The Daily

Studio Visit

Leanne Shapton

February 16, 2012 | by

It’s no secret how much I admire Leanne Shapton. The former art director of The New York Times’ Op-Ed page is also the author of several books, including Was She Pretty? and Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. She’s also a contributor to The Paris Review. Open any of the last four issues to glimpse her beautiful illustrations of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich. Or buy issue 196, whose cover she painted. I visited her studio space north of Manhattan last spring. I can still remember her dog, Bunny, running to greet me. Leanne served tea and sweets, and we talked long after I turned off my tape recorder.

I wake up, walk the dog, or let the dog out. I’ll pretty much start working right off the top, depending on what I need to do, on deadlines.

I was talking to Sheila Heti about how and where we work. Sometimes I feel I get a lot done waiting for something else, with my shoes and coat on, with the car running. I don’t have a set routine. I can work for hours at a time, but I get a lot of stuff done in these weird starts and stops, which makes it a little bit harder to track. I have so many backs of envelopes with notes written on them in my pockets or stuffed into the side door of a car. I also use my Blackberry to write myself notes. Last night, I wrote myself an e-mail that said, “Tough girls with dark pink skin, England air, etc.” Now it’s sort of coming back to me, but when I woke up and read it, I was like, “What? What did I drink?” Lots happens in these little spaces between work and eating and sleeping. Sheila said she had this image of me standing up—you know how you stand up and eat when you’re really hungry? Well I stand up and work. It’s not a Hemingway thing, it’s more like I have to get this done, because the elevator is coming up. Some thing happens then. And that’s when I work.

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Gabriel Orozco

December 7, 2011 | by

When Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco opens the back doors leading out onto his garden, it seems so serene that you would be hard-pressed to believe you were in the middle of downtown Manhattan. Inside, the walls are covered with boomerangs, his laptop is decorated with superhero stickers, and his painting palette is filled with cigarette butts. Recently, the artist invited me to his combined studio, kitchenette, and office space on the basement floor of his brownstone to talk about his working process, how he started out as an artist, and why it’s important to habituate your audience to disappointment. Orozco’s “Corplegados” work was recently exhibited at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. It is his first exhibition following his two-year museum retrospective, which traveled to the Kunstmuseum in Basel, MoMA in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Tate Modern in London.

I always wanted to be an artist. At some point my father asked me whether I might instead want to be an architect or something like that, but I didn’t. I thought about it for maybe a month. My father was an artist. He was a painter and he knew how hard it is to make a living out of it. My mother was also a kind of artist—she was a pianist. All of my school friends, all their parents were artists, whether writers or photographers or sculptors. I was surrounded.

I started with painting. Painting as an activity is wonderful. You are standing up and you have the freedom to apply colors to a white surface starting almost from nothing. You feel free when you are painting. You feel that you are concentrating on something very particular that is very difficult, but that you enjoy doing it, even though you know that you are probably going to fail, because it’s very difficult to make a good painting. Read More »

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Dan Walsh

July 5, 2011 | by


Photograph by Bronwen Roberts.

Dan Walsh’s elevator is like the inside of a lunch box, a room coated with a loud, almost orangey mustard. The artist moved to his Williamsburg loft before Kent Avenue became, as Walsh calls it, “like Miami Beach,” when he could only see the skyline, the bridge, and the Domino Sugar refinery. And even though the view has changed, Walsh has stayed put. In our interview, Walsh tells me that he’s interested in exploring a space where the perceptual meets the symbolic, where meaning is created outside of historical codification. He is known for his large-scale geometric paintings that play on repetition, grids, and blocks. Lately, he has been creating artist books, which explore repetition, progression, and layering on a more intimate scale.

Space is important to me—you could say the minimalists organized the space and what is in-between. Historically, minimalism rejected “pictorial space.” I am using the formats of minimalism, but not following the goals. As matter a fact, I always regarded the space in a painting as the soul of a painting. I’m working to find a space I can interact with on a day-to-day basis, something neutral and malleable: one of the goals of minimalism was to experience qualities of materials, forms, colors and remove psychological space. I have always tried to put myself in the best “place” (be it living space or painting space) to think clearly—to make the next decision.

Photograph by Bronwen Roberts.

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Maira Kalman

May 16, 2011 | by

Photograph by Thessaly La Force.

Maira Kalman lives surrounded by chairs both life-size and miniature. Her studio is two floors below her West Village apartment, and it's filled with such objects as hair tufts from her beloved (and now late) dog Pete, puppets from the 1930s, and hats adorned with feathers from friends and admirers. I dropped in to chat about Maira’s first retrospective at the Jewish Museum and heard, among other things, about her love for Thomas Jefferson—unlike Abraham Lincoln, he’s apparently “not boyfriend material”—and her studio moss collection.

When I left college, I decided I wasn’t going to write anymore. I started out writing fiction, and I thought I would be a writer—it was something that I just always assumed when I was a little kid. I had a teacher who told me I was a good writer, and I loved writing. Then it became tormented, as it often does when you hit your teens. So I thought, I have to lighten up a little bit. And it was the age of New Wave and punk, and there was a whole new era of illustration going on. So, I started to draw.

Kalman’s desk, where she paints. Photograph by Thessaly La Force.

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Joe Bradley

February 22, 2011 | by

The artist Joe Bradley has his studio in an old pencil factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There is no buzzer. You must call his cell phone to be let in, and then ride a manual elevator to the white concrete space where he works on the fifth floor. Bradley was part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial and was recently featured in two solo shows. I visited the thirty-five-year-old artist to talk about his evolving process as a painter.

Photograph by Michael Nevin.

This building is called the Pencil Factory. When you go outside, there are these giant pencils on the wall. It’s got a lot of light, and it’s quiet and big enough. You can have six or seven paintings up at the same time and don’t have to shift them around.

I don’t go into painting with any kind of plan. The ones I am happiest with I have no idea how I arrived at. The best ones are always a real surprise. For most of the paintings I use unprimed canvas and oil paint. I like drawing when the canvas is on the floor, and then I’ll pin it up and see what it looks like on the wall. Sometimes, I turn it over and work on the other side. The nature of the oil paint is that it kind of bleeds through the canvas so you have some sort of residual marks seeping through from the other side and influencing the composition.

Photograph by Michael Nevin.

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Lawrence Weiner

February 14, 2011 | by

The artist Lawrence Weiner lives on a quiet street in the West Village, in what was once an old laundromat built in 1910 and is now an unobtrusive five-level town house designed by the firm Lot-Ek. You may recognize some of the architecture: Lot-Ek is often cited for it inventive reuse of prefabricated objects (like shipping containers) and other industrial materials. In fact, the penthouse floor of Weiner’s home is built from discarded truck bodies. The floor below is the bedroom, the floor below that houses Weiner’s archives, and the first floor is the kitchen and dining room. At the basement level, Weiner keeps his studio, where he works. Not long ago, I stopped by to take photographs of his home and talk.

I didn’t come from a background that had any idea about what contemporary art was, it was not anti or pro, it had nothing to do with it. I do remember something my mother said when I was sixteen. I was going off to college, and I said, “I think I’m going to be an artist, not a professor of philosophy.” They all assumed I would be a professor because I’m good at logic, and she looked at me and she said, “Lawrence, you’ll break your heart.” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Art is for rich people and women.”

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