Yesterday I stopped by Alex Weinstein's new studio space and sat down to talk with him about his paintings and sculptural work that will be going up on October 11 at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica's Bergamot Station.
I included Alex in the tys Best Art Picks of 2007, but obviously I'm not the only one who loves his work--many of you have probably seen his work featured prominently in Thom Filicia's home in recent issues of O At Home, Domino, and Elle Decor.
mj: Where did you grow up? At what point did you decide water would be what you would delve into as a subject?
alex: I'm from Providence Rhode Island and grew up spending my summers in the Basque country in France. We lived in a farmer's house in the mountains in absurd isolation. My best memories are of days spent on the beaches by Biarritz, in the surf. I started surfing when I was 12 or 13 in Rhode Island but didn't really get serious until a few years later on because of a near drowning there. Since, the last 20 years have been a steady move closer to the beach. My house is full of surfboards. I share the house with a dog that swims like a fish and a beautiful wife who surfs with immense passion. The ocean has been such an overwhelmingly benevolent force in my life; I can't stand leaving it and I really don't even want to take my eyes off it for long.
mj: How is the new show different and how do you see your work evolving from recent past to present?
alex: The current body of work is primarily large paintings, but there is also an unprecedented sculptural component to the show that I am excited about. I have been slowly developing a body of sculptural work (swell model) for a few years now. The new work is comprised of large, reductive, monochromatic reliefs that hang on the wall. They look like the surface of the ocean, peeled off and arranged vertically. The work satisfies a minimalist impulse in me while staying true to the subject my painting practice. I haven't shown this much sculptural work before, so it's new ground.
As far as the paintings in the new show go: thematically, little has changed in my work--these are still images of the sea. The gallery (William Turner) is large with high ceilings and dark, polished concrete floors. The space is serene and suits large work. Many of the paintings are 8 feet wide or so and that scale seems at home in that space. It is also a human scale that feels right. The imagery is palpable at an honest 1:1 scale. When I make smaller paintings, the scale is reduced and the chore of rendering becomes imposing. When the paintings are big, their directness is more evocative and immediate.
I think this group of pictures shows a certain comfort with the subject that helps illuminate my interest in painting process. I suppose that's a fussy way of saying that some of these piece are a little abstracted...
A couple of larger sculptural pieces being undercoated with paint; the final color will be different.
mj: Who are your influences?
alex: My influences surprise me sometimes. I think of a group of painters I like and yeah, they are influences on me. Rothko, Monet, Joan Mitchell, Brice Marden. But lately I'm finding other influences slyly creeping in. I had some family difficulties this summer and those stresses, coupled with a few others, really affected a number of paintings profoundly. The weather gets in there too: I catch myself recognizing light effects on the water in my neighborhood repeated in my paintings. I'm not working from photographs, so its weird to see the circuit so clearly. Also, music is a tremendous influence. The moods of the music repeat in the paintings so much so in fact, they almost feel like they were weaned on specific tunes. heaviest rotation: Tom Brosseau, Mice Parade, Radiohead, Belle and Sebastien and Sonic Youth.
mj: How would you describe your own style?
alex: That's tough. I like to think my work simmers: that closer inspection reveals subtlety and intent and sincerity. "Style" is tough because it feels committing. Some of my paintings are very realistic, I suppose. others are abstract, I guess. For me, they are the way they are and do not need to reside in either domain.
mj: Do you have a favorite piece (past or present)?
alex: I made a painting a few years ago called ocean size (wish I was), that I really loved. Still liking that piece. I have a sculptural work in the coming show called Moby Dick (or, the White Whale) that I am really, really amped on.
Thanks Alex! Wishing you all the best for your Oct. 11 show! To see more of Alex's work, you can check out his website at vaguestudio.com.