line drawings drew me into looking closer and examining her surroundings. I wished I was in each of these somewhat imaginary spaces. As Carrie told me her techniques of working I was even more intrigued at her ability to capture such detail and attention to her subject matter from just pure observation from quite a distance away. One would think she climbed her rooftop and used binoculars  to draw such angles of an adjacent  rooftop. I was quite surprised that by working and drawing from her windowsill she was able to capture such detail and intricate spaces much higher than her eye level. Imagination must have come into play which she explained took her about three weeks to complete each ink and gouache drawing.

Having known Carrie since graduate school at Hunter College back in 2004 her work has changed quite a bit since she studied sculpture and used more random materials from wood to cast rubber. Her thesis work which contained life sized gouache drawings of a living room was cut up and arranged into an installation, which she described as 2.5 D (a halfway point between 2D and 3D) remained with me and I related them to her current work by the line quality and her drawing from life. I challenged her to work this way again, not to abandon her older gouache techniques or recent way of working small scale and intimate but to incorporate her previous 2.5 D methods. I understood her space limitations to create a whole large scale installation of these so I told her to imagine life sized fragments of her recent drawings which contained brick walls, rooftops, plants, trees and to consider the viewers' own entrance into these environments.  A nice surprise would be to see where these borderline imaginary/ realistic spaces emerge. From life, to drawing, to life again- a small drawing is magnified. I can’t wait to walk into the colorful world of Carrie Rubinstein.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow's Studio Visit, By Rachael Gorchov

On June 2 in the afternoon, I joined Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow in her sunny studio in Astoria, Queens. I've known Jodie's work for a long time, since we started graduate school together in 2002 at Hunter College. Jodie often revisits themes of the environment, femininity and personal identity - with a visceral silly and clever sensibility.

Last Saturday, Jodie and I discussed her latest work on endangered and extinct species of birds. Jodie started our visit by laying out collages she has been working on: roughly 11x17," these collages are meant to be read like sheet music. She has made corresponding soundtracks for each drawing of the bird songs. When birds share longitudinal space, their songs overlap. We discussed how she hopes to install these collages. She's interested in creating an intimate space where viewers can "dial up" the song for a particular collage using a device similar to what one might use on a guided tour of a museum.

Additionally, Jodie showed me some drawings in which the birds "spoke" their names in speech bubbles.  She felt this iteration of the collages, still in sketch form, had room to evolve.  We discussed how Jodie might integrate the drawn elements of the speech bubbles with the collaged birds.  Jodie might experiment with painting the speech bubbles rather than writing them.

After talking about the drawings, we took a look at another project she's working on. Continuing with the theme of endangered birds, Jodie has created the beginnings of an installation in which she will hang hundreds of paper cutouts of a single bird species, creating an immersive environment. When talking about this project, we discussed how the pixelation of the enlarged digital image seems sad and ephemeral, echoing the state of the bird on this planet. We also discussed options for integrating her picnic blanket work into this piece: creating a comfortable spot under the birds where the viewer can lie down, look up and be immersed in experiencing the many birds.

We also discussed how Jodie could merge the two projects. She could create a soundtrack of the birds hanging from the ceiling so that the viewer has a multi-sensory experience. Jodie mentioned an idea she was playing with - of mounting the birds on a slowly rotating disco ball motor so that they remain in motion.

Between now and the upcoming Collectively Assembled show, Jodie plans to continue developing both of these projects. I was excited about both of them and gave her an "assignment," like I received on my visit with Georgia. This assignment was to continue working on both of these projects and install the next iteration of one, the other or both in the show. Of course, I'm sure Jodie would continue working on these regardless, but we both agreed that deadlines help. I can't wait to see where this goes.

-Rachael Gorchov

A Studio Visit with Rachael Gorchov, by Georgia Elrod

I visited Rachael Gorchov's studio in the East Village on a sunny afternoon in late May. Having seen little of her work it was great to talk about what she's been up to. Rachael recently returned from a two month artist's residency in Colorado and came back with lots of new pieces. There were two bodies of work displayed in her studio: ceramic sculptures and painted paper mache and burlap sculptures. I was first drawn to her ceramic pieces: glazed wedges, cones, shapes. The physicality of this work seemed both soft and pointed, elegant and unusual.  They were hung together on one wall and were engaging en masse and could also hold their own alone. Full of rich colors and bits of painted imagery, I could decipher small landscapes hidden among more abstract brushwork and glazes. 


Her other recent works were painted burlap pieces, also hung in relief from the wall. These were more obviously playful with bold colors and marks. As in her ceramic work, small landscapes are painted in unusual places and surrounded by abstraction. Upon first look these landscapes blend in, but soon emerge as representational gems and conceptual entry points. These small landscapes reveal specific references; they are places along the New Jersey Turnpike that Rachael has seen over and over again. Rachael paints these from imagery mostly found on the internet. The abstraction that dominates the piece serves as a frame for the small image. We discussed how these pieces comment on place, travel, and how imagery functions as reference. Talking about this work we both thought it would be interesting to take them one step further, either into total abstraction or into an even more deconstructed state. After my visit with Asya Reznikov I decided to ask Rachael to pursue a series as well, using this work as a starting point. I'm really excited to see what she comes up with!

- Georgia Elrod, June 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Georgia Elrod's Studio Visit: May 25th, 2012 by Asya Reznikov

We met at Georgia's new studio near Prospect Park. I hadn't been familiar with Georgia's work and was greeted with lots of oil paintings. They range in size from a couple as small ones about 4x4 inches to very large works roughly 4x5 feet. The paint is very thinly applied and some paintings have the luminous quality of water colors. The colors are predominantly pastel. I wouldn't call them abstract because all of them have an uncanny quality of vaguely bearing resemblance to something -- but I was not quite sure what. Georgia told me that she does not work from specific imagery. Instead, her paintings are the results of a collective imagery that she has amassed from personal observation. The imagery is reminiscent of ornaments, decoration, and opulence in some works while other pieces appear to be about animated computer keyboards. Georgia has developed her own language that, because it seems recognizable, causes the viewer to want to continue looking in an effort to decipher her code. However, the paintings do not offer concrete answers and because they are rewarding to look at, I was not disappointed, but rather perpetually engaged. 

Georgie's paintings also have a delightful humor to them. One piece, "Lifeboat" appears to be depicting keyboard keys at a theater. Another work, appropriately titled, "Stacked" has a lot of different textures "stacked" atop one another as in a layer cake. Georgia also makes works on paper -- also in oil -- some of which were cut out with curved edges. She had two small works that looked like they could be details from another work and I asked is they were a pair. She said that she has not worked in series but is interested in it. This is where I saw a fertile area for her to create something for our show and gave Georgia my assignment/selection for the Collectively Assembled exhibition. I look forward to seeing what she cooks up, not only for our show, but also for her upcoming solo exhibition opening September 14th in Hudson, NY.

-- Asya Reznikov

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Asya Reznikov Makes a Splash!—Studio visit with MaDora Frey—May 14, 2012

I first saw Asya Reznikov's work at her show "Baggage Claim" at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery a couple of years ago and was familiar with her work in installation form. Upon entering, I got a refresher - beginning with her ambitious piece comprised of a 15' tall monolith of
television monitors. An endless escalator traversing several of the monitors making up this artwork, was both memorable and captivating. Next, Asya showed me a wall-mounted piece. In this work, she can be seen traveling, alternating between states of transparency and opacity, depending on whether she is in between destinations or has arrived somewhere. These works typify the themes that interest her most: travel, language, culture and the shifting of identity that results from growing up in different countries.

Asya's new work was what I would like to select for the forthcoming tART exhibiton at AIR@Renaissance. Curious about how the demands of recent motherhood had impacted her studio practice, I was happy to hear she just finished a solo show at Susquehanna University and has
remained prolific in her art making. When I asked about new work, Asya produced some photographs taken during her pregnancy.  My favorite is an outdoors summer scene with a swimming pool in the foreground, and grass rolling-up to a house in the distance surrounded by blue sky. It is bucolic—except for the strange something in the pool. It takes me a moment to realize it is not a Loch Ness rising from the water but her late-term belly protruding as she floats on her back.  We laugh about
this image. She shows me two other images taken near the end of her pregnancy. Again they possess a similar quirkiness. Although these works are still images, they share the same expression and narrative
quality as her video work.  The invisibility of the subject conveys a state of uncertain identity, and describes the uncanny feeling that results.