Saturday, April 23, 2011

Joy Curtis

Curtis had just taken down an outstanding solo show at Klaus Von Nitchssagend a week before I came by. It was like a homecoming studio visit. Her sculptures were all wrapped up in blankets, adding a special calmness and warmth to the space and our time together.

Joy: It looks warm outside, but don't let it deceive you, it's just the sunlight. Spring isn't coming.

 We talked over the show, her sculptures to come, and how she approaches new work. We spoke about what kind of materials she is thinking of for her next project and the adventures she will go on to find them. Joy can tell a story and when she does it is like you are living that story with her. She had a perfect kind of nervous excitement in her voice, the kind that can only come when you are ready to make your next big move. I asked questions about the different things in her studio. Curtis explained various processes and showed me what she does with her excess plaster. She rolls it up into balls, which she collects in a bucket. I thought that was really cool.

Joy: Have you seen this salt bath? It's crazy. This guy was sitting in it for a long time. Here, look it's still growing.
Hiding away with her cats, she sat down and drew with me. Both of us focused on tables and shelves covered in her plaster pieces.

Lappy stole my seat when I got up to take some pictures.

Joy: I love having an excuse to buy another vice grip. I think all sculptors do.

I was hoping she would make me dinner, and at the end of our time in her studio, this turned out to be true. I was a lucky visitor.  I chatted more with Curtis and her husband, painter Mike Olin. We talked about a backpacking trip they were getting ready for in the Shenandoahs. Sounds like a sublime way to wind down from a solo show. And the dinner was a truly lovely way to end the evening. 

To see more of Curtis' work go to  Klaus Von Nitchssagend. Also check out this great interview with Hrag Vartanian at Hyperallergic, Sculpture Today: A Discussion with Joy Curtis and Rachel Beach.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kelly McRaven

My next visit was with Kelly McRaven in Williamsburg, I was lucky enough to have two sessions there. Kelly's studio is so satisfying. Maybe it's the array of colors on her palette or the many cans of brushes, or all of the paint tubes with their ends in the air. Most likely, though, it's just the wonderful paintings that inhabit her space.

Cluttered painting tables make the best still lifes. They all look so familiar, but are as different as each artist they belong to.

Kelly: Look at this one, I just bought it. Sometimes you just get tired of how small some brushes can be. 

McRaven is working on two large scale paintings and a set of smaller ones. Oil on canvas. She uses found imagery, magazines or random photos she finds. They act as a springboard to her melodically painted abstractions. She shuffled through to find the pictures that matched the paintings. They were all torn and stuck together with paint. She told me their stories. Sometimes she will paint the same image over and over again. A curiously obsessive act. By the 5th time, the guy in the painting below is looking very peculiar. A blur of the truth. He becomes a new, even weirder character then the one she started out with. I love that. Those multiples get me everytime.


Kelly: I picked this picture because of  it's symmetry or because of how much I like his hands. Look at his hands!

I was lucky enough to see her make a big move on one of her larger works, it was like observing an animal in the wild; when you get to see them doing something that you know they do, but could never imagine witnessing.

Kelly: I find that when I finally let go with a painting it gets a lot easier to paint it.

We talked about how hard it is to figure that out and how wonderful it is when you do. My time in McRaven's studio was perfect. She is one of my favorite painters to talk to and learn from. And the paintings themselves, dude, they are really fantastic.

Check McRaven's paintings out at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Erik den Breejen

My first visit was to Erik den Breejen's studio in Bushwick. This was before I even knew this was going to be a project. One cold Sunday afternoon I decided to come by, hang out and do some drawings of his space. We often like to work together on Sundays. It dawned on me that this would be a great way to do studio visits. Both artists are concentrating; conversation comes sporadically and with ease. No questions, just talk. All while they are making, or fusing, or rearranging. Plus, I totally love drawing other peoples' studios. These places are so specific and weird and spatially fucked up. I should take this show on the road, I thought. So here is my first post.
Erik: One of my teachers gave me this butter knife when I was an undergrad, it is like my lucky charm of painting. I use it to scrape out paint cans.

 We listened to a lot of The Beach Boys album Little Deuce Coupe.
Erik: They took all their previous songs about cars and put it on this album and Brian Wilson had to write eight new songs and they recorded them all in one day. It became a car concept album.

Den Breejen is currently working on a new group of paintings about the lost Beach Boys album SMILE. His work is full of text, rich imagery and vibrant color. His energy level is through the roof, moving from piece to piece and album to album. He is always asking which album I want to hear next or what kind of music I am in the mood for.  Generous DJ. His knowledge on the subject of music and art never ceases to amaze me. You can see it in his paintings.  
find more of him at Freight and Volume.


I am adding to the very first post I did many months later to show a couple of shots of the solo exhibition at Freight and Volume that Erik was working on while I visited his studio. It was so wonderful to see this glorious body of work in its completion. Out of the studio and into the gallery, the paintings proved extremely powerful. A true and impressive reflection on the SMILE album. Go see it before it is down December 14th, 2012. To see more awesomeness go to