Moniker Art Fair made its debut in the United States during Frieze Week (May 3 – 6, 2018) featuring galleries from around the world that are dedicated urban culture. Renowned for thinking outside of the white cube model the eight year old London fair took over the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn with a stellar presentation... read more
Moniker Art Fair settles into Brooklyn this week for its inaugural debut in the United States and we’re excited to present a solo presentation of new work by Brusk in booth 26. This French artist is best known for his signature dripping style and merges imagery from pop culture, film and comic books. Blurring the... read more
Metaphor of the creativity process, through the cycle of life represented by the personified nature. A short film on the universal language of visual art, dance and music. A story in 4 chapters, telling the process of creativity, the relationship between Man and nature and the concept of cycle of life. chapter I : GENESIS... read more
For the month of April JLP will be taken over by Indigo Blood Project, an extensive exhibition by French artist Koralie featuring work on canvas, prints, sculptures, a film, as well as an immersive installation. Drawing inspiration from her travels around the world she’s particularly interested in folk customs, emblematic monuments and animist rituals, all... read more
INTERVIEW: CARDBOARD MASTERY AND FANTASTICAL SCULPTURES OF DANIEL AGDAG Interview by Evan Pricco Maybe it’s just me, but there is something quite comforting with controlled chaos. I like the idea of organization amongst all the noise of the world, where you let yourself blend into the mechanice of the modern world. Daniel Agdag, with his... read more
INTERVIEW: JOHN JACOBSMEYER ON HIS NEW SHOW, VIDEO GAMES, TV, AND THE PERKS OF CHEAP PLYWOOD In anticipation of John Jacobsmeyer’s upcoming show, Great Feats and Defeats, at Jonathan Levine Projects, we got in touch with him to hear a bit about where he’s been at lately. Jacosbmeyer’s video-game inspired world of conflict reflects his... read more
KIP OMOLADE HEAVY METAL DEITY INTERVIEW BY RON ENGLISH // PORTRAIT BY BRYAN DERBALLA I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Kip Omolade face-to-face, but I have certainly pondered the faces he has made. I have always been mesmerized by reflective surfaces and fully understand the complexities of painting oil on canvas to mimic light on metal.... read more
Jamie Adams offers striking oil paintings that “present the artist’s reconstruction of scenes from his father’s youth” in the new showBlondie Bubba at Jonathan Levine Projects. The works blend the influences of varying artforms while examining the idea of memory. Adam was featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 40.
“Developed from the rather disparate sources of family folklore, his father’s fading memory, and the artist’s dreams, these narratives have become realized as complicated, layered fictions with images depleted, histories mixed, and characters in a state of flux,” a statement says. “He constructs his painted images to consciously mirror cinematic tropes—projection, montage, and celebrity personae—as a way to insinuate a kind of complication or disturbance. Adams exposes his own mechanics using a diversity of visual effects, culling through paint, lens, and screen histories—from painting’s mannerist swirly figures of the Fontainebleau to cinema’s rear projection fantasies. Increasingly their intrusion or mediation affect a redressing of the figural form.”
The show runs through June 9 at the gallery. See more work from the show below.
Gallerist Jonathan LeVine Leads Competition for Artists to Win a Solo Exhibition
By Jessica Stewart
If you’re an emerging artist looking for their big break, acclaimed gallerist Jonathan LeVine is heading up the Delusional Art Competition for the second year. Artists from around the world who work in 2D and 3D mediums are encouraged to apply for the chance to win a solo exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Projects in Jersey City, New Jersey.
LeVine, who began his career in 1994 curating exhibitions at alternative/punk spaces in New York City, opened his first gallery in Chelsea in 2005. Working with names like Ron English, Jeremy Fish, Roa, Dan Witz, and Haroshi, LeVine is on the cutting-edge of contemporary urban art. Now, he’s gathered a powerhouse jury of peers to help him give emerging artists the chance to disrupt the traditional art market and gallery system.
“I was hoping that someday a gallery would take a chance and offer this young Canadian his first international solo show,” said 2017 Delusional Art winner Josh Tiessen. “Jonathan LeVine was the only one ‘delusional’ enough to do this for me.”
Delusional Art Competition is not only the chance to win a solo exhibition, but for artists to also have their work critiqued by professionals in the field, including editor-in-chief of Juxtapoz Magazine Evan Pricco and renowned artist Tara McPherson. The top 40 finalists will have their work displayed during a group exhibition at Jonathan LeVine projects, with the top 50 finalists competing in a public vote for cash prizes.
We had the chance to speak with LeVine about his career and what it means to be a gallerist in the digital age, as well as his motivation for creating the juried contest. Read on for our exclusive interview and don’t forget to submit your entries to the Delusional Art Competition by May 20, 2018.
What first inspired you to become a gallerist?
I didn’t set out to be a gallerist. I just kind of fell into it. I started organizing art shows in bars with artists I liked who I felt were underrepresented and the gallery ended up developing out of that hobby/passion.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen, in terms of the role of galleries, over your career?
Artists aren’t as dependent on galleries as they used to be because of the internet and being able to connect directly with the public through Instagram, Facebook, websites, etc… It has become harder for the gallery to function in the traditional way so we are reinventing ourselves in new ways.
Your decision to move from Chelsea to Jersey City last year seems to be part of a growing trend where smaller art centers are popping up around the US. Why do you think this is and what do you consider some of the hottest, small centers for contemporary art galleries?
Most galleries are doing much of their business online these days so geographical location isn’t as important as it used to be. We can interact with viewers and clients all over the world from our laptops. Some great small centers for contemporary art on my radar are Philadelphia and Portland, OR but there are great small galleries popping up all over the country as well as internationally.
What was the impetus behind starting the Delusional Art Competition?
A friend’s gallery asked me to jury a show for them a few years ago and it was very successful. After that, I got it in my head to try it myself. Since the success of last year’s competition, I am focused on taking the idea of the juried art show and putting it on steroids. I would like to turn it into a very large competition/platform that has many facets to it. I like the idea of creating an even more democratized art world by allowing the public to be involved as well having art professionals, artists, and brands have a voice, too. I would also like to create a platform to help many emerging artists.
The choice of “delusional” as a keyword is quite ironic. Criticism has been a large part of any artist’s career. How do you feel the role of art criticism has changed in this age of social media, where people tend to pat each other on the back?
I think there is a lot less art criticism these days. It was never a big field in the first place as the academic art world is fairly small. People seem to care less about it, unfortunately. The price of having the art world become more democratized because the internet has also crushed this sort of hierarchy which had its pros and cons. It is very hard for collectors and viewers to understand what is good anymore without some sort of rigorous criticism and structure.
As a gallerist, can you share your perspective on why it’s important for emerging artists to be open to critical feedback?
It is the only way an artist can grow. An artist needs to constantly be growing and evolving.
What sort of mindset do you generally look for when scouting for new talent?
Ambition, organization, easy to work with, and open-minded.
You’ve been at the forefront of cutting-edge art trends for years. Where do you see the contemporary art world going in the next 5 years?
That is a very hard question to answer. This is a time of great uncertainty in what is happening in the art world. Art is more a part of the mainstream public’s consciousness which is great but how this will all play out for galleries, museums, and artists remains to be seen. It is very hard to forecast at the moment.
What do you see as the principal role of gallerists in the social media age?
This is also a difficult question to answer. We will function the same for artists who want to be represented within the traditional gallery structure but for other artists, it will be different. We need to be flexible and figure out where the needs of the artist are while creating a sustainable business model. The gallery may become more of a creative agency involved in multiple types of projects as well as focusing on artist management and sales. We are all still figuring it out as social media and the world rapidly changes.
A CHAT WITH KAI & SUNNY BEFORE THEIR NEW SHOW “TWISTS AND TURNS”
Kai & Sunny have been working on Twists & Turns, an exhibition of new work for their second solo show at Jonathan Levine Projects. This new body of work by the UK-based duo showcases their uniquely distinguishable compositions of archival ballpoint pen on paper, as well as acrylic paintings on primed aluminum panel. Twists & Turns is comprised of two narratives; fluid deconstructed landscapes representing a calm isolation through reflection and contemplation, and hard-edged geometrics exuding energy and optimism. These parallel concepts are characterized by the duo’s hallmark precision line work, a slow methodic process of building individual thin lines upon each other creating tense kinetic compositions while a certain fragility remains. The works explores the relationship between color, shape and illusion. How the thin lines can change your perception of the shape ’twisting and turning’ you confusing the foreground and background and inviting you to float in-between the two. The tidal-like waves and intense sunbursts hint at environmental uncertainty but always hopeful of a brighter future through change.
In anticipation of the new show, we caught up with the illustrious duo who we’ve had the pleasure of following for over a decade. Read the full interview below!
What’s changed or expanded since your last show at Jonathan Levine Gallery, and what can we expect to see at the new show?
Our first show with Jonathan LeVine was Lots Of Bits Of Star in 2014 and was our most ambitious at that point. The show was mainly large scale black and white hand finished silkscreen on paper and focused more literally on nature elements. We had a couple of small pen originals and that was the first time we had shown these. Since that point we’ve been developing our technique and becoming much more ambitious with scale, color, detail, and subject matter in both pen and paint. It’s taken us a few years through testing and learning and we are now in a confident place with both techniques. The new body of work showcases archival ballpoint pen on paper, as well as acrylic on primed aluminum panel. Twists & Turns is comprised of two narratives; fluid deconstructed landscapes representing a calm isolation and hard-edged geometrics exuding energy and optimism. The works explores the relationship between color, shape and illusion.
How does the collaboration work with the detailed line paintings?
Sunny and I have worked together exclusively for over 15 years. During that period we have developed our style, refining and evolving it over time as our tastes and interests have changed. Our detailed line paintings and pen pieces are developed together with sketches which are then refined and added to. Both mediums are then painted and drawn with the help of masks to guide us. For the current show, Twists and Turns, Sunny worked on the final production stage of the pen pieces and I worked on the final production stage of the paintings. We constantly feed off each other during the process.
Why is metal your chosen surface for painting recently?
The paintings are on aluminium panels. The panels have gesso applied and sanded back a number of times. This gives us a stable smooth surface to work with. The lines are very thin and often 1 to 2mm thick. We work on an individual color at a time building up the painting one line at a time. Currently, through testing, this surface is working well for us.
What do you like about showing in the states?
We love coming to the (United) States they really get what we do and seem happy to buy into our work. We send lots of work to the US. I would say it’s our second home and we go there once or twice a year for shows or to see family.
Is there a repeating inside joke or movie quote between you guys that comes up a lot while working?
There are many jokes on how intense these pieces get. Thousands of lines drawn/painted repetitively can send you a bit crazy some times. ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore’ from Network has been said a few times : ) They’re also extremely calming and therapeutic things to work on and can transcend you into a hypnotic state.
Does your collaboration most often occur when you’re both physically in the same place at the same time?
We often work in the same place and constantly discuss ideas and approach. We can also work remotely. This can be beneficial at times when painting or working on the pen pieces as it demands total concentration and focus.
What are your favorite outfits and albums these days?
I was just given a 1975, M65 jacket that has the original bronze zips and original detailing. That’s pretty cool. I’ve been listening to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon a lot on the last painting. We called it ‘Horizon Rise’. The painting before LCD Soundsystem, American Dream record, a bit of CAN and some Future Islands, A Tribe Called Quest, Elliot Smith, Young Fathers. Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which in my opinion is probably the greatest hip hop record of all time.
You are professional collaborators, working with each other and others. Why do you think you’re drawn towards collaboration? It seems fair to assume that you also make things separately?
I don’t really think of Sunny and I collaborating. We’ve worked together for many years and we’ve evolved everything together. Our understanding for the work we create and how we got here. It’s more of an intense Twisting and Turning partnership than collaborating. We don’t work outside of ‘Kai and Sunny’ we put all our time and resources into the partnership. We are happy to collaborate with others under ‘Kai and Sunny,’ and we enjoy the process. We’ve collaborated with Element Skateboards on a series of limited decks for this show and it worked really well. I think if the collaboration is right and there’s history then interesting things can happen.
What have been your most pivotal moments of working together? When have the biggest changes happened?
When we first started working together in early 2000’s we ran a small fashion label ‘Call Of The Wild’. This was a great starting point for us and gave us a platform to be creative. We had a small studio in Shoreditch in London. It was a fun time and a lot of creative energy around that part of London. The label sold internationally at places like Colette, Liberty, Selfridges etc. Collaborating with David Mitchell author of Cloud Atlas was great for us and opened up our work to a larger audience. D-face taking a chance on us and giving us our first solo show in 2007 at his gallery ‘Stolen Space’ was a pivotal moment and we are forever grateful. Collaborating with Shepard Fairey was another pivotal moment and gave us the confidence to keep pushing and evolving our work.
Are there any current or past artists that you feel your work is in dialogue with?
We enjoy many artists work from all different areas. We were really pleased to see Haroshi’s London show recently and was special to show our work along side him. Seeing one of Sam Friedman’s paintings at Pulse in Miami was inspiring. Revok is an artist we really admire and love how he keeps pushing. Felipe Pantone would be another. His output is incredible. Loving the work of Josh Sperling. The list could go on. I feel our work sits on its own a bit but maybe a little, one removed dialogue with Pantone. We admire the work of Ian Davenport and his dripping lines are insane. The work of Bridget Riley has clearly had an impact on us.
What projects are up next after the Twists and Turns show?
After the Twists and Turns show we have a solo back with our home gallery in London at Stolen Space Gallery in November 2018.
Moniker Art Fair made its debut in the United States during Frieze Week (May 3 – 6, 2018) featuring galleries from around the world that are dedicated urban culture. Renowned for thinking outside of the white cube model the eight year old London fair took over the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn with a stellar presentation of street art, artist lectures and panel discussions, film screenings and murals in the surrounding neighborhood.
Our booth featured a solo presentation of new work by French artist Brusk. Blurring the line between figuration and abstraction he transforms his subjects into bold drips of paint with playful details reminiscent of his graffiti days. Fair goers also got the opportunity to see Brusk in action as he painted a massive mural on Greenpoint Avenue between West Street and WNYC Transmitter Park.
Continue reading to view images of the event and feel free to email us regarding availability of work by Brusk, we still have some beautiful pieces available. Limited edition prints by the artist can be found on our online shop.
Moniker Art Fair settles into Brooklyn this week for its inaugural debut in the United States and we’re excited to present a solo presentation of new work by Brusk in booth 26. This French artist is best known for his signature dripping style and merges imagery from pop culture, film and comic books. Blurring the line between figuration and abstraction, Brusk transforms his subjects into bold drips of paint with playful details reminiscent of his graffiti days. Watch the time-lapse video above to get a peek inside Brusk’s studio as he created this new body of work.
While exploring Moniker be sure to visit Le Grand Jeu Book Shop, where a limited edition silkscreen made by BRUSK exclusively for Moniker will be available for purchase. Additional prints by the artist will be available on our online shop on Friday, May 4th.
Metaphor of the creativity process, through the cycle of life represented by the personified nature.
A short film on the universal language of visual art, dance and music. A story in 4 chapters, telling the process of creativity, the relationship between Man and nature and the concept of cycle of life.
chapter I : GENESIS / Roots of inspiration
Inspiration originates from observation, knowledge, experience and memories. Through our intuitions, we build our tree of life : we are nourished by our roots, we rest on the branches of our achievements and work on our dreams. During our journey, we try to show what we want to reap.
chapter II : IMAGINATION / Garden of emotions
Imagination is an audacious wild plant, it grows in all directions, follows its instinct and releases its emotions. We let go, and let fireworks of ideas and kaleidoscopic images of our reflections emerge, to connect them, juxtapose them, and combine them. A ritual is set up, like a ritornello: immersion/research/interpretation/appropriation.
chapter III : EQUILIBRIUM / Shades & variations
By mastering the fire of passion, by channeling our energies, by adapting and structuring ideas, by finding a balance, we can be prepared to present a singular and authentic idea.
To tame our ideas, to extract their essence, find the rhythm, and to construct an abstract image, that only we understand, in universal language.
chapter IV : OXYMORE / Dusk of the cycle
Contemplation of the end of a cycle, calm and resolute, we let ourselves fill with emptiness. Conflicting feelings mingle: happiness and melancholy. Satisfied with work done, sad to turn the page of how we feel in that moment and change our emotional state. Be aware of the doubts which tiptoe and settle in on our last breath … until the next inspiration.
The cycles are constant, only nature has preceded us and will succeed us.
. Idea, Scenario and Producer : Koralie
. Directors : Koralie & Sébastien Abes (Smog Films)
. Directors of Photography : Sébastien Abes & Boris Frantz
. Head Film Editor : Sébastien Abes
. Dancer : Garance Vallée / Kids Actors : Yuko & Roméo Grando
. Additional Music Production : D.L.i.d.
. Editors : Sébastien Abes, Boris Frantz, Alex Heitler and Wesley Wilquin
. Music : Plaît-il ? Prod., D.L.i.d. , Boris Frantz, Laetitia Dana
. Decor, Artwork, Costume Design and Illustrations : Koralie
. Costume Assistant : Ingrid Bichard and Agnès Ospital
. Decor Assistants : Alice Casini / Macrame : Clémentine Angel
. Motion Designers : Yves Fraweel, Sébastien Abes and Raphael Dahan
Former French Street Artist Koralie is currently having an extensive solo gallery show of paintings, sculpture and installation with Jonathan LeVine Projects in Jersey City, and her geisha is not hard to find – at least her sunny spirit is here.
The signature Japanese musical and dance entertainer she brought to the streets in the 2000s could be seen as an early influencer for these precise folkly patterned pieces – along with Russian nesting dolls, eastern European braided maidens, the occasional samuri.
Most striking as you walk through this ordered colliding of patterns, colors, and laser cut texture, is the sense that symmetry can make order of the effusion; a series of rhythmically visual punctuations that almost become audio, and almost dance.
The influences emanate from the childhood fantasies of ornamented cultural traditions including Japanese, Russian, and Hopi, but here they are trippily lifted and re-combined with one another through the ordered graphic vision of Koralie, detached from their heavier origins and free to make new friends.
For the month of April JLP will be taken over by Indigo Blood Project, an extensive exhibition by French artist Koralie featuring work on canvas, prints, sculptures, a film, as well as an immersive installation. Drawing inspiration from her travels around the world she’s particularly interested in folk customs, emblematic monuments and animist rituals, all of which offer an aesthetic richness full of a variety of symbols. In an effort to create dreamlike multicultural harmony, Koralie breaks down borders by mixing elements of both traditional and contemporary cultures.
Check out the work in progress video below and be sure to visit Indigo Blood Project opening on March 31st with and opening reception from 6 – 8 pm. The show remains on view through April 29th.
INTERVIEW: CARDBOARD MASTERY AND FANTASTICAL SCULPTURES OF DANIEL AGDAG
Interview by Evan Pricco
Maybe it’s just me, but there is something quite comforting with controlled chaos. I like the idea of organization amongst all the noise of the world, where you let yourself blend into the mechanice of the modern world. Daniel Agdag, with his fantastical cardboard sculptures of machines, gears and technological structures that surround us, is literally breaking down and examining chaos in new and exciting ways. His newest solo show, Stories I Haven’t Written Down, which runs from February 17—March 17, 2018 at Jonathan LeVine Projects, will be his first solo in the US and feature an array of cardboard and tracing paper works that are both nostalgic and illuminating. We sat down with the Melbourne-based artist to talk about childhood, staying curious and naming his show.
Evan Pricco: This isn’t so much a question but an observation: I assume you were a curious kid. Did you have all sorts of books and LEGOs and K’Nex sets?
Daniel Agdag: I was definitely a very curious kid, but quite introverted. I didn’t have a lot of lego – certainly not as much as I wanted – my parent’s couldn’t afford much so my mum would save for a special set that I would have my eye on. But when I did eventually get the set, I usually disregarded the instructions completely and just made my own things!
What, if anything, does your work say about where you live? In Melbourne?
I would say that I don’t try to specifically reference Melbourne, my inspiration comes from all over. In many ways, I am trying to create my own world, rather than replicate the one I see around me. Of course I do spend my time walking around the industrial parts of Melbourne to gain inspiration, but my work does have a global influence. For instance, I traveled to Tokyo in 2016 and spent the bulk of my time walking around the city with my head cranked up, looking at all the ducting, they have a very impressive arrangements of ducting. I love encountering odd little details too, like a submerged switches on the ground surround by a metal guard or an unusual funnel that receives countless pipes. Its really details that intrigue me, both as a curiosity of what they do and why they were designed to look in such a certain way. The details never get old, they are the strongest driver of my ideas and my questioning of their logic is what creates my narratives.
What were your first forays into sculpture? Did you initially work with cardboard, or did that emerge gradually?
I majored in painting and minored in photography. Sculpture did not emerge as a practice until I lived next door to an architect who introduced me to cardboard as he was using it to make his architectural models. I then began making objects and buildings before moving onto creating my more narrative driven pieces.
Maybe this is silly, but what is something that has piqued your interest recently in regards to your process? Like, what sort of structures or machines are you interested in right now?
Lately I had an series of ideas involving little compact compartments that are also vehicles of some type. I had a very tiny car once and I loved the cosy nature to it. The fact that is was so small meant everything for its function needed to be thought out to make it fit just right in it’s compact framework. I like that idea of people, engineers, designers having a desired set of circumstances that they have to make work and in turn it creates a unique outcome, a peculiar object, vehicle or structure.
What did you make for the LeVine show? I noticed that some of the works deal with flying for this one. What got that sort of train of thought moving?
I like the use of flying (and hence the flying machine) as a metaphor for many challenges and undertakings. I get caught up in these narratives of solitary people who dedicate their lives to a single cause, like inventors or engineers who spend their time pursuing an idea that they can’t let go of for some reason. I like to think of this idea that the works are the end result of such a lifetimes work, of someone doggedly pursing a vision that may never be recognised. And they are poised, ready for launch, possibly into fame and recognition for this work or into complete obscurity. Life can be like that.
I love the name of your show, “Stories I Haven’t Written Down,” and its like the perfect connection to your work. When did that name come up…
All of my show titles sort of emerge from a collective theme that all of the pieces that belong to it encompass.
With this show, I had completed a short animated film last year, that took over 3 years to make, and I was thinking about how with film, especially animation, everything has to follow a process and nothing left to chance. But even during this, my mind is always awash with little stories and ideas that I don’t get a chance to write down, even though I carry a notebook with me at all times. So, contrary to film-making, I think my sculptural practice really embraces this idea of improvisation, and allows for these stories to materialise in the form of a singular piece.
All of the pieces in the show are independent ideas on their own journeys but they are tangentially related to each other in some small way, they may cross paths, they all belong to that same unique world, but they are their own narratives.
Cardboard to me doesn’t seem like the most sturdy of materials, and yet, its all about being pushed around and beat up and it does, indeed, survive. What do you love about cardboard?
Cardboard is a surprisingly robust material that always surprises me to the limits in which I can manipulate it. But also, I like it because of it’s egalitarian nature. It’s recycled, it’s non-toxic and regarded as a commodity. It has a tactility that lends itself to my ideas so well.
I’m not quite sure though if it’s the material itself that fascinates me or what it provides for me that does. I find for me, the narrower the medium, the broader my ideas become. This limitation allows me to be limitlessly imaginative with it. And for me, it’s fluid to work with – without the need for elaborate tools and a large dedicated space. That said, I am constantly surprised by the limits to which I can take it. The most important thing about it is that as a medium for me it offers the least amount of resistance to conceive and express my ideas.
Will you be in NYC for the show? Anything you want to see or do in the City?
Yes, I will be here for the show opening. There are so many things I want to see here, I was here 17 years ago so its been a long time between visits. I do want to relax a little but usually my partner and I like to go to a neighbourhood and just wander around, observing and discovering. But specifically, I will be admiring all of the bridges, all of the Art Deco architecture, Some buildings of note: The Woolworth Building, FlatIron Building and of course, all of the water towers will get a special look in.
INTERVIEW: JOHN JACOBSMEYER ON HIS NEW SHOW, VIDEO GAMES, TV, AND THE PERKS OF CHEAP PLYWOOD
In anticipation of John Jacobsmeyer’s upcoming show, Great Feats and Defeats, at Jonathan Levine Projects, we got in touch with him to hear a bit about where he’s been at lately. Jacosbmeyer’s video-game inspired world of conflict reflects his childhood spent between rural New Hampshire and Virginia, and the freedom and exploration found within childhood dreams and experiences. In his latest show, he hypothesizes a theoretical world where digital technology precedes analog, and how that might play out.
What is one major change in the work from this exhibit as opposed to previous exhibitions?
I think more than my earlier exhibitions, this project, attempts to answer the question: If time were reversed and analog followed digital, if plywood clubhouses were made in order to bring video game narratives into the real world, how would that look? What kinds of stories would take place in that environment?
Tags and graffiti show up throughout your work, do you have a background in graffiti?
I have a background in making clubhouses from scrap plywood salvaged from construction sites in northern Virginia. Sometimes the boards came generously tagged but when we made our clubhouses the graffiti broke up as various boards were cut up or used in different places. The result was a jumbled mosaic of fragments. Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the work of graffiti bombers like Katsu who uses drones to disrupt mammoth billboards in NYC. My painting “Let’s French” features a Katsu type drone in action.
It also seems like wood plays a continuing role, what is something alluring about painting wood?
I was working on a painting several years ago of Bele and Lochi from a Star Trek episode and wanted them to be in a 1960’s wood paneled den. In order to make the wood paneling, I picked up a woodgraining handbook at Home Depot and found that the layered techniques were similar to how I create flesh in oil paint. I had so much fun painting woodgrain that I couldn’t stop thinking of other paintings I could make with it. Thinking back to my childhood, growing up on a farm in New Hampshire part of the time, and next to the woods in suburban Virginia the other part made me realize, wooden structures, especially ones made of plywood, were everywhere in my life. Rotary sawn, knotty pine plywood is among the cheapest types of wood product, and its figuring is the wildest. For me, that woodgrain pattern evokes sea monsters, evil eyes, dark holes, landscapes and much more.
Some of your pieces feel like stills from a movie or TV show. Do you watch much TV?
TV, yes. We’re experiencing a renaissance in great television lately. Since Battlestar Galactica, TV series have largely outstripped feature films in exploring the narrative possibilities of future humans. I’ll stream a series while painting in the studio. Part of what intrigues me is how far people go to become almost superhuman. This is carried to an extreme in much science fiction, including video games. So, with this show, my inspiration for the environments comes from my favorite video games, namely Doom, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Halo. What better model to have for the design of a clubhouse than level E4M6 of the original Doom?
What your plans for the rest of the year?
At this point, I’m itching to build something out of actual wood in my workshop, a spaceship perhaps. Also, I want to try and build a world using the same 3D modeling software I use for the individual models in my paintings. This will likely take time, but will provide many opportunities for new paintings.
Great Feats and Defeats will run at Jonathan Levine Projects from Februray 17—March 17, 2018.
INTERVIEW BY RON ENGLISH // PORTRAIT BY BRYAN DERBALLA
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Kip Omolade face-to-face, but I have certainly pondered the faces he has made. I have always been mesmerized by reflective surfaces and fully understand the complexities of painting oil on canvas to mimic light on metal. The heft of Kip’s art stems from its elemental expression of mystery in simplicity and of specificity into universal patterns and form.
Ron English: How personal is your art?
Kip Omolade: My art is deeply personal. The use of color is directly connected to my NYC graffiti days. The sci-fi look is connected to my childhood and teenage interest in comic books and my internship at Marvel Comics. The use of oil paint is connected to my painting from life at SVA and the Art Students League of New York.
Your inspiration comes from the African art tradition of mask making. Have you retained any of the original inspiration, like magical thinking or power imbuing in your modern interpretation?
I’m inspired by the African representation of deities. The Nigerian Ife culture specifically created sculptures that combined the natural features of actual leaders and a spiritual ideal. With my latest self-portraits, I’m exploring the role of an artist as a sort of deity.
How important are the details in the reflections? Do they constitute a primary or a secondary narrative?
It depends. I usually work within two motifs. Sometimes I’m interested in a spiritual, timeless look, so I’ll position my sculptures so that the reflections are reduced to abstract shapes and colors. Other times, I’ll take my sculptures outside so I can get reflections of the world and me. This approach gives me a chance to capture a specific moment in time and make a landscape, a portrait and a still life all in one painting.
People always look for themselves in reflections. How do you exploit this human inclination?
I don’t know if I consciously try to exploit people’s need to see themselves in reflections. I’m more interested in representing mere human existence. However, some people see my work online and think I just mount sculptures against colorful backgrounds. I suppose that when they see the work in person, they expect to see themselves but are surprised to see that the work is a painting.
There is a dichotomy between the work of art as a unique object and a work of art as an illustration of something else. You seem to be trying to balance these two artistic strategies in your work. Am I reading this correctly?
Yes. I want viewers to notice the beauty of my work and my craftsmanship, but I also want to illustrate the historical significance and cultural meaning. One of the things I appreciate about your work is that it’s skillfully done and captures the viewer’s attention, but there is also a message about society.
Have you ever thought of doing the reverse version to create a model that would be the inverse of the face? Then you could stage a more internal narrative in the room that would reflect into it, for a counterpoint piece.
That’s an interesting idea. I’ve never thought of that.
Have you considered selling the masks themselves? What is your idea of prop versus art piece?
Yes, I’ve thought of selling the masks themselves. During the process, I’ve always thought about displaying them as luxury items. In fact, when I’m finished with the sculptures, I usually ceremoniously mount each piece against a panel with my Diovadiova logo on it. I look at props as part of the art. The whole process itself of reproducing a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction is a kind of performance art.
Describe your process, including fabrication and photography as you arrive to the final end piece, which is the painting.
I start by making a mold and cast of the model’s face. I work the plaster sculpture by sculpting eyes and nostrils and refining the overall face. I use the sculpture to produce a resin version that is chromed. For the sculptures of women, I add eyelashes to match their personalities. I photograph the final sculpture and use references to paint on canvas.
What’s the largest work you’ve done so far? My largest painting so far is 96 x 74 inches.
What monumental or fantasy project would you want to do if money and time were no object?
I would love to travel the world and photograph my self-portrait chrome sculpture in various locales. I would also love to work on portraits of iconic people like Obama, Beyonce, Rihanna and Chuck Close.
How has your experience working within the gallery system been?
The gallery system is a relatively new experience for me. I’ve been working independently and made more money on my own selling directly to clients. It’s fun to get all of the money directly, but there is something that’s still powerful about working with the infrastructure of an established gallery. They still have the connections and power to sell, so the artist can focus on creating. This is why my upcoming Diovadiova Chrome show at Jonathan LeVine marks an important moment in my career.
Who is collecting your work and what are they seeing in the work as opposed to your original intentions? Has your interaction with the public changed your approach in any way?
Most of my collectors are entrepreneurs who are interested in the universal look of my work. They pretty much get my original intentions of cultural ties but they also make an emotional connection.
Earlier this year, I had a show at Viacom in NYC and was happy with the reactions from so many different people from different nationalities and backgrounds. The experience didn’t change my approach but it was meaningful and confirmed my vision.