April 6th, 2015

James Powers’ work deals with permanence and motion, inviting the viewer to see structures within landscapes in new perspectives. Powers recently moved into a light-flooded Brooklyn studio and kindly shared his space and process with us.

1. What recurring motifs are you exploring?

The act of looking at the same thing over and over: serial and repetitive structures in the landscape.

2. How did your aluminum wall pieces with water imagery come about? What do they represent to you?

I wanted something visual that was constant and banal. The ocean has this quality, although no two waves are the same. It is inert but in motion. As I was presenting these renderings I found the aluminum and various non-traditional substrates erased the negative space without me having to make a cutout of the subject. I wanted to highlight the ocean surface and the boundaries of the ocean in its artificial rendering. It is a 2D plane mapped into 3D space (there is no actual depth to the water). The aluminum and mirror can be considered part or not a part of the piece. I also want it to be a presentation in the form of a proposal – an architect's rendering (they are rendered in orthographic perspective).

3. You use a 3D-modeling program called Blender to help create some of the imagery in your work. When and how did this make it’s way into your process?

My father, also an artist, gave me a crash course in Blender during a particularly cold winter break in Minnesota. I had seen him render water a few times and it always intrigued me. It seemed ridiculous – like a special effect scrap that had fallen off a movie-set trailer.

4. You are a studio assistant for the conceptual artist Mel Bochner, while both of your practices are quite different, how has working with him influenced the way you make art?

He has a healthy skepticism about a lot of recent painting, part of it is generational but then understandable – he is expecting something new, an innovation in the techniques and terms of art practice. This has really forced me to dig deep and investigate new mediums. Working for Bochner has been ten times more insightful than the pedantry of graduate school.

5. You just moved work spaces, how has this new space helped your current practice evolve? 

Yes, I moved in with my girlfriend, a scientist and director of the BioBus.

I was mucking about in a studio in Sunset Park but wasn’t arriving at anything exciting. The answer became apparent when I settled into my studio room with two narrow windows and venetian blinds. All of a sudden I had a real adversary. 

6. Can you tell us a little about you most recent body of work (the shade drawings and the plotter prints)?

The act of looking out the window was adequately mundane and banal.  The blinds became an essential fulcrum for many different ideas and visions. It is a modernist collusion – while paying allegiance to the grid I can surreptitiously revisit the cognitive functions of observation, and plein-air painting.

The plotter prints are more difficult to articulate. At the moment I am feeding various vector files into the machine and watching as the machine throws fits of apoplexy. I suppose it is examination of mark-making while retaining the infrastructure of a baroque set of rules and computation. It is basically a printer Rumba. 


7.  In terms of future plans, what is on the horizon?

I plan to send some work to Less is More Gallery Paris, this fall. I am collaborating with a colleague, Daniel Ellis on a project – Christy’s (www.christys.nyc). We just did a print this week.


Visit James' website.