1. How do you know when a piece is finished? Is a piece fully planned out before you begin, or do you find yourself playing around with it?
With the gridded drawings, a lot of the decisions are made as I’m working. I work on many drawings at once and, while the guidelines are set up early in the process, there is a lot of play that goes on as the drawings progress. Most of the materials I use for my drawings are somewhat unforgiving; once watercolor, ink or gouache go onto the surface of the paper, the mark is there, so that does limit the play to a certain degree.
2. When did you begin painting/printing/drawing? Was it all at once, or did one lead to the other?
Drawing and ‘zine making have been activities I’ve engaged in since I was young. Drawing has just always been something I’ve done. In 7th grade I drew a little one page comic, had my mom drive me to the copy shop to make photocopies and then I distributed it in school the next day. That was the beginning of printing and disseminating my own work.
I was never able to get into a printmaking class in college, but afterwards I built an exposure unit for burning silk screens, mostly to print ‘zine covers. Over time incorporating screen printing into my work (as a drawing tool, not as a means for making multiples) felt pretty natural.
Creating sculptural work is certainly the newest avenue for me. Obviously it’s a whole different set of concerns, but it’s been interesting to work tangentially with concrete alongside the works on paper. They feel like opposite materials and trying to incorporate both into a coherent body of work has been a good challenge.
3. What artistic style(s) influences you?
I’ve been interested in ambitious public painting for a long time. I grew up seeing Sister Corita Kent’s Rainbow Swash in Dorchester, I thought it was so fun to look for Ho Chi Min’s profile in the blue swash. I would have loved to see Gene Davis’ Franklin’s Footpath in person, or Al Loving’s Message to Demar and Lauri on the First National Building in Detroit. I saw parts of Katharina Grosse's psychylustro last summer. Aesthetically it’s wonderful, but it sounds like the project was also a failure to the people of Philadelphia. The murals were designed to be seen by commuters on the Amtrak and not too much thought was given to the North Philadelphia community that borders the train line. In addition to buildings, Grosse sprayed paint onto trees, bushes and directly onto the ground. When questions were raised as to the toxicity and longevity of the paint, neighborhood concerns were initially answered with a resounding shrug. They’ve since posted some information about the environmental concerns. It’s disappointing, but it also looked amazing.
I’ve also been really excited about the watercolors (and subsequent aquatint print portfolio) of Swiss artist Karl Bodmer. He traveled across eastern America and then up the Missouri river in 1832-1834 with German prince Maximilian von Wied. His depictions of the American west are really stunning. I was able to see some of the original paintings at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, as well as a copies of the print portfolio in Philadelphia and Chicago. It’s really a stunning body of work. I like the idea that these images were some of the first exposure easterners and Europeans had to the landscape west of the Mississippi.
I’m somewhat obsessed with names carved in trees and spray painted under bridges. I love this act of marking one’s passage through a space and subsequent shared experience by those who come across it later.
And finally Ed Ruscha.
4. What is it about your chosen medium that draws you to it?
The intimacy of the drawings and books is important to me. Detail is something I enjoy viewing, and that influences what I create. Engaging with small work is such a different interaction than monumental (or even medium sized) work. I’ve made some really large drawings, but recently working on a smaller scale again has felt more appropriate and more interesting because of the type of commitment it necessitates when viewing.
The book is such an accessible, distributable medium - and a known, familiar format for people to engage with. It’s a totally different type of interaction than visiting a gallery. It facilitates the presentation of work in a space that is comfortable to the audience and on their schedule. I really like that type of sharing.
5. Are you motivated more by the creation of a piece or the final product?
Both - the creation is obviously rewarding. So much time is invested in it that I think it needs to be pleasurable for me, but there is also a joy to displaying a completed body of work. Working towards the goal of a show and considering how the pieces exist as a group is always fun too.
6. Do you feel as though your art is a representation of who you are, or the world as it appears around you?
I don’t think the two are separate. I think the world around us influences who we are and the work we make. Ideally that work is a reflection of our ideas and vision back out into the world.
You can view more of Alex's work here.