Josh Reames: I think they can all be used in the context of my work; symbol and multitude being pretty obvious in that the paintings (literally) contain a multitude of “symbols” haha. Co-existence seems a little hippy-ish though, I think I’ll refrain from using that one to describe the work.
VDC: The web, by means of the screen, is a platform which allows an object to exist for a moment – yet an instant later such an object can potentially no longer exist. It could be a perfect metaphor for many other aspects related to life. In this sense, rather than speak about a “crystallization” in your work, I would say your objects look “caught”. Could you elaborate on such a thought?
JR: On a more meta-scale I think it’s a pretty good metaphor, it’s the difference between time as a whole (whatever that is) and the moment. In real life nothing is permanent, though I think it can appear that way – like a rock – until you zoom out and consider how that notion of permanence comes from focusing only on its existence in that particular moment. The paintings, in a more simplistic way, illustrate this notion of impermanence. Yes, the objects are “caught” in the composition, but only in the same way a moment in a movie is “caught” with a screenshot.
VDC: The internet can generate two types of anxiety. An elusive type and that akin to the cataloging or conservation of objects and information. Could your works – and I don’t mean to imply that they are didactic – be a type of reaction to such anxiety?
JR: I guess I don’t personally feel a sense of anxiety about the internet…so…no.
VDC: In your work there is no hierarchy. Even the homogeneous arrangement of objects in space confirms this loss of hierarchy for me. This aspect is quite intriguing. Would you say that within this “flattening” of hierarchies, there is more of an illusionist, critical or perhaps more simply put, objective attitude?
JR: This flattening of hierarchy is something I think about a lot. It comes down to the extreme levels of relativity the internet and technology have brought to us. With so much information available nothing really seems as linear or black and white as it used to. Also I think I’m skeptical about being able to have a fully objective attitude about anything, that being a symptom of relativism I suppose. I’d be a terrible art critic, always trying to empathize with what another point of view could be. I think Montaigne ruined my ability to have a fully objective attitude with that essay about cannibalism; it made me aware of my cultural/personal biases on a multitude of levels. The no-hierarchy angle of my work is less of a didactic message and more of a reflection on the way things are these days.
VDC: In many of your works, more than hierarchy which we have already stated is rendered null, there is the coexistence of several layers. In this context, the “cancellation” seems to be an important element. Is this a reference to a specific digital practice?
JR: Sure, there is a kind of layering that takes place, with the variety of types of marks/images/objects. I think that is more reflective of my training as a print-maker than it is in reference to any specific digital practice. It is a collage-aesthetic, a cut and paste method of building space (or the illusion of space). Some of that might be more formal than conceptual, it is the alternative way to presenting a lot of information without being purely indexical.
VDC: Randomness is a fundamental standard of the web. I mean things like chance, a wrong click, ads, links to other pages etc. How present is randomness in the choices you make regarding the themes/objects of your work?
JR: I think of my paintings as a type of filtration device for all of the information that I/we are inundated with on a daily basis. Yes, the web is super random and overloaded with images and information, but so is the real world. I keep a huge folder of inspirational source images on my computer, this contains a wide variety of clip art, skeleton portraits, logos, iphone photos, wordart clips, neon light designs, bumper stickers, etc and etc. When it comes to source material, anything and everything is fair game.
VDC: The Internet is so revolutionary and invasive that today every artistic practice seems to refer to it, relate to it, originate from it or in some way be linked to it. As a visual artist working today is it even possible to ignore the internet?
JR: This reminds me of the article I saw last year about former president George W Bush’s painted portraits of various international political leaders. The paintings were funny and weird enough on their own, but the article juxtaposed each painting with the source images which were mostly comprised of the first image that pops up in a Google image search of the individuals. It’s comforting to know that both ex-presidents, art students, and seasoned artists are all using the same methods of sourcing images – that’s true democracy. It seems silly to try and “ignore” the internet, I don’t think its going anywhere, it is not like baggy pants or disco.
VDC: When viewing your works “in the flesh”, I’ve noticed a certain enigmatic quality about them. It is difficult, however, to understand what technique was used to make them. Could you discuss, then, what techniques you used to make them? Is it entirely painting?
JR: Though in the past I have incorporated different low-budget printmaking into the paintings, for the last couple of years everything has been painted. I’m obsessed with the surfaces, I always want there to be a variety of subtle differences in them. They are all made with a combination of airbrushing and masking, though recently I’ve started to embrace the paintbrush again for more immediate/loose moves. There’s a lot of illusionistic things happening in the paintings, most people have a hard time figuring out if things are collaged or glued onto the canvas or painted. I like to have both the content/image of the painting interesting as well as the surface.
VDC: What are some of your upcoming projects?
JR: There is a handful of things coming up. I have a two-person show with Amber Renaye at OFG.XXX (formerly Oliver Francis Gallery) in Dallas next weekend, then moving to NYC where I have a small group show at Johannes Vogt in mid-April. Then a two-person show with Wendy White at Sloan & Carl in Portland, a two-person show with Jose Lerma at Luis de Jesus in Los Angeles, a solo at Brand New Gallery in Milan early next year, and some very very exciting news in NYC that should be released in the next month or so.
VDC: A last question, appropriate for the complex “post internet” discussion. Despite everything, can a landscape still influence your work?
JR: Absolutely. I am of the particular generation that has split my life in half with not having the internet and having the internet. So I feel like I can appreciate it for what it is while also having an appreciation for life without it. Some of the most influential things on my work are totally organic :)
Josh Reames (b.1985) lives and works in New York.