Linus Galleries, Los Angeles Art Shows
2014 Artist Interview Series
Elizabeth Shelly + Ryan Hermann of ras+e
Linus Gallery, a contemporary California art gallery, presents our fourth interview. The Artist Interview Series is a new blog featuring Linus artists from a variety of different practices and backgrounds. The blog aims to be an enjoyable read, sharing insight into the artist’s creative process and workspace, as well as their view of the world around us. This week we feature design duo ras+e, a collaborative of artists Elizabeth Shelly and Ryan Hermann.
1) Please tell us your name, artistic practice of choice, and location in the world.
ras+e is an interdisciplinary design collaborative : ras teaches design full-time in Ohio and e teaches design full-time in Florida, but their installation work is primarily in their adopted city Baltimore. Their work links via concept more than medium, although they do emphasize interdisciplinary work, collaboration, writing as process, and democratic tools.
2) Are you self taught or did you formally study art?
ras+e both explored interdisciplinary fine arts and design in undergrad, but they launched as their current iteration out of the Graphic Design MFA program at MICA in Baltimore.
3) This is a hard choice for many visual artists, but what is the first answer that comes to mind when you think of your favorite color?
That’s easy, ras+e works almost exclusively with Black White Red unless the chosen tools, mediums, or remixed system involves other colors.
4) What subject matter appears most in your artwork? What do you love about that subject? What do you dislike about that subject?
Using and crafting culture as a tool to address and harness technology’s impact on life is a central theme. Its attitude is ANGRYOUNGANDPOOR, which was borrowed from a song by The Damned. Put together, it’s pretty Vonnegut, which is tough, staying idealistic and sarcastic and funny and approachable but not preachy or cuddly. Because the work requires weaving so many threads in advance, it can be frustrating when you just want production or to experiment formally. And without a constant influx through reading and seeing work and having a community and ongoing conversations, the faucet turns off and the threads don’t come together. The discipline isn’t just for production, but for keeping the conveyer belt running ideas through constantly. All this heart-on-sleeve work seems somehow both refreshing and old-school, though it can be a gasping fish within irony culture. In the words of Warren Ellis, “It’s about anger as a positive force of creation.” Formalists and Professionals and Designers and Writers, there is a certain responsibility for culture guiders, and perhaps a controlled burn can be surgery. But it’s certainly not a “cool” POV.
5) What is difficult for you about your chosen medium?
There is a lot of writing as process, not to mention as a component of long-distance collaboration. Worse still is writing external pieces—we’re filling 240 pages in our first book, CO LAB—because the work IS writing, not an element. And writing is no fun. But the results are always worth it. Having that tool, that ability to generate content in a purist sense, adds so many potential facets to the work. All the writers who emphasize the discipline of production are right, but staring at tiny bits of backlit Universe messes with you physically after awhile. When writing for articles and such, the deadlines are always imminent so any research happens in a very live sense as the piece is being written, not ahead. Maybe it’s very organic and responsive, but it’s definitely not Craft, not in the way the great writers are able to push toward absolute resolution.
6) Do you have any secret talents or party tricks unrelated to your art making?
No secret talents because anything you learn comes into the work somehow, so it’s no longer a secret.
7) Which describes you: Beach, Forest, Desert, Field, or City?
Nature is intimidating and obnoxious, so City.
8) What musical artist/band are you currently listening to when you are creating?
When writing, Eminem, or something else with quality writing. Cage the Elephant or anything Jack White is a general go-to. The latest ones have been Eagulls and We Were Promised Jetpacks, and also rediscovering Iggy and The Stooges because Pop is such a great collaborator.
9) What do you think the future of your medium will look like for other artists or as a whole?
The overt remixing and such is fascinating because everything is now on the table, content and mediums. Access is a major part of that. Hopefully we evolve forward fast, because the contentless-ness and lack of originality can get dull quickly. But when the collisions are aggressive, then some gorgeous grossness can be born. Taking advantage of the growing sensitivity to design and increasing visual literacy, coupled with collaboration, access, and interdisciplinary skill sets provides a wide-open landscape.
10) Any parting advice for budding artists?
It’s become popular to bash education and educators, but really consider school or art school or grad school or whatever the next step up is. Being surrounded by hungry innovators investing in a community is priceless, and happens to be really good practice for an art world sliding towards collaboration anyway.
And read everything indiscriminately, but some suggestions to start:
Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut): “So it goes.” Simultaneous laugh/cry. Perfect understanding of language as symbolism. Exploring structure through juxtaposition, both intensely personal and batshit fantastical. Immaculate development of visual language that we do not actually see.
Lord of the Rings (Tolkien): Complete, absolute immersion in a fabricated world. The best art develops such an intensely realized world, even if not all the information becomes part of the piece, that anything can feel real because it is real. Plus, it’s a heart-on-sleeve epic and unfortunately those are pretty rare anymore.
The Idiot (Dostoevsky): The destruction of a truly beautiful human, Dostoevsky runs over his titular idealist with a slow-moving cement mixer. He wrote it as a companion piece to Crime and Punishment, arguing that writing the negative creates a bigger splash and is easier to do, but that heroes actually make us better, even if their existence will always be smashed.
Finally, trust your ideas but be teachable. Yes, failure is possible. Do it anyway if you care more about Art than being an Artist. Don’t waste time on assholes, but be willing to invest in a community.
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