Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Featured Artist/Gallerist: Robert Walden


First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work.

Featured artist/gallerist Robert Walden.

My name is Robert Walden and I was born in Georgia (USA) and grew up in Mississippi. I began my official training at the university where my father taught painting, drawing and printmaking and finished my BFA, in painting and printmaking at The Atlanta College of Art (ACA). However, growing up in my father's studio was the actual beginning of my life as an artist. I currently live and work in Brooklyn, New York.

Can you give our readers some insight into your work in general? What media do you work in? What are the inspirations behind the creation of your work? What is the specific message you would like to convey to your viewers?

My Ontological Road Maps are ink on paper maps of fictional places. They begin as any city or organism would at the dense center and grow outward in all directions. I do not feel inspired to create my work… it is a feeling more like being compelled. Since I was a child I have been intrigued by maps and mapping. One of the interesting aspects of using maps is that from primary societies to advanced ones like our own, whether a person is scratching in the sand or clicking images in Google Earth all humans understand the idea of mapping. This is very possible one of the few universal experiences of humanity. Therefore, my work is accessible to many people… it is a convenient entree into the work. On first encounter most viewers project an identity on my drawings… most say a particular drawing is Paris or London or other city. This process of applying an identity, something familiar to an object or image that is unfamiliar is intrinsically human. I do not seek to project a specific meaning in my work… that type of work is what I call, "I get it art." Instead I hope my work is layered and abstract enough that it allows the viewer to extract multiple meanings.

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 121410, 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 123110, 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

My Ontological Surveillance Maps are a take on the ORMs... but consist of two panels, one is a map the other is a detail of the map that has been enlarged in Photoshop and projected onto a second panel and then painted to match the ink of the drawing.

Robert Walden, Ontological Surveillance Map 031403, 24" x 36", Ink and acrylic on panel, 2003. Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

The statement about my work on my website is a pretty good explanation of the ideas in my work that I am most interested in highlighting.

Would you like to share a bit your creative process with our readers? How does it all start, what techniques and materials do you use?

My Studio Table with a new series in progress using mechanical pencil and gouache.
Photo credit: Henry Chung

Like mentioned earlier, my drawings begin in the dense grid areas and grow out from their like any real city of organism would. They are all made by hand… no computers involved. However, for the dense areas… now that I have to wear reading glasses I also use a magnifying glass. I use several different pens in my work Pigma Micron is a favorite (size 005 or .2mm) and also pens by Uniball and others… some of my which I found on trips to Hong Kong… the smallest of which has a tip of .18mm.

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

This is difficult to answer. I have had numerous interesting conversations about my work and they have been very rewarding... but, to pick one above the rest in near impossible. I remember the most common questions because I have answered them most often and I remember the most annoying questions. However, the single most intriguing questions have been about my use of fractals... which, when first asked about them I could not define what one actually is. Now that I can define what a fractal is, I can safely say my work has nothing to do with them... however, it is very interesting that some people make the association. The single most annoying question is when someone asks me, "Is this a map?"

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 110810, 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 110810 (Detail), 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Robert Walden

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

This is the most difficult aspect of being an artist. It is also the part of an artist's career that an art degree prepares an artist the least. This is a major failing of institutions and something most artists like to ignore… but it is just as important. My guiding rule is not to be a temperamental artist and understand that the gallery is not the studio. Also, I think artists are today leaving too much about their careers and the market in general to others. In NYC artists often wax poetic about the good old days of the East Village and SoHo before that. Well, those good times didn't just happen by accident. Artists made that happen and we need to do that again. We artists, especially the young MFAs, need to quit expecting a gallerist to hand us a career. Artists need to learn how to be better business people without letting their work suffer. It is a difficult task… but a balancing act we must do.

What galleries have you recently exhibited in?

Recent exhibitions include groups exhibitions at Muriel Guepin Gallery, Brooklyn and Exhibit 23 in Valley Cottage, New York and The Berardo Collection Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Lisbon, Portugal.

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 010811, 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

Would you like to inform our readers of your current (or upcoming) exhibition(s)?

Upcoming exhibitions include: The Art of Mapping curated by TAG Fine Arts in London, November 14-26, 2011, and next year, The Map as Art at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO, September 14, 2012 - January 13, 2013.

Robert Walden, Ontological Road Map 010711, 30" x 30", Ink on paper, 2011
Photo credit: Nick Ghiz

What are you working on right now?

I am working on two new bodies of work, but I am not prepared for anyone to see images of either series at this point... but I can say that one series is based on my Ontological Road Maps and the other is an entirely new series of fictional urban spaces and I am using mechanical pencil and gouache on those... check my website occasionally for images of new work.

Please share with us the awards and recognition you received in the recent years.

I was the recipient of a grand from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 2003 and a resident artist at the Edward Albee Foundation in 2005.

Do you offer any art classes? Are you available for commissioned works? Do you have website for interested readers to learn more about your work? May our readers contact you?

No, I do not offer art classes but I will consider commissions. My website is located at www.robertjwaldenjr.com. I can be contacted through my website contact page.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art? Do you teach, write and/or curate art exhibits? If so, give us some details?

My partner Henry Chung and I own and operate RHV Fine Art a commercial art gallery featuring the work of emerging and mid-career artists. (RHV is located at 683 6th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York City.)

You're a talented artist as well as a gallerist. Could you tell us a bit about your gallery RHV Fine Art? What inspired you and your partner Henry Chung to establish RHV Fine Art? When it was established, where it's located and how is it being operated?

First, thanks for the kind words. And to answer your question... we founded RHV Fine Art as part of Robert Henry Vintage in the summer of 2008, which was a late Modern (1950s-1985) vintage housewares store located in the southern end of Park Slope or The South Slope or Greenwood Heights, depending on which real estate developer you ask. We started showing our own work and work of friends on the walls of the store. But because of several factors, the economy and our location to name two, we migrated to showing art only because we could and did start showing in art fairs. This meant we were not dependent on our location for our market and basically we could show in different locations around the country and essentially bring our artists to a market. We migrated Robert Henry Vintage to an on-line store only and utilized our storefront as art exhibitions space only.

What are your goals for RHV Fine Art?

Our goals are first and foremost to show great art but we would like to find a balance between showing and selling art and making it in our own studios... and, and this is the difficult part, actually, reaping a financial reward also.

What do you do on a daily basis running RHV Fine Art?

Everything from sweeping and cleaning to making and maintaining contacts with clients, curators, consultants, etc., writing press releases, arranging shipping, curating our exhibitions, studio visits with artists, dealing with art fairs... basically everything a gallerist does.

What has been the most rewarding experience you've had as a result of running RHV Fine Art?

That would probably be the conversations about the work... we find it particularly disappointing when we do not have interesting conversations (especially at an art fair) about the work. It is about the ideas of the work after all... art consists of three aspects: the object (or lack thereof), the process of making it and the viewing of it or the experience of it... without these three elements... I don't know what it is...

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your gallery work?

Here is the Press page from our website which has our English language reviews to date: RHV Fine Art Press.

Lucio Pozzi wrote a review of James Clark's The Luminiferous Aether in Il Giornale dell'Arte... in Italian.