Paddle8 - January 2012
Timothée Chaillou: Could you please talk about Black Aeros (2011), a totemic sculpture with two black motorcycle helmets?
Brett Lund: The sculptures, in general, tend to develop out of a response to something—a material, a pre-existing object or some connection between them. In this case, a fetish for helmets, and the fact that they are made out of the same materials I already use, initiated the piece. It is actually made out of a single helmet—the internal foam and the outer fiberglass shell. This is evident and is a good example of de- and re-figuring made visible within the piece. The streaks of resin resonate with the shapes of the helmet to suggest movement, while the alternating elements imply circularity. The forms point to a figure but there isn’t one. A figure or character takes shape from the signs of its absence. A helmet is not a head, but a negative space shaped by it. The figurative is separated from the figure. The result is a sort of character/object that operates through implication rather than illustration or denotation. The title, which comes from removing letters on the helmet to create a new word, “Aeros,” provides certain inflections. It is a back formation that plays off the morphemes ‘Aero’, and the name ‘Eros,’ and combines the implication brought to piece from the helmet and the vaguely phalli-testicular form of the work. I think it is a good example of playing the figure and the sign off one another.
TC: Your sculptural works, referring to funk art, incorporate industrial material, plaster, fiberglass, foam and resin. With these materials and how you work with them, do you evoke kind of a melancholy and sadness or rather a pain or suffering?
BL: Some pieces do and some don’t. It depends on what I’m thinking about both formally and liminally.
TC: Could you explain why you are focusing on both polluting and polluted material?
BL: I don’t really think about them in these terms. Both the shrink-wrap and the resin tend to lend themselves to this view, however. I am interested in their transparency. This property allows two surfaces to interact. In that sense, I guess, each pollutes the other.
TC: Is the material always the starting point of all your pieces? Does the material prevail?
BL: I tend to think of my relationship with materials as collaborative. Branden Joseph wrote in relation to Rauschenberg’s work that it resists being subsumed by the idea. This is really important to me. For all my convoluted notions about language, becoming, non-form, etc., they are at the service of making an object/painting. I think of the processes and materials as performing a relationship to these ideas rather than illustrating them.
TC: Could you please talk about the political dimension of the material you are using?
BL: The best way I can answer this is to say that I consider the work to be post-dualist and counter-evangelical. It is a formal engagement with meaning. Dada was born from war and the absurdity of prevailing social attitudes. I don’t believe that “anti-art” is possible any longer, but I feel that their attack on common sense and normalizing forces is as relevant as ever. I think the materials I use and approaches to construction keep certain things in play. I guess, in very general terms, that is what I think art does best. It is worse at propaganda and communication.
TC: Do you think that your work has something to do with punk aesthetic?
BL: I have absolutely no interest in a punk aesthetic, but it is easy to see how some of the works can be seen that way. The double entendre of the word “graphic” explains it to me. The handling of the materials and the fact that I use stencils create a sort of sensibility that draws comparisons.
TC: Do you think that the “tragicomic” expression could be applied to your work?
BL: As the literature of arts organizations and museums around the world like to say: “Art imitates life.”
TC: How do you compare the pleasure of sculpture with the thrill of painting?
BL: Working with sculpture, to me, is analogous to being “in the shit.” Like the elements I use, there is a sense of being embedded in the flux of the consciousness-matter continuum and all the messiness of it.
The paintings, for me, perform in a more virtual realm--breaking text down into visual elements and aligning it with ideas of bit-depth, printing and editing for example.
TC: Could you describe and talk about the sexual dimension in your work?
BL: Goopy materials together with bodily forms lend themselves to evoking a sexual aspect. There is a projective aspect in making that “sees” an object/image manifest from the materials, and I think the sexual element is more or less pronounced based on what influences that seeing—the material, psychological, libidinal, etc.
TC: Do you work in reaction to the Los Angeles artistic scene of the 1960s, the so-called “Finish Fetish”?
BL: I think the same things turn us on: good paint jobs, surf boards and, for me, motorcycle fairings (and helmets). You know, Southern California dude stuff. These things have a definite influence on the materials I’m drawn to and use. From there, we operate inversely; they tend to a reduction of form and a mimesis of the materials’ commercial applications, and I tend to break them down and separate them into their respective morphologies and work with their properties. In both, the same materials become subject matter, albeit in opposite ways.
TC: Your work bustles with intriguing, rather dark and geometric shapes. What do they symbolize?
BL: For me the shape, and often the color black inflect language itself. Even dripping with matter, they lend a certain structure and repetition to the objects and, quite directly, in the paintings. In the paintings they are very direct extractions from a specific typeface—Albers Architype—chosen for this reason. Text is used as the sign of language, of signification. It is broken down from text into texture and resolved into an image or painting. This is a linguistic modeling of the basic element of abstraction: reduction. They are then recombined. In the sculptures, to try and be brief, I think they operate in the realm of the many meanings of the word “character (see also Japanese Kanji).”
TC: Do you think that your work could be described as “abstract expressionism”?
BL: I think that the facticity of materials as subject, and in conjunction with an interest in the intuitive, is relevant here. My handling of them—and even text—is more aligned with this investigation. Facticity, of course, is a major undercurrent in art since and through Modernism, consistently in play throughout it.
TC: Would you say your sculptures are leading a dramatic life?
BL: A professor once remarked that they took on the presence of inter-mundane beings. Well, if that was an insult, I liked how it sounds. I think it comes out of their visceral “character” and, in relation to one another, there is a sort of narrative implication.
TC: In your paintings, do you use typographic letters as shapes or do they refer to a kind of poetry or rhythmic?
BL: In addition to what I said above, I’d say that there is a distinct interest in the break down and dynamic of text as image that begins (in some manner) with Mallarmé and the Symbolists, and continues through the Dadaists and Futurists. Isadore Isou and the Lettrists take this up with their idea of Hypergraphy, and one can also point to Christopher Wool.
TC: How have Rachel Harrison and Franz West influenced your work?
BL: Despite certain affinities and that I generally consider them to be interesting artists, I do not spend much time considering their work specifically. I think that the comparisons come through a mutual consideration of economies of volume. These are not infinite and the solutions each of us employ can be seen as far back as Medardo Rosso, Paul Klee (few but great sculptures), and different post-minimal strategies to name a few. The fact that these comparisons have been most frequently leveled as accusations is a result of bad looking.
TC: Do you feel close to Aaron Curry, Patrick Hill’s works?
BL: I have always been a fan of Aaron Curry’s work and we have had many of the same influences. I have plenty of respect for Patrick Hill as well.
TC: Do you think your figures are « extremely crude and bodily, in a way that one can feel both faux-primitive and cartoonish »?
BL: Cartoons can be really sophisticated abstractions and, as mentioned with regard to a punk aesthetic there is a graphic-ness that I’m interested in. I guess the cartoonishness also aligns with this meaning of character I mentioned. I don’t respond the term “faux primitive”. In terms of ideas related to so-called primitivism, I would say that the Bataille’s idea of the l’informe is centrally important to me and plays itself out consistently across the surfaces and structures of the work.
TC: Could you please talk about your interest in early psychoanalysis?
BL: There is the idea of object and material fetish that can be pointed to—as mentioned in relationship to the Finish Fetishists. More like with Funk Art, I get off on the material properties and how they interact.
Also, Lacan remarked that the unconscious is structured like a language. Retrospectively, I’ve come to see how that is a convenient analogy for how the elements, materials, process and manifested object come together. Reduced elements and foregrounded sculptural conventions play off a rather visceral handling of materials resulting in a psychically charged object that seems arrested in a state of becoming. Ok, that is a bit of a mouthful.
TC: One stated that you are « investigating universal taboos in contemporary visual culture ». In which manner do these investigations become artworks?
BL: I would start by saying that I don’t believe that there can be any real taboos or transgression in art in general, although I guess there can be signs of them. Since visual and material signification or language forms part of the subject matter of the work, I feel that—to the extent it is possible to return to some universal signs, I guess that there is a desire to establish an element of recognition in the work. Psychologically speaking, recognition is a constituent element of pleasure. I guess I want pleasure to be in the work, particularly on a more liminal level. And, of course, I really like boobs.