Interview With Joseph Lozano
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I have known Joe Lozano for some time, though admittedly we didn’t talk very much. After having spent some time in his studio though I sensed in some ways we are kindred spirits. I have appreciated his work since he was in the graduate program at PAFA and I’ve been following the posts of his paintings on Facebook. What I saw was someone technically very good and with deep sense of searching in his work, something I value very highly. I have a feeling that down the road, the conversation we had in his studio will continue.
When I came to the live in studio I got the feeling that the space Joe shares with fellow PAFA alumni and painter Michael Ciervo was a working space above all else. Outside of the working space there’s a couch and chairs and a small kitchen. It felt spartan and meditative to the extreme.
This brings me back to the feeling that Joe is searching for something. His paintings about explorers and movie stars from days past all feel outside of himself, a separate entity to wonder what made these people this way. In his own searching and exploration of these characters there is the same desire to know, to stake their claim on something, that compels his explorers and movie stars to do something new and powerful.
For the interview Joe and I talked for about an hour and he showed me some of the work not in the show and what he’s working on now (including a very exciting group of Greta Garbos). I wrote down some questions based on our conversation and gave him some time to respond. Here’s what we came up with.
1. What do you do when you are not painting? How does it inform your paintings?
I watch a great deal of film. I watch everything and anything. Movies have the freedom to be really stupid and still hold our attention and occasionally they have moments of transcendence. I would say film has as much influence on the content of my work as the narratives that I work with or art history. For example in horror movies we come across characters with a specific aspects of their humanity removed, (i.e. Frankenstein). We can look at what it means to be human through the absence of humanity.
2. Is there anyone that you look up to that has shaped you as an artist or you want to emulate?
I look up to a great many artists but I don't try to emulate anyone, per say. A short list of artists that have influenced my thinking include Bas Jan Ader, Ed Ruscha, Jack Goldstien, Gerhard Richter and Pierre Hughye.
3.How are you choosing your subject matter? When I look at these paintings I see a lot of vintage subject matter (Eastwood, Garbo, Hardy, Koresh). There seems to be a lot of nostalgia there. Also the Explorers seem to take on another group. Ernest Shakleton at the poles or Donald Crowhurst in his boat sending out false reports about winning an around the world sailing race before drowning himself in the Atlantic. Are these separate thoughts or do they have some essential similarity?
The Explorer/Adventure images came first. Those stories are about striving toward an unreachable goal and the beautiful brokenness that became the purpose of the journey; encountering the loneliness inherent in the feeling of awe, the wonder inherent in the banal, and the presence inherent in a void. By the conscious removal of specific parts of everyday reality, I consider their purpose in the context of their absence. I breakdown narrative structures into abstract objects, dissolve linear time and collapse and expand temporal space in order to reveal the eternal moment. The eternal moment is an essential, endless distillation of the present that continually reintroduces itself.
These over arching themes continue even if the location of my narratives has moved into more non-fictional areas such as Hollywood and The Wild West. Each subject brings up there own issues and ideas of course. As for nostalgia, I can't deny that it is there and when dealing with the issue of beauty, nostalgia is never far behind. Gerhard Richter didn't make his Baader Mienhoff series for 10-15 years after the incident; I think that distance was really important for him to see it clearly.
4. Occasionally you are using other things than paint, like glitter in the Garbo paintings. Is this a big departure from just using paint for you? What brought it on?
Painting is my first love and will always be the backbone of my practice. My interest in other mediums has grown over the past few years as a way to more fully develop my ideas. I find sculpture particularly attractive because the medium can carry so much conceptual weight as apposed to painting.
5. I've been thinking about the 30 Days at the Pole of Inaccessibility painting. There's a lot going on there. The metaphor for struggle, archetypal strength from a tougher time. Mostly though it seams you are revealing the act of repetition as a struggle to accomplish something. What is it?
Yeah, I started with the story of Shackleton frozen, floating in the ocean, staring at a wall of ice and was thinking about what that kind of waiting/repetition did to their sense of time. At the same time I was thinking about the restrictions of the painted image; that no matter what you do everything is always there all at once. So I set up the problem of trying to break down painting time into linear time. The best I could hope for was to fail beautifully as Shackleton did.
6. You're not just a painter. Do you see your artwork coming off the wall more in the future? What camp do you see yourself in?
I have run into that problem lately on applications as painting and installation/sculpture don't fit in the same categories. I don't really want to be in any camp. These practices inform each other, but if I had to check a box it would be painter. I have some projects in my head that don't include any painting.
7. Plans for the future?
Besides a group exhibition at Artist’s House gallery this April, I have no shows planned for the
next six months. I’m getting married in August. surviving and painting I guess.
Thank you Joe for taking the time while sick to do this interview. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. See you soon. Matt