Andrea Marie Breiling visited by Micah Wood

Andrea Marie Breiling may or may not be the new face Marfa, Texas at this moment. Or, more specifically, Andrea is bringing the face of Marfa to her studio. I was first introduced to Breiling's work through social media, i.e. Instagram. Since then, I have been an avid follower of her work, not only through social media, but through her gallery in LA, Sonce Alexander.  I reached out to Andrea this summer in hopes of coming down to LA to visit her in her studio but she told me she was in Marfa, Texas until the end of summer getting ready for a show. I was not dismayed though, and it was suggested that we could do an email correspondence as a long distance studio visit. This seemed the best way to go. Andrea Marie Breiling's work is many things at once. The paintings have a unique voice all of their own, and this voice is at once loud, contemplative, in your face, and full of energy. Her paintings channel this emotional output that is visceral, you can taste the amount of paint that is used in each piece. I like Breiling's work because it is unabashedly pure abstraction, its expressionistic but not in the canonical "ab-ex" way, but more like she is taking a real stance in the world right now. What that stance is, I can not say for sure, but the work speaks for itself. If you're in the Dallas area, go see her show "Marfa Paintings" at her gallery,Galleri Urbane, in Dallas, Texas. 

Are you from California? Have you always lived and worked in Los Angeles?

No I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. However, I knew I was an Urban kinda girl from a very young age. I was going to leave Phoenix one way or another; it was my mission. I did eventually leave the desert right after high school and haven’t been back since!  I landed in California for undergrad and have lived here since. I have bounced around a bit but the majority of my time has been in Los Angeles. 

What are things in the world that drive your work, or, what do you think about when you go into the studio? 

Culture drives the work 100%. I am memorized by the human race. I drive to the studio and see crazy people with bold outfits or hair do’s and I can’t get their image out of my brain. It enters the work for sure. I think people are so beautiful and strange, once people start to bore me I might not have the same motivation to create. 

On first glance, your work seems to be having a conversation, in an almost confrontational way, with abstract expressionism, with the history of painting. Is this something you are trying to address in your work? 

No, I would say that if that exists, it's not intentional. I mean, I am very aware that I am building upon an ab-ex discourse, and of course the history of painting itself. However, I am much more interested in the endless possibilities of paintings, rather than making comments about it or reacting to it. Not sure if I am making sense. But, to sum it up, I am not interested in confrontation at all. I think that is the most boring way to approach making things and it’s definitely the worst, in my opinion to look at. I do appreciate all the above, and I think for a long time I did struggle with the desire to confront history, but honestly I think it mostly confused me and at worst was a huge distraction. However, I have fortunately since grown out of that, and I am now focused on activating and better yet using my imagination (which for me is much more exciting, fun, and above all else rewarding place to be). Rather than being bogged down by painting’s tropes and it's history, I would rather create work that's present and makes me excited; work that taps into my inner fantasies, rather than solving problems and jumping over antiquated hurdles. That, in my opinion, exists on earth to learn from (which lucky for us there is an endless amount of amazing preserved art available at our fingertips to be able to do so) and above all else enjoy! 

You have also co-founded a “queer-feminist” performance group. What is that and has that feminist perspective found a way into your work at all?

Oh yes it has been crucial in keeping the nasal gazing ab-ex jargon of “painter alone in her studio” at bay. If that makes sense. I am very social and political, but I also don’t want to make political work. I need my work to be a place I go to to release my frustrations and not think about about crazy shit that’s wrong with this world. I would rather activate my imagination on change, individualism and authenticity of my person. Which I see as a challenge we all face in a time where it’s so hard to know yourself with all the the outside world’s pressure of what you should or ought to be. To me the best thing we as humans can do for the world is understand how important our individuality is, and indulge in that discovery and embrace the mystery (as scary as it might be) full throttle. My collective Skunkworks and I activate other more humanitarian platforms which is awesome. Either through live performances that we create and collaborate on, or more recently raising $15k for an LGTBQ homeless youth foundation with the amazing generosity of over 30 Los Angeles Artists and Paddle8 on-line auction house.

For your show at Galleri Urbane in Dallas, “Marfa Paintings”, as the name of the show implies, you have been making work in Marfa, Texas. Why did you choose to make this new body of work there instead of in Los Angeles? What has the experience of working in Marfa been like?

It was crucial for me to step outside of the metropolitan city and see what the world is like outside my bubble. Culture was drastically different and obviously more slow paced. After all, it's an desert oasis country town in the middle of Texas. When Galleri Urbane first approached me after graduation (of my MFA in 2014) I was very intrigued that they were affiliated with MARFA in some way or another. I had read about it in Grad School, and always found it quite beautiful. I was already imagining that I would go to MARFA and make work for a show for them. I wanted to understand the mystery of MARFA, the Chinati Foundation, the Judd landmarks, and the overall minimalist landscape. I felt like it was crucial to find a fresh place that embraced contemporary art, but at the same time allowed me to hibernate in my studio and create. Sounds so romantic of me and I suppose it was and is. It really was nice to take in the calm desert, with a  population less than 2000, high desert Oasis and run with it. And as a result, the work is nothing I would have ever made anywhere else. Pretty interesting thinking about it now, especially that is it all done. 

Would you say this new body of work is somewhat of a departure from other work that people have seen? In what way?

Yes I think my work, or I hope my work, is always a departure. I will not allow myself to grow old. I want to continue to discover all I can. The most interesting thing about painting for me is it feels like a relationship that will never end. That within itself is fascinating. For instance, with this work I intentionally stopped using spray paint. I felt like it was holding me back in many ways. I love that I made that choice. It wasn’t easy, but in the end I used more paint and embraced new ways of paint handling and learned some different techniques.

I find your paintings very compelling on an almost visceral level and I think a lot about the history of painting being observed but then thrown out in terms of your use of materials, addressing composition and space, and your use of color. Is there any sort of hierarchy that you think about in your work in terms of materials, concept, formal issues, color, etc.. 

This is a great question. Ultimately texture is at the top of my hierarchy, which in my opinion goes hand in hand with color. Color used correctly can create an immense amount of texture even if it’s flat. Currently, I use many different materials because it can help build the texture up and create variance with the color in the work. There is only so much kind of saturation of color you can get from paint, especially acrylic, and sometimes I can only find the exact texture and color in a piece of fabric - i.e. a towel, or a shower matt, (two important objects in my new work). But, ultimately I would love to see paint provide all of what the painting needs. I can honestly only see this happening if I began only using oils. But, damn oil is very expensive and until I win the lottery I can't see that happening.

What is on your reading list? What are you listening(music) to that get’s ya going?

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Music hmmmm well I love “Dream Pop” and of course Old School Hip Hop, R&B, Rap - all of that will give me a super crazy good amount of energy when needed. But, most of time I can get hours, upon hours of work done with nothing at all.

Outside of art, what are a few good things you’ve found lately?

TRANSPARENT! The show is insane! love love love!

What is coming up in the near future for your work?

Ha, I literally have no idea. Right now all I can see in my future is hanging out in LA with my boyfriend and our dogs! And I can’t freakin’ wait!