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With Eric Timothy Carlson, Artist

Certain people, whenever they mention an artist or a designer or an exhibition you've never heard of, make your ears automatically prick up — some might call them tastemakers, we suppose, though that word sounds too jargony to our ears. Regardless, we here at Sight Unseen like to believe that maybe, just maybe, we fulfill that type of role for even just a few of our more devoted followers — and of course we have our own hallowed sources of information, like Kristin Dickson of Iko Iko and Patrick Parrish of Mondo Cane/Mondo Blogo, both of whom have a knack for sending us into a flurry of OMGs. When Parrish announced he was mounting a fall show of art by Eric Timothy Carlson, whose name we only barely recognized from a collaboration with our friends at ROLU, our first thought was, "We need to interview this man!" Our second was, "But we know nothing about him," and so in the spirit of discovery, we devised a series of top-five lists by which Carlson might introduce himself and his Memphis-inflected work to both us and our readers. Check out his incredibly detailed responses here, then rush over to see Building Something: Tearing it Down at Mondo before it closes this Wednesday.
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Misaki Kawai, Artist

Misaki Kawai's work is insane. In a good way. When Sweden's LOYAL gallery sent us these images from her new solo show, "Wet Shiny Surprise," we were taken with their use of geometry and pattern — not to mention their resemblance to Memphis design — but we had no idea the Japanese-born, New York–based artist also made paintings of weightlifting robots, surfing octopuses, and people pooping in the woods. What unites all of Kawai's art, from the beautiful to the bizarre, is her talent for blending childlike imagery with absurdist humor, a quality she suspects might have something to do with spending her childhood in Osaka, the center of Japan's comedy scene. But to the extent that her pieces seem like windows onto a strange and addictive parallel world, she gets most of her inspiration from navigating this one: After a post-graduate trip to Turkey, Nepal, and Thailand left her "greatly influenced by handmade dolls, textiles, and low-quality manufactured objects," Kawai began traveling regularly, collecting both physical and experiential scraps and incorporating them into her paintings and sculptures. When we interviewed her for this story, she had just finished opening the show at LOYAL and had moved on to Beijing and Mongolia, where she was riding camels and investigating the local dress. What she'll do with that fodder, we can only imagine.
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While Campanaro started Eskayel as an amateur t-shirt brand in 2003, her current wallpaper and textiles company began right here, nearly five years ago: After breaking up with a live-in boyfriend, she redecorated by turning one of her paintings into a Rorschach-like wallpaper design, which she self-produced and hung in her Williamsburg living room along with an ink painting by her mentor Tobie Giddio. And yet, “at the time time I wasn’t thinking about what designs I wanted to live with, just about what I thought might be cool, what people might like,” Campanaro admits. “Now I never put out anything I wouldn’t hang in my own house. I’ve learned so much since then about what sells.”

Shanan Campanaro of Eskayel, Wallpaper and Textile Designer

Had you visited Eskayel's website in 2004, back when Shanan Campanaro was still an art student at Central Saint Martins in London, you would have seen a very different site from the one that resides there today. That’s because the ethereal, high-end wallpaper and fabric company Campanaro now runs out of her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was in fact once a homespun T-shirt label she started with a college friend, featuring the booze- and boyfriend-related escapades of a comic-book character she’d invented.
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David Lynch’s workshop in The Chronicle #2

It wouldn’t be totally wrongheaded to view The Chronicle — a new biannual publication produced by the cultish Copenhagen ready-to-wear brand Rützou — as a fashion designer’s mood board, come to life. For each issue, the creative team — which consists of Rützou’s designer, founder, and namesake Suzanne; her husband, creative director Peter Bundegaard; and editor-in-chief Frederik Bjerregaard — selects a thematic framework and then collates together visual inspiration to support it. Called “Poetic Realism,” the first issue was abstract and moody, with photographic essays on pattern or urban decay and collages of the magazines’ own diverse inspirations, including Luigi Colani, Matthew Barney, Ernst Haeckel, melancholy, and a Mott Street acupuncturist in New York’s Chinatown. The latest issue, called Sense and Sensibility, more literally serves as a scrapbook for creative inspiration: “Sketches, abstractions in watercolor, visual logbooks, black-and-white imagery, personal portraits, simple doodles, this vast collection is a glimpse into a range of international artists’ creative processes and their final work,” the team writes. By international artists, they mean the likes of Marc Newson, Julie Verhoeven, and David Lynch, who offers a glimpse into his Parisian printmaking lair in the excerpt we’ve reprinted today on Sight Unseen.
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Photographer Tim Barber on the UO Blog

In a recent interview with the New York–based photographer Tim Barber, who's known for his edgy portraits of artists and other downtown tastemakers, the folks behind the Urban Outfitters blog evoked some rather unconventional subject matter: UFOs, ghosts, chicken carcasses. Credit the fact that not only did the former Vice Magazine photo editor shoot UO's playful new spring catalog, but he's also currently judging a Weirdest Photo Contest for the retail giant. Of course, in his work with clients like Nike, Woolrich Woolen Mills, T magazine, Italian Vogue, and Stella McCartney, Barber has displayed a more serious side as well. We wanted to show both of them, so we went through his portfolio and chose some new photos to accompany our excerpt from the UO interview — instances where Barber has documented the private spaces of creatives, a la Sight Unseen.
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John Currin’s Studio in Art+Auction

John Currin's New York studio, as we'd imagined it, could have gone either way: Classical and lush, befitting a painter who got famous in the '90s portraying himself as a new Old Master while his contemporaries were overdosing on conceptualism, or strange and wild, bursting with the eclectic ephemera Currin references in his portraits, from vintage porn mags to movie clips to historical tomes. When we spotted an article posted on ARTINFO — which originally ran in Art+Auction magazine — promising a look into this very realm, we were surprised to see something that didn't particularly fit either mold. Perhaps it's the fact that, as the article mentions, he'd just moved in and redone the floors, or perhaps he tidied things up for the cameras. But aside from some odd-looking mannequins and a table piled with paint tubes, Currin's working space didn't look much like a working space at all. Luckily, writer Daniel Kunitz was able to paint a lovely, erm, picture of what it's like to be Currin — from his everyday anxieties to his video game habits to the music he listens to when he's feeling creative. Read the first half of the article here, then follow the jump to the ARTINFO site to learn more about Currin's artistic process.
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Gruzis in his studio, in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He bikes there from his apartment in nearby Carroll Gardens six days a week. “I made art all the time as a kid,” he says. “I was an only child, so I just shut out the world and hung out in my own space — which I still do today, all day every day. I never really planned on being an artist, but I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do, and I don’t like working for other people.” The two paintings in the foreground typify his aesthetic, which is inspired by the likes of Memphis, Saved by the Bell, and Patrick Nagel. The one on the left is actually part of a series painted over digital prints of cheesy beach tees he bought in Florida.

Evan Gruzis, Artist

Evan Gruzis explored altered states of awareness a few years back, and while he was wigging out, managed to scrawl down such revelatory thoughts as “there once was a movie, it was amazing”; “welcome to the temple of showers, please take a shower in one of our many showers”; and “no bother, it’s just the remix.” Having rediscovered the notes recently, he turned them into a series of works on paper by scanning and enlarging them, cutting out the individual letters, then sweeping over the cutouts with the flat, ’80s-style gradient that forms the background for many of his works, including semi-photorealistic still lifes and geometric abstractions inspired by Saved by the Bell and Memphis. Rather than using an airbrush — “blasphemy!” according to the 31-year-old artist — Gruzis builds up the gradients in meticulous layers of India ink, spreading upwards of 20 separate washes across wet paper with soft squirrel-hair paintbrushes until the effect is practically flawless. “It’s about taking a moment that isn’t even remembered and turning it into this layered, highly crafted, highly rendered thing,” he explains of the acid notes, the kind of process that keeps him locked away in his studio six days a week. “It’s about taking meaninglessness and glorifying it. That’s another way of putting what I do: Making absurdity seductive, and making the seductive vapid, so you get caught in this feedback loop.”
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His best-known sculptures — like this one, from a 2007 solo show at Greene Naftali — demonstrate how Drain typically deploys those fabric scraps and homemade knits: Generously, and with abandon. The show’s slightly nonsensical press release at the time called it a “gender-bent amalgamism of bent tube steel and metal covered in a stylish frenzy of patterned fabrics, part Frank Stella and part parade float, part corporate sculpture and part strip club decoration.”

Jim Drain, Artist

It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.
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Katy Horan, Artist

Sighted on the illustration blog Pikaland, an interview with artist Katy Horan, whose intricate paintings channel Victorian mourning rituals, ghost stories, children's books, and traditional feminine crafts. Of her folk-art influences, she says: "All these art forms that at one point may have been considered outside or less-than by the contemporary art world can make our work so much more interesting and dynamic. There has been a noticeable acceptance of (for lack of a better term) 'low brow' art forms such as illustration and folk art lately, and I think it’s a very exciting development for the art world."
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MoMA’s Creative Minds

Sighted on MoMA's Inside/Out blog: "Many of MoMA’s employees aren’t just guardians of the Museum’s collection: they are artists in their own right, and have found inspiration for their own work through their engagement with artwork shown at MoMA ... This new series of blog posts will focus on a few of MoMA’s many employee/artists, and will address the ways in which they have incorporated their daily work experiences into their own artistic processes."
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