Reed Anderson at Pierogi
By PAUL LASTER APR. 2014
A playful purveyor of works on paper, Reed Anderson prints, paints, and cuts his way through paper like a karate champ punching holes through modern masters’ canvases. For his fourth solo exhibition at Pierogi, Anderson presents paintings on paper from two recent pursuits: the continuation of his colorful cut paper paintings and spinoffs from his series Papa Object, which placed Anderson’s photo-based, painted pieces with temporary collectors around the world. Whitehot contributor Paul Laster recently caught up with the Brooklyn-based artist for an extended Facebook chat to discuss his process, love of paper, and freethinking ways.
Paul Laster: What is it about paper that fascinates you so much to use it as your primary ground?
Reed Anderson: I came to paper through printmaking . . . and while lousy at making editions I was totally taken up with the working proofs in the studio . . . the cut-up collaged and smudged dialogue of correction was something that I embraced. The ephemeral quality of paper shows it's wear and age in a way that is akin to the body: the folds, patches, and stains of time marks the path of our actions.
Laster: What's the process for the cut paper pieces? Do you paint, collage, and then cut out the circular and ovular shapes?
Anderson: To try to describe this is like dancing with no answers . . . every time things are a little different . . . searching for new elements to introduce into the studio. In the studio I have some things that I have an idea about, but nothing I make is going to actually be this idea, so it's a question of working the idea. It's true that there are sets of processes that I like, that I go to out of appetite . . . but between each of these steps it is important to break free from certain habits that just create finished work . . . massaging the fly into the ointment.
Because of this, a breakdown is pretty much impossible. As for what is going on in my mind . . . I have an idea, like I said, but I've always been more of a gut person . . . when new things start to come together it's a question of trusting the anxiety that this produces and continuing to work. Work begets work . . . for me most of the thinking happens before and after.
I try to stop before anything is too finished . . . something incomplete is more sexy, and more open to receive us as viewers. When something is worked to a compulsive finish there is always a whiff of decor that for me leaves my emotional response cold.
Laster: What's your attraction to printmaking techniques, such as silkscreen and wood block printing, that you regularly use in the process of constructing your works?
Anderson: While I was schooled as a printmaker, it isn't the technique that I am interested in, since that would imply some adept professionalism towards the craft of printmaking. It's exactly the lack of this adeptness and clarity that I enjoy . . . This ham-fisted approach lends itself nicely to the mistakes and blunders that are an important part of my work at the moment.
Laster: You seem to be drawn to a vibrant palette. What does color represent to you?
Anderson: A bodega rainbow . . . I have always been attracted to the full spectrum of flavors there... many of the object paintings have roots in a more graphic sensibility, a kind of poster feeling, so naturally I am influenced by this genre. But when I texted "bodega rainbow" from my phone to you, I was also referring to the environment of New York . . . the entirety of colors that surround us.
Laster: You sometimes work in black-and-white, as in the mask-like, cut paper paintings in your current show, which you have also created in the past. What are they about and why are they made in a gray scale?
Anderson: The faces are influenced by the Oceanic and African masks in the paintings. The more subtle tones of grays are really just a matter of a feeling . . . it's what I wanted for this series.
Laster: You refer to the object paintings. Are they part of the Papa Object series of paintings? If yes, what are they about?
Anderson: Papa Object was a series of paintings I made over the past few years about the liminal state of art and object . . . the paintings continue, but the name Papa Object is specific to a group that I mailed to locations around the globe as a kind of research experiment before deciding to show them publicly. This series engages with my own history of growing up with a household of art objects and their double-agent status as art and as personal, transitional objects.
Laster: There's a spiritual, Zen-like nature to your work. How does that relate to your philosophy and way of life?
Anderson: The way I see it is that artists and the Zen folks have this issue of emptiness that they both seem to be dealing with . . . and so I think the two are natural bedfellows, but being overly dogmatic carries its own set of problems . . . if anything, the older I get the more I want to be free of the rules . . . in general this attitude has made me more spontaneous and accepting of what happens in the studio which is exciting for me and I think this energy comes across in the work.
There is an attitude that is deeply embedded in my upbringing which comes from a belief in pictures . . . and so if anything, perhaps I am a believer in the old fashioned idea that art has the power of transformation . . . both in the seeing and doing.
Paul Laster is a writer, editor, independent curator, artist and lecturer. He is a New York desk editor at ArtAsiaPacific and a contributing editor at Whitehot and artBahrain. He was the founding editor of Artkrush.com and Artspace.com and art editor of Flavorpill.com and Russell Simmons's OneWorld Magazine; started TheDailyBeast.com's art section; and worked as a photojournalist for Artnet.com and Art in America. He is a frequent contributor to Time Out New York, New York Observer, Modern Painters, ArtPulse and ArtInfo.com.view all articles from this author