Justin Hunt Sloane, Artist
It can be hard to pin down exactly what it is New York–based artist and designer Justin Hunt Sloane actually does. He graduated with a BFA in printmaking and interactive design from Art Center, but while there, he became interested in the school’s famed automotive program and began dabbling in classes like rapid prototyping and fabrication technology. Since moving to New York, he’s held day jobs as a website designer for Creative Time, or, currently, senior designer at the branding agency Wolff Olins, but in his freelance work and spare time, he makes everything from drawings to etchings to self-published books to album covers to sculptures. The sculptures — which he makes from materials like polyurethane resin, ground-up recycled rubber, and pigmented hydrocal cement, and which we discovered during Sloane’s show at McNally-Jackson Picture Room — are what attracted us at first. But we’ve since come to realize that Sloane’s all-encompassing output and his clear interest in forging a new path while synthesizing all of those disparate interests are in fact what make his work so exhilarating. “I’m always trying to find a bridge between 2D and 3D — between the surface and capturing what’s underneath,” he says. Read on for one of the more fascinating interviews we’ve conducted in recent memory.
Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
It’s a little tough to say where one project ends and the next begins; I like to think that the projects intentionally overlap and swallow each other a little bit. It’s important for little trace elements to cross over and live across different materials, formats, and images. It’s also important that the artworks have a relationship to what I do as a graphic designer or a technology consultant, as the experience in one arena adds to the story of the other.
I assemble bodies of work (projects) yearly into a book form. The result is often a deconstructed narrative that evolves out of the themes that show up in the documentation that I gather throughout the year. My last project was a 150-page book titled Body, a combination of mixed media drawings, monochrome paper marbling, digital collage, and found imagery.
The drawings I make function as a journal. I make about a hundred of them in the same format every year, and their simplicity and quickness helps me see distinct things about the way I am looking at form language and composition. The book from the previous year has similar drawings but they were much more rigid; they have a stronger relationship to letterform and technical drawing, these feel biological and are much more fluid and relaxed.
All of the photographs and a lot of the digital imagery in Body turned out to be very dark. I was interested in the idea of writing a nocturne, usually a storytelling format for music or theater where the entirety of the narrative is set at night. Things kind of emerge out of the darkness or are shown in half-shadow.
The texts that run throughout the margins are sourced primarily from anonymous YouTube comments. It comes across as funny or as a concrete poetry thing in the book, but I wanted to pick apart the things that people say when they don’t have to be responsible for their physical self. This kind of cyber trolling and disembodiment is a pervasive thing for people the bigger and bigger the web becomes. It’s almost a different personage: first person, second person, third person and online self.
Describe you next project and how you are making it.
I’ve been making composite sculptures out of hydrocal cement and recycled rubber, and I want to push the process further, mainly by using the recycled rubber. I want to find out how to mix and grind it myself so I can pour it into molds.
It would be brilliant to get them to a place where they are kind of an ultra-material that I could use in wall-work, sculptures, and pieces of furniture design. I really admire when people sort of invent their own material vernacular like that. What Jerszy Seymour does with ultra strength engineered wax is really interesting to me — the way he can take one material and bridge all these different things together with it. Max Lamb has done something similar with pouring pewter into sand molds; Anish Kapoor has done it with the pigmented wax; and so on. The overall effect of having your own signature material is appealing, so I want to push towards that.
Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why.
Robotic fabrication is really inspiring me, and I’m hoping to pursue some kind of program or residency that would enable me to learn more about the process and work with the machines. It seems like a whole new set of possibilities for working with graphics in three-dimensional space. The construction work is theatric; it’s a really beautiful way to choreograph motion. The robotic arm holding a giant syringe of epoxy kind of has me. Show us your studio and tell us what you like about it.
I have a live/work studio right now, it’s really great. I had a studio close to my old apartment for about four years, but we got pushed out due to real estate in the area, so I decided to consolidate. My girlfriend and I found and incredible place that meets all our needs. The place being 100% ours has been really nice, we have been designing custom pieces of furniture to fit the space and make everything feel really harmonious.