I always imagine the 1939 World’s Fair to be the dawn of symbolic interpretation in the modern world. Although this is a straight up fallacy and likely due to my critical studies/liberal arts background my mind always travels there.
I’ve watched the dormant structures reflecting into the eyes of Hampton Jitney riders. Visit Queens and See the World!, Robert Moses’ panoramic failures, and the wandering abyss born of the shopping centre. The site of these have been studied to death.
The linear nature of the above is understood, in a sense, living in the past as a resolved algebraic equation. The negative exploitation of various cultures un-soothed by positive potential for growth, symbolic designations moving forward full force. Here we are, in the future, and while many of us are knowing of these inequations Luc Fuller presents them in a constructively enigmatic form. The Northwest based painter and I chatted briefly last week. I was intrigued by his art because of the universal abstraction it deals with, an illusive plain we all operate on: time and space. Some points of reference are particularly understood by anyone growing up in the 80’s or 90’s, but the second layer to be deduced from these decades are provided by ambivalent and continuous reproduction. There is however something concrete to be taken away from ambiguity of material at hand, if only a symbolic overhanging known to all living things. The relationship these hold to particular subcultures and the metaphorical roles they are bound to are isolated in his work, not only in physical references but literal exemplars. How does the reference point inform proximity? Where do they go and what do they do?
Can you tell me a bit about where you currently live?
My girlfriend and I moved across the river (Vancouver, WA) in September. Previously I had lived in Portland for about seven years. We found this really cool old house / cottage / cabin that is a stones throw away from the Columbia River. It’s beautiful and has so much history. Vancouver itself is very strange. I’d say the majority of our life is still in Portland. I did also move my studio out to Vancouver as well about three months ago.
Do you find the slight seclusion to be beneficial to your art?
Yes totally. I love people, but when it comes to making work, I prefer to be on my own. The studio is even further north near Battle Ground, WA. It’s a huge loft space in a pole barn. It’s crazy cheap too!
It seems like the west coast provides an ample amount of space for artists, on a more reasonable budget of course. Which actually brings me to my next question; Can you speak a little bit about your upcoming show at Johannes Vogt ‘WWWEST’? What is the premise of the exhibition? It seems all the artists involved are somewhat connected the West Coast in some form. How do you find discourse and ideals vary on the west coast from say New York, or Philly?
You nailed it. The show is based off of a poem that Nate Hitchcock – who is curating the show – wrote. The poem, if I’m remembering correctly is basically a long series of W’s. And unless something has changed, every artist in the show is working from the West Coast. It’s definitely tongue and cheek, but I like the idea. It’s like West Coast vs East Coast hip hop. Not really at all but you get the idea. Honestly I’m not the best person to ask about the variations in discourse and ideals between the two coasts. I grew up in Eastern Washington and didn’t travel much as a kid. The first time I went to New York was last fall. There is a difference though. I think there is less of a hustle and more time and space to spread out. Sometimes I do crave the energy of a place like New York.
Let’s talk about time, since it is obviously reflected heavily in your work. Your show at Rod Barton prompted questions on the preciousness of time, my read was that it was looking at time in a way that was self referential, in turn making it meaninglessness. What is the importance or meaninglessness of the symbol, the clock, in your work?
I think a lot about time, but also about it’s relation to history, culture, and rhythm. I can’t say I think about it to much in a literal sense but more of how things, people and culture exist in time, or over time. I also just really like the image. A clock is this representation of this huge abstract thing that we all have to deal with. It’s completely democratic. And its identifiable no matter how old you are, what language you speak, or where you’re from.
Some of your paintings speak to the re appropriation of some specific symbols. Can you tell us in your day to day experience some that you come across that have been misplaced of their presupposed purpose?
I think as soon as anything enters the world, whether it’s a symbol, a word, a song, clothing, literally anything, it’s out there, and it’s waiting for someone else to come along and reinterpret it and I suppose appropriate it. In a lot of cases this makes things more interesting, and in not so positive cases it’s damaging to the person, history, or culture that originally created it. I think this year specifically in mainstream culture we have seen a lot of the damaging effects of cultural appropriation especially within African American culture. But that’s just what’s currently on the surface. I think culture works like (stay with me) Mycelium, or mushrooms in how it’s this massive underground network that pops up in various places, but the majority of it remains unseen.
I agree, especially when thinking about the reductionist nature of the internet, we are all amalgamations of these symbols of expression, we fit into and literally are identified by these little emoticon symbols likely more frequently than we are by our faces. In your standing paintings at Rod Barton you dealt with the Wu Tang symbol, Would you say that your paintings are best looked at with a wide lens when contextualizing them? The placement, and how they are standing free, the front and back of the canvas seem to be equally important and thought out…
Yes that’s definitely something I think about and try to consider, even when I’m making work that lives in a gallery. The standing paintings were more or less an effort or even just a gesture at trying to make something that had a very physical and literal relationship to it’s surroundings. I like the idea that you can take a painting off of the wall and its suddenly more susceptible to influence or be influenced by whatever is adjacent to it. I think a lot about adjacency in my work and try to make work that lies somewhere in between a lot of things. So whether that’s between a culture such as hip hop or another painting, or even a body that is in the room.
Balance, on one hand you’re dealing with this very pure and democratic understanding of time and then also somewhat loaded notions of cultural appropriations. I mentioned to you the English word “symbol” derives from the Greek word “Symbolon” which meant one half of a knucklebone carried as a token of identity to someone who has the other half. I’m interested in hearing more about some subcultures you’re interested in, in relation to their symbolic value, perhaps some subtle nuances that you’ve noticed…
Yes, exactly. Let’s see, recently I’ve been buying magazines from various subcultures and living with them in my studio. Two of which are sitting next to me now. One is titled “Street Low”, which is a Lowrider magazine, full of fabulous cars and weird pictures of girls in bikinis – standing next to cars – , and the other is “Oregon Hunter”, which is probably even weirder. I’m reading this book at the moment called “Tribes of America”. It’s written by an american journalist names Paul Cowan, who in the 70’s went around the states, and spent an ample amount of time immersing himself within various cultures and subcultures. What he found, or rather his thesis, is that while we are told to believe that America is a “melting pot” made up of a mish mash of cultures, it’s actually a country built up of various “tribes” which in many cases have little, or nothing to do with one another. He believes – which I also believe – that it will always be this way, and that in order to form community or empathy outside of these various tribes that we form or are born into, we must first understand and even celebrate the differences between people in order to find the similarities and build common ground, and trust.
Do you see the internet as facilitating the possibility of resolving this or would you say it’s working against what could be a higher consciousness?
I don’t really know to be honest. The internet obviously speeds up the process and exposes people to things that they otherwise would have never been exposed to. But I’m not sure that it actually leads to empathy. I think it lacks and will always lack any kind of physical human connection. It’s can be a very dark, messy, place that is full of hate and ignorance.
On the note of digital enlightenment – I’m curious about your involvement in relaax.in, can you explain it to those who have yet to have the pleasure of visiting? Do you foresee the online world being used as a tool for more spiritual engagement with ourselves, or even each other? I have a friend who falls asleep to an app every night, while Andy (the voice on the app) in his Kiwi derived voice guides her to a meditative state. She says it’s changed her life. I find this interesting because it’s as though you’d have to be a certain kind of person, with pre existing ideals, to appreciate a meditative web experience, or even to seek it out I suppose.
Haha, I’ll have to check out that app! I’m a terrible insomniac! I’m definitely not going to dismiss the possibility. I think it’s all fair game. I’m not sure how serious Relaax.in is, but I think the sentiment is interesting. It’s like the the internet or technology is trying to find an equilibrium, or a way to balance itself out. It’s a funny idea that you need a website to help you relax because all of the other websites are causing too much anxiety. The piece that I made for the site was called “Rasta Rainbow”, and was a childlike drawing of a rainbow with Red, Green, and Yellow. I think I just wanted to do something fun with something that I actually love and hold dear to me. I’m a huge Reggae fan, and it’s definitely something that makes me feel positive. It sounds funny to say now after we just talked about cultural appropriation.
I’m a Reggae fan too. That was actually my next question, have you heard or seen anything you’ve particularly enjoyed lately?
Oh yeah. The new D’Angelo album has been on repeat. I’m also really into Run the Jewels 2.
IMAGES COURTESY OF LUC FULLER