What We Learned About Famous Artists from Joe Fig’s New Studio Visits Book
From what Roxy Paine eats for breakfast to what a psychic told Laurie Simmons.
Artist Joe Fig has visited over 120 artists in their studios, posing questions about their practice, from their favorite color to their motto. His book Inside the Artist’s Studio, forthcoming in October from Princeton Architectural Press, reveals the daily working habits of two dozen artists, including figures like Tara Donovan, Leonardo Drew, Carroll Dunham, and Judy Pfaff.
Extensively illustrated with photos from the artist’s studios as well as images of Fig’s own drawings, paintings, and diorama-like sculptures showing their workspaces, the book also reveals artists’ memories of their childhood projects and their first shows. The book release follows a show of the same name with his New York dealer, Cristin Tierney Gallery, that includes paintings, sculptures and drawings representing his colleagues’ studios.
Here’s a little bit of what you can expect from the interviews:
“My credo comes from [writer and painter] Rackstraw Downes. … ‘Let the painting win.’”
“The real motto I have comes from [Boston Museum of Fine Arts curator] Ananda Coomaraswamy. He said that art should have four equal components: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual… I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to feel some excess of emotion when you’re standing in front of, say, a painting like El Greco’s View of Toledo.”
Favorite color: “Deep purple, like a bruise.”
“When I was a kid… I was very lucky to go to the Harvard ethnology [Peabody] museum often. … I became interested in Islamic Iran … And the motto that I picked up from that is ‘Victory or paradise.’ … I’m either going to win and accomplish something, or I fought a noble fight.”
Motto: “If it were easy, some other asshole would have done it by now.”
What brought him to his current studio in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn? “The cemeteries. We have eight different cemeteries. Mondrian is buried out here in a pauper’s grave… Now there’s a gold plaque that marks the site, but when we found him there was nothing there.”
“My favorite title was for a piece where I cut cardboard into a burst shape. The title of that piece is Cardboard! [screams the word]. You have to say it really loud [laughs]. If you say the title is Cardboard [spoken softly], that’s not the title.”
“I really hate hearing young artists bitch about how hard it is, that they have to work a million hours and still go to their studio. They feel they should have success right after school. But the art world is hard—it’s so hard… If you’re not a hundred million percent into what you’re doing, don’t do it. Get out.”
“In 2001 curator Max Henry put me in a group show… at Mary Boone’s gallery. I didn’t realize this was a good opportunity to meet a dealer. I didn’t have the good manners to say ‘thank you’ to Mary. In 2003 I was following my best friend [art advisor] Pearl Albino around Chelsea to art openings… Pearl decided to drop by a Mary Boone dinner party at Bottino. I panicked because I felt like we were crashing, but Pearl was unfazed. Mary noticed me hanging back in the entryway and glided across the room toward us. I thought, she’s going to kick my butt for crashing her party. But surprisingly, she asked me to join her gallery.”
“Whether I’m depressed or not, I work. You can’t wait for inspiration. You’ve got a job; you’ve got to get it done. I find the work turns out the same whether I’m depressed or happy.”
“I really don’t like to think about anything else besides the work, so every morning I just have a bowl of Corn Chex cereal and coffee. Every morning… I have a number of identical work shirts and pants that I wear every day to reduce that decision making.”
“I cannot stand work that feels as if I didn’t read the right French philosopher to understand it.”
“I went to a psychic when I first came to New York, and she kept saying, ‘Keep your eyes and ears open.’”
“Joe Fig: Inside the Artist’s Studio will be on view at Cristin Tierney Gallery from September 10–October 24, 2015.
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