Studio Visit: Brian Belott

Brian Belott in His Studio

Brian Belott’s Brooklyn studio is an immersive installation.  Spelunking into a cavern on an alien planet filled with glittering artifacts from a lost culture, might, might compare to walking through Brian’s place.  I was going to stay for an hour, but ended up being there for four hours because there was so much to look at and talk about.  The whole situation is arranged with the discerning eye of the most selective, borderline pathological scavenger – and set to easy listening music, Brian’s “sonic wallpaper.”  I got the feeling that each scrap of torn paper, every tube of glitter has been internalized.  Then arranged into an invisible system that had started to resemble the stratified layers of rock at the Grand Canyon – there was a geological, epic scale to the amount of materials.  Brian works with some art materials, but mostly with found stuff.  He uses those thick cardboard kids books, colorful plastic combs, found audio, and posters.  He makes paintings on glass, original music, found sound audio collages, paper collages, books covered in paint and decorated with rocks, and catalogs of other people’s private photography grouped by themes.  In addition he does performances, many of which are on YouTube.  Meeting Brian I got the immediate impression I was meeting someone special.   He has a gigantic solo show “The Joy of File” opening Friday, February 26th at Zürcher Studio from 6 to 8pm.

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The cat with clock eyes is one of Brian’s signature images, and several were recently in the New York Minute show in Rome which Kathy Grayson curated.

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This is a new painting on glass.

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This painting was beautiful.

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Brian was pulling hand-made books from the center of leaning piles of detritus like a magician pulling quarters from behind the kid-in-the-front-row’s ear – “look at this,” and he’d show me a book filled with gem like psychedelic collages.

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The Museum of Modern Art bought the table of books in this photo.

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This is a collaboration between Brian, Misaki Kawai, and Joe Grillo of Dearraindrop.

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This is a couple of Brian’s friends’ art.  The top piece is a little painting by Brendan Cass.   The Doritos on the bottom are a painting on paper by recent B/D studio visitee Taylor McKimens.  All three artists have worked as assistants for Donald Baechler, who also maintains an incredible archive of found images.

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This is a gnarly little book.

front apt 12Brian was explaining the book: “Hijacking, I am not a book binder, so I Hijack Toddlers’ cardboard books.  (Then speaking in prose about his thoughts) So I spit them back in a row, storm or noise.  Tons of illustrators’ hands with a focus on 60′s and 70′s, ’cause of the high chroma color.”

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Nothing is put away, because everything is constantly in play.

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Brendan Cass painting.

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A painting by Misaki Kawai.

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Brian in front of his storage

Stacks of stuff are everywhere.   Two rooms are blocked off because they are literally full.

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“I see this as like the guys who dive into crates of records with gloves and masks on – these waxnuts.  I’m doing the same thing.  I love it, that’s why I cut it up.  The book in it’s original state is completely static, when you rip them open then it becomes alive, there’s a certain type of freedom.  It’s so damn exhilarating.”

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“You start to feel not different from everyone else.  You feel like this Human computer program functions the same way.  You see someone else allowed these things to happen.”

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wipe thatBrian made this book, it’s so good, and it has a DVD with audio tracks and a slideshow of his found photos in the back, you can get it on sale now at Picturebox.

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Brian’s concerned with so many types of art that it’s hard to summarize what he does.  He put it like this “It’s the same thing that sampling is, even when people write a letter.  Let’s say a Michael Jackson song, you cut it up, and all of a sudden you are working with him.  It’s exciting.  That’s what I like about screwed deejaying.  You can get in and manipulate media in a way that people couldn’t until very really recently.”  Some of his projects are: He finds old photo albums in second-hand stores and fills them with other peoples’ photos, which he then groups by theme – but he has such an unusual mind that figuring out his theme becomes part of the art too.  He makes paintings on glass, working on both the front and back, and often altering the frame too.  He is concerned with collecting oddities, and concerned with the subject of collecting.  He buys stuff in second-hand stores that appeals to niche collectors and anthropologists – like home-made vinyl records, cassette tape correspondences, and 40 year old childrens’ books.  He’s gathering all this stuff, which to most people would be garbage – or at best something to be stored away in a box, and pulling our collective experience out of it.

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“You’re trying to breathe new life into it.”

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For me, Brian being so unguarded, so wide-open, is a heroic act.  He has incredible integrity, and you can see it clearly in that he let us into to his life with no barriers.

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Paper, vinyl records, CDs, books of every make, pots of paints, spray cans, cardboard boxes, balls of tape, sticky patches of glue covered in glitter and dirt, the smooshy plastic balls with wiggly plastic hair, framed art, frames without art, Brian’s art for an upcoming show at Zürcher Studio, and also a ton of art by Brian’s friends.

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Spirally, wobbly piles that create a Dr. Suessian landscape of color and cacophonous debris.

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Notice that the frieze of piano keys, in the top third of the photo, has door keys glued into it.  Taylor McKimens was showing me Brian’s stuff on his computer during his studio visit, and he pointed this out.  We both thought it was pretty funny – visual pun, keys and keys.

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A little Taylor McKimens painting on glass.

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The whole visit was deejayed with really great music.  Jazz on old records.  Found conversations on cassette tapes where people were recording love letters.  A Grandma talking about her Christmas morning.

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Brian’s work table.

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Annie Pearlman, Brian’s pal, said this about him “…he also carries everything he loves into who he is and I usually see a real separation in artists and their art. Brian is out to entertain himself no matter whether he is working at Johnny Rockets or in his studio – that’s why things tend to be small, humorous, intimate and almost author-less (like his collages) – all of which is usually bad for an artist who should be making big, ego-signature work. He’s doing something big this time, and I hope it gets him some well deserved attention.”

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  • http://www.jim-damato.blogspot.com Jim D’Amato

    Very cool. Way to go Brian. You are a madman!

  • shelby

    ho holy diablo, that makes me want to rip up all my books and light my head on fire.

    I’m using this guy to help me convince my girlfriend I don’t have to clean up shit.

    Awesome writeup Bill.

  • Dan Attoe

    Dude rocks! What a wealth of work to look at.
    Nice work Bill! You’re a natural at this, hombre.

  • http://www.jeremywillis.com Jeremy Willis

    Wait, but noe it deleted the comment where my name was mis-spelled. the internet is confusing…I think I said something along the lones of:

    I love seeing this! Brian’s studio looks awesome and you seemed to really connect with the work, Bill.

    Looking forward to seeing Brian’s show. Hell Yes!

  • http://www.inkstainedhands.com Bill

    After the studio visit with Brian I had my first dream where everyone was speaking in tongues/glossolalia. I woke up in a cold sweat.

  • dirTy

    Wow…nice work! Amazing for sure, and a smooth job bringing me into the space, the work the feeling of it. Keep it coming Billy, like its nickel night at Nancy’s…early and often.

  • Katherine

    Bill, it is so sweet that you called a painting with sparkles in it ‘beautiful.’ Very playful work, and the studio reminds me of something my old boss at the ceramics studio said about how ‘clutter represents potential. A tidy workspace means that nothing is going on.’ I would be curious to know whether Brian evaluates his output, rejects or trashes pieces, or if ‘it’s all good.’ Some artists make one absolutely perfect, stunning painting every 3 years, and other people make 20 pieces a day of highly variable quality. At what point do his discrete objects lose themselves in a larger whole in which ‘quality’ is irrelevant? How (or do) they function when removed from their natural habitat? Like, would he put just any books in a major show, would the go if they are part of a complementary set, or does he have some that are ‘champions’ and some that are ‘pet quality’ and never see the outside of the studio?

  • http://www.jacobwilliamsstudio.com Jacob

    Go Brian! Your studio is inspiring dude. Makes me feel like a tight ass.
    J

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