13 April 2011

Jonathan Allmaier


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I make painting-reality-based paintings.

What drives you to make work?

I try to be a better person.

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

I make the paint from pigment, because this is already almost a painting. I build and re-cut flat-front stretchers so that the stretcher is the foundational drawing for the painting. I stretch and prepare the canvas as an extension of this drawing, re-stretching the canvas if the stretcher is re-cut, or if the painting appears on the other side of the canvas. I want the paintings to make themselves, so I am the studio assistant for the paintings.

How long have you been working in that way?

I started making paint in graduate school. The working practice is really newer than that, though, because now the paintings make their own painting-context too.
This is important for me because every painting needs a painting-context, and it’s ridiculous for me to try to provide it ‘myself.’ I think it appeared that artists could do that at other time periods, but I think that is an illusion fostered by a certain kind of historical momentum, which is not the kind we have now.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

Goya, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Paul Thek. Of course Velazquez, but I am on the Goya-Warhol side of Velazquez, as opposed to the Manet-Picasso side (although I love those artists too, I’m just not on that side). Dona Nelson, who was also my teacher. Thornton Dial, Joe Zucker, James Ensor, Giotto, Harriet Korman, John Marin.
There are many artists I admire that I would like to have an effect on it, but I think this is only partially up to me.

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

I like to read, and I keep a notebook. I don’t read much art-philosophy, but for metaphysics and philosophy of mind I like Derek Parfit, Saul Kripke, Thomas Nagel, Nietzsche, and Kant. Also folk tales, like Native American stories and the Arabian Nights. I also like to read literature, but I don’t clearly know how that informs the practice, except for maybe indirectly. Maybe it’s because literature is a metaphoric medium, because it really stays in the (referential) language, that keeps it away from objects like paintings. I like Proust because his book is almost not a book, it’s too long and the sentences are too complex. It takes so long to read that it’s a physical entity.

How would you like people to engage with your work?

I would like people to be in the same room as the paintings, preferably with furniture so they could sit down. Preferably this would be regular furniture, not the usual pew-style gallery furniture.

Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

There is a Thornton Dial exhibition up now that I thought was very moving. It was also interesting as a critique of a lot of contemporary art – the work has so much clarity with regard to its subject matter that it’s not aesthetic.
There’s also an interesting exhibition uptown comparing Malevich to later American artists – it’s supposed to show a lineage. It’s interesting because Malevich makes a lot of the American art look silly, if you do want to compare them – we (Americans) cleaned it up, we tried to de-culturize it. We thought we could be free. And that actually left the work open to be inhabited by culture in an unintentional way, so that a lot of the American work looks dated in comparison to the Malevich. 

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

I’m in a three-person show this summer in LA.
I’m also excited about work in the studio. A lot of paintings need other paintings, and I’m very excited about what the new paintings will be.

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