Homa Taj in Conversation with Brooklyn Art Dealers Robert Henry Contemporary

Sharon Lawless, Tabletop, Collage on museum board (13 x 11), 2014
Sharon Lawless, Tabletop, Collage on museum board (13 x 11), 2014

Henry Chung is a Brooklyn based artist working in photography and mixed-media. Henry attended Columbia University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently maintains a studio in Red Hook where he builds his pinhole cameras and programs obsolete computer equipment.

Robert Walden attended the Atlanta College of Art (BFA, 1994) and received of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2003), participated in Emerge 2001 at Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ and was a fellow at the Edward Albee Foundation (2005). Walden’s work has been seen in galleries and museums throughout the United States and in Europe, including The Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon, Portugal and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO. Robert Walden lives and works in Brooklyn, N Y.

Homa Taj – When did you open your first gallery of contemporary art? And, in what year did you move to your present location in Bushwick?
Henry Chung – We first opened our gallery in 2009, and renaming it Robert Henry Contemporary when we moved to Bushwick in 2012.
Robert Walden – [First it was] in a storefront space in South Park Slope and moved to our present location at 56 Bogart St, in June (2012).

HT – How would you define – if that’s possible – emerging art that is coming out of Brooklyn? I think of Brooklyn as the Berlin of the American art market…
HC – I don’t know if I can characterize emerging art that is coming out of Brooklyn. I think there are connotations of “street art” that is associated with Brooklyn and Bushwick, but I don’t think most emerging artists working in Brooklyn come from this tradition. Brooklyn is very, very big with disparate and disconnected artist communities throughout the borough. Like New York in general has always done, Brooklyn is attracting all types of artists from everywhere as a place where artists can find and develop a voice.
RW – Defining what is being made in Brooklyn today is impossible. There is more diversity than words to describe what is being made in Brooklyn. However, there does seem to be a significant amount of painting. Also, art is being made all over the borough of Brooklyn not just in Bushwick.

HT – Given the dramatically rising real estate prices in Brooklyn, how do you see the artists’ demographics changing? On the one hand, this may be a good thing since there is a growing population of affluent residents who can buy art. And, on the other hand, these developments are pushing artists even further away from NYC, etc…
HC – Rents for apartment and studio spaces are rising astronomically in Brooklyn, and especially in Bushwick. It is no secret that artists have been pushed ever further and further into Brooklyn and even into Queens to seek affordable work space. Whereas artists in the past came to Brooklyn for the less expensive large loft spaces, artists come today for affordable small, shared studio spaces. One effect on the artwork is that it is increasingly difficult to create large-scale projects, since the studios often are merely a semi-private space in a corner of a room shared with a half dozen other artists. I do see also that artists come to Bushwick to be part of the arts community here, which is pretty active and social with plenty of venues and events where artists mingle and meet one another. In the past the pioneering artists who set up studios deep in Brooklyn were generally loners not necessarily interested in community.
RW – [That's] a constant problem in New York City and have been for generations…this is nothing new. What seems new is the pace at which things are changing. There has been a lot of coverage in the news media about the problem of rising cost of living in NYC and Brooklyn, in particular, but no one seems to have a solution. New York City is increasingly more a market for selling than a center for art making like it became in the 20th Century…that market is a tightly closed society too.

HT – You are both artists how do you find the artists whose work you exhibit? Or, they find you?
HC – There certainly is no shortage of artists in Brooklyn, and one can find just about any kind of artist here. The artists that we show are generally people who we already know, or come from recommendations from people that we already know. Like any field, we rely heavily on networking. As we are both artists, Robert and I have a very large network of artist friends. As we are also gallerists, we have developed a nice social network of like-minded dealers and gallerists. When we have rare slot open for a group exhibition, we tap into our network to find the right fit. Although we had in the past, we currently do not accept unsolicited submissions.
RW – So far, most of the artists we show come from our network of friends and friends of artist friends…there are a few exceptions: Pancho Westendarp for example, came to us through an open call for submissions…which we accept periodically, usually in July and August through our website. We have not accepted submissions lately because we are more than too busy with the artists we are working with now.

HT – Is there a conflict of interest between you being artists, and art dealers?
HC – We keep our artist side separate from our gallerist/dealer side. Not so much because there is a conflict of interest (which there of course may be), but more so because of the perception of the legitimacy of the gallery. There is an unfortunate stigma with “artist-run” spaces in that they are are merely vanity projects. In order to grow our gallery and have it reach its full potential, we had to make the hard decision to keep the two worlds separate.
RW – No. We do not exhibit our own work. So, there is no conflict. I feel being artist gives us particular insights and advantages into what art is and how it is made that we can offer to our clients. Most people don’t go to a proctologist for a root canal, so why would anyone go to someone to buy art when that person doesn’t know anything about what art is?

HT – Your gallery’s program is very strong in representing conceptual art. But, from what I have observed over the years, your idea of conceptualism is balanced with an equally engaging appreciation for aesthetics – rather than concepts and ideas for their own sake with little regard for beauty…
HC – For me, the best artwork tickles both sides of the brain. I feel that strong and successful artwork often offers the viewer multiple levels of interpretation, and can appeal to a range of audiences and moods. I like that one can delve deeply into the conceptual underpinnings of certain artworks one day, and then think about how beautifully the shapes and colors suit the room the next. Conversely, I delight in the seeing the joy of someone who is attracted to a piece because of its aesthetic nature, but discovers an entire world of conceptual reading afterwards.
RW – There is nothing wrong with beauty. I am interested in work that is equally visually and conceptually or intellectually stimulating. This stems directly from Marcel Duchamp’s ideas on what he called ‘retinal art’ and “non-retinal” art…essentially, I am interested in work that is a combination of the two…or at least presenting what we show as both a visual and conceptual experience…work that delights the eye and engages the mind. I try to avoid what I call “I get it art” which is essentially work that is a one-liner…or work that makes statements rather than asking questions. Questions are more engaging than answers.

HT – You are now back at Aqua Art Fair at Art Basel Miami Fair. I have to say Aqua is my favorite satellite fair in Miami since it takes place in a most unique location: it is a distinctly Miami experience which cannot be emulated anywhere else in the world. Well, perhaps somewhere in the Mediterranean region. What was it like to exhibit your artists’ works there?
HC – We love the setting at Aqua! The hotel is unique in that it is one of the few left where the rooms all face the common courtyard. It feels to me as if one were at a town square, and all the shops are art galleries. Unlike fairs that are in large tents or in a convention center, the intimate setting of Aqua affords a certain casualness with our guests and fosters great conversation with potential clients. Unlike other hotel fairs, the rooms open out to the open air, not a hotel hallway, and we get to spend a week in the beautiful Miami weather. The atmosphere is festive and lets the guests experience art in a very “Miami” setting.
RW – That is one of the reasons we like the Aqua Fair…the venue itself. Because the hotel is only 2 floors and centered around an open courtyard with palm trees, etc…so, that it feels a bit like a town square of a small beach-side village but all the stores happen to be art galleries. There are challenges of course, the walls are plaster and not drywall, for example. However, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. Visitors are less intimidated and conversations about the work happen more readily. It is like no other fair for exactly the reason you suggest in your question.

HT – I understand that you were invited to participate in the Aqua’s first Selection Committee. What was that process like?
HC – We were honored to be part of making Aqua the best that it can be. Aqua already has a great reputation as an independent boutique art fair, and it was good to see that there is an effort to maintain a strong showing of galleries. Both Robert and I tried to consider not only the proposal in the application, but evaluating a gallery’s program as a whole as well as criteria for selection.
RHC – In 2012 Art Miami bought the Aqua art fair from its founders Jac Chartier and Dirk Park and the new director Jennifer Jacobs has gone about a process to grow and change the fair…essentially to make a great fair even better. Part of that process was to establish a selection committee to help expand the quality and geographic diversity of the fair. We were pleased to be invited to help this process as best we could.

HT – Which artists are you showing in Miami, this year?
HC – We are showing a selection of gallery artists curated to represent our narrowly focused programming:
Derek Lerner – ink on paper drawings using thousands of lines to explore the conflicting ideas of his urge to create and its effect on the environment.
Jerry Walden – investigates the nature of the aesthetic experience by combining Formalist compositional elements of color, line, pattern and direction with personal emotions and memories
Liz Jaff – obsessively cuts, folds and sews paper and string with exacting consistency to explore ideas of love, commitment, sacrifice and memory of time and space
Elise Engler – obsessively documents minute details of larger experiences through small, whimsical drawings, lying somewhere between art, taxonomy and natural history
Richard Garrison – analyses ubiquitous materials, objects and places from the suburban, often consumer related, American landscape
Pancho Westendarp – drawings and sculptures that analyze relationships between time, space, memory and movement
Robert Lansden – highly obsessive drawings built upon algorithms, focused on explorations of chance, discovery and time
Sharon Lawless – explores the tension between the planned control of rational thought and the random accidents of chance and irrationality through collage and “ready-made” imagery.

HT – What comes next – after Miami? What is your next big event/fair, etc?
HC – The next art fair that we hope to be participating in will be Volta NYC in March. This year, Volta will be located at Pier 90, which is a departure from the Soho location of the past two years. Although we will miss the chic Soho location, we are excited about the new location. What we lose in “chic”, we gain in proximity to Pier 92 and Pier 94 of the Armory.
RW – We continue with our gallery program of course…[but, yes] we are very excited to show Derek Lerner Volta NY in NYC in March and are very excited about their new location on the piers just next door to The Armory Show.

 

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Legendary French Photographer JEAN-DANIEL LORIEUX

 Isabelle Adjani, Le Maître et Marguerite by Mikhaïl Boulgakov, Moscou, 2008 (c) Jean-Daniel Lorieux
Isabelle Adjani, Le Maître et Marguerite by Mikhaïl Boulgakov, Moscou, 2008 (c) Jean-Daniel Lorieux

Seducing the Lens is on view through Saturday, December 6 at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Gallery, 22 East 60th Street, New York.

Homa Taj – Your new show Seducing the Lens opened at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Gallery, late in October. What is it like to be back in New York City [after how many years? When was your last exhibition, here?] at this prestigious institution?
Jean-Daniel Lorieux – I was in New York just a year ago, and it reminded me of my very first visit to the city, when I came to work with the Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. This first photo shoot with her was truly a gift from heaven. It was an homage to a photographer who had always stirred my imagination and had made me want to become a photographer myself, Richard Avedon, still a young man at the time. New York has always been in my head and in my heart because this wonderful city inspires enthusiasm, combativeness, and joy!

HT – You are a native Parisian and have worked, literally, all over the world. How would you describe your experiences of working with American fashion editors?
JDL – I am still in touch—in fact just half an hour ago—with Anna Fauconnier, one of the editors of American Vogue with whom I worked, who was the assistant to Susan Train. Still alive, very pleasant, I first them met them both 40 or 50 years ago. I have enjoyed great friendships with these American editors who are always so professional and cheerful. Sometimes, when we were shooting on the beach, people mistook the editors for models because they were so elegant and chic.

HT – Also, how are your American collectors different from those in Europe or Asia? If at all different? [Btw, do you have an American dealer/gallery?]
JDL – Yes, I have a French gallery that represents me in New York, Galerie Dumonteil. American collectors are more enthusiastic and direct. Either they like the photo or not. In Europe, collectors see a photo and say that they like it a lot, but sometimes it takes them a month to decide if they want to buy it.

HT – Your new book Sunstroke was just published in France. It surveys nearly four and a half decades (1970-2014) of your photography. What was it like to take time away and review your vast body of work whilst you continue to create new images?
JDL – It is important to take the time to look back at the past in order to improve the future, to continue developing one’s work. Sometimes when I look back at photos I have taken, I want to recreate the spirit of an image, but to update the style.

HT – As a fashion photographer, you have worked with some of the greatest talents in modern design history: Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, and Yves Saint Laurent. How do you think contemporary fashion designers’ notions of elegance and eroticism (as it relates to feminine sexuality) have changed?
JDL – I think that in France Azzedine Alaïa is still very contemporary, and Elie Saab’s styles remain absolutely classic. However, I believe that the evolution of a designer’s style is also an adaptation to the times. Coco Chanel’s designs helped shape her era.

Designers define contemporary tastes, but their style also adapts to life, which is different today from the 1950′s. In haute couture, class and elegance are not the same as eroticism. Jean-Paul Gauthier always injects a little whimsy into his styles, a little spice. I find it more erotic to see a woman a fully dressed than when you see too much of her legs or her décolleté. For a man, we like to dream about what is behind the pretty dress, to fantasize about undressing the woman and discovering her, rather than seeing everything right away.

HT – In 2008, Russian businessman and philanthropist Evgeny Yakovlev commissioned you to create a series of photographs inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s dramatic novel The Master and Margarita (1967). Was it your or his idea to cast Isabelle Adjani?
JDL – Actually, this gentleman wished to bring the novel to life, and decided that Isabelle Adjani should play the role of Margarita. He saw in the novel parallels to Isabelle’s performance in the film “Queen Margot.” And in fact, at Isabelle’s suggestion, I hired the costume designer from “Queen Margot” to create the colors and different tones of muslin for the scene of the satanic ball. I am happy that Isabelle is currently performing in the new play “Kinship” at the Théâtre de Paris.

HT – Also, The Master and Margarita is a very cinematic series. Have you ever thought about making a movie – either as a director or a cinematographer?
JDL – Actually, I began my career as a mechanical engineer on film sets. I worked as a film assistant, and even wrote a few screenplays. One of them was a beautiful story that was supposed to star Marcello Mastroianni, who had signed on. Universal Films put up a million dollars to finance the film. I wanted to change the story though, and Mastroianni wasn’t happy with the changes, so he turned down the role. An actress friend came to see me and said: “My boyfriend loves your screenplay.” It turned out that her boyfriend was named Milos Forman; he wanted to help re-work the film. The film was called “La forêt des papillons” (“The Butterfly Forest”), and took place in a forest in Greece with an abundant population of butterflies.

While I began my career in cinema, unfortunately I have trouble focusing on one project over such a long a period of time. In photography, you click, and the image is created in two seconds. Of course in reality, preparing for a big photo shoot can take 8-10 days of preparation. Photographing the “Master and Margarita” series with Isabelle Adjani took almost a month. But there remains, in my heart, a certain nostalgia for cinema.

HT – Speaking of movies, in 1978, you produced a film called Les années SEA, SEX and SUN. Were you inspired by Serge Gainsbourg’s song (of the same title)? Is the film available to watch…?
JDL – In reality, it was a documentary television network that chose the title. Unfortunately I did not know Gainsbourg well. I did a few “clicks” with him though. Another film I produced was called “Ecran Total” (English translation: “Sunblock Cream”). In my life, I always love the sun, the sea, and the blue sky—not too many clouds. I would rather make people dream than bring sorrow. It is important to dream and laugh; one should always feel that there is sunshine down the road…

HT – You have photographed such historic and pop cultural figures as Nelson Mandela, Brooke Shields, Frank Sinatra, Farah Fawcett, Jacques Chirac, Charles Aznavour, James Brown, Mick Jagger, Glenn Ford, David Lynch and countless others. Which of these (or others) was the most memorable
JDL – The next one…

HT – You have photographed screen beauties from Claudia Cardinale to Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. I think there was a greater sense of feminine maturity in actresses of the 1960′s and 1970′s. I recently re-watched Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and was surprised that she was only 26 when the film was made. How do you think representations of women & beauty have changed in today’s cinema?
JDL – Today there is less mystery and fantasy around actors and actresses because the world has changed. You can have coffee with George Clooney [in the Nespresso commercial], and the tabloids publish photos of Madonna shopping and jogging at the Place de la Concorde…

HT – 2015 is a very busy year for you since you have a series of exhibitions opening in Shanghai and Palm Beach [anywhere else?]. Does this mean that we will be seeing more of you in the United States?
JDL – I have an exhibition coming up in Berlin, and there will be a large exhibition in Shanghai. In 2015, there will be an exhibition featuring my work called Photo Med that will tour several Mediterranean cities: Beirut, Casablanca, and Nice. Then, they are planning to show it in Los Angeles and Paris. Sadly, my work has been shown very little in France. Perhaps my photos are too sunny, and in France my sky is too blue…

 

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Homa Taj in Conversation with #Filmmaker of Calloused Hands Jesse Quinones

Calloused Hands - still 4 Josh (Luca Oriel) at his bar mitzvah photograph copyright Martyna Przybysz
Calloused Hands – still 4 Josh (Luca Oriel) at his bar mitzvah photograph copyright Martyna Przybysz

Jesse Quinones  Calloused Hands is about a 12 year-old mixed race boy who is a promising baseball player. Josh is abused by his mother’s boyfriend Byrd, and neglected by his mother Debbie. He forges his own path in life when his estranged grandfather insists he study for his Bar Mitzvah. The film opens in Los Angeles on November 14.

Homa Taj – Calloused Hands is a very personal film. What gave you the courage to make it?

Jesse Quinones – Calloused Hands is a story I’ve been trying to make for a long time. I started working on it in 2000 as a book. At first it was just a story I wanted to write for me. I didn’t really have any audience in mind, I just wanted to release this story. But over time I started to realise that this is a story people can relate to. At its core Calloused Hands is a film about following your path, or better yet, about letting your path find you. I think everyone can relate to that. And I just felt that would be a nice message to put out into the world. Everyone out there has a path, it’s just we haven’t all found it yet. I include myself in that.

HT – I had a hard time watching it … at some point I was choked up and wanted to cry and I think it was because of Luca Oriel’s performance – under your direction. His strength in the face of so much difficulty was truly touching. Was that how you dealt with your problems as a young boy… or was the directorial decision in retrospective and in the light of maturity…?

JQ – I love Luca’s performance in this film, I think he brought such power and wisdom to the role. Having said that I wouldn’t say that his behavior resembled mine a great deal. My approach working with him, I knew he was a young actor, and that this was his first time as a lead in a feature film. So I didn’t want to add to that pressure. So my main goal with him was to really tap into who he was as a person, and to try and draw that out into the film. We definitely have a lot in common, and he reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age. But I was a very moody pain in the ass back then (perhaps I still am!), I think Luca’s a lot sweeter.

HT – Speaking of personal, just how biographical is Calloused Hands?

JQ – It’s hard to put a stat on it. I always say somewhere between 70 to 80% percent of it is autobiographical. But I did change a few things in order to make it work as a 90 minute film.

HT – Did your mom see the film? What did she think of it?

JQ – She did indeed. She went to our World Premiere in Miami, and has been to a few other screenings. It’s always funny because in Q & As people always ask me what she thinks of the film, and then I just point to her and say, ‘What DID you think mom?’ My mom is a writer herself, and has written about her own life in a book. So I think writer to writer, she’s really proud of me for making art out of some tough patches we went through. But as a mother, I think she feels I took a great deal of poetic license, and perhaps bent the truth a little more than I let on. According to her the film is 50% autobiographical. But hey, she herself is a life historian, and she always likes to say, ‘there is a big difference between history and memory’.

HT – How about your grandfather?

JQ -My grandfather passed away in 2006, so never got the chance to see it. I think he’d be proud though.

HT – I am sorry if I am asking so many personal questions, but I have to say I am in owe of your courage to have made such a personal film. So, I am curious if you’re in touch with your dad – and, what he thinks of the film?

JQ – I am in touch with my dad. He’s never seen the film. I’ve got a lot of love for my dad. I just don’t think the arts is his sort of thing. Maybe one day I can bring a copy over and we can watch it together.

HT – Andre Royo’s character, who plays (your) mom’s boyfriend went through quite a dramtic change in the film. How much of that was true to life – or was it a cinematic and poetic choice on your behalf as a filmmaker?

JQ – Oh that was pretty accurate. Again, there was some poetic license in terms of moving dates around, but his journey was there. He never actually showed up to my Bar Mitzvah. In fact, by the time I had a Bar Mitzvah he was already out of the picture. But he showed up a few years later, when I was 16. He came to one of my baseball games. It was a real important one as there were lots of scouts there. By that time I had turned into the prospect he always wanted me to be. He came to me in the dugout and started taking my picture, and calling me Killer Q. That was his nickname for me. He was real proud, and we shared a real nice moment. As far as I know he has been clean for a long time, he completed an MA degree, has a couple kids. I hope he’s doing ok. HT – Has your mom met Daisy Haggard, who plays her? Do they get along :) JQ -My mom met Daisy at the London premiere. My mom’s a real straight shooter. I remember Daisy went up to her after the screening and asked my mom what she thought of her performance. And my mother said, ‘that wasn’t me up there’. I think my mom felt she was way tougher, and more of a fighter than what was portrayed on screen.

HT – How did you cast Luca? He played an adorable ‘you’.

JQ – I had a staged reading in LA about a year before I shot the film. And we had about 50 or 60 kids come in and audition for the role of Josh. There were some real solid kids that came in. But there was just something about Luca that grabbed me. He was just so present in the scene. Then later when we did the staged reading, we had a couple actors that were improvising all over the place, and he didn’t bat an eye lid. He was just so confident, and so fluid in his performance. That really stayed with me. So when I started casting for the film, I called his parents. Turned out he was on the verge of quitting acting. He’d just gotten real tired of the whole industry and wanted to play football. I had to really plead with his parents to get him on board. But thank god they gave their blessing. The film wouldn’t be the same without him. And last I heard, he’s doing great things now, and has landed a regular role on Shameless. I think he’s going to be a big star. I just hope he answers my calls when he does!

HT – Calloused Hands was your first film. What’s ahead – can you talk about your next projects?

JQ -I have a few projects in the pipeline. I’m working on a British set fight movie about a Cagefighter who has to fight his demons both in and outside of the cage. That is being produced by Paula Crickard, who also produced Calloused Hands. I’m also working on a romantic comedy called Carlito y Jane, which is about a British playwright that goes to Cuba and ends up marrying a young Cuban playboy. That has the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta attached. And then I’m attached to direct a project called The Nanny, which was written by Braulio Montovani, he also wrote City of God. Also working on some short form stuff, I just shot a music video for a great singer named Kathrin deBoer, and recently was signed to the agency Irresistible Films, who represent me for commercials and documentaries. So at the moment just trying to stay busy and creative!

HT – Lastly, you already have a distributor in the US (Kino Lorber). How about foreign distributions – say, in Britain where you live…?

JQ – I’d love to get distribution in the UK. All I can say is we’re working on it :)

 

Calloused Hands Trailer from Woolfcub on Vimeo.

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Israeli Artist Liron Ben Arzi

Liron Ben Arzi, Frida Kahlo, 2014 - Courtesy The Artist
Liron Ben Arzi, Frida Kahlo, 2014 – Courtesy The Artist

Homa Taj in Conversation with LIRON BEN ARZI

Homa Taj – You were trained as an architect – can you tell us a bit about your training?
Liron Ben Arzi – I’ve studied architecture in the academy for 5 years. During this time I’ve learnt how to develop an idea and how to ask questions. I’ve also learnt how to examine the world in three dimensions and how to built it from scratch. I’ve learnt how to imagine a different visual reality. I was exposed to many methodologies and interesting people, which made me even more passionate. I consider space a painting in a different dimension – a 3D painting. The reality of the painting comes to life and there are many similarities between the dimensions, 3D and 2D, which simulates a 3D reality that can’t really exist in a 2 dimensions.

HT – In your bio, you write, “Throughout my young life, I searched for peace. Initially, I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was looking for. The word ‘silence’ kept echoing in my head, and I went on a quest to find out what lay behind it.” As someone who has lived through a revolution and a war, I can completely identify with this need to search for ‘peace’ and ‘silence’ not as metaphysical but basic human needs. Can you elaborate?
LBA – I assume the stressed situation in Israel affects all of us but I’ve learnt that people are highly adaptive and tend to adopt a new reality quite fast, sometimes without even noticing. Today I realize that the quiet I was looking for during that time was “thinking quiet” – thoughts were crossing my mind quickly, noise, feelings, colorful, running around, subconscious that woke up and shook me. I was young and very emotional, there were many random feelings.

HT – You also talk about “Most of my journey was pitch dark, until somewhere, in the midst of that blackness, stars appeared. My heart found peace, and I felt like I could finally breathe.” What was that thing, the stars, that appeared?
LBA – I started meditating and learnt that light can make the demons go away.

HT – Is this why you use white on black as your palette of choice?
LBA – Every time period and its style… it just happens, comes out… the style is developing and changes and usually reflects my perception at that time. I love colors, I like to play with colors, to invent names for new colors, tastes, to mix it in unusual ways. The lack of color is also a kind of color and over time, I experiment and examine both ends of the scale. And if you think of it, most paintings are made of both, color & non color. Also, Black and white are like dark and light, and light excites me both as a visual and spiritual idea. There was a time I painted with light, real light, through exposure in a dark room. Painting on air and on memory are part of the “stars” I mentioned earlier.

HT – You are now using black ink on white for your Portrait Series… Can you talk about those – first the technique of drawing that you use?
LBA – The entire series was painted with my left hand, while up until this point I’ve always painted with my right hand. There is a different sensitivity in the lines. In addition, I run into a book about symmetry which mentioned “Rorchach Spots”, and this made me want to paint with ink again, and a new “language” or artistic line was coming together for this series. I believe in faith and this was the right thing to do for that idea at that point in time.

HT – Also, how did this portrait series come about? How do you choose your subjects? Chopin, Frida Kahlo, Albert Einstein and others who are not as hugely well-celebrated historic figures…
LBA – I wanted to be closed to my sources of inspiration, each one of them is unique in his own way. Spending an hour with Leonardo DE Vinci, looking at his eyes, look into his soul, getting to know him, what kind of person he was. Each one of these wonderful people got to me, touched me and inspired me and I am honored to share this inspiration with others.

HT – What do you plan to do with this series? Do you have an exhibition in mind? How about a publication?
LBA – I haven’t decided yet, in the meantime I get inspired by it.

HT – Have you exhibited outside Israel? If not, do you a fantasy space – gallery, museum, etc – where you would like to show your work?
LBA – Back in 2009 I presented a colorful (and happy) acrylic painting series in London. I have a fantasy about the ultimate space for my presentation, no matter where it will be. The idea is to blend each painting with the natural environment that’s right for it. To stretch the boundaries of the Canvas and play with light and darkness, the white and black of reality, and by doing so, to take the painting out of the canvas and extend it to the space around it.

HT – Do you take commissions, for portraits for example? Or, collaborate with other artists?
LBA – Each time is different. Bottom line – I love projects that interest, challenge and excite me. Anything could happen.

HT – What’s your next project, if you have any in mind?
LBA – To continue with this inspiration series and explore painting in color in two hands simultaneously.

HT – Any other points of information that you would like to add or discuss!
LBA – I believe in the world of the people, world of the cats and dogs, plants, and millions of other worlds, some I know, others I will never know – I believe in them too. I believe that if you examine earth from above it does not have any lines. I believe religion was invented by people. I believe that words are shadows. I believe in angels. I believe in kindness, love and compassion. I get excited from a touch of color on paper or from the sound of the piano. True creation, mine or not, yet organic and genuine, is something that fills me up with life and light and can bring me to tears of joy & excitement.

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Spanish Photorealist Painter Bernardo Torrens

 

Sandra in the Pool, 2014 , acrylic on wood, 28 34 X 57 34 inches
Sandra in the Pool, 2014 , acrylic on wood, 28 34 X 57 34 inches

BERNARDO TORRENS: NEW PAINTINGS will be on view at Bernaducci Meisel Gallery in NYC from November 4 until 26th.

 

Homa Taj – What inspired you to become a painter?
Bernardo Torrens – It was more a matter of what I didn’t want to be. At some point, the only activity that gave me some pleasure was drawing, and later painting. It was not a real choice and until that moment art was not an option. No one in my family or friends was involved in the arts.

HT – Why photorealism? Asid from the fact that you are an exceptionally talented figurative painter…
BT – Again, at the beginning, it was not important. I remember a show in Madrid, I can’t tell what year it was, called, more or less AMERICAN REALISM or something like that in the very early 80’s. I was shocked by some of the paintings and their subjects. I can remember perfectly a Chuck Close portrait, huuuge. It was for me something extremely new, fresh, never seen before. You have to realize how difficult it was, at that time, to have information about what was going on in the US. I guess it was somehow inspiring.

HT – Why choose monotonal (or black and white) palette? It’s very photographic…
BT – I like to call it achromatic and, yes, it looks quite photographic, at first glance, but under good natural light conditions you can see big differences in all the tonal grays, cold, neutral and warm which creates the sense of color. In fact many people remember some of my achromatic works as full color ones.

HT – You paint mainly women, female nudes… Have you been commissioned to paint anyone – a female nude?
BT -Yes, and in these few cases the result has been extremely interesting in so many ways.

HT – How about portraits, you have done some commissioned portraits including the former President of the Spanish Parliament, Mr. Felix Pons. Are you still accepting portraits…?
BT – And recently also the portrait of former President Jose Bono. These kind of work I very rarely accepted, but I do accept commissioned portraits from anonymous people. I only ask for one thing: I have to be absolutely free to do what I want to do and the person has to think more like they are going to be one of my models for one of my paintings rather than commissioner of a classical portrait, which I don’t do.

HT – I think their Royal Highnesses King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia need to have their portraits done by you? What do you think? And, a pair of their daughters?
BT – Hahahaha I don’t think so. After the experience with Antonio Lopez Royal Family portrait I’m sure they will prefer a selfie!!

HT – You have a show opening at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in NYC, at the start of November. What new works are you showing? How is this show different from other (IF it is….)?
BT – It is an end and a beginning. At least that is my feeling. I am showing new color works after many years working only with achromatic works, and a really new kind of works: watercolors on polyester. This is something I want to continue exploring in the future as color works as well.

HT – Who do you use as models? Professionals only?
BT – Not only professionals, I am open to finding new models, always and everywhere.

HT – How long does an average (say? 4×6 feet) painting take you to paint?
BT – I paint as fast as I can. For me time is not a plus. If I don’t do it faster is because I can’t. Also, I don’t have assistants and I don’t use shortcuts, I just paint my works by myself. So let’s say a work like “The Three Graces” (see below) took me 7 months.

HT – What is your work process like? Do you go to the studio – in Madrid? – during regular hours every day? Do you listen to music? Etc…
BT – It really depends a lot on my mood. Some times too much… Some times I have a mental blackout and believe me that is scary, and there is not too much you can do. And sometimes time flies and I work as if I were 30 again. And I never listen to music, it creates something like a soundtrack in a movie and improves the feelings in front of the works, and can make you make mistakes, or think it is better than it is.

HT – Where do you find inspiration … (visiting a museum? listening to music? making love? etc….)
BT – “Inspiration is for amateurs.” (Chuck Close)

 

Three Graces, 2013-2014 , acrylic on wood, 78 12 X 48 inches
Three Graces, 2013-2014 , acrylic on wood, 78 12 X 48 inches

For further information or images please contact Marina Press at marina@meiselgallery.com or
212.593.3757. Viewing hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10:00am to 5:30pm. Exhibition Catalogue Available.

BERNADUCCI MEISEL GALLERY

37 West 57 Street . New York 10019 . 212.593.3757 - bernarducci@meiselgallery.com . bernarduccimeisel.com

 

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