Triple Hex

Posted in cheap & plastique, fancy army, music, violet shuraka by cheapandplastique on February 26, 2016

I just finished directing my first official music video for the Brooklyn band, Triple Hex.
I have been shooting footage for months, while meandering through various city streets—in NYC, London, & Dublin—eyes peeled for sparkly lights, sleazy joints with sexy mannequins, and old neon strip club, bar, and restaurant signs. The video showcases Triple Hex in their nocturnal natural state. Listen to more tunes by Triple Hex here.

Paul Brainard: Roasted at Lodge Gallery & Volta NY

Posted in art, art fair, art to see, brooklyn artists, contemporary art, drawing, painting by cheapandplastique on February 26, 2016

Way back in 2010 I did one of my first Cheap & Plastique studio visits with Brooklyn artist, Paul Brainard. Check out the visit here.

Currently there is a show up at Lodge Gallery (131 Chrystie St, New York, New York),
Paul Brainard: Roasted, a group exhibition celebrating Paul as both an artist and curator. Next week Lodge Gallery will be presenting Paul’s work at Volta NY
(booth X9). Check out both shows!

Studio visit with Frank Webster

Posted in art, brooklyn artists, cheap & plastique, interview, painting, studio visit by cheapandplastique on January 22, 2016

Frank in his Fort Greene, Brooklyn studio.

Frank Webster is a Brooklyn based painter, and all around sharp guy. We visited his studio on a balmy day in December for issue #12. It was a great place to reflect on the apocalypse.
Interview by Cheap & Plastique‘s Heather Morgan. Please see more of Frank’s work here

C & P: You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally?
Frank I’ve been in New York for about 20 years. Most of it has been spent in Brooklyn. I originally came to the East Coast from Chicago to get my MFA at Rutgers. I attended Skowhegan right after graduation and moved to the city shortly afterwards.


C & P: You maintain a studio in Fort Greene, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood since you have been in this location?
Frank I’ve watched a pretty dramatic change occur in my time here. The building I have my studio in was just sold to a group of investors for over $160 million dollars. I think it’s unlikely I will be in this space much longer. It’s a fairly common story New Yorkers of all walks of life face as we try to deal with the phenomenon of gentrification. When I first moved to Fort Greene the area near the Navy Yard was a dangerous no man’s land with a reputation for crime. Now it is part of something called the “tech triangle” in real-estate-speak. Scarcity has made it in demand as office space despite the lack of amenities and poor transportation service.


A Volcanic Crater, 2015, watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”

C & P: Your work definitely has an “end of the world” feeling to me, whether you take the city for your subject matter, or you are out in nature. Do you think we are doomed?
Frank That’s an interesting question. Existentially of course as individuals we are—we all have about a 70 year expiration date, if we’re lucky. As a species I think we have a lot better prospects. Most of our current problems regarding our environment are the result of human ingenuity. If I didn’t think that ingenuity could be used to correct these problems I’d probably pass over conditions in silence. So contradictorily, I guess I’m really a bit of an bright-eyed optimist. Infer irony if you like.

C & P: Your earlier work seems to draw comparison between nature and the objects and architecture we have built, to melancholy effect. Your current series seem more wholly immersed in the landscape (in Iceland).
What prompted this shift, and do you find it satisfying to work in this way?
Frank I tend to see my work as a long running project so it all seems as part of a greater whole to me. The architecture work always had a topographic quality about it—a sort of catalogue of the landscape of the modern built environment at its most vernacular level. “How had America been altered by the great wave of suburbs of the later half of the last century?” for instance. More recent work has started examining a natural landscape without architecture, a place with a highway but without strip malls. It is in a northern region (the north Atlantic) where some of the most dramatic effects of climate change are beginning to be seen. It also is a place of unearthly beauty—fascinating geologically and historically, the wellspring of European colonization of the New World with a rich and influential literary legacy. I find it satisfying thus far but really feel like I’m at the beginning of something with a lot of loose ends to tie up and questions to answer.

Plastic Bags, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 80″

Apartment Building, Tokyo, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 44″

C & P: The Iceland series is connected to your earlier work by a deep sense of solitude. Even in Tokyo, your work is free of humans. Why is that?
Frank I have been a long time fan of the romantics who were the first to really grapple with a non-anthropocentric view of the world, communion with nature and the beauty of solitude. When I get this question I always am reminded of one of my favorite paintings: The Wanderer above the Mists by Caspar David Friedrich. This painting is significant for coming up with the compositional device of a figure with his back turned to the viewer to communicate contemplation of the sublime. In my paintings I think of the figurative subject as being the viewer who is placed in a scene by yours truly (the painter) to contemplate said scene. So my paintings all have a human as part of their compositional mechanics—that human just happens to be you.


C & P: This isolation seems to be the emblematic of our civilization. Do you consider your work political?
Frank Certainly alienation is one of the most well documented hallmarks of postmodern society. I personally think that sense of isolation has paradoxically increased in this period of constant contact and social media. I see a general rootlessness and sense a growing insecurity and a feeling of economic disenfranchisement. Of course the great danger here in the United States is political apathy in the face of this larger social alienation. It’s important to combat this tendency. So yes I think my work has political undertones even if it isn’t of the banners and barricades variety.


C & P: The earliest work I have seen of yours goes back about a decade, very minimalist paintings of strip malls and other suburban horrors, rendered purposefully, cheerily lifeless and geometric. Tell us about your connection to minimalism. Have you always had a minimalist sensibility?
Frank I have a bit of a love hate relationship with minimalism. I recently visited Marfa and was really taken with the grounded-ness of Donald Judd’s vision. But I also see how that aesthetic has been applied or misapplied in consumerism and it’s tendency to erase eccentricity and cultural nuance. (Post minimalist/feminist art nailed that second point pretty well, in my opinion.) Personally I try to keep things as simple as possible. But of course the world is a complicated place and complexity has it’s way of creeping into the most straight forward situations…

C & P: Your paint seems to be heightening the drama in more recent work, exploring the surface more. How does the sublime fit into a dim worldview?
Frank The sublime is interesting because it is not necessarily beautiful. Burke’s original concept of the sublime included what was most definitely NOT pleasurable, what was awesomely terrifying or downright ugly. As an idea it has been a powerful tool to free artists from their role as interior decorators. Any art that assumes a more conceptual attitude ultimately draws it’s strength from the stance of the sublime as a counter to the merely beautiful.


C & P: It is definitely oxymoronic to present a lush, beautiful painting that depicts barbed wire and an ugly, hulking tower block of a building. Is beauty important? Is it there to console the viewer or to lure them into a nightmarish hellscape? What sort of journey do you ideally wish for viewers of your work?
Frank Beauty is of great importance and ultimately there is nothing wrong with beauty. And yes, of course, it can be a tool to seduce a viewer into confronting some experience they’d rather avoid. A spoonful of sugar? Maybe. I’d avoid prescribing an experience for a viewer of my work, but I’ve always felt that catharsis was one of the most powerful emotions evoked by any work of art. Think of a late Rothko… that unspeakable beauty, calm and sadness… “Nightmarish hellscape?” Thank you, I’m flattered.


C & P: We met in an art show at a strip bar and had a funny conversation about Jean Rollin and exploitation cinema. Rollin in particular creates some stunning visuals. Do you draw on film as an influence?
Frank I LOVE Jean Rollin and his goofy post-surrealist, gothic comic book universe. I think his movies have had a lot of influence on a number of contemporary artists. He was able to find the freedom to deal with taboo and out-there subjects as long as he just tossed a sex scene in the flick to guarantee distribution in porn theaters. Georges Bataille was his godfather. But yes, his visuals are amazing. He was a real poet of the eye. He is interesting in that his mise-en-scéne is often the most interesting things about the films. I’ve made a few paintings based on transition scenes in his movies. I feel like I’m saying I read Playboy for the articles but I really enjoy his pornographic horror films for the landscapes he sets them in—that might be the most decadently subversive thing I can say about his art. (Sort of like going to a strip club to look at paintings.)
There are a lot of filmmakers I look at as influences. Michelangelo Antonioni comes to mind as someone I was inspired by early on in my career and still holds a special place in my heart. I’m also very interested in the off-beat auteur films of the ‘70s, when the director was considered an artist and low budget films were still the norm.



C & P: When painting the landscape, you get a sense of the infinite by virtue of expansive space or endless tree branches. How do you personally know when a painting is finished?
Frank It’s tough. I like to work on large paintings slowly so there is a temptation to say something is done prematurely. But ultimately a bit more time pays off in better results. I want a painting to have that infinite and expansive feeling but to also feel that somehow it just accidentally happened. Sometimes it can take forever to find that happenstance moment.

C & P: What are some paintings that you like to revisit, in museums or collections?
Frank I have a lot of artists I look at, but a recent discovery I made when visiting Vienna was Richard Gerstl, the proto-expressionist. Unfortunately, today he is probably more famous for his youthful suicide and affair with Arnold Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde but I loved the directness and urgency of his landscape paintings. His self-portraits are chilling and among the best of the first half of the 20th century. He is under appreciated today so I’ll mention him now.


C & P: What are you working on right now?
Frank I’m playing around with oil paint after a long period of working exclusively with water-based media. Right now I’m making small oil studies which I hope to develop into large-scale works. Studio or not, I’m a wily artist and will figure out a way to make my vision happen—whether an army of “international real-estate investors” likes it or not.

Artist portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka. All artwork ©Frank Webster.

Studio Visit with Kelsey Henderson

Posted in art, brooklyn artists, cheap & plastique, contemporary art, interview, painting, studio visit by cheapandplastique on January 15, 2016

Kelsey in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio.

Cheap & Plastique‘s Violet Shuraka interviews Brooklyn-based artist Kelsey Henderson for issue #12. Portraits and studio shots by Violet Shuraka. All artwork ©Kelsey Henderson. See more of Kelsey’s work here.

C & P: You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally?
Kelsey: I moved here in 2006, so in September it will have been 10 years. Wow.
I moved here knowing I needed to be around driven and motivated people. Wanted
a dose of healthy competitive drive to keep me going and not complacent.


C & P: Your studio has been located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 2011, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood over the past few years?
Kelsey: Of course, it’s constantly changing but I hardly focus on that stuff till it hits me in the face like now—losing my studio of 7 years and realizing how messed up the price of studios in the area are. Charging apartment prices for commercial spaces shows a lack of appreciation for the arts and that the primary focus is on money, which really bums me out.

C & P: Much of your work consists of figurative oil paintings. How long have you been painting the figure? What first interested you in the figure as subject matter?
Kelsey: All my life I’ve focused on people. It’s my natural instinct and one of my favorite things to do. If there’s something that draws me in about someone, I like giving myself the time to look at and study them. Plus I find it to be challenging technically, which I enjoy. It’s good to do things that aren’t easy.


C & P: Who are the people in your paintings? Do you ever paint from a live model or do you utilize imagery from pop culture (or unpopular culture) as your subjects?
Kelsey: I used to only work from life since that’s how I was taught to work. I think it was a good practice when I was in school to create a strong relationship between my hands and eyes, but once I started becoming more conceptually focused it wasn’t necessary. Now I work from photos that I take or found photos. Whether or not I know the person directly in the paintings I want to make sure that it’s more about the message I’m making with the image vs. a formal portrait painting.


C & P: The figures that show up in your most recent work have shifted from portraits of friends/people you know to paintings of imagined ‘zine covers, which include both figures and text. You have said the images of people in this series are taken from old video cassette covers, hardcore music videos, punk magazine layouts and the text in the paintings is from various vintage pin up/erotic magazine covers. What inspired this change in the subject matter of your work?
Kelsey: That’s not all true… Most of the figures painted in this series are found by searching through 70-90s subculture images. Some being famous people, others who are not. Mostly just from photos taken from people involved in the scene at the time. And the layout and the text comes from old porn magazines. I’m pretty much making fake magazines that I wish existed, that I’d love to buy. Creating a different sense of idealism or desire than what the mainstream suggests.


C & P: Some titles of the current body of work in your studio are Teenage Extreme (tagged with Hot Straight Edge Boys), Pleasure—Number One In Excitement, Punished, Suck, Teenager in Action, which are all quite sexually suggestive. The figure that is matched up with the various title is usually a punk/hardcore/skinhead boy or girl. What draws you to the denizens of these particular underground subcultures? Do you think the underground is particularly sexually liberated?
Kelsey: I’m more focused on shifting the sexual read of the text and giving it a different reading. Which is why I don’t want to use any old porn magazines that blatantly say “SEX” “PORN” etc… I like the double play on the text… But if the painting says “Teenage Extreme” and it’s and image of a hardcore straightedge younger guy singing as hard as he can… then that text is more about a kid being hard.
On the flip side, clearly, I do want to play with the fantasized aspect of the porn magazines. These are forms of beauty that I’m drawn to, that I’m sincerely attracted to… I’m also aware of our culture’s (especially in fashion) detached rip offs and pulls from these subcultures as well—which totally turns me off.
So I’m playing with a lot of different aspects with this work and I have a lot to say about it all, which is why I know it’s important to make.


C & P: You mentioned Bruce La Bruce as an influence. His film and photography work also eroticize skinhead and punk subcultures. He was involved in the punk scene in Toronto in the early 90s, producing underground fanzines, making manifestos, and expressing his politics through a do-it-yourself style. What do you think draws you both to politically incorrect imagery and to and society’s “outsiders”?
Kelsey: I don’t think I said that. I had only recently (tho I’m not proud to admit) seen a couple of his films or looked into his work after starting my recent work. I was actually relieved I hadn’t seen his work before because it felt similar to my Crocodiles video that I made… and it may have influenced me if I had seen it prior, but I’m happy I’ve seen it now.
I love outsiders because I think a level of rebellion is important in life. The world and the people in it can’t grow without being challenged and aware that there are things beyond the norm.

C & P: Your painting technique on your most recent work calls to mind artists such as John Baldessari and Gerhard Richter, with your reduced palette and the inclusion of text. Are you responsive to these artists?
Kelsey: I mean I always loved Gerhard Richter, but with this particular body of work it feels very personal and sincere so I’m kind of stuck in my own bubble right now. I’ve always loved text and words so it’s been a really satisfying moment for me to combine these loves.


C & P: Music seems to play an important role in both your day to day life and your artwork. Are there certain bands that you will listen to for inspiration while painting? Has music always been so important to you?
Kelsey: What I listen to when I’m painting depends on my mood. I usually try to stick with something upbeat or dance-y to keep myself in the zone and energized. I don’t want to end up crying or anything while I’m working (ha ha!)
When I was a kid music wasn’t as important to me. I liked it but it didn’t hit the deep chords in my body and soul that it does today. I think the shift happened in high school when I listened to the widest range of music I’ve ever listened to—from requiems to jazz to classic rock to electronic music etc, etc… That’s when it became incredibly important to me and strongly instinctual to knowing what I liked.


C & P: A lot of people claim that New York is “dead” artistically and musically but I emphatically disagree. Do you feel that there is still a vibrant underground scene in New York City?
Kelsey: 100%. I think anyone who says it’s dead has stopped going to shows or stopped checking out scenes they didnt know about. There’s A LOT of amazing music being made right now in New York that isn’t well known.

C & P: You recently directed videos for the band Soft Moon and Crocodiles. How did the collaboration come about? How did the bands approach you to direct? Is directing something that you’d like to do more of in the future?
Kelsey: It was a nice trickle effect. I had been working on my own video projects that I’ve previewed in brief clips on Instagram. Then I was approached by my now friend Brandon from Crocodiles about using what he had seen for a video and I felt it best to create something specific for it and luckily both he and Chuck were both kind and trusting enough to let me make whatever I wanted with some discussed themes in mind. And from that I got the attention of Marco Rapisarda, who is The Soft Moon’s manager, and was asked to make a video for them.


I’ve always wanted to make music videos, I daydream about them all the time when I’m listening to music on my own—creating visuals in my head—so it was a wonderful experience. Would love to make more in the future.

C & P: Tell me a little bit about your “Yearbook/Yearfuck Class of 2015” photo project that I see you have started on Instagram. Is this directly related to the music video projects you have been working on?
Kelsey: That project is more connected to my newer paintings that I’ve been making. Creating false realities and showing subcultures as the mainstream way of life. Ultimately showing the rest of the world that within a subculture, we are the norm and the rest of the world is on the outside? Showing my reality, etc… I’m intending, and hoping, to show all of my recent work in one large show and also putting it all together in a book.
The idea came from being inspired by my friends and the people around me but knowing I had no time to paint them all. So I created the fake yearbook idea as a time capsule and spoof on the world we grew up in, creating the dream Class of 2015.


C & P: Describe a studio day. Is there a certain time of the day when you work best and are most productive? Do you have certain habits that you stick to in regards to your art making schedule?
Kelsey: When I’m on a role, I’ll get there in time for a late lunch (getting to order food from places that don’t deliver to my apt., ha ha) and then usually leave no later than 10 PM. I’ve got a pup so I always have to schedule my days around her but it’s not too much of a hassle and I like having my nights to be social since I’m alone all day. I mostly just go in, put some music on and get working.


C & P: Are you more influenced by looking at the work of other painters and artists or do you feel that you are more stimulated by the massive amount of visual information you are exposed to on a daily basis in the city, through advertising, the internet, television, etc…?
Kelsey: If anything I guess random internet rabbit hole searches are the most inspiring and then would come my daily life… Taking what I see and experience and then romantically reflecting on it all and trying to show what’s in my head in that light. I do love looking at other artist’s work but in honesty I don’t do it very much. (someone should slap my wrist for that, ha!)


C & P: What projects are you working on now? Where can we see your work in the near future?
Kelsey: I’m still working on the fake magazine paintings, videos, and photos. It’s a big project I’m trying to make, connecting all of those things so it will take some time. The best place for now is Instagram @pallidspell and from there I’ll announce any shows etc…

Studio Visit with Jesse McCloskey

Posted in art, brooklyn artists, drawing, painting, studio visit, williamsburg by cheapandplastique on October 14, 2015

Jesse in his Bushwick, Brooklyn studio.

Cheap & Plastique’s Heather Morgan interviews Brooklyn-based artist Jesse McCloskey for issue #12. Portraits and studio shots by Violet Shuraka. All artwork ©Jesse McCloskey. See more of Jesse’s work here.

Various works in studio

C & P: You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally?
Jesse: Actually, I live in Manhattan and paint in Brooklyn. I’ve had a cheap place on First Avenue forever. I came to New York in 1987 to attend graduate school at Parsons, where I got my MFA.


C & P: You have maintained a studio on the edge of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn since the nineties, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood since you have been in this location?
Jesse: I got my first studio in Williamsburg around 1995, I think. It was on Lorimer and Bayard, facing the running track across the street from McCarren Pool. But they sold it for condos so now I’m at my current location on Grand and Morgan. It’s also changing rapidly, with new billboards for “Eyewear” nearby so I think I’ll have to move again soon but you know we’re survivors so I’ll come up with something hopefully!

Bird Party

C & P: You make darkly romantic paintings by layering and drawing, sometimes carving back into cut shapes of paper. The first time I saw your work I was blown away by not being sure of what I was looking at, how it was done. How did you arrive at this process?
Jesse: I remember my teacher Ben Martinez at the Swain School of Design, telling me Giacometti would draw and erase so much that he would rub holes into his drawings. I wondered why he didn’t just glue on a patch of paper and keep going.
I make paintings by cutting out painted paper shapes then adhering it to a canvas, I often paint on top of that, making changes until the picture comes together. Sometimes I use knives, digging down into the floorboards of the work to see if I left something useful down there. On occasion it reveals a helpful color or form. (Sometimes it’s best old decisions remained buried.)
I didn’t plan on making pictures this way, but the surface had become dead from over working so I added a slab of paper and then I had a patch over as well as a new shape and color to deal with and I just went with it.
I think it’s important to have the “Fuck It” moment. Where you don’t give a fuck about another fuckin’ painting so you just fuck it up and it forces you out for what ever pretense you’ve talked yourself into.

Ann is Salem

C & P: Your work presents a world of witches and demons, seductive and tormented figures. Sometimes it feels like you are tapping into powerful, ancient myths, and sometimes it reads as allegory for the artistic process. Tell us about the characters that are inhabiting your work, what they mean to you.
Jesse: I remember a few years ago a Christian conservative was losing a senate race in Maryland. In a last ditch effort, she said in a campaign ad, “ I am not a witch.”.It confirmed what people from New England, like myself, have always known, that our superstitions are so close to the surface. It’s only a steady supply of food, water, and electricity that keeps us from burning people or pressing scapegoats to death with field stones.
I don’t know who shows up in my paintings. They are the acting company of my desires and anxieties. They change costumes and masks but it’s the same group in different garb. My job as an artist is to make them a comfortable place to rage.

C & P: I know you to be a relentlessly driven painter. Talking with you about your progress on individual paintings, it almost sounds as though you are battling them. Does this passionate approach to producing the work inform the narratives within
the paintings?
Jesse: I love that Johnny Cash song, “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.” My process is always the same and it’s kinda awful really, I start out on a tear with all the hope and expectation that I finally know what I’m doing, only to find that I don’t. The painting is alive! Then dead, then dead but not without hope, then yes, it’s hopeless. Then not! It changes and changes mask after mask until months later it suddenly snaps into place and the picture is at a point where it can’t get any better or worse. I do not change them for the sake of changing them, but I am obsessed with getting them right.
It does inform and build the narrative, in that if I believe in anything it’s this, that if I make a painting, drawing, some kind of art, whatever, then I destroy, not for the sake of destroying it but by pushing it until it’s a mess, then I really own the work/process. I gotta make it, kill it and bring it back. I might be terrified, like so many artists in New York, of losing my studio but I’m not afraid of making a mess in there. Forcing the painting come to me as much as I come to it.

Candelabra Phoenix

C & P: I heard your still life once described (by me) as “a Cezanne if you set it on fire.” Describe some of your influences and how your use of these materials pushes past those influences.
Jesse: The Italians like Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto and De Kooning really are my most important influences (mainly how De Kooning, himself, processed the Italians). I love the muscle car paintings they put together with such an economy of means. Everything in these artist’s pictures has a purpose to the greater whole. I believe this comes from building and pulling apart each element in a composition until it works for the greater good. Certainly its how De Kooning made pictures. I remember you and I talking about how great artists don’t show you how to make a decent painting, they show you how to arrive at one. The materials are built for speed, I can and often do change a picture drastically in one evening. It’s thrilling really, the material and it’s application become extensions of my visual mind and I think my dusty dead friends would approve.


C & P: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist when you were growing up on a horse farm in Massachusetts? Were themes of New England—the gothic landscape, witches and hapless sinners—always present in your work?
Jesse: When I was 4, my mother bought me “The Christmas Mouse” It’s a coloring book that tells of a little mouse that makes his own Christmas by stealing from the people whose house he lives in. Kind of an odd message for a child now that I think of it. Then again the only advice my mother ever gave me was “Never live within your means, you’ll never have anything.” Well, the coloring book looked great, so off I went to be a painter.
Yes, my work has always been drawn to the dark. The Satanic tint to New England fueled my early visual imagination. And the demonology and superstitious slant of late medieval early Renaissance painting formed a seamless link in my mind to Italian painting and beyond.

C & P: There is a very gleeful and mischievous quality to your work. When taking on themes of death, sex and the torment of the soul, do you think it is important not to be too serious?
Jesse: For me I do think it’s best to sit on the fence between humour and alarm. That’s why I’m drawn to the classic New England witch. It’s both comical and alarming. It the Blair Witch as well as a consumerized pop culture symbol. Used beautifully, if unsuccessfully, both ways by would-be senators from Maryland.

Drawings in studio

C & P: Your female nudes are erotically charged and quite self-possessed and the males are usually trapped in struggle or have the grotesque face of a rascal-y demon. As a woman, I really enjoy this about your work! I get the sense that no one is really winning though, in the struggle for power in your world.
Jesse: The great painter and my friend and teacher the late Paul Georges was painting one day when he was asked what he wanted for lunch, he didn’t hear the question so he was asked again and again each time a bit louder and with more annoyed insistence. Finally he was asked “What do you want?!” He raised his arms and head to the skylight above and with brush in hand said “I want to be free!” Me too.

C & P: I would describe your palette as “stained glass”; you don’t shy away from primary colors and your compositions are illuminated and accentuated with heavy black lines. Does your work comment on the sacred?
Jesse: De Kooning spoke of “The sexuality of doubt.” What a spectacular phrase! I understand it as the erotic charge of uncertainty. If my work contains a vein of the scared it’s in being clear in uncertainty. That regardless of the endless possibilities, clarity of conviction in painting is the difference between being artistic and being an artist.

Palette Snake

C & P: While we are on the subject of religion, your personal pantheon seems to begin and end at Mick and Keith. Their lithe bodies take center stage on door of your studio. What do they represent to you and to your painting?
Jesse: The public image of the 70s Mick and Keith have been fascination from my earliest memories back in my little home town of Plympton, Massachusetts. I was drawn to the gender bending bone thin bodies and what I saw as it’s demonic power. It represents freedom to me, a glimpse of another world, another place where misfits were revered and sexual roles not clearly defined. And yet my love for the image of Rolling Stones is deeply personal, I don’t wanna know anything about their private lives, it’s none of my business. It’s the illusion I’m drawn to. I wont talk to someone if they wanna impress me with detailed knowledge of Stone trivia, I’m not interested in any of that. I feed on the dark lyrics of “Sway” and “Memo From Turner” to turn me on. Remember that passage in “A Death in Venice” where the narrator writes about how if the public knew the true inspiration for so much of the art they love they would confused, horrified and repulsed? Some stones are best not looked under.

Jesse in his studio

C & P: What is on your easel right now? Are you killing it, or are you laying on the floor beneath it with a bourbon soaked rag?
Jesse: As you know all to well, Heather, our old brick studio building heats up like the pizza ovens on the Lower East Side, it takes days to cool down. The painting being yanked around is of a blond wig that morphs into yellow pumps with snakes and a palette. As well as a Tudor rose and some other stuff. Today It’s a mess, I am not killing it. I only have some Vermouth so that’s no good. My next show was cancelled, my gallery dropped me, I don’t remember the last time I sold something. But ya know, whatever, I’m gonna attack this painting again and it will give it up.

C & P’s Chelsea picks

Posted in art, chelsea, contemporary art, exhibitions, installation, painting, performance, sculpture, video art by cheapandplastique on October 14, 2015

Cheap & Plastique’s top picks for Chelsea’s October exhibitions.

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures, Sept. 10 – Oct. 24. More information here.

Installation view, 2015. Metro Pictures, New York.

Installation view, 2015. Metro Pictures, New York.

Installation view, 2015. Metro Pictures, New York.

Installation view, 2015. Metro Pictures, New York.

Nigel Cooke, Black Mimosa, at Pace Gallery, Sept. 18 – Oct. 24.
More information here.


Indian Summer


Black Butterfly

Mike Kelley, Hauser & Wirth Gallery, Sept. 10 – Oct. 24. More information here.

City 3, 2007—2011

City 17, 2011

City 15, 2011

Kandor 4, 2007

Kandor 2B, 2011

Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude), 2011

Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude), 2011

Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #36 (Vice Anglais), 2011

Gilbert & George: The Early Years

Posted in art, conceptual art, contemporary art, drawing, fops, humor, performance, sculpture by cheapandplastique on September 8, 2015

Went to see the Gilbert & George: The Early Years exhibition at MoMa over the weekend.
I love these men. Exhibition is up until September 27th, info here.

Studio Visit with Salman Toor

Posted in art, brooklyn artists, contemporary art, drawing, painting, studio visit by cheapandplastique on July 10, 2015

Salman in his Bushwick, Brooklyn studio.

Cheap & Plastique’s Violet Shuraka interviews Brooklyn-based artist Salman Toor for issue #12. Portraits by Violet Shuraka. All artwork ©Salman Toor. See more of Salman’s work here.

C & P: You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally?
Salman: I’ve been here for almost nine years now.
I came to NYC for school and to look for a job at a gallery in Chelsea after graduating from Ohio Weslyan in 2006 with BFA. I ended up doing marketing for a magazine called NY Art Magazine (that recently died down) and knew for sure that I never wanted to work in an office environment again.

C & P: You have maintained a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn since 2011, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood over the past few years?
Salman: Oh yes. It’s like a creeping self conscious American Montmartre, spreading trade in a new disguise: Art.

C & P: You also spend time in Lahore, Pakistan (where you are from) every year. Do you have a studio there as well? Is there a big art community in Lahore?
Salman: A small, tightly-knit community, yes. It centers around government run school with a gorgeous colonial building. It’s called the National College of Art or NCA, where new talent is fostered and where most teachers are ambitious artists who have at least a local cult following and sometimes international recognition.
I do have a studio in Lahore. Space and time are cheaper there so I have a cavernous, light-filled set-up there.

C & P: The current body of work in your studio consists mainly of figurative oil paintings. How long have you been painting the figure? What first interested you in painting a subject that has been revisited again and again throughout art history?
Salman: I’ll always make pictures of the body in some sense. I didn’t choose to visit the subject. I was always drawing in school notebooks for fun then I became very good at it, making pictures of the body became almost a ritual for me.

C & P: You painting technique calls to mind the old masters of Europe, could you talk a bit about your decision to depict the figure, generally a subject of Western art, through your non-Western eye in this Old Master style?
Salman: I think that was the result of me, as someone from the Third World, arriving in a museum of the First World, which was filled with an unfathomable number of gorgeous pictures.
I was overwhelmed by this experience and felt something akin to rapture, totally inspired by the largely Christian pictures, which made me want to compete with the hundreds of dead aesthetes!

C & P: Does your work inform a certain kind of audience or do you think your work can be seen, understood, and appreciated by anyone?
Salman: The more specific narrative pieces work with certain scenarios and kinds of people that are very local to South Asia so I believe the paintings create more magic when they are shown there. Otherwise I feel the pictures are totally accessible to everyone, because, in the end, they are about the yummy-ness of paint and surface.

C & P: Who are the people in your paintings? Do you ever paint from a live model? Or do you utilize imagery of figures from advertising, film, commercials, and photography as your subjects? Do you feel that a painting created by observing a live model differs greatly from one painted using photographic or collaged sources?
Salman: Yes, I think the kind of figurative painting I like, whether its Realist or Expressionist, is better achieved with a live model. A photograph is already two dimensional (and don’t even get me started on the uselessness of Photorealism).
The object and the eye keep shifting slightly from one glance to the next with a live model. Though I’ve now moved on to a kind of painting in which I don’t use any source material at all.

C & P: Do you ever paint self portraits?
Salman: I have in the past. At this point I’m so used to my own features I have to struggle to paint faces that don’t look like mine.

C & P: Is there a narrative running through your work?
Salman: Yes. There are several narratives:
a) the idiosyncrasy of being from a Post-Colonial culture, having the added baggage of being from a culture that is perceived to be in a state of decay or turmoil, the baggage and profound understanding that comes from imagining myself as a kind of representative of that part of the world and mingling the best of what’s happening in Bushwick with that of Lahore and Karachi.
b) making fun of the wish to be a painter (in the European sense) from South Asia. Toying with the idea, the need to be progressive, the need for beauty/ aesthetic.
c) the boredom and excitement of being an artist, and working in Bushwick and living in the East Village.

C & P: Your show “The Happy Servant,” at Aicon Gallery in May of 2013, was the first body of work that I saw of yours. I really enjoyed the humor in these paintings—glamour and poverty co-existing side by side, everyone depicted wearing large smiles. Do you think your sense of humor or satire regarding the class-divides in the region is something shared amongst South Asians in general or is this more of a subversive way of handling the subject that could possibly be upsetting to some people?
Salman: It isn’t shared at all. it’s completely ignored because it’s useless (profitless) to most people. For those pictures I wanted to mine the haunting qualities of a smile to allude to a darker sensibility.

C & P: Your paintings from this series seem to be about fantasies, both as lived by well-off individuals and as dreamed by those of the lower-classes. What cultural forces do you think inform these two sets of fantasies? Do they come out of Bollywood or Western-centric advertising marketed towards South Asians? How do they differ from one another and do they go both ways? That is to say, are the servants and those they serve both projecting things onto each other that may not be their actual realties?
Salman: Totally. Both fantasies are informed by South Asian fiction/ literature, contemporary novels like Daniyal Mueenuddin’s Other Rooms, Other Wonders and Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke. A lot of the little vignettes I pick up are from books when they are not autobiographical. I consider the resulting paintings to be fantasies, ideas, not related to the real objective world.

C & P: Spending as much time in Pakistan as you do, could you talk about the violence and social and political deterioration there that seem to be getting worse every week? Do you think there is still hope for open discussion and secularism or is the country reaching a tipping point from which it might not come back for some time? What do you think this entails for the future of visual art, specifically in a city like Karachi? Will there be a point where artists are the next voices under threat of being silenced?
Salman: Everyone is under threat there. But all is made myopic and confusing and beside the point with the all pervasive desperation of poverty . There’s a new tipping point for violence every two years in Pakistan and I think this will flounder for a decade before anything becomes concrete. This should be a good time for artists to show ambition, and compete and debate and bring different kinds of people together to create the kind of classless and heady atmosphere which fosters debate about contemporary art, resistance to tyranny, liberty.
I don’t think artists will be in any more danger than any other vocal person in the public domain. Cartoonists and satirists are people always in danger there. In general, contemporary art is usually too subtle, or too clever, or nonsensical to offend a hundred-and-fifty or so ignorant people or the sharp-eyed intelligence agencies.

C & P: Could you describe your process when beginning a new piece? Do you create a preliminary drawing(s) first or do you begin working directly on the canvas?
Salman: At the moment, I approach a primed canvas which is under-painted with a usually olive green acrylic with tubs of different colored oil paint. I have a vague idea of the picture I want to make. I draw with the brush without a preliminary drawing on the surface of the canvas. Sometimes I have separate preliminary drawings on paper.

C & P: Currently you have a bunch of medium sized works in your studio and one very large piece. How did you decide to work on this larger canvas and how is it different working at this size rather than at a more human scale? Do you feel that your painting style has loosened up when working so large? Do you think you will eventually do more work at this size?
Salman: On a larger scale I use my elbow instead of my wrist to draw and paint. The decisions made on this scale are definitely more impromptu. I like the risk and excitement of that. I think I’ll always oscillate between large and precious scale.

C & P: Describe a studio day. Is there a certain time of the day when you work best and are most productive? Do you have certain habits that you stick to in regards to your art making schedule?
Salman: I kind of meditate with iced coffee on the train from my place in East Village to my studio in Bushwick, thinking about what I’m going to do, what it will look like, what will the 20 or so paintings look like together up on walls, what feeling will they evoke when they’re done. I’m a morning person so anything I do in the morning is the best, most efficient thing I do all day. After lunch it slowly goes downhill. I haven’t spoken to my parents in too long, or I have to run to the bank. The best studio days are when I have a stretch of at least 10 hours of complete freedom from rent, errands, and especially phone calls.

C & P: Do you feel more influenced by looking at the work of other painters and artists or do you feel that you are more stimulated by the massive amount of visual information you are exposed to on a daily basis in the city, through advertising, the internet, television, etc?
Salman: I respond to both, I feel.

C & P: Who are some painters you admire whose influence might not be readily apparent in your work?
Salman: I really like Jules de Balincourt, some of Hernan Bas and Ahmed Alsoudani’s pictures.

C & P: What projects are you working on now? Where can we see your work in the near future?
Salman: I’m working for a show of paintings at Aicon Gallery this fall. The ideas are still building up so let’s see where it goes.

Alexander Gronsky

Posted in documentary, photobooks, photography by cheapandplastique on July 9, 2015

Came across the work of Estonian photographer Alexander Gronsky today and am quite enjoying it. See more of his work here.

From Norlisk series

From Pastoral series

From Less Than One series

Oskar Schlemmer

Posted in art, beautiful forms, dance, fancy army, sculpture by cheapandplastique on May 27, 2015

Tuesday night inspiration/entertainment:
Das Triadische Ballet, Oskar Schlemmer, 1922, as reimagined by Margarete Hasting, Franz Schömbs, and Georg Verden with cinematographer Kurt Gewissen, 1968.


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