Greg Bogin was born in New York City and received a BFA from Cooper Union. He lives and works in New York and Brooklyn, respectively. His new show Sunny Disposition will run from June 25- August 7, 2015 at Marlborough Chelsea on 25th street.
Sunny Disposition, Installation View, courtesy of Marlborough Chelsea
RH: I remember seeing road signs in Europe, and thinking about how different they were than those here. The design was beautiful and unexpected, and the meaning wasn't maybe so immediate. Do you think about road signs at all?
GB: I do think about road signs. There are several paintings in the show that I have referred to as fucked up yield signs. I have a long-standing interest in logos and signage and their ability to communicate a wide range of information in a compact image. By coopting parts of that language I am able to communicate non-specific references and influences in a way that make them accessible but still mysterious.
It's funny to think about paintings as signs that don't instruct, but we stand and look at them.
Yeah, I like the tension created by referencing a language that we expect to deliver some sort of information or message but keeping that message elusive to create a more contemplative moment.
Sunny disposition (better luck next time), 2015, synthetic paint and urethane on canvas, 72 x 104 ½ in., courtesy of Marlborough Chelsea
How have racing and bike aesthetics influenced the way you think about painting?
I am both an avid long distance cyclist and a racing fan. That culture has been a big influence on my life and work. Because of some of the materials I use, like urethane and the fact that I use spray equipment to make the paintings, the assumption is that I am into car culture- but that's not the case. I actually don't even know how to drive a car. The aesthetics of the bike-racing world is one the reasons I became interested in gradients and affirmed my ongoing interest in stripes, both of which are used extensively in bike culture. Bike aesthetics have generally been very colorful, almost tacky, fun and loud- providing a platform for the sponsors of various teams to give their logos air-time. Logos are another one of my interests so there are many connections in my work to cycling.
I love the humor and sometimes light-hearted body references in the shapes you make. They have a real character, and odd psychology.
Humor in art is important to me. Often the work is my way of escaping heavyosity, so I employ humor in the studio. The shapes in my work are informed by so many references it's difficult to say where they come from specifically. I am very conscious of the body references though and the scale of the works in relationship to the viewer. All the works for this show are made to be sort of person sized and inviting.
And you start with simple pencil sketches of shapes and patterns? The process seems very direct.
I usually start by making very small sketches on various scraps of paper. If it seems interesting, I will make a more exact drawing and then a color study. When I am convinced by what I am looking at, I make a full-scale drawing to use as a plan for building the stretcher. The whole process is pretty direct and since I am building the stretchers myself, I can make last minute changes if I feel the need.
A visual joy is kind of emphatic in the paintings, and the titles. The way you use color and light is full of optimism and promise.
These new paintings perhaps more then at other times in my work are about joy, optimism and happiness... sort of a refuge from darkness. I am not a neo-positivist though; there is some irony thrown in there as well to keep it interesting.
Yeah the irony is a nice balance, it sort of frames the fiction of painting. Painting is great, but it's not reality.
Or painting is its own reality... I tend to use irony to obscure the seriousness of the work. One way I do this is through the titles of the work as a misdirect to keep my real intentions obscure.
I always thing about how painters use light- and your new work emanates an electric, artificial light, like the paintings are plugged in. It gives them a real power, as a painting and an object in the room.
Artificial and electric light is exactly right. I don't employ the use of the computer directly in my work but it's been very influential in the way I think about light and color. The glow of the computer screen is mesmerizing and my use of gradients is a way of tapping into that limitless color field. Also I really enjoy science fiction, which influenced my approach to color and this idea of being plugged in. It is not an accident that while I was reading William Gibson I began to use gradients.
I noticed different color games in these new paintings, like playing an electric green off of a group of analogous violets. Is it systematic at times, or is color improvisational in the early stages?
It's both improvisational and systematic. My first motivations are always intuitive. I start with a feeling about color and find my way forward from there. When I find a range of color that affects me I examine it further by using repetition and then altering one or two color themes. So in a way that becomes a type of system but always remains intuitive.
I know you do all of this by hand- building canvases, transitions of color, even color studies and prep drawings. It seems really important to the paintings.
The work, to make the work is very important to me. My actions upon the inert materials of painting transform them into an object where part of my humanity resides. So for me it's personally important that I be directly involved in that transformation from making the drawings to building the stretcher to the finished painting.
And it's interesting that you mask your hand in some ways, as a painter. The way they are made isn't obvious necessarily.
I do mask my hand. It's similar to the misdirection I employ through the titles- I hide aspects of my hand so the viewer is uncertain as to how the paintings are made. The first impression might be to assume it is a factory produced something but upon closer examination my hand reveals itself.
You grew up and went to school in New York, which is such a painting town. It's always weird for me to go to other cities where painting is less important to the contemporary scene. It seems like being part of a lineage of New York painting is important to your work.
Being a native New Yorker is definitely part of my development as an artist. Growing up here I was aware early on of the New York school and that lineage, Pop art and minimalism. I feel like the offspring of all these competing philosophies. That said my influences are wide ranging. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in Europe, so plenty of other artistic reference points are there. I think whether we like it or are aware of it, all of us are a collection of all of the things we see and experience everyday. Whether they appeal to one's sensibility or not, they become part of us and part of the art that we make.