A short interview with this Philadelphia based artist whose show opens at White Walls here in SF on the 14th of March.
Alex does a lot... For the last 10 years or more he's been producing zines through Cantab Publishing. He creates wonderful mixed media works incorporating silkscreening processes... He's a somewhat recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. He's a member of Philly's artists collective Space 1026 which we've been fans of over the years. He's also Fecal Face's new Philadelphia corespondent, and the good news is that he's going to be showing some of his newer works here in San Francisco for his solo show "And Another Shall Rise To Take Her Place" which opens Saturday, March 14 at White Walls (3/14 - 4/3). We conducted this short interview through email to see what he has in store for the show.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, and Silk Screen on Paper, 38" x 50".
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Silk Screen and Spray paint on Paper. 10.5" x 12.75"
It is going to be about 30 new works on paper.
Can you tell us about the title of your show? "And Another Shall Rise To Take Her Place".
With "And Another Shall To Take Her Place", I don't know, I was trying to title the show something that eludes to some destruction, in that whatever came before has fallen, but also speaks to an idea of an eventual renewal and rebirth. It is a sentiment that implies both defeat and optimism at once, and that idea is something I am interested in.
Your work focuses on what looks like destroyed and flooded urban settings. If you had to describe your work to someone who's never seen it, what would you say?
I have taken to calling them "disaster drawings", but I guess that is just a simple way for me to distinguish this body of work from other things I make. I'm not quite sure how I'd describe them beyond that, other than I hope they are kind of quite drawings.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Silk Screen and Spray paint on Paper, 38" x 50".
I notice a lot of your work incorporates silkscreen. How do you normally use it in your work? Which parts are silk-screened?
I think using a silkscreen really allows you to achieve a look that you just can't get with paint and a brush. I really like the way, with silk screening, you can overlap transparent colors to really build up a texture while keeping the surface flat. I can't make it look that way with any other method. And I like doing it.
There are two major places I use silkscreen in my work. First, a lot of the grass fields that appears in my drawings are silk-screened. I try to be real scientific about the way the transparent inks layer. There are so many variables from what mesh count you use, to what brand of ink you have, to how you pull the squeegee, you need to be scientific about it. My grass pattern starts with a hand painted positive I use to create the screen, from there I made a whole bunch of test patterns to see what different color combinations look like, and by keeping track of which color comes goes over what and which ink I use, I am able to control how the grass will look.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, and Silk Screen on Paper, 19" x 21".
I also use silk screening to create the flooded cityscapes. They start as book pages, then I mask out the buildings that I want to appear above the waterline. Over the whole page I do a "rainbow roll" (I think split pallet is the technical term) of ink through an open screen to get the flat transparency at the bottom that fades into an opaque color at the top. Then I am able to paint in reflections and other details. Over that I do anywhere from two to five more pulls of ink through various screens to create the waves before I remove the masking that I put down at the beginning.
I think the re is a mis-conception that somehow incorporating printmaking into the process is a time-saver. It really isn't, I mean, while the time you spend actually sitting in front of each piece might be slightly shorter, the preparation, planning and experimentation easily makes any time difference negligible, but the benefits still outweigh the downsides. I need to use these methods to make the images I want.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Spray Paint and Silk Screen on Paper, 19" x 21".
Cantab Publishing is a small 'zine publishing company I have been running for about eight years now. I have always been interested in printed material as a means of distributing ideas, and Cantab is just the name under which I try to do that. I think that the form of a book is really a great way to share ideas and visions; the combination of text and image in a format with a beginning, a middle and an end can be really compelling. Having said that, I don't really have a set plan for Cantab, or a mission statement (or a business plan for that matter), other than I like making books and this is my venue to do that. Xeroxing and silk screening images and giving them to friends has been something I have enjoyed for a long time. I think I was in like 6th grade when I made my first Xeroxed comic to give to kids in class. I have a bunch of zines almost ready to come out, they have been like 90% done for months, and hopefully they will actually be finished by the end of spring. That is really my next focus once White Walls is up.
What's going on with Space 1026
these days? How did you get involved?
For those who don't know, Space 1026 is an 11-year old artists collective in Center-city Philadelphia. It was started by a bunch of RISD grads and other kids from Philly living in Providence in the late 90's. It was loosely modeled after a space up there called Fort Thunder. 1026 was founded by kids who wanted to have a similar place to make work and have shows in Philadelphia.
I have been there for about a year and a half. About 30 of us share the top two floors of 1026 Arch street, where have studios along with a print shop, a small retail store and a collective run art gallery. It is non-profit in the sense that we don't make any money, but we are not a 501(c) or anything as organized as that. It is really just a nice way to work around other like-minded people, not to mention it makes rent cheaper. The gallery space we run is really a great opportunity to show good art in Philadelphia without the constraints of trying to run a commercial gallery. We invite artists from around the country (and sometimes world) to show in our gallery on a monthly basis. We look at proposals a few times a year and decide on what we show as a group. We are excited to be able to show people with very little experience one month while the next we might have people like Andrew Schoultz or Monica Canilao showing with us. Over the past ten years, we have shown Ed Templeton, the Fort Thunder kids, Paper Rad, Matt Leines, Steve Powers, Daniel Johnson, Alex DeCorte, Shepard Fairey and so many others.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Spray Paint and Silk Screen on Paper, 22" x 30".
Right now we have a really exciting show featuring Michelle Blade from San Francisco (who I am sure Fecal Face fans are familiar with), Jeanette Mundt, Suzannah Sinclair and Erika Somogyi, who are all living and working in Brooklyn. We also have Bill Daniels, Matthew Palladino and Derek Weisberg coming in the next few months; I know those three all have strong ties to the Bay Area. It seems like Phila and SF have a nice back and forth these days.
Not really a question, but wanted to say we're happy you're the new Fecal Face Philadelphia correspondent. Nice to get more Philly perspective up on the site.
I've only been living here a year and a half or so, but I really like this city, and there is a whole lot going on here, so I'm glad to have the opportunity to share.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Gouache and Silk Screen on book page, 11" x 14".
Untitled, 2008 - Ink, Acrylic, Gouache and Silk Screen on Two Book Pages. 11" x 15.5"
What were your experiences at R.I.S.D.
? Would you recommend it to someone considering going there?
I think art school is really about who you end up there with and what you focus on, one of those things you can control, the other you can't. I was lucky to end up around a really strong, motivated group of kids, which was lucky, and Providence, as a city, was a really interesting, good place to be at the time (I'm sure it still is). R.I.S.D. as a whole was great, but in retrospect, I think I should have majored in Printmaking.
What's the daily routine you're in these days?
I'm trying to get up earlier than I have in the past, bike to 1026, check e-mail and ship Cantab orders. Then I usually do some printmaking and finally work on drawings starting into the afternoon and into the evening, then go home and put on a movie and work on masking the flooded city pieces (like I described before) until I'm ready to go to sleep. But there is really a lot of flexibility to that schedule, some days it feels like I don't get much done, but that's okay every now and then. The past few weeks have been busy getting ready for White Walls, trying to get the work photographed and figuring out frames, then this week, after the work was shipped, I have been focusing on getting the 1026 gallery ready for the next show which opens on Friday the 6th.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Gouache and Silk Screen on book page, 11" x 14".
List off some music you're enjoying at the moment.
I just got a copy of Springsteen Live at the Hammersmith Odeon in London from 1975. I have also been getting a big kick out of watching old videos where the artists are just clearly out of their mind on drugs. My two favorites are Van Morison singing Caravan from Scorsese' The Last Waltz and Rod Stewart singing You Wear it Well in these crazy yellow tights. He falls down when he tries to curtsy and then walks on and off stage a few times, but it is still an amazing song. Other than that, it is just the usual diet of classic rock radio peppered with a little Talking Heads binge every now and then.
Untitled, 2008 - Ink, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, silkscreen and spray paint on paper. 28" x 22"
All of your work is untitled (or at least on your site). What's that about?
I'm bad with titles, which is why most of my work is untitled. There is a certain poetry that needs to goes into titling stuff, and I'm no poet. Having said that, I really enjoy the ambiguity that can come with an untitled piece.
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, and Silk Screen on Paper, 13" x 17".
Untitled, 2009 - Ink, Acrylic, Gouache and Silk Screen on Two Book Pages. 11" x 24"
Some photos into the silkscreen process
A hand-painted positive for silk screening grass.
A detail of a burnt screen.
A detail of a silk screened section of a drawing.
A detail of a flooded city on the drying rack.
Working on a flooded city, the buildings are masked out.
Some of the masking after it has been removed.
*If you're in or near San Francisco, be sure to see Alex's show which opens this Saturday @White Walls.