In the Studio with Aaron Garber-Maikovska. Words By James Ambrose

Firstly, I want to talk  about your recent show 4 from 3 dancers with Blum & Poe which was the fourth in a series of recent exhibitions exploring notions of fatherhood and family. What was the concept of this show in particular, and do you see this as an evolving series continuing on into 2021? with Blum & Poe

The concept is based on my obsession with being. It is simple and unrelenting. The ontology of being and collision of perceived dualities has been a singular theme for me for probably forever. The words “4 from 3” are a play on concepts such as becoming, evolving, constancy and change, basically any kind of movement, concrete or abstract. I often recite this tired expression, “We are here, and we don’t know why we are here.”  For me, it is a source of empowerment, an exit, a zero place.   Zones and spheres that overlap, overlay, drift apart, stand apart and buzz near and around each other are things that I think about. Then fatherhood is amazing because it is a bridge between the natural world and the patterned structured human world. Participation and observation of the fatherhood experience have been influential in how I think about ideas that I have always thought about. Fatherhood is like a singular multidimensional cluster quake of meandering points of elegance, shrapnel dedicated to opaque shapes and minivans. So, it’s been a new experience, a lil inspiring.

When we first spoke, we discussed your formative years of skating and growing up in California, did art also play an important role in your life at this time?

Art always played an important role in my life, refuge (expression) identity x progression. However, I wasn’t artful about skating, I wish I were. I was more stuck in posture. I would have been way fresher. It wasn’t my power zone. However, to participate in it as a communal activity, moving on through around the urban built landscape as a giant found object, defining one’s own movement against the delineated hardscape and repurposing it for another set of moves, looking for exits, alternative lines, repurposing transitions was foundational and would later inform a natural relationship in my interest in intervention. Intervention for the sake of an opening.  If it’s possible, to make a puncture at the same time as a healing; turning a hard surface into something sensual. The parallel being that something found is transformed, somehow elongated and curved, extended through a combo of balance and precision. The surface lines drawn, become a concrete metaphor for possibilities in movement in an emotional or psychological space (un-naming it). The method, a doubling, a repurposing of the structure and ultimately an affirmation of its existence, at the same time its obliteration of its conditioning. Moving through life, moving through the business park, moving through the “landscape” abstract or concrete. Let’s call it the judo reversal upon the thing that is that thing, the attacking landscape.

At what point did know you wanted to be an artist?

I proclaimed myself an artist at a very early age, (maybe 4) it made school, or rather being a decent student, difficult.

4 from 3 dancers, Installation view, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe

In regards to your practice, I wanted to initially discuss your performance’s which are often “guerrilla” in their nature and documented as video works. How did they originally develop?

There are a couple of key moments of significance for me, I think being at SFAI and studying Painting and New Genres (SFAI poles: new genres and bay area abstraction) a dialogue between something very formal and physical and the other revolving around the illumination of discrete ideas. I think I was personally able to synthesize these poles into my body into somatic action. It was natural for me to do this. Thinking about conceptual art as an activation of an idea, as an intervention that took root ultimately living and spreading in the mind so that you carried the work with you. Working with my body was an attempt to contain and understand the all-over-ness of these propositions. In a stupid way being immediate and “painting with my body” in space. The personality of this and the very real and constant feeling that it was somehow fragile with fluorescent edges could fall apart at any moment was/is a charge.

Another moment for me then was when I saw Jason Rhoades give a talk at the school. I was insulted by it, however, it was amazing to peel away the veils of informational composition that interplayed to make a piece which at once was seductive, beguiling and ultimately in constant movement, it was something that the place of painting had always provided. He declared himself a sculptor, I was reading it as a painting, yet it all synthesized in his body, body language and his brand of constructing a narrative. I think this was a particularly powerful moment for me, his narratives filled with traps, sinkholes and straight-up dumb jokes, there was a lowness banality but fighting against, like a body slowly disintegrating, running out the clock, very close to life. Whether I realized it or not (which I didn’t) developing a narrative or personal idiom, games, interplays was/is important to continue to chart a path, ultimately to maintain contact and intimacy with (continuing to map) the thing that I am doing (mapping), I set out to translate what I was feeling and spent a lot of time feeling around. This became a somatic process, an intuitive process.  Getting rid of the set design, being turned on by the mystery that all of this is. Pivoting around it. Stripping away the narrative and simply allowing my body to endlessly loop getting lost and found set upon the structure of improvisation in the found landscape. There is not any kind of separation for me between the action and its intent. It’s totally romantic and I’m completely absorbed.

I know the locations chosen for each performance also play a significant role, with their coordinates often forming the title of the work, how do you discover these settings, and what is the process for their selection?

The process is just having the materials ready and then improvising, I go out for a day with 1 other person. Performance day, car, cameras, tripod, co-pilot, nostalgia, enthusiasm, traveling meandering, passaging, being willfully light, omnidirectional, jittery, skitter, leap flat axis play. The sites present themselves. Personally, I love vertices and horizons am/pm land, it’s a rush to become absorbed into the light of sensual naiveté among a scattering of crazy-ass energy. I am looking for places that would be described as liminal, in between part open part closed, the edge of a newly developed subdivision. Suburban meets the country or desert; these sites are personally bound up in optimism the lines are very clearly delineated. These places are overtly repetitive, like fluted poly. They are places that are built to have the lowest common denominator. Someone said to me once that the most absurd thing is design, I think I understand. The reversal is affirmation, the game becomes a thank you and here I go. Thank you for the ledge, the curb, the surface, the sign, the stairs.

The performances were presented in this most recent exhibition as “video sculptures”, displayed on OLED monitors that sat atop bespoke video stands created by yourself, you said it “took a long time to get them to that point”?

Well the innovation for me is to have the monitor displayed horizontally like a table, that they run off batteries so that they remain self-contained and that they are mobile. You could take them for a walk, like a companion, a dog maybe.  I’m not sure why that took 20 years?

I’ve had monitors that would accompany my work many times, I was often put off thinking that they pushed against the exhibition not in an interesting way. I liked the idea more than the outcome. Thinking about them as stored energy, a looping horizontal diffuse energy. An index of propositions like a stored energy, twitch, glow, frosty glow--TVs not right—as documents they have been failures. What is interesting to me is the index of activity and self-contained ambiguity. The on-ness of them. Pragmatically Ya I think it took a long time due to technology and my ideas finding each other.

4 from 3 dancers, Installation view, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe

Do you feel the performances inform your painting practice or do you see both mediums as distinct tracks of work?

The performances most definitely inform the painting practice. They are a source material. I talk about them in different ways, think about them in different ways, there is a revolving entry point and exit point they remain somatic, open curious and a source whether it’s enthusiasm or some kind of pulse radar fact simmer en fuego simmer check, they are ultimately subjugated into the paintings, here-in lays the axis, the art put the art into it, we established expanded field, draw the conditions within which we live, some kind of scanning and interpretation.

You have always described yourself as a painter primarily however, what is it about painting that you love?

I love its ability to be a communicator. It is the language which feels connected to my kind of decision making. I love the ability to say so many things at once and its vulnerability, the distance between the act and outcome are simultaneous. I can put abstract unresolved ideas into a discrete form that is primed for engagement in that sense it feels human. And its capacity for spiritual dimension.

All of your recent series of paintings have been created primarily on fluted polypropylene. What has been your journey with this material? And what are its distinct qualities that intrigue you?

I had a vision of the material first, then I sat with it for a while. And we finally connected. The surface is supple, smooth but matte, it supports itself. There is a cushion of air sandwiched between front and back that lay in channels running parallel lengthwise. I like the way it catches the pigment. There is an agility to the material, a lightness. Fingerprint of industry, a metronome, a rhythm of the board vs rhythm of the bored. It is something that I can also handle myself in the studio at great sizes so that I do not have to have anyone around.

The oil sticks that you employ in your work are also formed by yourself from raw pigments, wax, and oil. Can you expand a little on the importance of your practice of creating these yourself? And the actual processes involved in their making?

Well, it allows me to access an infinite array of colors, and other variances like opacity, translucency, density, size weight. It’s also a lot about intimacy and speed, getting to know them, if we are going on an adventure, it is important to know who is around. The innovation such as the oil bars have been important in facilitating the way in which I work so that it is as fluid as possible.

4 from 3 dancers, Installation view, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe

Talking a little around palette, what informs the colour choices you make in the work?

Colour is a very intuitive process for me. I index all the colours that I have made. So, I keep a robust library. I create groupings, working around colours creating variances and combinations. Flirting with some. But generally, the decisions start somewhere contrived and end up going somewhere else rather quickly. The studio is set up to maintain a certain clarity for the sake of spontaneous association.

When approaching a new work, will you have a composition in mind? Will a painting often go through numerous iterations before you are happy with it?

I always have a structure in mind and yes there are many iterations that happen through volume. My best asset is that I dedicated a large portion of my studio to storage so that I can marinate the paintings. It takes a lot of peeping and looking and thinking and choosing.

You also mentioned that routine is something that you appreciate and try to stick by, what does a normal studio day look like?  

It’s 5 days a week 8-12 hours a day.  

Finally, I wanted to ask what are your upcoming plans for 2021?

I currently have a show at Massimo De Carlo in Milan.  I’m preparing for exhibitions at High Art: Arles in the late summer and Clearing: Brussels at the end of this year.

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Photos by Angeline Shiley & Marten Elder