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JULY 2014


Contents ....................


Michael Caudo


Erin Washington


Howard Fonda


Charlotte Lethbridge


Diego Gutierrez


6 14 26 36 42

Editor’s note


(cover) Everything and Nothing Exhibition Howard Fonda, March-April 2014 Courtesy Mixed Greens Gallery (left) Unspecified painter’s palette, Somewhere in Philadelphia 2014

ART CRUSH, Brooklyn NY || Philadelphia, PA

Staff Editor

Brandon Elijah Johnson


Brandon Elijah Johnson Valerian Ocampo



Valerian Ocampo

Editor’s Note July 2, 2014 Art Crush has a special place in it’s heart for things made out of paint, and seeing as this is essentialy our one year anniversary as a publication (happy birthday Art Crush) we have decided to treat ourselves by dedicating this entire issue to just that. We rounded up an awesome crew of artists representing a variety of attitudes and approaches towards contemporary painting. It’s a very awkwardly self aware time for painting, its been a solid 175 years since Paul Delaroche decided it was dead as a result of his crippling technophobia, but we are pretty sure that he was wrong. Maybe he said the words with such conviction and self assuredness that they have somehow managed to find thier way into the dialect of the art world, a go-to piece of postmodern popular culture that is maybe more useful as a point of departure, a logical fallacy that could lead to more interesting quandaries, like what exactly is a painting? We think that it has to exist, for starters, but whether or not it should be on a wall, or made of paint, or anything to specific left us at a loss. With that in mind I urge you to free your mind of any preconceived notions you may have in regards to the subject and dive in to a world of (mostly) paint. -Art Crush

‘Find your density.’


Michael Caudo AC:

What drew you to using collage as a part of your process, how do you deal with found materials?


I don’t think about collage or found images at all, I’m jut trying to make an interesting paintings and I find myself much more interested in the things the already exist than the things I can think up. Lately it’s been these collisions often within one painting and when they are arranged together where the work can inform and contradict itself, which can be really exciting. AC:

What do you think makes a painting successful? MC:

I’m not sure, for me its always changing and I constantly keep having to readdress what I had assumed about art prior but I think good art does this. Good art is hard to describe and the description doesn’t aptly communicate it because there is so much happening at once.





Your work has a very deliberate feel to it, everything fits just right, how would you describe your work aesthetically, what do you strive for when you are making images? MC:

Well thanks, context is really important mainly because my work can look really different from piece to piece but how they are arranged afterwards allows them to live with one another, not that this is necessarily a fixed arrangement but being aware (or deliberately unaware) of how a work is seen can give yourself and a viewer the freedom to make choices. AC:

What if anything do you think informs your paintings? Are they purely imaginative? MC:

My work is rarely imaginative at all, they often start with something concrete like an image or object, sometimes an idea but it all starts with something very physical. For me that is important, that they come from something already rooted someway in the world that involves me as a viewer. From there the work gets wrestled with and figuring out the best way to make something often takes a while but there is a lot of error, sometimes its close to the origin and sometimes it’s unrecognizable.




What connections can you make between your art practice and your day to day? MC:

It’s all one big bundle when you get down to it, it’s an accumulation of time spent looking and being alive, working and not working. Often times that means that the actual painting part is the least interesting. AC:

How did your work get to where it is now? Do you have any idea how it might develop in the future? MC:

Oh I don’t know, I try to make the things I want to see and trust in my intuition is the biggest part. Right now I’m working on a few things I’m really excited about, but I try not to plan too far ahead.



What is your studio practice like? Do you have any rituals or weird shit you do when no one is watching? MC:

Pretty boring actually, mixing paints and watching things dry takes up most of it. As far as weirdness goes I can be very clumsy, I knock things over and spill stuff all the time but most of it spent sitting around and looking. AC:

Whats the most challenging thing about painting? MC:

Figuring out what is interesting and not thinking too much about painting.Â




Erin Washington AC:

Your work seems otherworldly, looking at your paintings is kind of similar to staring at the night sky, but from another planet. Somehow familiar but totally alien. How do you arrive at these images? EW:

We could discuss my biographical/historical interest in the cosmos (how my Father was a jet pilot, bitter that he never had the chance to be an astronaut OR how I grew up in the American Southwest when a clear night-sky desert was still a surreal possibility), but I think everyone goes through a stage in which they have at least a passing interest in the cosmos (Carl Sagan, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mr. Wizard, Neil

DeGrasse Tyson etc etc etc as testament to science & astronomy’s western pop-culture legitimacy). I could describe the sci-fi pulp I devoured as a kid during monthly bouts of Tonsillitis (too many to list, and too embarrassing in many cases). But conceptually: I started referencing cosmologies and outer-space primarily as a symbolic shorthand for the sublime. The act of looking outward is a two-way mirror: to contemplate vastness and emptiness is to contemplate one’s own place in the world/significance/temporality. In other words, these references become a framework or skeleton to support the imagery I employ.

(right) Refract without Reflecting Acrylic and chalk on panel 12 x 9” 2014 (left) I measured the skies (for Kepler) Acrylic and chalk on panel 30 x 30” 2014



Tell us about “Don’t Breathe Too Much” EW:

“Don’t Breathe Too Much” was an installation at Kirk’s Apartment gallery in Chicago (now Faber & Faber Projects) in which I wallpapered the apartment gallery with metallicized gold mylar (also known as space-blankets). Space-blankets are uniquely fragile and trembling, yet reflec-


tively durable and able to protect against the void of elements. The foil highlights the disjunction between the apartment as domicile and as gallery (I’d grown frustrated with shows in apartment galleries that ignored this basic tenet). But mostly, and similar to the experiential changing in time of mymore frontal two dimensional work, I wanted to create something that changed over time: golden

emblazoned sunrise and sunsets, an insulating change in warmth and an emphasis on one’s tenuous surroundings. Everything was reflective and it was easy to lose yourself in a mise-en-abyme of warped golden doppelgangers. Within the installation, a looped video was playing. The video is an appropriation of the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in which an astronaut

(right) Search for Meaning Found object, enamel and polyurethane approx 4.5 x 7”, 2013 (left) Extra Dark Matter Found image, oil paint and polyurethane on canvas 20” x 16”, 2012

is jettisoned into outer space without oxygen. In my video, this yellow spacesuit, this dying astronaut writhes in the void, looped in an infinite dance. Finally, the inhabitants of the Apartment Gallery (artists and brothers Kirk & Cullen Faber) were given two panels with chalkboard like surfaces a month prior to the show. Before and during the show the panels were used as a daily conceptual check-

in: each artist was instructed to write “YES”, “NO” or “OK” on their boards. I’ve made pieces like this for myself and this was one of the first times I gave permission for other people to participate in the pieces. The chalkboards were then displayed within the blanket installation and still worked on through the duration of the show. The piece was meant to reference Felix Gonzalez Torres’ “Perfect Lovers” clocks that slowly grow

out of sync. But the unexpected result is that when the brothers’ panels became out of sync, they would check-in with each other and use the exercise as the impetus for fraternal dialogue. AC:

What draws you to the materials that you use? EW:

For me, material choices always come out of conceptual need.


When I began making work about change and time, I started butting fugitive materials against more stable “traditional” art materials (content dictated form). Thats a fairly clinical answer: the other reality is I love the play afforded in “nontraditional” materials...theres a sensuality inherent in my material choices that counters the cerebral dryness/ bleakness of pure “Conceptual” work (in the Art History with a capital A H tradition).

ics, Paul Thek, the golden disk of voyager 1, caves of Lascaux, the amount of Full Moons I have experienced, Grace Jones, black holes, The Twilight Zone, shit I find on the ground, David Foster Wallace, Wings of Desire, erased de Kooning, and On Kawara.*



What informs your work?

Poetic. I tried being a scientist: it was awful.

*this an impossibly incomplete list AC:

Is it more scientific or poetic?


Failed cosmologies, Virginia Woolf, Kathryn Hixson, biosphere 2, Ad Reinhardt’s comics, RuPaul, Solaris, Sun Ra, natural history museums, Samuel Beckett, Schrodinger’s Cat, how dust collects on Donald Judd sculptures, 400 ovum, cotard’s disease, Monty Python, abiogenesis, Eames’ Powers of Ten, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Yayoi Kusama, cyanometers, Kazmir Malevich’s grave, Cosmicom-


How has your work developed in the recent past, where do you see it going in the future? EW:

Materially I’ve been exploring creating chalkboard-like surfaces and obsessively drawing/writing on them, adding and erasing to create a buildup of time and experience. These pieces announce their own history/residue like a

(right) zero of form (a grave for Malevich) Acrylic, chalk and collage on panel. 20” x 16”. 2014




palimpsest. In the past the palimpsests were more about a fuzzy-logic conceptualism wherein I’d write words. Eventually the words devolved into symbols and hieroglyphics, which then evolved into drawings (describing this progress sounds incredibly linear, but it was more hiccuping rhizomatic). I used to make horror vacui pieces, using every type of material possible within a singular work. After parring that down for years, I’m enjoying swinging back towards collaged materialities. I’m also allowing myself to be more expansive with my references, folding art history, philosophy, and personal mythology back into the work.

(left) orrery (sketch) Acrylic and chalk on paper 30 x 24” 2014 (above) cosmas Acrylic and chalk on panel 16 x 20” 2014 (right) 400 Ovum Oil paint and pommegranate on canvas 20 x 16” 2013



What is your process like? EW:

There are a lot of processes. The most important process is a daily one: trying to spend as much time in the studio as possible. AC:

What are your thoughts on decay? EW:

We’ve all got it and its inevitable. ….


Perhaps that is too bleak an answer. When I am optimistic, decay is a part of a very big cycle. I’m fascinated with an unpopular/fairly disproven theory of the Big Bang in which the universe is in a cyclical state of expanding, collapsing, and big-banging again (ie. not ONE singular big bang, but an endless dance of big bangs). My thoughts on decay mirror the oscillating model of the universe. AC:

Is it awkward or challenging making the

transition between two dimensional work and full environmental installations? EW:

I make work in relation to the scale of my body. There are cerebral works that are relatively the size of one’s head. There are torso sized works wherein the idea of a body begins to manifest, but there is a gut-to-cerebral relationship: these are thinking/ digesting pieces. The largest flat works I have made do not extend much further than my own physical wingspan and relate fully to

Don’t Breathe Too Much Metallic mylar installation at Kirk’s Apartment Dimensions variable, 2013


the maker’s body in space. When I say the body manifests in a piece: marks and actions become a residue for where my body was and how it moved at a certain time. Movement is no longer oneto-one thinking brain to elbow/ wrist. It was no big leap to begin imagining environmental pieces which encompass the maker and the viewer’s bodies. Even when showing two-dimensional works, I’ll project the position of the viewer in space, curating shows sculpturally rather than allowing the singularity of the paintings announce themselves frontally.


Now we are addressing poetry again. I don’t want to be analytic about what I’d like people to “take away” from the things I make. The viewer has to work a little bit, sacrifice a little comfort and thought...maybe there isn’t an answer but an experience... an internal agitation initiated by the senses. Comedians refer to subtler jokes that fall flat immediately as “way homers”: jokes that reveal themselves well after the tab has been paid and we make our sleepy ways back to the house (ie. this isn’t funny now? you’ll get it on the way home). I think I make way homers.


What would you like people take away from your work?

Shapes of an Expanding Universe Acrylic and chalk on panel 14 x 11” 2013



Howard Fonda AC:

What makes a successful painting to you? HF:

Success is a tough one. It is so often tied to extrinsic variables – some more relevant than others (peers, critics, gallerists, market, etc.). A successful painting comes in innumerable shapes and sizes, and what I demand in the studio I’m happy to forgive in others. When I’m firing on all cylinders confident, thoughtful and present – my first gut response is my best indicator of success. Intention, thoughtfulness, risk, failure, and mystery are some key traits I look for in good work. AC:

Your paintings often seem to reference art historical tropes but remains very un-traditional, what is your relationship with painting in the context of art history?

the layers and nuance, the truth and deception, the grasping and longing. I find it very useful to access history in order to understand my current station. My interests are often large or general (love, loss, death), and my inquiry is often personal, introverted, idiosyncratic, or even contradictory. By dipping in the endless ocean of history, I can find meaning in my life – and meaning for me is paramount. Painting is my form of meditation – a sanctuary that allows me honest reflection. I have a very personal relationship to painting. In short I can offer this: I embrace painting’s traditions and limitations, I find painting poetic and transcendent, I see painting as an articulate means of expressing a range of rational and irrational thought and emotion.


History has always been an interest of mine. I’m attracted to

Duke 56 x 44” 2013



“Creating meaning and finding meaning are two different things. I am primar-

ily interested in finding meaning.” Could you elaborate on this? HF:

Well, I am not interested in the “god”, or creator, myth that is often repeated in the arts. This notion contains an element of hubris that I find limiting and irresponsible. I do not wish to merely create “the heavens and the earth” nor passively chance upon by fate. We are drowning in meaning. It is all around us. Deciphering, searching, questioning, defining, failing – these are my interests. AC:

What is the most challenging thing about painting? HF:

What to paint can often be a struggle, but how to paint is exhausting. It’s hard: Technically hard, Conceptually hard. Of course there is color, but there is also materiality. For a contemporary practice, “how to paint” is not simply negotiating warp and weft to create a representation, as Courbet asserted, “that is the negation of the ideal”. We now have the agency to choose from different styles or histories in order to achieve desired intent. “How to paint” takes on news dimensions. It is endlessly exciting. AC:

What is your practice like? HF:

I maintain a relatively traditional studio practice. I’m in the studio as much as a parent of 2 can man28

age. I don’t produce work with a show in mind, or by body or group. I try to focus on individual ideas that result in individual paintings. It is only later that works are grouped together or formal theme emerges. My practice consists of a great deal of painting of course, but I also spend a lot of time thinking, reading, listing, preparing and editing. AC:

Are your paintings purely imaginative? Or from personal experience? both? HF:

My practice is deeply personal. It is born out of my experience and my interests. That said, my experience is as flawed and complicated and anyone’s, and my interests both banal and distinctive. This is my impetus to create and my imagination is the language I paint in. AC:

These paintings are at times very intricate, do you work mostly through responding to the piece as you work or is it premeditated? HF:

I typically start each work with a direction in mind. This is sometimes formal, but is usually conceptual. By the time I start a piece, I have done my homework and have already synthesized my various reference material. I have a loose plan, but as soon as I hit the canvas the process becomes reactive and formal requirements often take precedent. I work alla prima, so all my work is done in one sitting. I liken it to making

She Knows 56 x 44” 2013

ink drawings. You can only move forward. Mistakes are formally integrated into the work and a wonderful tension arises. There is an element of truth to this process. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I get it right. AC:

In these times, critical analysis of art must contain a measure of academia, “institutions” and “the market”, as well as articulated taste. Can you elaborate on this? HF:

At a base level, however one responds to art is the correct way. But for me, good art is demanding. It asks something of me. It is active, not passive. Demanding work requires an element of study found in academia, an understanding of the market forces that influence monetary value, as well as an understanding of the institutions that define cultural value, and an articulated taste that is sophisticated enough to distinguish your child’s work from Twombly’s work.


What would be the ideal role of academia in relation to art? HF:

This is a tough one. I taught at SAIC for 8 years - an amazing institution full of thoughtful, dedicated, diehard artists. But since I received my MFA at the turn of the millennium, much has changed in academia and the “artworld.” I’m suspect as to whether an MFA is a necessary degree. For teaching at the collegiate level, yes. But to make good art, no. There are so many MFA programs now - offering endless specializations and making loads of money. Yet there are limited spots for teaching, galleries are highly competitive, and funding is largely non-existent. The arts as a formal area of study is invaluable, but in todays hyper-mediated, global economy I’m not sure how to negotiate students expectations with the artworld’s louche secrets.

(p. 30) Pretty poor girl (Aster) 48 x 36” 2013

(p. 32) At the Gates of Dawn 48 x 36” 2013

(p. 31) Untitled 65 x 44” 2013

(p. 33) Rolihlahla (his excellency) 48 x 36” 2013


(right) Untitled 48 x 36” 2013

Poolhouse 2 2014


Charlotte Lethbridge



How do you arrive at your images? Where do they come from?

What is the hardest thing about painting?



I'm always looking around, whether I'm online, hanging around, or at work. Most of the time I start from a photo I've found somewhere. I usually go for things that have great colors and shapes that I can use as a jumping off point. Other times I'll think of a scene and play with the layout a bit.

I used to really get tripped up on how to start again after I'd finished something that I was satisfied with. I mean where do you go from there? Lately I've sort of streamlined the process by focusing on one subject matter for a long time (right now it's swimming pools). Now I'm into these studies and it feels like practice which takes away the stress of what to do next.


These paintings make me feel like I’m at a classy pool party, are you more or less interested in the cultural significance of the places and things you paint or the formal qualities of the images?


What’s you’re process like? CL:


I think there's definitely a culture or sort of taste that my work fits into, but it's not something I think of while I work. I think it's important to get away from that mindset in order to make something that's timeless.

I start with a few sketches and from there I like to jump right in so that I'm not overthinking what I'm doing. I spend a good amount of time figuring out the size of the canvas and materials but things always unfold as I go.



What role do materials play in your work? Is there a lot of emphasis on the marks and fabrics and general physicality of the paintings? CL:

Materials are huge. I mostly use raw linen and just stretching that out gets me psyched about making something. And I love putting together colors, my parents have awesome design and color sense so it's very innate. We love color like other families might love Michigan State or Jesus. And the

colors I end up using are so important to the overall feel of the painting. When it comes to the drips, I'm just not a very careful person so when I mess up I just accept it. I could turn that into a metaphor but it really boils down to clumsiness. As I started to move into the place that I am with painting I really began to love the drips and marks. I think it gives my work a sort of approachability, which is exactly how the images are meant to feel, not neat or formal.Â


Are you paintings autobiographical? / Personal? / What brings you back to the poolside? CL:

I suppose I do draw from personal experiences, but not explicitly. The pools came from things I had been reading and looking at. It's an image that many people have addressed probably because it's complex but can also be really light and not overbearing. I can't say that they're specifically about some moment in my past

Shirt 2014


that I've held on to, but they have a lot of me in them. I think any time I've approached a painting with a kind of a topical or overly personal idea I've hated the outcome. That's what a journal is for, nobody should have to look at it. AC:

How did you get to where you are now with your mark making / content? Where

do you think you’ll take things next?

Shoes II 2014


When I got into painting I was super heavy handed. I loved paint but I didn't know when to step away from something. So in the past year I've really started restricting myself and it has helped me slow down and learn to make choices. I feel like I have much 39

(left) Shower 2014 (right) Aight 2014

more of a grasp on my whole process. Now I'm continuing with the pools and getting into more figurative works and using oil paint again. Kind of going back to my roots I guess but I'm interested to see how I'll approach things now that I work so differently. AC:

What makes a successful painting? CL:

It's always nice when a painting surprises you - when it's different than what you expected it to be. And also when it really like to look at it because it has both pleasing details and looks good as a whole.


There is a theme throughout my work that I'm very aware of but I've always had a hard time describing it. As long as I've been consciously committed to painting I've been driven by this pretty elusive feeling that happens when the floor just drops out from under you. And it's never been about sadness or drama but more about a tension between the acceptance of the moment you're in and the dire need for something that you can't really place your finger on. The more I try to define it the less sense it makes but it is a very constant thread through all of my work.


Do you think that there is a theme tying your work together? If so how would you describe that?


Diego Gutierrez AC:

Figurative? Going forwards chronologically, figurative elements in your work become rendered much more loosely, their compositional presence more integrated with the environment they are housed in. What are your thoughts on figurative painting in contemporary art? How has your handling of human presence and form evolved throughout your body of work since 2010? DG:

In my older paintings the figures were used in order to tell a narrative. The final image and the story depicted was the most important element of the work. Before I started a painting, I would make multiple sketches with different compositions in order to find what I believed to be the best image. Recently, my reason for sketching has shifted, & I've become more interested in the decisions I make within a sketch, the search, rather than being solely interested in the final image. In other words the sketch isn't made in order to reduce the steps to get to the final image, instead its used as a way to start


the painting. So the first marks I put down refer to the sketch but as I continue painting the sketch serves not only as a way of experimenting with marks, cuts, color, and composition, but it gives me the confidence to figure out these moves as I'm painting. One idea that has stuck out for me in recent years is that a painting can be a plane in which anything can exist, and this is a pretty simple notion, yet over the years you naturally start to adopt rules and patterns within your work. But when I look at contemporary figurative painting, what I find exciting is that artist are really pushing themselves and questioning those rules that they've adopted, and I think this constant questioning is what influences my work.

Shooting dice Oil on panel, 48 x 48� 2014


(left) Sharpie Oil, charcoal on panel. 48 x 48� 2014 (above) Belmont ave. Chicago II Charcoal, ink on paper. 18 x 24� 2013




Your narrative seems to get increasingly complex as time goes on. What's taken you from more of a singular subject matter to the open breadth you are moving towards? DG:

The process in which I work gives me the liberty to try things without the fear of making mistakes. I can eliminate parts of the painting and push things to clarify what I'm trying to express. In the previous paintings, I was trying to depict an event like a scene from a movie or play, but by eliminating the singular narrative that continued in all my earlier paint-

ings, I was able to have a problem and figure out the solution to that problem in one painting. AC:

48 x 48", I like the scale you work these on. Why squares? I've found figurative painters often have strange experiences with squares, either love or hate them but always have an experience. (Also, what  classifications do you attribute to your work?) DG:

I recently been painting on square panels due to reoccurring compositions that were happening within my older work. I think that landscape and portrait size canvases force me to create logi-

culture thief Oil on panel, 48 x 48� 2014



In Oil, charcoal, on canvas, on paper on panel 48 x 48� 2014


cal spaces that could exist in reality. But the square drives me to find new compositions and push the boundaries between fictional and real spaces. AC:

(above) Selective viewing Oil on panel 48 x 48” 2014 (right) going over it Oil on panel 48 x 48” 2014


Without being intrusive, I'd like to ask you about your studio practice if you'd like to share. What's important to you during sessions, what is your environment like? DG:

So I'm actually a pretty anxious person and I prefer painting in an environment where I'm not being scrutinized. I like to be able to take risks, paint over things

and take things out, so it's best if I don't receive opinions as I'm working, but that doesn't mean I don't get them. I usually have multiple panels up in order to move from one painting to another when I can't work through a problem and I'm constantly sketching, ripping up and gluing drawings, figuring out how to move within the painting. Also, I drag myself into the studio daily if not to paint, then to sketch, and if not to sketch then to sit down in front of the paintings.