Interview by Amanda Quinn Olivar, West Coast Editor
Born in Chicago and currently living and working in Venice, CA, Kim Schoenstadt received her BFA from Pitzer College, CA. Her work dynamically explores the junctures of architecture, sculpture, color, line, history, culture and concepts, creating “mash-up drawings” that allow her to defy the laws of gravity while incorporating architecture into site specific installations that engage audiences throughout the construction process. Her conceptual projects engage social issues and are often large in scale.
Called by the Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight a "view painter," he compared her to Canaletto or Bernardo Bellotto, and continued, "unlike her 18th century forbears, however, ...her work surveys very different terrain. Her knotty work charts the intersection between the bricks and mortar of actual city streets and the effervescent elements of virtual reality. That's where we live now." Her practice also includes conceptual projects such as her ongoing “Now Be Here” series which invites local female identifying artists to gather for a large group photograph. Participating cities have so far included Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.
What was the aha moment that led you to art... and did Los Angeles play a part in your career decision?
I grew up in Chicago in the '70s and the MCA Chicago at the time was a very small museum run by Jan van der Marck, who used every square inch of the former [Playboy] office building to exhibit work. My favorite work was in the back stairwell which had a sound installation in it by Max Neuhaus. The installation was very subtle--you never saw anything physical, he hid the speakers so you only heard the abstract sound piece echoing throughout the space. I thought I was going crazy and then it all came together. For me, this was a big moment of "AH HA!" that showed me the way that art could change my relationship to space. A bland stairwell became activated architecture--a place of wonder. From that moment on, I knew I was going to be an artist, so coming to Pitzer College in LA did not change my choice of career but it showed me how artists live and work.
How has living in LA informed your approach and aesthetic?
I started working for John Baldessari right out of college and basically worked for him instead of going to graduate school. Because he is a generous person, we would hang out after work and talk about my work and art and life. I consider his artistic philosophy of generosity and inclusion to be very unique to Los Angeles. I learned from him how to approach art making as a practical thoughtful process where artists are peers and an exhibition is an opportunity to be part of an ongoing conversation. I love to tell stories through my work and projects. My obsession with drawing mash-ups of buildings allows me to bring two opposite histories or ideologies together. I’m able to tell the history of place through the combinations I create. I love embedding hidden histories into a work so the viewer can go deeper if they want and I always provide the buildings included in the works as a visual reference for the public. As for materials I use anything from spray paint and pencil to powder coated steel to drawings suspended by thread; the materials are used to match the idea.
When and how did you first feel embraced by our LA art community?
I think it was one Thanksgiving where John Baldessari had all of the “art orphans” over to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner and I realized that even though we work alone we are part of a larger whole. That feeling was one that I tried to recreate with the “Now Be Here” project. I for sure felt that again while standing with my fellow female identifying artists in 2016 at Hauser and Wirth.
The exhibition speaks about the vitality of our art community. Which pioneering LA artist influenced you the most? And whose work do you find intriguing right now?
Well John Baldessari of course influenced me the most early on, mainly because I worked with him for 15 years and for the first five it was just us in the studio. But Chris Williams, Cathie Opie, Mary Kelley, Eleanor Antin have all showed me to look at the world in a new way. As for the second question, I think the answer is YES. ALL. I love that now there are too many openings to go to and too many great artists to see. There are great smaller galleries all over LA supporting great artists. Project spaces supporting underrepresented artistic communities and the lecture programs at the different museums are my current love.
What is your favorite art accident?
I was asked to do a wall drawing for a group show in a gallery and I asked for them to fax the floor plans. I loaded the fax machine with a recycled drawing but did it wrong so the fax came through with the floor plan on top of the drawing. So the Fax Drawings were created! What I love is that they are a document of the moment--they all have clear time and date and show the gallery configuration in that exact moment. A series of them were shown in Belgium in 2008.
Photo of Kim Schoenstadt: Todd Grey
How They Ran
Over The Influence
August 12 - September 5, 2018