Art Matters

4 Stories

Faile to Succeed

The Brooklyn-based Artists Wax Lyrical About Their Latest Title, Works on Wood

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Open The Gallery
7 Images
Open The Gallery
7 Images
Open The Gallery

We caught up with Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller of the Brooklyn-based art group FAILE to talk about their recent book Works on Wood, published by Gestalten. The ideas of form, temporality and appropriation have been a part of FAILE’s work since their early wheatpaste work. Needless to say, we were intrigued to see how the age old medium of wood plays into their ever evolving art.


You guys are well known for working with a wide range of materials and media: prints, paintings, salvaged materials, large-scale installations. Why did you decide to focus on wood for your latest book?
Our work tends to incorporate several different materials. I think we’ve always loved the physicality of different materials, especially when you find them in the city and they are being used for purposes other than what you would expect. Working on wood has been such a love over the years, from the street then into the studio, that it seemed something to celebrate. There is a clear lineage from our early street works to the studio paintings and sculptures on wood. Also we feel it’s some of our most original and unique work. The wood paintings and sculptural works developed more fully in our practice over time; they’re not something that was there from the beginning, so it’s a nice visual story of process and exploration to share.


What qualities and caveats does wood possess as an artistic medium?
The allure of wood is the surface and the durability of it. It’s a medium that you can really work with. You can beat it up. You can stand on it. You can sand it down. You can build with it. It has a living history. I think that’s the romance. The way we work with wood, it sort of becomes a part of the studio, physically and artistically over a period of time – and there’s a record of that through the work. The only real caveat, so far, is its weight. But we’re that much stronger because of it.


What has been your most challenging project to date?
For the FAILE Temple in Lisbon we created a 16ft x 30ft x 14ft ceramic, steel, marble, bronze and stone temple in decay, over the course of two years. We were the artists, architects, engineers and fabricators for that project, which tested us on many levels. But it came together nicely in the end. For the New York City Ballet we built a 40ft x 15ft x 15ft tower in four months. That was just painful. It was an all-out creative sprint to make that happen in the time it needed to. Which of course we did, but it was one of the hardest times on a physical level.


How has your work and creative process evolved over the last decade?
The foundation of how we create images is still the same. Which is really focused on looking at the past to find bits and pieces of that history and to create new narratives from that. The mediums have changed, the content has grown, the work (paintings and sculpture) has evolved visually, we’ve grown as people and family men – but I don’t know that the process has changed that much. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. Images and painting are distinct things in the studio, so that makes it two paths and processes.


Who and what influences you from outside the art world (music, science, travel, theater, film etc)?
Radiohead, Joseph Campbell, NYC, the Midwest, religious structures, malls, quilts, Stanley Kubrick.


Who is your favorite fictional hero?
Clark W. Griswold and Inspector Clouseau.


Where are you most inspired, the studio or the street?
It’s a symbiotic relationship. Something on the street inspires something in the studio; something in the studio makes us see things on the street that we never saw before.


What has been your greatest failure?
Advanced Mathematics.


If you could have one super-power, what would it be?


What is your motto?
Faile to succeed.


Earlier this month FAILE joined Swizz Beatz at NeueHouse for a discussion on art, music and creativity.

Kon Trubkovich

"House of the Rising Sun" on Show at OHWOW Gallery

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Open The Gallery
3 Images
Open The Gallery
3 Images
Open The Gallery

It’s been a busy year for Brooklyn-based artist Kon Trubkovich. He released his first monograph, published by Osmos Books in September at NY Art Book Fair, opened a show last month at UNITED ARTISTS, Ltd. in Marfa, Texas and will open his next show, titled House of the Rising Sun, at OHWOW Gallery on January 17th, 2015. This will be Trubkovich’s second show with the gallery and will consist of all new works including six Ronald Reagan paintings and a five-channel video with the exhibition’s namesake.


His work, historically reverent in his forthcoming show, focuses on dissecting a moment and utilizing individual “placeholders” to physically reduce the distance to particular memories or other sourced material. There is no denying the nostalgia in his work created through both the physical and abstract properties of each medium. Surreal and trance-like, the subject matter is difficult to shake and is thought-provoking, eliciting a viewer connection through this use of empathetic tension.


He often creates this by humanizing a figure or object, in the past using his mother, wife and even snow. In his forthcoming body of work he focuses on Ronald Reagan during a pivotal moment in history, his Brandenburg Gate speech. For these paintings he pulls from one second of footage where he then extracts multiple frames. This curated selection of frames is then translated into paintings. Each painting represents a “physical index of time.” Reagan serves as a relic and, indirectly, a self-portrait for Trubkovich.


Through self-expression, Trubkovich’s work presents an exploration into individual memories and their manifestations. The work provokes simplistic feelings of forgetting and remembering and the agents that allow entry into these portals.


House of the Rising Sun will be on view at OWOW Gallery, 937 N. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069, Jan 17 to Feb 14, 2015.

Sebastian Errazuriz

The Chilean Artist Blurring the Lines Between Art and Design


Sebastian Errazuriz opened the doors of his massive Brooklyn studio and walked me through each and every piece inside of it. Generous with his time, eloquent, funny, charming and direct, this Chilean-born artist and designer is one of the most interesting movers and shakers in the contemporary art and design world.


Sebastian is leaving an indelible mark with his unexpected creations and giving the finger to those who think that art belongs to one place and that design is compartmentalized in a whole different area. Perhaps his way of thinking – and of creating objects, furniture and yes, art – sound so familiar to me because I’m not only a designer but also an art advisor. I do both and combine them to maximize the benefits of each – and nobody can tell me that I cannot do it my way.


This year Sebastian’s work was chosen for his first retrospective exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, which will run until January 2015. The show has garnered critical acclaim, and Sebastian, who is only 37, has many more ambitious plans for the future. This is just the beginning.


Maria Brito: I like that you don’t let anybody dictate what to do or how to do it, and I also like that you have a style that is not easily identifiable. The art and design world are always expecting to pigeonhole artists and designers in one style, so that the “branding” process can kick in and then the selling process becomes easier. However, your immense talent somehow pours out of all your pieces and people are drawn to that: the innovation, the quality, the thinking outside the box.


Sebastian Errazuriz: Yes, I don’t want people to dictate how or what comes out of this studio. I don’t like being labeled.  I pay attention to the quality. Ultimately, people like it and I love that people know that I make things that seduce, that keep people interested. In this society where everything is overly exposed and everyone shows everything on social media, it’s super important to be extremely creative.  I don’t want to bore myself or bore people and that to me is much more valuable than having a definitive style.


MB: I’m always drawn to what you do and your pieces no matter where they are: I may stumble upon one of them at Art Basel Miami Beach or Design Miami or in the house of a collector, and I still need to go and see up close who made the object – and then I know it’s yours.  For example, this past December, I loved so much that you had all those cabinets exhibited next to each other at Design Miami and one of them said “Of Course it’s Art, You Fool”.


SE: (Laughs)  The lines are totally blurred nowadays and Design Miami is the sister fair of Art Basel and it’s not supposed to show any “art” in the strict sense of what “art” means. However, these cabinets are art, of course they are, but they are objects because they are pieces that are functional, their doors open and you can store things inside.  In a way, I’m making fun of the whole thing, because who determines what’s art and what’s design?


MB: I want to live with your pieces and I show them to my clients, too, and recommend your work to them. I believe you make objects and put words on your work that people can’t say themselves.  It makes everything so much cooler.  Like that massive “Blow Me” piece that you did for the Collective Design Fair opening edition of 2012.


SE: Yes, I have rebelled against some things in my own life, like the super-strict and closed Chilean society. We are Latin, and there is still so much classicism, racism and things like that, which really don’t make us look too advanced. That behavior is not very positive and/or aligned with our times. And that is why I think also that my pieces are appealing. I only create things that I have designed and looked at over and over again a million times, because they come from me and my life and my experiences – but also, if I’m completely in love with them, someone else will be too.  That giant wall with drawings is where I keep images of all my designs and I look at them many, many times until I choose one that will become an actual piece.


MB: You are so prolific; I love the shoe collection you did for Melissa.


SE: I was so honored to be a part of that.  Last year Melissa only worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Jason Wu and me.  I designed each shoe based on a experience that I had with different girlfriends (or lovers) that I’ve had. We released the collection during Art Basel Miami Beach last year, but Melissa will actually make the shoes available for sale this year.


MB: I also enjoyed what you did in the beginning of the year at the Storefront for Art and Architecture.


SE: Yes, it opened on Valentine’s Day and we called it “Tough Love”.  It analyzes current issues that deal with justice, the courts, and the legal system.  It also has to do with the role that cultural institutions play nowadays in response to those issues. That show was about creating awareness through art about all of these massive shootings that are so tragic and then seem to be forgotten.  Or about other situations, like missing children who are never found, or who are found when it is too late and nobody seems to be responsible for anything. There were pieces that I designed that deal with citizenship and illegal immigrants.  That show was about many problems that we are facing in current times.


MB: The retrospective at the Carnegie Museum of Art is a big deal.


SE: Yes, and I’m so happy that it went exactly the way I envisioned. I’m grateful for that and look forward to the future with great enthusiasm and optimism. It’s been an amazing year.


The Generator

Marina Abramovic's Latest Experiment Sans the Senses

Marina Abramovic

On a cold Saturday morning in December, I went to Generator, Marina Abramović’s performance installation at Sean Kelly Gallery. In her first solo exhibition in New York since The Artist is Present at MoMA in 2010, Abramović focuses on “nothingness” and asks visitors to participate in an exercise of sensory deprivation and forced self-introspection. Here is my story.


MA-2014 SKNY Generator - photo Jason Wyche 3


Upon entry, I was greeted by a charming female facilitator and asked to sign a waiver, which I did not read. I then disrobed – coat, gloves, scarf, bag – and placed my belongings in a locker. I took this time to drink some water from the cooler and answer any last-minute texts and emails before locking up.


I relished the opportunity to be untethered by my belongings, my constantly ticking iPhone, my “stuff”, and I moved towards a group of attendants, one of whom walked across to me, blindfold in hand. “You have great style,” he said. I said thank you, and asked if he would catch me if I fell. He said that I wouldn’t fall because I was so graceful.


MA-2014 SKNY Generator - photo Jason Wyche 11


He explained the rules: he would walk me in and then I would raise my hand when I wanted to leave. He placed the blindfold on me and asked, “Is that ok?” “Tighter,” I said. Darkness. Then, the noise-cancelling headphones. Silence. With one hand in mine and the other on my back, he led me down what seemed to be an interminable corridor. I imagined being led without candlelight through a dark catacomb. As he walked me, slowly and gingerly, into the abyss, I could hear only the sound of my heels on the gallery floor. Then, without notice, I was released.


It is at that moment, I suppose, where all the “nothingness” should begin. Lauren Kelly, the gallery’s director, later told me that the facilitators, who are all trained by Abramović, are taught to read people’s energy. Some want to be engaged, want attention, some want to be ignored, treated sterilely, coldly, and so on. Each experience is unique, each participant led in and out of the gallery in a different way.


I took my first steps cautiously, but then quickly gained a stride. There is a certain freedom to walking, destination unknown, sight unseen, sound unheard. It wasn’t until I ran into my first wall that I was jolted back into somethingness. Ah, the harsh, cold reality of literally hitting wall. I giggled, a reaction to a feeling of embarrassment, the possibility of having been seen – a feeling that quickly passes without the ability to see or hear any possible outside judgment. One is forced to let go of the idea of looking silly while being placed in an uncomfortable situation, a trademark found in many of Abramović’s pieces (only the very resolute will not at least blush while walking through two naked people facing each other in a doorway in Imponderabilia). Self-awareness is forced upon the participant in these moments.


MA-2014 SKNY Generator - photo Jason Wyche 10


As I walked along, there were hard walls, there were padded walls, and there were people. There have been tales of people dancing, holding hands, almost kissing in the installation – all of which is captured by cameras and loaded onto the dedicated Tumblr – I ran into one person in my time inside Generator, or, more aptly, I ran into a chunky knit sweater, and found myself swiveling around and walking in the other direction almost immediately. I just wanted to be alone.


I imagine that to reach the “full emptiness” that Abramović touts would take more than my short time inside the gallery that morning (not to mention years of meditative training), but, if anything, Generator forces one to be confronted with the rather daunting task of being with oneself – nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to do – even if just for a moment. To not check one’s phone incessantly (and live to tell the tale), to not seek outside stimulation to satiate us and save us, to be present (even if the artist is not)… this is the modern man’s plight.


MA-2014 SKNY Generator - photo Jason Wyche 19


When I decided my time was done, I raised my hand and a facilitator came to me and guided me back, this time via a more labyrinthine path. When we finally came to a stop and the facilitator removed my earmuffs, a familiar voice whispered in my ear, “You didn’t fall.”