Art as Linguistic Education

 

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Artist Paul D’Agostino invented a ‘Chromatic Alphabet,’ a painted visual language of simple shapes and colors. Its’ aesthetic appeal is analogous to the paired down geometry of Robert Mangold, Frank Stella, and Leo Valledor. Yet his alphabet is more than a series of aesthetically pleasing silhouettes and shades arranged atop spackled ecru canvases akin to a Robert Ryman. Absorbing in their own right due to their minimalist, meditative, and graphic aura, no shape is devoid of meaning. Each represents a letter following a mathematical logic based on a simple set of rules including vowels, consonants and other laws of language. D’Agostino maps this out in a piece called the ‘Simplified Alphabet,’ in which each shape is delineated from A to Z. Decoded, the paintings could very well be used as a valuable educational tool to help people obtain a deeper understanding of the written word.

It’s no coincidence that in addition to his career as an artist, D’Agostino works as an educator in multiple languages and has been teaching for a cumulative 19 years at Parsons School of Design, New York University, and The New York Studio School. His passion radiates as he emphatically elucidates the importance of language in communication, education, and art.

Jeffery: Have educators contacted you regarding the potential of the ‘Chromatic Alphabet?’

D’Agostino: Mostly the questions I got from people about the alphabet were if I had developed it with any intention of using it educationally. I didn’t. I did it to make paintings that featured text but didn’t appear to. There was this cryptographic idea at work but it wasn’t for any pedagogical reason. People looked at the paintings and said, ‘My kid who is dyslexic might really respond to this.’ That was the real smack my head moment when I realized it’s much more beautiful as an educational application than as art.

Jeffery: Is education a recurring theme throughout your artwork?

D’Agostino: A lot of my work features linguistic shifts from a purely lexical or literary application into something that can become visual art. It’s always been very seamless to incorporate language, writing and ideas about translation into my work.

Jeffery: Have you had the opportunity to teach the chromatic alphabet to kids in schools?

D’Agostino: I haven’t. I’ve had some primary school teachers contact me and ask if they could try using it. There are some professors in Chicago who want to incorporate it into a philosophy course. Most of the people who are interested are those who do some kind of speech therapy or who work with students with reading disabilities.

Jeffery: Are kids able to decode it?

D’Agostino: My friend’s son who is eight-years-old was decoding it very quickly. He went into the gallery and wanted to understand it. He wrote in the sign-in book, ‘I really like your ‘Chromatic Alphabet.’ It’s so much fun. But what you should do is add a sound element to it. They should make noise too.’ And what was cool is that he is already trying to take it one step further.

Jeffery: Perhaps he is an aural learner. What kind of learner are you?

D’Agostino: I’ve always been very good at studying from a book. Especially with languages. I like the written approach because I have a good memory of how words look together. Other people’s memories are completely different. When you teach the alphabet or reading there are ways to teach it in an indirect visual way. It’s like when you’re teaching math, to teach fractions you can show a pizza or a pie.

Jeffery: That explains why some people dislike numbers but love geometry because it’s the more visual element of math.

D’Agostino: Exactly. Math has many natural visual elements that you can bring in. You don’t have visuals when you’re teaching the alphabet. For a lot of learners that’s ok. But if there’s a problem in remembering the sequencing of things a ‘Chromatic Alphabet’ is a different way of conveying the same information. For example, a kid could be having a hard time spelling because it doesn’t make sense to him or her. But through this indirect thing that is comprised of colors and shapes he or she could be like, ‘Ok, I can visualize it like this and make its’ letter equivalent.’ So rather than having no middle step, there’s a middle step. The middle step is what we all do when we’re learning a different language.

Jeffery: And learning multiple languages develops a deeper understanding of all languages.

D’Agostino: That’s the key. I’ve always liked reading and writing but the more I got involved in learning other languages the more I became passionate about English and how it’s structured. The structures in English have similar structures in other languages. It’s a comparative language thing and you can never really learn everything about each one. There’s always an idiomatic expression that’s going to throw you sideways. But that thinking through something else is a really important step in learning a foreign language. If you’re getting to the point where you’re just starting to speak a new language, then you’re probably still thinking through English and that’s ok. You’ll eventually get to a point where you’re not thinking through English anymore. You think directly. Maybe that’s what the ‘Chromatic Alphabet’ step could be for certain kids. Maybe that’s the thing they think through for a little while.

Jeffery: So would mathematically inclined students be more responsive to the ‘Chromatic Alphabet’ or is it more for artistic learners?

D’Agostino: That’s my biggest question mark. I really don’t know. I think if nothing else, it would be fun for young learners to be exposed to it whether or not they have problems with reading or writing. They could use a tool like a coloring book and then have to refer to the cover of the book on which is the simplified ‘Chromatic Alphabet’ is decoded.

Jeffery: You should make a coloring book.

D’Agostino: I should. Even if they have no problem reading, they’re coloring, which all kids love to do. And they’re doing a little bit of code breaking and basic translation. There is nothing wrong with coloring a horse and a pig on a farm. They’re coloring and learning about animals, but this is just one other way for them to do some art. And their mind is going to be engaged on more levels than if they were coloring a pig on a farm because they’re learning a language.

Jeffery: And people of all ages love solving mysteries and the sense of accomplishment that comes from cracking a code.

D’Agostino: I keep thinking of it as eight-year-olds are going to have fun with it. But the truth is at any age you can have fun with it. With enough exposure you can simply read it. I can just read it. I mean, I’m kind of cheating because I made it up. But I still had to learn it.

Jeffery: So you’re fluent in your visual language?

D’Agostino: Yeah. Drawing and reading. It’s based on a color sequence. So even passively people are going to learn about color theory. They’re going to learn that between yellow and red is orange. And perhaps they won’t question it but that will become a visual reference for them and maybe one day they’ll take an art class and know instinctively that when you mix yellow and red together you get orange.

Jeffery: So again it translates into the language of art and color, which brings us full circle because it’s how the paintings initially appear. Where would you ideally want to take this concept from here?

D’Agostino: I’m just going to keep making paintings that have words on them. I am going to do a series of paintings with the word ‘soul’ because the soul is a weird thing. It’s this beautiful, very Ace of Bacey idea but it’s really compelling. A lot of the words for soul in different languages have many vowels. I thought that was interesting because a vowel is an open sound and a soul is this thing that can’t be seen or it’s in the air.

Jeffery: It’s open to interpretation and exists without definition.

D’Agostino: Yes. It would be compelling to paint a lot of really basic words that are more loaded with meaning than the average word.

Jeffery: What other words would you chose to paint?

D’Agostino: Another painting would be time.

Jeffery: Would you ever consider taking it further than painting words? Would you ever write sentences, paragraphs or stories?

D’Agostino: Definitely. It would be a huge undertaking but I’ve already thought about writing the first lines of a poem. It would be nice to do it on thick paper with gouache. Or in a coloring book that has some text in it. I’d love to have a dialogue with anybody about where to take the coloring book idea next.

For more information or to contact the artist please visit http://centotto.com/paul-dagostino/

The Abstract Geometric Worlds of Tim Kent

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Tim Kent’s show with Slag gallery at Volta included a collection of paintings that he meticulously labored over every day, for a minimum of 12 hours, for the past three years. The finished works are a testament to just how intense Kent’s process is.

A visit to the artist’s studio, where lines of tape stream across his paint covered canvases to section off one part of the work from the other, helped illuminate his industrious process. There are no windows to maximize the amount of workable wall space as he moves from painting to painting. There is a yoga mat on the floor on which Kent takes carefully timed naps while layers of paint dry. He has a system of rulers across several of the paintings too, carefully counterweighted with partially full bottles of Poland Spring. Each ruler rests at the vanishing point so that they can be moved as needed like the hands of a clock. The idea, the artist said, came from Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer who would set his vanishing points increasingly further away as he aged.

Like Vermeer, famed for his depictions of domestic interiors, Kent’s work has similar structural and architectural lines. Yet as opposed to being confined to one room, Kent’s paintings are geometric worlds that feel as if you could walk right into and disappear.

Jeffery: There is so much spatial structure to your paintings. Are they architecture based?

Kent: I was doing architectural interiors before this. When my gallerist Irina finally said you can go to town, I knew what I wanted to do, it was just a question of figuring out how to get there. Now I’m beginning to see options as they open up as I keep trying out new little things. Part of me wants to be that big painter with the big brush, but at the same time this is really engaging stuff for me. It’s really noodly but I like it. I like the investigation of the surface. I think it’s fun, and it’s challenging as fuck. But it’s more geometric based rather than architectural. Architecture is the easiest thing for me to work to. I’m more interested in taking the format of the canvas as a rectangle or a square and beginning to create an undulation of space that is actually pretty flat but it’s modeled to look like there is space in it. Yet if you touch it, there’s nothing there.

Jeffery: There’s a lot of depth. Your paintings seem to keep going and going.

Kent: Yeah. It’s almost too illustrative in a sense but at some point as I keep reducing I’ll be able to get more to a depth versus surface situation.

Jeffery: So you start off abstract, then it becomes more illustrative, and then it becomes about depth versus surface?

Kent: This one became very illustrative because I kind of got stuck on it and I began to try to figure out ways to move through it. You have four or five different types of painting happening immediately and then it’s about integrating them and finding where they relate to each other.

Jeffery: I love that there is so much structure and then a tiny patch of chaos with a sectioned off splat of tiny, speckled dots.

Kent: I like that too. I try to find ways to make sense of things we can’t see. One of them is radiation. How do you talk about radiation in terms of representation? One of the ways I imagine it to be is this sort of field. These fields of speckly things that happen and that’s probably part of how we think about the world. And I also think that the specks are a completely contrary thing to the rigor of the geometry. They offer a nice noise.

Jeffery: And there is a juxtaposition of the hard geometry versus nature.

Kent: That’s another thing, how I look at things is compartmentalized. If I look at things on a screen it’s compartmentalized and I don’t see everything as we naturally experience it. We are always kind of removed somehow. So part of it is creating boxes of events.

Jeffery:  With all the compartmentalization and meticulous detail, how do you know when the painting is complete?

Kent: I think it can’t really be finished. You know when you’re blowing a bubble and you’re blowing it up and you know that any second it’s going to pop. It’s like getting to that point and you get a second to look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow. That’s a really big bubble. I can’t go any further.’ That’s pretty much where it finishes. This one (points) might be about to pop actually.

Jeffery: If I didn’t already know that you were still working on it I would think it was already a finished piece.

Kent: Yeah. There are tiny little issues on it that I need to work out. Just fixing up little spots that are really annoying to me. Like I think this needs to be richer and some organization has to happen there. Things like this bug me. But that’s about it really and then I can let it go. I want it to be a piece where you can be sitting around talking to people and then it gets into your imagination for a while and you can kind of space out on it and then resume your conversation.

Jeffery: How do you determine the shape the painting will take?

Kent: It’s about beginning to pull out possibilities and seeing how you can formulize them or not. Ideally I would like to get them all simplified to line work but that would take time to strip away all the years of bullshit that I’ve put into my expectations of what painting should look like. And as a commercial artist it’s hard to make jumps that radical. The jumps have to be made in the process of making the works over time.

Jeffery: Is there an element of chance to your work?

Kent: It’s the negotiation of what happens as an accident automatically and what happens as you rationalize it. So those red spats in the background underneath that building… Are they walls? Are they colors? Are they part of the sky? How do they work? Where is the narrative value? Is that a ski slope? Is that a little village? I don’t know yet. Are these people or are they bits of hay? The worst part about deconstructing reality is, as a species, we’re deconstructing everything and we’re faced with the issue of our deconstruction. This is a partial reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis, which we’ll be seeing more and more of, I think, in the coming years where we have this displacement of people due to the environment. And I think that’s what this piece has started off as being and it will be.

Jeffery: Did you have that idea in your head when you started painting or did it just transpire?

Kent: I saw a photograph in The New York Times of a huge mosque with all these men praying in this same sort of motion and I was like, this is amazing. I started looking at each image of each man and I began imagining a story for him and it all sort of came together. I began to think about it and I thought I would do my rendition of that photograph in this part of the painting and then I realized that it’s actually about these people being confined into a situation and then it just emerged that it was somehow a reaction to this huge thing that’s happening in the world right now with people getting displaced like crazy. It’s madness.

Jeffery: Where do you begin when you’re faced with the blank canvas?

Kent: I was talking to a painter friend of mine about paintings and where they go. And when I make a drawing that I get frustrated with I erase it. And I kind of imagine that’s what a blank canvas is. It’s like the very end part of the painting. It’s the absolute. It’s the final product. So by making the painting and getting it someplace I’m actually going backwards through the process of making. So the second thing happens as just a big mess that’s being made in order to get a step back in time from that final blank canvas. All of a sudden it’s a system of putting back into place the bits of the explosion.

Jeffery: So it’s like a regression.

Kent: Yes! What I’m trying to do is get to the beginning of the story where the key players are emerging and everything is getting started. I’m beginning to figure out what the place looks like before it explodes.

Tim Kent is represented by Slag gallery, 56 Bogart Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206, slaggallery.com

 

Tacit Liaisons: ‘What’s Never Said’

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The New York Times bestselling author, Susan Shapiro’s twelfth book, What’s Never Said, tackles the interminable question of romance gone awry. The plot line is familiar — Lila, a young literature student in downtown Manhattan falls for her older professor, which leads to an unfurling of misunderstandings that culminate in the abrupt ending of their relationship without it ever having actually begun. The author’s voice comes out in the form of her Sylvia Plath obsessed main character as she tries to piece together where she went wrong, an anxiety that resonates with anyone who has ever brushed up against love and lost it before it was theirs.

Shapiro does a flawless job at moving between the 1980’s and the present day to demonstrate the stark contrast between our evolving physical bodies and external circumstances versus our stubborn eccentricities and insecurities. The ardor, frankness and honesty that emanates throughout Shapiro’s writing makes you want to pick up a pen and pour out your past love transgressions over a glass of Lila’s go to cocktail of rum and TaB. What’s Never Said is a shrewd, convivial and percipient read that will make you shirk, smile and laugh out loud.

Visceral Humanity: ‘Hesitation Wounds’

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Amy Koppelman’s third novel, Hesitation Wounds, is as full of life as it is melancholic. Dr. Susanna Seliger, a psychiatrist who specializes in treatment resistant depression, strives to keep her clients afloat by counseling and consoling them, but struggles to separate their despairing lives from her own. Yet her patient Jim’s suicide brings more of Susanna’s suffering to the surface than expected, causing her to pause and piece together buried feelings around the death of her own brother.

The author of I Smile Back, now a critically acclaimed movie starring Sarah Silverman, writes poetically, offering a realistic portrayal of suicide and depression. She elucidates the point of view of the doctor, the patient, and the family members in this resolute, powerful, fictional portrayal of the emotional wreckage caused by mental instability. Emotive, painful and unsparing, Koppelman tackles the question of a middle aged woman trying to find meaning in life, seamlessly weaving together stories about human connection with a lingering sense of desperation and loneliness. Koppelman’s latest is at once witty, momentous and foreboding.

The Second Self

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The discrepancy between reality and what we see in well curated Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles is endless. More often than not, the real life individual barely resembles its online presentation. This digital version of our own person is what photographer Remy Holwick refers to as, “the second self”.

Holwick’s work is regularly featured in publications including VFiles, Purple Diary and Vice. In her upcoming show, We Can Be Afraid Together, she seeks to reveal what happens when you strip the physical self of the digital self to reveal what truly lies beneath.

Holwick specifically selected younger models that were born and raised in the digital era. Even though this generation makes their most private thoughts public on the internet, having their thoughts digitized rather than spoken creates a wall of safety and security, a wall behind which they can hide their deepest fears, insecurities and character defects. Holwick’s aim is to present the physical self, or what she refers to as the “first self”, stripped bare, in a moment of raw, emotional vulnerability.

Each subject was individually invited into a room with nothing but grey walls and a window. She asked for permission to shoot her models topless, and they obliged. Using a film camera and polaroid lighting, right before taking the photograph, Holwick asked, “What is your greatest fear?”  “Spiders”, “drowning” and “dementia”, were just a few of the answers received.

The concept of fear has been explored for centuries, yet the ever widening gap between our screen selves and our physical minds and bodies couldn’t possibly be more current. Using film to capture the selfie generation is no accident, as it leaves the subjects with a lack of control, unlike how we can manipulate our digital images to present to the world our best selves.

The end result is an entire gallery wall covered in a collection of life sized faces that stare at the viewer staring back at them. Not only does the beauty of the true self permeate in the purity and honesty of the photographs, but there is an interplay of anxiety and penetrating uncertainty in each image, between each subject, and between the gang of images and the viewer.

Holwick’s greatest fear? “An enormous letter falling off of a building and squashing me. That and the planet Jupiter. Because it’s huge and terrifying.”

We Can Be Afraid Together by Remy Holwick opens Thursday September 17th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Wix Lounge, 325 W 23rd St, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10011

Rules of the Game

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A Throw of Fifteen-Love, by multimedia artist Ariane Schick, opened Thursday at 55Gansevoort, a project space known for exhibiting renowned and upcoming artists including Aaron Bobrow, Jeanette Hayes and Betty Thompkins. This latest opening comes immediately following Schick’s show, Casual Throws, at gallery Super Dakota in Brussels. While the title of her last exhibition referred to the comfy blankets that decorate the ends of sofas, A Throw of Fifteen-Love refers to score keeping in tennis. This serves as a reminder of the reciprocal, interdependent dynamics featured in her work, and perhaps even more so, it highlights the relationship of the work to the viewer, which bounces back and forth, much like the back and forth of a ball on a tennis court.

Like a spectator at a tennis match, a spectator of Schick’s show also looks on from the outside in. All exhibitions at 55Gansevoort are fully visible, at all hours, by peering through the windowed doors. Upon peeking in, one first notices a strip of printed organza at eye level that ribbons the room’s walls, doors, pillars and corners. It wraps entirely around the space, almost decoratively, enveloping it like a present. The continuous flow of images printed on the organza is a haphazard mix of interiors, exteriors and the human form. Gathered from Internet search results and personal pictures, they are lit up by rounded, store bought wall sconces, placed directly on the strip, obscuring some of the images and highlighting others. The sconces are placed at varied intervals, which sets a rhythm for the viewer’s eyes to travel around the room in a continuous loop.

Jeffery: Can you describe the images featured on the organza ribbon?

Schick: The ribbon features a still from the Japanese film Tampopo, in which two embracing characters tip an egg yolk back and forth until its thin skin inevitably breaks. Stills and posters from the French film Maitresse show the protagonist, who spends the film exploring the limits between her two very different personas, in moments of transformation. The still of her in front of her mirror, its bare light in the foreground, is a throwback to the wall sconces in the space. The panel also features images of clothing items found on eBay. A picture of a pair of semi transparent vinyl trousers and figure hugging swimwear are modeled by disjointed, static, headless mannequins, highlighting the fact that what is cut off or not visible is just as important as what is clearly available to the eye.

Other images pull the viewer into a more historical context. These include an inflatable finger by situationist group Haus-Rucker-Co., whose work explored architecture through installations that altered perceptions of space. The image of Elsa Schiaperelli’s trompe l’oeil gloves emphasizes the recurring theme of the boundaries between inside and out. There is a repetitive series of frames of a glass fence-like structure that holds back a hedge. Its green mass spills out over the top, while still visible through the fence’s surface, which reflects the trees and electricity poles that face it. There are images of birds in a cage and a snapshot of flowers with sun glares that interrupt it.

An image of a building that features a large hole through which you can see the sky allows the viewer to slide from outside in. A chest of drawers holding a bonsai tree plays with limits and boundaries. A CGI image of a single pistachio nut shows two shells neatly separated. And finally, the open pages of a book called Silent Back (Dog), features images of puppy dogs’ butts, held open by hands visible in the snapshot.

Jeffery: Can you describe the importance of the sconces sporadically placed on top of this imagery?

Schick: The sconces posit an air of, potentially, but not necessarily, domestic, casual informality. They push the image strip back to the status of a decorative element. They also play up the space, recognizing its needs, acknowledging both its specificities and its commonplace nature. They represent, in various direct and indirect ways, a blurring of perimeters and borders. They place the viewer at the center of a court of images and objects in which their display hovers between presence and absence in order to highlight the viewer in action.

The result of Schick’s show is a site sensitive experience as the wallpaper-like strip flows across the room. The viewer slips between layers of available information as the ribbon beckons the eye to follow the strip in its linear form. Overall, the images project an unreliable feeling and their accumulation heightens this by flattening out and cancelling their singular importance as readable messages. The sconces placed on top of the images interrupt their flow and remove the feeling of the typical ‘white cube’ experience, as they evoke a more residential space. The title, A Throw of Fifteen-Love, the linear form of the project, and its minimalistic simplicity, all hark on the experience of rules as a recurring theme in the artist’s work. Ultimately, if Schick’s goal is to put the viewer in a position where they question in what context they are seeing what is laid out before them and ask themselves, “How am I supposed to look at this?” then she has succeeded.

A Throw of Fifteen Love is open June 18th – July 12, 2015, 55 Gansevoort St, New York, NY, 10014, http://www.55gansevoort.com

Imperfect Perfection

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For black and white analogue photographer Noah Jashinski, art is a physical manifestation of honesty. In his upcoming exhibition, Seventy-Two Hours, he portrays two parallel cinematic series of raw photographic images. His subjects, two different women, are stripped bare and intimately exposed in a way that would be shocking if it weren’t for the innate humility that radiates throughout the work. Stepping into his world, you can feel the adoration in Jashinski’s eye as he documents relationships, lust and human nature in their purest forms.

Jeffery: Can you give us a glimpse into your artistic process?

Jashinski: My focus when I walk into any project is building trust and making sure both the subject and I are in a positive mental state. It doesn’t matter if I have the best equipment, a huge budget, no restraints, or even the most gorgeous person in the world; if the bond and transparency isn’t there, it all becomes meaningless and borders on mundane. Pretty is pretty. There is no escaping that fact, but pretty for the sake of pretty is not only stale, but can almost become new form of “ugliness” because it feels like a lie. If there is no emotional connection or authenticity within the frame, it becomes unattractive, no matter how technically beautiful the location or person may be.

I want to make sure that whatever is being documented is coming from an open, real place. Ultimately, I usually only spend about 25% of the time or less actually shooting; the rest is spent bonding over cigarettes and coffee. Coming from a film background, I have a tendency to treat my camera as though I were filming a documentary. While we talk and throw around ideas, I usually keep the camera peeled to my face and walk around, waiting to be shown what I am not even aware I am looking for. Once I find the angle or the frame I want, I usually set up a tri-pod and proceed to treat the photo more like a painting. We continue to talk and laugh and converse and I just wait for that split second, that exhale, to show itself. It is then I that I will take a single frame, maybe two, and then start the process again. Shooting on film forces me to slow down and treat each shot with care due to its high cost, but I have become accustomed to and now embrace that restriction. It helps filter out the unnecessary.

Jeffery: What was your goal in putting this show together?

Jashinski: Los Angeles is an amazing city for art and culture, but photography, primarily, black and white film photography, is not something generally seen on the front lines as far as galleries and general attention. Outside of select places like Fahey/Klein gallery, finding a home for edgy, unedited photos, is not an easy feat. Whether it is stubborn or not, I refused to present this series if it had to be edited or changed for content. That is why I was so excited and grateful to partner with Art Share L.A. for “Seventy – Two Hours”. They not only allowed me to show my work as it was intended to be seen, but they are an amazing non-profit organization that supports youth and the arts. All the standard gallery proceeds, which usually go into someone’s pocket, go directly back into their programs.

Jeffery: Is each story of a girl completely different or are they somehow related?

Jashinski: Without a doubt there is a relation between the two vignettes, but I think more than anything, that relationship is coming from me and not from the women. Each of them has their own unique energy, vulnerability and strength that comes through.

Jeffery: Why did you decide to exhibit these two subjects together as one whole?

Jashinski: I chose to exhibit these two women together because I felt there was a certain aesthetic in each that truly exhibits the soul of the project. They are similar enough to not be jarring and seamlessly transition from one story to the next. I think both the woman and the location in each vignette significantly guided the trajectory. Working with Tate is Los Angeles yielded far different results than working with Remy in Oakland and San Francisco. Both women are over a decade apart in age, which I felt projected different stages of a woman’s emotion, comfortability, and strength. While in Los Angeles, Tate and I had more control over locations, it being our hometown. Though we primarily improvised and took a very “wing it” approach each day, we still were able to choose where and when we wanted to shoot. With Remy, in Oakland, we were completely at the mercy of the location, the weather and where we were staying. We shot in a loft that I had never seen before. I feel very fortunate to have ended up in the location we did, but I still had far less control. There is experimentation and quietness to the work with Tate. With Remy, there’s a sense of strength, sureness and raw emotion.

Jeffery: How do you hope to inspire others through your work?

Jashinski: I hope to inspire other artists, as well as women and people as a whole. On an artistic level, I want to show that you don’t need to control and micro-manage every bit of your work. That you can let go and embrace what the world provides. You don’t need expensive or equipment or a ton money. If you can build trust and authenticity, especially in collaborating with another person, your work will go further than you could imagine. Also, all of the photos are completely untouched; no photoshopping or retouching. I want everyone to see the beauty in the real and the beauty of imperfections. The texture, movement, and folds of the skin, the strength of presenting yourself to the world as you are and loving yourself for it. I find both these women, in and out, to be some of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. They are both very different body types and have different energies, yet that has no bearing on how uniquely gorgeous they are. That is what I want people to take away from this. The real is beautiful. Morning face can be the most captivating thing you have ever seen. I work a lot with water, whether it be a bathtub or a pool, and I think the reason for this is my desire to wash away all control; wash away the makeup or the hair products. I just want to be left with something and someone who isn’t lying to the camera in any way.

Seventy-Two Hours opens at Art Share LA, Friday May 22nd at 8:00 pm, 213.687.4278, 801 E. 4th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90013, artsharela.org

It’s a Wrap

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Designer Nazanin Rose Matin is coming off the tails of launching her brand new eponymous scarf collection, which is now available internationally via the website http://nazaninrosematin.com. We spoke to the designer about inspiration, the importance of a powerful print and the challenges of running a luxury accessories business.

Jeffery: What inspires your designs?

Rose Matin: I was interested in working with traditional craftspeople and artisans. I was inspired by Persian Nomadic tribes and decided to work with them on my embroidered scarves. I wanted to use traditional techniques in a modern way so that they could be worn in the city, creating an authentic product that supports and showcases the work of these amazing craftspeople. My concept is for the local, global, urban and ethnic to coexist. Most of my designs are symbolic to my Persian heritage, whether it’s inspiration from literature, architecture, poetry, science or landscape and nature.

Jeffery: What made you chose the scarf over other accessories and what is it that you love about prints?

A scarf is a blank canvas. I like to tell a story through my drawings and prints, which have a whimsical, ethereal feel and are collectible pieces to be treasured for years to come. Developing my brand has allowed me free reign in prints and textiles, which is liberating after having worked for other companies in the industry for several years. The scarf is the ultimate accessory. You can wear it in so many ways. It’s perfect for a desert island escape!

Jeffery: What can you tell about a woman by her choice of scarf?

Rose Matin: Scarves allow the wearer to make a statement. They add color and print with one simple accessory and make even the most basic outfit stand out and look effortlessly cool. The women I design for aren’t looking for trends but rather that special, timeless piece.

Jeffery: What is the most challenging aspect of running your own business?

Rose Matin: The most challenging part is being the creative driver of the business and simultaneously running the operations on a day-to-day basis. The best part is being able to deicide on the creative direction of the brand in order to shape the business to match my vision. Nevertheless, being a small business owner means that I need to play several different roles and be very hands on.

Jeffery: How do you feel about the ever-increasing presence of new technologies in the artistic world?

Rose Matin: It’s really exciting as it opens up more and more possibilities for designers. However, I think it’s important not to forget about the craft. Digital technologies shouldn’t be a replacement for what can be done by hand and should instead be used to enhance and compliment traditional skills to do things that weren’t possible before. Personally, I think that something that has been created digitally doesn’t have the same essence and soul as something that has had a human touch.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Perception

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Remi Paringaux, co-founder of creative agency Meri Media and Post, the first iPad only fashion magazine, discusses photography, issues with advertisers and the future of fashion and print media in an increasingly digital world.

Materialist: What kind of imagery inspires your art direction?

Paringaux: The images that I love are those of Nick Knight or Solve Sundsbo. My ultimate hero is Erwin Blumenfeld, a photographer from the 1930s or 1940s who did stuff with his camera, way before photoshop, that just blows your mind. I like images that stage a whole scene and make you dream by tricking the lights.

Materialist: Are you thinking of an art photographer like Jeff Wall?

Paringaux: I love Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson. But even in Nick Knight’s images there’s this fantasy world all around them. You can look at them for hours and just imagine all the different things going on within.

Materialist: Your first job as art director was at Dazed & Confused. What is it about the first cover you created there that’s emblematic for you?

Paringaux: It is my first cover but it’s also my favorite. Mariano Vivanco shot it. We had to sit down and have this guy painted completely in white and then completely in black; it’s good to have that level of art direction. The idea comes from Batman’s Two-Face. The team gave me the framed print when I left. They knew it was my favorite.

Materialist: Do you think all creative people are inherently collectors like yourself?

Paringaux: I guess it helps people feel a bit nostalgic every now and again. It’s good to have a flashback. I don’t collect things in the way people collect stamps or old coins because that’s much more like archiving. Everything I collect has sentimental value: it’s a journey through my past. And they just look cool.

Materialist: Do you collect anything that doesn’t look cool?

Paringaux: I collect a bunch of magazines, for instance, this independent publication called, Ocean Paddler: it is an open water kayak magazine. And it’s the geekiest thing but I love it because it’s such a focused publication.

Materialist: It’s interesting that you created Post, the first iPad only fashion magazine, but that you also collect print media.

Paringaux: I’m completely a print media person. That’s where I started my career and I still do print occasionally. You can’t really collect digital media. It just doesn’t have the same physicality.

Materialist: What do you think of the future of print media for fashion? Do you think people are going to follow suit with what you’ve done with Post? Is print going to die out or it just going to have to become really special?

Paringaux: Print is always going to exist but it’s going to have to fight harder for its existence. Bi-annuals will still be printed because bi-annuals are like books. What I think will disappear are the throwaway things like weekly magazines. And for them, doing a transition into digital media would open so many more doors and revenue streams from new affiliates to a wider distribution network. Everyone who has created iPad magazines so far that are just a slightly enhanced version of the print have failed miserably. It’s about embracing new technology and not doing so halfheartedly. Yet there are things that will remain in print because the physicality of a print magazine gives it its purpose. Think of an in flight magazine. That could never be digitalized.

Materialist: Did you hear that Quantas is implementing iPads on the backs of all their airplane seats?

Paringaux: The designer for Quantas is Marc Newsom. He’s a huge Apple fan and his best friend is Jonathan Ive, the head designer of Apple. They must have been plotting something.

Materialist: With this rapid proliferation of the iPad, do you think magazines will still be around in a few years?

Paringaux: It’s such a big topic and it’s obviously not like I have the answer. I hope they’ll still be around. I really do. I’m a big magazine freak. I collect so many print magazines. In my office I have ten times what I have here at home.

Materialist: Do you actually go back and refer back to the physical object of the magazine?

Paringaux: Weirdly enough, not really. It’s almost like a bulimia and I just want all the magazines. But I do occasionally. I started out collecting magazines of my time. A lot of Dazed & Confused and a lot of AnOther magazine. But recently I started collecting magazines from the past. I bought all the old, original Interview magazines. And I discovered this magazine while I was in LA last summer – It’s called West and it’s the weekend supplement of the Los Angeles Times. I’ve never seen such incredible covers. They’re all illustrated with a The New Yorker vibe: really good stuff. The problem is that once you start collecting those, it’s a weekly magazine, so there are thousands of them.

Materialist: What are your thoughts on the publication as a piece of art, like Six by Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garcons?

Paringaux: In a way it was always intended to be a piece of art. It was so outside the box and there is no text. It was not trying to sell anything or include any celebrities. When Kawakubo worked on Six it was the early 1990s. That started the whole biannual thing. It’s all about that full page of fashion photography. And you can disassemble the publication so they’re almost like posters.

Materialist: What kind of media criticism inspires you?

Paringaux: There’s this one magazine that I would love to collect because it was so attached to a critical movement and a revolution, not only in media but in society. The guys who started May 68 in France had this magazine called The International Situationist Movement. It’s a movement that changed society forever. They basically perverted media by transforming it and flipping it on its head by doing things called, ‘detournements’ where they took a cover of a magazine and painted over it or cut it up and reshaped it to create an alternative meaning to what it was actually supposed to say. So with these existing political images they were essentially creating the opposite. There was a beautiful exhibition at The Centre Pompidou in Paris about ten years ago and I saw the International Situationist Movement magazines there under glass. There were only a couple of hundred copies printed and they had every single issue – I think it was only eight – just the dream. But already that sense of aesthetic and that sense of continuity was a great thing. Media in general is such a massive topic. It’s everywhere.

Materialist: In terms of fashion media specifically, is there a position for fashion criticism in print media?

Paringaux: We celebrate independent publications and self funded magazines because they don’t have advertisers. I’ve always thought it was really important to try and self-publish and be as free as possible of commercial obligations. If you look at mainstream magazines they have a very strict agenda. They can’t talk about anything other than the advertisers who actually buy serious advertising in the title. If not, advertisers complain. Not only in fashion but in every single print and television media industry. It’s absolutely the way things function now. You cannot have an objective opinion. If you hated the Prada collection then you’re not allowed to say so. There are only a few journalists in the world that can get away with dissing a collection.

Materialist: Who do you think they are?

Paringaux: Suzy Menkes doesn’t censor herself. But her newspaper, The International Herald Tribune, doesn’t run on fashion advertising so she’s much freer. Magazine journalists cannot say anything because they live off of advertising. When Tom Ford was on the cover of French Vogue’s December/January issue no 913 with him curating it, there were no Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Yves Saint Laurent products featured. Tom Ford is a rogue guy. He’s my hero because he doesn’t play by the rules. He was at Gucci Group and then went out on his own to build his namesake brand that’s worth a fortune by now. But these big advertisers want to see their product on the editorial pages. In public relations they go through magazines and count the number of times their product appears throughout an issue. And if it doesn’t appear more than 10, 15, 20 times… They’ll cut advertisements the next month. They’ll punish you for not including their products.

Materialist: Why did you choose to create a fashion publication in particular?

Paringjaux: It’s what I know how to do. But Post is more than a fashion publication. It’s an art magazine. It’s not about showing the clothes because I’ve never been a garment person. What I’ve always been interested in is the image of things and the story behind them. A lot of people look at what we do and they’re confused. It touches upon many media outlets and disciplines. But the people who look at it and get it really respect it. For us it’s a front of shop thing. At the end of the day we’re a creative agency, we’re not publishers. I use fashion as a vehicle to show my ideas, concepts and aesthetics. But I could be shooting still lives of flowers. I could be shooting architecture.

Materialist: Do you find that fashion is sexier than those other fields?

Paringaux: Arguably architecture is very sexy. If I knew how to make a building express my aesthetic I would love to do that. But right now the media that I know how to maneuver is fashion imagery so I use that to express myself. The stuff we do in Post is not sexy in any way. It’s actually pretty cold and experimental. It doesn’t put the model or the clothes for that matter on a pedestal. If anything I cut them up, distort them and change the colors. I allow myself a lot of freedom.

Materialist: How do the developments in new media function in terms of retaining an audience?

Paringaux: Each media has its own way of retaining people’s attention. When MTV came out in 1981 they used to ‘cut, cut, cut’ much more like a film. A film used to cut an average of every seven seconds. MTV brought it down to cutting every two or three seconds and then cut to something else. This stroboscopic editing threw your retina and challenged your brain to keep you excited. Now with touch screen media the way to retain people’s attention is to have a finger on the screen. Where it becomes even more powerful is when you allow the user, through the medium of touch, to modify the content so they’re not just swiping pages, they’re actually affecting the shape of something. Post Gravity was so successful because you could change the state of the girl on the cover. And that’s where most magazines fail because touching the screen to swipe the page is not good enough. The new issue is called Post Performance because on every page, in every advertisement and in every editorial, we try to involve the user on a proactive journey of affecting the content.

Materialist: Is reading on a touch screen also more interactive because you don’t have the extra element of separation in the form of the mouse?

Paringaux: For me, what it boils down to is the addition of another sense. When you look at a print magazine, you’re only stimulated visually. If you watch TV you’re stimulated visually and through your hearing. When you’re interacting on an iPhone or an iPad, you’re touching something and modifying the content. It’s audio, visual and tactile. If you have three of your five senses involved in an experience, you’re going to be pretty captivated. Touch was never involved previously and is now involved in the whole reading experience so you’re completely consumed. If three of your five senses are involved, that media owns you. It’s short of the iPad putting something in your mouth. You can’t really get more immersive than that.

Materialist: How does this new technological medium work with existing codes to create a fully immersive experience?

Paringaux: Television derived from the medium of cinema and it had to reinvent it’s own code. Now shooting something for TV and shooting something for cinema is completely distinct. In the beginning TV just reused a list of codes from the cinema until it managed to stand on its own two feet and create tailored content for that media. Today with touch screen media we’re using a lot of codes and queues from other media. Print is obviously a huge influence. Online is obviously a huge influence. And the way people edit their videos for iPads is very close to what MTV would do or what television would do. It’s about evolving things in a very empirical way with one layer on top of another. When enough devices are out there, it will become its own language with its own sets of codes, it’s own way of editing, and its own way of writing for it.

Materialist: How do you apply these codes to Post?

Paringaux: With Post we explore and breakdown the codes. It’s basically a ‘tableau au hazard’ where we try not to copy other existing medias but rather create something tailored for the device. (Theorist) Marshall McLuhan said ‘We shape our tools and in turn our tools shape us.’ The best analogy is that humans created the car and the car created the suburb. So in a way humans, or Apple, created the iPad and it’s going to become its own category. It’s just going to take a while.

Materialist: Is touch screen media going to become increasingly about audio with the invention of Siri?

Paringaux: I’ve got big theories about Siri. For me Siri is the way for Apple to absolutely penetrate your lifestyle. With Siri you don’t even need your iPhone in your hand. You can just walk around your house empty handed and talk to Siri. People always criticize the mouse because the mouse is such an alien thing to access information with. The iPhone is pretty alien as but talking to an iPhone is the most intuitive thing. The most primary way of interacting is through your voice. Siri doesn’t work very well at the moment but I think if they manage to nail it it’s going to be nuts. There are speculations that Apple is going to do a television this year. It’s huge because that’s about penetrating your home, not only through your home office, but your living room and your bedroom. That’s a pretty big deal.

Materialist: What are your plans for the upcoming issue?

Paringaux: It’s going to be a really dark issue like Blade Runner, which for me in terms of aesthetic, is everything that I love. It’s going to be dark, dystopian and full of doom and gloom.

The Colbert Report

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Photography by Simon Archer Hurlstone

Words by Jocelyn Jeffery

Philip Colbert created fashion label The Rodnik Band, which plays with pop art to create dresses that replicate artwork like Marcel Duchamp’s Urinal. He talks about the tendency of fashion to take itself too seriously and describes discussions of collaborating on a philosophical fashion line with Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton.

Materialist: How did you decide to incorporate pop art into your designs?

Colbert: It stemmed from the fact that pop art contains bold, bright colors and ideas; it’s about communicating to people in a very direct way. I like that approach to clothing because the meaning of fashion can be hard to ascertain. Fashion can take itself very seriously so to make something that has a more humorous impact can result in a wearable item that has intellectual value. A satire with a Claus Oldenburg sculpture as a dress makes it accessible for anyone outside of the fashion clique. There is a fun art history reference there, whereas when it’s playing on the trends of fashion it is hard to put your finger on what the actual value is. Satisfying trends for trends’ sake is not particularly meaningful.

Materialist: One of the main problems with fashion and fashion criticism is the fact that it can be too self-referential so it’s refreshing to take fashion outside of the box. Do you view pop art as an easily identifiable branch of art for people without a depth of knowledge in the field?

Colbert: I love pop art in general but I do get slightly sickened by an Andy Warhol screen print. It is heavily repeatable so there is a lack of contact from the artist. But what I do love about pop art is the fact that it engages with the pop culture that we live in, which is without question the biggest influence in modern day life. I very much like things that have a sense of language and communicate directly. There are so many amazing pop artists like Claus Oldenburg whose work has complete intellectual value but also brings an element of surrealism and fantasy into everyday life. Simple things like his oversized cherry in the center of a city or a giant ice cream cone on top of a building, melting, play on perspective. This handling and translating of ideas allows for cartoonlike sets. It’s a nice mix of reality and animation and I like the sense of escapism that pop art can have.

Materialist: Do you find it important to merge art and fashion because they are both extremely reflective of the society that we live in?

Colbert: I was always more interested in art than in fashion and by getting into fashion in a random way I used the platform of clothing to express artistic ideas. It was my way of making it interesting for myself and also for the sort of woman whom I want to dress. I very much like the idea that my clothes are wearable art in a tongue in cheek way. Fashion obviously has a value and an allure but I’d rather it have a more artistic identity than a fashion identity.

Materialist: How did you get into fashion?

Colbert: I did philosophy at university and one thing lead to another and I found myself doing clothing. I was very much out of my depth to begin with because I had never trained in it. The more I got involved in creating a brand and selling clothes, the more I started developing my own thoughts on what I wanted the brand to be. If I can run a fashion label, anyone can do it. And I like that spirit because fashion can take itself very seriously. It’s a cliquey world so to come at it with a hyper whacky attitude, when things actually go well, is a powerful combination.

Materialist: Can you describe the collaboration you were in talks of working on with Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton?

Colbert: We did a series of interviews together for Vogue and we talked about the idea of doing a philosophical fashion line. It was a fun idea but it didn’t get beyond the conceptual stages.

Materialist: What does a philosophical fashion line entail?

Colbert: That was the challenge. The idea was to create a language of union in clothing. Clothing does already have a meaning, socially and historically. In a social context it represents several important ideas and movements. But I always assume that clothing is very psychological in the sense that people wear things to express certain ideas about themselves. Let’s say you did a lecture series of clothes and you created a building block, millions of different outfits. Say you had some template outfits in black and they were cut with a certain silhouette to represent seriousness and you’d wear those on a serious day. Then you could potentially accept certain additional ideas that would help you refine your mood that day. The challenge with the project was to map out a meaning, a language of clothing. Once it has been mapped out then one could have more fun with building a narrative.

Materialist: It’s challenging to translate that idea into the literal sense.

Colbert: Yeah for sure. In art, people do it all the time, create their own language. But clothing always has that challenge of having a practical use. Obviously fashion is an art but the reality of fashion is that it’s a cynical, hardcore business. To exist it has to operate in a very crude world of selling things in numbers and appealing to generic markets, which don’t necessarily always understand a sophisticated idea. People can definitely do very sophisticated things and be successful but not always can such things find a commercial audience. Whereas with art, you come up with an idea, and if people buy it once, the buyers buy it, and it doesn’t have to be resold 1,000 times. But with clothing there is always the need to be ultimately commercial. It makes it slightly more of a business challenge.

Materialist: From where does the British vibe of the brand originate?

Colbert: Even though I was born in Scotland, I still feel British in a way. I love Scotland as a country but I’m not a hardcore Scottish nationalist. London is an adopted home and what I love about England is that abstract cartoon-like language of the buses and The Queen. It’s a fun brand world – it has a strong identity internationally. When I was selling in America being from London was definitely the brand identity. So I thought well I might as well embrace that. Britain is easy to feel even when you’re abroad. There is a history of satire and humor in things so it’s nice to play on that. I like to playfully reference things like The Sex Pistols because they’re a fun example of a fashion/music cross over. It’s quite a progressive concept of creating a band and a brand together. So the joke band that I have alongside my fashion label plays on representing fashion in a more lighthearted way and breaking the mold slightly from the conventional approach.

Materialist: Can you explain the concept of the joke band further?

Colbert: The band concept came after I was selling at the store Barneys and I was like, ‘how do I make the label compete when it’s not known in America? How do I bring it to peoples attention in a guerilla fashion?’ I’d been thinking about the band as this amazing vehicle of travelling, touring and taking the dream and the lifestyle on the road. Fashion can be quite cynical in the sense that it’s often fake and contrived. So I did a world tour in 2009 of all the stores. I played in Barney’s, stores in Japan and in Comme Des Garcons. It was quite funny taking this spinal tap-like fashion band on tour and playing in dry environments like department stores. It’s definitely comical. There was genuine laughter at this gig (at Scotch in London) last night because I made a big step by getting a Japanese pop group to become my band. Previously my band was always just fill-ins: people helping out as the backing instruments. But because of that it never felt like a real band, it was more of a joke. So last night, even though it was still a joke, it was actually fluid and real. Also these guys brought a lot to the table because they were very funny. They’re kooky Japanese girls and they had pink wigs on and were wearing crazy sequin crab and beer dresses. One of them even did a back flip on stage. It was like a comedy show. They were coming up with all sorts of funny stories and their songs themselves were quite amusing. They’re about banal things like toothpaste and scotch tape and they sing in Japanese accents. It was definitely a funny marriage between the Rodnick world and these guys. What I liked about last night is that it wasn’t just dressing a conventionally pretty pop group through their record label for X Factor, which is all very contrived and boring like Blackberry communication. These were genuine girls with personality and spirit. They’re not conventional but they’re definitely cool, quirky and inspiring in fashion because they’re real characters.

http://www.therodnikband.com