Graham Collins: Dog Walker’s Manifesto
Yes absolutely they’re paintings. I call them paintings and I think about them in terms of fictive, constructed space and two-dimensionality, very painterly concepts.
Let’s first address the Painting in the room. Is this how we shall refer to them…as paintings?
Yes absolutely they’re paintings. I call them paintings and I think about them in terms of fictive, constructed space and two-dimensionality, very painterly concepts. Though the last time I installed a show of them the gallery owner’s five year old kid walked in and said “these are NOT paintings!” But they are paintings.
Your studio practice seems rooted in two distinctive activities; collecting or gathering and then assembling or constructing. I think back to previous bodies of work where you cast everyday objects in bronze, sewed conglomerates of found paintings to create new paintings, or used salvaged oak strips to frame layers of colored, translucent sheets. It occurs to me that this starting point may be a clever way to steal first base?
Maybe. I’m attracted to materials or ways of working that have meaning embedded in them but I’m also leery of things becoming too specifically significant. And the way the materials relate to each other is as important as what they are individually. Every material decision I use has been deliberated pretty extensively so it doesn’t necessarily speed up the process.
Another duality, that is perhaps most evident in this latest body of work, is control and chance or rigidity and adaptability. Clay, which you are employing as a sort of painting support, is notoriously temperamental and biomorphic yet it is “in service” of these forward-facing monochromatic squares, or hard geometry. Do these two distinctive components grow in tandem or separately and who holds the power in their partnership?
This is a hard question to answer! It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship. The more law-abiding aspects make space for, and sort of justify, the weird poetics. The poetics, the messy parts, are probably the most important thing though. But when people ask me I usually describe my work as “mostly monochromatic paintings”. Sometimes it feels schizophrenic.
The origin stories and histories of ceramics and monochromatic painting could not be more different — do you feel an allegiance to either of these legacies?
Yes and no. When I first started thinking about art seriously I did completely exalt painting, in a naive way. But I’m skeptical of its history. And unlike apparently everyone else, I never really considered ceramics as separate from “art”. I do feel a sincere connection to both legacies at this point but mostly because I’ve been studying them both for a long time but I wouldn’t call it an allegiance, maybe I’m a student of ceramics and in acceptance of painting.
If we think of monochromatic painting as being freehand for a kind of painterly heroism, then your monochromes are decidedly anti-heroic. Where is your manifesto?
Not a manifesto but, I’ve seen the phrase “workman-like” used to describe the painterly approach of nearly every AbEx guy and it’s always felt a little disconnected even if it makes sense from a formal perspective. But making work that has a kind of humility is appealing to me.
Graham Collins (b. 1980, Washington, DC) lives and works in Hurleyville, NY. He received a MFA from Bard College, Annadale-on-Hudson, NY and a BFA from Corcoran College of Art, Washington, DC. Recent solo exhibitions include Bjørn & Gundorph, Aarhus, DK and Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton, NY. His work has been included in group exhibitions at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Derek Eller Gallery, New York, Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York, and Anat Ebgi Gallery, Los Angeles, among others. His work has been discussed in The New Yorker, ARTnews, and The New York Times, among others.