Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cameron Crone

Workspace: I know you’re trained as a photographer. Can you talk about how you went from a more traditional photographic practice to making sculptural and more installation based work?

Cameron Crone: I was trained as a photographer, but I never made photos like Lee Friedlander or Robert Frank. By that, I mean I never had a mode of working where I would go out into the world and make photographs intuitively. I made photos of specific things that I was drawn to for their sculptural properties. With the series Touchfree, I photographed automatic car washes, which are super decorated minimal structures. Ultimately, I was more interested in the objects than in the work’s photographic qualities.

Then, I started collecting these gnarled sticks and photographing them against patterned fabric backgrounds. Eventually, I took the sticks out of the pictures. I ended up with these quasi-abstract Op-Art photographs, and in studio visits, people kept asking me how these images would exist out in the world. Up until that point I had printed everything on traditional photo paper, but I decided to print these works out on fabric. I liked that they were pictures of fabric printed on fabric, and the transition from photo paper to fabric brought them into a dialogue with painting.

With this work, I began considering the way the photo sat as an object in the world, and that opened the door to working with sculpture and installation. Now I tend to sit with my photos a little longer. Sometimes they end up as part of a sculpture, sometimes they end up as a photo in a frame. I wait and see what the work wants.

WS: In your Workspace show, there seemed to be a combined interest in Op Art and the singular viewpoint of a camera. Can you talk a little bit about how you were thinking about optics and looking? Also could you talk specifically about how you arrived at your title: Object, Image, Room, Wood, Etc.

CC: Before my show, I was thinking about how installation work is always presented through a single image, and that one photograph becomes representative of the installation. For my Workspace show, I wanted to complicate that. I wanted the installation to be photographed in a way that made sense, but when a viewer was in the space or engaging it from the street, it would offer a more disorienting experience. I also was engaging with Op Art again, but instead of the stark black and whites or the tricky color combos that those artists used, I used photos made by scanning the end of a piece of white ebony wood. That image had this visceral surface quality that I liked and responded to. I used this scanned image and made a concentric square pattern from it, putting something gestural into Op Art.

I tend to give my pieces titles that are the simplest descriptors of what the piece is. I am drawn to the humor of a flatfooted title, where it lays bare all the components of a piece. The title, Object, Image, Room, Wood, Etc. described everything I was incorporating and thinking about in the installation. What was primary here? Do I think of it as a sculptural object, is it a photograph, is it dealing with the architecture, or is it about the piece of white ebony? I really didn’t know, so I gave it a title that mirrored my uncertainty.

WS: In your work the subject matter seems imbued with a Southern Californian boyishness. Can you talk about how your surroundings and where you grew up inform your work?

CC: In learning about art history, I responded strongly to the work of Southern California Conceptualists such as John Baldesarri, William Wegman, Ed Ruscha, et al. When I first encountered their work, it shocked me. All I could think was, “This is Art?” It wasn’t because of the aesthetics, but because my high school friends and I had done a lot of similar hijinks that shared the same irreverent attitude.

I also grew up in Temecula, CA, an exurb city that mushroomed overnight. It was really boring and quotidian, and lacked any sort of cultural stimulation. Temecula was also the type of city that would have a KFC decorated with a wild west facade. Next to it would be a Taco Bell done in some weird watered-down postmodern architectural style. But, the interiors of the buildings would be identical: the same chairs, floor, ceiling, soda machines, etc. Things really seemed to be about surface, and that has remained a concern in my work.

Growing up in this environment, you have to do things that puncture the mundane membrane, or else you will go crazy. Some of the things I did to fight boredom: building bike ramps, drawing on magazine photos, etc., have popped back up in my work in strange and unexpected ways.

More about Object, Image, Room, Wood, Etc. here and more of Cameron Crone's work here.

[all Cameron Crone. top to bottom: 2nd & Pacific Coast Highway, from the series Touchfree, 2008. Object, Image, Room, Wood, Etc., 2011. Horse Head, from the series Raster Splash 2011.]