Quick Stats: Originally From: New York Currently Resides: Detroit Years working as an artist: 10
Caro Kann is an opening for Black in chess – you played competitive chess as a child and have referenced it as an influence in your work and life. Can you elaborate on that?
I think chess trains your brain to think in a particular way, and even at a young age I recognized that this mindset was incredibly applicable to many other aspects of life. Chess taught me how to have a large overarching goal (checkmate or resignation), and how to build a strategy to reach it (opening, middle game, and end game). It taught me how to be flexible within that strategy, and that I must be able to adapt in order to deal with events outside of my control (opponents moves). It showed me how to be creative even within a set of rules. Chess is a language. One based on logic, creativity, rationality, forethought, among many other things. I’ve tried to carry these principles not only into my studio, but every area of my life.
You moved to Detroit from NYC, did growing up in New York influence you as an artist.
I think the biggest influence New York has had on me not just as an artist, but as a person, is exposure. It exposed me to the art, food, music, philosophies, and religions from cultures across the globe, and also gave me the chance to see how they all blend together; what that looks like, tastes like, and smells like. I know it may sound cliche, but that “melting pot” aspect of New York was incredibly influential. Perhaps it’s why I’m so drawn to collage and bricolage as art forms. The idea of taking disparate elements and combining them into something new is what I saw around me everyday.
Has your practice changed since moving to Detroit? In what ways?
My practice has changed dramatically since moving to Detroit, but I prefer to use the term grown or evolved. Detroit has given me the ability to pursue ideas, forms, and materials that I couldn’t in New York. Before moving to Detroit I mostly made drawings and collages. While those are two disciplines that still factor heavily in my work, my practice has taken a decidedly sculptural turn. I’ve always loved to build things, and even wanted to be an architect when I was younger. Detroit has allowed me to incorporate this passion for the built form into my artistic process. I also have a love of material culture, and the objects that we attach significance and importance to beyond their material components or utilitarian function. I can now fold all of this into the work, allowing it to further grow into what it is supposed to be.
Your work pursues the theme of defense mechanisms–How do the pieces in Caro Kann evolve from your existing body of work “Not Good but Well Behaved”?
Caro Kann is composed of pieces from two bodies of work, “Not Good But Well Behaved” and “F.O.O.L”. F.O.O.L is an acronym for “fabric of our lives,” the registered slogan of Cotton Inc. While working on the “Not Good but Well Behaved” series, I was thinking a lot about pain and trauma. The “F.O.O.L” series grew out of thinking about how the collective trauma of the black experience in this country is simultaneously one of the most horrific examples of violence civilization has ever witnessed, but also something that ties together what was once a disparate and varied group of people into a unique and vibrant culture. I was interested in examining that duality.
The majority of your work is in black and red and you use materials such as rubber, collage and found objects often, can you talk about your color and material choice and how it informs your work?
Even though I don’t really consider myself a conceptual artist, the ideas behind a body of work are always what drives my formal choices (materials, form, color, etc.) The color and material choices you mention are specific to the “Not Good but Well Behaved” series. The rubber and the color black were chosen because of their association with protection, and impenetrability. The color red was chosen for its association with love, anger, and passion; those raw emotions that find their way to the surface regardless of how hard we deny them, and that I myself link with notions of vulnerability.
You have also done curatorial work in the past. What do you look for when putting together art or choosing artists for an exhibition?
When putting together an exhibition, I think of it a lot like composing music. Obviously first and foremost, I look for strong and interesting work. My exhibitions always have a unifying aspect or theme they are trying to address. Within that, I like for each artist or work to represent a different viewpoint or facet of an idea. To go back to my analogy, I don’t want everyone to be playing the same instrument. I look for different instruments, different sounds, different rhythms, that combine into a unified song.
What is something many people don’t know about you? I still have all of my wisdom teeth, and one baby tooth