Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Big City Portrait: Alexandra Grant

Text and images by Anais Wade

Sunday May 16 2010

What is your full time job?

Three words.
Why -- Fire -- Pink

Favorite letter?
E. I was obsessed with the letter E for a while… Somebody told me that it is the most commonly written letter.
And A… since it is the first letter of my name.
I'm partial to all the letters, I could take the whole alphabet!

What is love?
Love is about generosity. When I created the Love symbol for Watts House Project, it was a post-Obamic moment, when suddenly irony felt tired and being sincere and straight felt grounded and powerful. The word love functions as something that equalizes. It functions as a bridge between people who are different from one another, sets conditions where there's the possibility of positive exchange.

What's your recurring daydream(s)?
My most common day-dream is about food. How people connect through food, eating together. In the studio I spend a lot of time in meditative states, thinking of color and form. Speed, cars, I love cars… right now I'm obsessed with 1986 or 87 air-cooled engine old Porsche. Travel… Wondering how I could travel all the way to Patagonia on public transportation, going to the other end of the earth without a car…. I walked for 3 hours yesterday…. from Pasadena from my house near Highland Park. Stopping for ice cream, of course.

Art is (fill in the blank)
An exchange. I'm interested in the idea of being an artist-philanthropist, using the art to benefit a communities that don't normally encounter the art world. I'm inspired by Judith Becker's notion of the artist-citizen -- that artists can help build civic society. And Fritz Haeg's notion about "social acupuncture" -- how you can change an entire system (say a neighborhood's attitude towards gardening) just by doing inserting one specific project into an environment.

Why Los Angeles?
Because it's such a creative city -- there is so much opportunity for ideas to flourish and pragmatism to take root. The diversity of food and language. There is so much space and freedom to achieve wild ideas. In terms of my work as a text-based artist, Los Angeles' art history is a history of conceptual art and language as a plastic medium. John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Mary Kelley, Ed Ruscha… are practicing in LA!

Why FUCK in this painting?

I'm always cautious about throwing around words like "fuck" in my work -- it has to be the only word that works. But this new work is about the body, and as much as the body is home to the brain, it is also home to our more human sensual and sexual desires. I wanted to paint about this other side. And the painting says "FUCK spring." Cliches of spring are flowers blooming, eggs hatching, bunnies multiplying….things that reproduce. The notion of saying fuck the thing that's inherently about reproduction… seems very funny to me.

Top 6 artists in your dream art collection?

Wow that's exciting!
Gego -- Kitaj -- Richter -- Picasso -- a cemetery by Carlos Scarpa -- a letter written by Virginia Wolf

If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
I would be a novelist. Given my skill set, that would not be possible. As a child, I wanted to be Angus Young from AC/DC or a race-car driver.
Given my current skill set I'd be an aspiring inventor or entrepreneur who drives very fast.

Why not writing instead of painting words?
I don't have the patience to sit still and be a writer. In my twenties I read Hélène Cixous who wrote that she imagined herself to be a writer/painter with a brush thick with words, and I wondered what it would look like. I took it as a personal challenge.

First solo museum show at 33 years old at MOCA, wow!
Thank you. So many people think it is about who you know but I believe that the work leads the way. Creating something that the world is curious to see.

How do your collaborations work? Do you write your own story before you paint?

I am currently working with the writer Michael Joyce on the "Bodies" series, to explore the representation of the body in all its forms: biological, intellectual, sensual. I suggested to him that it would be a series of haikus and he wrote a series called the "Lost Hills Hokku".
My next project revolved around a text Hélène Cixous has given me called Philippines. The Philippine is an almond that has two nuts almonds within one shell -- there's the idea of "twining", of two selves, the perfect other that you fit with in this tiny little space. Related to this is the almond shape, the mandorla -- in European painting you can imagine a Christ figure or a Madonna in that shape. I haven't begun the visual work but I've been thinking about what will that look like.

I want to touch your paintings, they have a lot of texture.
In shifting to working in oil paint, my paintings have become lumpy and physical, about building up layers. I'm very interested in how women painters represent the feminine self or the feminine body. As a woman you're always struggling with the labor of beauty, how you keep yourself up, such as having to do your hair, smelling good and dressing… it is a science to be a woman.

When is your next show?
Haunch of Venison, July 7 2010, New York City
Honor Fraser Gallery, September 18 2010, Los Angeles

© 2010, Big City Forum


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