Interview with Chris Albert

Posted by on Oct 10, 2008 in Art Coverage, Interviews

Your web site is: I’m new to your work after finding out about your blog which covers contemporary art in the Beacon, NY area it seems.

What is your background as an artist? Your work seems varied in subject matter and medium.

I majored in art at Colorado State University but left after my sophomore year to loiter in Switzerland. I’ve always been a painter but in recent years I’ve been tinkering around with sculpture.

Your paintings and drawings are abstract in nature are they not?
How would you yourself describe them?

They are abstract and often gestural. I wouldn’t call them non objective because there is often some concrete substance at the base of the work. The development of the paintings is open ended. I’m interested in the play between the intuitive and the happenstance.

What type of work are you currently working on currently?

I’m working on a slew of different things. One group of paintings are riffs on African textiles and the patterns in my boxers. There are a couple of groups that are offshoots from the Genesis paintings, one that relates more to compositional elements, and the other is more text based. I’ve been drawing more recently, and I’m always casting something in plaster and nailing one thing to another thing. My process is like a very soupy place where different components coalesce into new states. Eventually something solid takes form.

From your Genesis series which is oil on paper you have text next to each one. What are the excerpts from?

The Genesis works are painted directly on pages from a porn magazine called Genesis. The text present in some of the pieces is the original narration that related to the photo essays which I obscured with paint, rendering them into abstract compositions. These pieces emerged as my reaction to constant responses to my work that project a sexual or erotic content on to it. My thought was, if people see such things as a matter of due course, perhaps I should just start there. I imagined that I’d create some form of titillating painting collage/painting like so many other forms of that work I’ve seen. I wasn’t moved by that and I started mindlessly obliterating the pictures with paint. It wasn’t until later that I noticed the text which suddenly took on a surreal, absurdly poetic quality. The Genesis works are a marriage of the high and the low. I think they’re about expectations set, then frustrated.

I noticed on your blog : that you are interested consumption in your life. How are you working with that concept in your work? The drawings are roughly rendered how does that work with the concept of consumption. Is there a connection?

I have become consumed with the notion of consumption. My own consumption. This frame of mind sets the stage for how the work is proceeds, but the imagery doesn’t necessarily deal with that as a subject although each one contains the text “Depletion Drawing”. I guess that speaks more to a state of anxiety in using one’s time and materials wisely. Each step along the path of realizing a vision diminishes the resources that fuel the progress. I save a lot of stuff, and recently I’ve begun using granola bar boxes as painting surfaces. There’s something really beautiful about the mass of these things that speaks to the coveted object quality of paintings. As with the Depletion drawings, the imagery isn’t concerned with any environmental issue, but it is a product of these thoughts I have relating to my creation of refuse. The topic has come to the fore for me with my participation in Habitat for Artists, which is a collaborative sculptural workspace project spearheaded by Simon Draper, which relates to issues of efficient use of space and resources, the role of artists as canaries in the coalmine of community gentrification and other things like that.

You live in Beacon, NY correct? How is the art scene up there?

Beacon’s been a great. I moved up here in early 2003 from Denver with my girlfriend, Angelika. The art community is sizable and we’ve found it to be very supportive. It’s great to have easy access to NYC, but remain fully removed from it.

Your art blog has some really nice shots of the “scene” up there. How has it grown in the last few years, has it?

The art scene was really jump started by the Dia Foundation’s intention to open a museum in Beacon. Since the museum opened, the scene has grown in fits and starts. It’s been difficult for art ventures and businesses in general to gain a lasting foothold here in town and it’s going to require more creative strategies to keep it going. But I think that kind of pressure is good and the results will be an ever more dynamic presence for art. Right now, it’s as diverse and energetic as it’s ever been. There was a lot of speculation (real estate and otherwise) that arose around the presence of Dia about the potential of Beacon breaking and becoming the next big thing. Fortunately, these desires to ‘engineer’ a more perfect scene have been bucked and growth continues in its own messy pace.

What influence does Dia : Beacon have on the scene?

It’s hard to say. Speaking as an artist, I think it’s an amazing resource to have on our doorstep. The opportunity to tap into the type of conversation that Dia represents is a major bonus. The museum’s bookstore is part of that resource. Dia brings visitors to the city. Exactly how many visitors actually make it up to Beacon’s Main St. from Dia has been a sore subject for some in town, but there are some real physical challenges to that end. Regardless, more people do make it into the restaurants and galleries due to Dia’s than if it were not in town, and Dia has done much to increase the name recognition of Beacon, NY.

Do most folks commute into the city for their day jobs?

Loads of people commute into Manhattan from Beacon. The train ride is a little over an hour, and it’s a scenic ride as it runs along the Hudson.

Are there a lot of full-time artist in the scene who are able to support themselves through their work?

There is a large number of very accomplished artists who live in the area, and some of whom support themselves with their art. I’m not one of those artists. However, for the last six years, I’ve been patiently cultivating my Sugar Momma. I’m optimistic that this strategy will prove to be successful

What part do the other Hudson Valley towns/cities play in the scene?

In a funny way, the art communities along the Hudson Valley are reminiscent of Medieval feudal states. Each community has it’s own character, and there is a level of isolation and a lack of connectedness between them. But there is such an abundance of artists living and working in the region, and there’s a lot going on. Hudson, Woodstock, Kingston, Peekskill are a few of the communities that have a sizeable art presence.
How did you get involved in art blogging? Can you describe any outstanding experiences have you had since you began?
I began my personal blog in 2004 as a way of easily posting content outside of my main website. Then in late 2004, I was part of a group that started a coop space in Beacon called bau (Beacon Artist Union). The blog format was perfect online voice because it was free, and it could facilitate easily and immediately refreshed content . I hoped that it would serve as a discursive medium beyond simply a promotional one, but that aspect never really evolved.

Shortly thereafter, in April 2005, I started the maykr blog. There was a lack of consolidated information about art and happenings in Beacon. I wanted it to be an open forum to which artists could contribute content that relate to issues surrounding their work or engender conversation germane on the local level and beyond, but nobody ever took me up on it, so I’ve been puttering away on my own since then. I certainly have folks sending me information and images on events, and I still welcome involvement from other contributors. The blog has now taken on the character of an archive tracing the movement of the scene, and that’s something I appreciate. In terms of outstanding experiences, I’d have to say that the minor shock I felt in becoming aware that folks were actually reading the blog, and it had a existence beyond soley being an object for my own amusement. That was cool.

What type of work do you do for your day job or do you do art for a living? ( I hate this question myself but it seems folks are usually interested in it?)

I’ve worked as a painter, doing both straight and decorative work for residential clients for many years. More recently, I’ve been working freelance as an art handler for various institutions. In fact there is a concentration of art handler/preparators living in Beacon. It’s a regular cottage industry in town.

Where have you shown your work as of late? Any shows coming up in the near future?

I had an exhibit of the Genesis Paintings at Go North in 2007, and this year, I’ve taken part in group shows in Beacon at Van Brunt Gallery and Open Space, as well as in Peekskill, and a few other places.

Fortunately, I don’t have anything coming up in the foreseeable future. I’m interested in really cooking the stuff I’m involved in right now. I’m an inveterate organizer of collaborative projects, and although I’m trying to cut down on this diversionary habit, I’ll have a few things I’ll be putting together on that side of things.

And the kicker… any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on to other artists, creatives looking to find their way?

The only thing that comes to mind, because it’s something I really hope to embody myself some day, is to relish failure. Be willing to create a big stinky failure, and let at least a few people see you make it. How refreshing. I’m not the appropriate judge, but I imagine I’ve only managed to produce wimpy lilting little failures, failures that come from timidity, failures from lacking. But to have a failure of abundance, that’s something else entirely.



  1. markcreegan
    October 14, 2008

    nice, i especially like this distinction about failure, the grand vs. the timid. Or going too far vs not going far enough. I think the difference there has to do with energy. One of my favorite Thomas Hirschhorn quotes is “Energy yes, quality no!”

  2. globatron
    October 14, 2008

    I thought that line about failure was an interesting one also. I myself think the best lessons come from failing vs. winning. And winning what is the real question? When it is all said and done does anyone win anything? Are their prizes at the end? It all gets taken away from us.

    Also, I enjoyed the insight on the Beacon / Hudson Valley art scene as we have plans to move up there in a few months if things go our way. One hour from Manhattan but you get to live like a normal person in a cool little town at the base of a mountain with a killer museum there Dia: Beacon and a handful of real galleries. It’s so dreamy I can hardly quit thinking about it. The rent there is actually quite affordable too. We’ll be up next week to scout it out some more on our yearly pilgrimage to my mecca New York city.

    Thanks Chris. Hopefully we’ll get to meet in the near future.

  3. Christopher Albert
    October 30, 2008

    I dig that Hirschorn quote. I hadn’t heard that before. Thanks for the opportunity Byron. I’m looking forward to meeting in person.
    Mark, I’ve enjoyed getting to know your work a little on your website. Very cool.

  4. globatron
    October 30, 2008

    me too mate. I do see some similarities between you and Mark’s work. Love the collective unconscious. Love how humanity works on so many levels … sometimes in accord.


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