22 June 2009

Spotlight on....Isidro Blasco

(Shanghai Planet, 2008)

Your work combines elements of photography, collage and sculpture and I love how it plays with indoor/outdoor space and architectural space both within the photographs and as completed works on exhibit.... Can you talk about how you started working in this way?
At first I was just playing around with light and shapes projected on the wall. Mostly square shapes; and I was interested in building a second layer of that square, just hanging on the wall, just in front. It was sort of like illuminating that part of the room, a corner for example; and having that section built up. And when you turn the light off, you have this shape built right there, and it becomes an object. And you can add to this one, others around it, until you fill up the whole room. And some times I did just that, the whole space with structures overlapping. It was a lot of fun. I did one at PS1 as part of the defunct program ‘Special Projects’ in 2000. And I used only two very large squares overlapping just a little. The resulting construction took over half of the room and you could walk on it. That was the last time before using photographs. After that one, I realize that I could be doing the same but with the photos pasted onto the surface. I guess I wanted to open up my work to the richness of the surface. Whatever was there, on top of the floor or the wall, will be also on the photo and ultimately on my construction.

How is your work changing?

I try to incorporate as many things as possible into my work that I consider new. As you can see I practically have only one idea, and I keep making it in different ways. I bring in things from other fields as well--video, architecture and photography. The process is very slow and can take years; at the end what I am doing looks like something different from what I was doing before. But I can recognize the same idea somewhere in there. And if I explain it to you, you will also see that there is a continuum in my work.

(Courtyard, 2008)

What part of your art practice is the most fun for you? What part do you like the least?
The fun part is to cut the material and build the construction. I love building stuff. Also, when it happens that I have a new idea, that is all I can think of for a few days afterwards. It's not that I go bananas about it, but I can get pretty obsessed, and sometimes not fun to be around. And I am sorry about that. I don’t like all the hours that I have to spend on the computer. I try to minimize the work that I do on the photos, but there is always so much work to do that I find myself working late at night on some stupid images. I hate that part. I don’t consider myself a photographer, so I really don’t want to know all the editing tools and stuff. I wish I could pay someone to do all that work.

Do you make a plan or think of everything as an experiment?
I have a plan always, but it doesn't turn out to be as I thought. I start working with an idea in my head, and I can see how the piece will be at the end. I can see it in 3D in my head. And I can sometimes even rotate the piece around and see from all angles. This is something that I did since I was a child. It started as a game, closing my eyes and imagining something very familiar--my chair for example--levitating and then spinning it around. You should try it; it's fun. But not everybody can do it, I am told.

(Ball Building, 2009, C- Print, Museum Board, Wood, Plaster of Paris, Fiberglass Mesh)

What projects are you working on currently?
I am going to Sydney in July for a show at Dominik Mersch Gallery. There I will show pieces that have images of Shanghai where I spent some time last year. Fascinating city. While I am there, I will be taking photos of the city of Sydney and maybe later I will make something with them. I will be participating in September in a group show at the Museum of Photography in Chicago, curated by Davide Quadrio. It is about the image of Shanghai City. Almost everybody in this show is Chinese except for me; I like that. In December, I will be in a show at the Temporare Kunsthalle in Berlin curated by Thomas Eller. And next year I am having my first retrospective in Madrid, in ‘Alcala 31.” I am Ok with it-- I don’t feel any discomfort on showing older work and having to think about my career, etc. If anything I feel that I should make greater effort to produce a good show, since it is my country and city of origin and deeply inside me it matters a lot. I move to New York in 1996, seems such a long time ago.

Outside of your art, what feeds you creatively?
I love looking at images of other planets and cosmic events. I get very exited when there is a new bunch of images coming out from say Mars or Saturn. I go to the Internet and look for them. I also like to read about science and new ideas. I have to admit that more often than not, I don’t understand a thing. But it is OK, I like to play that I know what I am reading. It is just fascinating to me. Also, architecture of course. The new architecture is really amazing. I wish we had more of that here in New York, but unfortunately this city has became very conservative and is just letting pass great opportunities, like the new stadiums. What an amazing chance to build an incredible icon for Queens or The Bronx. Look at what they did in Beijing, what an amazing stadium.

What artists have inspired you along the way, and whose work interests you now?
I learn a lot from Picasso, Brake and Gordon Matta-Clark when I was at school. Later on from David Hockney, Nan Goldin, Lee Friedlander, Jessica Stockholder and Glen Seator. And more recently I like Beth Campbell, Valerie Hegarty, Sarah Oppenheimer, etc.

(Old City Interior I, 2008)

Did you ever have doubts about becoming an artist and if so, how did you overcome them?
No, I never have. Both my parents are artists and my house growing up was always full with musicians, poets, actors, painters and architects… So I never had that question, it was the only natural thing to do. I always had a studio, since I was like 12 years old. And my sister is also an artist. My parents had a small ceramic pottery business beside their own painting and sculpture studios, and everybody in the family had to work there from an early age. We were hippies I guess. What would probably today be considered childhood exploitation, gave me wonderful skills and knowledge of materials from early in my life. I had to work the clay very hard, which was my thing-- getting ready the clay for Antonio, the person that made the ceramic forms. I remember like it was yesterday, the smell of that basement where we kept the clay, the humidity, the endless hours knitting the material… it was magic. I am trying something similar with my two daughters, they are too little yet, but soon they will have a place in my own studio where they can mess around…let’s see how that works, it may not.

How do you get through artist's block?
I start calling friends on my cell, or sending messages. Sometimes, I even call my mother in Spain. And one thing that I definitely don’t do is listeni to NPR when I have a mental block; very often they are precisely the cause that I am in such a place, just kidding. I listen to music as much as possible. That is good advice that I took from Diana Cooper, she is great.

(Courtyard Annex, 2009, C-Print, Acid Free Museum Board, Cardboard, Wood)

What words or philosophy do you live by?
Work, work and work. I love it and I cannot have enough of it. I get up early, like at 5 AM; I am working all day long. I try to have more conversations and spend time with friends, but at the end my work always wins. My family comes from the countryside in the South-East of Spain and that is all that makes sense to do for us. Just work from early in the morning until late at night. I don’t see any other way to advance the ideas that obsess me. I always have these projects that are so complicated and take so many hours-- it’s just insane. But I also get a kick out of all that mindless work, of course.

The comment that you hear most often from artists is that you have to know people to advance your career; connections are everything. I just don’t understand how you can be out there meeting people, going to parties, and at the same time making some work at the studio that actually gets you somewhere. I don’t have time for all that. So I do my work, I try my best and take any opportunity to show it anywhere I can. And then I hope people like it and call me again for another opportunity. So far it has been working all right.

Thank you, Isidro!

Isidro Blasco was born in Madrid, Spain and has exhibited his work internationally. Current and Upcoming exhibitions include:

Transforming Photography, Edward Cella Art+Architecture, Los Angeles, CA
May 30-July 2, 2009

Isidro Blasco: New Works, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Waterloo, Australia, July 23-August 29, 2009.

Isidro has received many prestigious grants and awards including but not limited to: the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2000), the NYFA grant (2001) and the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant (1997).
For more information, visit Isidro’s website or the article: “Shanghai Cubism” from Art on Paper, or Artnet.
Isidro currently lives and works in New York.