Interview by Amanda Quinn Olivar, West Coast Editor
Eric Zammitt lives and works in Altadena, California. Born in 1960 in Los Angeles, Zammitt creates wall works and sculpture using colored acrylic plastic. His work explores complex abstractions of color and pattern for their visceral and cognitive content. He considers his wall-panels to be a form of painting.
His work is has been shown and collected nationally and internationally, and is included in collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA, Pomona College Museum of Art in Pomona, CA, and the Gerald E. Buck Collection.
This exhibition is all about the color red... Tell me about the idea behind your piece. What was the process to transform that idea into reality, and how is "red" significant?
My initial idea is simply a starting point in color, and the intent to have some kind of synergy happen, whether subtle or dramatic. In this case, the starting point was reds and grays. Once I start playing with the possibilities of color relationships, it becomes a purely visceral engagement. There are technical steps along the way, obviously, but the content is something I feel for.
One could make many references to the significance of red, but, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is blood, and blood is life in all its passions, sorrows and joys. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville wrote a wonderful chapter just on the color white and all that it represents and stirs in us, glorious and horrific. The same could be done for red with all its associations. Alas… I’m not Herman Melville.
Where does your interest in making art come from... Was there an aha moment? Tell me about your career path. How did it all start?
I grew up in an art family, so it came naturally. My father was an artist, and my mother’s father was a comic book artist for Marvel Comics. Artwork, art books, and art materials were always around the house. In the 1960s when I was a small boy, my father used acrylic plastic as a sculpture medium, so I saw plastic as an art material from a very young age. His work and the intense and luminous color of the material was quite inspiring.
Let’s talk about your subject matter and process. Does your body of work involve detailed planning and execution, or do spontaneity and experimentation play a role?
My work is a balance between planning and spontaneity. It starts with just playing around with colored chips of plastic and arranging them into a sequence. Kind of like playing with a piano key board to create a melody.
Once I arrive at a sequence, or “melody”, my process essentially clones that sequence into hundreds of duplicates, usually in the form of long strips. These get laid out on a flat surface and the spontaneous process of arrangement begins again. It gets complex and unpredictable at this point, so I play around with it until it arrives, so to speak, at what I consider to be its highest potential.
The process itself involves a great deal of planning and figuring, and that’s the technical nature of what I do, but the content of the work is a result of feel and experimentation, following the color into its own logic and rhythm.
Who are your favorite LA artists and influences right now?
I try to get something out of everything I look at. I enjoy seeing how others use color, shape, and pattern. Some names that come to mind are Steve Roden, Jason Middlebrook, Jamison Carter, and Gary Lang.
What is your favorite art accident?
Sometimes in processing parts on the table-saw, there are multi-colored cut-offs, or scraps, that I end up assembling into great pieces in themselves. I made a piece called One Song this way, and it was a favorite at my show and the first to sell.
Photo of Eric Zammit: Courtesy of the artist
August 25 - September 29, 2018