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Interview with Mike Andrews

Daniel Gerwin: How did you begin making tapestries? Did you start as a painter, and if so, what led you to switch your approach?

Mike Andrews: I started making this type of work a few years ago. The first pieces were called “Sure Licks”. I used a homemade frame loom to make a gnarly fabric that I turned into dense sculptural forms that sat on the floor. They were a combination of materials like yarn, glazed ceramic, day-glo plastic, and dyed polyurethane foam. At the time, I was interested in material conflict within singular forms, and how materials carry historical and metaphorical information. I have always been attracted to the kitschy power of materials from the craft store, and their manufactured sentimentality. They reference homemade forms so laden with genuine emotion that they become horrible and oppressive. To me that conflict is simultaneously sweet and terrible.

DG: Homemade forms "so laden with emotion that they become horrible and oppressive" - could you give some examples?

MA: Were you ever the lucky recipient of a weirdo handmade present from your Grandma or your crazy Auntie?

DG: My grandma didn't do that, and now that I think about it, neither did any of my aunts. What did your grandma or aunt used to make for you - do you still have any of those things?

MA: My Grandma was always making stuff out of yarn, fabric, and paper, and she was always encouraging us to have some kind of project in the works. I still have this great doorstop that she made - it’s totally strange. When we would go on vacation, my family would have these competitions to make the most pathetic thing possible. They were hysterical. I learned what I now know as kitsch at a very young age. It helped shape my bent outlook on the world.

DG: It’s interesting that you're coming to tapestry from sculpture, I would not have guessed that from your recent work, since it hangs on the wall like painting. What are some of the specific painting traditions that have informed your approach, and what are some of the textile references?

MA: After I made a few of the Sure Licks I decided to allow myself to leave the woven sheets alone, and exhibit them without the addition of other materials. Because I considered my studio work as sculpture, it was a big move for me to specifically include references to painting and textiles.

The painters Jonathan Lasker and Albert Oehlen have been consistent models for me of how to visualize a construction and it’s demise in the same work. I admire artists who aggressively challenge ideas of taste and completion. The type of work that grabs me is work that looks quick, messy, and hurried, but upon closer inspection you can tell there is focus and logic.

I also admire artists who work intuitively with non-intuitive construction techniques like weaving. Sheila Hicks made these incredible lap-sized weavings while traveling around the world. She grabbed whatever material was available to make these quick and tactile pieces. They have the immediacy of a drawing, by means of a labored process. The color relationships within the pieces are really uneasy too, which make them punchy and confusing.

DG: I just saw some great work by Sheila Hicks last week, and I’m not surprised that she’s important to you. Can you talk a bit about your approach to form and color when you're making a piece? How do you develop the form of a given work, and how do your decisions about color evolve over the course of making that work?

MA: Some of the tapestries are planned ahead of time, using the forms and palette from a drawing to guide the work. Other pieces are just a flurry of whatever colors are around the studio at that time. For each piece I pick a particular palette, and then try to stay within that system. I like to surprise myself with color combinations and see how nasty or tight they can get. My new works are really open, a barrage of color. They are kind of nauseating.

I think my whole process is about disruption. Once something starts to work in terms of composition and form, I challenge it or take it apart. It's a constant back and forth. With "Grey Peak, then fall" I specifically chose a muted, dreary palette. I wasn’t trying to make an image, but it started to go that way so I nudged the composition in that direction. That piece is particularly dense. I really wanted to play with a kind of aggressive relief.

DG: I enjoyed seeing your drawings at the gallery. They reminded me of the scribble-drawings that toddlers make, and I wonder if you are pulling from that infantile place that also interested artists like Jean Dubuffet?

MA: Definitely. The drawings could be thought of as proposals for unrealized forms or situations. Some are funny, some are off kilter, some are just sad. They amplify the intuitive flavor of the sculptures.

The word "infantile" suggests something raw, instantaneous, and clumsy. It never made sense to me to tidy up a sculpture or a drawing, or worry about whether or not something can stand on its own. My work is on a spectrum where on one end you have completion, and on the other end, a big mess. The work gives form to multiple ideas about motivation and skill.

Of course Jean Dubuffet is an influence, as are countless other artists both trained and untrained, that deal with materiality, expression, and eroticism.

DG: Eroticism - I hadn't gotten that from your work initially. How does eroticism find its way into your work?

MA: One of the things I love about work by some untrained artists, and other people who make things but don't identify as artists, is the way that desire is sublimated into physical forms. The frenetic use of materials by these people often gives shape to their anxieties about their own conflicted sexuality. You can really feel it when you are around work of this nature. The materials I use already come pre-packaged with associations of gender and sexuality, so I try to muck up those associations in order to create something unclassifiable, something queer.

DG: Your work definitely succeeds in making a mess of preconceptions about tapestry, sculpture, painting, gender, and sexuality, which generates an implicit politics to your practice. Do you think explicitly about a kind of politics in your art?

MA: I was in undergrad in the 90’s, and I was very intimidated by the debates about gender and identity in visual art. I was so immersed in reading theory that I would talk myself out of making anything, or exploring anything through materials. It has taken me a long time to figure out a way to embed these kinds of issues into forms without being direct or illustrative of a particular dogma.

I think my work embodies a refusal to tidy up ideas or political positions, but doesn’t ignore them. I like having multiple associations. The tired binary oppositions of high vs. low, male vs. female, craft vs. art aren’t particularly juicy any more. Not to say they aren’t still highly charged conversations, but I would like to enter those debates from a different angle.

Interview by Daniel Gerwin

Images: Installation view, Pretty Good and Grey Peak, Then Fall

Installation view, Oooh That Smell

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Jolie Laide is pleased to present DE-NATURE, a group exhibition curated by Wendy White. An opening reception will be held on Friday, November 5th, 2010, 6-8 PM.

Denaturation repurposes an organic structure and redirects its use. Inherent qualities are purposely altered or completely removed. Similarly, defying expected artwork roles—the over-the-couch, the complacent, the vague, the benignly decorative, or the polite—requires tandem acts of destruction and declassification on the part of the artist.

Like splintered eventscapes, Rachel Foullon’s custom-milled cedar and hand-dyed canvas forms re-contextualize the materials of vernacular architecture. Sarah Peters’ densely layered drawings repurpose traditional techniques by way of something psychologically unnerving, not unlike Lamar Peterson, whose images of so-called familial paradise upend mundane notions of desire and reward. Paul DeMuro’s painting/chunk/accumulations have an alchemist’s sense of material-spiritual transformation. In a visual spackling of pop iconography and urgent abstraction, Liz Markus plays Punk’s anti-virtuosity against high design. Brian Belott’s collages are hybrids of insouciant gesture and detritus, as are Bill Saylor’s riotous, flame-licking abstractions.

BRIAN BELOTT has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Zürcher, New York and Paris, CANADA, NY, Freight + Volume, NY, and Stux Gallery, NY. His group exhibitions include Exile, Berlin, Germany; Andrew Edlin Gallery, NY; MACRO Future, Rome, Italy; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, NY; Cheim & Read, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR; Ritter/Zamet, London, UK; Galerie Carlos Cardenas, Paris, France; ZieherSmith, NY; Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS; Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen, DK; and Daniel Reich Gallery, NY, among others. Belott has a BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY and is represented by Galerie Zürcher. He lives and works in New York, NY.

PAUL DEMURO had a solo exhibition at The Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, Philadelphia, PA. His group exhibitions include Oil and Water, organized by John Yau, at Gallery Schlesinger, NY and Coleman Bancroft, NY; White Box, NY; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Wilmington, DE; Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; University of Delaware, Newark, DE; Padlock Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; and Fahrenheit Gallery, Kansas City, MO. He has an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University and a BFA from Tyler School of Art. DeMuro lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

RACHEL FOULLON has had solo exhibitions at ltd los angeles, CA and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, NY. She has participated in group exhibitions at Museum 52, NY; Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles, CA; Wallspace, NY; Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Q.E.D., Los Angeles, CA; Public Art Fund, NY; Andrea Rosen Gallery, NY; Galerie Lelong, NY; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, NY, among others. She has an MFA from Columbia University and was a founding member of the curatorial initiative Public Holiday Projects. Foullon will be part of a group exhibition at Canyon Ranch Resort in Miami, FL, concurrent with NADA Miami in December 2010. She is represented by ltd los angeles. Foullon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

LIZ MARKUS has had solo exhibitions at ZieherSmith, NY; Galleri Loyal, Stockholm, Sweden; and White Columns, NY. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Priska Juschka, NY; Kinkead Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA; SCA Contemporary, Alberquerque, NM; NADA/ART IN/VISIBLE SPACES, Brooklyn, NY; ZieherSmith, NY; Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, Norway; James Graham & Sons, NY; Werkstätte, NY; Temple Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; CANADA, NY; Kulter Banhoff Bremen, Bremen, Germany; White Columns, NY and the Hamburg Kunsthaus, Hamburg, Germany. Markus has an MFA from Tyler School of Art and a BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY. She is represented by ZieherSmith, where she has a solo exhibition opening on November 18, 2010. Markus lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

SARAH PETERS has had solo exhibitions at Winkleman Gallery, NY; The Front, New Orleans, LA; and artSTRAND Gallery, Provincetown, MA. She has participated in two-person and group exhibitions at PS122 Gallery, NY; Morris Museum of Art, Morristown, NJ; Monya Rowe Gallery, NY; Feigen Contemporary, NY; and Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA, among others. Peters was a 2009-2010 Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. She has an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, a BFA from University of Pennsylvania, and a certificate from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Peters is represented by Winkleman Gallery. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

LAMAR PETERSON has had solo exhibitions at Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Fredericks & Freiser, NY; Deitch Projects, NY; The Studio Museum of Harlem, NY; and Franklin Art Works, Minneapolis, MN. His group exhibitions include Fredericks & Freiser, NY; CTRL Gallery, Houston, TX; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; and Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM. He has an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is represented by Fredericks & Freiser, where he will have his third solo exhibition in 2011. Peterson lives and works in New York, NY.

BILL SAYLOR has had solo exhibitions at Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Leo Koenig, Inc., NY; Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX; Galleri Loyal, Stockholm, Sweden; and Spokane Falls College, Spokane, WA. He has participated in group exhibitions at Anonymous Gallery, NY; Zach Feuer Gallery, NY; Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Leo Koenig, Inc., NY; Hiromi Yoshii Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; CANADA Gallery, NY; Yerba Buena Art Center, San Francisco, CA; Colby College of Art, Waterville, ME; John Connelly Presents, NY; and MOCA DC, Washington, DC, among others. Saylor was a 2010 Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. He is the subject of a 14-page feature interview in the current issue of The Journal. Saylor is represented by Leo Koenig Inc. and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently collaborating with Harmony Korine on a book of drawings to be published by The Journal.

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