Artist of the Week: Christian Dietkus
Christian Dietkus was born in Oakland, California and received his BFA from the Cooper Union in 2005 and his MFA from Columbia University in 2013. Working in painting and sculpture his work explores the intersection of personal subjectivity, consumer culture and sexuality. He has exhibited nationally including Deitch Projects, Family Business, Salon 94 and Louis B. James in New York. He is also the recipient of the Michael S. Vivo Memorial Prize and the Fred A. Lane Prize for excellence in painting.
Photo by Chad Davis Creative
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born and raised in the Bay Area in California where I was involved in youth activism before I was seriously interested in art. I moved to New York City to attend the Cooper Union where I studied painting and photography and have stayed ever since. My work is primarily a painting and sculpture practice that explores the intersection of personal subjectivity, consumer culture, and sexuality.
Christian Dietkus, Northern Shell 119, 2011 acrylic on Epson print on board, shelf 8.5 x 11 inches
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Right now I am interested in pressure as an organizing principle. More specifically I have been making sculptures, which use only confluent pressure as a means of cohesion. Whenever I see a sculpture, a piece of furniture, a building or even a body, my mind immediately tries to visualize how the thing is held together, why it doesn’t just fall apart, and what tools were needed to make it. This led me to the idea of pressure both literally and as a metaphor. In the sculptures, this is expressed by including the tools used in the making of the sculpture with the sculpture––thus creating a contiguous chain of making. The result is hopefully an autonomous object free of said preoccupation.
Christian Dietkus, Untitled (confluence series I ) 2013 Oak, paint, digital print, brick Dimensions variable
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? A few things actually. The first is a wonderful project happening in early February which is a sort of conceptual fashion show of artist designed track suits made as a gesture of protest to the Russian governments treatment of LGBT peoples. I am thrilled to be included in such an illustrious roster of artists. The event which is called “Purple and Gold” is going to be in NYC opening at Louis B. James Gallery on February 7th. Additionally I am really excited to be working on a publication of writings by painters, which should be coming out in 2014. The project is being spearheaded by artist Dana Schutz and will comprise contributions from about twenty artists writing on a wide variety of topics. I am writing about the concept of “emergent adulthood” and provisionality in painting. The last thing is my first solo show in Brussels which will be opening in the fall at Ricou Gallery.
Christian Dietkus, Untitled (confluence series I ) 2013 Oak, paint, digital print, brick Dimensions variable
How did your interest in art begin? The earliest memory I have of what could be called art was a cataloging project of sorts where I drew and named all of my stuffed animals of which there were hundreds as well as other objects and personal effects in my room. I spent hours and hours trying to make exacting drawings which were labeled and given tittles. The endeavor was somewhere between a taxonomy and a character study, a line I still strive for.
Christian Dietkus, Mesh I, 2012 Epson print and aluminum dimensions variable
What artists are you interested in right now? This is an ever changing list but I would say right now I have been thinking about Bracha Ettinger, Rebecca Horn, Mark Manders and Bernard Frize to name a few.
Christian Dietkus, Flow I , 2013 acrylic on tabloid on canvas panel 28 x 23 inches
What past trends in art do you think should never come back? Anything that is referred to as “Classic”, I cringe every time I hear that word. One only needs to read Robert Rosenblum’s “Transformations in Late Eighteenth Century Art” to realize how illusory and conditioned the word “classic” is in reference to art or anything for that matter. It seems to suggest an artwork that can transcend the values and anxieties of its own time which of course is impossible.
Christian Dietkus, Mouthpiece (side view detail ), 2012 Aluminum, speaker, sound recording, amplifier, wood
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? I would really like to collaborate with a motion capture scientist. I have some ideas about making a compressed topographic surface from the data collected from motion capture, almost like a digitally derived bas-relief.
Tell us about your work process and how it develops? My working process is quite similar to the logic of a fetish object. It usually begins with an irrational attraction to a readymade image or commodity object, which then sits in the studio while it collects attachments, associations, thoughts and observations. This process can take a weeks, months or even years at which point I make an artwork about the thing.
Christian Dietkus, Roll I ( In Touch for Moshé ), 2013 acrylic on tabloid on canvas panel 72 x 84 inches
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? This is a tough one but I would have to say “Hierve el Agua” which is a petrified waterfall and natural mineral spring to the east of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. It’s basically looks like nature made an infinity pool in the middle of a deserted canyon. If you go in the off season you might be lucky enough to not see a single person all day. It’s just you and the sound of this dripping water which you know has been going on for millennia.
Christian Dietkus, Mime (Green), 2013 acrylic and collage on canvas 11 x 8.5 inches
What are you reading right now? Right now I am reading a book called “The Conquest of Cool” which is a historical analysis of advertising and its relationship to counterculture. The book maps the dramatic shifts in corporate culture and advertising which happened between the 1950’s and the 1960’s. For me the most striking part about the book is how the shifts that happened within that decade create a sort of social contrapposto to the changes that occurred in fine art.
Artist of the Week: Lucas Briffa
Lucas Briffa was born and raised in Oakland, California. He received his BA in Visual Arts from Oberlin College in 2012 and is currently pursuing his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From 2012-2013 he spent one year working as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Academic Programs at the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was raised by ballet dancers who thought it better to home school their children than send them to Oakland public schools. Because of all my free time I spent most of my childhood camping and traveling around the Pacific Northwest. I also spent a lot of time alone. Sometimes, as a child, I would get up at 7am and watch the sunrise from my front yard. I used a steel pipe for protection. Often the impulse I am following is reminiscent of the terrifying and euphoric. In my practice I would say that almost all my research is about how we experience landscape, directly and through mediation.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? The polar vortex. I was in the Bay Area when it passed through Chicago, but I keep searching for traces of its effect on the city. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this video.
How did your interest in art begin? When I was five or six my grandfather taught me how to use a film camera and together we printed a picture in his homemade darkroom. After that, it wasn’t until high school that I was exposed to fine art. Sean McFarland was the first photographer to introduce me to people like Olafur Eliasson, Todd Hido, and Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison. Seeing those images inspired me to make visible my interpretation of how reality is constructed and experienced.
What were you like in high school? There was a rumor that I slept with one of my teachers.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? The creation of the real through the artificial is something I have returned to with several projects. Currently I am working on arranging a stream in my studio. For now it is made up of paper water and resin rocks, but I will eventually incorporate traces of people. I am also helping put a publication together that will showcase the work of all the graduate photography students and will be accompanied by a text from Karsten Lund. It will be available at the MFA thesis show coming this Spring.
What past trends in art do you think should never come back? I hope that no trends ever come back. That means we’re failing.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? When I was in college I played a video game designed by Fumito Ueda called Shadow of the Colossus. For about a week I spent more time wandering around that world than I did in real life. I have been fantasizing about designing a virtual landscape with him ever since.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? Anywhere near a Giant Sequoia. Some of them are 3,000 years old and over 300 feet tall. Also they make the air smell amazing.
Tell us about your work process and how it develops? I think of my process as a cumulative one. Almost everything I end up making is directly responding to something I have done before. In this way I think I am trying to simultaneously look as far forward as I do behind. Recently I have been scrapping a lot of projects. I hope that means a change is going to come.
What are you reading right now? The Sublime from the Documents of Contemporary Art publication put out by Whitechapel Gallery, The Picturesque: architecture, disgust and other irregularities by John Macarthur, and a book of poems by Rumi.
Artist of the Week: Cynthia Daignault
Cynthia Daignault is an artist, musician and writer living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She grew in Baltimore, Maryland and attended Stanford University. She was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2010. She edited the monograph on Sean Landers, Improbable History, which was published by JRP Ringier in 2011. Her work was featured in a solo show at White Columns in 2011. Daignault is a recipient of the 2011 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant. Her most recent solo show was at Lisa Cooley, New York, in the Fall of 2013. She has published two limited edition artist books, CCTV (2012) and I love you more than one more day (2013). She is the editor of A-Z. In June 2014, her first curatorial project with art historian Mark Loiacono will open in New York.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am painter. I sit in a relatively small room by myself, day after day. I move paint around a canvas. I think about love and I think about death. I contemplate the surreality of sitting in a relatively small room by myself, day after day, moving paint around a canvas thinking about love and about death.
How has living in New York affected your art practice? Spoiler Alert: New York is expensive. The rub: for years I worked a full-time job to pay my sickening apartment and studio rent because I thought I had to. This choice delayed my career by a good 10 years. Realizing this, I quit my job and went into massive credit card debt, endeavoring to create a situation of desperation where I had no choice but to accomplish something with my work or else fail miserably trying. Point Break. The city is a pressure cooker. It’ll cook you fast if you stay inside––and that’s it––you’re done. Or the pressure can build so intensely that the entire pot explodes destroying the dinner, the kitchen, the family, the house and the entire neighborhood. Boom. I’m trying to say it’s a love/hate thing. The city helped my work and career in many ways, but it also cost me 10 years of painting that I won’t get back (not to mention the ten years of drinking to alleviate my depression through which the city will no doubt claim another ten years on the back side of my career).
Who is your ideal studio mate? Curran Hatleberg. He is my studio mate. He is a photographer. He is also my boyfriend. I know less about photography than I should, so it’s humbling when I’m working on a new project and he can show me photographs that relate. It’s endlessly helpful to see how similar ideas can be approached in different media, which forces me to question my assumptions about what’s possible and what’s meaningful. Not to mention: he looks cute, makes me snacks, opens jars, and deejays Southern rap mixes when I get whiney.
If you were a drink what drink would you be? I want to say moonshine, or white lightning, or Everclear, but the sad truth is I’m probably something fruity, blended, and pink, served in a plastic coconut by an old guy in a cheap toupee. What I mean to say is this: I always say to become a great painter you have to learn to love the painter you are, not the painter you want to be. Sure bourbon is cool, but the world needs Tiki bars (and toupees), so maybe it’s not all bad. We’ll call it Summer’s Eve (the drink I mean, not the douche).
How did your interest in art begin? I always liked making things, but mostly it was mix tape covers. I made a lot of mix tape covers. It was the 90s, you couldn’t get a boyfriend without making that special guy a mixtape. And you couldn’t give him a mixtape without making a pretty fly cover. (Let’s just say I made a lot of mix tapes - Wocka Wocka). In college, I majored in art to add to my repertoire of mixtape making skills. But then mp3s and Napster and Justin Timberlake (as that guy from Napster) collapsed my whole analog world, and I was left holding the proverbial cassette. With mixtape artist no longer a viable career path(!), painting seemed like a solid second choice.
What past trends in art do you think should never come back? So called self-identifying “conceptual painters.” I think they’re self-hating painters with no viable relationship to the history of painting. To say ‘conceptual painting’ is to imply that there is a painting that is not conceptual, or to suggest that Monet or Courbet are merely mimeographing life. Ridiculous. At the very root, rendering three dimensional space and temporal visual existence into a fixed two-dimensional frame is a conceptual practice. Can I add a second? Market-based pessimism. Art can be poetic and meaningful if we aim toward that end, which means creating contexts for meaning, and at the core believing in the power of objects to effect people on intellectual and emotional levels and on the inherent desire in people to engage on those levels. I choose to believe that people are inherently good and that art can be meaningful. Even if I’m wrong, I’d rather be the naive optimist, than the nihilist, defeatist or pessimist. (Plus, I’m not wrong.)
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? The Clap.
Most embarrassing moment? There was this one time I wrote my most embarrassing moment on a blog on the internet. It went viral; people were shocked; my mother cried; I never recovered. Oh the life of a millennial. MILEY!
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I just finished a solo show at Lisa Cooley Gallery. That was fun, but now I’m curating my first exhibition with the incomparable Mark Loiacono (Warhol scholar extraordinaire). I had no interest in curating, until I was surfing the net last month and noticed that in 30 current shows, Gagosian wasn’t showing one woman. Disgusting. I mean really sickening. Don’t get me wrong––there are definitely rays of light in this cave. For instance, I’m working with Kara Walker on a show she’s curating at the ICA Philadelphia (Anthony Elms is a gem!) ”Ruffneck Constructivists.” It’s a great show. Tough, deep, smart, challenging, cool, expansive, inclusive, generous. It’s inspiring. Kara really reminded me the point of throwing your name in the ring once and a while to fight for the artists and ideas that inspire you, and to fight against all the sexist, racist, agist, small-minded types feeding thrice regurgitated feces down our throats. If that’s not you––great. If that is you––do better.
What were you like in high school? I am unchanged. For better or worse. I listened to a lot of records, made stuff, hung out with my friends, read books, studied a lot, made out, and took long walks to nowhere places like alleys, parking lots, convenient stores and train tracks. Pretty much the only difference between then and now is the number of days per week that I wear mens pajama pants in public.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten to your work? I’m racking my brain for a time when an animal has encountered one of my paintings. Is it possible that no animals or pets have EVER looked seriously at my paintings? If so, this is certainly something to remedy. I’m sure if I got some dogs or cats up in my studio, I could get some pretty choice youtube footage to give an answer to this question with proper weight. Like so: A dwarfish, wall-eyed cat comes into my studio. He sees my latest painting. He looks at it very carefully. What’s this? Is he smiling? Then suddenly: hairball, back flip, a meow (which sounds eerily like “way to go!”), and one glorious high five, cat’s paw to painter’s hand. What is it to be an artist if not to dream?
Artist of the Week: Wyne Veen
Wyne Veen is a Dutch artist working in the photographic medium. Veen’s work consists of sculptural arrangements, utilizing everyday objects and their isolated materials. The work possesses an aesthetic and absurd appeal. Inspired by all things overly developed, Veen is fascinated by our highly manufactured lives, while also endlessly drawn to all steps of the production process.Veen graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2008 and maintains a studio in the Red Light district of Amsterdam.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. My name is Wyne Veen. I have a lot of ideas and lately they are translated in what you could call an installation design, which then becomes a photo and then a digital composition.
Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? I am a perfectionist so I have a problem with wanting to know everything without any partial uncertainty, which kind of always results in the opposite because you will never get to the point this way. I always get totally lost in Wikipedia & translation & dictionaries & newspaper site––never-ending curiosity in combination with small lack of focus and discipline in regards to the inter web is really disturbing.
A website I love is VPRO, an amazing Dutch public broadcasting service, which proclaim creativity, global citizenship, innovation and quirkiness. I would give huge donations to them if I were wealthy. Our government is increasing their budget drastically, while it is on of the best sources of well spread ideas situated in the best environment to do so. They try to stay very true to their values and make the least concessions I have ever noticed in a media environment.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Dealing with the feeling of being deceived in everything I try to do, especially when buying products I seem to need for my work or just basic necessities.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am working on an impression of the futuristic opera “Victory Over the Sun” for which Malevich did the costume design. At this point, I was browsing through my animated gif collection to find symbols to work with and now I can move on to the tangible version in my studio. So Russian futuristic poetry, music and art is actually my main focus right now.
How did your interest in art begin? I remember the first piece of art that ever got through to me: Christo’s Valley curtain in Colorado, 1972. I remember being heavily impressed with such a GREAT feeling of unlimited possibilities in life.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? Hmmm, I am not sure I am able to really collaborate with somebody and be ultimately satisfied with the outcome, I am such a control/decision freak. But, I would love to work together with great craftsmen of all kinds––a glassblower for example.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? I want them to feel surprised, uncertain, revolted and amused. A deep depression would be ideal, but not as the sole result and not without hope.
What are you reading right now? Arnon Grunberg, De man zonder ziekte.
Any current or upcoming shows we should know about? There is an architectural reconstruction going on in a public passage in Amsterdam for which I made the works attached. They show the craftsmen still around in that specific area. The photos will be on display for 10 years in huge light boxes! This project will open in early 2014 and I am really looking forward to see it all finished. This is for Ymere & Stadsdeel Amsterdam Zuid.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? An email with ‘love your work ya biittttttchhhhhhhhhhh’ accompanied by some smiley faces. Or, somebody wrote ‘this is the stupidest & dumbest work I have ever seen.’ Pretty great! But, people have mentioned positive crying as well! Whatever is in the eye of the beholder. After a portfolio viewing with an ad agency I got asked straight away: Are you a spiritual person?
Click through the photo for the Facebook event.
Artist of the Week: Spencer Stucky
Spencer Stucky graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011 with a BFA in photography. During his time at school he was in numerous group and solo shows and released several books under the publishing collective QUOIN. Spencer was born in San Francisco in 1987. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois and is enrolled in the Photography MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born in San Francisco, California, and lived there for a while before we moved on over to Oakland. I received a BA in Art History and a BFA in photography from the University of Oregon, where I worked at (and was wildly excited by) Ditch Projects. After undergrad, I moved back to Oakland and worked with Lower Bottom Gallery for about two years before moving to Chicago for SAIC’s MFA photo program. My practice currently calls on a wide range of disciplines, from photography to sculpture and drawing. Right now I am investigating the intersection of architectures, bodies, and nature. Also, I really like burritos.
How did your interest in art begin? Oh man, well, in the spirit of transparency, I will admit, it was skateboarding. I was really into skating when I was in my early teens. I would shoot skate photos of my friends, and eventually the camera started turning to what was happening on the periphery. I remember seeing work by Ed Templeton and Mark Gonzales in Thrasher and being floored. After school darkroom classes and a healthy obsession followed.
Tell us about your work process and how it develops? I usually start with an interest based on an experience, document, or object that I have found, and then try to examine why I was initially engaged. What makes _______ interesting? What is the history of ______ and how does that fit into a larger political, cultural, and historical lineage? I spend a great deal of my time researching and trying to answer these questions. Usually, I find the resolutions to any kind of formal decisions during the research process.
What were you like in high school? A skate rat.
What are you reading right now? Donna Harraway’s When Species Meet, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Meeting the Universe Halfway by Karen Barad, Modernity unbound: Other Histories of Architectural Modernity by Detlef Mertins, the Are you working Too Much? Post-Fordisim, Precarity, and the Labor of Art e-flux journal, and Skymall.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? During the winter, in Chicago, I would have to say the Lincoln Park Conservatory (although I haven’t gone yet this season). It is a beautiful victorian steel and glass greenhouse in Lincoln Park that dates back to 1877. The conservatory has a fantastic collection of tropical plants, including hundreds of orchid and fern varieties. Imagine walking in out of sub-freezing temperatures into a humid and 80 degree tropical paradise with a glass dome roof. It’s like a mini vacation.
Who is your ideal studio mate? Probably Matsuoka Shuzo
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am currently finishing a project about the Paimio Sanitorium in Paimio, Finland. The work surrounds the use of the site and the architecture as a focusing apparatus for natural phenomena such as light, air, and vegetation for healing purposes. I also am making photographs and video work about a Chicago Police dog and motion capture technology. Besides these concrete projects, I have a few things floating around my head connecting a Swedish lightbulb factory, Trisha Brown, and photographs of swimsuits from the Nordiska museet archive, but I have no idea what will come of these. I’m also trying to get my act together and finally make some collaborative work with Steven Vainberg; a zine might be forthcoming.
If you were a drink what drink would you be? A Hamm’s.
Artist of the Week: Dani Orchard
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? After finishing my MFA at Hunter College this past May, I was awarded a generous grant and a year-long residency through The Dedalus Foundation. I have access to a beautiful studio at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn until next July. I’m hoping to travel to Istanbul next spring, to spend a month or so painting and exploring. I currently have work in a group show in New York at Galerie Protege, with three great artists.
What are you currently watching on Netflix/what’s on your Netflix queue? I tend to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix and then lament doing so because I have nothing left to watch.
What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? I was truly lucky to land this studio at Industry City right out of graduate school, but I’m of course aware of the enormous financial difficulties facing artists living in New York City. Studio rent is prohibitively expensive. I know of people moving to nearby cities like Beacon to find large and affordable studios, which to me sounds great, but surely presents a host of new problems. I can’t help feeling that the situation here is dismal, but I try to keep in mind that communities emerge from shared misery.
If you had one wish what would it be? I have a recurring daydream that involves being put in a situation that would require tremendous bravery on my part. It takes place in beautiful but inhospitable natural surroundings, and results in a great spiritual revelation. Usually, I’m saving the life of my sister’s Basset Hound, Bernie, in the frigid tundra after a fiery plane crash. For some reason, afterward someone awards me with millions of dollars. Basically I want to win the lottery, but somehow feel that I deserve it.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I’m fairly traditional in terms of materials. I try to use only nice oil paints and brushes. My medium is linseed or poppy oil, Gamsol and cold wax medium. I do experiment with supports, using various gessoes and linen weaves to arrive at new textures. My work is rooted in drawing. I use rudimentary printmaking processes and hardly plan anything. I draw all the time, and run a weekend figure drawing session at Hunter College. I work very quickly. I’m still not sure how to reconcile my love of fast gestural abstraction with my need to preciously dissect and design a canvas. Maybe that irreconcilability is what’s interesting about my work.
What artists are you interested in right now? I love Nicole Eisenman for her humor and amazing range, and for the playful way she borrows from art history. Recently I’ve been looking at a lot of sculptors, namely Huma Bhabha and Rachel Harrison. I really want to try some three dimensional work. Picasso’s ceramics are so charming and unrehearsed. He seemed to follow any impulse and allowed the shape of the vessel to dictate a composition. I’d like a new challenge, a new constraint. My paintings are largely unplanned and are informed by material. Often a response to an accidental surface texture will motivate an entire painting. I’m interested in trying to incorporate new media that could encourage unexpected responses.
How has your work developed within the past year? The figure has always been present in my work, but before my thesis semester, it wasn’t clear what the figures were doing or why they inhabited a space together. From January to May, I took up the theme of mother and child. I come from a large family and this domestic relationship was both dear to me and related to paintings from art history that I hoped to bring into the present. By introducing a clear relationship between the figures, I could explore formal painting ideas while remaining anchored and focused. I discovered that my interest in frailty and intimacy as well as painting history could all be evoked by a single symbol. Instead of being stifling, this theme proved very fruitful. I also allowed the importance of drawing to be more evident in the work, allowing areas of blank canvas and charcoal to show through.
What’s your favorite thing about your city? The Met. And the food here. You can eat well very cheaply. I also really love driving and biking over bridges. I’m terrible at math and it fascinates me that humans can conceive and execute such enormous and structurally sound things.
What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? The Magritte show at MOMA. I couldn’t believe how clear and confident they seem, and so quirky. There are a few larger works, but I left feeling amazed by the appeal of grouping such small, intimate paintings. I went with a couple of friends and we picked out different paintings that we want to “cover”. I feel the most inspired by work when I’m frantic to emulate it.
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? I try not to keep snacks around when I’m working because I turn gluttonous and eat absentmindedly. I do use food as an incentive to work. I’ll award myself with tacos if I finish stretching canvases.