Whitehot Magazine

October 2013: Artist Conversation with Blayke Kogan and Tom Smith, as featured in "Delusions" at ROX Gallery

 Rox Gallery, New York, NY (exterior view) photo by Elliot Goldstein


Delusions @ Rox Gallery, New York

Delusions curated by Lauren Xandra Kaufman presents mixed media artworks spanning a fifty year period (1960's to present). From Warhol to Witkin and their contemporaries, this exhibition reveals moments of conceptual and formal resonance between Pop and Surrealist art. Delusions is a group exhibition featuring artists who locate identity on a spectrum of real to unreal, and in finding outlets in the absurd, re-establish standardized symbols of sensation and selfhood. Delusions centers on both the Pop privileging of appropriation and all-over abstraction, and the Surrealist emphasis on repressed desire and the unconscious–illuminating the irony and cultural disharmony that dominate both movements. The overall effect of the exhibition is an exploration of how bodies of thought and people are often reduced to form. The following is a conversation between two artists in the show, Tom Smith and Blayke Kogan.

Blayke Kogan: As an artist one of the things I find myself thinking about often is this idea of an art 'movement' and what this time period will be remembered for in the history of art. What do you think about this idea of a movement, and what is happening now? Or is this idea of a movement out-dated in your opinion?

Tom Smith:  I haven’t heard of anyone defining it in one or two words, but I think the movement we're in now has to do with the natural integration of the digital age. The evolution of digital media has really influenced us as consumers and creators and its unlimited us in many ways as artists. If you knew what movement we're working in right now do you think it would influence the way you make work?

Blayke:  Yes,to a certain extent. For me, I find that I am very sensitive to visual culture. The digital age and technology in particular is becoming such a big part of how people operate in their day to day, so in that way I agree that this integration is central to art now. But I also think art today is becoming increasingly self-aware. Its like what Andy Warhol did for pop art and on consumer culture. I think perhaps that  is similar to our relationship to digital culture. Do you find your work has grown out of a reaction to art of the past in any way?

Tom: Sure, unless I’m creating from an authentic place, my work is only coming out of a reaction to the past. I like what you said about art becoming more self-aware. As artists we're encouraged to express something unique. I think our generation finds some sense of humor in that don't you think? I like that a lot of artists make fun of the seriousness of art. I only think about pop culture after I make the work. To think about those themes while creating pictures is too confusing. Pop culture is so much about judgement and choosing what we like and dislike, what's new and what's over, do you find that pace to be overwhelming? 

Erhan Mues with his work all photos: Elliot Goldstein

Blayke:  I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed right now, with the amount of information that is being thrown at us at once. But there really is so much visual stimulation at this point with the internet, In a way I have started to source the information that comes my way and react to it.  

Tom:  I voluntarily look at so many pictures and videos every day my work reflects the overall experience of being exposed to so much rather than freezing on one subject as Warhol did with Marilyn Monroe. Making a painting about seeing so many pictures can be funny and it’s also delusional, the world may not need more pictures but something within me says they should be made. Delusions as a show is pretty polarized in terms of humor, some pieces are very flamboyant and others are dead serious. Where do you fit in with that?

Blayke: I think I fit in with this idea of recycling and appropriating, making fun of visual objects that have strong cultural connotations. But even though humor is big for me, I also am really interested in color and texture like a lot of the other pieces in the show are. Ultra violets 'self portrait' pieces are a nice example. They are all the same except in different colors of this texturally amazing baroque frame.

Tom:  Yeah those are very flamboyant. One of my favorite parts of the show is that “decorative” is embraced. I remember always hearing the word "decorative" in college as a bad thing, but in this case it makes so much sense in relationship to the identity of both the artist and collector. The works on the main floor and downstairs galleries are very formal. I didn't think about my catacombs installation as if it were a gallery room, I thought of it more as a fantasy environment, like another world existing beyond the gallery. We had the idea that the further you went into the gallery the deeper you went into the subconscious. The final room houses William Rahilly’s video which is a surreal trip.

Blayke:  I love that. I remember hearing months ago about the concept for your room, and it being other worldly and almost extraterrestrial. And Will’s being the depth of the subconscious makes sense. His stands out as the most surreal for me.

Tom: I love this concept of traveling through the formalities of a gallery and arriving somewhere mystical and surreal. Layers of atmospheric sound float around the final rooms. You know you’re in a basement but you’re also transported. For me this is what Delusions is about as a viewer as well as a creator in the show... to fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe. WM

The New God will celebrate its project debut at Wallplay (next door to ROX) in New York City on October 17th from 6 to 9pm with a multi-media presentation of photographs, digital installation, and projected imagery from the eponymously titled project and forthcoming book by photographer Elizabeth Waugh. Work featured for The New God launch will be on display October 17-31 at Wallplay located at 118 Orchard St. in New York City. Delusions curator Lauren Xandra can be contacted via email at laurenxandra.lx@gmail.com

Guests at ROX Gallery, NYC all photos: Elliot Goldstein

 The opening of Delusions at ROX Gallery, New York, NY

Guests at ROX




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