artnet Asks: Artist Chambliss Giobbi on Treating Time as a Canvas

His current show is on view through March 25 in West Hollywood.

Chambliss Giobbi, Arcadia (2015–2016). Courtesy of 101/EXHIBIT.

In his current solo show in West Hollywood, American artist Chambliss Giobbi is using time itself as a medium to tell a story about childhood and nature. Through his array of intricately collaged images and colorful Mobius strip-like sculptures, he carefully considers bucolic memories and idealized images from nature as a means of analyzing how memories merge with fictional narrative over the course of one’s life.

Arcadia” is on view now through Saturday, March 25 at 101/EXHIBIT gallery. Here, we talk with Giobbi about his practice, his background as a musical composer, and his greatest challenge to date—teenagers.

Chambliss Giobbi, Arcadian Ocean (2016). Courtesy of 101/EXHIBIT.

What led you to shift from the field of music composition to contemporary visual art?
After composing for about 15 years, I realized that when I finished a score, it wasn’t really music—it was just directions for how to play music. It was a helpless feeling, never being able to take full responsibility for my work and depending on others to realize it. I had always made art on the side with little Dadaist collages, and being able to totally complete them and have agency in them was so satisfying. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning! So I knew at that point that I was changing course.

What role has your experience as a composer of classical music played in your work?
Music’s canvas, so to speak, is time. In time is where everything happens. Time is the medium. When I started making my large figurative collages, I had all these little aggregate photo fragments—they were like little scenes, tableaus. As I was assembling them, I knew I was performing a kind of expansion and compression of time through those isolated photographic moments, like entropy or Cubism through time. Maybe call it temporal Cubism. But now I’m doing other things.

Chambliss Giobbi, Arcadian Snow (2016). Courtesy of 101/EXHIBIT.

What compelled you to look to the region of Arcadia for your new exhibition at 101/EXHIBIT?
Arcadia is a region of ancient Greece known as a kind of utopian natural paradise. To me, it’s really a state of mind. In my interpretation, Arcadia is about childhood memories that can become distorted and more fictitious over time as one ages. Like a kind of sweet, beautiful and innocent story we tell ourselves as a way of remembering a childhood that was probably never so ideal. It’s a kind of narcotic we may take to get through life.

This series has been in production for over three years, what has your work process been like in the studio?
My workday was very simple; working on about three square inches at a time, clocking in, clocking out.

The Mobius strip is a recurring motif in your work, any reason for using this particular structure?
Like the memories of seemingly endless days of childhood, the Mobius strip is a mathematical phenomenon. It is a three-dimensional shape that has one surface and one edge. Very strange. So it’s endless. Also, the shape of the title sculpture is in the shape of an infinity symbol. So we have two infinite elements in this sculpture which is ultimately non-orientable and homeomorphic. Like childhood!

Chambliss Giobbi. Courtesy of 101/EXHIBIT.

In the past, you have utilized objects in your sculptures that conjure a kind of childhood reverie, does Arcadia have the same idea behind it?
Yes. It became relevant while watching my kids grow. Otherwise I would have maybe drifted to more didactic arty territory. So I’m glad I didn’t.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced so far?

How do you expect viewers of current show at 101/EXHIBIT to react?

I hope that they get lost in the work, and find something personal in it that they can keep. I want the experience to be intimate and singular. This show is not about a public audience, but a private one.

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