JULY 30, 2018
Meet Jaqueline Cedar
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jaqueline Cedar.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in Los Angeles and was raised in a house filled with art, books, and videos. Making/creating was always valued and prioritized. As an undergraduate at UCLA I studied art (focusing on painting and photography) with a short stint in philosophy and the sciences. I’m a curious person by nature so asking questions and dissecting problems has always had my interest. In 2007 I moved to NYC to pursue a graduate degree at Columbia University. I wanted to keep making art and New York seemed like the right place for gaining exposure to a range of artists and institutions. I’ve been in NYC since and I’m inspired daily by this place. I feel lucky to be surrounded by a community of artists and thinkers that are interested in absorbing culture and investigating new ideas.
Please tell us about your art.
I make mostly paintings, drawings, and lately some soft sculpture. I’m interested in describing the way people interact and behave in relation to each other and their immediate surroundings. A majority of the people/characters described in my work are trying to form some sort of contact or connection with each other or the spaces they inhabit. The figures are drawn in a graphic style – partially so I can work from my imagination without a direct reference point, and also because I think this kind of line and paring down of information brings levity and humor to my otherwise more existential bent. The figures are often life-size – the goal being that a viewer might feel as if they could physically enter the work. Lately I’ve been interested in collaborating with other artists (writers, performers). I’m currently working on a book of images that illustrate a poem written by my father and I’m hoping to test out some choreography and video work in the near future.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Personally, the goal has always been to get the work out in the world as often as possible. When I’m making, showing, and participating in a critical dialogue/context I feel stoked to continue pushing the practice forward. Prioritizing time in the studio along with exposure to new places, people, and conceptual/visual challenges keeps me motivated and active.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Recent paintings/installations and interviews are on my website at www.jaquelinecedar.com. I’ll be participating in a group exhibition of artist books and zines at Life Lessons Garage this August curated by Lauren Faigeles and Caitlin McBride. Details coming soon!
Atmos: Thanks for meeting me today. Everyone has a different art background, how they got into this. Can you explain a little bit, how you started?
Jaqueline: Yes, from how far back?
A: Just as far back as you want.
J: I was interested in art in middle and high school but wasn’t thinking of it as a career. Even in college, I decided I wanted to go to a program that had a strong art department. I wanted to have a variety of options to pull from. I was pre-med for a couple years. I really liked science. I was always an art major. UCLA had a nice range of faculty, so I was really excited to be in a conceptually driven program where I could pull from a lot of different media.
I started there, and around the time I was finishing up at UCLA I began thinking I probably wanted to teach and finish up and go to grad school and I knew I wanted to keep making art. That's how I ended up at Columbia and I moved out here right after I finished at UCLA.
A: Oh, wow.
J: Yes. It really wasn't until after I finished at Columbia that I started thinking, "Oh, now I have to figure out how to be a practicing artist." I hadn't really thought through the lifestyle. I was just thinking, "I'll go to school, sell my work, and that will be the end of that." It really started at UCLA because I had such an amazing group of faculty and mentors, and a really strong community of undergrad artists. It was a really rich program. That's where I got invested. At the time I was doing primarily painting and photography.
A: Okay, so you switched mediums?
J: Yes. When I was thinking about applying to grad schools I was thinking should I do photo or painting? The program again was conceptually driven and a lot of the faculty had been CalArts students so the philosophy was idea first, then you choose your medium to fit the content. But even so, you end up finding a place that you sit in for a little bit longer. I was talking to a photo faculty member and he said, "Well, do you want a studio? Because if you want to do both, then you need a painting studio."
With a lot of the photo programs you just had a darkroom. That's how I ended up focusing on painting primarily. I've been sitting in this area for a while now. I feel like I could work on painting forever and not totally feel like I've turned every stone over. I still think about photography, sculpture, and movement a lot in my work. I'm constantly trying to figure out how to cross over. I’m thinking a lot more about collaborating lately, hopefully that'll factor in.
A: Like mixing?
J: Yes, or working with other artists whose primary medium is performance or theater, a lot of that. Just trying to figure out how to bridge ideas and not necessarily make my own work within that medium, but collaborate.
A: Yes. Have you seen Condo? It's a new way to do an art fair. You take all these galleries, go to Hong Kong to do an art fair, and instead of doing one singular tent space they take over Hong Kong-based galleries and either take over the space and do their own show, or collaborate with the curator and curate a show together.
J: Ah, that's so cool. I haven't heard about that. I've been curating more recently, professionally. In undergrad I would haul my friends’ work into a room and we'd set up a show. Now in May I got to actually launch something in New York. I find that whole practice of bringing a show to fruition, researching other artists, and bringing - - I don't know, a variety of media into one space totally inspiring. I feel like that's so fun.
A: It's so fun. It makes it more interesting.
J: Do you know anyone who’s been working on it?
A: It was a young gallerist who started the idea, Vanessa Carlos.
J: I feel like, and maybe this is totally old fashioned, but when I was younger I felt it was more taboo for an artist to be a curator. Now, I feel like so many artists are curating and it's just part of the practice, visual thinking. Curating is like making an artwork, in a room.
A: Yes. Exactly.
J: I think a lot of the strongest curators think that way. It's fun. I definitely don't work in the same way as an art historian.
A: But that's almost more fun, seeing an artist whose life's work is to create versus an art historian whose life's work is to look and synthesize and put things together to have a conversation.
J: Yes, it's two different things but, yes, I find it really fascinating. Also the availability of work on a wide scale through - - it’s so basic but just being able to have so many access points all over. Yes, it's really fun.
A: Do you teach at Columbia now?
J: No, when I got out of school I taught there for a couple of semesters - Beginning Painting and Drawing, and now I'm primarily teaching at museums. The Met, MoMA and the Whitney are my main posts.
A: That's awesome. Do you have a specific thing that you teach?
J: Yes for the Met I do a lot of painting and drawing and that's mostly with high schoolers and adults. Usually, in relation to special exhibitions. For example, if they have a Matisse show we look at the work in that exhibition and think about how to emulate his strategies in the studio.
A: I had no idea that museums did that.
J: It's really great. The Met is unique in that way. I think that the Whitney has some adult programing as well. At the Whitney and MoMA, I do school tours K-12. That also feels like curating in some ways because you are selecting a group of artworks that will help to develop the idea and will encourage close looking.
A: Do you like teaching the younger kids more than the older?
J: I love the range from little ones to seniors. I don't know, I just think everybody brings such an interesting field of responses to the work and I find myself seeing things in new ways every time I sit down with any group. It's really fun.
A: So you lead the tour and then do you teach them and ask questions?
J: Yes, the idea is that you are asking questions that will guide them in looking. There are a lot of interactive components especially with the younger ones.
A: That’s so cute.
J: It's really sweet.
A: Do you see yourself doing that for a while?
J: I don't know. I really enjoy teaching and being in the studio for me happens to be a very solitary practice, so I like the balance of having something that's a little bit more social and public. I get really inspired by students’ work and their ideas. I feel like it's a really nice compliment to what I’m doing in here. In terms of professional work outside of the studio I’d love to do more curating, but in terms of financial stability I love the teaching. I feel like it’s the perfect complement to my studio practice if I have to do anything outside of the studio. It lets me look. It lets me research.
A: Yes, it is really nice compliment and you are getting paid for it which is also wonderful to get paid for doing what you like.
A: What was your first gallery show?
J: Early on, UCLA had a really nice opportunity for undergrads to curate exhibitions in galleries on-campus. I was doing a lot of that work with friends and also had a few solo shows towards the end of the program. Then I had maybe one show in LA, one small show in a tiny gallery in LA before I moved to New York. When I finished at Columbia, I had a small show at a gallery in Brooklyn that doesn't exist any more. I’ve had a lot of really amazing opportunities to do solo exhibitions over the past 10 years or so. They were mostly new galleries that were just getting going.
The show that felt the most solid to me in terms of my beginning to enter the art world here was my exhibit at 106 Green in Greenpoint. I think mostly because the experience of working with three artist-curators felt like such a nice synchronicity in terms of the way they were providing freedom in choosing work and giving me a platform amongst a community of artists that I thought was really strong.
I feel like that was my first big solo show in New York. Since then I've had some nice opportunities for group shows. It’s kind of grown incrementally since I got out of school. I feel so lucky any time I have a chance to show the work because it feels like getting it out in the world and getting a response to it is really the goal.
A: Yes, totally. Is this the body of work you've been doing for a while?
J: Yes. You're sort of catching me in between things. I just spent two weeks in Indiana installing a solo exhibition, which I can show you images of. That involved eight paintings, which I made here over the course of the last two months. These two paintings that are out right here were in that show that I curated at Crush Curatorial in Chelsea in May. These are the most recent finished works.
The other three that are in the room I just started so they're not finished. This is the work I began, I guess in the beginning of July when I got back from that installation. I was there for two weeks painting the walls of the gallery so I could make more of an immersive space.
A: I think I remember seeing an image of that. They were standing.
J: Yes, standing. This is the most recent work but you're seeing it in progress. These two are complete and then these three are just getting going.
A: I really like them. This one's kind of dark...
J: I feel like they go between the absurd and a little bit of existential. [laughter] I like for there to be humor in them but there's also something uncanny about the situations that they get propped up in.
A: Yes, totally. Are there a few specific things that inspire them?
J: Yes, the figures come from a lot of different places. But the paintings always start with the figures engaging in some sort of gesture or interaction. That might come from something I've read or something I've seen in a film or something I've just seen while moving around the city. Observing people on the train or out on the streets.
The spaces I usually build in relation to these gestures. Sometimes it'll be something much more concrete or specific like they're sitting in this car. Sometimes it'll just be sort of the way that someone has moved in a space. I'm trying to capture that feeling of movement or a static and choppy quality. It just depends on the initial gesture.
A: It starts with a gesture and you build from there. What is this canvas?
J: Oh yes. I've been experimenting a lot with working on fabric, using a lot of different materials. This one and this one are burlap. It's been so fun to paint on it. Almost feels like cheating because the texture is so satisfying and it just does some really different things.
A: Yeah, I couldn't tell what it was.
J: It's kind of obvious but I have a lot of friends who've painted on burlap forever and I've never really thought to experiment as much in this way. Lately though, I’ve been really interested in using that color and texture as sort of a starting point for experimenting with the space that they're in. Yeah, this was kind of fun because a lot of these things happen by chance for me. I'm really interested in allowing for that element to enter the work.
I went to the fabric store looking for more of this burlap and they only had this whole other range of crazy colors available. I was kind of moving towards the most muted I could find, which happened to be this sort of lavender, which my sister yesterday said read as grey. Colors are relative though so that makes sense.
It's been really fun to play with. I think for somebody like me who's totally invested and just in love with experimenting with color it's been really nice to have something that pushes me to work with a whole new palette. I feel like if you have this other starting point that is so dominant then it kind of initiates this completely different train.
A: Yes, absolutely. How long does it typically take you to finish it?
J: It really varies. I'm trying to get into the practice of developing a group of work at once so that they all build together. If I get stuck on one I can move between them and they inform each other. I would say on average it probably takes me four to six weeks for a large work. I'm also making small paintings and drawings at the same time. I tend to build up ten large paintings over the course of the year. I don't know, sometimes more, sometimes less.
A: That's really cool though that if you get stuck on one you just work on another until that one comes back to you.
J: That was sort of a really important strategy that one of my teachers, again in undergrad, introduced. It was like, you need to be able to be working constantly in the studio and you can't just stop when something's not telling you what it needs to do. Having a lot of work going at the same time has been super helpful. In fact, before I left for Indiana I stretched all of these canvases just so I knew that I had something to go back to. I just didn't want to break the momentum, you know?
A: Yes. Did you finish anything when you were in Indiana?
J: Yes. Basically, all of the paintings that I shipped there were complete, but the time that I spent there was really just doing this wall installation. It was a space with about 20-foot high ceilings, a thousand square foot scenario. That was what I was working on while I was there. It was black and white paintings on the wall. That was so fun because I didn't have a plan really. I setup the paintings in the space thinking that I would do something in response to them. The concept was mirroring, this idea of echoing gesture or behavior. I just started from one end of the gallery and worked my way over. Every day I got to go in and invent and play with the way the figures were navigating the space.
A: Did you do sculptures too?
J: The sculptures I had made a few months prior and they were part of that show that I had done at Crush Curatorial last September, so they were part of this space. That was how the whole idea of an immersive environment came to be in Indiana. I had been invited to work in this smaller space that Karen Flatow at Crush gave me the opportunity to play around with for two weeks. And then Max Weintraub, who runs the Marsh Gallery in Indiana, had seen these images and said, "Do you want to come try something similar out on a larger scale?"
A: For the Indiana space, were you on a ladder painting?
J: Yes. There's some pretty funny footage. They were trying to use a GoPro - - there’s a video of me getting up on a high ladder and filling in sections of the wall painting.
A: Yeah, was that so exhausting?
J: It was so fun. Honestly, it was the most fun I've had creatively. It was just fantastic to have that size canvas available to you, it's really incredible. When they first put me in there they gave me a nine foot ladder and they came in the next day and saw that I had been on the top step reaching up and were like "We can get you a larger ladder actually."
A: "It's not a big deal." [laughter]
J: That was better.
A: That's good.
J: I was definitely flying.
A: Yes. Oh my gosh, what if you were afraid of heights? Can't look down.
J: Yes, I don't think I could do that sort of work if I was.
A: When you were at UCLA, was there any specific advice that a professor told you that really stuck with you?
J: Gosh, there were so many things. One of my favorite professors there was Lari Pittman. I just felt like everything he said was gold. I really connected with the way that he thought through making. I don't know, I guess one thing he said to me was that if you let the paintings talk to you and tell you what to do, then there's a little bit less pressure to figure out what you want. It's just more about the work. I've always found that incredibly useful.
I don't know, I felt so lucky there because there were so many incredible faculty. Catherine Opie was there, James Welling. They would spend eight hours with us a week, just hanging out and talking about work and introducing us to new artists and ideas. It was so ideal. I really valued my time there.
A: That's amazing. Do you prefer the LA art scene or New York better?
J: I feel like they're so different. When I moved out here I was just totally overwhelmed by the range, and also the conversation around art here feels more specific. It feels more steeped in history. LA is on its own planet. I always feel like it's a little bit more idiosyncratic and people are off in their own pockets, doing their own thing. I love both. I felt so lucky when I got to New York to work with the whole New York faculty artist scene and to be immersed in that end. Because it did feel completely distinct.
A: I love being here and you're just surrounded by it all the time. If you want to go see something you can.
J: Yeah, there’s great art in LA and then there's so much good programming there. But there is something here - - what I noticed immediately is you'd go to a night of openings and you'd run into all of your friends. You didn’t have to make a call, you just knew if I go out I'm going to see all of these artists who are part of this larger conversation. It just felt like a very strong community in that way.
A: Everyone here just wants to see and experience new pieces, and artists, and learn. Everyone's eyes are open here and I love that about New York.
J: One thing that I’ve found now that I've been here a little longer and I feel more comfortable is, even just reaching out to other artists that I don't have an introduction to, I've just met through the internet or whatever, is possible. People are very open to having that conversation, and letting people into their studios, and sharing their work.
A: I love that so much, and I feel like that's very art-specific too. The fact that they just want to help show people their work. Is there an artist whose career you really admire, like the way that they've gone about building themselves?
J: It's rare that I think of artists in that way, but it's really interesting to think about. I'd just like to pause on that. There are artists whose body of work I really admire I guess regardless of their exhibition record. When I think of career I think of exhibition opportunities, and growth over time. Maybe I'm just not as familiar with that trajectory. I don't know. I was actually looking at Rosemary Trockle today and Louise Bourgeois. Those are both artists that I am totally enamored with. I tend to really gravitate towards artists who are thinking in a range of media, and who are really pushing themselves in each body of work to get into new territory. That's really exciting to me.
A: I feel like Rosemary Trockle in particular, even her older work, I think is so specific to now. The fact that she's working in a traditional women's medium. I love her work.
J: I'm excited by both the material content and the conceptual content. That's always amazing. Then just like what you said this idea that you could feel so relevant across a range of time periods, it's really fun.
A: What have you seen that you've been liking lately?
J: I've been teaching at the Met a lot so I've spent some time at the Commes des Garcons exhibit. I’ve been thinking a lot about collaborations so I love the fashion and performance and body elements entering that work. It's beautifully installed. The architecture in that space is like its own artwork.
A: I always love those shows.
J: Always very thoughtful about installation which I feel very sensitive to so that's really exciting. I'm looking forward to the New Museum show but I haven't seen it yet. I've been researching a lot of artists who are working in theatre. Recently that's what I've wrapped my head around lately. Rauschenberg did a lot of set design. They have a little bit of video footage of that work at his MoMA show. I was remembering recently that I think he did a cover for The Talking Heads. All of these fun cross-collaborations.
A: David Salle used to build sets before he was a full blown artist. In one of his series, the tapestry series and his ballet series, they're all based on his time building sets before.
J: Yes, it's just so fun to let somebody - - I feel like a lot of times what you're doing as a practicing artist is setting your own limits in the studio, and letting somebody else set those limits it's just so fun.
A: Totally. When you're in the studio do you like listen to music or quiet?
J: No. I'm a total nerd about it. I'm really sensitive to sound so if I listen to anything, it's like an interview or I'll talk on the phone but for whatever reason the beat of music I find totally distracting. It affects the pace of the painting for me.
A: Yes, every time I talk to an artist who listens to music, it's really interesting to me because for me if I were painting, it such a musical thing, I really feel it would get me off track.
J: Yes, well it can be really inspirational and there's such a wide range of artists who are guided by sound. Actually, when I'm drawing I can listen to music, so it must just be a different part of the brain. There's more repetition there and the rhythm of the mark-making is the same throughout.
A: Is there a mistake you've made in the past and how have you learned from it?
J: I always joke about how mistakes in a painting are assets in my mind because sometimes you just want to mess something up in order to get to a new place. I mean maybe that's cheating on the answer but I do feel the way that I'm working is very responsive and intuitive and allows for a lot of places to go off track and then return. I kind of look forward to those moments.
A: Do you like working in the large format more than the smaller?
J: I’ve always wanted the figures to be close to life size so that the space in the painting could allow you to feel like you might enter it. From the beginning that was something that felt important, that you could feel an almost one-to-one relationship with the bodies. I do feel very comfortable working on a larger scale. I'm always pushing my students to go there. It's funny because I feel like most people are much more confident when there's less space.
A: Less space to mess up?
J: Yes, but more control. I do really take a lot of pleasure in being able to move across the surface in that way physically.
A: Do you have a thing with noses?
J: Yes. [laughs] I don't know when that entered the work exactly except maybe it's just close to my face or something that feels familiar. I think that they started as just this short-hand, like a quick way of developing a body without looking at an image. I wanted to figure out a way to just get a very immediate idea down in sketches. Then I realized that I really didn’t want to have to refer to an image at all in the larger work, once I had the opportunity to not pull from a photo or some other source. This sort of short-hand developed and I've gotten very comfortable with it.
I feel like there's something humorous about the graphic and exaggerated quality of the figures. I think a lot of the content can be heavy sometimes so I'm having fun with that balance, but they are pretty quirky.
A: They are quirky. Do you collect other artists' work?
J: Yes. I've been trading a lot lately, not technically collecting, but I'm so excited to have my friends' work in the house. I feel like it’s so nice to live with all your favorite paintings. I feel much more eager to do that lately. When I was younger I wasn't making small work first of all so nobody had space for my giant paintings. Also I felt more precious about saving and holding onto things. Now, I feel I make so much work and I'd rather it be out in the world. I'm always thrilled to trade work with other artists. I have a pretty nice collection going now. I'm trying to build it. I really love having all of my friends’ work around.
A: When you were growing up were your parents interested in art?
J: Yes. My dad's an actor so they're definitely in that world. I don't think they thought that my sister or I would become artists. Because the lifestyle is just so insane.
A: Is your sister an artist too?
J: She's in film. We both ended up that way and I think they were totally surprised. But very supportive. I grew up seeing a lot of theater and film. We had a lot of painting around the house and they loved going to museums. That was a big part of the conversation for sure.
A: Oh wow. That's awesome. Then you just grew up and became what you wanted.
J: [laughs] I'm very lucky. I always tell my students when they have parents that are really supportive of them, that it’s a huge asset. I felt that and there was never a question. But I have friends who definitely had a whole different story.
A: I think it's really common to find parents who don't understand. They're like why would you want to be a starving artist?
J: Yes. Honestly, I feel that naivety on my part was such a gift. My father was, luckily, a very successful working actor all of our lives. Even if there was struggle and tumult I did not see it. I was not privy to it. I really entered this world thinking, yes, this is possible. No big deal.
A: Are there any galleries in the city that you really like going to?
J: There are so many. I love what the Sculpture Center does. The New Museum is curating so many amazing shows. Luckily I'm out teaching at the Whitney and MoMA all the time so I get to see those exhibitions just in researching. But in terms of smaller spaces, I just saw the Alice Mackler show at Kerry Schuss. And those sculptures, she's really amazing. She's a ceramicist. And Derek Eller. I guess I'm always excited about smaller spaces. Helena Anrather’s new gallery. I feel like I could go on and on. It's so great to be in New York. It's also so overwhelming. Every month, there's just a whole new set.
J: Any (shows) you would recommend?
A: I feel like I haven't been in the city at all this summer.
J: That's nice. That's what you're supposed to do.
A: Yes that’s why all these shows are random group shows that they throw together. I still want to see the Rauschenberg show. I need to see that before it closes. All anyone is talking about is that. I actually didn't think I was going to enjoy this, but what I ended up liking a lot is the Met rooftop commission.
J: Oh yes. You know, it's so funny. I’ve spent a lot of time recently with students up there. What did you think?
A: I had seen images online and I was like, I'm not going to like this. My parents were in town so we were going to go see it. Then we were up there and first of all, that space is gorgeous.
J: Yes, did you see the PsychoBarn when they did that?
A: Yes. I hated that.
J: Oh really?
A: I hated that. So coming off of that, being like, "I hated this. I'm not going to like this one." I don't know. I really enjoyed it. It was like weird and unexpected. They're not marble, what are they?
J: It's a mix. He did these 3D scans of works and people and then re-presented them.
A: Whatever it was, it was just like taking a really, what felt like, traditional, sculptural thing and making it weird and modern. I really liked it.
J: That was a work that I felt like I was able to appreciate more once I really started getting into it with students, hearing their feedback. It's so fun to re-enter a work a few times over and see the different ways that it presents itself.
A: Do you have any advice for aspiring young artists?
J: I guess I always like to say, talk to as many people as possible, ask a lot of questions, be curious, and mess things up a little bit and see what happens. My big thing is just to look at a lot of art and make a lot of art. Just keep making constantly.
A: Awesome. Thank you so much.
J: Oh, yes. Thanks for coming. This was so fun.
Hi Jaqueline! Can you give us some insight into your process? Do you plan your compositions beforehand or do you work intuitively?
I work in both modes. For a long time I resisted making any plans prior to beginning larger works. I felt little interest in reiterating an image that already existed in the world. However, recently I've begun integrating drawing into my practice in a more routine way, and using drawings as references for paintings has afforded a great deal of freedom and opportunity for intuitive choices in the larger work. I take pleasure in working responsively and discovering and inventing in-process, and it seems the more I plan compositionally/structurally, the easier it is for me to be open to change/experimentation in the way of paint application, color, and material. If the drawing exists in a concrete way, I can play more with the rest. The work (drawings and paintings alike) always begins with the figure. I start with gesture and movement and the spaces/environments are often built in response to these postures/physical relationships.
A stylized figure appears frequently in all of your work, whether pen-and-ink, works on paper, or paintings. When did this figure appear in your work? Can you tell us more about them?
At a certain point I decided I wanted to feel less indebted to a photographic reference point. I had been working primarily from my imagination but still culling photographs and images to fit ideas I was trying to render in paint—often not quite physically attainable. I began drawing as a way to work out these images more quickly sans-photo and was interested in this question of how to most efficiently render gesture and expression. The mannered figures came out of a desire to pare down. I was trying to find the least number of lines necessary to conjure a mood/feeling/posture/action. I also now feel as though there is a comic element involved in these more caricature-like renderings of a human form. Certain exaggerations lend themselves toward humor or the absurd. I think the simplicity of line can lighten the weight of content that otherwise might feel burdened by a sense of disquiet or longing. There's gravity/levity. High/low.
Do the ink drawings inform the paintings?
I am constantly working on the ink drawings. Some are more developed ideas and some are just fragments. I pull from these drawings as I'm getting going with the larger paintings but the initial images often change course in translation.
What is a typical day like for you?
A big part of my practice has always been viewing, researching, and teaching from art objects. I often spend mornings teaching at MoMA or the Whitney and afternoons and weekends in the studio. In the summer I break up the day with a swim. The California girl in me can't stay away from the water when it's warm out. In the winter I fill gaps with films, plays, and books (mostly fiction).
Do you feel like it is necessary to get into a particular headspace when in the studio? If so how do you get there?
Quiet is a big thing for me. Needing to be in a place where I can block out any external distractions. Painting for me is an incredibly solitary practice but I take great comfort in that kind of space. Lately I've felt more interest in collaborating in terms of creating content and context in relation to other artists/spaces, but the physical work of making/building still happens independently. Usually finding the right headspace just means waiting until everyone's asleep and I'm left with fewer pulls and less noise.
What are the most important components of your studio?
At the moment—floor space, light, fabric scissors, and a staple gun. Oh and I suppose a camera as well—photographing work in progress has been super helpful in terms of processing/pushing ideas along. I'm really interested in all of the iterations that happen on the way to a finished object and documenting those changes gives me a chance to make those transitional moments more permanent, even if just to serve as a record.
What do you listen to while you work? Is this an important part of your practice?
Mostly I prefer not to listen to anything. Sounds that involve distinct rhythms or beats really effect the pace at which I work and I prefer to allow for the work to drive that structure. Although I have to say, I love talking on the phone while I work. I'm full of contradictions! But maybe I can handle that kind of noise because there's no static rhythm involved? Sometimes just a faint verbal distraction can help to pull things into focus visually. Depends on the day.
What are some of the artists that you look at the most often or most recently?
Lately I feel totally oversaturated by images. There's so much good work out there. Artists I always go back to are Balthus, Bourgeois, Klee, Schlemmer. I also spend a lot of time watching films and theatrical productions—obvious folks like Lynch and Bergman, Ozon.
Has there ever been a book/essay/poem/film/etc that totally changed or influenced you? What are you reading right now?
All the time. But not typically one whole book or an entire performance. It's more often moments within a scene, or a passage or phrase. Right now I'm reading Dostoyevsky and getting ready to work on another collaboration with my father, Larry Cedar, who's planning a one-man production with selections from his writing. I'm really excited to think through how to develop an environment/atmosphere that measures the content of this work.
Any advice to recent grads who are interested in getting their work out there and exhibiting?
Make your work. Go see lots of work. Support other artists and programs you love.
Any advice from your past that has stuck with you or helped you?
I know this sounds a tad hokey —but one of my favorite professors from my undergraduate years at UCLA always told me to let the work tell you what to do. "It's not personal," he would say, which always helped me to move forward when I felt stuck in the studio. Allowing for the formal properties of the work to speak to you and give you direction can be quite freeing.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
I feel like the best experiences I've had looking at art recently have been in artists' studios. It's been fantastic to be able to enter such intimate/immersive spaces and have a dialogue with artists amidst their work. One of the things I've loved most about living in New York is that so many artists are in-reach and willing/interested in having conversations—even strangers. Thinking about curating lately has pushed me out of my studio and I feel really inspired by the work I'm seeing. I just visited Genesis Belanger and Elisa Soliven in preparation for the Fantastic Plastic show I'm organizing at CRUSH CURATORIAL. There are always so many exhibitions I'd like to see! Feels like there's never enough time. But right now I'm looking forward to catching Ridley Howard's new paintings at Marinaro Gallery and Past Skin at MoMA PS1.
What is your relationship with social media? Do you have a favorite or least-favorite platform?
I get into a real Instagram spiral every now and again. I'm just constantly amazed by how much engaging work exists and how easy it is to connect with other artists in such a fluid way. Certainly not the only way to look at and share content but it definitely keeps me on my toes and gives me a platform for sharing upcoming projects and work in-process.
The exhibition you mentioned, Fantastic Plastic, which you curated in collaboration with Karen Flatow at CRUSH CURATORIAL, opens on May 25th in the gallery's Chelsea location. Congrats! Can you tell us a bit more about the show?
So excited to have the opportunity to curate this exhibition. Karen Flatow, the founder of CRUSH CURATORIAL and a super smart artist in her own right, has been incredibly generous in offering her studio as a space/platform for emerging artists to test out new ideas and share their methods/ways of practicing work in her space. I've organized an exhibition of seven artists, including myself, all engaged with the body in both absurd and melancholic modes. Each of the works in the show strike comic and somber chords. They are formally and materially diverse and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to create a context within which their proximity might generate connections and stimulate conversation.
When did you become interested in curating exhibitions? Can you tell us a bit about your experience so far? When did you curate your first show?
I started organizing exhibitions as an undergraduate at UCLA. I've always enjoyed researching and looking at a wide range of objects/artworks. This process informs my studio work and helps me to create a wider context for making and responding to art. I see teaching as a form of curating as well—thinking through how to make visual/conceptual connections throughout history and amongst a group of artists. Anyhow, I find the process incredibly stimulating intellectually and creatively and I hope to have opportunities to continue to develop this end of my practice in a more rigorous way in years to come.
Can you talk a bit about the importance of artist-run projects?
It's such a pleasure to be able to work within an artist-run space. More often than not I've found that these kinds of spaces allow makers the most freedom/opportunity to experiment and play in a totally unhinged capacity. There is often less pressure with regard to sales and more interest in creating space for work that might not fit into a more commercial context. Most of the galleries I've shown with over the years have been smaller spaces that have encouraged this kind of openness to process.
You exhibited with CRUSH in 2016, in a solo exhibition that included sculptures and wall paintings. Can you talk a bit about that exhibition and working in multiple media? Was this a new direction for you?
Yes I was totally inspired by that opportunity. Karen offered me the time and space necessary to work out my ideas with a two-week install period and that scenario alone sparked a whole new body of paintings and sculptures. I had been making similar work in my studio independently prior to the exhibit but hadn't yet had the opportunity to build an environment around these works and directly in response to them.
How important is it for artists to live in or at least maintain a footprint in New York?
I feel both stimulated and beat up by the city on a regular basis. Living here is a constant hustle but I find the lifestyle incredibly rewarding. The sheer amount of rigorous art and dialogue that exists here on a daily basis is overwhelming and invigorating. I feel lucky to be surrounded by a robust group of artists, critics, makers, thinkers. I know that can and does happen in other places, but I've grown quite attached to the density that exists here. The pace also suits me well. It's definitely a place where people make things happen. The work ethic is strong. But location is so personal. There's no one way. And I have serious LA envy every winter. Can't beat that weather.
You have been published and received a lot of press in the past few years, any advice for up and coming artists? How do you find opportunities?
Talk to everyone. Be nice. Ask for what you want.
Do you have any other news, shows, residencies or projects coming up?
I'm about to ship some large paintings and sculptures to Indianapolis for a solo show at Indiana University. I'll be heading there for two weeks in June to make a wall painting on-site. I'm pretty stoked about the exhibit. I'm looking forward to responding to a new context and getting to know a new community of artists.
Thanks so much for sharing your work and talking with us!
To find out more about Jaqueline and her work, check our her website.
(January 10, 2012) Reminiscent of Arshile Gorky and Paul Klee, Jaqueline Cedar is reinvigorating figurative abstraction. Though still early in her career, she is ambitiously taking on large-scale paintings with undeniable and impressively informed abandon. Jacqueline has been featured in New American Paintings, and has participated in exhibitions on the East and West coasts. Jaqueline works out of Brooklyn, New York.
COMPANY: How would you define your work to someone who has never seen it?
Jaqueline: I make paintings of life-size people interacting amidst abstract fields of shape and color. The people in the paintings engage with each other both physically and psychologically, and their gestures and positions are echoed and amplified by their surrounding environments. Figures emerge from and recede into the spaces depicted. Some parts of the paintings cover preliminary layers of paint with solid areas of color, while other sections allow initial marks to remain visible. I use line, color, and shape to direct motion throughout the image.
COMPANY: What are you into right now? Any exhibitions or artists in particular?
Jaqueline: One exhibition that really stuck with me recently was Anke Weyer’s last show at Canada gallery. The way she constructs composition and layers paint feels totally effortless. I also have a soft spot for 60’s Hockney and Neal Jenney’s “The Bad Years.”
COMPANY: You are a teacher as well, does teaching painting make you look at your own work differently?
Jaqueline: Right now I’m teaching primarily at the Guggenheim and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Teaching, like making art, necessitates an incredibly reflective practice. I find myself thinking daily about the physical and psychological ingenuity required to make art.
COMPANY: What do you hope collectors understand about your work?
Jaqueline: Scale is an important part of the work that is challenging to translate in reproduction. The majority of my paintings are set up to allow for the viewer to feel as if he might enter the work and engage physically in the space or environment depicted.
COMPANY: So scale is something you are very concerned with. What are your thoughts on life-size versus smaller paintings?
Jaqueline: There is a physical encounter that takes place when you approach a painting that is life-size or larger. As an engaged viewer you’re not able to see the parts and the whole simultaneously and you’re forced into a dance between various points of view. I personally love this part of looking at large-scale paintings – this attempt to piece together each point of reference and still walk away from the work having experienced one total image. Smaller paintings present a more intimate or unified physical experience. They don’t demand that you enter from multiple points of view – instead just that you spend time within that space, on top of that surface, around those edges, looking closely.
COMPANY: What is the first thing you do when starting a new painting?
Jaqueline: When I’m between projects I generally spend about a month not thinking directly about painting. I read. I watch films obsessively. I pay attention to conversations I hear on the street. Usually by the time I return to the studio I have a pretty clear sense of what I’d like to make. I never know what that looks like before I enter the space and spend some time staring at a blank canvas. But once I have an image in mind, I generally start with the figures and build an environment around them. Their physical relationship is what drives the structure of the painting. I don’t usually make sketches. I work out those compositional questions on the canvas as the work gets going.
COMPANY: Why are you drawn to paint over other mediums?
Jaqueline: It’s the most romantic and the process is totally satisfying. It’s also one of the mediums I find most challenging to work with, so it poses problems and questions that consistently force me to reevaluate the way I use it. To me the process of finding new ways to enter the medium and solve a problem is the most engaging part of making work.
COMPANY: You used to work pretty equally in photography as well, what are the similarities/differences between photography and painting?
Jaqueline: I think at this point they can both be used quite similarly actually. Neither painting nor photography is any longer held to its respective responsibility in art and culture. Each practice has shed itself of the need to work in a medium-specific way, so there’s a great deal of freedom surrounding what each can accomplish.
I think if I were to re-enter photography at this point, I would approach it with a totally different framework, possibly weighing more concentration on the act of constructing psychological content with light and material, as opposed to arranging figures in space.
COMPANY: Three essential studio items?
Jaqueline: Books first - I’ve got a great Balthus catalogue that I often return to in thinking about scale and posture. Reference material second – I use a mirror every once in a while to figure out a pose. And the third would probably be lighting - big windows are key for daylight; otherwise the fluorescents can really get to you!
COMPANY: What are you working on now?
Jaqueline: Right now I’m in the process of finishing three large paintings, each about six by six feet, that deal more with line than shape or color. I’ve been thinking a lot about allowing the process of repetitive layering of multiple lines to become a more integral portion of the structure of the work.
A.M. Richard Fine Art • 328 Berry Street, 3rd floor • Brooklyn, NY 11211
(917) 570-1476 • email@example.com • www.amrichardfineart.com
AM: Jaqueline Cedar is a painter and photographer. She is showing new paintings at the A.M. Richard Fine Art gallery (May 7th-June 13th, 2010).
The exhibition comprises three large scale oil on canvas paintings with the evocative titles of; Under a Black Star, See the Setting Sun and Hand on Shoulder, Hand on Head. Can you explain the chosen titles of your work?
JC: The first two are Paul Klee titles. I like that he uses literal language to title abstract compositions. I’ve been thinking a lot about his work this year so when I finished a group of paintings I went through a book of his watercolors and picked the titles of works I felt were connected to each painting via composition or palette. So while the works aren’t based on the content of Klee’s paintings, I wanted the titles to link my work to his language.
The third title, Hand on Shoulder, Hand on Head, describes the action of the person in the middle of the painting. I was thinking about the Bruce Nauman sculpture, From Hand to Mouth.
AM: In reading your paintings, I see a lot of early twentieth-century art historical assimilation. You seem to refer to Futurist and Cubist precepts in your fragmented compositions. I detect Fauvism in your color palette and a nod to surrealism in the usage of floating figures with balloon or bird-like heads. Can you comment on your primary sources of inspiration?
JC: I tend to think more about Orphism than Futurism or Cubism, but certainly the aesthetic is similar in terms of the breakdown of figurative elements. I am less interested in using this approach to represent motion or time, and more concerned with using basic formal cues – color, composition, perspective – to create an image where there are few places for the eye to rest.
AM: How does your background in photography affect the choices in your paintings? Is photography the point of departure? Does photography influence your sense of light?
JC: I think about each medium fairly separately. In making paintings, though, I am conscious of setting a frame for the image. I avoid cropping people, limbs, and objects because I find this action too often suggests the presence of a photographic source that at this point in my practice does not exist. When I paint from photographs I use multiple images (both found and constructed) of a person or place. I leave the images around the studio and pull information as needed, to be collaged and altered within the painting. Rarely does my relationship between photography and painting involve transferring one image to another directly. Even within painting I prefer to work from text (something I’ve read or written) to image.
AM: Your early works, Magic Show, Petting Zoo, Mountain, Funeral, Trust Walk (all executed in 2008) are mostly set outdoors or with open views of the landscape surrounds. These paintings also share a sense of action and domestic familiarity. The activities portrayed involve a group of peers or a family. The figures are busy playing, building or watching an act, ritual or performance. Are those vignettes based on your experience, imaginary or an amalgamation of keen observations?
JC: With those works in particular, I was shifting lines of sight in order to agitate mundane domestic group activity. I was thinking about Bonnard and Balthus and the way each painter uses light and the structure of a room or landscape to heighten tension within a scene that might ordinarily seem dull or vast. I wanted to set up scenarios that at once held the possibility of boredom and magic.
AM: In your more recent works, the figures seem detached from reality. Their physiognomy and living space has changed. The home is gone. We are no longer peering into a slice of common reality but rather inhabiting a dream or perhaps a nightmare. What happened?
JC: I’ve started to get more involved in the way color and composition can create movement and sensation in the work. The arrangement of people remains mannered because they are posed and fixed within a less literal ground. In the absence of domestic cues the figures become increasingly static and the abstract fields drive the direction of the image.
AM: Can you tell us about your usage of color. Do you mix your own?
JC: I have a difficult time limiting my palette so that’s the first thing I do when I start a painting. I pick two or three colors that I know I want to work with and try to stay within that set for as long as possible. When I get stuck I start to expand the range, and by the end of a painting I’ve generally used every color in my studio at least once.
AM: Do you do preparatory drawings? If so, do you draw from nature?
JC: Every once in a while I’ll make a small drawing on a receipt or envelope. Usually though, I think about a few options over the course of a week or a month, stare at a large blank canvas for about two hours, and then begin sketching right onto the painting. Changes occur over the course of time it takes to finish the work.
AM: What are you working on now? And in what direction will you next take your work?
JC: Currently I’m making a group of small paintings, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. Working at this scale (around 9x12 inches) involves thinking through a completely different set of problems – especially when making paintings of people. It’s always been important to me that a viewer is able to relate to each painting at a nearly one to one scale (body to body) so in making these smaller paintings I had to set aside that rubric and start developing new rules. Thinking about how to construct these smaller, more casual works is changing the way I approach the larger paintings. I’m thinking about ways to use shape and color to create depth within what has become a more flattened structure.
Emily Waldorf interviewed Los Angeles-raised, Brooklyn-based artist Jaqueline Cedar, whose vibrant new paintings are currently being shown at the Tracy Park Gallery‘s new location at the Malibu Country Mart.
Tell us about your current show at Tracy Park Gallery. Is there a dialogue between your work and Daniel Stern’s work or does your work tell a different story?
I met Tracy about three years ago while I was finishing my undergraduate degree at UCLA. At the time her gallery was located in Santa Monica and I wasn’t ready to do a show. When I finished graduate school at Columbia last May, Tracy and I began discussing a two-person exhibition. She wanted to pair Daniel and I firstly I think because we both depict people in our work. Further, though, we are both interested in representing truncated movement. Viewers of the work are rarely provided a resolution within the paintings/sculptures. For Daniel, figures are caught literally mid-air, balancing on one hand, leaning forward on tip-toes. In my paintings, individual action is suspended as figures participate in a shared experience that is never fully resolved.
How did you get started as an artist? When did you first start having creative impulses and how did you harness them?
I've always enjoyed looking at art but it was around high school when I began to focus a good portion of my time on making artwork (mostly paintings and photographs) and studying with other artists. During my first two years at UCLA I began to get serious about my interest in photography. I spent most of my spare time teaching myself to use a large format camera and strobe lighting. I was studying with some incredible artists - Catherine Opie, James Welling, Lari Pittman - to name a few. However, when I decided to apply to graduate school I felt strongly that I would benefit from further education in painting. The photographic process had always come more naturally and I wanted to push myself further in painting.
Color seems to be very central in your work. Do you find inspiration from the Expressionists and Fauves? How do you view your work in relation to the larger scheme of art history? Do you feel comfortable naming a few favorite artists whose work you admire right now?
I take great pleasure in using color to direct visual experience. My influences range from Balthus to Paul Klee. I look at a lot of work all the time. I consider it part of my job as a visual thinker and maker. I also find much inspiration in literature and film. I'm a big fan of absurdist theater (Beckett, Ionesco, Albee) and existentialist writing (Sartre, and although I've heard he doesn't place himself in that camp, Camus). I also look to film often for ideas about structure and pacing.
Images of people also seem important in your work. Is this intentional?
For as long as I've made paintings, I've made images of people. I'm fascinated by the way we interact with each other within a confined setting - how individual thoughts/feelings mix with a shared physical experience. Placing people together in these types of group scenarios has been one of the driving forces of the work. It continues to serve as a starting point and place for making meaning.
Please tell us the story behind Trust Walk, 2008.
Trust Walk is based on a type of group activity that is often used to create a sense of communal relations amongst those involved. Participants are asked to close their eyes and lead each other around via strictly physical contact. It requires trust and also implies the possibility of facilitating some sort of transcendent experience within a group. I was thinking about ways in which people will themselves toward belief in a type of group experience, ritual, or controlled behavior. So this image manifested a literal translation of that type of movement or activity.
Does your approach to painting differ from your approach to photography?
Yes and no. Both are organic in that I allow for much of the content to shift and develop as I work. I rarely say I'm going to make a painting of this scene and then meticulously spend the next month slaving over a direct transfer of that image. I enjoy the way work evolves over time as I make it. In both painting and photography I start with something more abstract - a feeling, a set of colors, a time of day, and the image comes out of these initial impulses. For example, I might decide that I want to make an image with three people in one type of room, or a dimly lit forest. The structure is there, however the way in which I approach applying paint, composing figures, lighting the room, changes as I make the work.
The same goes for photography, although in most cases I'm dealing with an even greater unknown as I'm working with living, breathing people. And I try to respond to that. I may have an idea going in to a shoot about how I'd like to place these people, the way in which I envision them relating to each other. However as I'm setting up I gain a lot of information about how to place them (all the photographs are posed). And I try to respond to the ways they are already moving and interacting, because this makes the photograph more believable. Some discomfort can be interesting, but regardless they are being asked to hold still so discomfort is a given.
What inspires you? Do you listen to music when you work in your studio or do you prefer quiet? Do you like to be alone or with other artists?
I tend to be very private when I work. I don't listen to music. I like background noise as long as it doesn't have a beat to it. I spend a lot of time making decisions before I put brush to canvas so I don't like for the beat of music to dictate the speed at which I approach the work.
What is it like living and working in Brooklyn in terms of the artist community?
I'm on a floor full of about 30 artists in a pretty industrial area. I do the opposite commute from Manhattan to Brooklyn and I love it. Most days it’s very quiet and I get a lot done. I tend to work in the mornings so there aren't a lot of other artists around but it’s nice to be able to stay in my own headspace for long periods of time. I have a lot of friends from school and now from living in New York for the past three years so we spend time going to museums and galleries. That's where I really get the most out of looking at and talking about work.
JAQUELINE CEDAR & DANIEL STERN: PAINTING & SCULPTURE is on view through April 10, 2010 at the Tracy Park Gallery, 3835 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, CA 90265-5909, (310) 456-7505, Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10-6pm, Friday-Saturday 10-10pm