• In Conversation: John F. Moore, Jr. Interviews Juan Uslé

    Date posted: December 8, 2011 Author: jolanta

    John F Moore, Jr:  Tell us about your method. Are your paintings preconceived?

    Juan Uslé:  I’d say that my paintings are partially planned and partially unplanned.  When I start, there’s always a vision that’s parallel or prior to the work.  But planning how it’s put together, that’s what changes with each painting.  Sometimes my strategies can be pushed to nearly opposite extremes, depending on the group or type of paintings in question.

    “Abstraction is a bubble, a membranous space or zone within pictorial language.”

     

    Juan Uslé, Mantis, 1998-1999. Vinyl, dispersion and dry pigment on canvas, 203×274 cm. Courtesy of Fundacion Helga de Alvear, Madrid.

     

    In Conversation: John F. Moore, Jr. Interviews Juan Uslé


    John F Moore, Jr:  Tell us about your method. Are your paintings preconceived?

    Juan Uslé:  I’d say that my paintings are partially planned and partially unplanned.  When I start, there’s always a vision that’s parallel or prior to the work.  But planning how it’s put together, that’s what changes with each painting.  Sometimes my strategies can be pushed to nearly opposite extremes, depending on the group or type of paintings in question.

    I try to make paintings that are very different from one another, as a result of a plan that I made for myself back in the late 80s: to approach the practice of painting as an experience unique to each work. For years, I was able to treat each canvas as a new experience, bringing together my formats and trying to differentiate syntax from content. I tried to be very open to what happened throughout the process, to what the canvas demanded or suggested. A vital need for reinvention pushed me toward this approach, as well as my experimental and anti-stylistic intentions.

    Sometimes I can envision what I’m going to do very clearly, but there’s always time and space set aside for improvisation.  Some paintings come out immediately and pristinely, almost effortlessly, in one big push.  Others become complicated, as if they are speaking several languages at once.  For those I need much more distance and reflection in order to understand them.

    JM:  What is your interest in abstraction?

    JU:  In my eyes, “abstraction” is neither a stylistic term nor a closed concept. I’d say instead that it’s a bubble, a membranous space or zone within pictorial language.  It’s a space that moves, that can expand or be fixed, always in relation to one’s organic and intellectual life.  It’s a space where I situate myself and where I feel natural—not free of difficulties, but natural.  But I never see it as a sealed or strictly regulated space, a closed ghetto in opposition to representation.

    And let’s not forget that art is also an exercise in pleasure, a risky and demanding act, precisely because it’s an act of freedom.  Because of that, it’s also where I’m most demanding of myself, where I feel the most free and committed.

    Juan Uslé, Desplazado Mayor, 2011. Vinyl, dispersion and dry pigment on canvas, 203×275 cm. Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine. Courtesy of Cheim & Read Gallery, NY.

     

    JM:  Do you feel your paintings have an identity as either Spanish or American?  And does this matter to you at all?

    JU:  There’s a popular saying in Spanish that “you are where you breathe,” and I think in my case that can be pretty faithfully applied.  I consider myself to be from both places and from all places; I live here and there, between New York and Saro, and I dream about all the other places in the world I haven’t been.  It would be hard for me to live in a third place, at least regularly.  With Saro and New York, I find a certain balance and plenty of contrast.  I need both places and I identify with them.  In Spain I live out in the country, isolated and almost completely removed from society, spending almost all my time painting or planting trees.  I love nature, but I also need contamination and the city.

    I adore New York.  I spend half the year here, partially closed up in my studio in Manhattan, breathing and dreaming urban colors and stories.  Artists, musicians, poets … we all inevitably soak in our surroundings.  For me, New York gets stuck inside me even before the plane lands.  When I’m en route, flying over the blue, images start to overwhelm my mind.  Other dreams and the seeds of new paintings start to sort themselves out and mix with those that already exist.  It’s an unintentional phenomenon, but it’s unstoppable; it’s very exciting but it’s also devastating.  I need both places, maybe because they’re opposites and both parts of me.

    Text translated by Phillip Penix-Tadsen.

     


     

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