2010 California Biennial: Interview with Alexandra Grant



Mario Vasquez October 4 at 8:40am
Thanks for doing this interview with me. I want to begin by talking about your beginnings. How did you become an artist?

Alexandra Grant October 11 at 8:48pm
A good question. I don't know if I ever wasn't an artist. My mother recently found a school project of mine from ages 7 or 8. The teacher had assigned us to write a newspaper article. I decided to make an entire newspaper.  I enlisted my best friend as a journalist and she wrote several articles. I came up with the rest, designed the mast-head, and had my mother drive to a photocopy shop in Mexico City that could print the whole thing on newsprint. I'll never forget the teacher's reaction when I handed her the project. My answer, I suppose, is that since I was a child I've  imagined the entire "symphony" first and then the melodies. As an adult, art is the platform, the bigger project, the symphonic or newspaper space that allows me to explore all the ideas -- both literary and plastic -- that I'm interested in.

Mario Vasquez October 12 at 9:08pm
I remember seeing your work for the first time at your solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Your paintings and sculpture was both text and image in a way we see text such as Lawrence Weiner or Jenny Holzer. Can you elaborate on how you approached the language and image in your work?



Alexandra Grant October 16 at 12:43pm
Both Weiner and Holzer are people whose work I looked at (and continue to admire) intensely -- as well as Baldessari, Ruscha, Kruger, Kelley, Bochner. Each of these artists, in their own way, were looking at conceptual linguistic strategies and at the same time the language of advertising in magazines and television. (Think of early Baldessari paintings alongside the VW ads of the same period -- the mid-50's). Some of the questions I seek to address in my own practice, coming after all of those named above, are: what is the role of the hand (and handwriting) in image/text now? How are non-linear or networked systems of language represented/representable? How do the multiple dimensions of the internet impact our imagination of language? What is the role of literary, or poetic, text in a world where the image is frequently privileged over the word? How do we keep words alive and charged with meaning? Can a painter research and represent the work of writers who are working to keep language teeming with pathos, violence and tenderness? So my work is an investigation of the role of literary and networked texts (hypertexts) as source for images that are systems, maps, biological and social models, focusing on both the image of language as well as its specific meaning.

Mario Vasquez October 17 at 10:43am
Would you consider poetry a type of system in your work? There was a poet that was mentioned in the essays that the work at MOCA was based on.



Alexandra Grant October 19 at 8:34pm Report
Poetry, for this reader/painter, is written and read to stay alive. Sometimes poets write the most mediocre poetry in the same way that artists sometimes make the most timid art.  So I look for poetic writing that challenges what I think language is and can do, that rips open a seam and shosw a horizon where there wasn't one. Successful poetic texts are about rhythm, alliteration, repetition, imagery, metaphor... they remind us that language is the link to ideas and other people that keeps us sparking. Poems also lend themselves, because of their structure (and sometimes games), to mapping.

Mario Vasquez October 19 at 8:37pm
Final question. Tell me about your project for the biennial. Does it differ from the work at your recent show at Honor Fraser?



Fourth Portal (taste), 2010


Alexandra Grant October 19 at 10:22pm Report
The work I'm showing at the Biennial is part of my ongoing collaboration with Michael Joyce, a pioneer of hypertext fiction. While I dreamt of doing an original piece for the Biennial, the constraints of the exhibition and my own laborious process lead us to select pieces from a previous body of work, the Six Portals. The Portals are an exploration of six distinct language spaces. Based on texts by Joyce, the Portals investigate the five senses and the mind as image and text. The Body Portal, a reflection on the sense of touch (both the metaphoric and more profane aspects of that sense), lead to my recent work at Honor Fraser (a show called "bodies").

Second Portal (eye), 2010

First Portal (mind), 2010

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