Contemporary art dealer Jac Forbes, who runs the only Black- and woman-owned gallery in Malibu since 2007, fell in love with the downtown arts district of Los Angeles a long time ago, and this year, took the leap to open a second space there. To say that the inaugural show, a presentation of work by self-taught artist Daniel Tyree Gaitor-Lomack in collaboration with Night Gallery, is making a splash is an understatement. “EyeNeedAWitness,” as the show is called, was a must-see stop during the recent Frieze Art Week as a steady stream of visitors, including museum staffers and curators, dropped by the ground floor space on East Washington Boulevard, the latest renovated building under the Mohilef Studios label.
While the artist maintains a space downtown he also likes to work site-specifically. We caught up with him to talk about his practice and the work that went into this current show (which runs through April 8).
Tell us about your studio. Where is it, how did you find it, what kind of space is it?
The studio is my altar. My mindset. My studio exists as many places: it’s at home in downtown Los Angeles, a residency or fellowship, the streets in the world, it’s when writing poetry in the Swiss Alps, researching on the train and filming my actions across Europe, and it’s working site-specifically inside/outside the gallery space.
Normally, I work in the exact space that the work is going to be presented or installed. If I want to put an artwork in the corner, I work in the corner. If I want to put it in the center of the space, I work in the center of the space, and so on. It’s a mental mapping to what, in my opinion, true dimensionality is, especially for an artist like me. At times I consider myself more of a fisherman. When I’m on my two feet with my head held high, I’m looking deep into the potential of my work just like the fisherman who stands in the ocean and patiently waits, looking into the deep sea. I cast a net of an immeasurable amount of actions of different colors, shapes, forms, sizes, and knowledge. Cohesion and abstraction comes in waves manifesting exactly what I need to bring it home.
The studio is my altar because every time I enter and exit the mindset, a sacrifice is made for me. When it comes to surviving inequalities of the world around me and responding to them, this is a boundary breaking mentality. I had to remove the lens of the typical studio space and look at my practice through the courage in my mind in a bespoke way. I stamped this mindset in every place I have been and passed it along to others since then.
What made you choose this particular studio over others?
I’m based globally still so my studio is not a stationed physical space, exactly. But in the space where I work at home [in Downtown Los Angeles], there is a large arch window. It lays view to the mountains, where there is currently snow and light filled with movement. I feel like this place has chosen me. My life at the moment is definitive of the arch. The arch of Daniel Tyree aka “Arc de Daniel.” It makes me feel grounded in the present but also elevated enough to reach out and mold my dreams. There’s life going on outside of it, strengthening my identity as a community. Kids are playing in the schoolyard, fruit is being sold on the corner, and people are zooming by in their cars to and from work. When I’m gazing through it there isn’t a thing I don’t see. This resonance feels psychic and open to my work. My voice is surrounded by a paradise. A pair of dice played very well.
What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
I am traveling this week. Flying back to New York to meet with some of my favorite galleries, check on works in my personal inventory, and spend time with some real risk-takers. Making sure the presentation of new works remains in response to my movement and to hear feedback about my recent installation. From there I fly to Japan to research a special place that is very important to a film I’m wrapping up titled Altering the Altar. That special place is in Ibaraki, the Church of The Light by Tadao Ando. Then back to Los Angeles to open a new presentation of performance documentation work at Arc de Daniel and last, a site-activation and Q&A at Jac Forbes Contemporary for “EyeNeedAWitness.”
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a lot right now. Mainly the worlds I live in. I just unraveled an important installation and a timely concise exhibition “EyeNeedAWitness” at Jac Forbes Contemporary in Los Angeles, a pair of paintings for an exhibition in London at Public Gallery titled “Short-term pleasure, Long-term pain” and a three-part performance at Story House Foundation titled “I AM THE AMERICAN DREAM” with a curatorial group called Grandma.
This all happened Tn the same week, during Frieze Los Angeles. Day in and night out I was working on one thing after the other. Before breakfast and after dinners. Choosing the work over the party life. Dealing with logistics and multiple entities at once. It never stopped for me. I’m still working on it all because of the timing that spans across the board. I see it through until the end only to figure out it never ends. What a beautiful thing. Timing. It’s mind-blowing what seven days can accomplish. Next up is Independent New York with Night Gallery in May. Meet me there.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work?
I love my atmosphere to be filled with natural light and smoke. That lights the way for me every single time. I’m able to find the realness in the corners and the temperature of it—it feels familiar, reminds me of someone I know very well. Often I see words appear and fragments of spirituality and portraiture.
Where do you get your food from, or what do you eat when you get hungry in the studio?
Bottega Louie is where I go to think over a plate of chicken parmigiana in Los Angeles. The Italian sodas are the best, especially the mango and the peach flavor. Thai Diner in New York when I arrive and before I leave. While working in NYC it’s my favorite place to play the bar and take a deep dive into a dish of Khao Soi with a pearl glass of coconut white tea. Woodspoon is an Afro-Brazilian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles that I really love to pieces. There I get a big plate of tilapia, with my favorite dish frango com quiabo and a glass of passion fruit juice. For dessert I hang at Manuela in the Arts District for sorbet and kombucha. Everything else is just whatever else is healthy I can get my hands on in sight mixed with a balance between fasting and being productive.
Is there anything in your studio that a visitor might find surprising?
People tend to find almost everything surprising. I’m never surprised by that. In fact, I often wait for that to happen. Maybe a random surprise my obsession for dried flowers. I have a lovely wreath for my door at home. A friend once said: “I’m surprised it’s not an African mask.” Sometimes it’s the fact I do as I please and the way I think about the work. They were surprised when I did the ‘press conference’ with Night Gallery. That has never happened for an artist before. I truly think surprises scare people. A great example are the ice pop crosses I did titled Corpus I, II and III. There was also a time a group of curators came to my space and intentionally there just wasn’t any work up. You should have seen the looks on their faces.
Describe the space in three words.
UNLIKE. ANY. OTHER.
What’s the last thing you do before you leave the studio at the end of the day (besides turning off the lights)?
Wipe my black leather boots off.
What do you like to do right after that?
I walk the walk.
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