An interview with Andrew Liang by Dwayne Butcher
Andrew Liang was born in Taichung City, Taiwan and in 1993 moved to the United States. In 1998 he moved to Baltimore to attend MICA. He enjoys images that bring narratives to life. His works are translations of his daily experiences into visual metaphors. Andrew is motivated by the comics of Kazuo Umezu and studying the compositions of print masters Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, while dreaming of traveling the world. In addition to his studio pursuits, Liang is the co-director of Current Gallery.
Recently, I spent some time in his studio talking about Lebron James, frozen bananas, drinking at Club Charles, and stalking people in the internet. Here is part of that conversation.
Dwayne Butcher: You are currently working on your next exhibition; Sunburns and Sirens, a group show at Current that opens in July. Who else is in the exhibition and what is the theme, if any, of the show?
Andrew Liang: Sunburns and Sirens sounds like the summer in Baltimore. Eamon Espey came up with the title. Espey is an artist who lives and works in Baltimore and will be showing some of his most recent work on wood. Shelby Rosabal, who recently finished her BFA at MICA, will be also exhibiting her most recent work, mostly sculpture. Uziel Esteban Orlandi Alegria is an artist from Puerto Rico and he will be showing 3D and 2D work. I will be showing mostly sculpture.
This show is an opportunity to exhibit some new ideas that I have had, and very excited to finally get to make happen. I usually just make drawings and paintings, now I am taking a shot at making these ideas in a sculptural form. I know that Eamon, Shelby and Uziel are all showing work with a new approach and in a new medium. Simultaneously, Zoe Friedman will have her solo exhibition in the side gallery, titled Wild Wood. Zoe will transform the space into a jungle with cut paper collage.
DB: With the new 3D work, we were talking about you wanting to take the work in a new direction and that it is scary. Why?
AL: I usually draw ideas on paper or I paint them. That’s it. To take it a step further would to be making them into objects that could be interacted with. It’s scary to me because now it’s not just on paper, its real. It’s scary due to my lack of skill and knowledge to make them into real objects. Many things involved in the making of that idea in reality is out of my control and comprehension. For example, the screen printing ink did not arrive on time. But it’s exciting at the same time, because I am learning.
I am lucky to have lived in a very supportive community of artists who are generous with their time and that care for others. I was able to work with Paul Daniel who taught me how to weld; David Zimmerman helped me cut a piece of plywood in a perfect circle; James Bouche helped me screen print; Jenny Strunge advised me on sewing tips; Risa Ono fixed my sewing machine and taught me how to quilt curved patterns; Mark Kooi advised me on breaking up the patterns to simplify the work flow; Lindsay Pickett helped me flash freeze bananas in blocks of ice. Its expensive trying out new things, especially if I don’t know what I am doing. Material costs, experimenting, and I get really stressed out and I lost sleep over the screen printing ink not arriving in time. I messed up a lot, and have had one setback after another. But it’s genuinely fun. I am working with artists and friends who encourage and allow me to suck them into this journey. I think it’s worth it, that’s why I do it. Making art in a new way allows me to learn and respect things I don’t know anything about, like welding, quilting, flash freezing, and cutting wood in a perfect circle.
DB: So, how hard is it to make a square basketball?
AL: This all started with a drawing I made a year ago. It was of Lebron James having a hard time with a basketball that is in a square format. It’s hard for me to make a square basketball. I started out by creating a list of points of what an ideal square basketball would be; it has to bounce, it has to have the inflation valve, it has to be square, it has to have leather casing, it has to look like a basketball…etc. It is possible to make a bounce-able rubber bladder cube basketball, but it is way out of my budget. So, I researched possibilities within my budget and came to a conclusion that I can make it. I boiled it down to two options for the inner bladder for a square ball.
1. use a foam block.
2. use a square inflatable air bladder (ordered from amazon.com).
Along the way, I approached many people asking for suggestions and advice. A random search on Google led me to a French artist, Fabrice Hyber who had made square soccer balls. His advice was to look for inflatable air bladders on the Internet, which was one of the solutions on my list. So, I rolled with the inflatable air bladder for the inside. I want to encase the square ball with leather so it has the basketball look. Now, I have to learn how to upholster. The hardest part was to make the basketball pattern. But, after a couple weeks of struggling, I made a square ball! I jumped with joy.
DB: We were talking about your first solo exhibition at the Wind-Up space and the cost of your work. Can you talk about that?
AL: My good friend Russell DeOcampo said that “if an idea could go on sale for a dollar each, after a million sold ideas, you would be a millionaire.” I took this to heart as an encouragement to make as many cool ideas as I possibly can. The challenge here is making a million ideas first, and then the art actually being purchased for a dollar each. The sales part is uncontrollable. I enjoy the making cool ideas part. If I have a gallery show, I would price my work at an attainable rate.
The price of my work does not equal to the value of the work. Art should be traded at a fair price. I understand it takes enlightenment, inspiration, intense physical labor, master skill set, conceptual thinking, eccentric taste, relentless marketing, sophisticated resume, broad connections, and higher education to make legit art to exhibit in legit galleries. So, the respectable price for this legit art is understandably way out of the reach of normal human beings.
DB: Is this what you tell artists to think about when pricing what they show at Current?
AL: I tell artists who are scheduled to show with us my observations of the pattern of the types of audience that come to check out our exhibitions. I don’t tell artists how to price their work. I don’t believe price equals to the value of the art. I know we show out of town artists, they pay a price to come to Current to show their work. I feel it’s my responsibility to tell them who would most likely be their audience.
DB: So, tell me about the cookie exhibition you judged on June 27th?
AL: The Most Beautiful Cookie competition was an event held at Gallery 4 on June 28th. I was invited to be a judge by Ginevra Shay. I love eating cookies, so I am always really excited to be eating lots of them.
DB: How did you get involved with Current and what is your role?
AL: Current was founded in 2004. At that time, I was involved with another collective, Splotch, publishing quarterly exhibitions on the Internet. There was an open call for an art collective to occupy a space on Calvert Street. Current was the selected group. In 2006, Splotch had an exhibition of its members at Current, shortly after that, Splotch disbanded. The following year, I became a studio member, volunteering and helping out with events.
In 2009, I was asked to administer Current, sharing responsibilities with Mike Benevento and Monique Crabb. And at this time, we moved Current to the Howard street location. Over time, I learned how to collaborate with people. At the moment, we are still in the process of shaping up our facilities and will be launching additional programs in the fall. On June 28th, we will begin holding a monthly flea market in our back parking lot. Swap-Meet, is a monthly event organized by David Zimmerman and Kari Nye. This will allow people to come barter, trade, or shop for vintage things, skills, crafts, etc. We hope this will grow into a larger event over time.
DB: How do you select the exhibitions at Current?
AL: Current has two galleries, a main space and a (smaller) side space. We take proposals for the main space, or sometimes for the side space. The side space is usually reserved for curated solo shows. Proposals can be submitted through email@example.com.
We are looking for elaborate, cohesive, well-defined proposals, for the main space. This means Mike and I have to know what the proposal is intending on doing. What will the audience be taking away with them? What are the expectations of the artists, ideal time of the exhibition, etc.? The main space is not limited to just proposals, we sometimes use the space to curate shows that we have been thinking about and planning, and sometimes music shows happen. We are open to visual art, performance, a poetry reading, a cooking show, a talk show, comedy, music, workshops, lectures, slide shows, wrestling matches, cock fights, etc. One thing the applicants need to know is that once the show is considered, Mike and I will be working closely with the applicants to get the show up. And during the duration of the show, the artists are responsible for gallery hours, which are 12pm-4pm, Saturday and Sunday. It will be a long process, so, we do our selection of proposals very carefully and seriously.
We also like persistence, because persistence shows seriousness. When we do the side gallery, we scope out artists we like, and we schedule studio visits. Sometimes, we do get artists submitting their portfolio link in our email, Mike and I review the portfolio, and if we like the work, we will schedule studio visits. We will bring the floor plan of the side gallery, and pitch an estimated exhibition date, the artist will get complete freedom (within safety guidelines and Currents installation policy) to install their solo show at the side space. We also take proposals from curators. We have maintained a close relationship with ICA Baltimore, Transmodern Festival, etc. We usually merge the side space and main space openings to the same day. This is to increase exposure, network, and the possibility of meeting ones ex.
Check out Andrew’s new work in Sunburns and Sirens at Current through August 2, 2015 !
Author Dwayne Butcher is an artist, writer, curator and chicken wing connoisseur living in Baltimore, MD. Butcher moved here from Memphis in the summer of 2013 and now resides in a really terrible place in Mt. Vernon. However, he enjoys all the happy hours in close proximity to his apartment but often wonders why people limit happy to only an hour. He has continued to have international exhibitions and has published articles in local, regional and national publications. To see his work and curatorial projects, visit dwaynebutcher.com, better yet, get in touch, he would love to have you over to the studio.