Taylor McKimens is one of my favorite artists, ever since finding his comic book “The Drips,” his work has been on my radar. So, using my new blogging gig here at Beautiful/Decay as a good reason to see his studio – I went over to Taylor’s studio at Deitch Projects in New York. I had to ask the perfunctory question about what was happening with Deitch Projects, and he said things depended on several variables – and didn’t go into any details. His work in progress completely blew me out of the water, and I walked around with my mouth open like a tween at a Jonas Brothers concert.
Tom Sanford had me over to his spacious basement studio in Tribeca this past Saturday. I became aware of Sanford’s work in 2008 when I saw his show “Mr. Hangover” at Leo Koenig, Inc. Tom’s main project is capturing our rapid-fire digital culture in the slow language of painting. If it’s in the news – it’s likely fodder for his paintings. When we watch TV, a pop star’s recent public tantrum is covered with the same attention as the death count in a war zone. Tom doesn’t try to adjust the playing field between pop culture and world events – he conflates them. But when that happens in a painting the dissonance is in your face in a way that it isn’t on TV. For instance, in a new large-scale painting, Bill Murray (as a red capped Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic) is being held at gun point by pirates off the coast of Somalia. It’s inexplicably poignant – maybe because I care about the character from a movie? Sanford speaks eloquently about how painting is slow media, and how we’re all enmeshed in fast media – he has a sign up in his studio that sums it up as “The worse the better.”
Kate Smith, based out of Melbourne Australia, was raised on a farm and makes work where everything feels precariously balanced, built on her experience with struggling on her parents’ farm. Art tries to grow like plants, which makes the work feel alive – or – depending on your perspective, emphasizes its deadness. There’s a dystopian element to Smith’s project, but there’s also a smeared, warm-hearted vulnerability. Kate’s got a way with words too – her compact, slippery, and foreign use of the English language reminds me of the ultra-violent punks, the “droogs,” in Clockwork Orange – read her artist statement after the jump.
Brent Harada and Rusty Jordan have a bi-coastal collaboration going where they make zines by alternating panels. Their pages are a cartoon documentary of a gnarly, drug induced mystic state where everything veers unpredictably from panel to panel, and there is isn’t a story – it’s more of an experience. I like the 60′s underground comix meets Monty Python’s Flying Circus animation vibe, and feel that these two put their own stamp on it.
Jeremy Willis had me over to his Brooklyn studio and we hung out and talked about his paintings. Willis describes the paintings anthropomorphically – as wanting to be doing something human, like giving birth, hugging you or selling you illicit substances. The majority of the paintings are big and surround you with saturated colors and chaotic space. They do feel like they have an overwhelming emotional content, and the paintings reflect the messy nature of life. Look for more from Jeremy soon.
Headed over to Brooklyn this morning to Evan Gruzis’s studio, and got to take some photos of his new work – which looks great. Gruzis is on the Deitch Projects roster, and I asked him if he knows anything about Jeffrey Deitch’s plans for his New York operation and he gave me a flat “No,” but said that the people involved are having a meeting sometime next week. Gruzis is known for his hyper-skillful use of ink, and his sardonic re-purposing of advertising’s seductive imagery. In a recent interview he wrote about the work as being “… not product vehicles, but hollow gestures that create a feedback-loop between a familiar aesthetic and a desire for meaning.” Gruzis has a show in Athens in April at Andreas Melas Presents.
Jay Schmidt is one of the more perplexing guys I’ve met, because he appears like a very clean cut, normal guy in his fifties (slacks and a dress shirt) – but there is something right under the surface that you can’t put your finger on. I am hesitant to say madness, but maybe what passes for madness in a consumer culture. Once you see his paintings it comes into focus, they present a parody of the world in a queasy wobbling, agitated, cartoonish iconography that lets you know exactly what he is thinking!
Mazzarella Thomas is a Belgian artist whose paintings look like screen shots of wacky video games, where the point of the game might be getting your characters to break down the door to a fancy building with people swimming on the roof, or to take a nap and then play super nintendo. I don’t know if this is a stoner or a dork aesthetic, but I like it either way. He describes his work as having a message “social and human.”