Conrad: I first saw your work in the Hershberger barn at 8550. You
were using a pull saw to fashion a tripod stand for what turned out to
be a sort of modular beacon. Wherever you placed it, it charged the
air. It opened up the landscape to a kind of other-worldly
atmosphere, while also being an elegant solution to a practical
problem. What do you see as the primary wonder and/or the primary
technical innovation of that sculpture?
Trevor: I find wonder in the search, wandering generally until the specifics
are dialed in. Prior to Harold Arts, and the Hershberger barn, I was
looking for lighting equipment for a video that would volumetrically
explore the confines of a pitch black cave. I experimented with
numerous lighting solutions, from clusters of headlamps to disco
balls. I found the right light in combining some mechanized DJ
equipment that projected a high density of little round lights. A
distant cousin to the disco ball, the equipment projected a light
quality that read as if it were searching for something rather than
the party object language that is reflected off a disco ball.
I arrived at Harold Arts with the intention to continue a similar
exploration inside several caves that I had read about near
Chesterhill, OH. My plans changed after a late night on the porch
overlooking the pond when I realized that the entire night sky and
landscape generally funneled down into a point on the pond, and that
this could be an interesting place to project back from. I was very
surprised with the results from the pond even though I had a pretty
good idea of what would happen. All of the elements seemed to conspire
together to produce something with so much more impulse than I could
C: The way you describe it, the point on the pond (or wherever the
sculpture is placed) has a voice in some kind of artist/object dialog.
If dialog is the operational metaphor, are you giving voice to the
pond? Or less poetic: is dialog with the cave the process that led to
a more delineated and beautiful space made visible by DC batteries and
T: I see this as an ongoing project that will have other iterations, each
one dependent upon the characteristics of a site to provide productive
connotations that transform it beyond its thingyness. When the
construct is not working it's just a funky object set into motion
amongst a backdrop, but when it works, it works as an encapsulating
experience where the dialog between viewer and site can get really
interesting. I do see it as giving voice to the site, but I don't
trust what it's saying. The way in which the device aspirates and
rearranges the things that it reveals pulls me between beauty and
C: You raise the notion of trust. Can a work of art ever be trustworthy?
T: Absolutely, but only when the last person alive on Earth proclaims to
have made the the most trustworthy art ever made on Earth. But then,
since they are an artist, self doubt would creep in and its
trustworthyness would be questionable.
I think that if it were necessary to have trust in art, then maybe
over time there would be a consensus on the definition of art. Then,
by default, any work of art would be trustworthy.
What I really think is that maybe truth can only be experienced by the
artist, and all that is witnessed from afar is but shadows cast from
objects illuminated by flashlights carried by natives hauling a
river-boat over a mountain.
At the end of the day though, I still find it interesting to try and
toe that line of veracity and realness amidst a landscape built for
C: It all sounds so grand, being an artist, searching, boat hauling,
being the last person alive... And then someone opens up a package in
the mail to find a bag of chips frankensteined to a soda can top and
painted yellow and white, and this is the result of your flashlight.
For Odd Mailing #4 you have made an intriguing vessel, from commonly
used things. Could you tell me and our readers what compelled such a
T: Some of my earliest memories are of the piercing pain and funky echo
chamber sounds of my voice caused by ear infections. apparently I had
enough of them to effect my speech development which made my
enunciation loose and I did not favor proper spacing between words. I
still have to fight the urge to speak asfastasicanthink.
I was reminded of this after having made most of the odd mailings,
probably 2/3rds of the way through production. At some later point
with the finished product in my hand I recalled the feeling of
getting a peculiar stomach ache at a movie theater after having eaten
too many red vines, including the one that was utilized as a
straw to sip my coke.
It's literal inception came while cleaning the console in my truck
after a Home Depot lumber/hot dog run. I really liked the way the
mostly empty bag of chips, mustard stained napkin, and can of squirt
all stayed clumped together as I tossed them into a gas station trash
can. They hung on to each-other long enough for me to think about them
as a single unit, so I made them that.
C: At last, the depot dog is honored! Back when it was open 24 hours,
the north avenue home depot in Chicago was the only place to eat at 4
in the morning. Late night dining choices aside, I think that you are
onto the future of food. You have figured out how to make hot dogs
that are also chips and mustard and a can of Squirt. There you have
it, the unpredictable consequences of a trip to Home Depot. Thank you
for sharing in this Odd Mailing the effects of a little moment of
leisure taken from the clutches of lumber tossing. We thank you.
Conrad Freiburg: LeRoy! When we first met you were just out of school and piecing together maps and photo-copying books and living in Bucktown, Chicago. Staining wood in my west side shop, I remember you looking up and saying “I love art,” and sort of giggling. I don't believe I had ever heard someone say those words as sincerely as you. Assuming you still love art, what do you love about art?
LeRoy Stevens: I think it's the excitement that goes with thinking through ideas. Limitless possibilities, experimentation and the process of understanding that happens over time. Beginning one place, following one idea to another and allowing yourself to land somewhere unexpected. By the way, I still copy and re-assemble hard to find books that I'm interested in. I find that by doing this, I really get to know ever part of it. It's a way of reading and getting to have a copy too.
C: Your examination of books makes an accounting of the object that is the book almost separate from the meaning of the words within. When someone is an author, we don't often think that they also make an object of a particular size and shape. The writer's obvious task is to arrange words and to know the meaning they convey. Your approach seems to really examine the objective qualities of the book-form. This is in addition to the more "normal" reading and contemplation of the words and images. Now, would you say that your approach for facsimile is informed by what you are copying or do you have a standard method or filter for your efforts. To what extent do you see yourself as the author of a new work when it is appropriated into your system of making. In other words, by copying the bookform, are you becoming an author?
L: When I'm making a reproduction of a book there are some creative decisions and these decisions can make the copies into prototypes, but mostly they're for my own enjoyment. At this time I don't really consider them my art.
I have a body of work that consists of altering magazines through simple cuts, folds and by reorganizing the pages. The method for manipulating often comes from the content of the magazine. For example, I recently made a magazine titled Inside Out. I removed the staples and turned every page spread inside out and then reattached the pages. The idea came from a magazine called Mother and Child. I like to carry out the same process on different magazines. Other titles include Perfect Patterns, Crumble Every Page and Reassemble, Erotica, Michael Phelps and Muumi. I'm definitely the author of these books.
C: In looking at and discussing your work what strikes me is your formalized process. Through this process you can really focus on an idea while also completely altering the source material. I have here in front of me a stack of what looks like fried eggs; sunny-side up fried eggs. They are white and yellow and kind of floppy, and really make me laugh. I could make reference here to Archimbaldo's humorous use of food in art, but somehow it seems that something else is at work. What kind of hunger are these eggs feeding?
L: A lot of the books that I've been making play w/ sequencing. A progression is determined and is carried out from cover to cover. Lately it's been fun to think about how a given system for manipulating these books can become the framework for a sculpture, a sound work, clothing and so on. A fried egg is a palindrome. You can turn it over again and again and it's essentially the same thing.
C: So, are your fried eggs feeding our hunger in art for endlessness?
L: In some ways...but it's limited. In fact it's probably a closed system. There's a procedural structure to it that's visible- it can only be this or that. A person can manipulate it -use it. The concept is embedded in the work. Still, I think there's something outside of the way I've been talking about it that's valid- the way it makes people laugh.
C: Thanks for wrangling in my tendency to endlessness. I do like the notion you offer of a container or structure that focuses the viewer's attention. The humor really kicks in when you step back and realize that you're talking about an egg. Speaking of eggs, have you ever known any chickens? Comedian Werner Herzog once said of chickens "the enormity of their stupidity is overwhelming." He's such a cut up!
L: Did you ever see "Cave of Forgotten Dreams?"
C: Yes! in 3-D even. The albino alligator ending was most unexpected. His exploration of the world through films has its quirks to be sure. Why do you ask?
L: Well, it's the last Herzog movie that I've seen.
Have you noticed that most new cars look like eggs? I'm convinced that it has to do w/ crash test statistics. There could be other material reasons for using that shape too... like more interior space w/ less material? But it's such of an ugly shape -especially on wheels. It's like the Flinstones crashing into an Apple Store.
C: They do look like eggs. Just think of legacy of mediocrity we're passing on to our children. They'll be taking it on the chin with these aerodynamic turd and egg sandwiches on wheels for decades to come! Full circle back to eggs; we have done it. Congratulations everybody! Well Mr. Stevens, do you have anything you would like to add for our fair readers? Aside from "please leave a comment if you like," or "buy a subscription because it's absurdly affordable."
L: Yeah, I have some new publications out and available for purchase. "From the Bird's Mouth" published by Lugemik (with texts by Karin Laansoo and Jonathan Miller) and "OutOut Houses" published by Small World. Thanks for reading and talk soon.
We are very excited to bring to you the work of Zach Taylor with Odd Mailing #2. The best way to get a sense for his funny is to see what he's done with his life here and to read the following interview. It is my pleasure, and hopefully yours, to interview each artist in the Odd Mailing series. They will be posted here just for you. Say hello in the comment section if you like. Thanks!
Conrad Freiburg: I just got your nifty little pop intervention with jokes. How would you say this mailing is typical of the kind of art you make?
Zach Taylor: I would say this is typical product from a corner of my brain that tends to project it's humor into my artwork, whether i like it or not. It just feels right to not take every damn thing seriously. Sometimes mixing humor into art actually creates a melancholy feeling for me. It's the sad, wandering "hobo clown" kind of thing that I find appealing and the joke is frozen and forever dangling, vulnerable and subject to a new formal criticism that it never had before. Perhaps the artwork should be in danger of being hit by a rotten tomato or beer bottle!
Sorry, that was an incomplete thought. Maybe that explains everything!
C: What do other parts of you brain do?
Z: Other parts of my brain do math, cooking, art, and sex stuff... But It is mostly devoted to thinking about travel.
C: ...and these "Incomplete Thoughts" you speak of do explain something, or allow the fruit of the unknown to blossom. Is it even possible to feel complete with so many brains? or even with one brain? or one idea? I promise I will never say fruit of the unknown again. It is a shameful thing to say
Z: I appreciate you embellishing the unknown with " fruit of". It's nice. I make work without a clear design of the finished product. I've tried to plan artworks from beginning to completion, but they seemed to take much longer to finish. The excitement would wear off too early and the shit would flounder. Humor is a sure-fire way to make something happen fast, sometimes the "one-liner" is the best approach for me. I think the funny pieces of art help support the serious pieces and help define and separate my work based on when it was made. I can remember the good times and the bad in my life by looking back at my work.
What do you think about an artists body of work as a diary for their memories?
C: I think that's right. the work marks out time for the audience too. For instance, when I think of that floppy glued together bunch of pine scrap we called "Lamar's javalin," I think of Winter in LA, and this is all because of you. In my own work I actually use bits of old sculptures in the new ones precisely because they contain memories. The drawings I'm making with charcoal of the Slipping Glimpser are physically and psychologically connected to that time of my life spent with a roller coaster. You have collaborated with Aaron Williams on paintings that are image stacks of pop culture. They seem to be using this idea of memory in an expansive way, where the paintings are about stacking up association on top of association until some hum is reached between all the hollering ideas. Then the viewer has their associations on top of that. All this swirl of subjectivity is what that work seems to be about, well that and skilled brushwork. But getting back to art jokes, do you have any favorite art comedians?
Z: Some of my favorite funny people: Mitch Hedberg, Rodney Dangerfield, Louis CK, Peter Sellers, Carol Burnett, Richard Pryor, Dr.Chorizo.... List goes on, but Most of those people are dead. Dave Chapelle is great, too. I think I'm lucky to have a very funny family and my close relationships with friends are usually based on very long running jokes that seem to slowly evolve over time. inside jokes that eventually become outside jokes! Didn't you see Andrew Dice Clay wearing sweatpants in a Los Angeles Starbucks?
C: Oh I did, and he was wearing sweatpants and bedazzled sunglasses. I told him I like what he's done with his life. He said thanks. I'm not sure, but I think he smelled like sarcasm. Old man sarcasm.
Z: I'm want to spend more time looking at places where water and land meet. Estuaries, inlets, lagoons, coves, harbors, rivers, bayous, creeks, etc. I like the reflection of earth and sky on water, especially as bright sunlight returns after a storm. I also like tacos.
C: Do you think it is possible to have a romantic taco?
Z: Definitely. I think it's called "Taco El Romantico" on most menus.
C: Do you have anything else you'd like to say to the good reader out there?
Z: I think this photo of Elvis Presley's porcelain monkey from Palm Springs pretty much sums it up. Happy holidays!