The following post is part of "The Conversation Project," a series of interviews with influencers in the contemporary art world.
Paul D’Agostino is a prolific artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he has been producing art exhibitions and critical discussions at Centotto Gallery since 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in Italian Literature and is currently a member of the part-time Art Faculty at Parsons The New School for Design, and MFA Writing Advisor at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. He also recently joined the part-time faculty of NYU’s School of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting. He also recently joined the part-time faculty of NYU’s School of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting. In the spring of 2017, he will be visiting critic and exhibition curator for the MFA program at CUNY-Queens College.
D'Agostino has taught, writes in and translates a number of languages, primarily Italian, German, French, Spanish and English, and he does translation work in several other languages as well. He is co-founder of and writer for two art blogs, ART(inter) and After Vasari, and Assistant Editor of Journal of Italian Translation. He was also until recently Art Editor at Brooklyn Magazine / The L Magazine. He has a pet turtle named Cecco Angiolieri, who might both outgrow and outlive him. You can follow D'Agostino on Instagram and Twitter @postuccio.
My conversations with D’Agostino took place over the course of an afternoon in three different settings: in his Bushwick studio; at Studio 10 Gallery, where he had recently mounted the first version of a large Centotto group show called NOMENCoLorATURE; and in a car en route to a Norte Maar dance performance at Socrates Sculpture Park.
PART 1: IN THE CAR
BW: How did you get involved in art?
PD: Well, I've been making art my entire life. I made art with my sisters starting when we were very young. It was one of the things that we did at home together all the time, and with our grandmother. My family moved around a lot, so my sisters and I spent a lot of time together—maybe more than siblings tend to if they grow up in one place, each with his or her own set of friends. We didn't really have that one place, so our best friends were one another, basically.
So we made a lot of art together, and all three of us were accepted into a gifted and talented art school when we were very young. It was part of the public school system where we grew up in Virginia Beach. So we all went there in addition to regular public school. We inspired one another all the time and were exposed to so much at such young ages. Already in fourth grade, for example, we had three-hour studio drawing sessions. Then lunch. And then an art history class, and then more studio in the afternoon. And this is fourth grade! So the kind of exposure we had to making and studying art at a really young age was the kind of exposure you might usually get when you’re quite a bit older.
The school is called Old Donation Center for the Gifted and Talented, and I went there from elementary through high school. Since it was part of the public school system, the way it was structured in elementary school was that you went to this school one full day per week, and then you went to your other school the rest of the week. In middle and high school, you’d take classes at ODC into the evening right after regular school. At least that’s how it worked back then. We moved around in Virginia Beach and changed schools a lot, but that one was consistent.
So in fifth, sixth, seventh grades, we're doing things like metalsmithing, photography, plastic resin sculpture, all kinds of stuff. There were sculpture rooms, darkrooms. We were making pieces on the potter's wheel in elementary school. To be allowed to make stuff on the potter's wheel, we had to prove that we could do 50 pushups.
BW: To compress the clay?
PD: Yeah. Our teacher said if you're not strong enough to hold the clay in place, then you're not going to be able to make anything on the potter's wheel. So I got exposed to all kinds of different materials, all kinds of different creative modes. And I was so young that I wasn’t even aware of disciplinary divisions or anything like that. It was all just art, and maybe this is why I still don't separate things in my mind. Materials aside, what I did in those long drawing or painting sessions was like the things that I was doing in the long sculpture sessions. Studying art history was part of the daily schedule, so that also seemed the same to me as making art, in a way.
So that’s probably a very significant reason why I'm not totally faithful to any particular medium. It's probably why I enjoy so much the teaching I do at Parsons, where I'm exposing students to conceptual ways of making visual artwork as opposed to just the practical, technical ways. It's probably also why I enjoy writing about art. And so on.
So the simple background for me with art is that it goes back as far as I do. I used to make pieces, then write stories to go with them, and I still do that in a lot of my work. My sisters are artists and have made art their whole lives, so we always pushed one another. They had their own styles and preferences, and I had my own, and we kind of overlapped in certain ways but not in others. There are things about their work that I've always admired. I don’t know if they've ever admired anything about my work, but that's a different discourse.
BW: How many sisters do you have?
PD: Two. Julia, three years older, and Melissa, three years younger. They're the greatest.
BW: Your pedigree in writing is really important to your work. Can you talk a little bit about that, and how it has brought linguistics into your work?
PD: Well, it's kind of a long story, and part of it is about the fact that I wasn't planning on going to college after high school. I wasn't. I was graduating near the top of my class, my grade point average was over 4, et cetera, but I was also very serious about skateboarding at the time. I was competing and stuff like that, and I wanted to move to California to see how far I could go with it—to at least give it a shot for a couple of years, you know? I was very good at studying, and I loved school, but my thinking was: ‘I'm doing this skateboarding thing, I've been doing it for a long time, I'm getting pretty good at it, and I'm gonna go for it and move to California.’ Because that's kind of what you did back then if you were going to get serious about skateboarding. California was the real base of the whole industry at the time, and in general you can skate year-round there. This was long before there were these cushy skateparks everywhere!
So that was my plan. But then I had a really bad injury my senior year of high school. Far worse than all the other bad injuries I'd had and just shrugged off for many years. So, because it was so bad, and because I couldn't skateboard at all for a long time, I was like, ‘I guess I should go to college.’ So I applied to architecture programs at art schools, because I thought that's the direction I wanted to go with my art, and to some liberal arts schools. I had always been really into designing houses, even when I was like six years old. There are all these drawings that I did of entire homes, to scale and everything. Full renderings of beach houses that I wanted to build for my parents. ‘One day when I'm rich,’ I’d say, ‘I’ll build you this house.’
Then I started to change my mind about art schools. My older sister was in college at the time, in the BFA program at VCU. She was telling me stories about art school. She was like, ‘Paul, I'm doing these studio drawing classes. It's what we did in fourth grade. It's what we did in fifth grade. It's what we did in sixth grade. I'm taking this sculpture class. It's like I have to go through all the basics.’ She's a really amazing artist with a really creative mind, so I was kind of blown away that she was feeling bored, going through the lessons that she had gone through so long ago.
So I thought, ‘I'm not gonna do that!’ I was really into math. I loved calculus. I loved all my math classes in high school. So I was thinking about majoring in math, which in a way is also why I was interested in architecture. Then I ended up just looking more into liberal arts schools, which got me thinking that I also wanted to study more languages. At the time, I had been studying German for several years. So I thought the way to broaden things for me would be to do liberal arts, and I figured I could always do art anyway. That’s kind of what my sister was conveying to me. She got way more into her studies once she got into the more advanced courses, and definitely when she went on to an MFA program.
My primary major in college was European Studies. I double majored. European Studies and Italian Language and Literature. But I also wanted to do some studio art courses, so I talked to some of the art professors. I said, ‘I can show you a portfolio or something. I don't need to take the basic drawing class before I take the painting class.’ Usually they were like, ‘No problem.’ This was at William & Mary. I took a lot of art history courses there too. The studio art professors were very cool, and the classrooms were wonderful, tons of natural light pouring into a beautiful building kind of built up on stilts over lake Matoaka.
BW: William & Mary is pretty well known for its academic excellence.
PD: Yeah, you could say that. It's the second oldest school in the country. There was Harvard and then William and Mary, and William and Mary was the first state school, as I understand it, the first public school. It still is a state school, but it's also pretty small. And they really work you hard there. That's for sure. Anyway, that's where my decision to pursue studies in liberal arts in general as opposed to art specifically took me.
I did European Studies, which was then part of the International Studies/International Relations major, because of its mix of disciplines and significant foreign language requirements. And because I thought I wanted to work for the State Department. I did end up doing that a little bit. I worked for the State Department for two summers, at the American Consulate in Florence, Italy.
So I got a taste of it. But then I decided that I didn't want to pursue a career that made me climb a ladder. State Department has a lot of that. Basically you have to work for something like ten years before you can officially have the job that I had as a 20 year-old. It was an internship my first summer, and they gave me extra responsibilities because of my language skills. And then I was taken on as a temporary hire my second summer. Always an adjunct!
So in college I was doing a lot with languages, literature and international studies. I also lived and studied abroad a couple times. I studied in Germany, and then I started teaching German at William & Mary. And then I started studying Italian, then studied and lived in Italy. And then I started teaching Italian as well. I was a TA for Italian and German.
BW: Wow. This is undergrad still.
PD: Yeah. So then I got a taste for teaching. I realized around then that I really like being able to add more to what I do while still making art. I never had to or wanted to abandon any of it. I was getting into my own creative writing then too. I felt that if I could continue adding things, then why not?
BW: Skill acquisition becomes addictive in a way.
PD: You just keep doing it, keep adding.
BW: It's interesting, because you've been acquiring languages and skills that are somewhat divergent and not along some linear track.
PD: I guess it's a pretty big spread. But I loved studying. I loved writing papers. I loved learning new stuff. I got a taste of teaching and started really liking that. And I had that exposure with the State Department at the end of college, and even though I really liked the jobs I had at the Consulate, I knew I didn't want to do the ladder-climbing thing.
I also just wanted to keep learning, keep studying, so I decided to go directly into grad school to pursue a PhD. Then it became a matter just of focusing, of deciding which thing, which discipline.
BW: And what did you focus on in grad school?
PD: Italian literature, which is kind of funny because I ended up entering a PhD program for Italian literature after only studying Italian for three years. I started studying it as a sophomore in college. But that's what I chose to focus on because of where everything else led me, and because I kept thinking I could pursue other things on my own anyway. And grad school was great. The new level of focus in a particular field was exhilarating because you get this feeling of coming to know something through and through. I did my PhD, and MA as well, at Rutgers University. They have a really old, quite large Italian Department there. It's really traditionally structured, or at least it was while I was there, such that some people thought it was old school. It is, or was. But I was cool with that. The old school model for PhD programs in literature in a certain language generally involved studying that literature in its entirety. So for my degree, I basically had to study all of Italian literature. The reading list was beautifully ridiculous, and it included stuff from the 1100s, like the early little tracings of things written in a kind of proto-Italian.
So it was tons of reading, tons of writing papers, and I just loved it. I really got a high out of going to the library or elsewhere to read, dig in. Looking at the reading list didn't make me think, 'I have to read all of this?' Instead, I thought, 'I get to read all of this! I will have read all of this!' So grad school gave me this other thing, this feeling of knowing something in such breadth and depth that it became another major part of me.
After grad school I was teaching part-time and working some other odd jobs—barista at a coffee shop, door guy at a bar, so great what you can do with a PhD—and then I had a chance to move to Paris for a while to live with a friend of mine from grad school, Bruno. He's a physicist and was on a post-doc there at the time. Now he's in São Paulo.
Anyway, the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is really close to NYC, just a quick train ride away, so I came to the city on a very regular basis back then, once a week or so to check out Chelsea galleries, see films, attend talks and suchlike. I knew then that I wanted to move to NYC at some point. But with this opportunity in Paris, I thought, 'I'm going to do that, then come back and move to New York.' So I did that, then moved to New York immediately.
BW: Was that 2007?
PD: Yeah, summer 2007. And pretty quickly after settling in I realized that this is the place where I can do everything I like doing, and meet and work with a lot of people who also work like that. I didn't know many people when I first arrived—a few writer friends, a few artist friends, some fellow linguists and translators, some skater friends—but I felt that if I engaged in my mixed bag of things here in any way, there will be a sympathy for that, rather than an aversion to it.
Then I started to do exhibits at Centotto, and that soon became a place where I could merge lots of my activities. I didn’t really start it with that intention, but that became apparent to me the longer I did it, that this is how everything is going to make sense. This is how I can tap into most all of my interests, and in a way that is productive and beneficial to lots of artists.
BW: Was Centotto the second oldest artist-run space behind English Kills, Chris Harding’s space)?
PD: Well, I think English Kills is closed down now, so I suppose Centotto is now the oldest still-running art space in Bushwick. There were other galleries in Bushwick before us. Or at least one, basically. It was called Ad Hoc, and it was a street art gallery that opened a couple years before EK and Centotto. Norte Maar had a base in Bushwick around then, and they began operating as a gallery too in 2009 I believe. Pocket Utopia came in around that time as well. Then Factory Fresh opened, and there were some other galleries like Pioneer and Sugar. At that time there were also a lot of places that were just art spaces on occasion, not necessarily galleries in any sort of proper way. A number of music venues like that back then as well. The regularity of Bushwick Open Studios and other Arts in Bushwick events, like BETA Spaces and SITE Fest, allowed for people to kind of casually operate art spaces during neighborhood-wide things like that. They didn't really have to bother with a name or program. The bigger events embraced everything.
BW: Bushwick Open Studios must have come about in about that same time, right? In 2007 or 2006?
PD: The first Bushwick Open Studios was 2006, but it wasn't done by Arts in Bushwick. It was some other group of artists, as I understand, and pretty successful albeit kind of casual. Then Arts in Bushwick formed and did BOS in 2007. Spring of 2008 is when I started to put together Centotto, and the first show there was for Bushwick Open Studios 2008.
BW: Did you have a program in mind as you started?
PD: No. I started it because I had some friends who were finishing their MFAs at Brooklyn College at the time, and I figured I'd put up some of their work and some of mine, and we'd just see how it went. I was working at Brooklyn College back then—adjunct professor in the Modern Languages Department, writing advisor in the Art Department—so that's how I met them. Adam Thompson, Gabe Ferrar and Devin Powers are the artists I'm talking about.
Anyway, I started it without the intention of starting a gallery. I wanted to put something together for open studios primarily because I had this big open living room, and because my roommates at the time also thought it would be fun.
BW: This is still the same location, right? 250 Moore Street, #108? Centotto?
PD: Exactly. Over 500 people came in one weekend during BOS. I enjoyed it, the artists enjoyed it, my housemates enjoyed it.
BW: Little did they know it would go on for 8+ years.
PD: Yeah, so I said, 'Well, I'll put together another show for the fall if it's all right with you guys.' They're like, 'Yeah, why not?' So I did, and I got some other artists involved, and it just kept growing from there. After the second and third shows, I thought I'd just keep going with them until for some reason I can't. So I just kept going, formalizing the program in different ways. It's not a commercial thing, which in a way provides me extra leeway to do things like 'simposio' shows that have reading and writing assignments, or strange concept shows that have artists responding to ideas perhaps outside of their practices. And so on.
BW: All the while, you were producing your own work. Could you talk about your show at Norte Maar in 2012?
PD: Well, Jason Andrew showed my work in some group shows going as far back as 2009, I believe, and I had show some work at Storefront when he and Deborah Brown were running it together. He had also seen my work at English Kills a couple times, and some other Bushwick spots as well.
So Jason liked my work, as did Julia Gleich, his collaborator at Norte Maar, and we started talking about a show. Because they love interdisciplinary stuff as much as I do, they suggested I put together a book of poetry or something as well.
It was great to meet Jason and Julia, and to get involved with Norte Maar early on, because they have the same feelings about divisions and disciplines. It's not that there aren't divisions, you know. Dance is definitely different from visual art, etc. But for them, as for me, if you can put things together, then why not put them together? If you have an idea for a way in which various disciplines can come together creatively and make something meaningful and maybe beautiful, then go for it. Jason and Julia do such things all the time.
That show was called Appearance Adrift in the Garden, and it had paintings, collages, assemblage works, and a series of my polytype monoprints. It was successful in a lot of ways, and I'll never forget it. It also definitely allowed for my second solo show, which was at Pocket Utopia, thanks to Austin Thomas. It was called Twilit Ensembles, and it had 'parallel' paintings, collages, and my first five series of Floor Translations drawings and sculptures.
BW: Austin is a fairy godmother of sorts.
PD: Yes. She had seen my work at Norte Maar and in group shows, and I'd been involved with some Pocket Utopia things earlier on too. Her disciplines are also various, from curatorial to her own art making. She works in mixed media, collaborates in many ways, also does some public art.
BW: Yup, there's a new public piece she just put up.
PD: Yeah, I go by it all the time! It's right down the street from me.
BW: How has Bushwick changed since the early days?
PD: Well, there are many more galleries. And though it's gotten harder for artists to have studios here, there aren’t fewer studios. There are more, and they’re a lot more expensive. I think one of the positive changes is the breadth and quality of the art. It has gotten consistently better from one year to the next, even from one season to the next sometimes, especially as the more DIY galleries have gotten better at what they do, really developed their programs, been joined by less-DIY kinds of operations, and so on. People who make and show work in Bushwick have gotten more serious, so other people have begun to take Bushwick more seriously. The scene has not gone away, and it hasn’t abated. It has gotten stronger and bigger. I’ve been operating Centotto for almost nine years, but there were a few years when there were not that many other galleries. About 5 years ago, the Bogart building started to fill up with galleries. In some sense, it’s about 9 years of art in the neighborhood, in some sense it’s about 5. It’s still not going anywhere. It’s on a pretty good footing.
BW: Could you talk about what community means to you and your practice, which is relational? In fact, you’re almost tagged as a mascot of Bushwick.
PD: James Panero called me the unofficial mascot of Bushwick. Mascot, Mayor, Maven, Maverick, other M words. Stephanie Theodore calls me the Renaissance Man. All fun, though I'm sure I don't live up to any of them.
Community is very important. In one sense, it operates a bit like economics. Without healthy competition or reasons to change and improve, you’re never going to advance. In art, it’s a bit different. You’re not really competing with your peers, but you always want to show them something new or different during a studio visit. And you always want to see them progressing in some way. In that sense, community is important because you need it to push each other, not just socialize and hang out. I have found Centotto’s function to be a platform for a lot of people. It’s not a totally proper gallery, obviously. But I have the space, and I've developed the program, and there’s a following, and a lot of this is thanks to and has fed back into the community. I can put up someone’s work, or assemble a group show or organize a crit, and works will be seen. Why not keep it up?
BW: A recent solo show of your work, Scriptive Formalities, unveiled a new body of work that came out of your interest in linguistics. Could you discuss it?
PD: Yeah, it was mostly all brand new. The only element that was not quite as new was the original basic line of small Chromatic Alphabet panels, because that took me a long time to develop. When I had the idea for it, back in 2013, I thought it was a pretty good one. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. But it was an idea, or a system, that I wanted to really get right before I moved on to make paintings with it. I really wanted to get this basic alphabet resolved in a way that I knew would stick for me before I made the works that would come out of it. Still, as soon I developed the vowels, I already knew I was onto something. I had some conversations with friends—like Irina Protopopescu, at Slag Gallery, and one of her artists, Dumitru Gorzo—and I remember showing them the initial vowels and telling them about the idea in general. Irina knew my work pretty well from a two-person show I did at her gallery in 2014, and I've been friends with her and Gorzo for a while, and they're both as deep into books and languages as well. They agreed that I had found quite a rabbit hole to keep exploring. What's funny to recall is that there was a feature of me in ArtNews in 2014, while the show at Slag was up. When the photographer did the photo shoot, my Chromatic Alphabet was in the works on the wall in the studio, and it was just a kernel of an idea. The works in the show at Slag at that time had nothing to do with it.
BW: It was a pre-profile.
PD: At the time, the works that generated the most interest were my Floor Translations, I guess, and my Nocturne paintings, the 'parallel' paintings.
BW: New Floor Translations were in the back room of the Life on Mars show, Scriptive Formalities, right?
PD: Yeah, I’ve continued to work on those. I really enjoy them, and they have consistently gotten good responses. Roberta Smith wrote about them during my show at Pocket Utopia and rather liked them. So that was cool.
BW: Sounds like you’re now playing with new words in the alphabet.
PD: What makes me so happy about the Chromatic Alphabet works is the number of directions I can go with them. I learned a lot by making the Scriptive Formalities exhibit and talking about the work, seeing the reviews, getting feedback. The works can become complicated in some ways, but they can also become simpler. I think we all sometimes feel like we need to simplify what we’re doing here and there. Take a step back, make a reduction, edit. What I am always seeking with these is a simple logic that allows me to keep going. This will sometimes mean more complicated compositions, though. Other times, simpler ones.
BW: Sounds like you wanted to set some dimensions that would allow you to experiment.
PD: Something like that. So now I am making colorful paintings of shapes. They have neat, rich surfaces. It’s a very simple thing. So is the system. I can walk kids through it like an alphabet, and they get it very quickly. Or I can talk to you about it on the level of linguistics, because there are also complexities to it. And all of that makes me happy. I can put all these things I do into a body of work, and it can all be explained and expanded upon. But that's not always necessary. They're also just these candid, colorful abstract paintings.
BW: How would you describe the alphabet?
PD: Each letter is not a letter. It’s a shape and color representing a sound. So, when I talk about a painting like Anima, it's not just a painting that says the word 'anima.' It's also a painting of the look of the sound of the word 'anima.'
BW: Which translates to 'soul.'
PD: Yes, it's one of the words for 'soul' in Italian and Latin. The way that the layers of gesso have primary colors embedded into them, and the way that then the painted 'sounds', i.e. letters, sit on top of those layers, create a kind of evocation that happens from the back of the painting to the front. All of the colors in the works are primary or mixed from primaries. Very simple.
BW: I find it interesting that you’re operating in an expanded field between language and painting.
PD: It's innate I suppose. Even the guy that I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on back in grad school, the Italian writer Dino Buzzati, was also a painter. He wrote a lot, worked a lot as a journalist, made a lot of art. He has stories about painters and writers and painter-writers. Buzzati himself said he would've preferred to be a painter rather than a writer. At any rate, many of the paperbacks of his works feature his paintings on the covers.
BW: In a way, you have consciously designed your life around following a curious mind.
PD: Probably in a lot of ways, yes. And around working hard. And enjoying the fruits of that work. And building on knowledge, or trying to. I don't ever want to learn things, then forget them. Last fall, someone slammed into me on accident and knocked me up against a brick wall, and onto a concrete floor. I got busted up pretty good and had a concussion. I didn’t think it was a big deal, since I've busted myself up my whole life with skateboarding and other sports. But for the next few weeks, I was terrified I was going to lose one of my languages! I was more worried about that, or forgetting something that was important to me! I had concussion headaches for months thereafter, but at least my brain didn't get too messed up. Well, I don't think it did. Funny to say.
BW: I met a brilliant professor while studying at HBS, Clay Christenson. He suffered a heart attack, followed by cancer, then had a stroke. And, as a result, he had to relearn language, and he did it using the plastic tear sheets you see in airports. He’s an incredible inspiration.
PART 2: IN PAUL'S STUDIO
BW: Do you find that your work comes from a lens that crosses disciplines, or from one that has a specific discipline, e.g. linguistics, as an origin point?
PD: I think it's definitely interdisciplinary. In a way I always have as many writers in mind as I do artists when I'm working or coming up with new projects. Vito Acconci has always remained pretty important to me as an inspiration, in large part because my older sister exposed me to his work when I was pretty young. What's funny about that is that she wasn't aware at all, not then, of how much his work and my thinking about work would eventually dovetail. He's another artist who doesn't like to be inhibited by perceived divisions among disciplines, or who has no qualms about moving from one discipline to another.
I'm kind of like that too, but in my work there's a convergence of all of it, I think. I've actually put a variety of disciplines into the same place. Maybe that's my version of this whole thing. Making the disciplines and practices start to seem like one.
BW: You're in the camp of engaging in a dialogue within the work but also around the work.
PD: Yeah, and I'm also in the camp of, 'Why not?'. With basically everything, really. If you are compelled to do something creative, then why not do it?
BW: I'm in your camp.
PD: If there's a rule that says you're not supposed to talk about artwork, then why is there that rule, you know? Why not talk about artwork? You might as well also make a rule that says don't make artwork. Or you might as well also make a rule that says don't talk.
Of course, it's a matter of preference. Some artists don't like to talk about work, or not about their work, and that's also fine. Neither is there a rule that says you have to talk about it!
But I do think that if somebody wants to talk about your work, let it be talked about. After you make it, it's culture. People talk about culture.
BW: It reminds of a conversation I had this summer with John Penny at MICA, about the difference between intention and inference. Intention is throwing the ball. But inference is when someone catches the ball. They may have a totally different read out, and that's okay. And they may take it in another direction. I think that's great.
PD: It is. It's kind of like, you know, once you hit a baseball, you can control only so much where the ball goes. You know that by swinging this way you might be able to send it to left field, or by swinging that way you might be able to send it right, and you might be able to read into pitch to some extent. But you also know you can't have full control over it. You can control a lot, but your control remains an 'almost.' And still, your swing might miss!
BW: Unless you're like Babe Ruth or something. Point to the spot.
PD: Yeah, unless you're Babe Ruth!
BW: How do you feel about humor in your work?
PD: There's a lot of room for humor in the work. Especially in a lot of my narrative drawings, watercolors and so on. As for the Chromatic Alphabet paintings, I just need to keep making them so I can get to the humorous ones, too. I have plans for those. Fruits are involved. Or words for fruits!
PART 3: AT STUDIO 10, LOOKING AT NOMENCOLORATURE, CURATED BY PAUL
BW: Could you describe the rules to this show?
PD: It was totally open call, and the rules were really simple: Get a 6 inch by 6-inch panel, about one inch deep. Then get some paints and mix a color. Paint the panel just that color, without putting too much texture or anything like that into it. And then on the back of the panel, write your name and the name of the color. That's it. The whole thing was about mixing a color, and naming the color. Colors and words. About 170 panels by about 140 contributors.
BW: So it had to be a mixed color?
BW: So it's a new color.
BW: That's the 'nomencolorature.'
PD: Yeah, exactly. Nomen-color-ature. Nomenclature and color.
BW: Could you talk about the shape; this linear tile format?
PD: Well, at my place, Centotto, where I had initially thought I'd install the show, my idea was that I would just make a big grid. But then Larry, here at Studio 10, was really interested in the exhibit and offered to host the first installation of it. He made a couple panels for it too. I thought I'd do the first version here, then later another version at Centotto. Then maybe others after that!
Here at Studio 10, it's installed as a kind of band or arc around the space, making it something you almost 'read.' It's a very interesting layout. Calming, engaging.
BW: It also has the feel of a domestic renovation of some kind.
PD: Yeah, I can see that for sure.
BW: Looking at the wall, I see Robert Walden and Henry Chung, Art Guerra, Larry’s work. The titles are great, like “Italian Roast," by Bob Seng.
PD: Those are all great ones. They all are. But I'll show you something really quickly before we go. When I was laying everything out, I wanted to try to keep friends near one another, and definitely to keep families together, because there are a few entire families that did them. In this way, I also ended up keeping couples together, married couples or not, and I began to realize that couples had very consistently ended up mixing colors in the same value range.
BW: That's interesting, and in some ways not surprising.
PD: Look. Here are Robert and Henry. Here are Amos and Patricia Satterlee. Michelle Araujo and Adam Simon. My younger sister and my brother-in-law. Brian DuPont and his wife. Sharon Lawless and Duane Zaloudek. Marcy Rosenblatt and Jim Donahue. Caroline Cox and Tim Spelios. Matt Friedman and Jude Tallichet. Len Bellinger and Denise Sfraga. All these sets in the same or very similar value ranges. It's crazy. There are even two people who very thoroughly broke the rules for the show, which is why their panels are at the end. I found out later that they're a couple!
BW: They busted it up.
PD: Yeah. I also found out by messing around with everything long enough that the show looks very cool in 3D glasses.