Monday, December 27, 2010

POST: Kori Newkirk / Interview Magazine / December - January 2011

Kori Newkirk is among talent included in the December/January 2011 issue of Interview magazine's "L.A. ARTWORLD" feature. Curation and text by CHRISTOPHER BOLLEN; Photography by ROBBIE FIMMANO.

Most mornings Kori Newkirk takes the bus to his studio in downtown L.A., making him one of the few established artists not reliant on a car. �I haven�t had a car in a year,� he says. �With so much of the art world imploding lately and funding changing, I figured that when my car died I really didn�t need it.� There is something of this scrap-the-past-and-start-over mentality about the 40-year-old artist�s own career, which has already experienced several distinct progressions in the last decade: from this former New Yorker�s rising-star status as a �post-black� artist making decorative paintings to his more complicated media-driven installations in recent years. Now Newkirk seems to be undergoing another creative metamorphosis. �I�m trying to figure out again what it means to be an artist,� he says. �It�s a re-investigation. I�m playing around in my studio.� Most artists of Newkirk�s generation have been boxed into specific mediums or motifs, but Newkirk has always resisted easy classifications. At a recent solo show at the Schindler House, he added black circular magnets with jagged edges to windows, which had the sense of sunspots. �I�m really into science fiction these days,� he explains. �But I also realized that if I lived in a house like that one, it would be all shot up, and the windows would be riddled with bullets.� Another piece in that show was a circular pattern of T-shirts arranged on the floor, covered in sweat and dirt. One day at the studio he realized that his own shirt stains looked almost like tie-dye. Tie dye is traditionally a hippie symbol, but Newkirk says, �that sculpture had to do with labor. My parents might have wanted to enjoy the Summer of Love but they couldn�t. They were working. �I�d love to be outside with you but I have to be in here scrubbing floors.� � Let�s hope Newkirk never gets stuck in classifications.


Born in the Bronx, Kori Newkirk first moved to California for graduate art school in 1995 and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he began making work out of such obscure but provocative materials as hair extensions, pony beads, and pomade. Since then, the artist (born 1970) has continued to investigate cultural ideas and images of beauty, expanding his practice to include everything from neon lights to fiberglass sharks. In 2007, the Studio Museum in Harlem honored him with a 10-year retrospective of his work. Newkirk is now trying to put the past behind him and forge into some rather astounding and unexpected new directions.
CHRISTOPHER BOLLEN: Where's your studio?

KORI NEWKIRK: Downtown L.A., for the moment. I've been in the same place for about 10 years, but I'm ready to leave. Downtown is becoming very gentrified-the entitlement isn't good for me.

CB: Because prices are going up? Or is it about being in an atmosphere that's bad for making work?

KN: The atmosphere. Gentrification is a complicated thing, you know? I'm more used to it in the traditional sense, where it's a nice, long, slow thing-the New York style. In downtown L.A., money is making it happen very quickly. I prefer to be around people who have to work-to look out my window and see people who are, like, pushing carts and struggling.

CB: You recently had a show at LA>

KN: I wanted to deal with the idea of spectacle and celebrity, giving it some resonance with the political situation going on right now. I wanted to make the viewer complicit by having the whole thing mirrored-so we see ourselves in this.

CB: Do you feel like you fit into the L.A. art scene?

KN: L.A. is a very strange place. It's been really good to me as an artist, but I'm still often times considered a New York artist, even by people who live here. There are collectors in this town who still, to this day, go, "What are you doing here? Did you just arrive?" They think I should be in New York. 

CB: Is that because you had a lot of success in New York?

KN: It might be. Or it might be because I don't make work that is traditionally considered Los Angeles art. The only noir thing about my practice is me. [laughs] The dominant thrust for a while seemed to be noir and ironic. I just keep telling myself that I only live here, I'm not of here. That helps to keep me sane.

CB: So what will you work on next?

KN: I'm still going to tackle the subject of narcissism. [laughs] I'm going to make a giant toppled head out of Plexiglas and metal-like fake stained glass-for an upcoming solo show at The Project in New York.

CB: Whose head?

KN: Mine. [laughs] The head is going to look like it's been pushed over, like when regimes change they knock down all of the old statues and chop off their heads. Whatever happens with the U.S. election, whichever way it goes, I think the work will still resonate.

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