LUDWIG SCHWARZ STUDIO VISIT

April 23rd, 2015

Ludwig Schwarz could be considered the godfather of the Dallas arts community. He has been in the area for almost 20 years, far before Dallas became internationally recognized as a hub for artists. Ludwig’s work spans oil paintings, found sculptures and guerilla-type installations that make us question and interact with art in untraditional ways. 

1. What current motifs are you exploring in your work?

I’ve been thinking again about far-fetched business propositions with painting exhibitions as backdrops, plus aesthetically charged reiterations of the banal, and of course the psychedelic nature of one-liners. That rarely gets tiring.

2. Can you talk to us about your latest body of work (hanging on two walls in the corner) with the painted shapes?

They're 18x24” paintings and I’ve been making them for about 8 years now. They come in runs, eight, a dozen, a baker’s dozen, etc. They’re a little different each time, sometimes very different. I change it up a bit between series so they don’t become too unpopular. They’re a nice size and easy to collect; I’ve got boxes full of them. I’m interested in how space changes off the picture as much as on it, so they’re like cropped images to me. Same as with the large scale, mostly 6x6 feet paintings I’ve been making since the mid 1990s. I like the idea of them reading like great thrift store finds in a future where humans are 20 feet tall. 

3. Your sculptures are made of found/discarded objects. What do you find most appealing in working with these objects?

I really enjoyed finding things or just stumbling upon things. Most of the found object pieces were made in New York about twenty five years ago, and the city streets were pretty loaded back then. I never got tired of walking and looking at the city from a different angle, literally. For the most part now I use purchased items, used items, things that are basically a transaction away from being discarded. One of my favorite pieces of late is Freed Luggage Carrier which documents the freeing of a fully functional albeit small and old luggage carrier that had been reduced in price from $9.99 to $1.00 at a local pawnshop. Can you believe that? The horror and shame of being that luggage carrier and sitting there day after day with a dollar price tag and no takers? So I bought the thing and my wife and I travelled around with it in our car, taking it places and documenting our journey. We went to Ikea, travelled to Bill Clinton’s childhood home in Hope, Arkansas, vacationed in Hot Springs, etc. I made a Freed Luggage Poster with some fine snap shots from our travels and other misc documentation and exhibited it in a group show for a month, from one house of commerce to the next, but with a nice vacation in between. It’s in my studio now, and I just like having it around. It probably hasn’t worked a solid day in years.

4. Can you tell us a bit about your sign projects, the Indian Buffet and the help hotline? How are these getting people to talk about/experience art?

I like that they had a hitch, visually, and seemed unlikely, so in the world of signage there was the possibility of a double take from a viewer. The banners are an older project. I don’t see as much custom vinyl signage these days or maybe just don’t notice it… more stock vinyl signs with text like Coming Soon or To Be Replaced With Good Sign When We Open. The signs were designed to bring people into art galleries, museums, spaces they may not otherwise visit. Ludwig Schwarz Indian Cuisine opened in three cities and each time it had visitors. Another banner Anxieity Depression? We Can Help, phone number and typo included was outside a small museum show in Beaumont, TX. I don’t remember but imagine there were inquiries. Whether or not the staff believed the exhibition had any remedial value is beyond me. When you can bring someone new into art, into the gallery, it can become more interesting for all parties involved. I’m not overly interested in the art audience. They’re far too sophisticated for my work. 

5. You have an extensive number of paintings that feature Pitbulls. They were made at the time the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal was taking place. Were you taking a stance while painting these? What were you trying to achieve (if anything) with these paintings?

The dogfighting scandal was horrifying, all aspects of it. I took three images of pit bulls, one from an old photo I took and two from the internet, and started painting. Just three dogs. I haven’t painted one in a few years but will possibly go back. My curiosity was the emotional state, three seemingly distinct emotions and what those could be, as represented through repetition. People’s reactions change when I tell them they’re pit bull portraits. The auto-content light goes off in their head. For awhile I tried to assign their victimized state to that of the artist but I couldn’t convincingly lie to myself or make any real sense out of that anyway. They’re simply portraits. There’s obviously only one stance to take on this issue, everyone with half a brain or 1/4 of a heart knows that animal cruelty is one of the most disgusting things in the world, and granted I’m saying this while running the risk of alienating future collectors. But that’s what you have to do as an artist, take risks!

6. You have been in the same studio space in Dallas for 18 years and your body of work has continued to evolve. Some artists need to move spaces frequently because they hit mental blocks. How have you been able to keep trying new things and progress?

The studio doesn’t influence my work, it’s just the place where I make paintings occasionally... and some sculpture. It’s good for storage too. The real work is on the road, taking notes, and sometimes on the computer, saving them, or taking more. I guess the studio is like a hard drive too. I’m scattered but I like to work. I love having ideas in limbo, an overpriced storage unit, and a functioning computer. 

7. You spent some time in New York in the early 1990s, how did that time influence your practice?

It’s the city where I kind of started making art. I moved to NY for grad school in 1988. Everything influenced me, as for a few things, not necessarily in order, cheap breakfasts, street hustlers, Koons and Cady Noland breaking, Bill Frisell, dumpster diving, heated discussions, twisted performances, the back room of American Fine Arts, the Colonel, subway ads, subway actions, cheap Indian food, people watching, fast walks, Canal Street, Christian Boltanski at the New Museum, danger, late trains, loneliness, lectures, apartment artists who had never left the island, by the hour studio jams, more heated discussions, routines, a certain bartender, the guy at Mary Boone.

8. How would you describe the Dallas arts scene from when you set-up shop here until today?

Seemingly normal growth rate, artist to general population ratio stuff... more fashionable, more accessible, a bit more conservative. 

9. What are your future plans? 

That’s a good question. My wife Marjorie is an artist as well so eventually we’d like to set up shop a bit closer to nature. She wants pet chickens. 

10. What excites you?

Moments of clarity.

Visit Ludwig's website.