Realities: Artists in Hyper/Reality and Sur/Reality Open Up About Working in the Studio

Amos Eno Gallery hosted (2) small group shows, "Hyper/Reality" and "Sur/Reality" in Fall 2021 to exhibit new members' works as we lead up to their solo shows in the wake of the pandemic shutdown delay in our regular gallery exhibitions program.

Hyper/Reality featured the work of Ligia Bouton (below, first image,) Grant Johnson and Aaron Wilder, while Sur/Reality exhibited works by Joyce Yamada, Nishiki Sugawara-Beda, David Olivant (below, second image) and Kahori Kamiya. Both shows were curated by gallery director, Audra Lambert. We caught up with each artist to gain insight into their studio practice as it is now and to learn about their works on view in the exhibit.


Hyper/Reality


Grant Johnson (Hyper/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


Both "Searles Lake" and "Fallow Crop Circles" are examples of satellite a image mosaic. Creating composite images of the landscape from satellite data is a major part of my work now. For years, I specialized in traditional aerial photography from a variety of platforms from commercial aircraft to balloons. For twenty years I was a contract photographer for The Nature Conservancy, which helped inform my sense of environmental issues and led me to this source of imagery.

In 2008, the entire Landsat data collection became Public Domain (i.e. Free). Since 1972, Landsat imaging satellites have been circling the earth photographing the same location every 16 days. This provides an unparalleled collection of environmental documentation that can be accessed and constructed into a picture by selecting an area of interest and then collecting the paths and rows of images and compositing them into a single high resolution landscape. This sounds pretty technical; however, the results can be stunning natural abstractions that resemble Abstract Expressionist painting but contain vast amounts of real-world information.

"Fallow Crop Circles, Texas Panhandle, 2015" Grant Johnson


Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


The lock-down provided an excellent opportunity to scan my 50K film image collection and to devote the time to assembling a large collection of these satellite composite landscapes. I still do traditional environmental photography for a number of clients from California Department of Fish and Wildlife to the Redwood Forest Foundation Inc. Those projects have me out in the field documenting terrain and wildlife, maintaining my connection to nature and getting exercise.

What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


I'm both preparing a video work for a member-curated show at Amos Eno Gallery in January and another for my solo show at the gallery in February 2022. That's about all I can focus on at present, but the new Amos Eno space is inspiring, offering a host of exhibition opportunities that exceed what was possible in the old space. The back project room will lend itself to video with a few modifications.

When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


I have a place in Humboldt County California on the Eel river that's five minutes away from the Avenue of the Giants. Humboldt Redwoods State Park is home to the most intact, and best preserved, of the remaining Coast Redwood groves. 97% of these giant trees were logged before environmental groups bought the remaining 3% to try and save them. I am fascinated by these largest and oldest of living things. The ancient ecosystem that exists in these forests hasn't changed for thousands of years and is the best example of design we have. It's a sustainable, symbiotic community of life that should serve as an example of how to live successfully on this planet. It's been said that trees do everything we do, from parenting a family to dealing with threats, they just do it a lot slower than we do.


Ligia Bouton (Hyper/Reality)


Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


One of the pieces I showed in the Hyper/Reality exhibition is called “American Landscape”. This piece was created by wrapping and winding multiple strips of old woolen blankets around landscapes composed of small toy trees. I also included horse figures covered in grass flocking into these landscape elements. The piece became multileveled and took on further references to topography and the strata below the surface. For me, this piece became a way to reference the forces of changed we have imposed on the American landscape to suit our own needs.


"American Landscape" Ligia Bouton


In many ways this piece was a real breakthrough for me. I really enjoy all of the texture and materiality that went into this piece, at the same time that it has a tightness and a control that reflects the conflict inherent in my conceptual narrative. In “American Landscape” I felt I was able to accomplish a complexity that I have only ever achieved in larger, ephemeral installations.



Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


A year ago, my studio practice was defined by the intense amounts of time that I was spending at home in our house in Massachusetts. In this rural area, I felt isolated from other people and other artists. I spent a lot of time thinking about art as a conversation and how I was missing the other voice in that dialogue. Now I have returned to in-person teaching, I am often confronted with the opposite. When I am teaching, I spend my days working with a lot of different people and I often long for the quiet space I can only find alone in my studio.



What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


My solo exhibition at Amos Eno is still two years away but I’m excited about how much potential I see in our wonderful gallery space. I am already thinking through the multitude of different approaches that could activate that space in a solo exhibition: sculpture but also video, sound, and light installations that could transform that space into a different kind of landscape. I look forward to thinking through these ideas more clearly in the coming months and to working with Audra as these ideas develop. I also look forward to visiting the space multiple times during this next two years as it is filled with the work of so many artists I admire and exploring and understanding more about what is possible in that versatile space.


When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


When I’m not making work or teaching, I am often in my house washing dishes, taking care of my sons, making pack lunches, cooking, raking leaves, and walking our wonderful sweet pug. I hope that this winter will bring some time to spend reading the pile of books that has collected beside my bed. I find that books and research inform my practice and the work that I make more than anything else.


Aaron Wilder (Hyper/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


“The Art World: SFMOMA 2 (reflecting on Frank Stella’s ‘Double Concentric: Scramble’)” is a new experiment with an older body of black and white 35mm photographic works entitled “The Art World.” The project started in 2015 when I began my MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Prior to then, I had been a self-taught artist for thirteen years and had just made the risky move of somewhat abandoning the career trajectory I had built in the business world for about a decade. “The Art World” was initially meant to photographically document my immersion in the world of fine art that I felt an outsider to at the time. I would go into white cube art world environs and photograph people encountering art. At some point while I was still living in San Francisco, I took a picture of a young woman taking a picture of Frank Stella’s diptych “Double Concentric: Scramble” with her smartphone at SFMOMA. In the years since, I had wanted to revisit this body of work to investigate conceptual dimensions of perception and engagement with artwork. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had gone on a road trip to New Hampshire after getting fully vaccinated and found an ornate mirror at one of the many antique stores along the highway in Vermont. Upon my return to Chicago, I went about rendering the photograph as a shape that would be cut out of vinyl by a vendor in Missouri I’ve worked with for years. I applied the vinyl directly to the surface of the mirror this past summer. I was excited that this very recent experiment could be included in “Hyper/Reality” as I felt the viewer’s own image being reflected within the “negative space” of this person encountering work by Frank Stella at SFMOMA, while still being constrained by the mirror’s ornate frame, aligned quite well conceptually with the theme of presenting “altered visions of the ‘real,’ as defined by the overlap of digital, natural, and social phenomenon that permeate our everyday lives.”

"The Art World: SFMOMA 2 (reflecting on Frank Stellas 'Double Concentric: Scramble')" Aaron Wilder


Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


Conceptually, my studio practice has not changed much over the past year. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was living in San Francisco, and I had very limited time, resources, and space to dedicate to my artistic practice as I worked several part-time jobs just to be able to barely pay rent. I couldn’t afford a studio after I completed my MFA in 2017, so I only had a small amount of space in an apartment shared with two other people. This resulted in my concept-driven, interdisciplinary artistic practice adapting to these constraints by focusing on media that took up the least amount of physical space (namely photography and video). And even with that temporary emphasis on a limited range of media, I still butted heads with roommates on how much space of our shared apartment was taken up by materials related to my art practice. While not wholly to blame for my forced departure from San Francisco, the COVID-19 pandemic was the proverbial nail in the coffin of my time in San Francisco as it rendered me unemployed in the most expensive city in the United States. Thankfully, a job offer arose, so I up and moved to Chicago. As the pandemic continued, I worked almost exclusively remotely, which compounded my sense of isolation in a city where I didn’t know anyone well. While I had more space for my artistic practice to return to being media-agnostic, the isolation kept me somewhat from being experimental. In the months immediately preceding this exhibition, I pushed myself to make at least small progress in moving back to a risk-taking, interdisciplinary practice. This resulted in two of the works on display in “Hyper/Reality”: “The Art World: SFMOMA 2 (reflecting on Frank Stella’s ‘Double Concentric: Scramble’)” (a work of white vinyl on the surface of an antique mirror) and “Details” (a video experiment growing out of my photography project of the same name). During this exhibition, I moved to Roswell, New Mexico (my second cross-country move during the pandemic) for a better paying job that is better aligned with my career goals. I am hoping that with this relocation to a less densely populated area, I will be able to return to the open-endedness that characterized my artistic practice during my MFA years.


What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


My first solo show at Amos Eno Gallery will be in early 2023, just a little over a year from now. I am excited to use the experience I’ve had with participating in “Hyper/Reality” to create an exhibition installation that’s responsive to the gallery itself along with the part of New York City the gallery is situated within and/or the time of year (January) the show will take place within (still thinking though different possibilities!).

When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


Geographically, I’ve been all over the place! During the exhibition, I moved from Chicago, Illinois to Roswell, New Mexico. The move stems from my acceptance of the position of Curator of Collections & Exhibitions at the Roswell Museum & Art Center. So, when I’m not making art, I am often immersed in the artistic practices of others in a curatorial capacity. I’m also the Treasurer on Amos Eno’s board, so that keeps me quite busy as well! And lastly, I’ve been spending a decent amount of time recently raising money for my residency project with High Concept Labs. My project will entail interviewing a diverse range of people about their lived experiences with felt societal expectations from childhood to adulthood. Most of the funds raised will be used to compensate interviewees for their contributions to the project. Please help spread the word! More info on GoFundMe.


Sur/Reality


Nishiki Sugawara-Beda (Sur/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


I have 13 works in the exhibition: A set of four Kakejiku work, KuroKuroShiro-Striving; a set of three works on paper, KuroKuroShiro Kami-Un, Deux, and Trois; and 6 paintings on wood panel. The Kakejiku works (KuroKuroShiro Striving I, II, II, and IV) are somewhat new for me. My painting has the appearance of landscape, but they are abstract and never clearly landscape that we can walk on. But some of the Kakejiku works are more toward traditional Japanese landscape painting. During the painting sessions, I started seeing mountains and pushed the imageries to the mountain like structures. I did not look at landscape (somewhere) to paint, it came from my memory and understanding of forms.


As I said it is new for me and I am a bit nervous. Since I use traditional ink, traditional paper, and traditional format (Kakejiku), my painting may be categorized in the traditional Sumi-e (Sumi painting). As I mentioned, I did not look at mountains to paint or did try to mimic the traditional landscape painting, my painting can be misfit and “off” against the tradition. In a contemporary western gallery setting, my paintings might look like traditional landscape painting, but they are not. I guess, this is something that only me, as an artist, think about!


"KuroKuroShiro-Striving I" Nishiki Sugawara-Beda


Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


Fortunately, I am having a lot of exhibitions now, so I am extremely busy. Once thing that I note is that I am happy to see my artist friends in person. A year ago, I was using my “alone” time during the pandemic to reflect and work on my artbook. The book, See You There, is now published, and I was able to celebrate the launch of it with many of my friends and artist colleague! Soon, I need to get back to my “alone” time to devote my energy to painting!


What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


Now, I have experienced exhibiting in a more involved way at Amos Eno Gallery, I can easily imagine how things will go, and this realistic visualization excited me a great deal. Working with other artists was so much fun! My solo is scheduled in March, 2022. I need to get to work to complete my body of work for the solo show, and look forward to sharing my work to the New York art community and Amos Eno!

When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


I am always in my studio. When I am not making work, I am still in my studio, working. Otherwise, I am playing with my daughter or telling her to brush her teeth and go to bed!


David Olivant (Sur/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


“The Sleep of Unreason”, like all of the Retroglyphs in this exhibition started life as a digital photograph of an assemblage (Heteroglyph). In this instance, I used a detail called “Peak District Profiles”. The title derived in part from the fact that the Heteroglyph included a collaged photograph of an arial view of a stately home situated in the Peak District National Park in Northern England. The photograph was flipped to give the mirror image of its parent piece. It includes a profile head of my brother traced from a drawing I made of him in 2007, next to which we see a woman in a green dress, manipulating a doll and seated on an airborne upturned table, extracted from a large pastel drawing made in 2005. The head at bottom left started as a photo-silkscreen of a ceramic sculpture I made in 2004 from which it was broken off to be placed in a much later Heteroglyph, from whence the silkcreen was derived. It is adorned with hat and shirt that were in “Peak District Profiles” and which originally belonged to lampshade covers and parts of a coffee maker.


The title makes an obvious reference to Goya’s famous etching and alludes to my brother’s tendency to rely almost entirely on rationality in his dealings with the world leaving him largely unaware that this imbalance leads to many “unreasonable” attitudes. The mirrored sleeping figure enmeshed in a ruined abbey that lies next to the stately home perhaps represents the sleep that might occur from such an extreme separation of reason from emotion. Much of the sense of significance in this, as in many of my recent artworks, lies in the compound compression and juxtaposing of distinct temporal layers.


"Caught in the Crosshairs" David Olivant


Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


Despite having relocated from CA to NM just over a year ago and the enforced hiatus in my practice that resulted, my studio activity is largely unchanged. The complexity described above in terms of reusing fragments of artworks that were themselves fragments of other artworks, often spanning decades has, if anything, only deepened.


What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


The last and only time I had a solo exhibition in NYC was in1991 at The Center for International Contemporary Arts, so it’s about time! I have found that solo exhibitions often lead me to question more rigorously than usual the purpose and validity of my work, so I will confine my excitement to meeting Audra and perhaps some of my fellow members at Amos Eno and discovering more about the physical composition and location of the gallery that I have not visited since becoming a member.

When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


Reading, hiking, or in Strata, the member-gallery I recently started in Santa Fe based loosely on the example of Amos Eno.


Kahori Kamiya (Hyper/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


My current body of work focuses on motherhood and especially breastfeeding. My nursing time was an extreme experience between pain and pleasure. For women who don’t naturally produce milk, breastfeeding is an every-two-hours sleepless labor that is run in a solitary environment. In my large-scale fabric sculpture titled “Welcome Back (2021)”, I used a hybrid technique, such as sewing, foam modeling, painting, knitting and embroidering to transform my motherhood gesture/left-over, such as repetition, cleaning-spill, blemish, and stretch marks onto the surface of sculpture. For the ruffle cave, I sewed a fabric called Tulle to make a ruffle to represent a breast milk shower. This colorful fabric is often used for celebratory occasions, such as wedding parties and baby showers. However, the lightness and see-thoroughness of this fabric evoked in me a feeling of non-substantial existence, such as I felt as if I was forgotten by society when I was on maternity leave.

Related to this work, I created an associated performance that consisted of two nursing dresses that I call “Sculp-cou-ture”. A black dress that represents my desperate memory of having any one drip of milk. The performance was done in two parts. The first part was a walk around the gallery and hallway like a sleepwalk to look for the milk and recalling/healing my post maternal time by ringing a bell. The second part was a change of dress inside the sculpture like a “fitting room” which I often needed to use as a nursing room when I was in public due to lack of a place to feed the baby. This new colorful dress expressed one of my best pleasure experiences about nurturing. After coming out of my sculpture, I cut off a part of my ruffle dress and attached the piece to the sculpture with a long needle.

"Welcome Back" Kahori Kamiya

Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?

Inside of my studio looks much different than a year ago. Size-wise, materials, and even smells! Many of my new materials, such as Tulle fabric, urethane foam, and oil paint started allowing me to express my direct feeling of suffering/healing and beauty/grotesque that I have been seeking for many years. Also, one of the reasons for my current progress is the impact of COVID Pandemic. A long lockdown time drove me to make something bigger-than-human-size, flexible, textual, and colorful to look forward to the time when the galleries would reopen and I can reconnect with viewers in person. “Welcome Back”, which is showing at Amos Eno Gallery, is the piece I started to make at the beginning of 2021.

As a same idea, I made a performance piece titled “I Love You More” this fall. I performed at NYC Central Park presented by1922 Gallery. I wanted to connect people by using a 6 foot long string telephone while sitting on white bed sheets. I made one simple rule: when you want to tell anything “you love about your performance-partner”, you will use your string-phone. This handmade classic toy allows you to hear “his/her words about love” very closely like inside the bed. The trigger to make this piece also related to my experience of Asian Hate and sadness of disconnection. Compared with pre-Pandemic time, I think about a bigger vision of creativity and my new approach that I really enjoy now.

What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?

Amos Eno Gallery just moved to a much larger space in the same building this early summer. The possibility is really unlimited to show any type of art. This gallery is also surrounded by other amazing galleries on the same floor that allows me to meet other amazing artists, curators, and art professionals. I’m very excited to be a part of this art community and have a solo show in Spring / 2023.


When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?

I have been very busy making art, but when I’m not in my studio, you can find me at museums and art galleries. Earlier this year, I was knocked away by the Julie Mehretu show at Whitney Museum. I really appreciate that I live at the same time with her. In between going to see art in the city, the library and bookstore fulfill my daily curiosity and excitement. I usually order online to pick my library books up, but I also love to explore "new books/artists" by chance. Before starting the Sur/Reality show, I read the book titled "The Lives of the Surrealists". I enjoyed learning so many things about Surrealists' private-life from this book. I truly recommend everyone to read this book, even not just artists!

On other weekends, I also love to hike and my current residence allows me to go to hike easily which I really like. I grew up in the city and spent my 20-s in Tokyo and Manhattan, so spending time in nature is a new activity for me. Connecting with nature, such as wind, trees, water, and fire, allows me to detoxify my old thoughts to make a new space and new inspiration.


Joyce Yamada (Sur/Reality)

Discuss one of your works on view in these shows and walk us through it/describe in some detail.


Truncated Landscape_Floating belongs to a series spanning more than a decade from the early 1990’s to 2006, initially inspired by driving through the heavily logged forests of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula while on the way to the magnificent Hoh National Park. It was jarring in the extreme to go from the absolute richness and beauty of the intact old growth forest out into the adjacent devastated clear-cut landscape. Further into the countryside, where forested hills were still present, there were strange geometrically shaped clear-cuts—ghosts of former forests. I painted the first paintings of the series in a semi-naturalistic manner, including ambiguous words like “trunk” and ‘limb” to imply the connectivity and inter-relatedness of humans and trees, humans and forest, humans and Earth.


"Truncated Landscape_Floating" Joyce Yamada


By the time of Truncated Landscape_Floating I was painting truncated pieces of otherwise beautiful and living forests, either from the outside or as if standing inside or between geometric slices of forest. In this painting, the forest in mathematical terms is a rectangular cuboid, mysteriously floating above a red desert. The forest is truncated on all six sides, missing the tops of the trees, limbs cut off, roots cut off to perfectly form the geometric shape. The forest is dream-like, beautiful, and isolated, hovering above the desert floor. There is an ominous scooped out hole in the desert under the truncated forest, with dark venous blood-like fluid dripping from the truncated forest into the hole. It is a deliberately ambiguous image. Why is the forest floating? Is it still alive? Was it uprooted and pulled out of the earth or is it descending like a rootless dream? Yet it has a clear if dreamlike logic all its own. The desert contains traces of crowded human habitation—numerous tiny squares for buildings, winding lines for roads or streams, and scruffy brushwork to represent the detritus of clear-cut forests. I have used this imagery in other paintings too. The squares rather than being cities could also be cells seen under a microscope, implying cancerous out-of-control growth.


I had a hard time finishing this painting; it spans a decade. Eventually it turned out to be a technical problem. When I began to paint with oils, I was able to use easily controllable glazes to mute some of the harshness of the initial brushwork and to turn the upper background into a beautiful cloudy desertscape. This painting is an elegy for Earth’s beautiful forests.


Where’s your studio practice now compared to a year ago?


Compared to a year ago I am feeling more upbeat, looking forward to delving into entirely new work. I worked continuously through the pandemic, but have made it over the hump of work dealing with pandemic anxiety.


What’s one thing you’re excited about for your future Amos Eno solo show?


I am excited about plunging into new painting for my upcoming solo show at Amos Eno in November 2022. During the pandemic I worked through imagery that has been haunting me for decades and I am now eager to try something a bit sci-fi with a touch of the Peaceable Kingdom.


When you’re not making work, where can you be found ?


When not making artwork, I can be found curled up with a book or standing at a window watching squirrels.


Reflection from Hyper/Reality and Sur/Reality Curator, Audra Lambert :

"It's been a rewarding journey learning more about our member artists at Amos Eno Gallery, and I've especially appreciated the chance to get to know more about our newest member artists. Due to the pandemic, our schedule of exhibitions at the gallery shifted significantly, impacting our artist members' ability to show their artwork. Through this twin set of exhibitions, artists whose work spans installation art, new media, painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media have all had the opportunity to share what is in their studios with a New York City audience.

When considering the theme, the fact that the meaning of 'reality' has altered significantly in wake of multiple lockdowns worldwide set forward a path toward examining the meaning of alternate realities through an artistic lens. Through studio visits with member artists, a path opened up toward each exhibition: in some cases, artists' works had direct correlation - such as Ligia and Grant's exploration of landscape, narratives and resource depletion - whereas in other cases, the links were less tangible. With an MA thesis behind me centered a critical reconsideration of feminist zines produced during second wave feminism (in response to social pressures of the 1970s,) it has been rewarding to apply a reflexive lens - in real time - to the social realities that have transpired in the wake of the Covid outbreak and center these exhibitions with this in mind. It's been fruitful to consider each artists' work not only through my role as director of the gallery handling show logistics but also through a curatorial lens, examining the critical aspects of works on view and gauging how each work responded to these shows' themes. It's been a pleasure to not only arrange these exhibitions in a way that the visitor is uncovering more at every turn, but to also look, listen and learn more on my own about the artists who continue to sustain this vibrant and experimental gallery space. Oh - and when I'm not at the gallery, you can find me walking my dog out and about on the Greenpoint waterfront."


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