dec / issue 06
sarah coote natalie gonzalez patrick a. sanchez valentina zamfirescu maurice van es roxana azar anna mikhailovskaia
what was the last thing someone else bought you? a really good beer. where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there? there’s a diner in wayne, PA called minellas and it’s my favorite place to go when i’m home. not very good food but it’s open 24 hours french fries and a milkshake, mmm. if you weren’t an artist, what would you want to be? an engineer or biologist, science is so cool! describe your work in one word. personal. do you have any ever-lasting influences? i feel more aware all the time of how much the context of my early life influences my artwork. environment, social culture, and class specific to my experience are things that keep coming up, and i am so interested in understanding them and bringing them up in the broader conversation.
a real woman
reunion pt. 1
what was the last thing someone else bought you? my grandmother bought me two bottles of regular pantene shampoo about a month ago. ¿cuál fue la última cosa que alguien te compró? mi abuela me compró dos botellas de champú pantene regular hace un mes. where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there? my favorite place to eat is called “elotes don pablo”. it is a small, metal box on the street back home that sells elotes – corn in a cup with cream, cheese, chile powder and lime – and coca-cola. a car recently hit it and threw it into the school fence it faced so i’m not sure it’s still there. ¿cuál es tu lugar preferido para comer y que te gusta comer ahí? mi lugar favorito para comer se llama elotes don oablo. es un puestecito de metal sobre una calle en mi ciudad nativa que vende elotes –maíz en un vaso con crema, queso, chile preparado y limón – y coca-cola. un carro recientemente lo chocó y lo mandó volando contra la cerca de una escuela, entonces no estoy segura de que siga ahí. if you weren’t an artist, what would you want to be? i wanted to be a psychiatrist. si no fueras artista, ¿qué te gustaría ser? quería ser psiquiatra. describe your work in one word. quiet. describe tu trabajo en una palabra. callado. do you have any ever-lasting influences? i will always be fascinated by water: the ocean, ice, fish, and being underwater. ¿tienes influencias eternas? siempre estaré fascinada por el agua; el océano, el hielo, los peces, y el estar bajo el agua.
temporary place no. 5
temporary place no. 4
como escapar no. 3
como escapar no. 2
patrick a. sanchez
what was the last thing someone else bought you? the last thing i remember getting was a six-pack of bell’s amber beer. where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there? i like to eat with a big group of people at someone’s house, and the best thing to eat is definitely grilled vegetables! if you weren’t an artist, what would you want to be? an astronaut. describe your work in one word. uncanny. do you have any ever-lasting influences? i think that sam cooke singing “peace in the valley” and “dancing girl” (1940) by paul klee will forever be important to me. the silence, because of the absence of instrumentation, makes the vocal of peace in the valley so incredibly raw and emotional. i love that rawness. and i think the negative space in dancing girl makes for a dramatic movement in the primary figure that’s entirely simple, but extraordinarily vivid. both are things i strive to achieve i think.
for the sake of music
what was the last thing someone else bought you? jack and coke. where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there? crab legs at half shell. if you werenâ€™t an artist, what would you want to be? first thing i ever wanted to be was a race car driver. describe your work in one word. disconnected. do you have any ever-lasting influences? itâ€™s hard to tell at this point.
maurice van es
what was the last thing someone else bought you? my girlfriend bought me a kitchen apron last week. where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there? there’s a place in the hague called the chicken salon, a few blocks from my house. it’s the most uncomfortable place ever. like they dedicated this place to larry david (curb your enthusiasm). i always eat the regular menu there, chicken with salad and fries. if you weren’t an artist, what would you want to be? of course a soccer player. you know, last week i realized i would never know how it feels to score a goal in a full arena. how tragic. describe your work in one word. love. do you have any ever-lasting influences? not really big big life changing, but it had influence on my work. in 2009, my classmates and i made a school trip to berlin. we had to do research about the city and also had to make something about the city. i came up with all kinds of complicated ideas and i ended up pointing my camera at groups of people i didn’t know. of course i thought i was interested in the dynamic of a group etc, but when i look back at the work now it does nothing for me. one week after leaving berlin i realized… i just had to make a work about us being in berlin. and how it was that week. there my interest would be natural. and it would also be clear to use photography in this case. i believe a photograph works the strongest when you see something in the picture you have a natural relationship with.
wat is het laatste dat een ander voor jou gekocht heeft? lot heeft laatst een keukenschort voor me gekocht. wat is jouw favoriete eetplek? en wat eet je daar? er bestaat een eettentje in den haag dat de kipsalon heet. het is de meest ongemakkelijke plek ever. de hele setting lijkt een rechtstreeks eerbetoon aan de ongemakkelijkheid in curb your enthusiasm. ik eet er altijd het gewone menu. kip met salade en patat. als je geen kunstenaar zou zijn, wat had je dan willen zijn? voetballer natuurlijk. ik realiseerde me laatst dat ik nooit zal weten hoe het voelt om in een vol stadion te scoren. best tragisch. omschrijf jouw werk in één woord. liefde. heb je een ervaring die je eeuwig bij zult blijven? eeuwig weet ik niet, maar dit had wel invloed op me. in 2009 gingen we met school naar berlijn. om daar iets over berlijn te maken. ik kwam met vage moeilijke ideeën aan en heb me uiteindelijk gedurende de week beziggehouden met het fotograferen van groepen mensen. die ik toevallig tegenkwam en verder niet kende. als ik nu terugkijk naar dat werk, snap ik eigenlijk niet zo goed waar ik mee bezig was. ik had gewoon iets moeten maken over wij die toen in berlijn waren. dan had het logisch geweest om het te fotograferen. Leuk voor later. En dan zo dat anderen dat misschien ook wel hadden begrepen.
fitted sheet of my parents 1986-1988
floor covering 1984-1989
blanket with plastic cover 1986-?
the big couch 1984-1997
wallcovering in my room 1990-1992
dinner table 1984-1993
paving stones bathroom 1984-1993
what was the last thing someone else bought you?
my sister bought me dinner the other night! food and family time cheers me up.
where is your favorite place to eat and what do you like to eat there?
philadelphia is a good place to be foodwise and beerwise. one of my favorite places is the khyber pass pub. i love their po boys, chili, or nachos with a beer or two and a good friend by my side. also, standard tap -- i will forever love their chicken pot pie. there’s a ttaco place closeby that has amazing al pastor tacos. i love comfort food, generally. (by the way, this was originally half a page long til i cut it down.)
if you weren’t an artist, what would you want to be?
maybe a psychologist. Maybe, iif I didn’t have fear of public speaking, and if i had a sense of humor, i’d be a self-deprecating stand-up comedian.
describe your work in one word.
do you have any ever-lasting influences?
home, memory, color, light, absurdity, awkwardness, strange beautiful moments, dreams, imperfection, sadness, love, joy, the senses, “the color of pomegranates”, godard, and ill-timed humor.
comfort, a hard place
see you, soon
nabat, golden knot
Kylie Gava: would you like to introduce yourself? Anna Mikhailovskaia: i was born in the former soviet union in the city of kiev, ukraine, and immigrated with my family to brooklyn, ny when i was nine years old. i currently live and work in brooklyn, ny. KG: where is your favorite place to eat? what do you like to order there? AM: i love all food. i am currently obsessed with sushi bombs from momo sushi shack in my neighborhood. they are small round balls of rice with fish and other ingredients stacked on top. KG: what was the last thing someone else bought you? AM: i just turned thirty and my boyfriend bought me a vintage necklace, which is really beautiful and special to me. KG: do you have any ever-lasting influences? AM: my brain is very scattered and i take bits and pieces from everything: art, architecture, religion, science, applied arts and daily events. i studied philosophy as an undergraduate and I guess my interest has always been ‘questions’. i have always wondered for instance, about human origins and the origins of material culture on earth. why did we all of a sudden develop ‘consciousness’ above other species? how is it that a simple technology of making stone tools thousands of years ago developed into the complex material culture we have today? other questions i am interested in involve the nature of matter itself--an inquiry that is taking place in contemporary cosmology. there are fundamental, unexplainable elements in the universe, and that is very mysterious and fascinating to me. i cannot leave out world myth and religions, which have been a huge influence in my work as well. as far as some artists that i continue to look to again and again, those are probably giotto, rembrandt, caravaggio, antoni tapies and rene magritte. KG: when i look at your body of work, it feels almost like an act of re-creating artifacts or creating artifacts for a society that never existed. in doing so, the objects lose their meaning as artifacts and become something else. i think there is something transcendent but at the same time very basic, very primal about your work. does this seem right to you? AM: yes, the idea of time passing and bringing something that feels like it’s from another time is something i am drawn to. there is a certain look that only time can give to an object and there is a lot of information there. i used to work as a guard at the metropolitan museum of art and i spent hours with objects from many cultures of all time periods. the objects were all in varying stages of decay, which i found to be really beautiful. there is a certain irony, for instance, in a 14th century religious panel representing the eternal life of christ that has exposed decaying wood and burns from candles from all the worshippers throughout its existence. it tells an eternal story but also a human story, and i am drawn to that juxtaposition, along with the pairing of something really elegant and refined with something crude and “ugly.”
KG: i think that makes a lot of sense. i see that kind of juxtaposition with your materials especially. do you try to create something that feels old or seems to be decaying? AM: i don’t think i do it consciously but rather i try to explore my particular sensibility and way of working with materials and certain recurring strands just come through. some of my pieces do have strong ties to architectural fragments, ruins and shards, i guess my love for the ancient world is inseparable from my work. KG: there are a lot of recurring shapes-spirals, stairs, pyramids etc. can you discuss this tendency? AM: there is always some element of movement in my work. in my early installation pieces, i would create spaces for the body to literally move through, which often involved openings and ‘holes’, another recurring shape in my work. but even in my stationary objects, there is an implied sense of movement through the use of repetitive forms. when you step inside a gothic cathedral, or see the pyramids in egypt, or even the skyscrapers in new york, the lines of the architecture draw your eye upward toward the sky. this fascination with gods, other worlds, stars and perhaps power has been with humans since their ability to leave traces of their existence. religious art is similar in its function, whether it’s the virgin ascending into heaven in christianity or geometrically marked ancestor boards from papua new guinea, there is a universal record of human consciousness facing ‘up’ and ‘out’, probing beyond one’s direct experience.
KG: is it important to your work that viewers make that connection? AM: no, not necessarily. there isn’t a direct message that i am trying to convey. i think the meanings and connections are best left open ended. KG: could you talk specifically about all the stair type sculptures? in your work “31 steps closer”, i see them as a type of failure at transcendence, while the white ones in your recent works feel more like architectural leftovers from an ancient society. AM: the black staircase is a monumental object set up for travel with the destination being unclear or nonexistent; that reading can be expanded in many different ways. the matte black surface is coated in velvety flock finish, which tells its own story about volume, density, gravity and light. one reading of the black staircase could be something in line with existential philosophy: that perhaps all of religion and science are nothing more than man’s attempts to transcend this world, as you said, or explain it away, falling short on many counts, but that’s just one of many possible readings. the recent white sculptures are on a similar subject but maybe in a lighter note. they also bring a different sensibility being made from plaster and showing a heavy presence of the artist’s hand, whereas in the black staircase i was fighting the handmade quality and trying to make everything perfect. KG: your work “spiral ellipse” obviously calls robert smithson’s earthwork “spiral jetty” to mind, but i find yours to be more of a galactic, hypnotic crop circle. is this work referencing space? AM: the whole concept stemmed from the idea of meditative walking paths and spaces such as labyrinths or Japanese rock gardens. i was investigating these kinds of shapes and i decided to use an elliptical spiral, which is the shape of the milky way galaxy. in essence, it’s a miniature diagram of our galaxy, which is slightly skewed to one side with flailing ‘arms’. there are many theories as to what is causing it to be shaped this way but scientists are not sure and it’s a bit peculiar. the spiral shape is definitely something that calls to mind earthworks from early humans, something robert smithson was investigating as well. spirals are some of the most recurring symbols in early human settlements, carved into cave walls and painted on pottery. for me, the piece had another connection to early man through the gathering and placement of found stones, and was not unlike the megaliths in the stone fields of early europeans in places like carnac, france. the end result was a very calming and meditative space that allowed for quiet contemplation, which was my primary goal. one thing i also really liked was that once the piece was complete, there was nothing to dispose of. the stones were cleared to the surrounding forest and the grass grew back where the paths once were. KG: you use a lot of black, white, and gold in your work along with some type of earthy substance (dirt, concrete, rocks). how often is this a conscious decision? AM: louise nevelson said, “black is the most aristocratic color of all.” and i went through an all-black phase for a while. black has an infinite amount of readings, from a purely formal level to other more complex meanings, and maybe that is what i like about it. pairing black with white is like anything else that has an equal and opposing forces, good and evil, up and down, true and untrue. when i entered graduate school, i was having a kind of existential crisis about making objects. i was more interested in making spaces that allowed for a full-body experience and that was much more meaningful to me at the time. at RISD, i felt a lot of pressure from the faculty, and also from my own personal sensibility, to start making ‘things’ again, but i wasn’t sure what i should make; my mind was going in too many directions and i was stuck for a while. it felt like the world was already so cluttered with ‘things’ that it didn’t make sense to make anything else. that’s when i started looking back at the first objects ever made and stone tools appeared to me as a really a rich subject matter. tools were the earliest technology that allowed man to take over his environment, to build and construct his world, but on the darker side to create weapons, to hunt and kill animals, which later also propelled the expansion of the human brain and lead to our developing ‘consciousness.’ to me, there is something really strange and peculiar that happened there and i think science is still trying to figure that out. stone and dust have a lot of inherent physical and existential properties, perhaps shared with black that carry these questions. white and gold are probably opposing forces that create some sense of balance, otherwise the work could get too bleak and heavy-handed.
joseph albers goes to africa
KG: did you start making work that you considered to be tools? was it easier to make something that felt like it had a specific use? AM: i wasn’t thinking of making something useful but more trying to investigate a very primitive material and a primitive way of making something. i was able to find some flint stone and hammer stones and just started hitting the two stones together and collecting the shards. i saw the technique in a time life encyclopedia that i own. stone is the first material we were able to manipulate to create something, and i just wanted to get into that mind set of making that. it was maybe a little bit ritualistic as well, like ‘channeling’ from an earlier time. i think the idea originated from when i was going to do a series of videos just focusing on the hands and all the different things our hands do and then making stone tools came about. KG: where do you think the viewer belongs in your work? AM: the viewer is hopefully someone that can enter a contemplative or meditative space and have some sense of wonderment. i think the ‘hand-made’ approach in my work is hopefully an entry point for everyone. KG: would you consider your work to fit in with minimalism? AM: there are certain aspects of minimalism that i am a great admirer of--for instance, simplicity. there really is a certain beauty in a simple idea; however, there is also beauty in complexity and chaos, and i feel i must leave room in my work for equal and opposing forces. minimalism can often feel cold and the idea of simple geometric forms removed from the artist’s hand can feel really automated, masculine and a rational after-thought to something earlier cultures and civilizations perhaps already knew intuitively. when modern abstraction was ‘invented’ in the 20th century in the west, it came about almost as a logical deduction, realistic painting becoming more and more abstracted until it was reduced to its essential geometric form. however, this is just an example of how the rational mind is really lagging behind intuition and imagination when it comes to art. looking at thousands of years of spiritual objects and architecture from all over the world, we find geometric forms time and again. these forms have always been there and existed since man was able to create and transcribe them. in my view they actually hold more meaning in this context because of their spiritual value of bridging everyday reality to some other-worldly reality. for this same reason, i could never be a purely formal artist, making ‘art about art’ because for me, there needs to be a heart, mind and soul to an object beyond its formal qualities. to name certain minimalists and postminimalist artists i sometimes look to: agnes martin, joseph albers, robert ryman, sol lewitt, james turrell, robert smithson, eva hesse, yoko ono, richard tuttle and richard serra. KG: how often do you work in your studio? what are your ideal studio conditions? AM: in an ideal universe, i would wake up and go to my studio every day, but i have not figured that out yet. this past year I’ve been very lucky and had a lot of studio time, but i am not quite sure what is coming next and if i will be able to sustain that. i currently have a live/ work space and that works great for me. KG: you also worked on the curatorial project “neofossils.” the name feels very in line with your work. so you want to talk about how you got started with that? AM: “neofossils” came about for a few reasons. i kept going to openings around my neighborhood in bushwick, brooklyn, and all the shows were organized by artists in artist-run spaces and the feel of the neighborhood was very much diy (do it yourself). so, i really got the cue from other artists friends of mine. i had also spent the previous two years working as a guard at the met and i felt like i wanted to test my own curatorial eye. i decided to organize a few shows just to get my foot wet, but also because i felt i had ideas and something to say as well. the main reason i did it, however, was to bring other artists and friends together whose works i admired to try to create some sense of community which maybe i was not feeling, since i am such a studio recluse. it has definitely been an overwhelmingly positive experience and i am currently planning some exciting projects for next spring.
garden of earthly delights
KG: what new things are you working on? AM: i’m working on a few different series of drawings, one of which is portraits of early hominids. i am also doing a series of large flocked hole silhouettes, both imaginary and holes i’ve photographed. i have a few different sculptures and paintings cooking right now in various stages of completion. one idea i am currently trying to bring out is incorporating sound into sculpture, like for instance freestanding pieces that spontaneously burst into sound occasionally. lately i’ve been looking at my sculptures and i feel like there is a sound to them but when i try to make/record it, it just comes out really wrong, like a bad imitation of japanese noise bands or something. so that is something i have to figure out still, for sure. KG: what have been some of your biggest artistic struggles? AM: my biggest artistic struggle is probably how to be an artist but also a normal, functioning adult human. there are a lot of different forces working upon you at all times and it is not easy carving out mental/physical space to try and make something, much less something meaningful or to use a controversial word ‘original.’ KG: ask yourself a question and answer it. AM: hmm, question: is being an artist really like self-imposed torture? answer: sometimes. *
big thanks to all participating artists. interviews by kylie gava edited by stephanie haines & laura stamm designed by tara mahadevan to be considered for our next issue please visit our website: