Paddle8 is excited to launch In the Gallery | May 25 – June 2, which focuses on a select group of Paddle8 member galleries and features art works from each gallery’s current exhibition. This week’s project space highlights Sam Falls (American Contemporary), Julianne Swartz (Josee Bienvenu Gallery), Brent Green (Andrew Edin Gallery), Tom Thayer (Derek Eller Gallery), Andrei Roiter (Jack Hanley Gallery), Rachel Lee Hovnanian (Leila Heller Gallery), Allison Schulnik (Mark Moore Gallery), Lisa Kereszi and Rachel Perry Welty (Yancey Richardson Gallery).
San Francisco born artist Allison Schulnik lives and works in Los Angeles. With a BFA in Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts, her work is known to choreograph her subjects in compositions that embody a spirit of the macabre, a Shakespearian sensibility of the comedy/tragedy of love, death and farce. Allison has had solo exhibitions presented all over the world from Texas to Rome. Paddle8 had the opportunity to interview Allison and discuss her current exhibition, Salty Air on view at Mark Moore Gallery until July 7th.
Paddle8: Your work tends to be highly detailed, yet in parts very muddled and abstracted, with what many have called a “macabre” aesthetic – is there a particular source or inspiration for your style of painting which also carries over into your video and sculptural work?
Allison Schulnik: Really it comes from many different places — daydreams, nightmares, imagined realities, farcical theatrics, once-loved discarded relics, people i know and love or don’t love, music, cartoons, books, images, paintings, cinema, dance, theater, trash, food, water, beer, dirt.. Everything has equal opportunity to be a painting, sculpture or video. Some things just find themselves more comfortable in certain mediums, and some don’t.
P8: In all of your work, but specifically your stop motion animation, the process of creation must be exceedingly long and arduous – does the complex and time consuming manner in which your animations are created in inform the subject matter or conceptual content of your work, or is it simply a task that must be completed in order to get the finished piece that you are aiming for?
AS: It’s probably impossible for for method to not influence concept. There are limitations and tendencies in methods that make something what it is. However mostly it is simply a task, it can stand in the way of completion or not. I usually have a pretty specific idea of what I want to achieve with the videos, but I also allow for mistakes and surprises along the way because they can be magical. Plus I don’t really think “Hey it will be too hard to make over 100 clowns, hobos, gnomes and creatures, and then animate them all at once moving in a circular motion, so I shouldn’t do it”.
P8: In many writings on your work, critics often point out your adroit ability at combining what is referred to as the “grotesque” or “creepy” with the beautiful – how do you conceptualize the confluence of these seemingly divergent sentiments and what do you think it is about your own personal history that makes you so good at putting them into conversation with each other?
AS: Everyone seems to have a different view of what beauty is. I think the natural world is raw beauty. The hand-made, the visible thumb print, the messy, the humorous, the honest… those are beautiful things. There is something honest and true about imperfection. Something real about the shunned outcast. Someone who chooses to stay outside the realm of normal society, or is forced there against his will. The grotesque character is always that. All of my characters incorporate the grotesque in one way or another. They are often sad, pathetic creatures built upon a human frame, which results in an awkward and sometimes surprising earthliness. Though often mutated, blemished or tarred and feathered, they are characters both admirable and flawed. I don’t know what my own personal history is yet, but I know what I like.
P8: You have used your skills in alternative animation to collaborate with bands such as Grizzly Bear in order to create beautifully striking music videos – can you speak a bit about those collaborations, and how your creative process changes, if at all, when working in these kinds of relationships?
AS:The musicians I’ve borrowed from seem to have a few things in common. Their songs are cinematic. They are spacious and all encompassing. They seems to fill a room with sounds that play off each other and create a thunderous wall of resonance. I like that. I like to treat animation as dance, and let the clay, fabric, wire and mesh move with the punches. Mostly I have just taken a song and made something visual for it, a dedication. For instance with Grizzly Bear, I made HOBO CLOWN with “Granny Diner” as it’s soundtrack. I asked them for permission to use the song, and they graciously said yes. A year later they handed me “Ready, Able” and asked me to do a video dedicated to that song, so I did FOREST. Scott Walker was gracious enough to let me use his 1969 song “It’s Raining Today” for MOUND. It allows for the creative process to actually not change at all, leaving me complete freedom to make something as I please. People have been generous with me to give me that kind of trust with their babies. It’s an honor.
P8: Much of your work has a strong surrealist vein in the way figures morph into each other, melt, and are manipulated – are you inspired by the work of the Surrealists, or are there any other movements or artists who directly influence or inspire your work?
AS: Yes, there are so many movements and artists responsible for what I do. Eric Yahnker, E. Michael Mitchell, Corny Cole, Jules Engel, Yuri Norstein, Bruce Bickford, Adam Beckett, Jan Svankmajer, Paul McCarthy, Pina Bausch, Michael Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Ub Iwerks, John Hubley, Martha Graham, Ray Harryhausen, Fred Astaire, Ensor, Bonnard, Balthus, Goya, Hockney, O’Keefe, Dix, Saul, Wolverton, Stettheimer (Florine), Shelley Duval, King Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, it’s an endless list. I love to borrow things. But I like to give back to.
Be sure to check out Allison Schulnik’s art on Mark Moore Gallery’s page on Paddle8!