Calvin Ross Carl
Can you talk about your juxtaposition between iconic imagery (the mountains, “Hankie rag”, and the chair) and the minimalist objects?
Objects from domestic life and consumer culture give the work a human touch. Art objects are examples of workmanship just like a building or a chair, and I want to make sure the importance of the worker is not forgotten or neglected in the object.
You have spoken about the working class mentality of your work, past and present, and in Purple Mountain Majesty most of the works are in ascension. Can you talk about these correlations?
The work for the show was being made just after I had been unemployed for months, and I finally got a new day job. So there was a mixture of genuine optimism surrounding my work life. But the visual references to ascension also relate to the overwhelming visuals of monoliths, and how that kind of oppressive force can be related to the helplessness one might feel while working for just a paycheck.
This body of work is clearly rooted in socio-political ideas, which is something that has not always been a part of your past work. Do you see art at large moving away from “meta” theoretical ideas, just as your work has? /or why not?
All the Postmodernist meta-narratives were about trying to find our place in history. Now we are more concerned that our histories are vanishing and all culture is becoming one homogenized global culture. We are filtering through and reinterpreting popular culture to provide our own viewpoint and interpretation. It’s not really any kind of public service announcement, socio-political basis. It’s much more selfish. It’s about trying to be an individual in a consumer culture that is becoming more and more standardized.
Can you explain the relationship between the bright “warning” colors and the contrasting black, white/ black and orange? can you also explain how the black specifically influence the works?
All the colors I used are derived from the government ordained colors for caution tapes, and black is a part of that system. Although, each color has its own feeling and aura. All the bright colors provide that feeling of optimism I talked about before, and black and white contradict the optimism with a certain sparseness and somberness.
Can you talk about your “Jackhammer” piece?
Jackhammer is the bridge to a previous series of work I did, where I was playing with the way visual tension could allude to the tension one experiences being a worker. That thinking influenced my reliance upon the caution tape colors in Purple Mountain Majesty, and their purpose as a symbol of hazardous and unsafe places. So Jackhammer served as a foundation for the rest of the pieces to be built upon, which I suppose is a bit ironic, since a jackhammer is exactly what you would use to tear a foundation apart.
Your titles for the show have have a satirical bite to them, how do you choose your titles?
My titles are tend to be somewhat literal. Mostly because I try to avoid poetic flourishes, and cement the objects in “real” life. The satire, cynicism, and humor come from my displeasure in being just another worker bee like everyone else.
How much of the work was made specifically for this gallery space? How much time did you have to prepare for the exhibition?
All the work was new and created for the space. I believe I had 6-8 months to prepare for the show.
What is next for your artistic endeavors?
As far as my studio practice goes, I’m excited about working with more 2-D pieces, since I’ve been making only 3-D objects pretty consistently the last few years. Otherwise, I might start setting some of my sights outside of Portland.
Interview by Jason Brown