Square Cylinder, Reed Anderson @ Gallery 16, by Julia Ccouzens, December 31, 2014
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, defines “yes” as a function word. Meaning, one that establishes grammatical relationships between words, rather than content. Thus, if function is a form of process, then Reed Anderson’s work is the acme of yes. It consists of two resplendent bodies of work that appear under the title House of Yes. They showcase Anderson’s interest in embodied forms of production, using his hand to cut, paint, fold and layer stunningly beautiful works on paper. His work is very much part of the expanding practice of artisanal concerns evident in such museum shows as Labour and Wait at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 2013 and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present, currently at the ICA/Boston.
The rich materiality of Anderson’s work on paper accrues its presence through an accumulation of acts. After screen or woodblock printing sections of mostly primary colors, he cuts out hundreds of circular openings ranging in size from the head of a pin, to a standard hold punch, to the top of a soup can. He then folds and repaints or stamps pigment through the holes, allowing the blots and Baechleresque squishes to remain.
Given Anderson’s skilled use of line, edge, shape, and color it’s obvious he has formal facility. But in permitting “mistakes” to remain, he builds up a history and creates pentimento, giving his work an undeniable visceral charge. This also suggests that he doesn’t want to know what his next move or line will be and that he embeds himself within the making of the work.
Anderson draws upon a variety of sources. One body of work uses floral imagery to suggest bouquets or mandalas or muddied pieces ofscherenschnitte, the Swiss folk art of paper cutting. I am also reminded of the late cut paper paintings of Irene Pijoan (1954-2004) who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, and where Anderson received his undergraduate degree. Like Pijoan, Anderson offers generosity and respect for the power of formal craft. The flower pieces are unbridled odes to beauty and the ceremonial rituals of birth, death and achievement.
Another group of work, from Anderson’s ongoing project The Papa Object, is based on images appropriated from fine art and furniture auction catalogues. Anderson grew up with art and antiquities in his family home. But rather than reject the materialism of these objects, he uses them as a springboard for layered works that refer to African textiles, Russian Constructivism, Modernism and decorative arts. There is also a performative component to this work. Some of it has been installed in private homes, offices, and even a research vessel in Antarctica, for the express purpose of being photographed in place. These multiple references, along with Anderson’s reproduction of reproductions, create emblems for endless scenarios about art, craft, commerce, trade, decoration, culture and history.
Whitehot Magazine, Reed Anderson at Pierogi, by Paul Laster, April 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.
Featured in: TED TALK With Start Brown - Collaborative project for d.school, Hasso
Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Cue media to minute 19 in viewer.
Ted.com Stuart Brown
SLOrk, Stanford Laptop Orchestra. Performed and collaborated in the designing and
building of hemispherical speakers for a 20 piece Apple laptop orchestra that
utilize ChucK and miniAudicle programing.