Cheryl Donegan introduces Eric Mack
CHERYL DONEGAN is an artist whose work integrates the time-based, gestural forms of performance and video with forms such as painting, drawing, and installation. Direct, irreverent, and infused with an ironic eroticism, her works put a subversive spin on issues relating to sex, gender, art-making and art history.
Her work has been exhibited internationally including at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Tang Museum of Art; New York Film and Video Festival; 1993 Venice Biennale; and the Biennale d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, France. She recently had a show at the New Museum in New York that is traveling to the Kunsthalle in Zurich.
Utilizing common items, primarily textiles and other readymade objects, ERIC MACK intervenes upon these materials with paint and dye, creating a fusion of incongruous elements. According to Mack, "the works created can be described as visual sheet music. Blocks and angles of color brushed and smudged across random perimeters of various media. Broken and solid line work split and gel together the variety of hues and shapes. Found within the core of the work are cultural references, signs of technological advances, schematic diagrams, component dials and switches are all included for their fundamental form. Most of them are basic circles, squares, and triangles." Deftly deconstructing and reconstructing an amalgam of fabrics, Mack's large-scale patchworks blur the line between utility and style. (Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery)
Josette asked Cheryl a few questions
When would you say people started to take notice of your work?
I had a video “Head” presented at the Venice Biennale in the Aperto section, when they still organized it that way. Aperto was mostly to introduce new artists and works. “Head” made a big impression at Aperto. That was in 1993.
Was there a specific tipping point for you? A specific moment/piece?
There have been many, as I have had a zig-zag path with a number of ups and down. Recently, I thought the show at the New Museum was a tipping point. But I feel I have been “on the brink “ for a long time.
Who gave you a chance/championed you when you first started?
There have been a lot of people who have supported me in the past, some have gone other ways, some have remained with me. Journalist, then curator Andrea Scott was the one who curated “Head” in a group show in the 90s at Elizabeth Koury gallery. Koury gave me my first one person show in NYC in 2003. That got seen by other curators. Bill Arning, then of White Columns, now director of the Contemporary Art Museum Houston has been a long time supporter. So has Lori Zippy of Electronic Arts Intermix, who offered to rep my videos. As I have been in and out of gallery representation over the years, I am glad I have such a solid relationship with EAI - over 20 years!
Did your priorities change through the years? How so?
My priorities have really never changed. I just want to be in the studio and make work. I see my work as a problem solving process as I get close to "it," whatever it is at the time. The only thing that has kept me from that is kids, who have taken priority, but that was my choice.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a show for February at David Shelton Gallery in Houston, Texas. After that, the New Museum show will be traveling and expanding for the Kunsthalle, Zurich in August 2017. It’s keeping me busy!
What advice would you give to a young artist? How did you stay motivated when you first started?
In once sense, it is hard to give advice as material conditions have changed so much since I first started! I shared rent on a live/work space on Canal St between Orchard and Ludlow for $1000 a month! I could make the rent in a week of waiting tables. Needless to say, it was easier, as the "price of entry" now is so much steeper for young artists to find living and work space and jobs, etc. I realize a lot of artists are post-studio practice now, but for me, having a studio to work in, and keep making new work at all costs, was the motivator. I just kept working, even if no one cared. But I have done that always, not just in my 20s. Believe me, there were times in my 40s when it felt the same - no one was looking, but I needed to keep working!
How did you take your career to the next level?
Sometimes I get the feeling that the times are catching up with me... I don’t think anything I have done played any active role in "career planning" other than making work and being stubborn about it!
Criticism is part of the life of an artist, either from professional critics, buyers, or the public, how do you deal with it? Do you deal with it differently now than when you started your practice?
Criticism is not even the hard part - being ignored or a shrug is the hard part. THAT is painful. It undermines your confidence but there is not too much to do about it. The best capacity to have is one for self-criticism. You have to be hard on yourself, or your work can’t grow. It is not even actually about what other people say, as they all have their own agendas, which may not even match up to yours.
How did you get to know Eric Mack and his work?
What interested and moved you in his work?
I love how his work maintains an edge between things - it’s decorative and political, diarist and rigorously formal, structured and free-form. I love that he uses clothing as clothing and lets stories grow out of that, but also isn’t nostalgic or precious. He lets things be things, as found objects, but he’s painting with things too, and pushing them into his own references and meanings. It is sophisticated work in the way it plays with all these tensions.
Does it relate to your own work?
I love fabrics and textures and try to use them in dialog with painting. I try to use fashion and clothing as a jumping off point too, so I feel a kindred spirit there.
What are the elements that you feel set him apart and make him one to follow?
I think his work has enormous potential for growth and change. He’s not just making one thing for the market. He lets it be mysterious.
Learn more about Eric Mack in this interview with The Fader.