The Daily

Studio Visit

“The Rat Is a Hero”: In the Studio with Emily Mayer

April 23, 2012 | by

Children are posing near Damien Hirst’s large intestine. A young couple is engaged in a shoulder rub, the recipient with a bracing hand on what may be the sigmoid colon. Upstairs, caterers put flowers on round tables, and cameramen survey Tate-goers ignoring For the Love of God encased below in a black box. In the gift shop, The Incomplete Truth anamorphic cup and saucer is on sale for £2.50.

Between the Tate and Emily Mayer’s Norfolk studio is a gap of British countryside that from a train car feels like an hour-and-a-half stretch of live cows. I sit down and immediately hear that Emily hates instant coffee and loves rats. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust celebrates the area’s presence of weasels and more unusual species, but Emily prefers dogs to Chinese water deer. She has several dogs, some animate, some either frozen or cast in resin.

“The electricity board are coming at 8 A.M. tomorrow to cut trees,” she had written in an e-mail the night before, “and our power will be off all day. I do have a generator in our woodland cabin, so maybe I could drag that in.” It turns out that the water is out with the power, and the phones don’t work. We still manage to have coffee.

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Terry Winters

April 10, 2012 | by

Terry Winters works on the fifth floor of a Tribeca walk-up. It is a steep climb, but the space is serene and open, decorated with a few large Nigerian ceramics, a framed Weegee photograph, and of course Winters’s own drawings and watercolors (he does his oil painting in a studio in the country). It is also remarkably free of clutter for an artist who describes himself as an “image junky.” Winters spends a lot of time here—“I try to show up for the job,” he remarks when I ask him about his daily practice—though he does not have much by way of routine, allowing the needs of the project to shape his day.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Winters’s first solo show at the Sonnabend Gallery. Now represented by Matthew Marks, Winters’s work continues to be informed by the ideas that animated his very first exhibition. One constant—besides his New York studio, where he has worked from the very start of his career—has been his use of found images, which he faithfully collects and assembles into collages that serve as miniature laboratories for future paintings. But the collages, with their layers and juxtapositions, their invocation of modern technology (several feature visible URLs, linking to universities and laboratories) and natural forms, are also lovely in their own right. Read More »

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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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