CCOONNVVEERRSSAATTIIOONN Interview with Joshua Abelow and Sam Trioli 2.7.12
It’s always interesting when you find the end of a social thread and try to follow it back to the other end. Joshua and I first met at an opening for a mutual friend, Nathan Dilworth, at his exhibition “Look For Small Recorders,” at Launch F18. The interesting element is that each of us at separate times have worked for Ross Bleckner, bringing things full circle.
Sam Trioli: Have you always considered yourself an artist? Did you ever consider yourself something different?
Joshua Abelow: For better or worse, I’ve always thought of myself as an artist.
ST: The uniqueness of your work (to me) is that it always seems to come in abundance. I feel that in a great way, the viewer is always out numbered by Abelows, which is an awesome position to be in. Is that intended?
JA: I don’t always want to overwhelm the viewer with a massive amount of work. Sometimes it’s nice to show one little painting in a room on a big wall. I make a lot of work. Then I go through it to see what’s there. When I was younger there was nothing there. I would throw it all away and feel very depressed. A continual frustration with painting lead me to develop the type of self-portraiture you often see in my paintings and drawings.
ST: Who is someone you admire that is not an artist?
JA: Can I say a writer? I love Richard Brautigan. I love his poems and short stories. I recommend reading Revenge of the Lawn: Stores 1962 – 1970.
ST: What is the common thread in your work?
JA: Autobiography. Color. Line.
ST: How do you enter your work?
JA: With a good head on your shoulders.
ST: What was the last painting that clicked for you?
JA: I don’t think about my work in terms of clicking or not clicking. I have certain rules I follow or break depending on the painting or drawing I’m working on. I often make discoveries by accident so I am careful to keep notes about my process in little black notebooks. These notes help me to keep going forward. I don’t think too much about good or bad so much as moving toward something unknown. I see all of my work as a documentation of my life in a very direct way.
ST: I enjoy how your dog appears in many of your pieces; what is your dog’s name?
JA: Georgia Abelow.
ST: I recently made a book that was an abstract personal documentation over a 30 day period. I thought that it was great how people became attached to my dog (Dagny) after reading it, more so than anything else in the book. What purpose does your dog serve as a subject?
JA: Hmm – that’s funny. Well, I think I put Georgia in a painting one day because I couldn’t think of anything else to paint and she was sitting there sticking her tongue out at me so I figured what the hell.
ST: Nearly a year ago my close friend Tim Donovan and I began a project space/gallery in Tribeca. It was practically a natural development that came to be without any real intent of starting a gallery. Both our pursuits with art included this sort of hands on approach to constructing an exhibition. How did ART BLOG ART BLOG (the gallery) fit into your process and was it fulfilling?
JA: ART BLOG ART BLOG (the gallery) happened because Ross Bleckner loaned me his Chelsea studio and said something like, “Would you like to organize shows here for a few months?” I titled the gallery after my blog because I thought it would be funny and confusing to conflate the two. I’m happy with the way it turned out – it was great to be in conversation with so many interesting people and there continues to be a lot of good energy surrounding the project. Some ideas for future ABAB projects are kicking around…
ST: Two passions of mine outside of the studio are playing the drums and surfing. For a long time I never thought about the relationship between them and working in the studio. It wasn’t until I noticed a similar word always running through my head; accuracy. What does that word mean to you and does it apply to your process at all?
JA: Hmm – that’s an interesting connection. I think about accuracy too, although I don’t surf or play drums. Specificity and clarity are two words I like a lot. I like to go into the studio with a clear head and get it right – the right color, the right line, the right feeling, the right sized brush - whatever. When you put in enough time getting it wrong, eventually you begin to get it right (hopefully!). I think the challenge is to be as specific and clear as possible without giving away the specifics of what you are being specific and clear about.
ST: Who is someone you know whose work you truly admire?
JA: Noam Rappaport.
ST: Under what conditions do you work the best?
JA: I spend a lot of time alone, which seems to do the trick.
ST: If you could break into MoMA what would you steal?
JA: All the Mel Ramos paintings.
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