February Art Picks: Christoper Taggart Interview

Posted on February 10, 2012 – 5:27 PM | by OldManFoster
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Last month in this space I ran a preview of Time Fugitives, the new show at CCAS by artist Christopher Taggart, one of the brightest lights of the northern California art scene. Taggart’s art is process heavy, but there’s more than a simple ‘how long did that take?’ factor at work – the finished pieces are striking, savvy and sometimes, very funny. Taggart works in many mediums, but one constant thread is his fascination with perception. Whether he’s making a massive sewn-paper sculpture of a football, a ‘drawing’ (consisting of hundreds/thousands of smaller drawings) on aluminum sheet, or self portraits assembled from portraits of other people who share his name, Taggart is playing with both visual perceptions (often in the form of pixelization) and perception based on assumption.

Taggart will speak about his work on February 11 and he agreed to answer a few questions for MM here.

MM: You have degrees in physics and art. How did you decide which to pursue?

CT: Since I was a kid, I did well in lots of things in school. I attended a science-specific high school, where I was also involved in the arts. In undergraduate school I majored in physics, but also had my first exposure to a serious academic study of art and art history. After working at a particle physics lab in Virginia, I ultimately decided to get a masters degree in sculpture. My education in, physics, and art, and art history all informs what I do in the studio. But equally as much (probably more so), it is influenced by the time I spend on my bicycle, looking at birds, diving, pruning trees, picking greens, etc.

Much of your work has an intense, obsessive sort of quality to it. Does that describe other aspects of your life as well?

You know, this word ‘obsessive’… I think it gets used pretty loosely. Artwork that contains lots of small repeated elements or marks seems to always be called obsessive. It doesn’t really take obsessive thinking or process to make this kind of work. Patience, tolerance of repetition, yes. But it’s not like I can’t get it off my mind. My choice, for example, to cut up a deck of playing cards into tiny bits and reassemble them is not to fulfill any obsessive impulse to cut things up perfectly and line them up repeatedly. It’s just a means to an end; a carrot to follow. “What would all those pictures on those playing cards look like if you could see them all at once?”

In other aspects of my life I could very much use a good dose of obsession. My house would be cleaner and my taxes easier to do every year.

As for ‘intense.’ I don’t think it’s an accurate description of my personality, but maybe you should ask my wife. I think there really is visual intensity in what I make, and I do strive for that result. I think creating vibrant visual intensity and intrigue from plain old everyday experience is key.

You have been referred to as a ‘Maximalist.’ Is there a Maximalist movement?

About a year and a half ago I needed to decide on a title for a show of my work in New Orleans. Half-smart-assedly, I called it “A Selection of Maximalist Works.” My thought was, that I tend to try and pile alot of information from alot of different directions, sources, or moments in time into my work, whereas a key tenant of MINIMALism is to pare the work down to one essential, elemental form. Since New Orleans, I’ve done what I should have in the first place and looked to see if the term is actually commonly used. Turns out it is, and it actually fits what I do pretty well. Seems like the term is used alot with reference to contemporary music, and with post-modern writing. Wikipedia has a pretty nice entry about it, so maybe I should edit myself into it!

Renny Pritikin (who curated the CCAS exhibit) once called you ‘one of the top five unknown treasures’ of Bay Area art. Who are your ‘Top five’ unknown treasures of the regional art scene?

First of all, Renny is a sweetheart! (insert blush) He’s an extremely well-informed curator and writer who can credibly come up with a list like that. I, on the other hand, selfishly spend most of my energy in a cave as a producer of art, not as a consumer. So I can’t really come up with a list like that. I couldn’t do justice to the art scene that I’m a part of.

I can, however list five treasures of the area that have been recently inspiring.

1 – The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge
2 – Northern Fisherman’s Beach near Kirby Cove in the Marin Headlands
3 – Morgan Territory Road (particularly the descent on bicycle from the top down to Manning Road)
4 – Have you met my wife? She’s FANTASTIC!
5 – Amtrak from Sacramento to Berkeley at clear winter sunset.

What’s the best part about being an artist?

My friend Andy once said, “Being a sculptor is just an excuse to sit around and listen to good music all day.” But really, that’s the SECOND best thing about being an artist. THE best thing about being an artist is the fact that others have given you the privilege to try out whatever you want. You really can’t take it for granted.

Chris Taggart , Time Fugitives, through February 12
Artist’s Lecture: February 11, 3PM; Closing Reception: February 11, 6 – 9PM
Center For Contemporary Art Sacramento, 1519 19th Street, Hours: Tues – Sun, Noon to 5PM

Also for February:

The Bearded Baby
Axis Gallery
February 4 – 26
Reception: February 9, 6 – 8PM
Reception: February 11, 6 – 9PM

Guest curator Ichiro Irie of Jaus Gallery in LA brings us an exhibit of what he calls “…’arrested overdevelopment’ in contemporary art from Los Angeles.” What, exactly is arrested overdevelopment? Irie defines it as art that displays “childlike and, what some may consider, primitive surface appearance that upon further observation reveal a quite mature aesthetic and discourse.” The four artists Irie has chosen to represent his concept seem like a good fit: Rochelle Botello’s seemingly naïve sculptures and drawings echo childrens’ art; Aska Iida explores pop culture imagery using simple materials like paint, beads and glitter; Jay Stuckey paints pictures of WWII dogfights and mummies in a style even cruder than Phil Guston; Megan Whitmarsh renders yetis, records and cans of spraypaint in stitchwork. Interestingly, though all of these artists owe a strong nod to outsider work, each is a product of art school. Hmmm, what was that Picasso quote about it taking a lifetime to paint like a child?

1517 19th Street
Hours: Noon – 5PM Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment.

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