The following is an excerpt from an ongoing conversation with artist and writer Greg Lindquist, who moderated a panel discussion, Art Fair as Site, at this year’s UNTITLED. Art Fair during Art Basel Miami Beach. Greg invited me to speak as part of the panel because UNTITLED commissioned me to create a site-specific project. PhotoGrid: 25.782684/-80.130173, is the title of the limited edition artist’s publication I made and it is based on my conception of the grid structure that is the foundation of the fairs tent, built directly on the beach. Two weeks prior to the fair, I went to Miami and photographed the first three days of the structures construction, just until the flooring was being attached and covering up the sand underneath. Returning to the site for the fair itself, I then distributed the publications, free of charge, as democratically as possible to a range of attendees, staff, and exhibitors.
In anticipation of Greg’s panel discussion and in keeping with my project I was keen to experience other site-specific works at the fair. Some that stood out were: Christie Blizard, Walk in Miami, 12/7/13, 15 miles (2013) with the Texas Biennial; Alois Kronschlaeger installation with Paul Amenta’s Site-Lab; Aurora Passero’s Natural Essence (2013) with Another Space; BroLab’s Moses Transpo (2013); Arne Schreiber’s Flamingo Park, (2013) with Koal; and The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger, care of Patrik Schedler, Switzerland. Courtesy Rod Bianco Gallery, Oslo, Norway and Artist Resources Management, New York.
Nick Kline: In 2011, I saw and enjoyed your painting installation Thanatopsis Revisited (Island, Sanctuary, The Physical World) (2011) in the LMCC group exhibition, No One is an Island, curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud. I remember the large wall painting, and perpendicular to it a small work on canvas. The overall installation was sensitive to the site, and by that I mean literally the room and its architectural details, but also to Governors Island. I recall shadows, painted ones, that drew a relationship to a nearby window, and it reminded me of a room-size camera obscura, as if the image depicted on the wall were a projection of the landscape from the outside. Two years later, what resonates for me was the work’s visual agitation. Does the word agitation in relation to your work stir anything up? (no pun intended)
Greg Lindquist: Yes—agitated beauty. There is something in my paintings overall about the difficulty of seeing and a sickly color. Furthermore, the agitation occurs in the relationship of the aesthetic presentation and the image’s underlying economic and political concerns. Unhinging the photographic image through painting disjointedly evokes disorientation and decay. It prompts questions about what exactly is the imagery you are looking at and where exactly is the site. I am interested in a network of representations—various photographs, painting, text written by myself and others, and video. Nature’s representation, treatment and interaction with humans is also an important conversation to have right now: we need to change our relationship with and conception of nature if we are going to survive as humans.
In my current work, I address the complexity of land use with oil drilling in the remote Rozel Point at the Great Salt Lake. Basically, drilling has occurred there since early last century. Yet, the yield of that hundred years of drilling is sparse—10,000 barrels, equivalent to the spillage of one day in a recent Houston spill.
In the late 1990s, most of the Rozel Point derricks were removed, but the weathered pilings were left intact. Whether they remained for aesthetic or practical reasons is unclear. I saw this act as a sublime landscaping, but maybe the pilings were cemented too far into the ground to be properly removed. I have made paintings of these pilings, as I feel they represent a strange, ambiguous tense and form of nature. Are they rotting lumber or burgeoning saplings? It’s difficult to know and I find this uncertainty an interesting parallel in the oil that lies beneath and cannot be specifically located. The impulse of humans to continue drilling when oil is nearly impossible to remove or locate interests me. It points toward a failure of human intervention in nature, and perhaps a sisyphean metaphor for art-making itself.
NK: In your work I find myself in a space that unfolds, that has potential, it’s very present, performative. This happens in part through the use of multiple frames, such as a painting on a painting, and fluctuating image-to-object relationships. Can you address the kind of space that you’re trying to create for a viewer?
GL: I’m creating a meditative and contemplative space. I hope someone experiencing this work will reflect upon what they are seeing and ask questions, such as, what is happening beyond this image? What is the relationship between the process of this painting’s creation and its subject? A narrative, instructive quality also happens perhaps because some of the forms of installation—such as a grid structure of photos and texts on a painted wall—evoke museum displays and presentation. Also, after writing art criticism for over six years, it’s clear that my writing and art making is part of the same project. I’m exploring new ways of how I can hybridize these creative expressions beyond installation, such as through video that combines image and text.
NK: You moderated two panel discussions at the UNTITLED. Art Fair at Art Basel Miami this year, and you invited me to participate in Art Fair as Site: A panel discussion about exhibiting artworks within the networks of art fairs and their surrounding events. When you introduced that topic to the audience, you talked about how it was central to your own work. Can you elaborate on that?
GL: Site specificity has historically related to the physical space around an object or relationships of objects, whether in the gallery or directly in the landscape. Yet, work from the 1970s on has suggested relationships beyond the phenomenological experience of objects. I’ve become much more interested in collapsing the boundaries of painting, writing and photography. Recent critical and theoretical texts have addressed these discursive networks of meaning, and ways in which the physical and virtual become intertwined, for example, with the internet and gallery exhibitions. For my last couple solo exhibitions, I have printed small edition artist booklets and created supplementary blogs with additional images and writing. Until recently, I never looked at these materials as central parts of the work, but now I’m exploring ways to push these peripheral activities to become more central to experiencing the work.
With the work in my studio currently at Marie Walsh Sharpe, the installation of painting, writing and photography offer multiple points of entry. There are misaligned and faded paintings of the oil derrick pilings hung around a grid of photographs documenting the pilings that are image sources for the paintings. Included in the grid are writings I have done about this site, as well as documents of the futile exploratory oil drilling. This installation condenses these networks of experience into a saturated space. Similarly, when you put a painting, sculpture or photograph into an art fair, it joins a dense tangle of associations, meanings, and relationships.
NK: My commissioned work for the fair poses the question ‘what is underneath this operation?’ I depicted this literally, but by implication it extends politically to all art fairs. For me looking at the grid structure close up had the effect of loosening up, moving away from traditional power structure. You mentioned the grid structure in your currently studio installation, does this foundation for your work cause anxiety?
GL: For me, using the grid alleviates the anxiety of structure, allowing for more fluidity in the presentation of information. It’s a kind of ready-made visual system whose power can be called into question. Conspicuously, my grid is incomplete. There are missing parcels in its regular structure, but its overall order is implied. I find it an interesting negotiation to push against the rigidity and regularity of the grid by degrading its pattern recognition. As a result, the grid allows writing, photography and painting to co-mingle without hierarchical order of medium.
NK: I’ve just viewed video footage of Christie Blizard’s piece, Walk in Miami, 12/7/13, 15 miles (2013) who performed the work with the Texas Biennial at UNTITLED. The work, which involved moving through these fairs that are predicated on exclusive admissions, took my breath away and brought me to your question about how artists negotiate relationships in site-specific work. Did your question to the panel grow out of personal experience?
GL: Yes, both my personal experience, and the experience of witnessing artists close to me working through the power structures of various institutions and agencies. Most of the work I have done has involved negotiations with a single gallery director or owner, museum curator or exhibition curator. It involves a dialog about the work, but it’s more about coordinating a vision that I present and receive feedback and suggestions in creating it.
Creating the larger scale wall paintings, such as Lavender Pit Innerscape (2012) at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, have increasingly relied upon up five or six artists help paint them, though, which is an interesting problem. How do you publicly and verbally direct the predominantly private non-verbal act of painting? I tend to give these assistants a general direction, and then trust their sensibilities. You can’t really tell someone how to paint. I’d like it to be more complex and involve more participation outside the gallery space, which I think an exhibition in North Carolina next year will engage.
The most extremely intricate negotiations and imminent compromises are those I witness my girlfriend, Mary Mattingly, grapple with in multiple projects that she has in progress at any moment. Most of the public art projects involve her seeking approvals and consensus among multiple agencies, which involve incredible expanding and contracting of projects’ scale and scope. A lot of control is negotiated in the process, out of which somehow her vision is always retained. It’s fascinating to watch these projects take shape.
NK: In Blizard’s work these chance encounters along with her pre-determined and structured actions, compile to create a linear/non-linear narrative. I love her layered and expansive process and it’s in your work too, incorporating your writing, painting and installation. I see similarities to your work, which is further layered by using a formal vocabulary along with a commitment to social and political issues. Also, I really appreciate the sense of community that you contribute to in the art world. Is this something you think about as well? If so, how?
GL: I thrive and rely on relationships between friends and colleagues. Between making art alone or collaborating, writing, editing, teaching, reading groups, and communal dinners—all of these communities collide and coalesce. It’s really just part of my life, yet it’s such that much participatory art converts into a cultural currency. I’m just interested in inclusion and conversation, a dialog about art, life, and politics.