Think of a living room in a spaceship, 2000 years from now. What type of art would be on the wall? What about Greg Bogin’s? The artist combines his unique futuristic style with his experience in wood shop to create “Moon Art” paintings (it’s our interpretation). Greg’s next show is called “Sunny Disposition,” and opens June 25th at the Marlborough Chelsea Gallery. Exclusively for Allday, the artist gives a tour of the paintings that’ll be in the show, as well as an audio tour of the tools he’s using to reach these seamless gradients.
How long ago did you start making those shapes? They seem to be all related.
I’ve been making shaped paintings for a very long time, pretty much right when I started painting, I was looking for a way to merge both my interest in painting and sculpture. The shapes were simpler at the beginning, and then as the work progressed, they became more complex, more fluid. The shapes themselves are not really specific to any one thing rather they reference a lot of different sources, they are specifically non specific and intuitive.
Typically, I make a lot of drawings first, starting with very small sketches then I move on to color studies, and when I more or less know where I want to go, I make a full scale drawing which becomes the blueprint to make the actual stretcher, which I make myself here in the studio.
There’s both a futuristic and retro vibe to them.
Yeah, definitely the futuristic aspect is important. It’s funny, I was born in Flushing queens right when the World’s Fair was going on. One of the main themes of the fair was space and the world of tomorrow. In a lot of ways, I feel like my generation is the generation of the space age. I grew up watching “Star Trek” and all that kind of stuff. That fused with my interest in minimalism is how I got to where I am now.
In the Star Trek Next Generation series, Captain Picard had this ready room... And I always thought: it’d be great to have a painting in his ready room. There were a few comical references to painting on that show, I remember one really funny episode where this character named Data had a Mondrian in his quarters, and he discusses this Mondrian and what painting is with his daughter also an android, it’s pretty funny.
“I’ve always thought it’d be great to have a painting in Star Trek Next Generation's Captain Picard’s ready room.”
What about the retro vibes?
Yeah, some kind of sixties, seventies [vibes], I think I’m always attempting to get back to my childhood. The thing that really interests me is this notion of optimism that that period had, which also masked this darker socio-political atmosphere.
That’s what your next show is about?
The next show is called “Sunny Disposition,” which is both a happy and ironic title. In recent years, the work has become a refuge from the craziness of the world. The work appears to be very optimistic, but there is some irony and cynicism hidden in there too... I think the titles of the works make this evident.
Tell us a little about your use of gradient. Why have you been using this so much?
I have been working with gradients [compressor charging, compressor de-charging , spray guns] for quite some time going back to 2006.
The gradient evolved partly out of my interest in science fiction, and the idea of an inner electric glow. Again, there is a Star Trek reference, which is sounding like that was the major influence on my life [laughs]... There are scenes when they land on a planet and I guess a quick solution for the special effects department was to make these crazy gradient background skies so there is a tie in for me there. I see the tenant of the work as being two-dimensional but I enjoy the way the gradient implies space even though it doesn’t actually make space. And it just happens to look awesome.
“The gradient implies space even though it doesn’t actually make space.”
How crazy can it get to make a gradient?
It can be tricky because certain colors blend well together, certain colors are super transparent and don't blend well [cursing], so it took awhile to get the technique of it down. If a gradient is spanning six inches, that’s pretty easy. But if the painting’s is six or eight feet long, then you start to notice the unevenness of it. So it’s tricky, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
I’m thinking “Moon Art.” The white border makes brings this foamy, absorbing effect, just like the moon.
If by “Moon Art” you mean paintings from another planet then I agree.
I’ve always been really interested in logotype, so the white to me connects to that. Logos often employ white to sort of segregate the information from the outside world. A lot of my work is preoccupied with the perimeter of the canvas more so than what is inside the canvas. The white borders in this case really emphasize the shape.
How do you make your canvas?
It’s pretty elaborate. Once I make the drawing or the plan for the actual structure, I set about building the stretcher out of wood [table saw, radial arm saw]. I usually use planked poplar, which comes in four inche to 12-inch planks. The planks are joined with a type of hardware called tight joints. Once the rough shape is made, I make a template out of MDF of the curved sections then the shape is cut back to the template, with a tool called a router [router]. Then the stretcher gets faced with 1/4" plywood which also gets routed to follow the perimeter of the stretcher. Once it's finished I stretch canvas over the panel. As a child, my stepfather was a carpenter, so I spent a lot of time in his wood-shop. So I guess I’m putting my childhood slavery to use.
“I’m putting my childhood slavery to use.”
Star Trek and wood-shop.
Yeah exactly. Low tech, high tech.
You also worked for Schnabel. How did this affect your painting, which is more abstract?
It had a major impact. Julian is a great artist working for him was a fantastic experience and opened my eyes to a larger world. When I first started there my own work was really, surprisingly expressionistic and very involved in Philip Guston’s late paintings. Julian’s work is very expressionistic, as young artist looking to define my own sense of originality and individualism working for Julian forced me in a direction away from expressionism toward a more finish obsessed abstraction.
Yeah, his color palette is so different than yours.
It’s funny, because I feel like artists work opposite their inner sensibilities. I’m not necessarily a dark person, but I have times where I’m maybe not as happy as I could be, so the work is like a reverse of my interior. Julian’s work can be very dark and at times funerary, but he’s the most optimistic, uninhibited person.
“Artists work opposite their sensibilities.”
What types of painters inspire you?
One of the first times I realized how powerful abstraction can be was being exposed to Blinky Palermo’s work. I don’t know if you know his work, he died early, but he’s a German artist who came up at the same time as Imi Knobbel, Richter and Polke and all those guys. There was the sort of expressionist group and the more pure, abstract group. And through that, I became more interested in other abstract art. I was born in New York and grew up in New York City, so I was always aware of the New York school. Barnett Newman (also a NYer) has always been one of my heroes. And from there, I started looking at Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland and Stella, early Mangold and many others. But the difference is, I was also very inspired by Warhol, Lichtenstein and other pop art so there was somehow a merger between the commercial and the pure idealist.
“Barnett Newman has always been one of my heroes.”
What would be your ideal show?
My ideal show is the show I have coming up at Marlborough Chelsea, but other that I have always wanted to do a “one” painting show in a small space and make a very compact statement. Maybe the viewer gets the idea quicker instead of a show where you have several rooms, where you have to make several statements as opposed to one.
Like the metaphysical stone: just one painting.
Exactly... I also think that my work functions best when there are fewer of them together in room. The less there are, the more impact they have. The more work there is, the easier it is to maybe look less at each one of them. Whereas, with fewer, it’s kind of hard to escape.