Showing posts with label Jesse Kauppila. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesse Kauppila. Show all posts

01 September 2010

Jesse Boardman Kauppila

Jesse Kauppila has remastered Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music," so that it can be played on a record player or printed through a printing press.
1. Where and how would you display your work in an ideal situation?
I hate to say it, but a lot of my work really benefits from the white cube environment. My work often requires precise lighting conditions and little distraction to see subtle differences in the results of the often repetitive processes I use to create my work. Also, the white cube allows the viewer to see the subtlety of precise intentions.

Occasionally, I like to create work for abnormal locations and situations (bunkers, barns, fields, fountains). This allows me to build on what is already present, to riff on it, add to it, or spring from it. It's an interesting challenge and a lot of fun, however, I consider my more sophisticated projects to be better presented in the white cube because I like to build systems from the ground up and show everything I have done. The white cube provides the opportunity to see a stand alone project.

I also like to do performances in non-standard settings. I like to do conceptual work in these settings because I am able to show people that might not otherwise be interested in conceptual art what I am doing and win them over. This sort of "missionary" work is something that is really important to me, especially when done in rural settings.

2. If expository writing is good at elucidating and proving a point and
descriptive geometry gives us the tools by which to map objects in space
in relation to one another, what kind of an apparatus does art afford us?
What does art do best?
If there were a spectrum of apparati between expository writing (used to prove a point) and geometry (used to describe objects in space), I would say that modern art tends toward expository writing. An essayist (though not a novelist) establishes his/her thesis and sets out to prove it within a given piece of writing, the artist has no such luxury. I also don't believe that art is used to describe the world in the way that geometry is (at least modern art doesn't operate in that manner). What makes art unique is that artist establishes their own criteria, which they fulfill in the creation of their work. The viewers then use their own criteria for understanding the piece. It is this gap, the question of criteria for judging, which creates much of the confusion around contemporary art. I think most art is more interesting when you have some notion of what the artist is trying to do and then you can evaluate the artist against his or her criteria and against your own criteria.

3. What can you expect from your audience/fans/viewing public? What would you
like them to know about your work?
I really like to make work that is accessible, period. I like making work that is accessible to different people with different backgrounds. A lot of my work relies on my knowledge of printmaking. I like it when printmakers see my work and “get it;” they know the technique on which I am basing my work. Similarly, I like stories and like it when people know the story on which I am basing my work. I am also interested in science and math and appreciate it when people understand those aspects of my work.

I guess I like a curious audience best - an audience that is able to understand my work on its own terms.

4. Marcel Duchamp said - "Enough with retinal art!" What is your reaction as an artist to this statement?
I like retinal art - particularly retinal art that is conceptual. If I don't find work to be visually interesting, I rarely spend time to figure out the other aspects of the work.

That being said, different people react to different inputs. I like work that is interesting to the eye, the ear, the mind, etc... If an artwork provides more than just retinal points of entry, more people can open up to the work.

5. Do you think that there is still room for art movements in today's
pluralistic climate?
I don't think their is room for movements. The most recent sort of notion of a movement was probably "relational aesthetics," which I thought did a particularly poor job of encapsulating what that sort of work was all about. With studio movements such as surrealists, dadaists, etc... you can see a real core of people controlling what the "movement" meant from the inside (often by expelling dissidents). Perhaps this is what enabled those movements to retain their aesthetic coherency. I don't think anybody can really exert that sort of control these days. This might be due to mobility these days: artists can't really develop together for long periods of time, because people are all over the place all the time now. I've regretted that I haven't been able to continue to work, uninterrupted, with many artists I have collaborated with.

I am really interested in artists reworking and working within preexisting movements, riffing on them or whatever. I'm really interested in work like that, I find work that tries to do something new to be quite tedious often. It's the whole standing on top of giants thing. By basing your work in that of others you can go so much further.

6. What is one question you wished we had asked you about your art? Please
feel free to answer it.
Recently I have been interested in the role of the gimic in my work and art in general - the role of humor; but one of the most pertinent questions for me is the role of tradition and its meaning. For a long time tradition and traditional art forms were really important to me. There seemed to be something really authentic there that I didn't find anywhere else. I wrote my thesis on tradition in contemporary Haida and Yoruba art, and my pursuit of printmaking was rooted in an interest in traditional printmaking.

That being said, the stuff that I'm interested in doing now isn't really all that traditional, but there is still a certain rigor and it is of traditional methods (perhaps its craftsmanship) that is really interesting and important to me. I try to maintain this rigor in whatever work I do, whether my work be traditional or not.

17 August 2010

Industrial Cathedral of Arts: The Wassaic Project

Climb up the narrow stairwell at Maxon Mills in Wassaic, NY and peek into the dark openings overlooking a seven-story shaft that murmurs and hums with a deep, damp hollowness and the sound of various recordings by Leah Rico at each landing. The space is sublime. So is the artwork that sits within its cathedral-like exterior.

Artists from all over the United States exhibited their work at the Wassaic Project on August 13-15, enliving the small hamlet, which is part of the town of Amenia about two hours north of New York City along the Harlem Line of the Metro-North commuter rail train. Visitors poured in from all directions and populated a designated camp ground with their tents and then rushed toward the Maxon Mill, once used as a grain elevator, to see the art and enjoy the live music on the front porch of the hotel that adjoins the seven-story industrial structure. The hotel is also no longer a hotel. Small rooms with slanted floors and half-height walls that allow natural light into the spaces through heavy-timber columns and beams housed a photography exhibit consisting of medium-size pigment and inkjet prints. It would have been a squeeze to have more than two people in each room perusing the exhibit. On a chiaro-scuro mezannine, a lone piano basked in the sunlight streaming through the windows, its keys rising and falling and clicking. No sound was produced. It was an exercise in silence and automation. Back on the main level of the hotel a tilted wooden model of a city block with photos pasted to the rooftops invited visitors to look through a magnifying monocular, which deciphered the contents of the photographs, otherwise too small for the naked eye to see. The piece referenced an ongoing participatory public/private urban spaces activity accessible by emailing the artist, Jo. Q. Nelson.

By no means was this the end of it. The exhibit wound up another section of the building with jubilant momentum. But safety first. As a volunteer at the festival, my job was to monitor the number of visitors climbing up the narrow fire stairs so that they did not exceed allowable capacity. I also had to make sure that nothing caught fire. Also acting as gatekeeper to the exhibits accessible through the back staircase, Gwen Charles's Safety Project provided orange life vests to visitors who wanted to wear them free of charge. "If you are not wearing a life jacket, it's not going to save your life," was written on the booth showcasing the vests. On departure, visitors could opt to buy these psychological failsafes for $45. Many who were wearing them commented on how comfortable and safe they actually felt with some degree of due irony.

With over one hundred artists showing their work, the festival could have easily become a maelstrom, but the narrow stairs controlled the flow of people very efficiently through the vertical stacks of the industrial space. When I took a break from my volunteer job, I had a chance to glance through the 2nd and 3rd floor exhibits. I stumbled upon a dark room with a wall-width projection of names. Stephen Eakin's In Memory Of, a compilation of names of deceased individuals allowed visitors to enter the name of someone they wanted to commemorate through a user-friendly, touch-based interface. Dim lighting gave the space the somberness of a mausoleum and the visitors the privacy of remembrance. I entered my grandfather's name in the dense pattern of names and returned to my post at the base of the stairs where I had an excellent view of Brinton Jaecks's Unconscious Collective - a vortex of carved wooden beds attached to the ceiling and to each other with smoothly carved wooden chains and spanning across most of the ground floor. The piece references institutions and has a musical quality expressed through compositional tension and axial rotations of the individual beds. It is also a fine work of carpentry.

The festival accomodated both digitally produced work and manual processes. Clement Valla engaged 1600 individuals in the creation of two composite paintings on mylar through online software. Mary Lydecker created imaginary cities with traditional collage techniques, but the intersections were so seamless that the places became believable in their own right. She combined imagery from Stockholm and Hong Kong or Cocoa Beach and Stockholm, establishing a picturesque ambiguity about the sense of place. Her collages bridge geographic distances yet seem perfectly familiar at first glance because the patterns of development over the last century have produced odd stylistic and scalar juxtapositions.

Although there were other noteworthy pieces participating in innovative and polemical trends in the arts at Wassaic, for the sake of brevity, the remainder of the article focuses on the work of four artists who made a particular effort to engage their audience.

Jesse Kauppila
Printmaker Jesse Kauppila performed live demonstrations of his Bitmap Machine project for his audience. Collaborating with a mathematician, Jesse is generating combinations of "bitmap" prints, which will function as 2D, scannable barcodes. At the festival, he could be found shaking a box he had constructed to print the custom barcodes and explaining the process outloud. A ball-bearing grid underlay a metal, pixellated grid. Each time he shook the box, the ball bearings would land into random quadrants of their underlying grid and push up on the individual pixels of the grid above them. Jesse would then ink the end result and print the bitmap impression on Japanese rice paper. He was able to carry out this process without a press because the box he had built for himself performed all of the functions of a printing press. His individual prints became part of a larger twine-stretched grid, which he used to hang his pieces and keep track of the random combinations generated by the way the ball-bearings fell into place. His project aims to marry traditional print-making techniques with digital barcode technology. Throughout the duration of the exhibit, Jesse never tired of elucidating his process and answering questions.
He is based in San Francisco, where he practices printmaking and seeks collaborations with other artists.

Ben Cuevas
Installation artist and avid knitter, Ben Cuevas is inspired by British artist Damien Hirst and French social thinker Michel Foucault. When his frind taught him how to knit, Ben focused on how surgical the process seemed. His knitted hearts, skeletons, colons and scrotums among others, appear soft and plush and evoke the sense of comfort that any knitted apparel might. Structurally they are familiar because they are based on medical illustrations rather than photographic images of human anatomy. It is difficult to remember that they represent a disembodied grotesque. However, Ben insists that his work is not about representation. The installation piece he chose to showcase at Wassaic Project features a knitted skeleton seated atop a pyramid of Borden's condensed milk cans and a cloud of screen prints on Plexi glass suspended above it. The prints are of disembodied anatomical parts photographed in high resolution with diagrammatic illustrative overlays. Ben conceives of the piece as a reference to material culture and Wassaic's local history (The Borden Company had a condensed milk factory in Wassaic.) and a meditation on transcendence. The knitted skeleton is seated in the lotus position. His piece, like many of the other installation pieces in the exhibit drew the attention of the improvisational dance troupe comprised of dancers Charmaine Warren and Ashe Turner and musician John Ellis. Ben is based in Los Angeles and attended Hampshire College in Mass.

Josh Atlas
Josh Atlas wants to make you laugh. His doughnut-covered disco ball, frosting-laden beach gear and picture frames jammed in buckets with foam cushioning evoke Wayne Thiebaud's pastry paintings. Josh's work is 3D, however. It responds to lighting conditions, and both kids and adults love it. In order to prepare the doughnuts for his disco ball, Josh had to coopt another artist's studio and set up a drying abacus. To preserve the piece, he coated all his doughnuts in urethane and the frosting in epoxy. In order to provide a stable substructure for his disco ball of doughnuts, Josh used a beach ball as the core. His meticulous and finely-crafted drawings demonstrate the care and effort that went into creating his wondrous glazed amalgamations. Their precarious balance is due to a finely-tuned process.

A visit to Josh's studio affords a glance at a large photoprint of Josh submerged in a bath of doughnuts. He invites all to take a dip or watch him bask in the pleasure. One question we can all ask ourselves is whether such quantities of doughnuts express a love of them or an uncomfortable overabundance. Josh says he is just obsessed, and that this is an object-oriented turn in his work. He is also based in Los Angeles.

James Weingrod
The cosmos in a petridish comes to mind when James Weingrod starts painting with his custom-created water-soluble pigments and resins. He uses a clay-surfaced wooden base and films the process. A drop of silver fizzles and bleeds outward melting into the black, phalo blue and veridian green sea that Weingrod calls the universe. He invites participants to create the universe with him and explains doppler effects and supernovas as he reconstitutes the painting laying flat. It took him three years to master his materials and learn to control and predict their behavior. Weingrod's materials come from a small independent store called Guerra in New York City. Although he does not claim to be a chemist, Weingrod mixes all of his own paints. Dressed in a Tyvek suit and a Fedora hat, he has a knack for his participatory act and is not shy about engaging an audience and opening up his simple yet mesmerizing and infinitely engrossing process to all willing participants.

The Wassaic Project is an annual event, and it is organized by artists for artists. All the co-directors - Eve Biddle, Bowie Zunino, Elan Bogarin and Jeff Barnett-Winsby - had pieces in the exhibit and spent all year planning the well-attended, three-day event.