Q & A with Schoolhouse resident Justin Orvis Steimer.
C & P: What artists (living or dead) inspire you or have helped to shape your painting/drawing style?
Justin: Roberto Matta was the first artist whose work really captivated me. The environments he was able to create, the way the shapes, lines and colors all interact with each other. The way you can go into his painting and wander around. Later some of the other surrealists really struck me, Tanguy and Ernst, again for the worlds they created and their combination forms, mixing abstract with figurative, giving me the feeling that anything is possible. Now I really believe in the collective consciousness, that we are all the same and all connected, we all inspire each other. The strongest inspiration from another person I have gotten recently was when I heard Nico Muhly’s music for Benjamin Millipeid’s Two Hearts. The combination of long sustained notes with repetitive yet slightly changing rhythms was so enchanting and seemed so familiar, it re affirmed that artistically there is always room to grow and continue to learn and that it is possible to make the old new again.
C & P: What is the first piece of art that you encountered that had an impact on you?
Justin: In 3rd grade I saw a Mondrian painting in Pittsburgh. When I got home I sat down at the kitchen table and drew a square on a piece of paper with a marker and thought my drawing could be in a museum some day, if someone ever found it.
C & P: Have you always been creative? Did you know that you would be an artist from a young age?
Justin: When I was young I wanted to be either an artist or a fighter pilot. It turns out that the navy only selects people who can see well for flight school, so pilot was out. I always knew I was an artist, I have only just recently fully realized that I am living that dream.
C & P: What is influencing the work you are making right now?
Justin: Really trying to create something that no one has ever seen before. Drawing life in a manner that will cause someone to make a connection that would never have been possible any other way. Right now is the most important time there will ever be, anything is possible, for my work there is nothing more important than documenting this energy.
C & P: Does being in New York City inspire the work you make?
Justin: I love New York. I spend a lot of time walking around and drawing in its subways and parks. I hear the train go by when I am painting in my room and the sirens while I am playing the organ. I am part of it and it is part of me.
C & P: Tell me a bit about your process when beginning a new piece. What inspires you to start a new piece?
Justin: I feel a constant compulsion to create. There is nothing more sacred to me than my drawing. This belief has made it possible to realize that there is tremendous value in the generally overlooked action of scribbling. This is what I have devoted my life to. Scribbling. Every drawing and painting begins this same way, with the idea being that just like sound can be etched in to vinyl, so too can energy be drawn onto paper. How the scribbling evolves throughout my life and where it will lead is the motivation for doing it.
C & P: I noticed that you utilize many different types of materials to create your work (wood panels, traditional canvas, sketchbooks, scrap paper, bedsheets, etc…). How do you decide what paper/surface to use for a particular art piece? Do you often experiment with materials? Or is the selection of materials mainly based on how you are feeling at the moment you begin working?
Justin: I bought a Moleskine sketchbook in 2005 and fell in love; the size, the paper, the pocket are all great. I haven’t found a book i like better so that decision is easy. I am currently on my 16th one. For my other work I like to start with something that already has some energy, a history. A couple months ago I found a large, flat, thin, smooth square of wood on the sidewalk near my house. It had a lot of scratches on it which I spent hours studying and imitating. Now you can no longer tell which marks I made and which were all ready there. It makes the viewer have questions about everything about the painting. I poured on paint and varnish (gifts from friends) and water and let them all mix. The wood soaked up what it wanted, some of the escaping air got trapped and made bubbles, the past life of the wood influenced these events. Then came the decisions of how much to change what has happened and what to leave alone. Man vs. nature. Destiny vs. free will. That painting is titled going in to get out. Most recently I have been sewing together scraps of muslin that my mom sent me. I have a couple frames that were given to me by Mark, my upstairs neighbor, which i stretch the fabric on. Thoughts of both of these people are in my head as I work, plus the fact that they had direct physical contact with the objects means that their energy is alive in the painting. That painting is titled thanks mom.
C & P: What other activities do you enjoy pursuing when not making art?
Justin: Just this past week I started going out to the Rockaways to surf. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I am excited to finally start going often enough to be able to really learn it. I spent literally all of my money on a wetsuit and a used surfboard. I now have 38 dollars to my name. I have always told myself never to worry about money, it always comes when I need it and the important thing is happiness not my bank account. I have also just started baking bread. I cooked in a restaurant for five years but we bought our baguettes so I never learned about yeast and starters and all of that. Two weeks ago I bought three packets of yeast and looked up a simple recipe and now I bake a loaf almost every other day. It really is quite simple, it just takes a bit of time for the dough to rise but it smells all yeasty and delicious while that is happening so it is a pleasant wait.
C & P: Does making music influence your painting practice?
Justin: Sometimes the only thing I want to do is sit down and play the piano. I don’t know what is going to come out but it is just like drawing, I just let my mind wander and start pressing down the keys, then maybe a certain rhythm or pattern emerges and sounds nice so I go with that for a while, then I want to change one of the notes or my fingers forget what they are doing so I play around until i find a new arrangement that makes me happy and I go with that for a while. It is its own thing as well as another way to think about painting. Making a big splash on the canvas is smashing your hand down on the keys. Drawing nice clean lines is playing a simple melody one note at a time.
C & P: You told me that you usually make music for yourself (and most often by yourself) and you also seem to be drawing constantly. For you is art making a solitary process? Do you ever collaborate with others? Are you a solitary person?
Justin: I definitely prefer working alone and enjoy my solitude. Occasionally people will ask to paint or draw with me and I always say yes. I also always feel a bit uncomfortable while doing it. My painting titled do something began with me and some friends getting out some frustrations by making a mess with paint. For me it wasn’t complete until I was able to go back and work on it alone for a few weeks. I was happy to have my friends finger prints and sweat on the canvas but i felt that to be able to understand it better I needed to refine parts of the mess. I do think it is good to get other people involved occasionally to keep things new and diverse but I will always do most of the work myself. Musically I do not like the pressure of someone else relying on or reacting to what I am doing. Most of the time I do make it for my self, I don’t care that no one else hears it. Every now and then I will play with people around but it makes me a bit nervous and it influences the music. I have been playing the guitar for over 10 years and I still struggle to play any song correctly the whole way through. This makes it hard to play with other people. Recently however my roommate David and I have been making these kind of tribal sounding, meditative songs. They are a combination of my electric organ, synthesizer, and acoustic guitar, mixed digitally with David’s beats and sometimes Mariette adds some vocals. That has been working because we are not concerned with the outcome. No pressure. Just like my drawing, if a mistake happens it is either embraced and left alone, or worked on until it becomes something new.
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
Justin: Traveling through outer space.
C & P: Where can we see more of your work on the web?
Justin will be showing his work this June at:
ps project space
548 w 28th st., suite 328
vip preview: wed june 20 from noon-8pm
opening: thurs june 21 from 6-9pm
gallery hours: june 22-27 open noon-6pm
closed sunday and monday
Photos © Christine Navin. Do not reproduce without permission.
Q & A with Schoolhouse resident, photographer, and mobile maker, Chris Chludenski.
C & P: You make found object mobiles and also shoot Polaroid photographs. How long have you been creating your mobiles and taking photos? Do you prefer working in one medium over another?
Chris: I’ve been doing both for about thirteen years now. I don’t prefer one medium over another but i certainly produce more Polaroids than I do mobiles. I prefer photography as an artform, as I can take it with me as I go, whereas with the mobiles I need materials and a studio space.
C & P: What are you most frequently drawn to as subject matter in your photography work? How about with your found object mobiles? Is there a correlation between the work?
Chris: I try to say something with the mobiles and express my views. Polaroids for me are much more documentary and don’t necessarily have a message behind them.
C & P: Tell me a bit about your camera collection… How many do you have? Have you used all of them? Which is your favorite?
Chris: I’ve got about 350 cameras. Mostly Kodaks, made between 1890 and 1980, and Polaroids, plus few Imperials, Agfas, and Spartus. Some working, some not. I’ve used about a quarter of them, I bet. Most would be in working order if film were available, but some are just beautiful models I can’t part with. I like that the older cameras were much more stylish, inventive, and decorative than what is produced today. My favorite is between the Big Shot Polaroid, that Andy Warhol made famous in his portraits, or the Kodak Colorburst camera, which Polaroid sued Kodak over and had production of both cameras and film stopped because of patent infringement.
C & P: Now that Polaroid has gone out of business and the film is no longer available what do you shoot with?
Chris: Fuji makes a film compatible with many Polaroid Land Cameras. Also the Impossible Project manufactures instant Polaroid film for sx-70 cameras. The film itself is flawed and expensive, but the idea to keep Polaroid alive is admirable.
C & P: Do you ever shoot digitally or do you prefer to still use film?
Chris: It depends on what I’m shooting. I have a Nikon digital camera that I use sometimes. I’ve also got a Canon 35mm.
C & P: Do you feel that digital lacks a certain quality that you look for in an image?
Chris: It doesn’t lack anything, its just a different aesthetic. A different view of the same thing.
C & P: You studied at Emerson College in Boston, did you study photography there?
Chris: I earned my BA in Photojournalism.
C & P: Do you prefer living in New York to Boston?
C & P: How has living at the Schoolhouse influenced your work? If at all?
Chris: I’ve been able to see things differently and get new perspectives.
C & P: What artists have been an influence on you?
Chris: Alexander Calder has always been a huge inspiration to me. Robert Capa. Ralph Eugene Meatyard.
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
The Schoolhouse will be open:
Friday, the 1st – 5PM — 11PM
Saturday, the 2nd – 12PM — 11PM
Sunday, the 3rd – 12 PM – 8 PM
Augustin Doublet will be screening his new short film Adam all weekend.
Photos © Christine Navin. Do not reproduce without permission.
Q & A with Schoolhouse resident and filmmaker Augustin Doublet.
C & P:You are from France and have been living in NYC for 3 years now. How do you find the experience of living in New York? Do you prefer it to Paris?
Augustin: New York is a very challenging city and if ever you’re not in the mood or feel, let’s say melancholic, the city does not forgive it and can be harsh . In comparison to Paris the pace, the architecture, and the art de vivre is much softer.
On the other side, if you’re able to project yourself, your energy and your ideas on the city and break through the glass, the city gives you back so much in terms of dynamism, exchange, network, and money.
C & P: Did you come to NYC to study film? What program are you part of?
Augustin: Indeed. I first came here as an exchange student at Brooklyn College while I was finishing a Master’s Degree at a Parisian university.
Then I realized how much more I could and had to get from the city, Brooklyn College, and the Schoolhouse, so I decided to stay and with the help of the dean of the Film Department of the Brooklyn College I’ve been allowed to pursue my studies here.
C & P: Did you create films when you lived in France?
Augustin: Yes, I used to work mostly in the pre-production of documentaries. I worked for Gedeon Programmes for a couple of years as an AD and ghostwriter and on some other TV projects.
Otherwise at that time I was mostly painting and shooting stills, and art videos. The cinema has always been present but more as a vanishing point.
C & P: Tell me a bit about the films that you create. The 2 films that I have seen are very different, one a documentary about a local Bushwick character/photographer (What the Fuchs?) and the other a reflection on brutality (Vanishing Point). Have you always worked with a number of types of filmmaking? Do you prefer black and white film to color?
Augustin: I’m just experimenting. But looking at my work I can say that my imagination and my desire are very related to the location and environment I’m in.
For instance What the Fuchs? was an attempt to grasp some of the Bushwick hipstery mayhem through the portrait of the photographer Rafael Fuchs. Vanishing Point was the graphical aspect of Brooklyn, the shades of the train tracks, the broken warehouse, the turmoil of the graffiti.
Stills from Vanishing Point
C & P: Where does the text that the woman is reading in the film come from?
Augustin: The text has been written by Mariette Papic, a great poet and a dear friend of mine. I commissioned her for that piece; which brings a lot of depth and complex sensuality to the story.
C & P: Vanishing Point is shot in Bushwick and has the gritty look of films which were part of the “cinema of transgression” movement in the 1980s on the lower east side. Are you influenced by filmmakers like Nick Zedd and Richard Kern? Did seeing their films create a desire in you to come to NYC to make films?
Augustin: I discovered their work after the production of Vanishing.
When I first came here it was mostly the New Hollywood period that I had in mind. I was looking for the mood of the 70s. I was really fascinated by the harshness, dirtiness, and loose eroticism of the cinema of the 70s.
C & P: The film also utilizes the Schoolhouse space, did you have help from your housemates when filming? Is living at the Schoolhouse inspirational for you?
Augustin: The Schoolhouse is the first and only space I lived in since I arrived in NY. And I consider myself very lucky for that. I found myself right away surrounded by creative people who were already very active in the industry. Cassidy Mosher was working on Gossip Girl, Derek Deems (the DP of two of my films) was a freelance grip, Jennifer Sacks already set designed many shorts.
It was and it still is a very creative and challenging environment.
C & P: Who is the woman in the film? Do you use trained actors in your films or people that you know?
Augustin: Laura Graham who has the lead in Vanishing Point is a professional actress as well as a talented producer/director.
For my latest production I worked with mostly professional actors (Anna-Nora Bernstein who has the supporting lead role has already played major parts in a few features). However, I encountered the lead character Marcus Grant randomly on the basketball court of my block next to the Bushwick Housing projects.
Marcus delivered an incredible performance and I truly hope that ADAM will only be the beginning of his career.
There was a large cast and crew with some complicated scenes in terms of choreography and pacing, so we rehearsed a lot together, which is kind of unusual in the production of a short film.
The fact that I write direct and produce my own projects allows the cast as well as the crew to experiment with me throughout the process.
C & P: Tell me a little about the new film that you are working on now? When/where will you be showing it?
Augustin: ADAM will be shown during BOS. The story is about the odd and charming journey that Adam, a kid from the hood and Coco, a kleptomaniac actress, are going through during one day in Bushwick.
It encompasses the different aspects of the neighborhood: the gritty part, with the street scams, the violence, in a word the low-life reality, juxtaposed against the emerging artistic and creative side.
Stills from ADAM
C & P: What filmmakers/artists/places/etc… have been an influence on you?
Augustin: I truly discovered cinema when I was 16 thanks to a friend of mine Anton Solnitski (now a filmmaker). We missed classes together and spent our afternoons watching Bergman, Kubrick, and Kurosawa movies.
I would say that Fellini gave a lot of flavors and motion to my imagination. Wells certainly gave me a strong desire to tell stories and to keep on dreaming no matter what the obstacles may be.
Literature and art history are my first loves and it’s true that even if I’m not sure yet how they have or will influence me, authors like: Baudelaire, Melville, Celine, Rousseau, Kafka, Borges, Dostoevsky, Genet, or Koltes have been very present in my life.
The same applies to painters and photographers, to quote a few: Hopper, Freud, Bacon, Whistler, Courbet, Shiele, Goya, Giacometti, Rembrandt, El Greco, Koudelka, Franck, Moon, Avedon…
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
Augustin: I’m not really sure that I’m doing art I would just say that I’m experimenting and in doing so I try to travel and introduce myself to different cultures, patterns (psychological and visual) and people.
I’m not sure what I would do but I enjoy helping people to create and express themselves a lot. Or maybe I would try to open a restaurant in the south-west of France with a couple of friends.
Augustin’s room at the Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse hours over BOS weekend:
Friday, the 1st – 5PM — 11PM
Saturday, the 2nd – 12PM — 11PM
Sunday, the 3rd – 12 PM – 8 PM
Augustin Doublet will be screening Adam all weekend.
Photos of Augustin © Christine Navin. Do not reproduce without permission.
Went to check out the Schoolhouse in Bushwick the other weekend. I peeked into a few studios and photographed 3 of the artists working within those spaces, alongside their work. I also photographed some of the common spaces and the interior of the amazing building.
The Schoolhouse was built in 1883 and used as a school until 1945, at which point it was sold to be used as a manufacturing business. It was used as a manufacturing space for many years (more historical information here), then abandoned, and then converted into artist’s live/work spaces in the 1990s. Originally the artists space was called ORT (the German word for site or place and also an acronym for “organizing resources together.”), now the space is just known as the Schoolhouse. Since the 90s there has been a revolving cast of creative individuals taking up residence in the space. The Schoolhouse is not an art collective or commune, however, the members of the house tend to act like a family; sharing art supplies, participating in house events, sometimes collaborating on art projects, and consuming many communal meals together.
The Schoolhouse hours over BOS weekend:
Friday, the 1st – 5PM — 11PM
Saturday, the 2nd – 12PM — 11PM
Sunday, the 3rd – 12 PM – 8 PM
Augustin Doublet will be screening his new short film Adam all weekend.
Here are some photographs of the Schoolhouse space. And a Q & A about the space with 3 of the resident artists, Justin Orvis Steimer, Augustin Doublet, and Chris Chludenski.
I will also be posting interviews over the next couple of days with these artists that concentrate more on their individual artwork and studio spaces.
C & P: How many years have you each lived at the Schoolhouse?
Justin: I moved in May of 2008, so 4 years now.
Chris: 3 years.
Augustin: 3 years.
C & P: Have you found that the area of Bushwick where the Schoolhouse is located has changed a lot since you moved into the space?
Justin: Broadway hasn’t changed a whole lot. A bodega or store will go out of business occasionally but it is replaced by something similar to what was already there. A lot of the bodegas are remodeling, putting up new signs, brighter lights, nicer counters but they still sell the same stuff. As you get closer to the Morgan and Jefferson L train stops there are a lot more start up restaurants and stores, places that weren’t there one or two years ago. There are definitely more police around than there used to be, including mounted police surveillance cameras and these star wars looking mobile cop towers that raise up like 20 feet.
Chris: Not really.
Augustin: I was surprised the other day to see a young white couple carrying their babies around on Broadway. 3 years ago I truly think that the Schoolhouse was one of the few places where white people lived in this part of Bushwick.
C & P: Have you ever lived in similar places in other cities?
Augustin: I spent one summer in Barcelona in a very creative environment but no I truly think that the Schoolhouse is unique. Actually the space and the people of the Schoolhouse played a major part in the choice I made to stay in New York.
C & P: Do you collaborate with past and present residents of the Schoolhouse? Do you consider the residents of the Schoolhouse to be members of a collective ?
Justin: So many people have been in and out of here, it all depends. Sometimes someone moves in that just clicks and in that case collaboration happens naturally. Some people move in and keep more to themselves and don’t really get involved with the rest of the house too much. Right now we have an amazingly talented group that has been living here for a couple years. We have created a family more than a collective. We cook and eat together often, we spend a lot of time talking and bouncing ideas around. When someone moves out they know that they always have a home here.
Chris: Not really a collective, per se. More like collaborating artists. It is good to have other people to run ideas by that aren’t necessarily working in the same medium as you, and also there’s a lot of material sharing going on, which is more convenient than having to go to the art store.
Augustin: We just finished the production of a short movie together. It was a fantastic and intense experience. All who live here are true artists and craftsman. So you can imagine how pleasant it is to work with skilled people that you love and care about.
It’s the second movie that I have produced with the roommates and I truly hope to continue this type of collaboration. One of the former roommates, Derek Deems, even came back from LA just to help with the shoot.
In my view the Schoolhouse is more of a community than a collective, meaning that the bond between people is more based on friendship than on art.
C & P: What is your greatest memory of time spent at the Schoolhouse since you have lived there?
Justin: Honestly what I enjoy the most is laying in the bathtub in my room in the late afternoon light, watching the reflections of the water on the ceiling and being totally at peace with the universe.
Chris: Holidays like Thanksgiving are really fun and unique when everyone’s around. Some of the events we’ve thrown like the “tooth replacement” fundraiser will always stand out in my mind.
Augustin: The Block Party that we throw with our neighbors every summer is certainly one of the best time.
C & P: What sort of events do you have in the space? Art-related? Music-related?
Justin: On my floor (the second floor) we have art shows every couple of months. Usually we show the work of people living in the house and our friends. Recently we hosted an Animamus Art Salon which brought in artists who we had never met. I like for the space to be used like that, bringing people together.
Chris: Both. Plus fundraisers for art, music, or good causes…
Augustin: All types of events. The people of the 3rd floor are for the most part musicians so you can expect to have a concert of indie-rock, electro, noise every month or so… Mark Dwinnel, who kind of manages the space of the 3rd floor, also used to organize lectures and poetry readings. I use the space to produce electro parties with Resolute and burlesque shows with MadSharpe production. Otherwise I would say that every other month the 1st and 2nd floor people exhibit their work or make the space available for performances.
C & P: I read that you throw a block party in the summer. How did that start? Do most of the people in the building participate in some capacity?
Justin: Our neighbors have been throwing the block party for years. Only in the past couple have we begun to get involved. It has grown to become one of the best days of the year. The whole block comes together to celebrate the summer. We grill out front and blast music from the roof. Everyone brings something to eat or drink and the whole block shares everything. Our neighbors set up pools in the street and rent a giant (like 30 feet tall) inflatable water slide. At night we move the party inside and keep going until morning.
Chris: You just gotta get a permit for a date, then get neighborhood signatures. Then the city closes the street down for the day and all have a great time. Everyone is the building either comes out, or cooks, or just joins in the general festivities. Its probably the kids who live on the block that have the most fun, getting to run around like maniacs all day.
C & P: You are also involved in Bushwick Open Studios at the beginning of June. Do you have any special events planned in the space for the occasion?
Justin: Each of us will have our work up all over the space. We are going to build some tents to hang out in and I am going to make pancakes. I will play the organ in the living room a bit as well. Elliot will be screen printing down stairs and Willy will be roller skating around the dance studio while playing the guitar and singing.
Chris: There will be music events for sure. And we’re all putting up some sort of art, so there will be plenty to see.
Augustin: Yes, of course! We will screen the latest movie that I directed and produced. It’s a very dear project to me and I’m very proud of it. It’s a short fiction named ADAM. The story revolves around the day of a street smart kid in Bushwick.
Photos © Christine Navin. Do not reproduce without permission.
In July, when I was in London, I stopped by NoBrow headquarters for a tour of their store and production facilities (and for a small shopping spree!) The space was great and there were so many amazing things to look at (I could have stayed there for days!) And even though Sam Arthur, one half of the NoBrow team, was having a very very bad week, filled with headaches (he was on the telephone dealing with finding a stolen van in Belgium, filled with freshly printed NoBrow books, when I first arrived), he kindly let me in, gave me photographic freedom to shoot anything I wanted in the space, and made the time to chat with me, enthusiastically, about NoBrow and the product they create.
This month Cheap & Plastique conducted a proper interview, via email, with Mister Arthur.
C & P: How did you decide to start NoBrow? Was it because of your love for the medium of illustration?
Sam/NoBrow: We started Nobrow because we love illustration and because we love beautiful books.
C & P: Had you been involved in any other similar projects/ventures prior to NoBrow?
Sam/NoBrow: Before we started Nobrow – Alex was an editorial illustrator and I worked as a director (mainly commercials and music videos), we had worked together on various animated projects, and although the end product wasn’t printed there was a similarity in terms of working with visual narratives.
C & P: Are you planning to expand NoBrow in the future or start any additional endeavors?
Sam/NoBrow: We are always searching for new projects to publish, doing more books and expanding into new markets is always going to be a challenge. We are going to be working with Consortium Book Distributors in the US starting in 2012 so our books will be more widely available in the US and Canada. We are also working on some translations of our books for the French market too.
C & P: NoBrow has existed since 2008. And you have had the shop and gallery for a little over a year and 1/2. Have things changed for NoBrow since the shop was opened? Are a lot more people aware of the NoBrow brand now?
Sam/NoBrow: We have had lots of opportunities pop up as a result of people coming into our shop, which is great. The idea that someone who didn’t know of us could stumble upon our shop and love our books is quite a romantic notion! However our shop/gallery was always intended to be a showcase for our products and the artists that we work with and in that way it has been really successful.
The amazing shop
C & P: Do you only sell NoBrow products in the shop?
Sam/NoBrow: We stock all of our own products, even some that aren’t available online, but we also stock products that are from producers and brands that we love and are ourselves inspired by.
C & P: Who is in the office on a daily basis?
Sam/NoBrow: Alex and I are always in the office unless we are away on business, and then we also have 3 full time staff members and that includes whoever is working in the shop.
C & P: How often is someone printing in the basement?
Sam/NoBrow: We don’t have the resources to be printing 24/7 unfortunately, but we usually have a new print edition every 6 weeks on average.
Silkscreening studio in the basement of the building
C & P: Do the illustrators silkscreen their own pieces, does NoBrow print the publications, or is it a collaboration?
Sam/NoBrow: We always print the editions – otherwise it wouldn’t be a Nobrow Small Press edition.
C & P: Are there other publishers in London doing something similar to what NoBrow is doing? Do you ever collaborate with other independent publishers?
Sam/NoBrow: Not that I know of – we work with lots of collectives and small presses but not so much with other publishers. We love publishers like Bongoût and Le Dernier Cri who operate in Europe, but there isn’t anyone quite as well established as these guys in the UK.
C & P: How about elsewhere in Europe? I saw the work of a Berlin based group called Bongoût at last years New York Art Book Fair who were selling similar wares (collectible silkscreened art books/objects). Do you know of them?
Sam/NoBrow: See above answer!
C & P: Do you sell NoBrow product anywhere in the USA?
Sam/NoBrow: We sell in places like Secret Headquarters in LA, Desert Island in Brooklyn and quite a few other cool independent comic books stores – next year we’ll be distributed by Consortium Book Distribution in US and Canada so it will be much easier for stores to get hold of our books.
C & P: Have you done any art fairs (like the Pick Me Up Contemporary Graphic Art Fair in London, where I first saw your work) in other cities?
Sam/NoBrow: We’ve done lots of shows and fairs all over the world (well mainly in North America and Europe) for example in the last 12 months we’ve been involved in shows and festivals in Angouleme, France, Toronto, Canada, Helsinki, Finland and we’ll be doing something in Madrid, Spain in November and also be at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphic Arts Festival in December.
C & P: The colors used in printing your publications have a unique look and feel about them and act as a common thread between all of the NoBrow library, making a group of NoBrow books look like a cohesive collection, despite the illustrator’s style. Is there a specific reason for your choice of colors? Was this color palette chosen because of any other publications/publishing houses that you admire? How are these super saturated, intense colors accomplished in both the silkscreen process and with the larger runs on the printing press?
Sam/NoBrow: We use a spot colour printing process with many of our large edition books that are printed with offset litho as opposed to silkscreen. The process is similar in that the colours we use are premixed and overprinted rather than made up of CMYK which is the more conventional way of printing things.
Sam showing me the difference between the screenprint version and the offset version of The Bento Bestiary book by Ben Newman
C & P: How do you decide whether to print a limited edition of hand silkscreened books in house versus a run of 3000-5000 at a press?
Sam/NoBrow: We can take more of a risk with the hand made books as we are only printing 50 or 100 copies – also it may be something that can only be done with silkscreen. With the large edition stuff we can do more complicated bindings as we are using industrial production methods.
C & P: Could you talk about the process of working with an illustrator on a book? Does it vary from artist to artist?
Sam/NoBrow: It varies quite a bit from artist to artist and project to project. Sometimes we have seen something that is already finished and we work with the artist to adapt it to a book for us – other times we are approaching an artist with a project in mind, in which case we are all starting form scratch. Some artists like to have some direction or an editor to bounce ideas off, where as others are much more likely to bury themselves away. Everyone works in a different way and we try to find the best system for each project in order to get the greatest end product: a beautiful book!
C & P: What is the most involved/complex project you have ever undertaken in NoBrow’s print shop?
Sam/NoBrow: We did a really cool concertina book with artists Jock Mooney and Alisdair Brotherston – the complicated thing was getting the maximum length from the paper stock. This meant printing in two sections on one sheet and sticking them together – and then folding them. Sounds simple it was real brain teaser!
C & P: How do you find the illustrators/comics that you publish? Are most of the NoBrow stable friends and/or acquaintences? People who have submitted work through your website? Or people that you have scouted out at schools and in other publications? Are they mostly British illustrators?
Sam/NoBrow: Again – this is probably our most commonly asked question – it’s different for every single artist. We have met some people via friends but these people are in the minority, for the most part we have approached people when we have seen their work and have loved it. Generally this is because we have seen their work online or in a book or magazine or even on some food packaging! Often people send us examples of their work or links to their websites and we always try to check these out even though we don’t always have much time. It’s important for us to always be looking at new things.
C & P: How many illustrators do you work with on a regular basis?
Sam/NoBrow: It’s not an official thing, sometimes people ask if we represent artists/illustrators and we don’t. However there are at least 20 illustrators that I can think of that we have worked with more than a few times. Hopefully this number will increase as we go into the future.
C & P: Whose collection of vintage Japanese toy monsters is displayed throughout the store and office? When did you begin collecting these? Do you have a favorite?
Sam/NoBrow: Alex is an avid collector of Kaiju Japanese monster toys – it’s his collection and he’s been collecting for at least 10 years. I love anything Godzilla!
Japanese monster collection
C & P: What is your favorite thing to do in the neighborhood?
Sam/NoBrow: I love a pint in The Griffin over the road from our office and lunch at the Hoxton Grill is always a treat! If I want to go somewhere a bit more colourful – DreamBagsAndJaguarShoes on Kingsland Road is a great night out.
C & P: Are there any other galleries that you frequent in Shoreditch? Elsewhere in London? What are your favorites?
Sam/NoBrow: I’m always a sucker for The Tate Modern – it has to be the best art gallery in the world. In Shoreditch – Seventeen Gallery, 17 Kingsland Road, always has interesting stuff and there are loads of galleries on Redchurch Street and also Leonard Street that have great shows.
Ben Newman and Sam Arthur sitting at the conference table in the office
More cool stuff in the office
House of Gold: An exhibition of work by Butter was hanging in the NoBrow gallery when I was there in July. The NoBrow gallery is currently showing an exhibit of works by the artist, Ben Newman, who I met during my visit. Ben seemed super nice and is a fabulous illustrator/artist, go check out his work if you happen to be in London!
Work from House of Gold exhibition
A few of my photographs of Sam Arthur and the NoBrow space will be in this month’s issue of Form Magazine, available at the end of October.
Nathan Wasserbauer interviewed by Heather Morgan for Issue 8 of Cheap & Plastique.
Nathan Wasserbauer is a painter, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. His work comprises vivid geometric abstraction, evocative of architecture, digital transmissions, kinetic spaces.
Heather: You talk about the excessive consumption of our society and your childhood robot toys and comics being elements in your work. Are robot toys the bright side of that coin?
Nathan: You could say that robots are a starting point. So are dinosaurs and superheroes and all the things you’d expect a kid might draw. We’ve come to a point now where themes from popular culture can be cited as artistic influences. When I was a little kid drawing Godzilla breathing fire, I’d make the sound of the fire while I was drawing it, when it hit the tank I’d do the explosion sound. I even hummed the music from the films. Adults would sit there and be entertained. I love watching kids do stuff like that now that I’m an adult. When you get older and you come to realize what an exploding tank really might entail, you’ve left the starting point. Part of being a grown up is realizing that there are wonderful things you cherish from your past, but there are also negative things like fear and aggression we bring from childhood into our adult lives. Sometimes we act on these impulses, and it makes you wonder if there really is such a thing as an adult.
Heather: Considering the dual nature of your themes, do you aspire to uplift or present a dark hidden meaning?
Nathan: I think there is some slapstick in my work, which is a kind of cynical humor and healthy in appropriate doses. If I’ve really done my job well, a viewer might find some mystery there and then their imagination takes the baton. In my opinion, anything that moves a person toward investigation and curiosity has great uplifting potential.
Heather: You are also a musician and a martial artist. Do these pursuits influence your work?
Nathan: If I’m doing animation there might be some music. Overall these things get me thinking why does that make that tone? What’s the overall structure? Where does it have weight and where does it release? In martial arts you get a sense of how the human body works, with all its strengths and limitations. There’s certainly an aesthetic tradition with martial arts forms, movements, weapons and such.
Heather: Your acrylic paintings are very tactile. Tell me about your drawings, which achieve a very different aspect. Do you have different ideas for drawings versus paintings? How
do they inform each other?
Nathan: The color and light in the paintings give the objects weight. The light is somewhat internalized so the structure pops out in a bombastic kind of way. Painting is more a summation for me. Drawing, however well I plan it is always an input stage for me. The nature of simple tonality creates more atmospheric effects, light is externalized, and you figure out new vocabulary as you carry on. Eventually, you hope the best bits find a way into the paintings.
Heather: Tell me about the process of creating your images. Do you begin with drawings? Or do you organize your ideas around color?
Nathan: I begin with drawings on paper. I sort of create components and find ways to collage them together. Once I’ve got something I hadn’t expected, I might draw on top of that and add some new component. It’s like inventing grammar for a new language. In regards to color it’s about intensity and proximity. Either process might lead the charge depending on what I’m going after.
Heather: The digital age is a major theme in your work. What appeals to you about “old school” media such as oil paint and various printing techniques to create your imagery?
Nathan: There is a tradition of alchemy associated with drawing, painting and sculpture that I’m fascinated by. Gesso is ground bone, pigments come from earth, insects, plants and some need to be treated and enhanced through chemistry. When you consider the longevity of these materials, the work that goes into these techniques and that artwork is meant to outlast its creator, it puts things into a very real and constructive perspective.
Heather: Tell me about the influence of Italian painting on your work. How has your residency in Rome impacted you?
Nathan: I mentioned the materials already. Much of renaissance and baroque painting is meant to memorialize, and/or glorify. The fact that much of the subject matter involves violence, sexuality and such an effort is made to make tragedy beautiful, well, that’s epic! But when you take away the opera of it all, the fact that light and color finds consistency from the renaissance to futurism also gets my attention.
Heather: Who are some of your favorite painters, living or dead?
Nathan: Last year I was in Italy and really took a look at Filippo Lippi and the things that guy did with layering color are amazing. Here’s a list: Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Julian Stanczak, Paul Klee, Lucian Freud, John Romita Jr. (he drew Spider-Man and X-Men when I was a kid, and still does.), Mark Rothko, Hieronymus Bosch, Sol Lewitt, Robert Longo, Al Held, James Turrell, and Timothy Hawkinson.
Also Herman Melville (Best known for the whale thing, but he wrote Bartleby the Scrivener! Artists who’ve had jobs other than studio work to pay the rent can relate to this.)
Heather: Do you think that looking at paintings influences you as much as the massive amount of visual information (advertising, movies, internet, etc…) we are exposed to on a daily basis? Your work comments on this “problem”, as well. Are you telegraphing your mental billboard?
Nathan: I think only looking only at art to make art leads to a sort of creative inbreeding. It’s important to me to view paintings and be able to enjoy them outside of my own studio practice. Outside research is pretty crucial. I would say in earlier work there was more telegraphing. Now some material has become less penetrable upon initial investigation. Dave Hickey once told me “You work too hard. Leave some out. Let the viewer do some of the work.”
Heather: I have heard it said that every painter has one picture that they make over and over and that a good artist has several. Do you think that you have one or more images that you continually reinterpret, reinvent? What are they?
Nathan: There is a lot of stuff that Bernini did that I’m after, from individual sculptures to those grand city plans, architectural projects and colonnades. That spiral movement you find in baroque art or Chinese dragons. A lot of monumental ancient architecture and ruins come into play. Chinese landscape painting is also something I keep coming back to. The simple architecture of Italy and the American southwest, the way light and color break them down compositionally, when you reduce that to post painterly abstraction, and then multiply it again, you end up with endless possibilities. Think of the roof tiles as just one component.
Heather: Do you envision yourself remaining in NYC, or will you run off to a villa in Tuscany/cave in South America/Moon settlement someday? If the latter will you take your future phone with you?
Nathan: I enjoy New York City and I feel fortunate to live here. It’s nice to go away for a refresher, but I’m pretty glad to come back here. Life is long though. If I could spend part of the year in Italy and part here in NYC that would be great, but given a choice I’d stick with here for now. If I went to a moon colony I’d hope to take communication. I can’t envision cutting myself off.
Heather: Tell me about what you are working on now.
Nathan: In the studio now I’m working on vast space compositions, landscape and aerial perspective, and I’m considering the archeology, and in some cases anthropology of the subject. So a whole world with its own language and history could emerge! I suppose this work could be a prequel or sequel to the last body of paintings I’d done. Some of my drawings to be shown at Fountain are taking on the role of artifact, or fossil, or a look at the smaller components of larger compositions. Some drawings are working with different grounds, silverpoint and watercolor, referential to rare or unknown material composition. So stay tuned for some scenic viewing art lovers!
Nathan will be showing at Fountain Los Angeles this weekend with Cheap & Plastique.
Heather Morgan interviewed by Nathan Wasserbauer for Issue 8 of Cheap & Plastique.
Heather Morgan, painter and bon vivant, completed her B.F.A. in painting at Boston University, making up the “expressionist wing” of the school for the arts and haunting the underground music scene. She received her M.F.A. in painting/printmaking at Yale University in 1999. Morgan spent five years in East Berlin cultivating fluency in German, exhibiting and publishing work with Karoline Mueller at Ladengalerie, one of Berlin’s oldest galleries and a proponent of representational artists of the former GDR. Morgan was most recently represented by Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn. She currently lives and exhibits in New York.
Nathan: I feel like your subjects are aware that they are being viewed, and that in some of your larger paintings, there is a gathering, not too crowded, that involves some aspect of theater or performance, cabaret, burlesque, and that we are just seeing part of it. Perhaps, a scene from a film? Do the paintings, as a whole or the individual characters depicted therein, have an extended narrative for you in any way (even if you don’t feel obliged to paint the rest of the story)?
Heather: The performance is identity, the act of being someone, a gender, a construct. The images are cinematic and theatrical to illustrate with splendor the idea that living is theater, a kind of madness. There are extended narratives, whole lifetimes of pain and pleasure. Sometimes I have more specific details in mind that fuel what is depicted, but the viewer is free to concoct their own stories.
Nathan: Describe your time in Germany. How does it influence your work? To what extent does German expressionism play a role, if at all? Do you see yourself in a tradition of painting?… or is that not a necessary consideration in order for you to proceed with your intentions?
Heather: I was mining Dix (ha ha) and Beckmann long before I moved to Berlin. The Expressionists fired up my interest in painting in the first place, fraught as that work is with tension, an ecstasy of agonies. Living in Berlin brought something very different to my work. I learned to speak German, I lived in a squat in the former DDR, staying out all night (this was in 1999, before the Euro, before the current tidal wave of Americans). I fully immersed in painting the life of a young Berliner. As hip, sexy and damaged as the city itself. Today I find myself much more interested in beauty than the expressionists were, more in tune with the giddy excess of the Weimar Republic. Beauty being the surest means to strike terror into the heart.
Nathan: “Unflinching yet vulnerable” is how you’ve described the women in your work. Does this speak to fulfillment or longing, some of each?
Heather: Both. There is a complicated situation suggested here in the emotional availability of these figures. Their aggressive stance barely covers their desperate yearnings. You can have them, but you can’t hurt them. Or is it the other way around?
Nathan: Do you see the people in your paintings as part of a smaller community or is this a larger happening? Could this be Berlin, Paris, London?, or is this a New York City exclusive and it could only happen here… only now?
Heather: The subjects of my work are life-at-the-margins characters, people whose failings and eccentricities are most visible. Every city has its own scene, its own special poison in the water. In capturing that I hope my work reflects the here and now, wherever I am.
Nathan: Describe a studio day. Models? Lighting, preferred time of day, depending upon the subject? What are your minimum requirements? Do you make drawings, or do you take your ideas straight to the canvas?
Heather: During the day, awash with sunlight, promise, and the usual existential unease, I like to do small works – figures and objects painted from life. Later in the day, I get ideas for new work, which I might sketch in pen on a scrap of paper or more fully flesh out with a collage. In the evening, I can start to get a bit manic and then I can really start working, no models, not much light. I draw a pretty detailed underpainting to start a painting, often wiping part or the whole thing away several times before it is finished. In that sense, a lot of drawing goes into it. I also do a lot of writing and listening to music, from which I get a lot of ideas.
Nathan: If you could do a big group portrait and could choose whomever you wanted to include, who might be there? People living, dead, famous or not, writers, artists, acrobats, politicians, engineers… They’d all set up in whatever setting you needed to create what you wanted, and say right, go to it! (or you could travel to them if you like).
Heather: I would have loved to have painted David Bowie during his Berlin years or as Ziggy, Jarvis Cocker at the height of Pulp vanity, and a slightly older and jaded Marlene Dietrich in her seamed stockings. But I was not there in that moment with those people. I am here, these kinds of characters are all around and I am painting them.
Nathan: Do the people in your paintings gradually change over time, along with you? Have you made the work partially autobiographical?
Heather: I am curious about that myself, as in some ways I have changed very little. Still the same overgrown lady child, wild leanings and love of messy hair. Of course, we all inch toward decrepitude and I look forward to including that in some of my figures.
Nathan: You do a Heather Morgan Self-Portrait every year. How long has the annual self-portrait tradition existed? Do you think ahead with each year to what kind of self-portrait that will be, or is it less formal than that?
Heather: It is an entrenched classic of two years. I am interested in what pattern may emerge. Over the course of last year, I found myself talking about it quite a bit in advance, but that was probably just a clever ruse to get people to buy me birthday presents.
Nathan: The women in your paintings search for enjoyment despite world strife. Do you see them as grateful to be alive and therefore celebrating?,.. or have they grown indifferent? Are they just telling us to relax a little?…
Heather: These ladies are terribly ungrateful for whatever gifts they may have, life itself can be such a punishment sometimes, and indifference is the worst symptom of that. But they extend a heartfelt and daring “fuck you” to death and really, thereby, embrace the whole thing. Who can relax when there is life to be lived?
Nathan: Talk a bit about what brought you to this body of work, and perhaps give us some hints about what we might see next?
Heather: I have been circling the drain of these themes for my entire life as a painter. I am always looking for new ways to express them, which has led me to some different ways of working, including some very fruitful collaborations with writers, photographers, and other sources of inspiration. I am of an exploratory mind about the present work, and so I have no preconceived idea about where it is going.
Heather will be showing at Fountain Los Angeles this weekend with Cheap & Plastique, she will also be showing work this Sunday in Williamsburg at the Truck Yeah event in front of Crown Victoria Bar, 60 S. 2nd Street, at Wythe, from 12 — 6.
Images from a C & P studio visit with Miss Morgan here.
Photographed Browns studio in London when I was there in July for Print Magazine. It was fun to hang out at the studio for the afternoon & explore/snoop around all 3 floors of the amazing space (studio & Jonathan’s home). I really enjoyed seeing Browns fabulous work in person. Jonathan Ellery was incredibly nice and has pretty damn good taste, in both design and music. Browns seems like a great place to work! See more of Jonathan and Browns work here. Pick up the current issue of Print for a Q & A with Mr. Ellery, or see the Q & A on Print‘s blog here.
I went to Philly last weekend on a mission to celebrate my birthday and eat lots of delicious foods (mucho success!), take some photographs (mo’ success!), see some art at out of the way, artist-run galleries, like Flux Space and Little Berlin (total fail!*), and do studio visits** with a bunch of the artists at Space 1026. Things did not work out exactly as planned at Space 1026 but I did manage to get a tour of the space and a peek into a few people’s studios. Thanks so much, Leah, Bonnie, and Thom!
SPACE 1026—THE COMMON SPACES:::
(years of buildup of silkscreened prints makes for lovely texture!)
SPACE 1026—THE STUDIOS:::
Leah Mackin’s studio, see more of her work here.
Bonnie Brenda Scott’s studio, see more of her work here.
More about the studio and gallery space at Space 1026 here.
*I made the mistake of assuming their gallery spaces would be open and trekked out to their slightly sketchy locales. Disappointed that both were closed, next time I know to call ahead and schedule something.