Micah Wood

Studio Visit with Brion Nuda Rosch

Micah Wood visits with Brion Nuda Rosch 

I first met Brion while I was working at Canyon Market in San Francisco. He was shopping for whatever, a delicious deli sandwich perhaps. I sensed an aura immediately. Brion's work resonates with me as one of pure intentions unbound by cultural ties and acknowledging the helping hand that Picasso has given us, but uniquely his own. Our conversation started from the Embarcadero station and ended at the Glen Park station, so to speak. Is Miley Cyrus an artist genius? Does Gumby hold all the answers we are looking for? Can Britney Spears save our souls with her painting?

(MW): I haven't seen your work in person which is unfortunate.

(BNR): I haven’t shown in San Francisco in the last five years, that makes sense. LA and New York, yes. Here, no.

(MW): Maybe we can start off along those lines. Is there a reason for that?

(BNR): Galleries closing. I was showing at Eli Ridgway. He (and Kent) really built my career. I started working with them in 2009. When he closed the gallery in 2013 all my attention shifted towards my gallery in New York and my gallery in LA.

(MW): What is the gallery in New York you were working with?

(BNR): DCKT, which closed last year. They had locations in Chelsea and then later in LES for well over a decade. I’m working with Halsey Mckay in East Hampton. I had a solo show with them over the summer. That was the first time I had shown just paintings, seven in total. I hadn't shown paintings in quite some time. I've always been painting on objects, but never really identified with being a painter. The first paintings I did were outside; I didn’t have a studio, so I painted on walls and did murals when given the opportunity. 

When I first started making art, I insisted “I'm going to be a painter.” I did it all wrong, and I painted with recycled house paint on crappy materials and everything fell apart. Looking around the studio, the objects in the studio began to inspire sculpture and more painting [on objects]. For quite some time the work I exhibited consisted primarily of collages and altered objects, no paintings. About two years ago I began working with pigments and rabbit skin glue. Then mixing paint with different materials, calcium carbonate, to mull hues down, and make everything matte, and I rubbed it into the canvas. When it is rubbed into the the raw canvas it saturates in different ways, a rewarding result. I’m now working with acrylics, pigments, mud, on canvas and / or fired ceramics.

(MW): You mentioned mural work, earlier, is that something that informs your practice?

(BNR): I had a desire [when I was younger] - an ambition, to be up on walls and having work in public space held much of my attention. I was interested in the landscape of the neighborhood and marks that could be made, small or large. Sometime I would just scribble or doodle nonsense or place blank cut pieces of adhesive vinyl over surfaces. The scope and scale allowed for mistakes and I explored a lot when working in this manner.

(MW): That was somewhat of a beginning for you in painting?

(BNR): I was making paintings, and I mean, they were all awful. I was making bad paintings, it was important to start there, with mistakes. I was working on large canvases and rolls of paper, and I would just paint, take a picture, and then keep painting over them. I was just pushing paint around, I mean, I never went to school. So I was just figuring it out. Then going out, having a wall, having 20 by 30 feet - for some reason when I went bigger it made more sense. I feel like I had more successes there. At the time the imagery was naïve. Now its much more calculated, and thought out, after twenty years of doodling. Drawings are easy to understand, and when working on canvas I hope to make the work just as direct and simple. Accessibility is something that is important, while also knowing the work can also be crude, ridiculous and unrecognizable, so maybe I’m way off.

(MW): There is an article on “caricature” that talks about the ways Robert Smithson and Mike Kelley use caricature in their work, and it goes into accessibility, but also having more intellectually charged work as well, catered toward less accessible things.

(BNR): I think it's important to do, or else, it's not that interesting. You do not need an academic background to enjoy the work, however any history the viewer carries will inform or provide the punchline to the joke. 

(MW): When did you get to the Bay Area?

(BNR): I moved here in 1999. It doesn't seem like it has been that long. I came here in my early twenties, and now I have a family, a house in Glen Park, and a job.

(MW): Where are you from originally?

(BNR): Before the Bay Area, I was living in Arizona, I was there for few years. As a kid [before high school] I lived in Chicago and Denver, and then high school in Hamden, I lived off State Street near New Haven. Every couple of years we moved. 

(MW): You said you haven't gone to school for art, which I gathered from a press release of a group show you were recently a part of in Seattle, which included other artists that didn't take a traditional art school route. 

(BNR): It was a survey of self taught artists, a substantial point of reference with some historical context. Honored to take part in it. Some of my heroes were in that show. Self taught vibe. 

(MW): That self taught, how to say, style…

(BNR): It's something I don't identify with, I've been around a fair amount of academic structure, and talk, and language. When I started college, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I dropped out and the opportunity to go to school passed. 

(MW): Let's talk about the work, you mentioned the word "parameters", there’s a really great lack of parameters that I seem to see in the work here in the studio. 

(BNR): There is actually nothing but rules around us. There’s a balance of total chaos. I can work on these canvases all day long, and never finish them. If I just stop myself, and say, okay, make a figure, two arms, breasts, leg. Now I can get my head around that, and I can go in, and get into that a little bit more. Or make a face with three marks, eyes, nose, mouth. Another painting [here], I'm just isolating forms, and portraiture, simply in a practical and formal way. 

(MW): With the sculpture, things seem to open up, you're not like, saying, I have to use this material.

(BNR): Yeah, I think at that point it’s just about the object or manipulating an object.

(MW): What kinds of materials do you use in your sculpture?

(BNR): These are all ceramics [points to the table] or a combination of ceramic and wood, some just wood. I'm making objects with a bit more control, because I'm actually making them. Before now, I was working with found objects. There was a point where I was visiting various schools to get access to dumpsters at the end of semester, and began using found plaster molds or unfinished sculpture, then I would manipulate them in some way. 

"The Possible" exhibit at BAMFA gave me access to clay and a kiln. There, I could simply explore the material. After I had the ceramics fired, I began rubbing pigments into the fired clay. It was important to duplicate my process of painting on raw canvas. With ceramics, I simply wanted to create surfaces to paint on to. 

 (MW): How much value do you put into a picture of a sculpture over the "objecthood" of the sculpture? Are they two different pieces of work? Are they in the same body of work?

(BNR): Do you mean the collages?

(MW): Yeah

(BNR): The collages are sculpture. Using the image on the book page as armature for building a sculpture – a sculpture I do not have the space or materials to build in my studio. These here [sitting on the desk] - I consider them objects, book pages torn from the binding. Framed, they have an end point, they’re done. Otherwise they are catalogue pages on a table. 

I remove enough of the found image to make the source unclear. Some are very direct, like a Picasso on a Picasso. There is an image over an image. A Picasso over a Picasso, titled 'Infinite Picasso', a clock, hands turning. The framed collage mounted with motor to wall, spinning.

 (MW): Yeah, there does seem to be an element of some kind of humor in the work, could you talk more about that?

(BNR): Yes, there is art humor involved, or the first line to a joke - “so and so walked into a bar,” but there is no punch line. 

(MW): In your work, there seems to be an undeniable relationship with collage, assemblage, found imagery and with color. Do you think you have a color palette that you identify with?

(BNR): Yes, natural pigments, red oxide, burnt sienna, etc… it is limited, I put green into a painting, but then I thought, it was too soon. My palette is another limitation I set for myself. I’ve never had navy blue in my work, or primary yellow, and the two together is pure anxiety, to respond I feel I should make a body of work with noting but the colors. 

When color exists, it can pop out in very small moments, I’ve installed paintings [brown, and white] in a gallery covered floor to ceiling with mustard yellow, or I have painted a hallway bright teal, as a refreshing cleanse for the viewer when coming and going from the exhibition. 

The work first exists in this environment, in the studio, with paint all over the walls, floors, and this water pipe above us, then there’s the gallery desk, the exit sign, the break in the wall, that beam, somewhat inconsistent gallery to gallery, but the same kind of pattern, those are the thoughts that I have while considering how to install work. 

(MW): To paraphrase Martin Kippenberger, "everything must be considered in the exhibition; the posters, the floor, the ceiling, etc.."

(BNR): Walking into an exhibition space, I say to myself, okay, what am I contending with here. All those little small elements, every moment should be considered.

(MW): Outside of art, what are a few good things you've found recently?

(BNR): For me, having a family and being an artist grounded my perception of being an artist and ego. With family you're dealing with something real, that has consequences, and your artwork doesn't have any consequences. Maybe a few horrible paintings. Parenting is amazing and messy all at once. There's nothing about art that can come close to any type of work that you're going to do with your family. I mean, that's it, it makes you work harder, it puts things in perspective. I hope my son recalls "Yeah, my dad had this space where he made these weird things in and there was music, and we would dance and make a mess and sometimes I would hang from his shoulders upside down and paint upside down on a big canvas". 

(MW): Is that what happens?

(BNR): Yes. That is what happens. I have a canvas rolled up, that we have been working on, and I feel like I want to take it out again when he's a little older so we can finish it together. Once you have a child there is no rush, so if him and I work a few things over the next ten years they can only get better.

(MW): Are there are specific people you are looking on at?

(BNR): I've always had my hands in other things, in addition to my practice, if it wasn't a pre-Tumblr blog, or doing exhibits in my house, or doing exhibits elsewhere, there's always been relationships with other artists. I'm seeing a lot of exciting painting, and you can observe all of that in such a direct and immediate way, which I don't know how healthy that is, and I think that there are some things that have been occurring in recent years that might not be that productive in terms of content, but content is so accessible, and I use that as a litmus test sometimes, and I let that play out. And I fuck with it a bit, and manipulate it, if I’m on social media I might as well manipulate it. Blatant exaggerations. I’m a blogspot dropout now on the Instagram…

(MW): It's appropriation, but it is appropriating your own imagery. 

(BNR): Yeah, which is also found imagery, so it goes, in an infinite loop.

(MW): Last question is about Miley Cyrus. On Instagram you had a post where you said you hugged Miley Cyrus, but that never happened, and her lawyers contacted you saying that you can't say that..

(BNR): Yeah, that never happened. I'm not sure exactly how the post went, I delete a lot of them, but it was something along those lines. I saw something that was so ridiculous; I manipulated a version of it, and then probably deleted it. It's funny, I'm giving a talk at CCA where I'm going to begin with: 

“So, that’s how I started making art. I had a bunch of fucking junk and shit, and so instead of letting it be junk and shit, I turned it into something that made me happy. I just sit around and smoke weed anyway, so I might as well sit around, smoke weed, and do something. And this is me doing something. I love it. I mean, I’m up until seven in the morning doing this stuff all the time. They say money can’t buy happiness and it’s totally true. Money can buy you a bunch of shit to glue to a bunch of other shit that will make you happy, but besides that, there’s no more happiness.”

On another note…

I found a Gumby episode. The premise is basically Prickle opens an art crating business, but quickly angers his customers by painting faces on their vases. Things look grim until the local art critic turns up and declares Prickle’s creations a work of genius. Gumby, Prickle turns artist - if there's a cartoon that could be my artist statement that would be it. 

Guston Tattoos in Los Angeles

Micah Wood visits Ross Caliendo in LA.

I went down to Los Angeles earlier this year and had a great time hanging out with a guy I heard good things about. Ross Caliendo lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA. Ross is a painter, sculptor, and avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan. His studio is the garage attached to his house, but also doubles as the gallery Secret Recipe. Ross is a solid guy, a very talented artist, and I predict a very bright future ahead of him, so make sure to follow his work. Be sure to check out any show that Secret Recipe puts on as well. 



Ross Caliendo, am I saying that right?


Where are you from and what brought you to Los Angeles? 

I was born in Dayton, Ohio, lived there until I was five or six, then moved to Pittsburgh where I grew up. I went to college at Columbus College of Art and Design. I did a painting residency in Philadelphia right out of college, and then bummed around New York and was about to move there but a friend of mine in Los Angeles said "forget New York", move to LA. So I moved to LA and lived in Venice Beach for a year and I've been living in Echo Park for almost three years. I've been in Los Angeles for almost four years. I love LA, I don't want to leave LA. I applied to UCLA and I'm waiting to hear back from that. I think it’s important to make art in the "real world", because you need to have those "what the fuck am I doing with my life" moments like spending your last ten dollars on paint. It’s those lonely moments in the studio at night, and before you know it, you turn around and you have a bunch of paintings done. It's exciting and fun. It makes you make real decisions. 

On working freelance in LA:

I work freelance, all my jobs are art related which is nice. I work for 356 Mission Rd., Blum and Poe, Cherry and Martin, LAX Art, Human Resources, all kinds. I work for a lot of artists, a lot of canvas stretching. Once you get a job like that, such as a preparator or artist assistant, people are like "Hey, can you do this? Hey, can you do that?" It's been a great way to meet people and participate in the scene down here. 

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

I don't really think about anything really. It's about making. I am a very energetic person and an emotional person as well and I think art is a by-product of that energy and emotion. It’s that excess and sensitivity, that extra sensitivity that most people don't have. I come into the studio, and the studio is a place where I can push all that out or do those things in the paintings. The paintings are in a way like these “moments of time” in my life depending on what's going on. 

The paintings seem to have different tones. Some are louder and others feel quieter. Is that true?

I feel like all my work is pretty loud and that's something I'm trying to work on. They might contain different feelings or vibes but generally they are all kind of the same tone. What's in front of you are paintings that are ambiguous moments of energy, but in the newer ones I'm trying to work on their objectness, to make them not as abstract. 

What are your processes and choices of materials? 

This work is more direct in a process based way because there is a lot of process that goes into all this work. Pretty much every one of these paintings are a dyed canvas and then from there I'll build it up with a silk screen or I'll draw on it or put some pastels on it and then maybe do a layer of resin. I'm always kind of building on these materials. I am interested in different ways to make marks on the canvas because each material has it's own vibe and tone. Resin is the newest one in my boat. I've always made paintings in layers, one layer is in reaction to the next layer and it's all intuitive, they grow on top of each other, it's kind of like gardening. I'll make a layer and then lay a thin coat of resin on it and it will create this separation in the paintings that wasn't happening before. I have been using a lot of lamination paper and that's how all those positive marks are made in those paintings. There's something about that separation. That one layer of separation is kind of magic compared to making a straightforward mark with a brush. You have to nurture the third hand of fate. 

Secret Recipe, tell me about it. 

Stefan Hoza lived out here with me in 2013, and at that time we were sharing this studio. Right before he was supposed to leave LA, we were going to have an open studio, to let people see all the stuff we had been making. We invited everyone we knew, and it was a big turn out. Everyone had a good time and after that, a buddy of mine, Andrew Cannon, was like "We should do an actual show in your garage", and so the first Secret Recipe show (which wasn't called Secret Recipe at the time) was Andrew Cannon, Stefan Hoza, James Herman, Calvin Marcus, Justin Olerud, and myself. It was really successful, we had a lot of fun, and we decided to do it again, and that's when it became Secret Recipe. Marie Elena Johnston's show was technically our one year anniversary. We've done 11 shows in 14 or 15 month's time, and they are always one night only. It's a lot of fun, and also a lot of work to move my stuff out of the space. 

It is a skill or talent to curate a show well. What are your thoughts on that? 

It is. I hate that word though. I feel like it's become this thing, "curating", there's something a little pretentious about it. I never want to be associated with that. I like art, I like other peoples art, I like looking at art, and I like to look at art outside of people's studios. 

So maybe you like to organize..

Yeah, I like to organize. It's putting things together. The whole Secret Recipe thing is anti-press release, anti curation, anti info. It's more like, this is a rad artist, this is another rad artist, come look at these rad artists’ stuff together. And that's the general gist of it. We don't want it to be this academic thing, or why it's important. The fact that these people exist and this moment in time is happening is what interests us more. We normally get three to four hundred people that come through now. This whole drive way is packed. It's just a thing we do, but it's getting to be nuts, in a good way. 

What's on your reading/ listening list?

I just bought this Aaron Curry book at the LA Art Book Fair, and it looks really good. My dad recently gave me "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" which I'm excited to read. I'm always reading this one book over and over, it's called "Philip Guston's Writings, Lectures, and Studio Notes". It's a collection of transcribed lectures, studio notes, all of his artist statements from his shows, etc. Philip Guston is my favorite because his art is about doing your own thing. I don't think art is about having a manifesto or an agenda or anything. It's just about doing your thing, investigating yourself, living an interesting life, and being your own person and letting that transpose into your work. That's what it is about. I've been listening a lot to this one record label, it's called L.I.E.S. It's house/experimental, ambient kind of stuff. On that label, I listen to Delroy Edwards, it’s grimy, house music, and Gunnar Haslam is pretty cool. That record label is my go to. I'm really into death metal, I'm kind of a death metalhead. Ever since I was a teenager, I've been listening to that. One of my big things is collecting death metal records. There is this one band, Demilich, they’re a Finnish band. They put out one record in 1991, called Nespithe. I was just listening to it this afternoon before you got here. 

Who are some artists that you're inspired by?

Philip Guston, for sure. My number one. I have a tattoo (shows me area on body where the Guston tattoo is). I gave one to Stefan as well.  I am such a fan boy of Guston and not afraid to admit it. His work and my work aren't formally correlating but it's mainly his mentality. Everything that he writes about and talks about I totally agree with. We were saying before, I really hope that my work doesn't look like anybody else's. The focus is trying to make it my own. There are definitely people that I'm inspired by, like Neo Rauch. He's one of my top dogs. I have this one book called Thirty Thousand Years of Art that I look at a lot and that's been a big inspiration for me lately. It's mainly weird wood carvings and cave paintings, but art in general inspires me. Just that people way back then had the energy to make art and be creative is super inspiring to me. Some of early Andreas Golder's paintings I look at. Martin Kobe, one of those Leipzig painters. Laura Owens is definitely a big influence since I moved to LA. 

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

Hiking is pretty cool. You can find some pretty good stuff while you're hiking. 

Where do you like to hike around here? 

Topanga Canyon is pretty cool, it's in Malibu. Angeles National Forest is cool. It's pretty close to here. I do a lot of record shopping. I found some good records the other day. I found GZA's Liquid Swords, one of my favorite hip hop records of all time. I buy a lot of Pittsburgh Penguin's sports memorabilia. I am an avid hockey fan, an fanatic hockey fan for the Penguins. Also, I'm a fan of good food. I’m always looking for a new, good place to eat. 

What's coming up in the near future for your work? 

This guy I know, Luke Forsythe, started his own house gallery, and I'll have a couple of pieces in that show. The next thing coming up in my studio is that I just finished building a series of 30" x 40" canvases. But I'm going to do something with this new series that is totally different what I've been doing, kind of like the exact opposite of what I am naturally inclined to do. I'm really interested in that challenge right now. The root of where all these paintings come from is the excitement of possibility. That excitement get's me going but at the same time I want to limit it, restrain it. Some Secret Recipe shows are coming up and I'm excited about those. 

Desirèe Holman visited by Micah Wood

I met Desirèe Holman on a rainy morning in early December at her studio in Oakland. Her studio was located behind her house with a very nice garden/backyard in between the two. My visit with Desirèe was great, our conversation flowed like a meandering river through familiar and unfamiliar canyons. We talked about a range of topics including indigo children, learning to speak Chinese, breatharians, cats, CCA, and how my mom and her would probably be friends because of their mutual interests. Desirèe is an extremely talented artist, and the research she does in preparation for each project is long and very thorough, but the work is on another level because of it. It was really fun getting to know this very talented artist who has a lot going for her right now and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Desirèe Holman.

How long have you lived in California? What brought you to Oakland?

I moved to California 17 years ago from the American South for the culture and because I had family here. After bouncing back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco for about 10 years, I have really put roots down in Oakland.  

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

Before getting to the heart of your question, allow me to preface that I am a project-based artist making an interconnected oeuvre consisting of unique chapters.  Each chapter is a project that consists of several years of focused research, followed by production.  That said, on the surface, the subject matter of said projects vary but all circle around the themes of identity, social transgression, and alternative realities.  These are the topics that drive my work.

Before I go into active production of my work, I’m thinking about a particular cultural bay or niche, for example:  reborn doll makers; occultists or role-playing gamers to name a few.  I’m wrestling with why they believe what they believe and what their belief structures reveal about the broader culture and human nature at large.  

While my work is very much driven by research and my thoughts, by the time I begin production, I am less interested in what I have been thinking about and learning.  Quite honestly, if I get too hung up on the thoughts, it’s a hinderance.  While in production, I am striving to “think” with my hands and with the images in my head.  Come to think of it, it’s a kind of “anti-think,” which should not be confused with anti-intellectual.  Rather, hands-on-thinking is just a different way of engaging with ideas.  

How much does science fiction, as a genre influence you? Humor?

I’m interested in fantasy and fiction at large, including, but not specifically, SciFi and humor. 

How do things change when you are working on paper vs. working with sculptures/ costumes or performance? 

Those processes are fully interconnected for me.  The drawings, paintings, sculptures and props like costumes are all my intensive think/anti-think time.  Again, I’m thinking with my hands while I make these objet d’arts.  The objects are, in part, my story board.  They help me to prepare for the work with people and cameras.  Making a video or performance is the fullest, most complete expression of the project.  The objects are very important freeze frames, highlighting moments and the “thought” process.  

What’s on your reading/listening list lately?

Culture Class by Martha Rosler

The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley

Ghosts:  Death’s Double and the Phenomena of Theatre by Alice Rayner

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

I am learning to read, write and speak Mandarin Chinese.  One outcome is a fledgling focus on Mandarin language films.  Recently, I’ve revisited a couple of very well-know ones: Farewell My Concubine by Chen Kaige and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee.  Both are extraordinary.  

What’s coming up in the near future for your work?

This upcoming Spring 2015, I will begin shooting for a live action video as part of my current body of work, Sophont.  The end result will be a multi-channel video installation with potential for a concurrent live performance component. 

You can find more of Desirèe’s work at http://www.desireeholman.com/ .

Below is a list of other upcoming exhibitions and events.

Solo Exhibition, “Sophont,” Aspect Ratio, Chicago, IL. 1/30/15-3/1/15  

Group Exhibition, “Artadia Awardees,” The Battery, San Francisco, CA. 

12/16/14 - 2/20/15

Group Exhibition, ”40th Anniversary Exhibition,” Kala Art Institute & Gallery, Berkeley, CA. 1/15/15 – 3/21/15

Group Exhibition, “The Vastness is Bearable,” Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara Satellite @ Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, January 25, 2014 to Sunday, February 15, 2015

Residency & Award, New Alumni Award, Headlands Center for the Arts, March 2015