By NOAH BECKER December, 2018
Noah Becker: How did this collaboration come together? Was the curator Wayne Baerwaldt instrumental in bringing the collaboration together or were you already talking about collaborating?
Zachari Logan: Ross and I have known each other now for 5 years, since 2012. We first met when I was curating a show at my then NY gallery, Daniel Cooney Fine Art. I realized his studio was in the same building as DCFA and with Daniel’s help I was put in touch with Ross, who generously agreed to participate in the exhibition… from that initial project, we kept in touch and began a friendship. Wayne, who at the time was working with me on another exhibition, Fugitive Garden at the Illingworth-Kerr Gallery, and sometime after that project inquired about my affinity for Ross’s work and if I’d be interested in a dialogue with Ross, as he felt there were interesting overlaps in our practice and themes. Ross was keen to this idea and soon after we all discussed the possibility of collaborative works. It was soon after I should also note that my Toronto gallerist Paul Petro expressed an interest in this idea as well. The first iteration of our 2-person experiment (collaborative works included) was titled Nocturne and it took place Nov-Dec 2017 at Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto. The first collaborations were completed at a distance in the fall of 2017, Ross sent me two print-based works we’d discussed previously, I embellished them and sent them back to Ross, Ross then re-worked them yet again. The next set of collaborations were done on site together in Ross’s Hampton studio this past summer within a one week span.
Ross Bleckner: When I saw Zachari’s work I think it was at Daniel Cooney gallery, I was blown away. The drawing, the mystery, the sexuality the patience and discipline were all inspiring. I think we might have started talking on Instagram. We met soon after, he was the sweetest kindest person ever so when he asked me to be in a show he was curating I was thrilled.
Noah: You both deal with nature in your work - some vague, poetic or imagined ideas of the natural world and some more explicit. How do the collaborative pieces change the work?
Zachari: Due to the fact that these collaborations were democratically deciphered, I see the work as less directed by a single mind, they seem to me to be more formally playful, or lyrical perhaps than I’m used to in my own drawings.
Ross: All I had to do was follow what he started. He made it beautiful so it was simple to just go with the flow.
Noah: Thanks Ross! And I also love Zachari's idea of it being "democratically deciphered" - great term. How did you respond to each other emotionally during collaborations? Was there a learning curve to get inside each other's head or did it seem easy to collaborate?
Zachari: I can’t speak for Ross, but I think, because our visual lexicons have similarities or overlaps it made for an easy transition into a formal dialogue between the two of us. I am a very messy artist in my space, Ross is incredibly fastidious, and, as we did these collaborations in Ross’s studio in the Hamptons, I quickly became conscious of this and amended my ways out of respect for the space, and for Ross’s process. I think as we began to create these works together, it became quite conversational; one evocation led to another and so forth until one of us ‘finished’ them… as they are hung in the gallery, they really do seem like a series of aesthetic conversations, roads to somewhere perhaps, but nowhere too specific. Ross was incredibly generous with this project… I collaborated once before, but it was very strange and in a way it was a non-collaboration, it was with French artist, Sophie Calle in 2009 for an exhibition titled “When I Grow Up” at Galerie Jean Roch Dard in Paris. We never ever met, and basically I was to follow her instructions and respond to a work of hers. I enjoyed the challenge and was of course honoured to work with her in this way, but working with Ross has been both a huge honour and profound privilege too- because I get to see how he physically works in his space, and experience his remarkable stamina, both highly personal aspects of one’s practice.
Ross: I loved having Zachari in my studio. He works very much like I do meaning basically all the time. We sat around sometimes separately sometimes together and passed things back and forth. He’s invited back anytime always.
Noah: That's great and makes me think about how you both manipulate aspects of nature for painterly purposes. Do you both have specific goals in the use of nature in painting or is meaning in your work happenstance?
Zachari: In my work, nothing exists outside my body, body is nature, it is landscape, therefore imagery of flora and fauna plays a key role in the creation of my drawings and ceramics. Plant-life can connote place, exoticism and memory- and I often use it to construct spaces that seem deceptively real but are fictive when contextualized, to suggest internal states of being. Flora and fauna also at times stand in for a more increasingly absent or disintegrating body in my work, something I feel Ross and I have in common.
Ross: Zachari draws beautiful, I barely can. But I can try to make things looks like they’re about to disappear. Both of those approaches embody a kind of longing and melancholy. I think only gay artists can understand that really, ESP post - 80’s and the awareness of our collective loss.
Noah: Ross Bleckner is part of art history and an influence for many artists. Zachari Logan, you are a somewhat new artist exploding onto the international scene. Are there exterior influences such as painting, literature or music that you either both share or have found inspirational on a personal level?
Zachari: I need to first say Ross has been a huge influence since my second year of art school, when Alison Norlen, a former professor of mine introduced me to his work. And personally, I am constantly referencing art historical movements, styles and individual artists, such as the British 17th C paper artist, Mary Delany. I have also been deeply influenced by literature and music and mix references or homages as it suits me- or rather the work. I think I could add that Ross and I perhaps share similar practice for sourcing art history as it suits…
Ross: What can I say after that except thank you I’m very grateful that my work had some effect on someone somewhere at sometime.
Noah: What topics of conversation come up when the two of you are discussing things? Do you talk about art or something else?
Zachari: We talk art, politics; the state of the world, we talk about differences between Canada and the US… what else Ross?
Ross: I’m fascinated by how good natured and generous Zachari is, so I ask a lot of questions... how he seems to have a zen like inner peace. I also ask him a lot about how he’s been able to remain in such a stable marriage for so long. I guess I’m a little envious. Then I met his husband Ned and understood... they are among the very few gay couples I’ve ever met whose connection didn’t just seem like a simulacra of hetero normal. They’re both so kind and open and generous.
Noah: What would you like the viewer to experience when seeing your collaborative exhibition? Is viewer experience important to you?
Zachari: I think Wayne Baerwaldt and Leah Taylor have done a remarkable job in bringing our work together in an exploration of shared themes and aesthetics… regarding the collaborations themselves, I hope they exude the joy and playfulness with which they were created, and I’m interested to see whether the viewer sees them as conversant. I am particularly interested in how our works physically act when together in the same space, this has to do with pictorial differences between our work and our attention to surface I think- and their connection to a lived queer reality.
Ross: Way more then the formal, or the imagery... I saw the connection to the belief that after it all, after the recent history of out queer lives there are pieces and fragments of colour and light that put together on paper or canvas with hope that looks forward to a better place. WM
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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