AM: I want to ask about your relationship to the west coast finish fetish movement and aesthetic. The lacquer, the resin, the plexiglass, the candy-like acrylic high gloss that is introduced in most your work sometimes calls to mind the likes of Craig Kauffman or DeWain Valentine. How do you see yourself in relation to this movement, if at all? Did encountering any of this work influence you or did you arrive at this kind of aesthetic another way?
TG: While I do quite literally have a finish fetish and am certainly drawn to and influenced by the work of Kauffman and Valentine, as well as that of Larry Bell, Robert Irwin and John McCracken (among others), I think any relation I might have to the Finish Fetish movement is largely subconscious. The choice to use the materials I do has less to do with art and art history than it does with product manufacturing, packaging and consumption, not to mention the quest for shiny superficial perfection. Growing up, I was obsessed with movies and rock stars and glamor and was therefore, and more accurately, obsessed with the marketing products and advertising methods used to feed me these entities. I was, and very much still am, fascinated by the slick and shiny - this is where I find beauty, and this obsession was coupled with being raised in a house where everything was pristine and the family cars were polished to near glowing. I think that obsessive quality couldn’t help but infiltrate my way of being, which naturally carries over into my work. With the resin, I was simply looking for a way to hide the brushstrokes in my paintings and introduce the illusion of mass-produced perfection in a unique object. That was really the catalyst for my investigation into other like materials and finishes.
AM: So the emphasis of superficial gloss is to an extent about material seduction - about a personal and generational response to marketing culture. This seductive quality of your objects as well as your inquiry into the possibility of your self as a (socially) seductive entity is fertile territory for you, and I think lends a more autobiographical element to your process than exists in the work of, say, someone like Jeff Koons….
TG: About seduction? Absolutely. Autobiographical? Definitely. More autobiographical than Koons? I can’t really say.
AM: It’s a little less high-kitsch than Koons though, more critical of the politics, pressures, and irony inherent to the contemporary art market; it’s often descriptive of the anxiety of working as an artist within that structure.
TG: I’m definitely interested in addressing the competitive nature of the market, artists, galleries. Then there’s contemporary art’s bias to the incestuous art historical reference - which sometimes appears to be more important than the work itself - an attitude of ‘my art historical reference can beat up your art historical reference’. In this show I’m speaking to these ideas with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
AM: The investigation of social rank reminds me of the work of William Powhida or Jennifer Dalton, especially their recent #rank project. You’re clearly interested the complexities of existing in a technologically hyper-social era obsessed with superficiality and celebrity. In Do You See Me? this crossed over into the personal realm of peer-based social networking. With your Pissing pieces you’re addressing the art world. Can you talk about that a little?
TG: I’m just trying to work out what’s going on in my head - I become enamored or disturbed by a subject or concept and I have to expunge it with material manifestations to allow myself to move on to the next one. It’s basic mental housekeeping and organization. With the Do You See Me? show, I wanted to address internet fame and the Facebook phenomenon with all of its weirdness, because that’s where I was existing at the time. It was about American society’s fascination with fleeting fame and the need for recognition, but it was also about my need for recognition as an artist in Seattle and an invitation to quite literally look at me, to acknowledge me. With the Pissing Contest show, I’m now existing in a slightly more established place in the local art scene, so it’s still a peer-centered and personal realm I’m addressing, just more specialized. I’m poking fun at myself and my obsessions as well as the art world. The concept came about when you invited me to show at The Living Room after the impressive lineup of artists Joey Veltkamp, Jason Hirata, Maggie Carson Romano and Kimberly Trowbridge, all artists I respect and admire. So, being a little intimidated by this, it became clear to me that I really needed to bring it, so to speak, and although it may not be a popular or romantic point of view, the art world is, for all intents and purposes, a competitive sport.
AM: This may end up being tangential, but since we’ve spoken about your interest in addressing superficiality and celebrity, I want to bring up a video you recently made, Jackson 5:00 - a five minute chromatic video portrait of Michael Jackson. It’s disquieting and tantalizing at the same time. What motivated your making this? Did it have anything to do with thinking about Pissing Contest, or is it coincidental that the production of both things overlapped?
TG: The overlapping production is coincidental - Michael Jackson is a long-held fascination for me. Over the years, I’ve been a fan and a detractor, both compelled and repelled by him, but always enrapt. He is the ultimate American metaphor for everything that is triumphant and tragic about our society. He is the epitome of obsession, and since his death he’s taken up residence in a prominent place in my thoughts. I’ve made many portraits in different materials. I wanted to somehow distill his essence, removing the ornamentation, facades and iconic trademarks we’re all familiar with, and somehow minimalize a person that was anything but minimal with a piece that could speak with a quiet and subtle complexity and was open for multiple interpretations. The first version was a digital print made using photographic color samples of him as a young boy and shortly before his death presented in the form of a gradient from warm brown to ashy white. This succeeded for me to a certain extent, but to truly portray Michael Jackson there needed to be some sort of motion, even if barely perceptible. The video was a natural solution. The five minutes of chromatic change would be fifty years if I could make it happen, but it had to be palatable and attention-keeping, so I kept it to five minutes: each minute equating to a decade of his life.
“Sustaining An Untitled Living Room Wall Fountain Progression”
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