Artist Interview: Rachel Rosenfeld


With Love from the Manicured Lawn, 2016, Oil and marble dust on linen, 11 in. X 24 in.


(AB) How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
(RR) I am an atypical native-Kansan painter who spends too much time listening to NPR and reading translated Dutch novels on the El.
(AB) EL?
(RR) In Chicago the “El” or “L” is our public train system. Technically it means “Elevated Train”, although ironically a significant portion of it is underground. Most Chicagoans (myself definitely included) spend an inordinate about of time on the El.

In lieu of testimony: No. 1, 2015, oil and marble dust on panel, 24 in. X 24 in.

(AB) You describe a tension between history, memory, and nostalgia in your statement. What exactly is this tension?
(RR) Dang, that’s a tough, very thesis-committee-esque question. The tension is a feeling that I think is pretty common to people like me, whose familial histories are absent, especially when parts of those histories have intentionally been withheld. It’s the notion that our culture, in my case American (or more specifically Midwestern, perhaps) culture tells us that it is healthy to be nostalgic. It is healthy to miss our parents’ and grandparents’ America. The tension manifests when one is forced to confront the problems that one’s family inevitably faced as they lived out these untold stories in the America that we are allegedly nostalgic for. The tension, I guess, is the knowledge that we are supposed to miss something that we know must have been problematic, without ever knowing exactly what those problems were. Trying to find these stories can be like knowing that a play is happening, but when you pull the velvet curtain aside there is a brick wall between you and the actors. Here we find the nature of history itself. The voices floating over the wall entice you with story scraps, but the brick wall won’t budge. I know that is a long answer, I your question basically embodies the monstrosity that is my MFA thesis. Svetlana Boym clarified this all with an impressive level of clarity when she discussed the concept of “Reflective Nostalgia” in her brilliant book The Future of Nostalgia.
(AB) Ok first of all I sincerely apologize for taking you back to your thesis-committee – probably something you don’t feel overly nostalgic for, am I right? I’m glad I asked though, because your answer is incredibly relevant right now. America really wasn’t great for a lot of people. Nostalgia can be dangerous. Why oil paint?
(RR) I use oil exclusively for a couple of reasons. First, I am incredibly asinine about being able to make subtle and highly-controlled shifts in color, and I have found that acrylic and gouache just dry too darn fast to allow me to embrace that particular desire. I have a whole idea about color theory being the same as the linear equations that I used in high school algebra, and I doubt that I could balance my tonal equations in any other medium. Second, I have found that limiting the number of variables within my art practice allows me to explore a couple of chosen variables with much greater focus. Art is like a pinball machine, the ball hits harder bouncing around an inch-wide corridor than it does in an empty gymnasium.
(AB) I love the specificity of that. It makes sense when tackling something as personal as memory. I think we can only really approach universality through specificity. Do you feel a connection to narrative historical oil paintings in your work?
(RR) I feel like to generalize the things that I find in the photographs sort of betrays the realities that they reflect, and I truly would hate to do that. I definitely feel connected to traditional history paintings. I spent a good chunk of undergrad and grad school having the good fortune to wander around some of Europe’s most storied museums. While the tales told by a lot of those paintings may seem repetitive and formulaic, each painter would add in these minuscule gems (things like what types of foods might be on a background table, or the colors on the edge of a particular patch of cloth) that show how richly they observed their worlds. I could go on for hours about this stuff. Like the Old Masters, I try to reward viewers for looking closer by hiding the good stuff in plain sight.

In lieu of testimony: No. 2, 2016, Oil and marble dust on panel

(AB) What’s your favorite city?
(RR) Another tough one! I’m a total travel nut, but I am completely enamored with the tiny town of Todi, Italy. I studied there as a Freshman in college, and have visited twice since. I even keep a snow globe of the piazza in my studio next to my pet cactus. I love it because its like the Gods of civilization built a maze into a layer cake and then stuck the cake right on the edge of every major development in Western history. It got attacked by the Visigoths and built up by the Romans and knocked sideways by the Black Plague and lectured at by the Popes. Plus, they have their very own Pink Floyd cover band. Oh, and the views aren’t too shabby.
(AB) Speaking of cake, what is your favorite studio snack?
(RR) Is tea considered a snack? If not. then its either Dots or Mike-and-Ike’s. I’m an awful vegan. I know.

They’re Still Here. 2016, Oil and wax on shellacked paper, 18 in. X 23 in.

Artist Spotlight: Chyrum Lambert

Anna Buckner


I recently finished the last lemon in my fridge and casually tossed the yellow, plastic mesh sack in the trash. Unburdened by the weight of the fruit, the sack adopted its own shape, catching the light in some places and creating value variations where it doubled over. I took the sack out of the trash and pinned it on the wall alongside paintings by Greg Burak and Maddy Winter. On the wall the sack had transformed – undistracted by its utility, I could recognize the intricacies of the mesh and the subtlety of color.

This is what I love about Chryum Lambert’s work. There is uncertainty in his process, imagery and even medium – but it is simultaneously as familiar as a lemon sack. With uncertainty comes awareness. We look more closely. Notice more. Chyrum’s works are perfectly unresolved, and that’s precisely why they are so stirring.

Because I know a lot of readers are interested in talking shop, I’m going to share an excerpt from an email exchange I had with Chyrum. You’re welcome.

I get asked about my process often as it can be hard to tell from photos of my work just how they’re made. I work primarily on paper that’s been mounted to wooden panels(that I construct myself). I paint- using acrylic, oil, dye, ink wash, wax, onto large sheets of paper or fabric(muslin, cotton, denim). The paper/fabric is then cut, rearranged, and adhered onto the panels. So really the process of painting and the process of composing the images have been completely separated whereas in a more traditional painting approach these processes are one and the same. And I work in two different studios, one for each process, so the painting process never really gets involved in the compositional process and vice versa. I paint a lot and have quite the backlog of colors and textures, some are years old before I finally get around to using them in a composition, so the rediscovery of the shapes I cut out of the abstracted paintings make the process more like I am uncovering something new and not necessarily from myself. This helps I think in that I’m looking at the material I’m using with relatively fresh eyes. Makes me look harder at my own process.

Self-taught, Chyrum Lambert, lives and works in LA. His work is featured on Grizzly Bear’s newest album, Painted Ruins, to be released in August. This seems like a marriage that could last. Like Grizzly Bear, Chryum’s compositions are painstakingly detailed, yet effortless and full of emotion. Both gorgeous on the surface and rich with surprises as you dive deeper. And I’m diving.


40 x 52 inches
ink wash, acrylic paint, pencil, collage material, hand painted, cut, and adhered onto an 80 lb cover sheet

CL5Parts And Labor ( YES WE CAN )
40 x 26 inches
ink wash, oil paint, wax,
acrylic paint, pencil, rit dye, rust wash, hand painted, cut, and adhered onto an 80 lb cover sheet


26 x 40 inches
ink wash, pencil,
acrylic paint, rit dye, hand painted, cut, and adhered onto an 80 lb cover sheet

CL3Towards Our Bathroom Mirror, A Fang Is Growing
26 x 40 inches
ink wash, acrylic paint, pencil, dye, muslin, wax, hand painted, cut, and adhered onto an 80 lb cover sheet



Humpday Haiku: Madeline Gallucci

Anna Buckner

hh mg.jpgI always feel a little guilty asking artists to write a haiku about their work. Hey! You’ve worked really hard to create this great body of work – now write a short poem about it. Alas, I did it again – it’s hard to stop demanding haiku when y’all keep showing up! Here’s one from Madeline Gallucci.

Madeline’s paintings are camouflaged  depictions of digital fragments – the debris left over from our daily flood of imagery. A snapchat squiggle here, spray painted scribbles there, they are her stories, her daily flood. But the effect is universal. We all experience this flood, but rarely do we think about what’s left behind.


Madeline Gallucci received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2012 and has since shown both locally and nationally and has been awarded local residencies through Charlotte Street Foundation and Hotel Phillips as well as national residencies in San Fransisco and Grinnell, IA. Madeline Gallucci is a recipient of the 2016 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award and is currently represented by Weinberger Fine Art in Kansas City, MO.

You can check out more of her work on her website and instagram!

Artist Interview: Amber Vittoria

Anna Buckner

Amber Vittoria is an illustrator living and working in New York City. Really I should be posting this on a Wednesday – because WOAH can we talk about a serious WOMAN CRUSH? But also just a woman who is CRUSHING it – her illustrations have been featured in It’s Nice That, Man Repeller, and Teen Vogue. Thanks to Amber for sharing your beautiful work with Command Zine and taking the time for this interview!

Plant Goals


(AB) Ok so this first question is more of a clarification – these are all digitally rendered, right? They are so painterly! You seem to move effortlessly between fine art and design. Do you see distinctions between the two?


(AV) That is correct! I block the color in a rudimentary way, print on an older laser-jet printer (which yields the beautiful screen-print effect), and add the linework using colored brush pens. In regards to fine art vs. design, I try my damnedest to not categorize myself; at times I’ll catch my mind attempting to organize and define the work I’ve been making, but try to focus predominantly on making.


(AB): Oh I would have never have guessed that! What lead you to this process? Now that I’m looking more closely at #RexythecoachDino I can see a grid forming in the pink background from the printer – It reminds me of one of Agnes Martin’s meticulously worked grid paintings. I could imagine that there’s an element of unpredictability created through the printer – do you find yourself responding to these *accidents* when you add the line work?


(AV): Playing with different paint pens, brush pens, etc. and wanting a flat color lead me to achieve the flat color ideal digitally. Experimenting with different printers allows for these unpredictabilities, which is incredibly fun to field once I apply the line-work.




(AB) Your subjects are simultaneously serious and lighthearted. Who are these women? How does humor play into your work?

(AV) Majority of the inspiration pulls from women I know, women I see on the subway, on the bus, in line for lunch, online, etc. Because of this, the natural balance of humor and pointedness finds its way into my work.

Keep Swimming


(AB) Can you talk about your color pallet?


(AV) Piggy-backing off my last answer, the color is what brings the lighthearted, whimsical element to my serious-focused pieces. It welcomes the viewer to come closer to the serious subject and not fear staying awhile.


av5Teen Vogue College Series


(AB) Do you do anything to get you in your groove while in the studio? Snacks? Music? Karaoke?


(AV) I’ve found talking to others while working is incredible; it inhibits me from over-thinking.


(AB): Wow – interacting with people in the studio? Truly breaks the stereotype of the isolated and tortured artist – I’m into it! If you could chat with anyone in your studio (dead or alive) who would it be?
(AV): I would say my grandfather; he passed two years before I was born. I’ve been told I’m similar to him, and it would be lovely to meet.


All New Very Sexy Bra



Check out more of her work at her website and instagram!

Ctrl Alt-Right Delete

Sul-Jee Scully

img_1121Artist Beth Hoeckel at the Women’s March in DC, 01/21/17. See her work here and here. (Thanks, Beth, for the pic & title of this post.)

Integral to protesting is the protest sign. Sometimes labored and sometimes ad hoc, the protest sign is an immediate form of expression. This simple, flat rectangle can hold our strongest emotions and beliefs — a proxy for our own selves. As Trump and his administration continue to prove the scope-of-threat and injustice of their agenda, it is clear their acts cannot be met quietly. Protest signs may live their fullest life at the protest itself, but they (and their makers) will continue to speak out. Anna and I will be posting protest signs each week for Trump’s remaining first 100 days of office — or for as long as we have to.


No Walls Stand Forever

16422967_10100518022356187_7180482953292339009_oRafael Khachaturian, a PhD candidate in Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, at the No Ban, No Wall protest in Bloomington, IN, 01/29/17. His sign was inspired by Dmitri Vrubel’s iconic Fraternal Kiss mural.

“With this picture I obviously wanted to oppose the idea of building walls or excluding populations in any way, and I thought that the historical parallel to the Berlin Wall was something powerful to play it off against.” Rafael drew the US flag upside-down “as a protest against the threat that Trump’s policies pose for all people, citizens and non-citizens.”

If you have a sign you want to share, send it to or tag us on Instagram (@commandzine) or Twitter (@CommandZine). 


Artist Interview: Bruna Massadas


Greg Burak

I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Bruna Massadas, who is currently based in Oakland, CA. I began following her work after coming across some pieces from her Telephone series on social media, and instantly was hooked. She works in a variety of media and is currently creating an animated film called Novela.

massadas_sadie-spiesSadie Spies, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: The people in your Telephone series find themselves in a wide variety of familiar yet zany situations. What role does playfulness and humor have in your work?


BM:  I want to find humor in the things I create—mostly because the nature of humor includes authenticity: something funny makes one react physically, with laughter or a smile. I see laughter as this incredible powerful bodily reaction that is the result of a deeper understanding of what’s seen; it’s about understanding something that goes beyond verbal communication. The work needs to at least tickle me in some way. I don’t think everything I make is funny or that others need to think it’s funny, but I think it’s important that everything I make feels authentic to me. Humor is one of the ways that I am able to access authenticity. I am not trying to be funny, but it just happens. It’s where my brain goes.

massadas_camellia-takes-a-selfie-at-the-country-clubCamellia Takes a Selfie at the Country Club, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Your Telephone series can be read as portraits, but break from some typical conventions of portraiture. Do you consider the series to be portraits, narratives, or something else entirely?


BM: The Telephone series developed organically; I never “conceptualize” a work before I make it. The words to describe or understand a piece or a body of work always come afterwards—from observing the work. I make a piece or a few pieces and then I consider what’s taking place. A great example of the way I make art is how I started with the Telephone series. The first drawing I made for that series depicted—obviously—a woman on the phone, but after I was done something odd happened: I could almost hear the woman saying “Hello, dear!” with an English accent. This was a turning point to me. I understood that painting portraits with the aid of a strong narrative—where I am using objects, clothing, and background—could create characters that carry a certain history with them. To answer your question more straightforwardly, I see them as both narratives and portraits but I don’t really care about how they are described too much.

massadas_linda-gets-caught-playing-soliteireLinda Gets Caught Playing Solitaire, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: In your work, the phone is used as both an element of interruption as well as a means of communication. How do you use this contrast to explore the effects that our hyper-connected culture has on our daily lives?

BM: I know that’s a possible way to read my work: that it could be some kind of social commentary on technology; that my pieces are painting versions of the series “Black Mirror.” But, with all honesty, that is not what interests me, so I can’t say much related to that. My personal connection with this body of work is about language; it’s about what happens when you can’t get meaning from what you hear but only what you see. I don’t expect people to read into that. That’s just how the narrative of this work feels most honest. This is not to say that I don’t have a complicated relationship with technology: I am obsessed with Instagram and my crappy Metro PCS phone, and I don’t think this obsession is very healthy. So, maybe I am painting my obsession, too.

massadas_gail-calls-the-officeGail Calls the Office, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: How has working on your upcoming film Novela affected your approach to drawing? Has time, movement, and sound considerations influenced your how you draw?


BM: I think the Novela drawings—the 16 pieces that inspired the film—felt like the first time I was making something that felt truly authentic to me. When I look back, I see that the work I made before had glimpses of authenticity, but felt more like a tool to please others (academia and art opportunities). I think art worth making needs to come from an essential part of oneself and that stuff is hard to figure out. I carry that with me now with other projects.


I am not really sure how film as a medium has influenced my paintings and drawings. This is all new to me and I am still trying to figure out as I make the movie. I can say, though, that making the movie is definitely making me consider sound/dialogue in my works. The Telephone series is all about the sound you can’t hear.  

massadas_laura-asks-for-directionsLaura Asks for Directions, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: How did you arrive at choosing animation as the medium for Novela, and how has collaboration played into this process?


BM: At first I chose to create a frame-by-frame animation mostly because I have these skills: I can draw and I am good with computers. Okay, the answer is not so practical: drawing and painting is the way I experience the world and express myself. The process of making this project is a personal endeavor. Although I will be collaborating with artists that can do better than me in certain areas like sound design and animation, I want to keep the process as close to me as possible. Making an animation allows me to do just that.

massadas_kim-texting-in-the-clubKim Texting in the Club, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Do you have any studio rituals before you begin working?


BM: My studio is not very glamorous right now: it’s slightly stinky, it’s small, and it has pretty bad lighting. So my #1 rule to myself is: a clean studio! I need to feel comfortable in a space to make art.

massadas_carole-accidentally-touches-a-pop-popCarole Accidentally Touches a Pop-Pop, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Podcasts VS Music VS Silence– which wins out in the studio?
BM: Silence. My studio is in Oakland and after the Ghost Ship Fire, I need to be aware of my surrounding in my studio building. It is not uncommon for me to think about death while making art; maybe that’s why art needs to feel so honest to me.


You can check out more of Bruna Massada’s work here:

Check out Greg Burak’s interview with us here:

Humpday Haiku: Jessica Simorte

Anna Buckner

I recently listened to Jessica Simorte’s interview with Studio Break from May of 2015, and she struggled to answer where she was from. Floating between Arizona, Missouri and Europe at an early age, it isn’t surprising that Jessica is interested in place. She repeats motifs throughout her paintings – the grid, leaf-like shapes, paint strokes – that are familiar on their own, but begin to take on their own meaning within her body of work. Like her relationship to home, Jessica’s paintings are simultaneously familiar and ambiguous, reminding me “the awkward transition from the digital to the physical world” represented in Benjamin Cook’s paintings.

Jessica Simorte completed her MFA from the University of Cincinnati in 2014 and is currently living and working in Houston, TX.  Check out more of her work here:




Is Art Wrong?

James Payne

Shits and Giggles

Keith Allyn Spencer & Cody Tumblin

Skylab Gallery, 28.10.16 – 11.11.16

Photos courtesy of the artists and Skylab Gallery.


Of all my poems, and all their inadvisable lines, “Is Art Wrong?” is the one my friends choose to mock me with. The question it raises, even with its faux-naiveté, is not quickly put down. When someone first hears the poem, the opening line tends to get stuck in their head, to become an idée fixe, and to come back to me as mimicry. In part, this mocking is just a joke; a nod to a shared understanding; but it mostly feels like unprocessed gratitude. Gratitude, for someone has finally said it out loud:

Is Art Wrong?

It doesn’t feel right.

That pesky feeling – not right – is why essays about art, like this one, are often little more than decorated graves for dead theories about our not right lives under capitalism. Failing in the struggle to pin the tail on the donkey, to say why art is wrong, writers instead decide to indict the whole game. It makes sense. It’s easier to generalize about an artwork’s social context than it is to meaningfully evaluate an artwork’s formal and conceptual premises on its own terms. Or perhaps the writer never intended to engage the artwork and cloaked their real agenda in it for expediency’s sake. It, too, is far easier to make a cogent argument about the real world – its economies, its polities, its peoples – if one sets the argument in the symbolic version of the capitalist world found in art and arts writing.

The reader’s problem is that the connection between the real (reality, world, base) and the symbolic (art, art world, superstructure) is unclear. If the superstructure is an outgrowth of the base, why not tackle the base head on? Why speak about the politician’s painting instead of the politician’s policies? At best, the superstructure, the symbolic, is like the wind – its agency only evident through its observed effect on the real: blown trees, fallen leaves; new cultural politics, shifting political economies. But does the leaf fall because the wind blew it, or because it was already dead? Arguing about the wind is perhaps why arts writing finds itself on the margins, even in an ever more art-fluent mass-culture.

But now, thankfully, that paradigm has ended. The perennial goal of the avant-garde, to collapse art into life, the symbolic into the real, in order to unleash the radical potentialities of creativity, for all, has been achieved. It’s just that it’s been achieved through the transmutation of both art and life into work. Still, if A (art) is B (work), and B (work) is C (life), then art has been collapsed into life after all, hasn’t it?

This new dynamic, aside from streamlining writing for the Marxist art critic, has catalyzed some artists to engage in a para-politics centered on “the artist as worker” (W.A.G.E, Arts & Labor); and led yet others to recuperate and fetishize the concept of “art as play” as a refuge from, evasion of, and resistance to overprofessionalization and the loss of art for art’s sake.

In Skylab Gallery‘s Shits and Giggles, Keith Allyn Spencer, or KAS, (b. 1979; El Paso, TX) and Cody Tumblin (b. 1991; Franklin, TN) offer an example of the latter tendency: art as play. The show comes packaged with a playful title, Shits and Giggles, but the real “play” takes place in the works’ forms and presentation. Shits and Giggles is a painting show without paintings; with wall works on the ground; with work displayed on faux pedestals made of paper towels, mini-fridges, and broken fountains; with fabricated sculptures of commercial kitsch objects; and with unstretched canvases and unfinished works. KAS and Tumblin give us anything to signal a non-compliance with the work of art and the rules of life, any thing to signal play.

kas kas2 KAS3.jpg

Keith Allyn Spencer: (L) Thanks NRA, clay hardened by heat, fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. (C) I Know What You Re Thinking, clay hardened by heat, fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. (R) Good Hands, clay hardened by heat, fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion.

The issue with “art as play” is that its conceptualization seems to follow Palo Alto’s model: “play” is a structured “free” space where innovations are drawn from, to be capitalized upon later. If this is true, play is not the ecstatic experience of creative thought in art, nor programming, but another site of pain. This conceptual disconnect – how to have play simultaneously be, and not be, work, is a source of anxiety for the artist. The artist must produce, and yet, to be an Artist, one must be seen as something more than a mere producer.

KAS papers over this issue by keeping “play” reverberating throughout his oeuvre via his mockubiography, misused titles and fictional dates for works, and alternate spellings of his name, which all key the viewer into an ambient mischief, if his unorthodox hangings, materials, and exhibition sites failed to get it through. While KAS’s poetic antics attempt to evade anything staid, his compulsion to joke, already endemic in the art world, creates a rhetorical non-space in his work where irony is de facto sincerity, and a joke just isn’t.

This is why KAS’s routine appropriation of meme language is so fitting: titling a work Get You a Man Who Can Do Both is, behind its humor, a tacit admission that the physical artwork on IRL display – the ceramic form with orange acrylic paint – can only hint at its real conditions, which is its URL existence, where it does its real work as a post. The artist is the one we need to “Get,” the “(Wo)Man” who can, and must, “Do Both” – IRL and URL, play and work, symbolic and real, superstructure and base, art world and world.


“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at
last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his
relations with his kind.”

Friedrich Engels & Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

If the industrial revolution turned the real world and its relations into an air called modernity, and if post-modernity sold that air at an All That Is Solid Melts Into Air™ Oxygen bar, and if, in the recession, that bar closed – and if we’ve since been squatting in its basement – then we should all be honest and agree that we’re just vaping on a Marx-brand AIR E-Juice while we still can.

To put it another way: the role of the artist was world-simulator, then world-creator; it melted further into idea producer. Now, the artist produces the Idea of Production. The artist vapes the idea of smoking.

The Idea of Production is doing something to put it on your CV so you can do something else later. It’s degrees that didn’t exist fifty, or five, years ago, for careers that stopped existing fifty, or five, years ago. It’s jobs that literally are not jobs. It’s finally showing at a gallery, but only after creating the gallery to show in. It’s What are you working on right now? and it’s always working right now, or it’s feeling embarrassed if you aren’t, or can’t, and it’s lying by saying that you are working, or want to. It’s the anxiety you feel when you aren’t feeling anxious enough, when you care too much about how you don’t care at all.

Flow makes artists produce the Idea of Production. Flow is the dominant paradigm of our lives as 2016 comes to a close. If our lives prior to 9/11 were ice cubes, Flow is the slushie machine that crushes them but adds in a syrup of artificial sweetener (the Internet) to make it tasty and salable. Flow is in every aspect of today, it’s where we see the “real conditions of life” in which, Marx wrote, “all that is holy is profaned.”

Though the Idea of Production is a response to Flow, it in turn energizes and normalizes its demands. In Flow, all facets of life become more and more commoditized, especially as there are less and less buyers on the market: the industrial space (57 E. Gay St. 5th FL) melts into the idea theater (Skylab Gallery), where events are attended by people whose careers have melted into 1099s, whose country is a collection of warring interest groups, whose wars are targeted drone strikes, whose family units are childless communes, whose relationships are mediated app hook-ups, whose houses are sub-sub-sublets, and whose Ubers are automated. All in Flow is flux, all is a saccharine melt; even these examples seem outdated, as we anticipate even more disintegrations to come.

Flow triggers the need for artists to produce the Idea of Production just to tread water. Both Flow and the Idea of Production find their natural homes on Instagram, whose endless scroll of atomized lives formally reflects the real world capitalist economy, which highlights individual achievement and redacts mass failure. At the same time, the real world debases its own relations to fit the logic and display regimen of the scroll. This ever-morphing presentation and representation leaves one in vertigo, where all that is solid has melted into the social. Tourists become tourists of their own tourism just as an artist’s real art becomes who sees their art objects and how.

But no matter how productive, the artist can never fill Flow’s maw: post as many production shots, coterie shout-outs, inspo insights, residency humblebrags, on-brand political reposts, and studio visit pix on Flow’s abyss and it will only demand more the next day. Accordingly, the work of the artist is now mainly spent on maintaining their Flow. Flow has turned the artist’s objects into posts, posts into followers, followers into social capital, and social capital into real capital via gallery representation, academic jobs, and art sales. The art object, destabilized and commandeered by Flow, now exists to arbitrate, as an online avatar, connections, exhibitions, careers, friendships, partners, marriages, and future Flows for the artist. For instance, I first saw KAS’s work on Instagram, even though we were in the same Indiana University building each day; the same with Tumblin’s, though we were in SAIC’s orbit at the same time.

Keith Allyn Spencer, Everyday s a Friday, 2015, “remote controls, plywood, enamel paint not in spray can, professional acrylic paint,” dimensions variable.

KAS and Tumblin are bright lights in this wave of denatured and accelerated production, whose Flow maintenance is integrated into and positively impacts the art objects they make. KAS’s work, for instance, is predicated on endless iteration in an attempt to meet and mirror the demands and opportunities of Flow within one piece. Works like KAS’s Everyday s a Friday (2015), a painting on both sides of multiple pieces of jigsawed wood, which recalls the jubilant Stellas of the 1980s, are documented repeatedly with multiple IG posts that share various permutations of the painting. During a studio visit, the work is further manipulated in real-time, and, depending on the install, the work may take on a new shape in the gallery. Its final form is given when the piece is released into the wild by KAS at a Target or other cultually-coded non-art site frequented by his family. Throughout its life-span, KAS’s work fills many roles, like the Millennial worker morphing from one career to another, and it exists in the minds of its audience, as the social media subject does, in posts, not in space.

KAS’s GIFs extend this idea further. KAS takes one of his manipulable painting/sculptures, which exist in the formal space of Jean Arp’s early-20th century bio-morphic reliefs, and loops the set of viable forms in each piece. This looping of equally valid options undermines the authority, or possibility, of an ultimate decision, and the idea of the author in general, separating “author” from its “authoritarian” overtone. The GIFs instead point toward the endless potentialities of the future and the variability involved in display and spectatorship, that ensures a work is never settled. Similarly, the GIFs are always accessible, always shifting, always now, while the art object in the past was understood as one of the only ways to simultaneously mark time and escape it, Ars longa, vita brevis: it’s always 1937 in Guernica, even in 2016. The GIFs, and Flow, neither mark nor escape time; it’s like looking for a clock in a casino.

Cody Tumblin: (L) Untitled, 2016, dyed fabric, button holes, nails, iPhone photographs of spiders, dots. (C) Untitled, 2016, spider earring on string. (R) Wilted, 2016, dye, acrylic, bleach, and collage on cotton, 15 x 19.

Painting can no longer be George Tooker producing an egg tempera once a year that stands like a landmark Supreme Court decision through time, and not just because George Tooker is dead. Painting now is hundreds of permutational ideas, each a move in a Rubik’s Cube, a pause in a stream of virtuoso problem-making and problem-solving, where each new solution reveals a new problem, across an endless X-axis. Tumblin’s work exemplifies this turn and the demands of a production-centered cultural economy because his paintings live in a extended process beyond each individual painting. Motifs of spider webs and flames and decontextualized words sprint through series of Tumblin’s works. Image systems that might occupy another painter’s career are feinted at and transcended. Tumblin’s one constant is a mercuriality – of style, material, representation, and display – that refuses to sit still and coagulate into a coherent – and therefore dead – world.

KAS and Tumblin’s art objects can be talked about as art, on one level, sure, but their foremost role is as posts, as holders of sociality within Flow’s regime. Art, work, and even life, delaminated from material conditions is not for us, or for Skylab Gallery, or an IRL gallery-going public, but for an audience who surveilles us all through classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, educationism; through geographical proximity to capital; through who follows us back; and through who comments. Yet, we still post in the hopes that, after all this, there is more.

The IRL art object within Flow appears to be the reason for everything, but it is almost nothing.


Keith Allyn Spencer, Peekaboo, clay hardened by heat and acrylic paint, Ikea box.

When I ask Is Art Wrong? I am really asking if society is. While I’m not 100% sure about art qua art, if art can be art qua art, I know the correct answer to my real question is: Yup.

But I also wrote this poem:


It’s just a thing poets do
Like drawing attention
To the construction of the text.

I composed this poem
In a text
To a painter
As a sext.

As a poet, I can describe my interior experience of the world. What I can’t do is make a thing appear in it that is not already there. Not that painters still strive to paint trompe l’oeil grapes so real-seeming that birds peck at them. No, painters instead make sculptures that look like mass-produced fake poop that in turn looks like real shit. Regardless, and even within the strictures of Flow and the need to produce the Idea of Production, painters make things appear that were not there previously. And if one can see a change in the symbolic form of the world – a shit, perhaps, or a giggle – it’s now the same, because there’s no longer a difference between the symbolic and real, as seeing a change in the real one.

Even if one sees it on Instagram.

James Payne
Berlin, October 2016

Artist Interview: William Paul Thomas

Anna Buckner

I met Will while he was receiving his MFA from UNC Chapel Hill back in 2012. He was one of the few grad students who would give us lowly BFAs the time of day – I’d catch him on my way to get a burrito from Cosmic Cantina, and he’d tell me about his critique or what he was working on. This genuine desire to connect is certainly reflected in his art practice today. Originally from Chicago, Will is currently based in Durham, NC.

Command Zine interviewed Will about his series called Colored Plush, where he makes large fleece replicas of small paintings.

wpt5Come Hither, Polyester Fleece 80″ x 60″


AB: Can you talk about your subject matter for the colored plush series, and how this relates to your decision to use polyester fleece as a substrate, rather than stretched canvas?

WPT: Every image in the Colored Plush series is derived from a different level of self-reflection.  Even when the image does not include some representation or abstraction of my own body, I always integrate an element that is intended to be a consideration of my relationship to the subject represented.  The polyester fleece works double as conceptual artworks and as cozy blankets.  Because I can wrap my own body in them, and for many of them I have done just that, I enjoy the idea of exploring vulnerability via objects that can also provide comfort.

AB: Yeah!! I love that the body is implicit both within the subject matter and the blanket. You’re able to take advantage of the history of the material in a way that cannot be done with a “neutral” primed canvas. Are you painting directly on the blankets or are they digital transfers? Paint on fleece seems like it’d be anything but cozy to cuddle up with.

WPT: I haven’t painted directly on the blankets yet.  So far they have all been printed on the fleece material via a dye-sublimation process.  I have been thinking about altering them in other ways in the future, but I’d still like them to function as covers, so I’d have to figure out what alterations don’t take away from the coziness.

wpt6Breakfast Break, Polyester Fleece 80″ x 60″


wpt4Notes from a Treacherous Climb, Acrylic on canvas, each 5″ x 7″

SJ: The figures in the colored plush series are painted much more simplistically than in your other work. Could you talk about the differences in styles between your bodies of work?
WPT:  I LOVE the magic and impact of classical representation done well.  Carravagio’s David with the Head of Goliath is a favorite of mine.  Work like his is the reason I began painting bold, dramatically lit figurative images.  I also grew up watching animated TV shows, like The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. I’ve been rendering crude unfiltered sketches since I was a child.  In Grad School, by taking advantage of the opportunity to fully explore my other aesthetic interests, I decided that the crude sketches could be viable artworks in themselves.  In some of the more recent plush works, I’ve blended that love of naturalism and graphic stylization.  I’ve made hundreds of the small paintings, but only a select few that really move me get translated into the blanket format.
AB: Interesting! I could imagine the translation from smaller works to these large full-sized blankets creates space for this “crudeness” too. Affirming the viability of sketches is in line with the decision to hang up a fleece as a piece of art in the first place. Like you’re acknowledging a sense of reverence for the history of painting, while also poking fun of it. Is that fair to say?
WPT: Yes, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Some historical and contemporary approaches to painting seem so foreign to me, so it’s been useful for me to trudge my way through abstraction or stylization as a way of understanding some of what I may have formerly viewed as absurd or as empty.  I’m thinking of work like Rothko’s or Malevich’s nonobjective abstract expressionist works.  It may be impossible for me to fully empathize with those artist goals, given our dissimilar contexts, but I have a level of appreciation for the aesthetic value of work like that I didn’t previously have.

wpt3Eatin’, Polyester Fleece, 80″ x 60″

wpt1Can I Kick it? Polyester Fleece, 80″ x 60″ / Site: Near the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Estes Dr. in Chapel Hill, NC


AB: So did anyone actually call you up to kick it?

WPT:  A few people did call or exchange lengthy text correspondences with me.  The most interesting call I received was from a woman who lives in Chapel Hill and was hosting her sister from Virginia.  They left a voice message inquiring about what I wanted to “kick around.”  Eventually we agreed to meet at the Ackland Museum to talk more about the project; to kick it.  We met and soon discovered that we had a mutual friend.  The spouse of one of my professors from the MFA program was their cousin, whom they hadn’t spoken to in over a decade. I called the professor, so they could reunite.  The connection between them may have fizzled, but I learned later that our meeting allowed another estranged cousin of theirs to reconnect.

AB: Wow! And making connections is what it’s all about, right?

WPT: Absolutely!  Making the work is just my way of getting there.  The paintings and blankets both have been catalysts for establishing or exploring those relationships and connections.
credit: Caroline Cockrell
You can check out more of Will’s work here: