Arthena Chats With Jed Ochmanek

Los Angeles-based artist, Jed Ochmanek, received his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2005, and has since shown his work around the world. Best known for his paintings that feature oil-based enamel poured onto stainless steel, Ochmanek's works evoke elements of Abstract Expressionism, while exploring the ideas of chance and unpredictability.

Photo of the artist, taken by Quinn Tivey 2012

Arthena: Were you always interested in art growing up?

James Ochmanek: Yes. I grew up in Washington DC where all of the museums are free and my family would visit them often. My first memories of seeing art were Church's Niagara at the Corcoran Gallery and an Oldenburg show at the National Gallery. Though I'd been drawing since I was really young, the first instance of thinking that I could attempt to make fine art was probably after seeing Rauschenberg at the National Gallery when I was 13 or so.

A: Where do you derive your influence?

JO: Recently I've been inspired by the Mojave Desert, where I've been painting. There's something about the sparseness of the land there - it bares the traces of geological time in such a way that makes that dimension an explicit stage to one's daily experience. You loose a sense of that in the city; in the desert everything seems more deliberate.

I've been listening to Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Wiltzie's new Winged Victory project for Wayne McGregor's dance company for the last month. It's incredibly rich, and much more dynamic than previous work of Wiltzie's, of which I'm a huge fan.

Untitled, 2012

A: What was the last exhibition you went to?

JO: I went to the closing of a group show that I participated in last Sunday. It was called Life Transmissions and was held at the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University. I was shown next to Bas Jan Ader's Nightfall, which was quite an honor. The juxtaposition felt particularly special in that it highlighted the element of loss in my work, of pouring as a sort of breaking point and expenditure. There was a Rauschenberg cardboard piece in the show as well, so I can finally say I've attained my teenage dream of showing with him.

A: What projects are you currently working on?

JO: I currently have a solo show at ltd Los Angeles in Hollywood, which is open until November 18th, so I've been working on that up until just now. It's comprised of eight paintings on metal and four urethane and steel sculptures. I made all of the painted works in Joshua Tree, which was gorgeous and incredibly hot.

The urethane bulbs are cast from an out-of-production incandescent bulb previously used for theater spotlights. They act as fluctuating, concentrated orbs of pigment, whereas the paintings are studies of distributions of pigment across theoretical planes.

Exotherm, 2012

A: How do you see the art market and the art world changing?

JO: The increasing stratification of wealth is going to push art and the market beyond any previously imagined levels of spectacle, but with that there is sure to be a backlash. We've already seen a shift where galleries are behaving like museums and museums like galleries, so I think a lot of the traditional footholds will be up for re-definition, for better or worse.

A: How do you see art emerging from the tech space?

JO: Artists are always going to be interested in using new tools; and new technologies will no doubt present a wellspring of options. The challenge is going to be finding ways to use these tools to tell us something substantial about our humanity, and not just relish in the highly temporary status of an object's or given situation's "newness." I'm optimistic.

Follow Jed on Instagram: @jedochmanek