YHBHS Interview: Joshua Abelow

Joshua Abelow
Interview pt 1.

I don't quite understand it,
but I think there is something antagonistic about it -
like the drawings are undermining the paintings."

"Why? Why? Why?," 2010,
pencil on paper, 22 x 30 inches

oil on burlap, 2010


ab·surd (ab sʉrd, -zʉrd; əb-), adjective
so clearly untrue or unreasonable as to be laughable or ridiculous

"The Absurd", in philosophy, refers to the clash between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning and the human inability to find any. In this context "absurd" does not mean "logically impossible," but rather "humanly impossible." The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory reality caused by the confrontation of both, simultaneously.

formalism is the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form--the way it is made, its purely visual aspects, and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content. In visual art, formalism is a concept that posits that everything necessary to comprehending a work of art is contained within the work of art.

"Self-Portrait with Satan,"

2010, pencil on paper, 30 x 22 inches

Whats happening in Vermont? Where do you call home at the moment?

JA:I'm doing a six week painting residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. The Center is artist run, which gives this place a homey feeling. My studio is big. I have a view of a river. I take long walks and read a lot. Today I finished a wonderful book by Robert Walser called, The Assistant.

In the studio, I'm working on a series of self-portrait drawings that are humorously self-critical, aiming to question or mock the role of the artist. I made two today that have Satan popping out of my ass.

A woman here told me she was going to call my mom when she saw some of them. They might become studies for future paintings. I'm also making geometric oil paintings on burlap. These burlap paintings allow for a very systematized exploration of color.

There's a relationship between the paintings and the drawings that is odd and interesting to me. I don't quite understand it, but I think there is something antagonistic about it - like the drawings are undermining the paintings.

JA: For the past two years or so I've been traveling around the United States and abroad. I lived in Berlin for most of 2008. I read eleven Henry Miller novels in the bathtub and made a lot of small abstract paintings there. I spent a lot of time alone - it was very peaceful.

Then I did a six-week painting residency at The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. For the last six months I've been living in my hometown outside Baltimore, Maryland, but I'm hoping to join my sister in New York at some point in the not too distant future to make some things happen...


Funny jokes to share? I personally love to laugh.

JA: There's a Richard Prince Joke Painting that always makes me laugh. It's called "Oedipus-Schmedipus." And John Baldessari's text paintings from the late 60's are also very funny.

"Oedipus Schmedipus,"
1994, Richard Prince

2 distinct cases of laughing oneself to death, found on Wikipedia..

On 24 March 1975, Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn, England, died laughing while watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies, featuring a kilt-clad Scotsman battling a vicious black pudding with his bagpipes. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died from heart failure. His widow later sent The Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments of life so pleasant.

In 1989, a Danish audiologist, Ole Bentzen, died laughing while watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beaten at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.

1966 - 1968, John Baldessari

joshua abelow.
more to come.....
pt 2.