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Visión de túnel

ALEX GROSS

Ya que empecé "Visión de túnel" poniendo imágenes de Alex Gross (elección caprichosa, sin motivo concreto), aquí va un "post" dedicado a él.

Y no dejéis de visitar su página web: www.alexgross.com.

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"His highly crafted and detailed works include both nostalgic imagery of a lost era and a disturbing vision of the modern age. Gross' work reflect such diverse influences as Japanese Woodblock prints, Victorian Advertising Imagery, German 'Degenerate' painting and Gothic Flemish Art".

Fragmento del texto incluído en el catálogo de la exposición "The Decay of The Angel" (2000), en la galería Eral McGrath de Nueva York.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Decay of the Angel

A continuación, unos fragmentos de la entrevista con Alex Gross aparecida en la excelente revista electrónica Pixelsurgeon.

* Your paintings and illustrations are quite apocalyptic, some of them remind me of tarot cards; do these images you use betray your own vision of the world, of the 21st century – or are they fictions, dark musings?

Some paintings tend to be more about personal issues and experiences than about society or the world around me. For example, “Arrival” and “Departure” are quite autobiographical, dealing with my father’s unexpected death.

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In many of my other paintings, I am simply playing with images and ideas that fascinate me, much like a child does when you give him paper and a pencil, in a very unconscious way. This type of piece evolves as I work on it and I like to keep the process free from being too consciously manipulated, or too literal. This is one reason that a lot of contemporary art does not really do it for me. Work that clearly has some political agenda, and relies on a detailed explanation of the exact meaning of the piece, often leaves me cold.

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Is my work fiction? No, I would definitely say not. For me, fiction would be a pretty painting of a mountain stream, with some birds and trees – a fantasy piece. Paintings like that hold little interest for me. The world that I live in is both spiritually profound and culturally vapid. It is extremely violent but can also be extremely beautiful. Globalization and technology are responsible for wonderfully positive changes in the world as well as terrible tragedy and homogeneity. This dichotomy fascinates me, and naturally influences much of my work.

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* You received a fellowship from the Japan Foundation in 2000, tell us a bit about that and your interest in Japanese art.

Going to Japan for my first time, on vacation in 1998, was a life changing experience for me, in a completely unexpected way. Before that, I was only doing illustration, and not at all happy with that whole scene. My creative energies were directed towards music, but that was proving very frustrating as well. So, I took this trip, without really knowing what I was getting into, and Tokyo just blew my mind. The ‘Blade Runner’ vision of the future was smacking me over the head, and I was not prepared for it. I thought everything had rice paper doors over there. I think I was pretty naïve...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Twenty

This is a city that has absolutely cornered the market on commercialization of everything. For starters, there are pictures and advertisements for sex and sex clubs wherever you go. It is not an exaggeration to say that on virtually every street in urban city areas, there are these guys holding signs for sex clubs, phone booths with pictures of girls you can call, and assorted sex business imagery. And in areas like Shinjuku you have these long boulevards with enough neon signage to power a small nation. Most baseball teams are named for companies, not cities. Many shops blast announcements out speakers in competition with one another for your eardrums. The list is really endless. It is both fascinating and revolting all at once.

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Meanwhile, there is this history of art there that is astonishing. Not only the old woodblock print stuff (which I love) but their commercial art history too. Movie poster design and magazine advertisements there just floored me. And the culture and people are so wonderful. Their attitudes towards others and towards work are pretty much the polar opposite to most Americans’, and I found that really wonderful and energizing. When I came back from my trip, I brought with me some books on movie posters and medicine packaging that were just the coolest things. The combination of those materials and the whole experience from my trip had inspired me massively to start doing some personal work, just for fun really, based on what I had seen and where I had been.

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For the next year I painted constantly, and this whole idea of freely mixing imagery that doesn’t normally go together was really exciting to me. There’s no question that that idea came from seeing the ridiculously random mixture of influences in Japan. It was creatively very freeing to me. And I was using all kinds of Japanese imagery in the work. Since this material was really critically important to creating new paintings, I applied for some grants and fellowships that would allow me to go back to Japan and spend additional time there collecting more of this great stuff. I was very fortunate to receive them, and I ended up spending about 9 weeks there on my fellowship. I must have shipped 6 really big boxes of books and other stuff back to the USA. It was a wonderful experience for me and my work certainly benefited as well.

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* You seem to be very aware of your genealogy, of where you have come from, your website actually contains a genealogy page – what role does your personal history play in your art?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons why I wanted to do that. First, I think it’s really interesting when I see other artist’s photos of their parents, siblings or childhood. It makes me feel more of a connection to them and their work. It’s just a really cool experience and I thought people would enjoy seeing where I come from, and who I come from too. Another reason is that I absolutely love old photos and vintage pictures. In fact, my whole website is designed to more or less ape an advertisement from 120 years ago.

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The Victorian Era is the time when I would have liked to live. The photos on my site of my parents and grandparents are obviously not that old, but they still really reflect the times that they lived, and I find it interesting. And since, out of all my grandparents and parents, only my mother is still alive, it is a loving tribute to the rest of them.

* You are a teacher of art – tell us a bit about that and also how important do you think the role of the educator is in furthering the appreciation of contemporary art.

Yes, I have been teaching at Art Center, my alma mater, for over ten years now. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me. The small income that it provides has always been helpful, but the main benefit of being a teacher is the inspiration that I get from being around so much talent on a daily basis. I have been fortunate enough to have such gifted people as Jeff Soto, Justin Wood, Saelee Oh, Daniel Lim, Erik Sandberg and many many others. I got to watch their work develop and was fortunate to be a part of the process. Being a teacher, I learn so much, about art in general, and about myself. And it is an important way to keep in touch with a lot of what’s going on in the art world currently, as well as on the streets.

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It would be very easy for me to lose touch with most of that if I weren’t teaching at Art Center, since I am a little bit hermetic. Students bring in books, magazines, comic ‘zines and other stuff to show me what they are into and what’s going on today. They invite me to their shows and let me know about artists and events that I probably wouldn’t otherwise know about. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and I plan to continue teaching as long as I can. Regarding the second part of your question, I don’t think that education is in any way necessary to appreciate good art. I hope that my work will appeal to anyone with an imagination, regardless of whether or not they have ever studied art. In general, I feel that most fine art educations are pompous and loaded with lots of jargon and doublespeak. The best instructors at Art Center teach how to make exciting and interesting work, and how to think more creatively.

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* How did you get into illustration for magazines. And what advice, if any, would you offer to illustrators who are seeking to break into the market?

Well, I went to Art Center as an Illustration major, and that is the department in which I am teaching, along with other gallery artists like the Clayton Brothers and Aaron Smith. At Art Center, most figurative painting is done in our department because the smaller Fine Art department focuses mostly on installation work and on concept in general, but not really on representational painting too much. I did lots of commercial work for over a decade, but now I have really phased that out. I only do a handful of illustrations anymore. My focus is on my own personal work. I don’t really have advice for illustrators other than to say ‘develop your own personal voice as best you can, and people will be drawn to it if it is real, it is you, and it is creative.’ It seems to me that most interesting illustrators wind up pursuing gallery work sooner or later, since their work is often much more compelling and accessible to people than a lot of the “high” art that we read about in magazines.

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* In your painting Matasaburo of The Wind the now very familiar site of aeroplanes crashing appears, but in this case they seem to be falling out of the sky against a blackened sun – I love this painting, I find it fascinating – although I understand that some artists hate people asking them to explain their work can you tell us anything about this painting – what inspired it?

I don’t hate being asked about meanings in my work. I absolutely understand the urge to do it and as an art lover I have also wanted to know about other people’s intentions in their work. However, I do feel that it is better to let the viewer bring his/her own ideas when they look at a painting. Too much info from me would rob them of the chance to feel what this painting says to them. What I will say about this piece, is that I owe a great deal of it to the great Japanese artist and designer Shinohara Katsuyuki. He is one of my favorite artists ever. He was an illustrator who did several incredible posters for Japanese underground theater in the 60s and 70s. Matasaburo of The Wind is the name of a traditional Japanese fable, and also was the name of a play for which he did the poster. The main character in that poster is the same woman that I painted in my painting. Often, the genesis of a painting for me will be finding an image like that one, which really inspires me to take it and do something with it. I have borrowed imagery from gothic artists like Rogier Van der Weyden all the way to modern artists like Shinohara, Yokoo Tadanoori and George Tooker, to name a few. Shinohara is still alive and goes by the name KUMA now. He does not do posters anymore, but is a well known sculptor in Japan and often appears on television. And as a postscript, I want to mention that both Matasaburo and Ascent/Descent are paintings of mine that have crashing planes. Both pieces were completed long before 9/11 and therefore are not referencing that subject whatsoever. Of course, It would be impossible today to paint the same image without conjuring up that infamous and tragic event.

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* The juxtaposition you achieve between that old world renaissance feeling and the stark post-modern reality we are living in is very effective – to what degree does you choice of medium mirror this – for example, do you use both brush and computers.

All of my gallery work is either Oils or mixed media, which include oils, acrylics and some collage. I do use the computer quite a lot in the sketch phase. But in the finished product it is not really being used. Artists like Justin Wood and Erik Sandberg use a lot of 3D computer generated imagery in their final product, combining it collage-style with painting and other tangible processes that I admire. This has certainly influenced me and here and there I have used the computer in a similar manner from time to time. A few of my paintings where I used the computer extensively in the development phase and actually tried to retain that flat graphic look in the finish can be found on the previous works pages on my site. My Own Death, Arrival and Departure are three in particular that come to mind.

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posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS.
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4 comentarios

A.T -

Muy agudo. Es un homenaje privado a Guarner. Suponía que alguien (pocos) lo captarían. Y me alegra que te guste este nuevo ser, el cual, por cierto, estuvo a punto de nacer con Blogger, pero me dio tantos problemas el condenado que preferí la transparencia e inmediatez de Blogia.

Andrés -

Todo un descubrimiento este Gross. Gracias, pues, y adelante con este segundo blog (para el tercero me permito sugerirle algo en la onda de su "Ellas son fantásticas"... ;)
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SrLansky -

Me encanta tu nuevo blog. Tim Biskup es para mí todo un descubrimiento. Por cierto, el título del blog me ha hecho acordarme de José Luis Guarner.

Miguel Porto -

Pues a mi me recuerda (¿será por la imagen de cabecera?) a el weblog de Paul Giambarba (referencia, lo sé, más actual, y por descontado menos aguda), aunque con un criterio totalmente diferente; más pop, y menos naturalista. Pero imprescindibles ambos.

No sabía que el Biskup hubiese hecho algo para los Residents, jejeje quien lo diría... el Alex Gross parece más apropiado... por lo "bizarre", digo.

Por cierto gracias por tus dos blogs, llevo un tienpo leyendo tu "toque de azufre" como convidado de piedra, y te aseguro que, tanto ese como este nuevo, son dos grandes excusas para retrasar todavía más la hora de comienzo de mi dura jornada laboral de autónomo.
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