"Decay is beautiful. And wise."
Erik Sommer / Instagram
NYC contemporary artist and art curator Erik Sommer dedicates his artistic powers to the catch and recreation of expiry, decay and decline. On our interview he answers questions on the ravages of time and the status of creation.
WRITTEN BY OBLO GALLERY REDACTION. PUBLISHED: MAY 22, 2022
There is no scarier thought than the one of decay. All things in life eventually must experience their decadence;
unexorably and for certain. But there's much beauty to the gloom and sorrow of this energy that holds all life.
NYC based artist, art curator, writer and musician Erik Sommer shares insights on why he takes interest in the enigma surrounding the things in life we want to neglect and leave behind forgotten for good.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE AND
WHAT DOES THIS PLACE FEEL LIKE?
I am currently in upstate New York, in the woods in the Catskills,
which is about 1.5 hours from NYC. It feels like trees, and fresh air, and solitude.
Erik Sommer / Instagram
WHAT ARE MATERIALS THAT YOU LIKE
TO USE IN YOUR ARTWORKS?
I started using cement when I was in grad school. I have always been attracted to the rough, weathered, aged look and feel of urban environments - decay and the effects of time. In my early paintings I tried to replicate this grittiness with other materials, but eventually just started using cement itself. Over time I have learned how to manipulate acrylics, oils and other mediums in order to create controlled peeling, cracks and flakes.
Eventually I moved away from only works on a wall and began creating cement installations. These are real life situations that become eerily quiet and soft because of the cement.
I started using street posters as a different way to recreate the effects of time. For the street poster paintings the street posters are aged in my studio, and wheat pasted on. It is important that they appear natural and not man-made. I want them to look like the street posters at construction sites that are so beautiful and delicate when they become weathered. These street poster paintings are my attempt to call attention to the overlooked.
My work with drywall is similar. I age the material in my studio to make it look old, and manipulate it to create either paintings or sculptures.
Iced Grande Cement Mocha, 2020
Cement Umbrella (ella, ella, eh, eh, eh), 2020
Cement Kidde Pro 210, 2020
HOW DID YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON ART
CHANGE AS AN ART CURATOR?
Being a curator has introduced me to a lot of new artists, all of whom I have learned from. I don't know if my perspective on art has changed, but curating has helped me better understand the backroom side of galleries and exhibitions. It is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. If nothing else it has helped rekindle my love of writing about art.
IS THE "NEW" SOMETHING NEW OR MADE OF THE KNOWN,
TRANSFORMED INTO SOMETHING DIFFERENT?
I think it is pretty rare to find someone creating something truly new. This goes for all art forms: music, visual arts, literature, cinema. There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas or transforming the known into something different, but we do need to appreciate the special moments of unique greatness.
HOW DOES HUMAN INTERACTION IN THE DIGITAL SPACE DIFFER FROM THE ANALOG MEETING?
Social media is important, and it is a good way to meet people and discover new artists, but nothing will ever replace experiencing art in real life.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN SOONER?
I wish I had known that I have much more control over my career than I had originally thought. Instead of 'waiting to be discovered' I have gone out and created my own future, and as a result have a much more balanced idea of what success really is.
WHAT IS MOTT_PROJECTS ABOUT?
Mott Projects started as a way to help promote my friends' work. It turned into a way to meet and promote new artists, interview them, and now finally curate and present real life exhibitions.
DOES AN ARTWORK NEED DESCRIPTION?
Descriptions and titles work best when they add to the work instead of attempting to turn it into something it is not.
WHAT MAKES A BEAUTIFUL SMILE?
IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD?
It depends on your definition of success.
HOW DOES EVERY-DAY LIFE INFLUENCE YOUR WAY OF CREATING?
I get a lot of ideas and energy from every-day life. Even if I am not in the studio I am always thinking about new ideas and projects. Sometimes the planning part can be more fun than the actual creating part. A lot of ideas come from hearing snippets of conversations, little turns of phrases that spark an image or idea in my mind.
House paint, dry wall, joint compound, and aged street posters
21 x 18 x 8 in
53.3 x 45.7 x 20.3 cm
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE POEMS OR PIECES OF MUSIC?
I'm the type of person that will listen to a song non-stop for weeks at a time and borrow the melody to write my own lyrics that I then use for titles of my work.
IS IT, THAT YOU AND YOUR ARTWORK ALWAYS HAVE THE SAME OPINION?
No. My artwork can be a real asshole at times.
WHAT'S A BOUNDARY ART CANNOT PASS?
There is no such thing as perfection. A few people have gotten close, but absolute perfection is what happens after we die, so is impossible to recreate or capture.
WHICH ARTISTS CHANGED YOUR WAY OF MAKING ART FOREVER?
The first time I saw a photograph of Christo and Jeanne Claude's 'Valley Curtain' I understood that art can be so much more than just a painting on a wall.
CAN LANGUAGE BE TRANSLATED?
No. A part of it will always be missing. Even if just a feeling.
WHAT LIES UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE?
Water. Angst. Fear. Fire.
IS DECAY SCARY?
Decay is beautiful. And wise.
IN WHICH RELATIONSHIP YOU WOULD SAY STAND ARCHITECTURE AND THOUGHT?
Are we able to build yet the most radical and innovative structures humanly imaginable?
cement installation (Red Hook)
WHAT'S THE REALITY OF TIME?
The reality of time is that it moves slow when we are sad and fast when we are happy.
WHAT HAPPENS TO A PLACE THAT GETS LEFT BEHIND?
When a place gets left behind it becomes forgotten, until it is rediscovered and helps create new memories and joy.
DO OBJECTS HAVE THEIR OWN WILL AND LIFE?
I think objects know what they are supposed to be and are good at telling me when they have not yet reached their final stage.
For inquiries about Erik Sommer's artworks go to the linked website.