Table Of Contents April 2012 6 John Borchard
20 Josh Wisdumb
32 Chifuku Kuwahara
Pete Cosmos Zoe Hyde Carina Wine
Pete Cosmos Darius Loftis
Associate Web Designer
Interview by Carina Wine Photograph by Dr. Scott Sieburth
“Wait, what? Hold on, what?” It was the first really nice night of spring, and I was having drinks with my editor on a pub patio. He is squinting at me like his beer had just turned into a mouthful of paint. “Did you really just tell me that the artist you are interviewing has no art he wants to show?” “I know!” I giggled into my drink. “How cool is that?” Three weeks earlier I had started a correspondence with a local artist named JB. Before we sat down to meet we had discussed his ouroboros-like situation. Based on his past work, Abstraks wanted to profile him. JB accepted with the caveat that while he is pleased with his past work, what really excites him is what he is doing now. JB from our email: “The last year, or maybe two, I really have stopped photography and am working in a whole new direction, light sculpture, which draws much more on combining my engineering background with art interests. I am concentrating on shapes that are much more freeform and entirely my own. My photographic period, while I can give you lots of great digitals, seems not right, as it is the past. My new work, about which I am most excited ... well, it doesn’t exist. So I could talk about plans but there are no images to flesh it out.” I was in. A basketball player is still a basketball player even if he is between teams. You know how you go to a concert and there is always that person who loudly insists he only wants to hear what was a hit ten years ago? Everyone hates that guy. Greatest Hits are for artists who feel their best work is behind them. So how do we talk about art when there is nothing to look at? We can talk about art as a process. Art isn’t just an end product; it comes about as the result of an artist’s mental and emotional alchemy. JB: “I don’t really remember some big moment that I made a decision to switch from one form to another. There must have been, but as soon as I did this it felt like I’d been on this path all along. They seem linked emotionally, even though intellectually they aren’t.” Rarely can an artist break down their process so that it
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makes sense to anyone else. You might gaze rapturously at futuristic space age sculpture, but if the artist says she was inspired by her Rottweiler’s pelvis you really just have to take her word for it. The end product probably does not resemble anything remotely like a canine’s hindquarters. We have to trust artists that somehow they will transform the boringly recognizable to the captivatingly relevant. We have to trust their process to show us their vision; to translate the leaps their mind makes out of view of their audience. JB: “For things to seem very different emotionally, you have to feel that you have rejected something and gone to something else. Like it has wronged you and you have to move on. I never felt like that with any of my art. But speaking intellectually, I can’t say how it is I got from one to another. There is a mismatch here, a disconnect, and I don’t know how to resolve it to you. Somehow I flowed from one to another.” An artist’s goal is to take a thing or a feeling or a concept and make it into a wider communication. A creation must speak for itself, grabbing attention while still inviting contemplation. Artists can’t make the equivalent of a oneword answer any more than a song can be composed of one phrase (Baha Men excepted). JB: “Most of the time I find myself really bending and flowing like a river. I am working on something and I find there are obstacles and I find myself flowing around them. An example of this would be the work I’m doing right now. When I saw you, you saw these cardboard shapes that were double spirals. I was having problems physically making them and getting the circuits to run all the way through them. It occurred to me that I should start with something a bit smaller. I started looking at pictures of snakes and somewhere in there my wife reminded me of a book called The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, by Albertus Seba. He did drawing and watercolors: the most wonderful shapes. I was initially looking at shapes of snakes to adapt but then I found all these sea creatures. Jellyfish and squid, these would be just lovely forms in the dark. I sort of do not follow a precise goal. I am meandering.” A great wizard named Gandalf once said, “Not all who wander are lost.” The process starts with an inspiration, a moment, a
memory. The artist has to carry around this stone in their gut and in their brain and heart. They have to pause on it, nurture it, or batter it with better ideas. Cradle it lovingly then push it away. Is this too private? What if nobody gets it? What if it has already been done by some brilliant nutjob who has yet to be discovered, and he did it better? Then, after the giddy insecurity begets the intoxicating vision begets the explosive creativity begets finally settling down, the artist can be more or less at peace with their creation. JB: “I couldn’t really say what the emotional content was with the windows. I think calming is a very common element to all of my art. The clouds I was trying to walk an emotional line between bringing peace into a space and having an image that people enjoy looking at for an extended period of time. The sconces have a mesmerizing quality to them in a way that is similar to the cloud photography. If you stare into them there are details there that can stand a lot of looking but if you defocus a little bit you can get this mesmerizing quality. Glass and light.
They are a combination between actions and peace. When you said you felt wonderment, I felt it was a very brilliant description of the theme in my art. I find it very interesting how different a sculpture looks when it is illuminated form the inside as from the outside. I also find it interesting how a moving texture can make a stationary object come alive.” Simple process, right? All that is left to do is to source your materials, execute those ideas that really seemed better in your head and set your piece adrift in an ocean of others. Make sure it says something! It stands for something, and hope that it washes ashore to a copacetic audience who goes, “Oh. Ah!” After all the work, the artist’s reward is to stand nibbling a thumb in a gallery or studio while people murmur and stare at their splayed out headspace. “What inspired you to create this?” they inquire. And the artist can try to demure but ultimately wants to shout, “MY DOG’S PELVIC BONE!” But try that once or twice
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and you really end up not trusting the people who shout back, “A DOG PELVIS, OF COURSE I SEE IT,YOU BRILLANT HOBO!” JB: “It’s part of my nature to devote much effort to the craftsmanship in my creations, so it’s lovely when people inspect them closely. My all-time favorite word to hear people say about my art is “Neat!” What would I want to yell at studio visitors? ‘Look at this part, look at this juxtaposition, how this section is married to that one...’ but I resist, there’s nothing so embarrassing as eyes glazing over.”
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“It is like a Rorschach test, at least a dozen different responses from people about what they have perceived. And none of it is like mine. I think there is also something that is a surprise element that I am aiming for in everything. That is not a surprise right away. With my previous pieces I’ve had people call me after a couple of months have gone by and say ‘Hey I just noticed this!’ I find that very satisfying. I think having some conflict visually in the pieces can be easy to ignore, but then they just pop out and dance on someone’s head. “ Artists are obsessed with light for good reason, but it
can be an awkward conversation. Light is everything to a visual artist. Painters try to “capture” light; to render a shadow so it can evoke dread, sadness, hope, and delight in the viewer. If done right, the features of a face on canvas can glow with raw spirit. If done wrong, the face reads as sweaty and bulbous. Photographers do not really have it any better. How much pressure is it to snap a single moment in the journey of photons, which can never exist again?
are when I was photographing doorways and windows in Venice. I was really interested how we use visual cues. Perspective is so much important then we think. Some of the pictures were taken from impossible angles. Through Photoshop I found that I could warp the fabric of the image. The perspective of it would be saying you would be looking right at a window, but all the other cues would be telling a different story. I found it really interesting that these extreme distortions were entirely believable.”
JB: “There are basically three families of art objects that I have been making since I have been doing art. The first
“The next series were cloud photographs and mists. I was really fascinated with their almost monochromatic sen-
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sibilities. The less they had in them, the more powerful I found them. Much more interesting than the ones that were crowded with details.” “The light sculptures I am just getting into. I find it very interesting how different a sculpture looks when it is illuminated form the inside as from the outside. I also find it interesting how a moving texture can make a stationary object come alive for us. This might be a returning to a disparate cues interest.” Light is how we drink in the vision of another; how the artist’s creation thrums our optic nerve and burrows into our brains. We want shock and awe to shotgun into our heart and guts like Dick Cheney shooting a 78-yearold-man. The attempt to illustrate the properties of light brought us the Dutch Golden-Age stylings of Johannes Vermeer, but also paved the way for Thomas Kinkade to ugly up countless living rooms. Let’s cut out the middleman that is solid matter. Let’s go straight to the source and just make… light. JB: “In a way, between these I am going for less and less
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detail. Less and less distracting cues. The windows were rich photographs with lots going on: textures and surfaces. There is a lot less detail in a cloud. With the spirals or snakes they are really just dots of light that change. They will have even less by way of richness of image. And they will be more focused on the how we mine this sparse data for information.” Perhaps, in the end you were hoping for a description of JB’s art. Perhaps you were hoping for something more concrete then a dialogue of process or a meditation on generalities. When I visited his gallery space there were remarkable things on display: his wife’s paintings! Just kidding, there were also two examples of his work: sculptural glass sconces, which are a collaboration with glass artist Sidney Hutter. While talking to JB my eyes kept drifting over to the glowing sconces hung on the wall behind him. When our conversation paused, I seized on the opportunity to look at them up close. Dear reader, I too was bothered by the concept of a conversation about art only in future terms. Despite the braggadocio I evinced to my editor, I seized
upon those glass pieces like a fish chomping at bait. The pieces were intricate, melodic and spellbinding. You should probably visit JB in his studio to see them for yourself. One thing I hear from artists (and plebs) all the time is that something is “interesting”. Why did you put three shop vacs in aquariums, Jeff Koons? Oh you know, it is just so interesting… Like when a chef saying he really likes ‘flavor’. Flavor in food? You mean you weren’t hoping to cook a dish that can argue constitutional law? We have to nod our heads in non-agreement because we’ve all been there: explaining something that cannot be explained. Like being in love. It is powerful, personal, and unable to be communicated very well to an outsider. JB: “Interesting is at its nature a subjective phenomenon. Art can be interesting to the audience in a different way than it is to the artist. I enjoy straddling the great divide between art and engineering, maybe because I don’t really see a divide there at all. Nonetheless, I see it as strength to be able to live in both worlds. Most of what you know about yourself you totally take for granted until you are forced to for some reason, and that is usually because something has gone wrong with it. A really interesting question is about the nature of questioning. I’m not sure if I am an engineer doing art, or an artist doing engineering. I feel like I have been following the same muse despite looking pretty disparate.” “For example I think part of my curiosity is, if you see spots of light arrayed in space, with more spots we start to form the idea of three dimensional objects. There is an effect of when lights get dimmer or less saturated, they feel as if they are moving off into the distance. Light diffuses spatially; it greys out. I can’t make the light become further away but I am interested in seeing if I can make them seem further away. And use that to make an illusion of space with the spots of light being located at different depths then they actually are. These are very discreet lights in space and somehow and in some way it can come together and form a three dimensional thing. That is something I intend to play with.” As another wise wizard once said in the book of Genesis “Let there be light”.
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Josh 20 Wisdumb Interview by Zoe Hyde
My interview with Josh takes a turn for the bizarre before I even meet him, when I discover the address he has given me for his studio is in the same building of studio space where I met my last artist, not weeks ago. How I got the whole way there without realizing it is a mystery, one which I am deeply shrouded in, standing in front of the nondescript office building set back in its urban surroundings. I feel very much like Alice, who had to run very fast just to be able to stand in the same place. Still, nothing if not intrepid, I ring the bell and am greeted by Josh, who shows me upstairs to his studio. Since I started working for this publication, I have seen a great many studios in a varying array of palettes, but Josh’s is definitely the type I am most familiar with. Paint, glue, and paper are present in every square foot of the space; long tendrils of color have hardened to the various wooden surfaces. A small black cat, “Samo, named after Basquiat”, is very friendly and rubs his head across my calves. Another cat, Shadow, is absent throughout the interview, and strikes me as aptly named. Across the two right walls there are long, rectangular pieces of canvas attached to the walls, works that Josh tells me are “Paranoia” and “Anxiety”. Lines of color and black sprout out from a central hub and creep their way out to the edges of the canvas, then on top of those more lines, and more. Josh wastes no time, immediately jumping in to tell me about these pieces before I can even start recording. Josh: Paranoia painting and Anxiety painting took two days to complete and two nights to complete. Anxiety is 13’ by 6‘, it’s acrylic and ink, and the same goes for Paranoia.
Josh: I actually made a lot of friends there, and I went there to connect with people. It’s an awesome school, and it was a lot of fun. They’re really free with what they let us do, and actually, my last year I made a sneaker with New Balance.
Zoe: Is 2 days a normal amount of time for you to make work like this?
Zoe: Did you get any credit for that? Working with New Balance, that’s pretty impressive.
Josh: Well these are big pieces, I mean. 12’ by 6’ and trying to study the shapes and forms that I was creating, it took, yeah, it took quite a bit of time. Usually I work quickly, and I’m working with brighter colors now, I was working with pen and inks a while and, I still do pen and inks but, these are kind of taking over. It’s more fun to work with a larger scale; it’s more of a challenge I guess.
Josh: Yeah, those are the sneakers over there. It’s good, they made 14,000 pairs, and they sold out in two days.
Zoe: What mediums do you generally prefer?
Zoe: So you made a lot of friends at school, but it didn’t affect your style specifically?
Zoe: Tell me again about these two?
Zoe: Do you have any more ideas to make couture, possibly more shoes? Josh: I’d love to.
Josh: Acrylic, pen and ink. Mix medium canvas. Zoe: Your website said you went to the Museum School, do you feel like that changed your work at all?
Josh: Well, it did, I learned a lot, but I’m mostly self-taught, so I learned a lot of, I wouldn’t say ‘technique’ but ‘approach’, and I liked a lot of the feedback I would get there. I feel like, honestly, with most art schools it’s all about
Page 23: “Midnite Jupiter” 9x12 pen & ink on paper Page 24: “Solomon” 11x14 pen & ink on paper
Page 25: “Thought” 30” in diameter, mixed media on maple wood circle
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competition, but I didn’t feel much of the competition, I felt more like “cool, this is cool critique, I like hearing it and it’s really awesome, I’d love to hear more.” Zoe: Would you say your aesthetic is more organic or industrial? Josh: I’d say it’s a mixture of the two in some ways, also a touch of subconscious flow. The work that comes out my brain goes directly onto paper or canvas or whatever medium and it’s basically spontaneous; in many ways I don’t think much before I act on working. I kind of just flow with what I’m feeling and put my emotions on canvas. Zoe: So all these colors are intuitive? Josh: They’re feelings, a lot of them. I mean, how I’m feeling at the time, music’s inspiration to me, so maybe whatever’s playing in the background. Like right now, Brakhage is playing, so maybe that effects our conversation in some way, or a painting, if I was painting right now it would affect my painting. I’m very in tune with my surroundings and it’s also my surroundings that inspire me. Zoe: Have you ever worked outside? Josh: Yes I have. Zoe: Did that affect your painting? Josh: I’d say it did. I prefer working indoors rather than
outdoors, unless I bring something that I did inside, outside. It’s not about the privacy per se it’s more about the comfort of working in my studio. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of work, and you know, being an artist, it’s like you have to balance the business and the art, and that’s something they don’t teach you in school. It’s something that’s learned either by mistake or from people that are really supportive and want to help. Zoe: Do you find that hard to balance? Josh: I don’t know how to answer that, really. I have some people that help me with balancing the two, but ultimately it’s the artist that needs to make the decision for the artwork and which route they want to go down. Zoe: Do you work in graffiti art at all? Josh: Graffiti, in my opinion, is okay. It’s cool, but, the definition of graffiti is actually, I believe, if you look it up, I’m not sure on this so don’t quote me on this, but it’s defacing public property so, I don’t deface public property. I like street art, I like when somebody drops a piece of wood or canvas on the street and people see that and they’re interested. I like more innovative street art, things people will do that will send a message to somebody’s mind and will change it, in some way, and inspire them in some way. That’s ultimately what I do, not street art but I try to help people become inspired through my work, to see different things in there and take what they see. Maybe it helps them, maybe it doesn’t, but hopefully it does. And I’m
Page 26: “Hello” 2.5’x6’ mixed media on wood panel Page 27: “Anxiety” 6’x12.5’, ink & paint on canvas April 2012 Abstraks 27
selfish too, I do it also to help me, it helps me feel good and maintain a balance in my life too. Zoe: So what you like about street art is catching people off-guard through art? Josh: I like when I see something unique, something different that somebody hasn’t really done before. I think that’s key. Zoe: The canvas paintings all have really compelling names, do the names come first, or do the paintings? (Here I dropped my Moleskine on the floor) Josh: The painting comes first. I mean, the book just dropped so I’m thinking now there have been times when I’ve opened up a book and picked out a word, and that’s the name of the painting. Or if I hear something in a song, but with these [paintings behind me], I will look at it and say “well, what does that remind me of?” and the first word that pops into my head, boom, that’s the name. I’m working with a lot of emotions in my art, trying to make things, like you said earlier, organic, like that my art come alive and be living, almost, and I feel like a living thing is emotion or possesses emotion. Zoe: Where are you from? Josh: Hmm…where are we all from? Zoe: Whoa. Josh: (laughing) I know. That gets deep. I’m from all over, all over the US and the world. I don’t think it’s where you’re from I think it’s where you’re at, I think that’s the best approach. So right now I’m at my studio, so that’s where I’m from. Zoe: Is there something special about Boston that inspires you? Josh: I stayed here because I like Boston a lot; I think it’s a great place. I felt like I could help the art scene here, a great deal, and I feel like I have in some ways, whether it be inspiring other people or helping local places, or, doing what I can do, basically to bring out the art scene, more so in the Boston area because I feel like it’s not as prevalent as it is in California, New York, Europe. Don’t get
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me wrong I do travel, and I do work elsewhere, but this is home, right now. I’ve lived here for about 12 years, and I’ve grown a lot as an artist but I’ve grown a lot as a person as well, learning lessons and…creating a lot of work. I do a lot of artwork. Like, the stuff I have here is cool but there is so much out there that I’ve done so far, and much more to come, too. I wake up and I work, before I go to bed and I work, and I lay my head on my pillow, and when I wake up I pick up a brush or a pencil and it’s the same routine again and it becomes, not monotonous but it becomes a life, becomes me. I become a piece of work. Contact: www.joshwisdumb.com email@example.com
Page 28-29: “Paranoia” 5’x10’ ink & paint on canvas Page 30: “Maja” 8.5”x11”, mixed media on paper
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Chifuku 28 Kuwahara Interview by Pete Cosmos
Chifuku Kuwahara has a secret. The secret is Chifuku
Kuwahara. You wouldn’t guess by the way he presents himself, or by asking him, but the epitome of modesty known more commonly as “Chief” has more artistic tricks up his sleeve than you can shake a stick at. Originally hailing from the greater Worcester area but now residing in Mission Hill, this painter/illustrator and soon to be MassArt graduate has dabbled in mediums and experimental exhibitions that might not occur to some in their entire lives, let alone at such an early stage in their career. From his early work with distorting shapes into intricate patterns and incorporating them into his illustrations, to live painting over a painting, over a painting...of a painting? I’ll have to get back to that, I digress; Chief has been developing his craft in not only the subject matter but the presentation as well. Chief has appropriately grouped his work from the past few years into three series; shapes, conversations and the living canvas. The fact that he has already begun sectioning off his progression of style and intention is testament to the philosophy and self-analysis that’s hidden under the surface of his work. “Shapes” is a simple concept that’s really not much more than an expanded method of doodling. However this method does take a staggering amount of dedication and a naturally aesthetics-oriented mind to wander while maintaining enough congruency to create an image from a grouping of smaller, more intricate illustrations of creatures and patterns inside shapes, within shapes, within shapes, yadda, yadda, yadda. Chief, with his favorite uni-ball pen, goes at it for almost a day each for the first two pieces, “22 hrs and 18 mins of wasted time” and, “19 hrs and 20 mins of wasted time” are appropriately titled for the revelation that came with their completion. The third piece titled, “Mother” is where Chief saw the greatest potential at utilizing this method as a viable jumping off point, “[I] realized the shapes could be used as more than just doodles. They are pieces of a whole. Though I didn’t quite start thinking about making shapes that aren’t as arbitrary, this was a good start to some sorta context.” Though he felt he was initially wasting time, Chief’s disposition soon changed. “I considered it wasted time because [the] process of doodling interlocking shapes, personally, seemed easy, like I was not challenging myself as an artist, just wasting time.” “[The second attempt] was an eye opening piece because I clearly filled the same amount of space
Page 35: “Mother” Page 36: “19hrs and 20 mins of wasted time”
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with shapes in less time than the first. Which must mean I have gotten better at drawing shapes, and wasting time. If I’ve improved at wasting time then I couldn’t possibly have wasted time.” The titles of the work negating the premise they’re based on would only be the early stages of where Mr. Kuwahara begins to try to, for lack of a better term, mindfuck his audience. “Conversations” is an interactive series of acrylic paintings done on the covers of a collection of books that are displayed for viewers to pick up and contribute to the piece on the pages by adding what they perceive the mood or conversation of the piece is. This not only affects the original intention of the artist but also creates a kind of a domino effect of interpretations. “The point of the conversations pieces is for viewers to look at the paintings and make their own assumptions, read through the books and create new assumptions, then add to the books and encourage others to share in their assumptions.” This is dangerous ground to tread if the idea of misinterpretation brings about an uneasy feeling of letting your work get tampered with. And while most would rather not entrust the meaning of their work to the masses, Chief has structured his series admirably relying on them.
“The Living Canvas” is a different beast all together, it’s an experiment in permanence and while the canvas itself is still around, it’s been under the brush more then a few times and its previous faces exist only in a stop-motion film Chief produced to illustrate the point he was trying to demonstrate. “’Living Canvas’ is about the ephemeral and how nothing ever truly disappears, it just becomes hidden amongst other things. The digital platform has preserved all the stages of the canvas and can bring them back to the surface they once graced.” What started out as a painting of a bridge that ended up in the trash, donned new purpose when happened upon by Chief. Thus began his experiment to photo-document himself drawing over the painting using mere Crayola markers - and enough patience to blanket the earth – then make a stop motion film from those pictures that he later projected over the finished product as an audience then watched him paint over the canvas again and begin anew while the film looped over his disappearing work, whew! The first two stages of this experiment are available for viewing while the experiment itself is ongoing.
Page 37: “22 hrs and 18 mins of wasted time”
Chief’s newest endeavor has been tinkering with illustrations on top of watercolor and using some of his signature characters as a centerpiece for the ink and watercolor pattern that flowers outward, exhibited in “The Screamer”. As impressive as Chief’s work is as a developing style, the concept behind the living canvas was what blew me away. I had already decided to interview him before I had seen the video or he said anything about it, other than a canvas awkwardly shifted against the wall in his room that didn’t match up with the rest of his work. So when we were talking and looking through some drawings and he nonchalantly brought up that he had made this video where he found a painting in the trash and then painted on that painting and then painted on that painting in front of an audience while playing a video of him painting over the original painting I was like, “whaaaaat?!” Honestly, I am interested to see where he goes with his experiments and where that might take his viewers. It’s an appealing notion and with the right approach could be a huge hit. Check out the first two stages of the video to see for yourself and check in at the Abstraks blog and Chief’s website for more updates on his latest projects. Contact: Email: Chiefkuwahara@gmail.com Website: Chifuku.com The Living Canvas: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yoTv0CSHzKQ
Page 38: “Cat Whale” Page 39: “Myles and Jinel”
Page 42: “The Screamer” April 2012 Abstraks 43
Published on Apr 1, 2012