‘What We Make Is Not Object, It’s Energy’: Watch Art Collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus Collaborate Across Continents

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 6 episode, "Boundaries." © Art21, Inc. 2012.

For the artist collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus, comprised of Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide-Pierson, working together doesn’t necessarily mean being in the same place. In fact, Sudbrack is based between New York and São Paulo and Hamaide-Pierson lives in Paris.

The duo, who began collaborating in 2001, are bound by a shared interest in gay politics, civil rights, and creative impulses, often merging these themes in madcap collages that send up conservative ideas, while celebrating freedom of expression and sexuality. The artists derive inspiration from a sprawling range of sources, including Marvel superheroes, disco culture, masquerades, and other artistic movements.

In an exclusive interview filmed as part of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century series, the pair describes writing to each other in order to organize their thoughts, so that when they are not together creating work, they still maintain a common interest and perspective.

Installation view, "assume vivid astro focus: Hairy What? Hairy How?" at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Installation view, “assume vivid astro focus: Hairy What? Hairy How?” at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

“We conceive everything together,” Hamaide-Pierson says in the video. Even when, for example, they each created 20 separate drawings for an art show that were only united at the final exhibition, it “was always driven by this collaborative dynamic.” 

Right now, at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in Manhattan, an exhibition of Assume Vivid Astro Focus’s work takes on another influential movement, the Hairy Who imagists from Chicago. In the show, cheekily titled, “Hairy What? Hairy How?” the artists infuse the flat graphic work and raucous colors of their predecessors with their own spirit. “The core of what we make, it’s not object, it’s energy,” Sudbrack tells Art21.

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s New York Close Up series, below. “assume vivid astro focus: Hairy What? Hairy How?” is on view at Tibor de Nagy Gallery through June 26, 2021.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org

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