April 10th, 2015

We had the pleasure to visit MTV RE:DEFINE contributing artist Brian Kokoska at his beautiful studio in Ridgewood, New York. Brian's work is a mix of androgynous paintings and sculptures with matching tonal colors. He recently opened a show in Milan with Zack Davis. He was kind enough to walk us through his space and process. If you would like to bid on Brian’s piece in the MTV RE:DEFINE auction on Paddle8 you can do so here until 12:30 AM EST on April 11th, 2015.

1. Can you tell us about your show Fatal Dad that just opened at Brand New Gallery in Milan. How did you come up with the name and why is everything in purple tones?

The show title came from one of my short poems. I always have a list of working titles that I write down and sometimes archive on my twitter. Then when the timing is right I pick and choose from these titles. Fatal Dad was meant to give an ambiguous narrative to the show and a starting point to build some sort of scenario from. When I was in Milan I learned that it was Father's Day in Italy on the night of my opening (March 19). So it was a perfect coincidence. 

I really like purple because it's a non-spectral color and demands a lot from the human brain to interpret when seen against, say, violet. So the show was essentially in different shades of baby purple and baby violet tones. We colored the walls and installed custom carpeting. I've been working with monochromatic installations for the past little bit. I usually choose a color and make some sort of environment that incorporates another artist whose work I really enjoy.

2. In Fatal Dad you collaborated with Zack Davis (who did the sculptures). Why is collaborating with different artists important to you?

Zack's work is beautiful. His sculptures are visually so strong and assertive but they also have a really fragile quality to them, which I appreciate. It was really fun placing them inside the purple environment. I usually keep track of artists that I really admire and have them in mind for these type of two-person shows. I found out about Zack because we both worked on projects with American Medium in New York. Another reason why I'm drawn to his work is that we're using some of the same symbolism but in very different ways. I just feel a real honest connection with his sculptures.

My friend Gerardo Contreras also wrote a text to accompany our show called Take a minute to feel like shit.


3. How does the experiential side of your work contribute to the work itself?

I try to make my exhibitions more about an experience rather than just objects in a room. Even though my work is grounded in painting, it's way more interesting to me to work on shows as an all-over installation. It's more challenging and it gives the work a better place to exist. I like when a show can be read as celebratory or mournful, depending on the viewer. It's another reason why I like building work around a central color. It can evoke a birthday party or a funeral. You know? Like, this really basic idea of putting together an environment that is supposed to force some kind of emotional response. 

4. Can you talk about exploring androgynous/post-human images where the figure’s sex is indecipherable?

I always think about my own sculptures and paintings as post-human. I definitely want them to be genderless. Or, like, they could be any gender you want them to be. The work is more based around the human image as a serial object. Though a lot of the titles incorporate traditionally "female" names. But it's only because I think women's names are so much nicer than men's. They are usually more creative and have a lot more variety.

5. Where does the fascination with recurring signs and symbols that are seen throughout your work come from?

It's mostly from my own personal superstitions. Especially with numbers and letters. There are just certain reoccurring numbers I can't get out of my head. Like, I'll just break it down, numbers I think are lucky: 13, 7, 8 and 6's… and unlucky: 27. I guess some of that is routed in culture and religion though. But I use numbers and text along with other graphic symbolism such as spiderwebs, flames, stars, teardrops, moons, flowers and suits. It's basically just another way of building a composition. Every work has some sort of "face" in it, which is the main component.

6. A lot of what’s in you studio right now is for Art Brussels. Can you tell us about the installation you’re planning?

I'm doing a booth with Johannes Vogt at Art Brussels. It should be fun. It's gonna be a white, black and blue installation with 8 new paintings and some other weird stuff. I kind of have like this "gentleman's club" idea in my mind. We are choosing the furniture specific to the installation and everything. Art fairs are funny but I'll try to make it a serious project instead of something corporate and depressing. I actually like to think that's still possible even inside an art fair.

7. After Art Brussels what do you have in the works? 

I'll go to Paris afterwards for a site visit at Valentin. I have a solo exhibition opening there in September. Later in the year I have a show with Smart Objects in LA and I'm included in a group show at Loyal Gallery in Stockholm in June. My friend Nate Hitchcock and I are also co-curating a show called Always Remember You're Forgotten which we're excited about as well. Location TBA… maybe in a graveyard ;- }