By OWEN WESTBERG, DEC. 2016
After a summer participating in three group shows, at Foxy Production, CANADA, and James Cohan Gallery, and a 2016 recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s NYC Emerging Artist Grant, Anna Glantz will be having her first solo exhibition with 11R Gallery December 8. Utilizing an eclectic medley of abstract and representational imagery her work challenges the viewer to piece together an often obtuse narrative, while enjoying the painterly passages of forms and colors culled from an array of historical and pop culture references. In her Long Island City studio surrounded by depictions of brittle pumpkins, wicker horns, trumpet forms, and pillowy bricks we spoke about developing imagery, the importance of idiosyncratic decisions, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and her upcoming show at 11R Gallery.
Owen Westberg: Can we talk about about some of your influences?
Anna Glantz: Well I recently went on a sort of pilgrimage to see Bruegel’s paintings at the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna. What I like about them is that there’s no cropping, you see everything he wanted to include in a painting, like a catalogue of different objects and activities. His figures are often more clothes than bodies, draped in oversized and formless clothing so when seen from behind all you have is the silhouette of a hat, shirt, and spindly legs. It sometimes seems like they don’t have the front half of their body.
OW: So is it more the psychological mood you get from the paintings or are you also influenced by their formal construction?
AG: Well I think both, the way Bruegel fits scenes and forms together allows strange things to happen all over the picture plane, in one area there are carnival goers wearing bizarre headgear and in some other corner people eating oddly shaped pretzels.The paintings often have a melancholy disposition which is in part why I feel drawn to them. In The Gloomy Day which is part of his series depicting six seasons, the painting itself is really dark even in person its just abstractly dark where the forms just barely emerge out of this murky space. It feels like you could zoom in infinitely and still not know how he painted it.
OW: Can you tell me about the paintings for your upcoming show?
AG: I’ve been thinking about this group of paintings as if they were traveling within a spiral, simultaneously pushing the narrative elements away from each other while also orbiting closer.
together. You can see this in the repetition of certain objects which emerge in the paintings like the trumpet shape or horn which manifests itself in different forms.
OW: In both this work and the paintings you showed with Topless at NADA this past May, these reoccurring objects seem like building blocks of representational paintings in that they are able to be morphed and rearranged almost infinitely with transparency, color, and volume without losing their sense of objecthood.
AG: Yeah I’ve been purposefully using a lot of forms which you could build with in the real world like stones, bricks, and wooden planks. I see them as solid frameworks to set scenes within. This sounds kind of cheesy, but I’m thinking in terms of showing how the mind works when it processes dreams and cycles information by recombining elements it has stored throughout the day. The initial idea for most of the paintings in this show came while reading about these Guatemalan and Mexican worry dolls, which are small cloth figures which function by people unburdening themselves of their fears and anxieties through telling their problems to the doll before bed. The emotions of vague fear and discontent like the kind we are seeing from people in this election are things that I think can be addressed through painting, not in a direct way but in that it provides a vessel like an inanimate mind or stomach to store these anxieties in.
OW: There is a painting on my left which appears be a portrait of the artist Mike Kelley?
AG: Yeah he’s kind of the king of repressed memories, that why he’s in here watching over me.
OW: Do you ever feel like your wearing the cap of a fictional or historical artist while your painting?
AG: I don’t know if its so much roleplaying as it is trying to find images that would surprise or excite me. It’s still the way I would paint objects or scenes even if Im channelling some historical moment in order to get to the image I have in my head. The paintings I made for NADA were inspired by this book McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh which is about a young American sailor in the 1850s from Salem, Massachusetts who drinks his way through life and is accused of killing his best friend but is unable to remember whether he did or not. I’m interested in the idea that your mind can play tricks on you, like in a police interrogation where you lose track of what actually happened and admit to things you never did.
OW: Some of the paintings from NADA also had imagery derived from WPA murals right?
AG: Yeah I came across some of the images after listening to a lecture that Carroll Dunham gave in which he spoke about visiting some of the murals. One of the paintings from NADA Magafan Sisters is taken directly from a cropped image of a mural I found in a book done by these twin sisters Ethel and Jenne Magafan who travelled around Texas with their husbands making murals in post offices and other public institutions during the WPA period. Their mural depicts a lively dance inside a barn, in my painting I honed in one of these figures, a women with her hair flying around her face as she dances and tried to reimagine her as one or both of the Magafan sisters.
OW: So were you interested as much in how the murals were painted as you were the story?
AG: Yeah it was definitely how the murals were painted, they look like huge colored pencil drawings lots of crosshatching and dynamism.
OW: You mentioned Carroll Dunham, who are some other contemporary artists you feel engaged with or inspired by?
AG: I really like Ivan Morley, he shows with Bortolami Gallery, I feel he has a similar approach to narrative as I do. He uses stories and folk tales which become recurring themes in his work, one of them is about an ex-slave who became an entrepreneur in California by selling cats to people looking to get rid of rats, there is another one which tells of a place which is so windy that bullets are deflected when you shoot them. You wouldn’t ever guess the plots from the paintings but it’s more an excuse to make whatever he wants to make than to follow the plot point in a straightforward manner. For instance one painting could be an advertisement for brass knuckles that a main character might have seen on the side of the road.
OW: Having a backstory playing behind the work seems important even if it doesn’t emerge concretely for the viewer.
AG: Yeah its an unburdening, it takes the pressure off. I don’t think it very interesting imagining the future trajectory of your work, I always hope to find something unique or unexpected while making a painting. WM
Owen Westberg is an artist and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He received his MFA from Columbia University in 2014.view all articles from this author