I am happy to announce a brand new tradition starting today! Instead of just waxing poetic about the artists and creative people I admire, I’m upping the ante. I’m going to TALK with them, and ask them all the questions that come to my mind as I look and think about what they do and make. If you guys have any questions, shout ‘em out too!
I have been following and loving the work of Chris Caccamise for some time, so I was very happy a couple of weekends ago to stumble across his show at one of my favorite galleries, 11 Rivington, and the kind folks at the gallery were nice enough to introduce us. Much of Chris’s sculpture is created out of meticulously cut and crafted paper which is then painted with enamel again and again. I love that Chris’s sculptures are not about the materials on first glance, in fact the funny thing is that they don’t look like they are made out of paper at all. They are glossy like a tempting candy, so the surprise comes in when you realize that underneath all the shine is a material that seems to not support the form. The magic comes from the transformation, and of course, the reflection on meaning.
When I first learned of Chris’s work in about 2008, he was making art like the piece below. That adding machine was from his last show called “Stone Tool.”
And you can still buy this piece made in 2008 on www.cerealart.com (below). It’s called AFTER R. GOBER. This one is not made out of paper, actually.
Chris also makes these amazing text pieces. Probably the first one that caught my attention was the piece below called “I Need Money.” I asked him:
DS: Was “I Need Money” the transitional piece that got you to where you are right now with text and your sculpture?
CC: I have been making text pieces since my first show. With "I Need Money,” though, it is the first time that I basically left the text alone. Before that I was always putting text on trucks, or mountains or in context as if it was a model for some mythical advertisement, a model of some larger sculpture that I would have wanted to make in the future.
DS: Where is your studio?
CC: My studio is in Williamsburg in a former Catholic Elementary School. I either work there or at my dining room table. Mostly, I build everything at home and then I take it to the studio to prime and paint.
DS: Your sculptures are made from Bristol Paper which is a funny materiality to me – unexpected. Do these pieces arise out of “drawing” for you?
CC: I started making this type of work in school and it came straight from the drawings that I was trying to make at the time. I just started making the things that I had been trying to draw.
I like using these materials for a few reasons -- I like making my work out of very cheap and neutral art materials so that the value of the work is derived solely from the huge amount of labor and thought that I put into it. I am creating value by investing time, skill, and thought in these pieces. I am very interested in the way that artworks derive their value.
Artists can create value by investing time, thought, and materials in the creation of the art work to make work that is beautiful, thoughtful or intrinsically valuable because of its materiality (i.e. a scull made of diamonds is valuable partially because of the diamonds). Then the “market” and exterior forces exert their influence over the work, effecting its value. Some of these factors are typically things like hype, general interest, perception of genius, inscrutability or being sought after by important collectors and institutions. The way that all things derive their value is something that fascinates me, but especially in the art world where so much of the value of things is intentionally shrouded in mystery.
I also like using paper because I can make whatever I want within limits. I think that materials limits help me to be more creative.
DS: Where do you see your work in relation to other artists that use words as part of their visual and conceptual vocabulary of art making?
CC: I am the kind of artist that likes looking at art and I go to a lot of art shows. I steal ideas directly from shows that I see, I quote other artists, I re-use their ideas, I make obvious and direct references to artists that I like, and I also talk about a lot of art that I don’t like, in my own work. I don’t think “art about art” but I think that I make art that cares about art.
DS: How do you work? What is your process like and how do you go from the initial idea to the finished piece?
CC: Let's see… Usually I work like this: I make a big list of ideas and I refine the list over the course of a few months. Then, if I am making a bunch of text pieces, like I did for this show, I will draw all of the letters and design all of the fonts and then cut them out. This takes about three or four months. Once I do that I build all of the letters so I will have bags filled with 3D letters sitting all over my house. This takes a month or two. Then I think about how each piece should look and I build supports for each piece. When I am working at my house I like to watch the Daily Show. After all of the building is done I take the pieces to my studio and soak them in this deadly epoxy that makes them incredibly strong, and then I paint them. Usually I have to repaint everything about ten times. I get to listen to a lot of loud music when I am painting.
DS: What artists are you thinking about currently?
CC: I really like the show “Louie” on FX right now, which is written and directed by the comedian Louis C.K. It is very depressing and funny. I also like the Jackass Movies a lot. As for artists, I really liked the show that Miki Carmi and Tamy Ben-Tor did last spring at both Zach Feuer and Stux galleries. I also love Sue Williams, Mary Heilmann, Justin Liebermann, Carter, Mark Barrow, etc. I could go on -- I like a lot of art and I don’t like a lot of art that other people seem to love.
DS: What’s next for you?
CC: I hope to be working on a friend’s movie in a couple of weeks. I want to make a small body of work that is completely different than anything that I have done in the past eight years. It will still be primarily sculptures and will have a similar core personality but will be made using mostly very different materials.
DS: I will be really excited to see that, Chris!
Go check out the show at 11 Rivington. It’s up until December 4th and pretty FUN.