WEB EXCLUSIVE: SPEED RACER

Top by Linder, Pants stylist own, Necklace by Laruicci, Shoes by Yuulyie

Photography by  Allegra Messina, Model Jieun Hyeon at Supreme, Fashion Styling by Kimberly Nguyen, Prop Styling by Bradley Armstrong, Hair by Jenni Iva Wimmerstedt, Makeup by Michael Chua using MAC Cosmetics

Sweater by Rag and Bone, Skirt by Livné, Gloves by Wing & Weft, Fishnet stockings by We Love Colors

Jacket by Adam Selman, Earrings by Laruicci, Gloves by Wing & Weft

Button-Down Top by Marcelo Burlon

Leather jacket by REDValentino, Top by Tommy Hilfiger, Skirt by Tommy Hilfiger, Boots by REDValentino, Bag by Yuulyie

Top by Maje, Earrings by Laruicci, Skirt by Linder

Top by Versus Versace, Jacket by Versus Versace, Pants by DROMe, Boots by Adam Selman

Jacket by Belstaff, Trouser by Maje

Top by Versus Versace, Jacket by Versus Versace, Gloves by Wing & Weft

T-shirt and Top by Kenzo, Skirt by Kenzo, Gloves by Wing & Weft, Earrings by Lauricci

HIROKO KOSHINO: A TOUCH OF BAUHAUS

Please join us on Thursday, November 1st from 6 to 8 PM at WhiteBox in NYC and meet Hiroko Koshino at the opening of her exhibit,  Hiroko Koshino: A Touch of BAUHAUS.

A Touch of BAUHAUS, curated by Kyoko Sato, is part of the WhiteBox Prime SAS (Seminal Artists Series), which honors artists of great repute. Past participants of the WhiteBox Prime SAS include Carolee Schneemann: More Wrong Things, Michael Snow: Snow Alert, Naoto Nagakawa: XXX-1960’s, Vienna Actionists Hermann Nitsch and Günther Brus, Hyman Bloom, Braco Dimitrijevic and Aldo Tambellini to name a few.

Post-World War II Japan found itself in the midst of rapid economic and cultural transformation – one in which growing industries such as technology and fashion shot to the forefront. It was amidst this landscape that a group of young people began rebelling by sporting a preppy, Ivy League look that broke stride with propriety-and time-honored traditions, and celebrated individualism. Known as the “Miyuki Tribe”, with Hiroko Koshino at the helm, talented young fashionistas began reinterpreting traditional Japanese artistic elements through a personalized and radical lens.

Visual artists began to be influenced by various new incoming art notions culled from Abstract Expressionism and Land Art, paralleled by the indigenous and subversive Gutai movement. This fresh shift in artistic perspectives made way for a wave of artistic leaders that included Hiroko Koshino. Building on her belief in the unity of all forms of art-a Bauhaus tenet- the classically trained Koshino used key elements to inform her paintings and sumi-ink masterworks as the basis for her stunning fashion designs, resulting in her recognition as one of the foremost couturiers in Japan.

HIROKO KOSHINO: A Touch of BAUHAUS will, for the first time in New York, reveal how Koshino’s visual artworks inform her high fashion designs. Curated by Kyoko Sato at WhiteBox, the exhibition will include Koshino’s most inventive runway pieces, side-by-side with her signature abstract paintings and sumi-ink works, including-in WhiteBox’s project space-a site-specific eighty-foot-long ink scroll that epitomizes her brilliant combination of art and design as Gesamtkunstwerk, the Bauhaus approach towards a total artwork.

After years of creating riveting artworks inspired by key painters ranging from Jackson Pollock to Gustav Klimt, as well as the Lyrical Abstraction and Tachism movements, Koshino began experimenting with the connection between art and fashion in the serene studio created for her by her colleague, genius architect Tadao Ando, in Ashiya. There she was able to deeply connect with her love for Mother Nature, free from the hustle and bustle demands of Tokyo, while infusing her paintings with a deeply Japanese attitude.

Koshino’s innovative design techniques, based on painting with sumi-ink directly onto the fabric, were the essence of many of her innovative fashion creations. In an essay on Koshino and her works, critic Anthony Haden-Guest writes, “Hiroko’s Sumi-Ink works are wholly beautiful, but not so much so as to overwhelm. They do not exclude, they embrace.”

Early in the history of Japanese art, Nihonga, tradition-based Japanese paintings, used to be exhibited in separate spaces from yōga, or artwork with Western influences. A push for change and a reconciliation of the two energies was beginning to happen. Thus Haden-Guest points out that while Hiroko’s work is “delicate, forceful and remarkably various … it embodies this accommodation, in her fashion, as in her art,” fusing the two styles.

In 1977, Hiroko joined the cutting-edge group “TD6” (Top Designers 6), presenting her fashion collection in Tokyo for the first time. Since, she has been showcasing twice a year. In 1978, she became the first Japanese designer to join Alta Moda in Rome, a sensational show earning her a thirty-page article in the Italian edition of Harper’s Bazaar.

In 1982 Hiroko Koshino created International Inc., leading the “Designer’s Character Brand” boom that turned fashion into a top industry in Japan. Subsequently, she debuted her brand and her signature prêt-à-porter collection at the Paris Fashion Week, to great acclaim.

Koshino considers herself an artist since childhood. She got started drawing characters from Manga and Anime, attending Kabuki plays regularly, influenced as well by the Bunraku national puppet theater of Japan. Six decades later, Koshino unabashedly continues her painting career, having created, by now, well over 1,900 paintings using a wide variety of techniques and inventive, unorthodox paint applications.

Her artwork continues as a wellspring of inspiration flowing right into her fashion design. “I can continue designing because I paint,” Koshino explains. Indeed, her paintings frequently function as brainstorm-drafts for what will later become one of the extraordinary design creations that she refers to as “the architecture of the body”, all along carrying as part of her signature, the elemental Japanese sense of sculptural ‘high volume’ in her couture.

Although her artwork and design are deeply intertwined, Koshino explains there is a definite separation between the two camps. “The process of production in fashion and art is very different,” she says. “When I make art, I can express my spirit directly. It is very personal. When I create fashion, I need to think about what people want, and I need to design what people will buy, so it unequivocally contains a business aspect.”

Kyoko Sato 

Koshino’s works will be showcased at WhiteBox with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on November 1st. The exhibition runs through December 1st.

“I can continue designing because I paint,” Koshino says. “Both design and art are my creation, and I cannot divide them.” This thought reminds people of Bauhaus-style “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk), which became the title of her New York debut exhibition at the WhiteBox [HIROKO KOSHINO: A TOUCH OF BAUHAUS (329 Broome Street); Curator Kyoko Sato (Nov. 1-Dec. 1, 2018)]

FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY LECTURE BY HIROKO KOSHINO

Thursday, November 1, 2018 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Fashion Institute of Technology
227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001
Feldman C501

About WhiteBox:
WhiteBox, on its 20th anniversary remains a non-profit art space aiming for total invention catalyzing the tenor of the times. It serves as a platform for contemporary artists to develop and showcase new sitespecific work, and is a laboratory for unique commissions, exhibitions, special events, roundtables, and arts education programs, providing an opportunity to experience an artist’s practice in a meaningful way, socially inspired free from market constraints. WhiteBox artistic vision provides hard to pigeon-hole artists with sustained exposure, creating an ideal environment for more in-depth interaction between sophisticated as well as community-bound New York audiences and artists’ practices. It achieves this by inviting local and international emerging and established artists to respond to its exhibition space with leading-edge interventions, performances, and developing long-term inspired programming that allows them to develop projects and engage with audiences. The artists who exhibited at WhiteBox tend to defy easy categorization.

Special thanks to The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Nao Takekoshi.

D’USSE RE-MIXER AT THE MCINTOSH TOWNHOUSE NYC

Drawing fascinating parallels between remixing a classic cocktail and remixing a classic song, the interactive series will travel to select destinations across the country, offering bartenders, influencers and journalists an intimate taste of D’USSE, the cognac category, and its role in both cocktail and music culture. You’ve never tasted Cognac like this before.

Three iconic Masters of their Craft lead the NYC launch sessions:
• Cellar master Michel Casavecchia – fresh from the brand’s home at the historic Chateau de Cognac, the legendary creator of D’USSE XO and D’USSE VSOP will reveal his inspirations behind each expression while offering tailored one-on-one tastings.
9TH WONDER – the Grammy Award-winning producer responsible for hits by Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J Blige will unveil the fascinating parallels between remixing classic cocktails and tracks through an interactive DJ Masterclass utilizing The World of McIntosh’s renowned sound system
• Legendary Cocktail Expert DEREK BROWN and his team from D.C.’s award-winning Columbia Room, will provide guests with a sonic wave cocktail demonstration showcasing how using a singing bowl to stir cocktails with sound vibrations allows an interpretation of sound through drinks and impacts its flavor. Each of these artistic elements play off the core concept of how altering one simple ingredient – sound, tone, or even spirit base – can change the way something tastes or is perceived.

MICHEL CASAVECCHIA
Monsieur Michel Casavecchia is the Cellar Master of the prestigious Château de Cognac and the creator of both D’USSÉ VSOP and D’USSÉ XO. He is proud to be part of the privileged line of heirs of the Baron Otard, charged with perpetuating the tradition of the knowledge of blending ‘eau-de-vie’ (water of life) into Cognac.

Michel was born in Lorraine, in the eastern part of France to a father with a passion for collecting and enjoying fine Cognac. This passion, which Michel inherited at a young age, has driven him throughout his career. Though he has not followed the traditional path to becoming an elite Cellar Master, Michel’s relentless dedication to Cognac had led him to the Château de Cognac where he has spent more than a decade overseeing the Cognac making process of some of the world’s finest Cognacs.

After ten years as an apprentice at the Château de Cognac learning from his predecessor and refining his craft, Michel received the opportunity to move into the role he has wanted to achieve most of his life. After nearly 20 years as the curator for some of the most prestigious Cognacs in the world, Michel was tasked with developing a new Cognac for Bacardi, D’USSÉ VSOP.

9th WONDER
Patrick Douthit, better known as 9th Wonder, is a Grammy award-winning hip hop record producer, record executive, DJ, lecturer, and rapper from Durham, North Carolina, U.S. He began his career as the main producer for the group Little Brother, and has worked with notable musicians including Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Drake, Destiny’s Child, and Kendrick Lamar.

As a college professor, 9th is an adjacent hip-hop history professor at Duke University and has held several Artist-In-Residence positions at top universities across the country including University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, and Harvard University. Through his positions in academic, 9th seeks to educate students on the history of hip-hop as well as advocate for its future.

Derek Brown is a leading spirits and cocktail expert and president of Drink Company, which owns and operates 2017 Spirited Award winning “Best American Cocktail Bar” Columbia Room as well as PUB, a rotating pop-up bar that’s housed the wildly-popular Miracle on 7th Street, Cherry Blossom PUB and Game of Thrones PUB. Playboy magazine named him as one of “The 10 Entertainers, Thought Leaders and Heroes Who’ll Save Us in 2017.”
A native Washingtonian with deep ties to the city — his great-grandfather was once D.C.’s police chief — Derek admits that Washington provides a unique vantage point as the capital city, having mixed drinks for everyone from royalty, ambassadors and senators to fellow Washingtonians, interns and students. He’s concocted cocktails at the White House, clinked glasses with Martha Stewart and was even appointed Chief Spirits Advisor at the National Archives. Derek’s philosophy for crafting memorable drinks goes beyond what’s shaken, stirred and served in a glass. “When I think about cocktails, I think about how they connect to nature, I think about how they connect to history,” he explained to Imbibe magazine, which named him 2015’s Bartender of the Year. “I think about how they connect to the people who made them and the time they were living in.”
Derek’s passion for spirits has taken him across the globe, where he’s learned about the integral role food and drink play in the culture, customs and values of communities worldwide. He’s also written about drinks and drinking for The Atlantic, The Washington Post and Bon Appetit magazine, among other publications.

ABOUT D’USSE: D’USSE [dew-say] launched in 2012, D’USSÉ is an ultra-premium cognac that blends over 200 years of tradition with the modern inspiration of Cellar /Master Michel Casavecchia. D’USSÉ is a uniquely powerful, authentic cognac that starts off with distinguished intensity, giving way to a pleasantly smooth, balanced finish. With exceptionally blended expressions including D’USSÉ VSOP and D’USSÉ XO (launched in 2014), D’USSE lends itself to a variety of elegantly crafted rich, and complex cognac-based cocktails.

 

 

Guests enjoyed Derek Brown and Columbia Room’s sonic wave cocktail demonstration using a singing bowl.

Georgia Fowler enjoying the classic Sidecar at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

Ron Hill crafting his own re-mixed cocktail with D’USSE VSOP

Jamal Jackson at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER at McIntosh Townhouse

TK Wonder with DJ Millie, in between her sets of the evening at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

Martin Salomon enjoying the Side Chick cocktail – a riff off the Side Car – at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

Quiana Parks and her friend at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

Elijah Dominique and friends at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER at the McIntosh Townhouse

DJ Millie entertained guests with sets throughout the evening at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

Grammy Award-winning producer 9th Wonder led guests through a DJ Masterclass using the World of McIntosh’s renowned sound system

Amrit at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER at the McIntosh Townhouse

Vashtie enjoying the Side Car at the NYC D’USSE RE-MIXER

WEB EXCLUSIVE – RED HOOK VIBEOLOGY

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Photographer:  Kimber Capriotti @KimberCapriotti
Model:  Barbra Lee Grant @barbraleegrant @newyorkmodels
Casting:  Chad Thompson @communa_k
Stylist:  Molly Haring @Mollyruthharing_styling
Makeup/Hair:  Sarah Bednar @Sarahbednarmakeup
Digital Tech: Evan Lubinger
Photo Assist:  Jillian Bresin

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shirt Layer: Han Wen, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Top: Han Wen, Pant: Victoria Hayes, Belt: Jivomir Domoustchiev, Shoes: Marco De Vincenzo, Sunglasses: Han Wen, Bag: MM6 Maison Margiela

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Turtleneck: Han Wen, Shoe: Dorateymur, Head piece: Miu Miu

Dress & Skirt: Han Wen, Trench Coat: Han Wen, Shoes: Han Wen, Sunglasses: Oakley

Top: Kelsey Randall, Jacket: Victoria Hayes, Pant: Marques Almeida, Shoe: Dorateymur, Hat: Marni

PARKER KIT HILL

Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

Photographer Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve, Fashion Stylist Brit Cato, Hair by Julia Kim, Makeup by Cyler

Dancer and actor Parker Kit Hill has found himself a home in the worlds of entertainment and social media stardom. Whether dancing in a bobbed wig in his apartment or starring across from RuPaul in the hit TV show Broad City, Parker makes an impact whenever a camera is near. Parker’s unique looks, style, and personality have made him a perfect candidate for fame in the age of viral videos and influence. Spend a surreal day dancing with Parker, equipped with a rainbow of eyebrow pencils, a towers of hats, and all of the platforms you could need!

Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi


Top Image: Coat by Sharon Wang
Bottom Image: Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi Coat by Sharon Wang

Yellow denim jacket by Johna Stone, Black windbreaker pants by XB OFCL, Black Platforms by iRi, White Sheer Knee socks by we love colors

Right Bottom Image: Beige coat by Sharon Wang, Caramel Jacket by FGJ, Black Platforms by iRi
Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

STUDIO VISITS – ERIC N. MACK

Eric N. Mack is the rule-breaking artist creating large-scale paintings from unexpected materials and forms into soft-sculpture, expansive figures in space.

Portrait photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Ashleigh Kane
Coat by Versace, Hat, Shirt, Trousers and Shoes Artist’s Own

Eric N. Mack’s future as an artist was decided at birth, when his mom Lisa Scott and his dad Miller Mack honoured him with the middle name National, after Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. It was there, in the 80’s, that his parents met while his dad worked at the gallery as a plexiglass specialist, building and maintaining the vitrines. A young Eric often went along for the ride, getting to know works by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh in the process. Admittedly, he wanted to “study everything” in order to allow himself to naturally grow inclined to whatever felt right. Eventually he chose to major in sculpture and painting at Yale University School of Art – an institution that artists such as Brice Marden, Chuck Close, and Richard Serra attended, and all of whom Mack admires greatly. He is also a huge fan of Robert Rauschenberg and had the pleasure of working in the late artist’s studio in Florida earlier this year.

Like Rauschenberg, Mack’s own works toy with context and ideas of re-use in order to create new forms – large-scale works that he calls paintings. Constructed from a patchwork of materials and surfaces that push silk, frill, or even an old t-shirt, into new frontiers, Mack forgoes painting’s rectilinear relationship with canvas for infinite new possibilities of presentation. Inspiration comes from his adopted city of New York, which he’s lived in for over a decade, as well as fashion – his dad once owned a clothing store – and art history – a recent fascination is the 1970s French art group Supports/Surfaces. He also places great emphasis on building knowledge.

Beneath the draping, swooping and layering of the surfaces that shape Mack’s canvases, is a melting pot of art academia and consideration for the important contributions of artists who came before him. Even in his spare time, he’s never not looking to build upon his own awareness of New York’s art legacy. Below, he let’s us pick his brain.

A Lesson in Perspective, 2017

Can you talk to us about your studies. What were you interested in?

I wanted to study everything and I had a real interest in the different principles of art; photography, sculpture and painting. I went to an arts high school in Maryland so in college I wanted to continue without having to choose one or the other, and I wanted to be able to develop a natural relationship to art. Immediately when I got to (The Cooper Union) I took all three of those courses. It was really liberating. That school was super important because it was about thought and innovation, and not so much about restriction. By the time I had graduated, painting had become a lot more serious to me in terms of the history and its conceptual concerns. It became a space that was meaningful for me to continue to question, and the results that I came up with made me want to think more in depth about it.

When did you realize that you could make a career out of being an artist?

When I came to New York, I had so many questions. I was so excited to be here because it was my dream place. I interned at a gallery called Rivington Arms in the Lower East Side which was representing Dash Snow at that time and a number of other artists. I wanted to better understand the workings of a gallery, the relationship between an artist and a gallerist, and how an artist could be supported in that way. I was looking at it, not from an artist’s vantage point, but from an administrative aspect. From there, I ended up getting a job in Garth Weiser artist’s studio, and I learned a lot from him. By seeing his process, I learned that people could earn a living from making work, and that if I worked hard enough, it could be a possibility for me as well.

You took a lot of time to develop your foundations as an artist – through art school, research, interning, working for artists, even on the admin side. Why was that important for you to gain that experience?

I think there are times when it’s important that an artwork has academic context, and that the artist is informed and generous about the place that the work comes from, in relationship to art or the history of painting, or a relationship to a previous zeitgeist. People such as Brice Marden, Chuck Close, Richard Serra all came from Yale, and are monumental figures that I look up to.

They went through that training and education and I feel like it was really important for me to do that and make sure that I was here for the long haul and not just being frivolous or superficial.

Previously you’ve referenced Robert Rauschenberg and Sam Gilliam as influences – do they still inspire you or does that lessen as you come into your own as an artist?

I really appreciate art and that’s how I’ve come to be an artist. Rauschenberg is somebody I’ve thought about for a long time and even more so this year because I did a residency at the Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva, Florida. I got to work in his studio and that was monumental for me. That kind of closeness, to be able to examine the space… it was compelling to be able to see what his brand of innovation afforded him. I gave myself permission to actively think about his legacy after that. But there are others; Basquiat, of course. I would say he is somebody I’ve thought about. He died the year after I was born. I’ve also been thinking of Richard Tuttle – people that have been around for a long time that have served their practices in really strong ways.

Why do you identify specifically as a painter?

It has to do with the lineage that I feel like the work has come from. I see painting as a lot of things, but mostly there’s a relationship to surface and material. I’ve been thinking about the canvas and how painting that revolves around framing contexts that mostly have to do with a rectilinear relationship. I’ve also been thinking about the tools with which we identity as existing with the history of painting. I feel like there hasn’t been much advancement in terms of the apparatus involved with painting, or that any advancement ends up being forgotten in history.

I’ve also been thinking about this movement in Paris called Supports/ Surfaces where painters dealt with space and structure, including surface. Many of these painters are being shown a lot more now, and I see that the work they did as having a part in advancing the technology of painting – in breaking it out of its reductive frame for it to become more tangible and to speak more directly to histories of materiality.

Did you immediately begin working in large scale or was that something you worked up to over time? Was it intimidating to make paintings that large?

I think what I regard as large has changed over time. One of the things I started thinking about after grad school was how to push the identity of the work. One of the biggest moves I made was doing away with the wooden stretcher bar convention that painting has had for a long time. I began moving towards the space in the center of the room.

I’ve long been thinking about monumentality, or about a relationship to a monument, and the challenge for me would be to be able to maintain the kind of detail, care and attitude that the work possesses. So it’s been a constant, very careful, thought process for the work to physically expand. But it feels very natural to the concerns of the work.

You impact the meaning of everyday materials – where do you source or find what you use in your work?

It’s definitely a combination of things because I don’t want there to be one space that could dictate the work’s meaning due to where it comes from. There are times when I buy things from a store, a home goods interior store, or I’ll go to a clothing shop, but mostly it’s thinking about daily tasks and finding something that would be challenging to use as a material. Or something that continues the process of questioning surface and materiality.

So it’s not planned, as in, you don’t go out with an object in mind to bring back?

I go out looking for certain forms. Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with frill – like gathering, ruching – so I’ve been going out looking for it because it ends up having a nice finish. And there’s this relationship with elegance, a kind of frivolity, excess, like Rococo or Baroque. There’s also a supposed coldness to the rigid white wall that often comes with the gallery context, so I’ve been thinking about what would be a really active contradiction of the space.

Palms on Cotton, 2017
 Implied Reebok or Desire for the Northeast Groover, 2016

Are you aware of what the painting’s meaning is before you begin or do you add meaning as you go?

It’s nice to have epiphanies while the piece is developing, but I like to be aware. I think the titles end up dictating a starting point that brings people closer to the work or maybe the titles make it more complex. For me, they end up being a finalizing gesture.

How does New York inspire you and your work?

I live in Harlem and I work in the Bronx, so my daily commute to the studio ends up being really influential. I take note of things or I take little snapshots on my phone. It’s nice to think about the city as a space of inspiration.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?

Even the hobbies that I have can end up relating to the work or end up being really nice points in which I can mine certain aspects from.

Can you talk about the importance of abstraction in your work?

I see abstraction as a strategy. I feel like it has social relationships and also aesthetic relationships. Abstraction ends up being a stand in or a symbol for a more complex idea, or to make something more tangible. An abstraction can be present, but it can also obscure and hide – hide information or hide physicality – and there’s definitely that in my work.

I think a lot about abstraction in relationship to a kind of fragmentation, where I think about pieces and parts that have really explicit origins. This is in relationship to what we were talking about before. Like, where does the work come from? Where does fabric, or whatever it is, come from? It’s mostly about how the fragment reads, how the fragments communicate, and how that can be unified to mean something collectively different, or to communicate some kind of emotional complexity.

Do you think your work comments on the value of art, in that you reuse materials and fabrics and give them new meaning through context?

I think if something can be salvaged and reused and seen in a context that is beautiful or expresses some kind of meaning, then that can be very transformative for the viewer or the maker.

  

Hair by Austin Burns using Oribe, Makeup by Agata Helena @agatahelena using NARS cosmetics, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

BALTIC Artists’ Award 2017, installation view, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Courtesy: © 2017 BALTIC; Art Work Photography by John McKenzie

For more information visit eric-mack.com

STUDIO VISITS – TALI LENNOX

Away from her newly adopted home of Los Angeles, multidisciplinary artist Tali Lennox takes us inside her New York loft to share her daring, emotional paintings and collages that capture the fleeting nature of memories.

Dress by Burberry
Portrait Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Anna Furman

In Tali Lennox’s self portraits, her face is often obscured by charcoal-black facial masks or distorted by bulging eyes and drooly, menacing expressions. When she paints figures, their identities are kept hidden and their facial features are imbued with an abstract, spectral quality. The British-born artist, daughter of singer Annie Lennox and film producer/ director Uri Fruchtmann, has made a name for herself in art and in fashion. At the age of seventeen, Tali began walking runway shows for the likes of Miu Miu and Roberto Cavalli (most recently, she starred in the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur’s tastefully noir-inspired campaign as well as the international campaign for David Webb shot by Inez and Vinoodh).

In 2015, she spent a month in residency at New York’s Catherine Ahnell Gallery, and the following year, mounted an exhibit inside the storied Chelsea Hotel. Both shows explored Western attitudes toward aging and the role memory plays in our collective conscience. She represented grooming habits as odd, culturally specific acts, and took a close look at ordinary gestures (holding a glass, washing one’s face)–encouraging viewers to reexamine their own everyday lives. Elements of Lennox’s portraiture–unusual head-to-body proportions, sanguine facial expressions–invite comparisons to celebrated American painter Alice Neel.

After tragically losing her boyfriend to a kayak accident two years ago, Lennox moved across the country to start a new chapter of her twenties in East Los Angeles. IRIS Covet Book sat down with Tali to chat about maintaining a bicoastal lifestyle, painting in solitude, and our shared admiration for the artist Tracey Emin.

Nose Bleed, 2017

 ‘Inhale the Oasis’ collage, 2016

‘Mood Swings’ Collage, 2016

Hi! How’s your morning been?

Very quiet. My roommates are both away right now so it’s just me in our treehouse-y home. My favorite hours to paint are either first thing in the morning or late at night so that’s what I did. I’ve had a full day of painting reclusiveness.

What are you painting right now?

I’m working on a painting of my friend Lili. It involves blood, tan lines, and pink silk. I’ve been curious about what it is to be a woman capturing other women. I want to gently challenge the viewer’s own awareness of sexuality. I love to paint nudes, skin, boobs… it interests me to figure out how my perspective differs from that of a man’s, which can come from such an objectified angle.

I’ve had a morbid curiosity since I was a child. I’m fascinated with gore and ghosts. I like to add in elements like blood and drool to my recent portraits, to explore the lines of attraction and repulsion. Recently, I posted a picture of spilled red ink on a mattress and it wound up in the newspaper because people thought it was period blood. Men and women were commenting on it–calling it disgusting. I wasn’t even trying to suggest or make a point about period blood when I took the photograph, but it did get me thinking. It’s a little absurd that women have been having periods since the beginning of humanity and yet people still find it so outrageous.

You relocated to Los Angeles from New York, but you still live in both cities. Why did you decide to move?

I’m in Silver Lake mostly. I love having trees outside my window, and the sense of vast space in LA gives my ideas a certain expansiveness. LA is weird and faded. It’s hard to grasp reality here, which I find so inspiring. I go to New York City every couple of months and it’s always just a big slice of cake–in a wonderful and somewhat overwhelming sense.


Dress by Burberry

What do you miss most about NY when you’re away?

Chinatown, the movie theaters, Serendipity, 24-hour delis, the Met, exchanging a hello with a man who looks like Santa Claus who sits outside my building every morning, the raging desire for a strong coffee in the morning.

Your Instagram bio says that you’re a painter slash jellyfish breeder. Jellyfish? Breeder? Please elaborate.

Really the jellyfish breeder thing is just to be silly. I mean, social media should never be taken too seriously. I do have a fascination with sea creatures though. It stems from childhood. I remember being completely hypnotized by fishmongers when I was probably four years old. I loved looking at the fish scales and the variety of colors, and experiencing the strange smells. I would secretly touch the dead fish when no one was looking. I’ve always been curious about the things others might find gross.

Do you have a regular routine for your creative work? Where is your studio?

I have a rough routine, without regular hours. Right now I paint most often from my room, which I like because I can paint at any hour. Sometimes I like to work late into the night. A lot of people like separating themselves from their work, but I find that working where I live heightens my relationship to the paintings. I mean, I literally wake up and fall asleep seeing it, so I really need to like what I’m doing because there’s no escaping it.

Do you listen to music while you’re working or do you prefer silence?

I like to listen to a lot of film soundtracks. Hitchcock soundtracks are great. Jonny Greenwood, Disney scores, Alan Watts and Ram Dass are great when you don’t want to feel like you’re falling down a vortex of isolation. And when I need a little energy, I’ll put on the Fat White Family’s Champagne Holocaust album.

What are you reading right now? Either book or magazine-wise or just a lingering link in your browser tabs?

I’m about to finish Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami–it’s utterly beautiful. For a quick bedtime chapter or two, I’ll read Anaïs Nin.

Tell me about when you first started painting.

I’ve been drawing and painting forever, or at least since I was very young. I was the kind of kid to stay in the art room at school during break time. When I was nineteen, I moved to New York and started to develop my work with oil painting. I had been modeling full time since I was seventeen. I guess I was looking for a sense of identity outside of that world. Painting builds such a private relationship with oneself. It’s lonely and frustrating–but wonderful.

Kaya, 2017

You were raised by world-famous parents– Scottish singer Annie Lennox and producer Uri Fruchtmann – in the UK. Can you tell me a bit about your childhood?

I grew up between north and west London and went to a pretty liberal school called King Alfred’s, where it was encouraged to be open minded and independent. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was a difference between my mum and anyone else’s. I was raised with pretty strong values.

How has your mom’s creative work influenced your approach to art-making?

My mum came up with all the visual concepts for her videos and took a lot of risks. She has always been unafraid to express herself, which has encouraged me to keep exploring and experimenting.

I love how you painted terry cloth in that series of self-portraits where you’re wearing a bathrobe and charcoal face masks–what other textures or surfaces are you drawn to painting?

I absolutely love painting breasts. Nipples though can take a very, very long time to get right.

You’ve talked about how your painting practice helped you cope with the loss of your boyfriend, who died in 2015 after a tragic kayak accident. Have you found other practices to be helpful for emotional processing and healing?

I talk a LOT. I’m very open with people I trust. I’ve also explored a lot of energy practices, mindfulness, being able to truly sit with one’s emotion, being present with what comes up. I’m all for feeling fully, releasing, and clearing the way.

What visual artists do you look to for inspiration?

It changes all the time, but lately I love looking at Gerald Brockhurst’s paintings. His paintings are eerie and bold and often have an unsettling quality. I love paintings of the past, before so much technology existed, with female subjects. From the Pre-Raphaelite period, John William Waterhouse and from Baroque times, the painter Georges de La Tour. From the Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli. Their technical skill and level of imagination is simply mind blowing.

Do you have any upcoming shows or creative projects?

I would love to do video and performance art pieces. And curate experiential art shows. My last show was throughout The Chelsea Hotel, and my aim was to alter the viewer’s perspective of reality. So I’d love to continue mind-bending experiments in obscure locations.

Do you have a dream collaborator? Any particular artist or designer, dead or alive?

I would love to connect with Tracey Emin. I have so much admiration for the vulnerable honesty in her work. Gustav Klimt for his imagination and mad technical skill. And Hieronymus Bosch because he created vast realms, centuries before there was even electricity, and that fucking blows my mind.


Dress by Burberry

Hair by Austin Burns using Oribe, Makeup by Tonya Riner using NARS cosmetics, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

All artwork © Tali Lennox, images courtesy of the artist

STUDIO VISITS – IVANA BASIC

Equipped with a deftly analytical mind full of dark poetry and a taste for flesh, steel, wax, and bone, Serbian sculptor Ivana Bašić explores the fragility of the human condition and invites you to contemplate life’s end — if only you’re willing.


Portrait Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Haley Weiss
Unisex Jacket and Pants by Vivienne Westwood, Shoes Artist’s Own

Our bodies will fail us. We carry that knowledge as they carry us through life. This corporeal contradiction looms in artist Ivana Bašić’s disquieting, stunning work. The 31-year-old suggests the specter of death, whether through figurative sculptures like Stay inside or perish (2016) — which seems to have a force within it that tried to break free, bruising her fragile yet solid physical form — or a performative project like SOMA (ongoing), in which her body is meticulously documented for the creation of a virtual avatar and purchasable 3D model. She ascribes the science fiction bent viewers see in pieces like these to their own fear and avoidance of life’s end, because to her, they’re simply reality. “People have different thresholds of how much they are capable of bearing, at which point they need to go into self-preservation,” explains Bašić. “I think that’s okay. The easiest way for people to digest something is to put it into a narrative, to make a fable out of it. They make up a character, and by making one up they’re announcing that they’re not that character.”

For Bašić, who moved from Belgrade, Serbia to New York in 2010, these works are also deeply personal. She funnels her energy and trauma — much of which can be attributed to her youth spent in a country at war — into her art, pushing herself and her materials to their limits. “I have to fully become them in order to make them, otherwise they wouldn’t feel the way they do,” she explains of the wounded, partial bodies she so often constructs. “It is a lot to become.” Since her June 2017 solo show at New York’s Marlborough Contemporary, titled Through the hum of black velvet sleep, Basic has been in “hibernation mode,” resting her mind after enduring a physically and psychologically punishing production schedule. She worked on the show for six months while maintaining her day job as a designer, and among the material feats she accomplished was suspending her painted wax figures in stainless steel, incubator-like structures, with glass orbs drooping from their necks, for I will lull and rock the ailing light in my marble arms (2017). Now, after recovery and months away from her practice — which by its nature begs draining questions — she is working again, on a new piece for the show titled CRASH TEST, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and opening in Montpellier, France in February. “I’ve gathered my strength to dive back in slowly and carefully,” she tells us at her Brooklyn studio. In 2018 she will be showing her work back home in Belgrade for the first time. “I want that more than anything, really, because the work is fully saturated by my reality there, and I know the audience will feel it and relate to it,” she says. “It would be meaningful to see that something beautiful can come out of it.”

I will lull and rock my ailing light in my marble arms #1, 2017

Population of phantoms resembling me #1, 2016

The difficulty of your material process seems in line conceptually with some of what’s in the work, like this physical bruising or injury on the bodies. Does the production process deepen your conceptual understanding of what you’re doing?

It doesn’t in a way deepen it, it’s just that’s exactly what it is: the pain that I go through is there in the work, it’s a direct translation. The process is extremely difficult since I work with very fragile materials and with time you realize that matter always resists. It resists becoming. It’s like fractals, where my quest for somehow stretching the limits of the body, or pushing back the end of it, needs to become the truth of each of the elements I work with in order for work to come to life. It’s this really complex breakage that happens in your mind, because in order to see the flesh in stone, and in order to see the world in dust — for those things to actually become that — it’s not just pure verbal translation, it is an actual transformation of the matter, which is a really complex process. Inevitably, I think the pieces become everything I am.

How do they become everything you are?

Once, many years ago, I was still really caught up into theory and trying to argue my reasons for why I’m doing things, because I felt like I had to justify them. It’s the initial insecurities that I think any artist goes through; you feel like you have to support everything with pre-existing theories that are all self-referential and don’t really bring much.

I feel like I have come to a point where it all somehow translates into one sentence I was told, which is basically, there is no need to be asserting anything, since the work, like everything that comes out of your hands, will already carry everything that is in you, and it can’t not. It will become what you are, so there is no need to fear. It’s very direct. For my last show I literally didn’t see my sculptures until I installed them into the gallery, and then it was a shock; even though I was making them and lived with them for months I didn’t see them, because I couldn’t step out of myself and look because I was in. And also there was no need to, since they became everything that was in me so much more than I could have ever tried to insert myself, and more than I was even aware of.

If the work is ultimately a reflection of you — you and the work are one and the same on a certain level — tell me how you see your life in your work. How has being in New York affected your work? How did growing up in Serbia affect your work?

None of those things translate directly for me. I don’t make work that is reactive to the outside in any way. I think that for a lot of artists, ‘this body of work is inspired by this, and that body is inspired by that.’ With me, it’s not like that. I have always been on a singular quest.

If I was to articulate one or another [environment], obviously my whole life and my most formative years were back home in Belgrade, which is also where my whole family is. Living there I have always felt a reality of existential fear, the reality of death, which is really something you never experience here [in New York], ever. I feel like the most realistic experience that people have of death here is through TV. It’s a simulation at best, and so there is no gravity to life and to everything else consequently, because that builds a whole system of values around it. Really, really early on I understood that the fragility of [life] is something that you can’t un-know once you know it.


Unisex Suit and Sweater by Vivienne Westwood

In what ways did you come to understand that fragility?

I feel like while I was growing up in Serbia life had been reduced to its barest existence, of people just trying to survive. It was about survival more than anything; happiness felt like a privilege. And there was a lot of bare time. That’s on top of the entire political instability — enemies from the outside, and from the inside of our own government. The [1999 NATO] bombing while I was in Belgrade, sitting in shelters for three months and being bombed several times a day… yet still, it’s not the specific events of it; it’s that you understand what life really is when everything else is taken away.

I think that that has established who I am, and moving away from that and coming here has really propelled some of my fears [about being] able to normalize, as the reality of Belgrade and New York are so extremely different. Here I started to feel the most intense version of all of my fears because on top of the city being as it is, filled with anxiety, there’s the underlying solitude of it, which is undeniable.

The relationship that my mind makes is that death is the ultimate solitude, and so the city only exaggerates all the fears, because even though economically, socially in New York it feels like there is all of this cushioned reality around you, I feel like I’m always in this state of pending the apocalypse of that reality. (laughs)

Would you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?

I think both. I often encounter in my life strange situations because of my own naiveté, or some kind of idealism if you will, but then I have enormous capacity to construct the absolute worst scenario that can come out of every situation if my fears kick in. It depends — it’s a balance.

 Stay inside or perish, 2016

(foreground) I will lull and rock my ailing light in my marble arms #2, 2017
(background) A thousand years ago 10 seconds of breath were 40 grams of dust #1, 2017

I want to talk about text as well, because you have these really evocative, poetic titles for most of the works. But often when you’re showing work, the title isn’t going to be directly next to it. So in your mind, what role does that text play?

There are two things: there is the voice of the pieces, and then there is my voice over them. At both my show in London, [Throat wanders down the blade at Annka Kultys Gallery,] and the one at Marlborough [Contemporary, Through the hum of black velvet sleep], I worked on a written piece, which was presented as the voice of the sculptures. In my mind, they are not art. They are fully real for me, and giving them voices is just another way to materialize that.

As far as the titles go, that is sort of my farewell poem to them. It always somehow ends up being something that I had felt when I had dreamt them in my mind, and then I went on this entire quest throughout the universe to find them, and when I found them they were exactly how I imagined them. That name is almost that first moment when I thought of them. I think all the names fit perfectly with the pieces, and naming comes as a last thing in my process because I can’t know the name until I have gone to find them.

What does making art do you for you? Why do you make art, if you were to put it simply?

It was not my conscious choice, as until a couple of years ago I didn’t really even understand what being an artist means and what it entails. Also coming to New York I had realized that for many people it’s a lifestyle. People are just doing it because they can, because they want to make something, because it’s cool, because they don’t know what else to do.

Growing up in Belgrade I had practically no exposure to arts whatsoever, as there was no art scene or market there. Our museums have been closed for 20 years. People were really only trying to put food on their table and didn’t care much about art, so for me art felt like a privilege of rich societies. The fact that this, what I’m doing, belongs in “art,” is because it was the only context in which this thing that I can’t stop doing finally makes sense. I don’t like to call it that. When you call it art, you’ve killed it, as you have announced that it is not reality. And for me it is reality. I do it because I don’t know what to do with myself otherwise. I think fear and pain are the two things that are contained in your body, and they’re pretty much incommunicable; this is my way to try to let others witness them. It makes it a bit easier for me to cope. I think that my fears are not anything special. I think they’re the reality of all of us, so I am just expelling them out and allowing them to be visible. It brings a lot of awareness and brief moments of relief for me. You have to dive so deep in and pull out these things into the light, and then once you do, you have found all these truths, and that changes you. If you make something and it doesn’t change you, it means you haven’t really done anything. It’s my way to understand and be at peace with my own mortality.


Unisex Suit and Sweater by Vivienne Westwood, Shoes Artist’s Own

Hair and Makeup by Agata Helena @ agatahelena using NARS cosmetics, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

Artwork images from installation in June 2017 at Marlborough Contemporary
For more information visit ivanabasic.com

STUDIO VISITS – RACHEL ROSSIN

Exploring the fine line between reality and our digital avatars, coder-turned-artist Rachel Rossin pulls us into her virtual worlds before ejecting us back out. In the disorientation of the experience we are left to wonder — what is reality?


Portrait Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Haley Weiss

Sweater and Shirt by Versace, Skort, Socks and Shoes Artist’s Own

While Rachel Rossin was growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, like many American children of the late ‘90s and early aughts, she read Harry Potter books, cared for her virtual creatures on Neopets, and repeatedly played SkiFree, a game on her mother’s Windows ’95 computer — even though she knew its likely end: “death by yeti.” However, unlike many of her peers, she could code by age eight, although she didn’t yet define it using that term; picking apart websites and hacking video games were simply fun and ordinary activities. “It felt natural, probably in the same way that three year olds now are intuitively using iPhones,” the 30-year-old recalls. “Escapism is natural for some people. Without a lot of access to culture, especially where I grew up, I felt pretty isolated, and so this was my community.”

Years later, after running her own web design company, playing her fair share of Call of Duty, and furthering her technology tool-kit at university, she began translating her digital experiments into art. When she moved to New York in 2010, she was already making “crude” VR (virtual reality) videos using 3D modeling software. By the time of her first-ever solo show, n=7 / The Wake In Heat of Collapse at SIGNAL in 2015, viewers could experience her VR work on an Oculus Rift headset, making their way through the fragmented digital world she created. She also started painting; for her 2015 show LOSSY at Zieher Smith & Horton, she showed a VR piece alongside canvases that recreated scenes from that virtual space. She’s continued to push the medium’s boundaries, showing her work at institutions like The New Museum, where she was a Virtual Reality Fellow.

For her second, recent solo show at SIGNAL, Peak Performance, she thought about body awareness; after building virtual world after virtual world, she felt disembodied, and wanted to work with VR in a way that would allow her to be in touch with her emotions. She modeled 3D environments, as she has in the past, but with an acute awareness of what she was experiencing. Throughout the process she asked: “What does my body feel like in this moment?” From the VR models that resulted, she made paintings, plexiglass sculptures, and aquarium-like tanks — all of which were shown without the original VR experience. Rossin’s work summons the question of where reality lies: on the headset or in person, online or offline, or — the more nebulous, likely conclusion — somewhere in-between.

Mirror Milk, 2015 Lossy, Zieher Smith & Horton, New York, NY Courtesy of Zieher Smith & Horton and the Artist

After, Horizon with Oranges, 2017 Peak Performance, Signal Gallery, New York, NY Photo courtesy of Signal Gallery

Obviously the reality within VR is disorienting, but the moments you put the headset on and take it off are equally as disruptive to your sense of the world. I wonder if you’ve watched people experience your VR projects, and what registers with them that you’ve found interesting?

It’s funny you ask that. The way I tackled this for the SIGNAL show, which was the first time I did a VR show and that was in 2015, is there were things in the VR space that were also art objects in the physical space. Then what people were seeing was also projected up on the wall, so when you exited, which is a pretty sensitive and disorienting time or transition, I had things that were registration points that left a feeling or a residue of what you had experienced in my VR piece. And then with my show LOSSY, those were paintings that were made from the VR piece, so you had an acquaintance with the paintings when you first entered the room, and then after you left the VR piece, you saw that same reference material but now as static windows that you just experienced or felt. That’s always been interesting, because there’s something about the gradient of reality, for lack of a better word, where right now these things are very polar. That’ll probably change, but they’re very binary: you have the virtual world and the physical world. There’s a moment that you can get into very, very quickly that’s in-between those two worlds when you’re making physical objects, and if it’s a show that’s not so much about programming, if it’s a show about that disparity, then that’s what I try to find.

Then there are the pieces that are about programming, like the piece that’s at Kiasma [Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Alembic Cache Passes (Time-snark) (2016)], where it’s time moving. It’s a piece that I’ve been working on for a while. There’s a type of VR where you can map time; I found a way to map time to where a person is in a room, so the piece is aware of where the person is, and that’s sort of the human scrubber of time, and so two-dimensional time becomes three-dimensional time. With that piece, the floor is the same in both worlds. That’s another way I think of trying to find registration points. It’s like putting people through the uncanny valley, squishing them through the uncanny valley. Sometimes, the uncanny valley, the disparity [between the virtual and physical], is pretty brief.

In art it does seem like it’s a binary; something is either multimedia and tech-based or it’s not. But in daily life, that’s not how we experience technology. Our digital and real memories are all intertwined, so I wonder why it is that there’s such a gap in art.

I always think about the advent of the cursor as a parallel to this, because part of that consideration is that it’s natural. You have the advent of the cursor — everything is command line before this moment — and then there’s the advent of the operating system, the advent of GUI, Graphical User Interface. We didn’t have a way to really put ourselves in VR, put ourselves in the digital space, until the cursor was invented. And then, at that moment, there was a representation of our hands that was on the screen that you could use, which is pretty interesting if you think about what’s coming next for us. I really hate making predictions about what’s going to happen in the future because it seems so frivolous, but it does seem like, if I had a gut instinct or a hunch about that, it’ll probably shrink — that disparity, that feeling will naturally shrink with time. I don’t know if that’s fortunately or unfortunately.

Our emotional lives, especially our superego, can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not because it still hurts when whatever slight happens on the Internet, or if there’s a threat made on the Internet, my god, my reptilian brain certainly reacts to that. But our bodies definitely can tell the difference. My body can follow my reptilian brain, but it still feels pretty separate in this sphere, while our emotional lives, our primitive brain and our pheromone brains — our more primal or animal instincts — live in technology pretty seamlessly. That’s kind of incredible because we assume that it’s not like that, but it is. If you just take a temperature of your body in real time, [the reaction to something taking place virtually] is completely the same as in real life, if not increased — the fear is increased, it seems like. I find that to be enchanting in a dark way.


Sweater and Shirt by Versace

For your second show at SIGNAL you don’t have any VR headsets. But the plexiglass pieces, do they follow the same process as the paintings where it begins as a photo, is put into a program, and then is made physical again? What’s the process behind these works?

Not everything starts as a photo. Sometimes it does, but I use almost every tool available, and sometimes it starts with me purely modeling things in 3D. Sometimes I use a VR sculpting program. Sometimes it’s me ripping stuff, like for the Call of Duty piece, Man Mask [(2016)], it’s me literally hacking Call of Duty figures out of their little shells and texturing them. So depending what the body of work is, it’s always going to be different. But for these plexiglass pieces, what they are is VR. I have paintings and then the plexiglass pieces and then there are these strange tanks. The paintings and the plexiglass pieces are made from the same seed, the VR space; we’re using VR as a loose term to talk about 3D microcosms that have their own physics and their own light. What I’m doing is I’m using the same scene [for both the paintings and the plexiglass pieces]. I paint from that microcosm or that VR world that I’ve sculpted, I’m [physically] making paintings of that space, and then I’m printing them out on plexiglass — it’s almost like they’re part three of this gradient. Then I wanted them to begin with the body and then end with the body, so what I did for the plexiglass ones is they’re then blow-torched while I’m nestling in them for as long as I can take it. If it gets too hot I have to leave. But it gets pretty soft, and I sort of hug them around me.

In your mind, how do the aquarium-like sculptures play into this? Because visually they seem like a departure, but there’s something weird going on there that seems similar in a lot of ways to the VR works, like, what’s the original piece, what’s the “real” part of it? How are you thinking about these?

Something about building computers and building machines feels very intimate, like building worlds or building microcosms; they feel like building cities or VR worlds. That’s something that, before I was even coding [as a kid], I was breaking stuff and trying to see how computers worked — bless you, Mom. So I’ve been building computers for a long time, and then I became fascinated with the idea of the show and going back to the body. Of course there’s a little bit of a knee-jerk response in the idea of water combined with some sort of technology; that’s the part of it that’s amusing or silly. But they feel like vivariums or like geological core samples of a VR space.

All of the screens in those tanks are literally the VR spaces; you see them through these very pixelated LED screens. I wanted to make something that very much felt like the body, sort of crudely self-contained, that wasn’t VR, that felt that there was a way of describing the landscape, as aquariums do, really — “here’s a slice of the ocean.”

Timescrubbing, Maquette, 2017 ALT FACTS, Postmasters Gallery, New York, NY Photo courtesy of Brooke Nicholas

Safe Apron, Safe Cape, 2016 My Little Green Leaf at Art In General and Kim, Riga, Latvia Photo by Ansis Starks, Kim and Art in General

You talking about body awareness and the act of forming these plexiglass pieces around your own body is interesting, because it grounds VR in the human form literally. How did you start thinking about body awareness and what made you want to physically cocoon yourself in these pieces to make them more human?

When I was growing up, being online was a safe place despite the perverts. It was this place that I felt like was pretty necessary, like my community was there. There was an adventure. It could be because I’m getting older, but I felt in light of… I don’t know if it was a response to technology or politics, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I think I was wanting to make work that was more introspective, that was simpler and less about technology and less about process, and more, “These are the tools I have right now.” I wanted to strip it down to something very literal. I’ve been making a lot of VR work and I’ve been existing in VR and in digital spaces because I had back-to-back museum shows, which was amazing, but they were all VR installations. I was existing kind of without a body and then not making anything physically.

I think it was a response internally, and it was also a response to the fact that any time I went on social media or went on to where I thought I had community, it was chaos. Because it was chaos and, frankly, pretty stressful, I started thinking, “What is my response? How do I feel right now as I’m reading this horrific news story or my aunt’s Facebook posts? Right now I just feel like a pile of lungs.” One of the paintings is kind of about that. It was about using fear responses or technology as the prompt for that type of body awareness exercise: I have a fear response, and it’s in a space where I don’t have a body, so what is my body doing? But the baseline of what we’re talking about is that I wanted to make something where the work wasn’t serving technology, technology was serving the work.


Sweater and Shirt by Versace, Skort Artist’s Own

Hair by Austin Burns using Oribe, Makeup by Agata Helena @agatahelena using NARS cosmetics, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

For more information visit rossin.co

STUDIO VISITS – CAMILLA ENGSTROM

Swedish-born painter Camilla Engström’s work explores autobiographical issues through her lens of humor and figurative expression. With a third solo show that opened earlier this year at Brooklyn’s Cooler Gallery, Engström opens up about processing her anger through phallic symbols, her cartoon-like characters, and her quest for inspiration.


Portrait Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Haley Weiss
Dress and shoes by J.W. Anderson

If Camilla Engström were to make a self-portrait, she would draw a rollercoaster. That’s not to say the 28-year-old artist from Örebro, Sweden is out of control; in fact, she’s in tune with her emotions — the ups, downs, and contortions in-between. From moving to New York in 2011 to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, to dropping out in 2013 to pursue a broader art practice, trusting her creative impulses has given her the freedom to build a body of work that includes drawings, paintings, apparel design, and sculpture. In recent months, it’s also meant accepting that she doesn’t know what she’ll do next; when we visit her Brooklyn studio this fall, for example, she says that she’s simply been “releasing pressure” by painting.

“I don’t even know what I’m making,” she admits, assessing the colorful canvases that fill her wall, although there’s one obvious commonality. “It’s just a lot of sausages,” she adds with a laugh. One painting features a long and artfully twisted sausage, while another shows a sausage being stepped on by multiple feet. This new subject is unsurprising given Engström’s history of irreverent, humorous compositions. She explores sexuality, consumption, and the banal (e.g. bathing, cats) with a wink. It began with her roguish alter ego, Husa, the curvy pink figure who’s appeared in Engström’s pieces since she was first sketched years ago. Husa has many activities, including reading or drinking wine while naked on a picnic blanket, and sitting in a reclining chair, drooling, with food resting on her lap. And she, like her creator, is also capable of change; in 2016, at what Engström describes as a “zen” time in her life, she depicted Husa as a contemplative figure. The result was Faces, Engström’s first-ever solo show at Deli Gallery in Queens, in which Husa appears in various states of undress, transforming beneath a sun-like orb. In one painting from that series, Husa disappears entirely, leaving her dress suspended in mid-air, as though she’s transcended the bodies and cultural norms Engström so often points to in her work. It turns out that with an open approach like Engström’s, one recurring figure can address both the commonplace and the ecstatic.

Big Bear, 2017

You’ve described drawing in the past as not actively thinking; you’re just letting it out. Are you surprised by what you make?

Yes, sometimes. I like to start small because that’s less intimidating. That’s usually when I’m like, “Whoa, what’s going on in my head?” For the last few months, I’ve been kind of controlled in the way I’ve been painting. Now I want to be a little bit looser I think, which is frustrating because I wish I could paint the same way and stick to it. I just can’t.

When you’re painting and you’re stricter, does that happen naturally or is it a conscious decision?

It also happens naturally. I think more before I make the painting. Whereas these messy ones, [gestures to sausage paintings] I don’t really think at all, which is nice. I like both ways. With the more controlled ones, I definitely feel like I’m more relaxed, and even though I’m thinking more beforehand, I’m just focused, getting the paint in there. Whereas painting the messy ones, I feel sweaty afterwards; it’s almost like an exercise. I try to make them really quick and I try to make many of them.

Why do you think sausages are reappearing, if you were to do some self-analysis?

Before I used to paint dicks a lot. [Engström published A Book of Dicks in 2016.] I wanted to make a new dick book. I feel like I have so many dicks in my brain; I need to get them out there. I like to turn them into sausages because I feel like I can’t paint the dick. I’m just so mad at dicks right now. Sausages are easier for me to handle. They’re less intimidating.

You said you’re mad at dicks. Could you elaborate on that? Is that a cultural frustration, one with politics, or—

I think it’s politics to be honest. When every hurricane, every disaster happens, I’m just playing with a dick [in my work]. I feel like if we backtrack, it’s all the dicks’ fault. I was just reading about Harvey Weinstein and I want to destroy him. Now he’s destroying himself. How could he do that for so many years? It makes me want to cry but it also makes me so mad. It’s all of that coming to me at the same time.

It also makes me think about when I’ve been sexually harassed by men, and it makes me think about my sister, who’s 10 years younger than me. I just realized, I never said to her, “You have to say no.” I never had the conversation with her: “This is how you deal with a bossy guy.” She’s almost 20 now, and she’s in college and she studies international finance. There are a lot of men there, and they drink and they party all the time.

I was watching her Snapchat almost having a heart attack. That’s when most of that shit happened to me. You’re drunk, you’re with guys, and you feel pressure to be accommodating, and then it all goes downhill. I just texted her today: “We need to have this conversation. You are the boss over your own body and I see how you’re with guys all the time. I’m sure most of them are nice, but even the nicest guy, if he wants something from you and your body, you need to be able to say no.” I wish that our mom had told me that because I feel like maybe I would have been more brave and not so terrified every time. I’m definitely frustrated with the dick this year. I’m hoping next year it will all be about the beautiful vagina.

Do you remember your first drawing of Husa?

Yes. I remember I was looking at a lot on Pinterest at the time — because that’s what you do when you work in fashion, you sit on Pinterest all day (laughs) — and I was looking at all of these sculptures. I wanted to paint a round figure because I had been painting so many fashion illustrations — I was also very influenced by Picasso. Then I started to paint a round figure but it was very serious. It just didn’t feel like me. I was painting her over and over and over again. Then finally I just gave her a face, and it made me giggle, because I could see it come to life. It just all came together and I was like, “Okay, this is my friend that I’m going to paint for a long time.”

Hairier and Hairier, 2017

Dress and shoes by J.W. Anderson


When you moved from fashion to being an “artist,” what was that decision like? Were you tired of fashion; was there a certain attitude you wanted to get away from; what was it?

I was frustrated with fashion. I felt like I was so creative — a typical millennial kid that’s just like, “I deserve more attention.” I wasn’t good at dealing with technical stuff. I could create things, but no one wants the creative person because they already have that. I felt like I was going to explode because I had so much to give but I couldn’t. There was never an opportunity. Then the tasks they gave me were easy but so unfulfilling.

I still love fashion and I love clothes. I think I have like a healthier relationship to fashion now. I feel more relaxed about it. When I left fashion, I didn’t want to leave completely. I still love working with textiles and I did this little embroidery thing with the Swedish brand called Monki; we did a clothing collaboration. I’m sure there are some artists that really don’t want to see their work on clothes, but it makes me so happy.

I know a lot of people won’t be able to buy my work — I could never buy my work — but they could buy a T-shirt. It makes me so happy to see someone wear my T-shirt or tote bag.

What are you inspired by at the moment? Is there anything you’re reading, listening to, seeing?

I took a break for two weeks; I went to Japan. I just got back. I felt like going to Japan was going to change my life and that I was going to come back and be like, “This is what I want to paint now.” It was definitely inspiring to be there, but it just made me more confused.

Had you been there before?

No, it was the first time. I love Yayoi Kusama so I wanted to go there and see her work and see what kind of environment or culture she grew up around. I wanted to experience it. I came back and I was like, “I don’t even know what I want to make anymore.” Sometimes I’ll go see a show and I’ll be so inspired to make something, so it was super frustrating. I’m still inspired by Kusama a lot but it’s almost like I looked at her work too much. I think I need to step back a little bit.

I went to MoMA; I looked at the Louise Bourgeois exhibition. I tried to feel something and I just didn’t. Then I picked up ArtForum; I went through it and I just thought, “Fuck.” You know when you’re inspired, it’s just this feeling, and I haven’t had that feeling yet. I’m going to push myself and try to be inspired by myself. I hope it comes soon because I really need to work — to work with a confidence.

Hairier and Hairier, 2017

Food Coma, 2017

When you say you need to work, you need to as in you have to be making things?

I feel maybe like a guy that hasn’t had sex in a long time; I feel like the energy’s there, the need is there. I’m so frustrated. I feel like I can’t create, like something’s missing. I’ll get there. I reach this point probably like five times a year. I’m okay with it.

Do you force yourself to paint every day? What does your day-to-day life look like?

Yes, I force myself because I feel like I have the energy. If I don’t have the energy, I don’t even try. I just stay at home and cuddle with my cat. But now, because I have all this amped up energy to paint, I force myself because I feel like maybe I’m thinking too much. Maybe I just need to paint and then it will click, and that’s where I’m at right now. I’m hoping that maybe tomorrow or the next day something’s going to happen. We’ll see.

When was the first time you can encountered a work of art while you were growing up?

I grew up with this huge painting that disturbed me so much.

In your house?

Actually it was in my grandfather’s house. It was so big, it had to be the centerpiece. It was dark blue and it was a forest at night and there were animals running away. I remember at night I would always run past that painting, because there was this owl sitting in the middle with its bright yellow eyes staring at me. But then during the day, it was right next to the couch and I had to deal with that painting. When my grandfather died, it moved into our house in the same spot towards the couch. It was really bizarre.

I knew there was something special about that painting, that it wasn’t just a painting or a picture on the wall. It was something that really, really bothered me. It made me feel something, and knowing that a piece of art could make me feel something, that was the first time I understood that it was art, and it was important. Being around that painting for so many years, even the scale of it… It’s always going to be with me.

Dress and shoes by J.W. Anderson

Hair and Makeup by Agata Helena @ agatahelena using NARS cosmetics, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

All art work © Camilla Engström images courtesy of the artist
For more information visit camilla-engstrom.com