The first new works to adorn our project room for 2019 are by Canadian, New York-based artist Daniel Bilodeau for his exhibition State of the Art. Bilodeau’s paintings explore aspects of identity, from the symbolic archetype funneled through art history to portraits of people close to the artists. He combines the immediacy of single rapid strokes, pours, non-objective marks with carefully constructed realistic forms to create gorgeous reimagined portraitures, where his portraits of people around him are highly personalized, the portraits from art history are depersonalized
In anticipation of State of the Art, our interview with Daniel Bilodeau discusses the inspiration behind this body of work, creative process, and dream collaboration.
Join us for the opening of State of the Art this Saturday, January 5th from 6 pm – 9 pm.
SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign?
DB: Sure, and I think I’ll start here: while I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, a pivotal moment came when my 5th-grade teacher took us to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art to see the Marc Chagall retrospective. As a child, I could relate to the freedom with color and the lack of anatomical accuracy in the work. And I could see that these works were moving and important; on display in hallowed halls. As soon as we had passed through the exhibition proper we entered a room full of paper and art supplies and we were told, essentially, “Now it’s your turn.” I could draw new parallels at that moment and felt an empowerment. Other crucial moments in my life and art came when studying at the museums of Italy and France for a summer, living as a monk at a Zen monastery for another summer, a blood ceremony with the chief of the Yaqui Native tribe.
My BFA came from Ringling College in Florida, my MFA from the New York Academy of Art in New York City.
It seems unlikely to me that any balls of gas impossibly far from here are conspiring around how my next dinner party or job interview will go. However surprised I’d be to find my fate really is written into a star map, I’ll be damned if I don’t, for some reason, go looking at the public display screens at the train station when they flash the zodiac blurbs. If there is astrological weather in store for me, it’s coming to a Pisces.
SH: What inspired this latest body of work?
DB: The joy and challenge of creating, first of all. Pushing the resonance between smooth and textured, illusory and abstract, deliberate and spontaneous… In terms of content, with these portraits, I was considering how the sense of self today is formed. It’s formed inside an algorithm funneled cacophony of input and expectation, and the manipulation of content produces more and more for us to consider. I wanted to speak of the side of us that is learned balancing with the side which is direct, automatic, and childlike.
When not painting people around me I’ve examined portraits from the past- two in particular- through the lens of our image-addled times. Working from my own previous experiments with a Bronzino and an Ingres, instead of reproductions of the originals, I play a game of telephone- adding, shifting, and seeing what changes over the iterations. Ever more titillating freely available imagery is traded endlessly online. Here I’m embracing this open season on visual content-fascinated by the losses and gains associated with our culture of content manipulations. In the migration of culture into digital space, and the processing of art history through a digital age vastly removed from the original context, I’m dealing with the question of whether these old works are “up for revision;” especially given that they are all definitely receiving it and there is no going back. Where my portraits of people around me are highly personalized, the portraits from art history are depersonalized.
SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.
DB: “Unfolding” involved just about as much color and movement as could go into a piece which, in person especially (with its size somehow important), still evokes calm. The interesting challenge, as I put it to myself, was to have the work both full of life and at ease simultaneously.
SH: How do you capture ideas for pieces; do you have a sketchbook on hand or is it just a note to yourself in your phone?
DB: Both and beyond – sometimes it’s a small drawing, and I do take endless photographs and screenshots of everything from spots on the ground to torn up flyposting in New York City to the work of inspiring artists. I also manipulate imagery with physical collage and in Photoshop. The methodologies really vary by the piece.
SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?
DB: The next one- the nascent work of art. Knowing that I can do more, make more, tackle the next one, explore an idea, express myself, inspire someone. There is a wellspring of inspiration and an urgency with the passage of time.
SH: What frustrates you about your work/ creative process?
DB: Pulling brush hairs and paint boogers out of fresh varnish, protecting the sides of the paintings, touch-ups and many other such things that take hours when all I want and need to be doing is painting. The fact that there are only 24 hours in a day when clearly we need many more.
SH: Who is an artist; musician, director, any art form – who would be a dream collaboration for you and what would you create?
DB: If Picasso, Velázquez, myself and a nice bottle of Bourbon all got together I’m sure we could make something happen. Artistically. Also, I would leap at the chance to collaborate with a museum to fill a room (rooms) with creation on a large scale install.
SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?
DB: We all look at life through our own tiny keyhole, no matter how “connected” we are. Art first causes us to pause. Then it introduces a new perspective, feeling, or information to consider and internalize in such a visceral way. There is nothing else like it and to engage with art is to bring a gift into your life.
SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?
DB: Rods and Cones: color swirls plated with a texturally contrasting layer of translucent hardened caramelized sugar varnish, with rods and cones.
SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work?
DB: Before cleaning up and getting right back to work I would ordinarily have a great dinner with friends I couldn’t spend time with during the work deluge. This time, however, two days after the opening I’m going to make a dream come true and go on an intensive exploration of eight Southeast Asian countries. The time has come for a great adventure.
State of the Art – Daniel Bilodeau
Whether playing with an archetype funneled through art history or a portrait of someone close Daniel Bilodeau is thinking about aspects of identity today. He has been engaged with a series of works which imply certain truths of our time: the modern sense-of-self formed inside an algorithm funneled cacophony of input and expectation, and the manipulation of content to produce more and more to consider. His paintings, in form and function, speak of the side of us that is learned and calibrated balancing with the side which is direct, automatic, and child- like. He uses different forms of attention in painting these, combining the immediacy of single rapid strokes, pours, non-objective marks and introduced found objects with carefully constructed realistic forms. Intertwining these into a unified whole beckons out different forms of creative activity and the result speaks to a similar interplay within the psyche of the sitter- the conscious and the unconscious at work simultaneously.
When not painting people around him Bilodeau examines portraits from the past- two in particular- through the lens of our image-addled times. Working from his own previous experiments with a Bronzino and an Ingres, instead of reproductions of the originals, he plays a game of telephone- adding, shifting, and seeing what changes over the iterations. Ever more titillating freely available imagery is traded endlessly online. Here this open season on visual content is embraced by Bilodeau who is fascinated by the losses and gains associated with our culture of content manipulations. In the migration of culture into digital space, and the processing of art history through a digital age vastly removed from the original context, Bilodeau deals with the question of whether these old works are “up for revision” especially given that they are all definitely receiving it and there is no going back. Where his portraits of people around him are highly personalized, the portraits from art history are depersonalized.
Bilodeau displaces and distorts but brings his creations through objectification and back as a haptic, considered physical work of art with presence. Having used the variety of tools at his disposal Bilodeau produces real-world objects demanding attention as signs of the times, remembrances of the past, and an embrace of all the gorgeousness we can make through our ever-widening visual resources and agency.