Allison Sommers’s ‘Bruxism’ featured on Juxtapoz.com

Allison Sommers Juxtapoz

Thank you to our friends at Juxtapoz for featuring Allison Sommers’s latest exhibition “Bruxism”. The show is on view until October 8th and you can view all available artwork from Sommers here.

We are exctied about this one, seeing that this looks like some of Allison’s strongerst works to date. Thinkspace is pleased to present Bruxism, a solo exhibition of new works by Brooklyn-based artist Allison Sommers. In her sixth exhibition with the gallery, Sommers presents new mixed-media works that veer increasingly towards an expressionistic abstraction of the figurative – Juxtapoz

Interview with Allison Sommers for ‘Bruxism’

Allison Sommer Interview

Allison Sommers has been a part of the Thinkspace family for over a decade now and we’ve loved watching her work evolve over the years. In anticipation for her upcoming exhibition Bruxism, we have an interview with Allison Sommers discussing her inspiration and what Eau de Sommers would smell like.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
AS: Most directly, the work probes the twinned experience of personal anxiety and the macro fin-de-siecle distress of the current political, civil, environmental, existential moment. I’m dealing less with the actuality of anything in particular than the expressionistic physicality of it— the falling-apart, the chewing-of-nothing, the grasping-at-past, the disquietude of even existing at all right now. There are explorations of embodiment and disjointedness that are continuations of themes I’ve been digesting for a few years, and a nod to a particular piece I’ve seen from Pergamon, which planted the seeds for a lot of the disintegrating classical bodies I’ve been playing with lately.

Bonus Story: I first saw the Pergamon Altar and the various other pieces that informed my work in Berlin a few years ago; oddly enough, they were in New York this year for a wonderful exhibition at The Met. I was lucky enough to be invited to a lecture and reception a few months ago, where I actually met the fellow who “discovered” this monumental head– it had been forgotten in storage for decades, and he stumbled across it and helped research and bring it to its current prominent position in the collection. Isn’t that funny!

New Works by Allison Sommers

SH: You’ve been showing with Thinkspace for the last ten years. As an artist, how do you push yourself artistically without compromising your unique style?
AS: I’ve been extremely lucky that Thinkspace has been along for the ride for almost a decade because I have indeed been evolving my style over the years. One of the best antidotes to stagnation, I think, is curiosity, or boredom, however you want to put it— I’m constantly mining my influences and circumstances for new ideas, constantly becoming obsessed with this work of art or that film or diving into this other new book. I feel like my work evolves pretty organically as I eat through all the art and culture around me. I follow where the thread leads, without too much concern as to how it relates to previous work, but my work is grounded in my hand, if that makes any sense, and therefore has at least a soupçon of unity, I hope.

SH: Do the characters you paint constantly live inside your imagination and you have to race to capture their story? Or are the scenes you capture created in the moment of visiting them?
AS: I don’t really approach my work, or art-making, in that way— I don’t have “characters” per se, but rather, perhaps, expressionistic stand-ins that anchor the paintings. They’re less narrative “scenes” so much as they’re fillings-of-blankness, emptyings of my hand and mind.

New Works by Allison Sommers

SH: What’s a common misconception about you, your art, and about artists?
AS: I can’t speak for other artists, but I bristle at exegesis most, I think. I completely understand the desire to have a painting mean something, or to have the painter tell you his meaning for his work, but I’d rather the viewer take their own journey there, since understanding mine is necessarily impossible. There’s no allegorical equation here. Half the time, I don’t know what my own work means, unless I’ve spent some serious time navel-gazing after the fact.

If I were to say anything against misconceptions about other artists, I’d quote Baldessari: “talent is cheap.” The work of art is located in the je ne sais quoi, not how well painted the piece is. Well-painted art is deadly boring, if that’s all it’s got going for it.

SH: If a perfume was made based on your latest body of work, what would the scent smell like – the notes?
AS: It’d have to be a little salty, a little spitty, with a floral aspect like the most shameless flowers— the magnolia or so— that just smell so overwhelmingly yellow like a wet cloak, like hot fresh cream, like coitus. Like the smell of the inside of a clean, greasy animal skull that’s been in the warm ground, sweet and familiar and unhappy.

SH: What are your favorite tools of the trade?
AS: Have (Alvin Draft-Matic) pencil, will travel. I have a library of Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks in my fire safe. Also, of course, gouache, watercolor pencil, copier pencil, chalk, a few crayons I found on the ground… nosebleeds collected in jars…

New Works by Allison Sommers

SH: Your work is incredibly meticulous and you’ve shared that it’s had an effect on your eyesight, how are you dealing with this change?
AS: Well, I’ve been scaling my work up over the years, so I’m feeling fewer effects on my eyesight than I had previously. As the title of the current show suggests, I’m actually having more of an effect on my body through anxiety.

SH: What elements of other art inspires you? What artists are you fawning over right now?
AS: I’m omnivorous when it comes to art, and right now I’m stuck orbiting twin suns— I have this somewhat inexplicable obsession with seventeenth and eighteenth-century painting right now, which I used to rather despise; have been spending a lot of time at the Frick and the Met. At the same time, I’m absolutely in love with the frenetic multi-discipline work of a few more current fellows whose large-scale pieces I’ve seen over the past year— William Kentridge at both BAM and the Met, for one. I aspire to combine more film, moving sculpture, poetry into my work like that, with hopefully an iota of the energy with which he manages to pull it all together. I was elated to see Marcel Dzama’s recent collaboration with the New York City Ballet, I’ve adored his work for years, and it was thrilling to see it put to such a large scale. Some of the current assemblage works I’ve been producing owe an obvious debt to Cornell and other similar artists. So, I’m pulled towards the foofy bewigged floral stuff on one hand, the gooky, gestural, modern mass ornament on the other.

New Works by Allison Sommers

SH: For those not familiar with your work or artist background? What inspired you to pursue a career in art, most artists and creative people are making things since their childhood but there is a significant difference between having artistic talent and being a full-time artist. What drives you?
AS: I am one of the “most” here, having been making things since childhood, and taking the utmost pleasure in it. I didn’t go to art school, and after University ended up turning an internship at a newsweekly into first a graphic design job and then art directorship. By that time, I was already working with Thinkspace, so I did my painting at night after work, and was thoroughly exhausted and frustrated, so by the time that we moved to New York, I knew that I wanted a path bending more directly towards my art (“sh*t or get off the pot,” as my folks would say). So, I tried to take all the time that I’d given myself by only taking part-time and, eventually, no-time work, and just filled every hour with drawing (and the flaneuserie and indulgent self-contemplation requisite of an artist). I’ve been extremely fortunate that somehow this all can be rounded up to being a full-time artist. It’s cliche, but I really can’t imagine doing anything else, and I’m so incredibly grateful that, at least right now, I’m able to have the luxury of so doing.

SH: What were you listening to during this latest body of work, podcast? Playlist? Netflix?
AS: I am only exaggerating a little when I say that the first month or so of work, I only listened to “The Wall” and then “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers, over and over. It’s my power music. No apologies for the big gobbets of prog-rock I listen to. I spend a lot of time listening to the radio— WNYC for at least six hours a day, WMFU in the evenings sometimes (Dave the Spazz’s show on Thursdays, in particular). Our classical radio station in New York is abysmal, so sometimes I’ll check in online with WETA, which I used to listen to when I grew up in Maryland. There’s a little radio station that popped up this year in a shipping container a few blocks away called “The Lot” that has given me an incredible amount of pleasure over the hours and hours in the studio, and I love that I can just zip down there with the dog and draw in their little yard if I can’t stand being inside anymore. I try to never miss Chances With Wolves’ show. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to the playlist that I made for the show opening, so I suppose folks will get a bit of what my aural background was when I was wrapping it all up. If I must watch a video whilst working— I think it’s bad for your art, but sometimes you need something to push through the long late hours— it’s usually “Downton Abbey” or “The Knick”, or “Call the Midwife” if I’m feeling a little weepy.

Allison Sommers Postcard

The opening reception for ‘Bruxism’ is next Saturday, September 17th from 6 – 9pm. Visit our website for more information on Allison Sommer’s ‘Bruxism’.

Upcoming Exhibition at Thinkspace Gallery – Allison Sommers’s ‘Bruxism’

Allison Sommers Postcard

Allison Sommers
Bruxism

September 17, 2016 – October 8, 2016

(Los Angeles) – Thinkspace is pleased to present Bruxism, a solo exhibition of new works by Brooklyn-based artist Allison Sommers. In her sixth exhibition with the gallery, Sommers presents new mixed-media works that veer increasingly towards an expressionistic abstraction of the figurative. Known for her imaginative and irreverent worlds of creature curiosities and disobedient bodies, Sommers conveys an irrepressible disquiet through an undoing and upended capsizing of skins. Anatomically impressionistic, and at times barbaric, her renderings of bodies and humanoid animals appear in a state of troubling excess, rupturing through the flawed boundaries of their outsides. She presents us with a nightmarish vision of embodiment, reminding us of the body’s impermanence and mortal failure while revealing the uncomfortable beauty of the abhorrent.

Sommers’ vaguely apocalyptic world is aesthetically fraught and anxiety-ridden. Simultaneously gestural and painstakingly contained, a sustained tension emerges between the loose and the drawn, the chaotic and the controlled. Evocative and symbolically open-ended, her imagery evolves through exhaustive sketchbooks and the wrought work of constant mark making. Though familiar, her creatures are at far enough of a remove from the real to evade heavy-handed horror. The surreal proportions of the grotesque keep the imagery on another, more poetically licentious, plane. Seductive and simultaneously pained, Sommers’ world of viscera loosely intermingles violence with calm, the sacred with the profane, and the hideous with the alluring. The brutality of the flesh is an unavoidable precondition of the self, in both its violence and vulnerability, a theme that continues to seep from her work.

Sommers describes her process as one of frenetic distillation, a constant consumption and extraction of experience and influence. Working across a variety of media, she creates installation and sculptural-based works from found materials and altered remnants alongside her two-dimensional pieces. Starting from sketchbook drawings, Sommers builds her paintings through the accretion of marks and materials, layering drawing in various media such as graphite, copier pencil, wax crayon, china marker, magic marker, ballpoint pen and fountain pen, and interspersing these with layers of gouache, her preferred painting medium.

A former history major fascinated by 18th,19th and early 20th, Century historical and cultural themes, Sommers’ work has become decreasingly narrative-based over the years in favor of a more interpretative exploration of its various inheritances. She is interested in what she has called the “scale of grief” in the interwar period, a legacy of existential distress explored by the likes of Francis Bacon, George Grosz, and Otto Dix, all of whom she identifies as influences. Sommers invokes this dissociative experience of the body as a philosophically fractured, psychically incohesive, and ultimately disjointed vessel for the self. Though she dissuades an overly prescribed interpretation of her work, preferring to keep it loosely associative, Sommers’ references and allusions are complex and nuanced.

Among the themes explored by Sommers in Bruxism are the consuming compulsions and wasting momentums of anxiety, the repetitive and forced nature of nostalgia, and the imperfect and unresolved nature of embodiment. In keeping with her preference for references that function as thematic “scaffolding,” her title refers to “bruxing” the term given to the compulsive grinding of a horse’s teeth.

 New Works by Allison Sommers

New Works by Allison Sommers

New Works by Allison Sommers

New Works by Allison Sommers

An interview with Allison Sommers

Allison Sommers inside her studio in New York

Can you share a lil’ bit about your new body of work for ‘Potter’s Field‘?
Potter’s Field is a delightful little cabaret of war, wartime, warpeople, and war fatigue. An opera for all and none.

What fuels you to keep creating?
Well, I’m rather fidgety….

Please describe your dream project if time and money were not issues.
There are a thousand of them. Recently I’ve been fantasizing about immersive paintings, as a small room, or a pod sort of thing – where discomfort and perhaps the fear of the viewer alter the meaning of the painting before them.

Favorite item in your studio?
Perhaps my Steiff Mecki. Or my taxidermied fox, Horace.

Is there anyone in particular, artist or otherwise, that you’d like to give a shout out to here?
The work of Brecht was very influential for Potter’s Field, as was that of Dix and Kollwitz, all both aesthetically and politically.

Any shows or special projects coming up after your exhibit with us here at Thinkspace you would like to mention?
2012 will have gobs of good things! Folks’ll have to stay tuned. 🙂

Allison Sommers "Mutter Courage" - gouache on illustration board - 15x17 inches (2011)

Allison Sommers “Potter’s Field”

Reception with the artist:
Sat, Jan. 7th 5-8PM

Check out the works in “Potter’s Field” here:
www.thinkspacegallery.com/2012/01/project/works-AlPotTr.php

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA / www.thinkspacegallery.com

Hi-Fructose visit the studio of Allison Sommers

“Inspired by historical wars including WWI & the American Civil war, Brooklyn based artist Allison Sommers will be presenting her newest body of work, ‘Potter’s Field’ at L.A’s Thinkspace Gallery on January 7th. Featuring her signature style of miniature scale paintings composed of gouache on paper, the clusters of creatures, either employed as soldiers, beasts or nurses amongst others are engaged in action in darkened, war torn landscape. Illuminating the scale and inventiveness of Sommers who will also be showing one of the largest pieces she’s created to date, several of the smallest works are housed with antique matchboxes.” – Hi-Fructose

Check out the full studio visit with Allison here:
www.hifructose.com/the-blog/2022-a-studio-visit-with-allison-sommers.html

Allison Sommers “Potter’s Field”

Reception with the artist:
Sat, Jan. 7th 5-8PM

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA / www.thinkspacegallery.com

Juxtapoz interview Allison Sommers

Allison Sommers "Base Camp" - gouache on illustration board - 14x16 inches (2011)

One reason you make art?
In making, I make me.

Check out the full Juxtapoz interview with Allison Sommers here:
www.juxtapoz.com/Features/back-talk-a-conversation-with-allison-sommers

Close up look at "Schlachtengemälde" - Allison's largest work yet measuring 3x4 feet

Take a ‘sneak peek’ at the works in “Potter’s Field” here:
www.flickr.com/photos/thinkspace/sets/72157628074563203/

A look at one of Allison's "Souvenirs of War" - miniature works that measure only .75 x 1.4 inches each

Check out what inspired Allison to create the works for “Potter’s Field” here:
www.allisonsommers.com/2011/11/potters-field-inspiration.html

Allison Sommers "The Second Passage" - gouache on illustration board - 30x20 inches (2011)

Reception with the artist:
Sat, Jan. 7th 5-8PM

On view Jan. 7th – Jan. 28th, 2012 in our project room

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA / www.thinkspacegallery.com