Interview with Vincent Como

February 12th 2010

Interview with Vincent Como

From Color Theory to Alchemy to Heavy Metal, he may not be a Rolling Stone but he wants it painted Black.

Vincent Como

IS: What brought you to Brooklyn and how long have you lived here?

VC: I’ve been in Brooklyn since 2006.  New York has a gravitational pull to it if you are an artist, and I had been living in Chicago for close to 10 years, but New York was always something of a recurrent thought in the back of my mind.  An opportunity presented itself to move and after that much time in one city it was a real upheaval, but when it was all said and done I felt like: Why the hell did I wait so long to do this?  This is exactly where I want to be, and has been a great source of both inspiration and energy.

IS: Can you explain a bit about your practice and in particular your relationship to the colour black?

VC: Yes, I’m very much committed to all things Black.  It came about because wanted to strip away as many variables as possible from the work, yet I wanted it to be loaded with meaning.  This meant finding a way to remove color, because I didn’t want any emotional associations, just pure information.  Considering Black to be the sum of all colors it retains the content of the idea of color without any of the viewer’s personal baggage or romantic notions about blue, or red for instance.  It is pure and complete in that regard.  The work itself becomes analogous to the mark.  It retains all of the information of its presence and content to confront the viewer with that as a direct and succinct imposition of the art experience.  I also thought about the beginning of time and how after the big bang there was a “Dark Age” of the universe for about 1-2 billion years before the stars were actually ignited and brought light into what we understand as the world.  This primordial Black soup held all of the content for what was to become – from galaxies and planets to consciousness and electrons – through chemical and physical interactions, it just wasn’t fully accessed.  I thought about the ideas of light and darkness and how much Black can absorb.  I thought about the farthest extremes of human perception, and the role Darkness plays in our lives by obscuring, and hiding information.  This is the puzzle I wanted to spend my time digging through and unfolding.  To see what roles the associations of Black and Darkness play.  To explore these depths and re-present these ideas through the vehicle of visual art.

I’m certainly indebted to Malevich and Reinhardt for the directions they brought to Western painting, and I consider myself primarily a “Painter” although I do comparatively little work on actual canvas.  I feel my job is to take what I was given by Art History and this culture and keep pushing it out into as many potential directions and absorb as many associations as the work is capable of.  Reinhardt committed the last six years of his life to executing 60×60 inch square paintings with a remarkably subtle cruciform motif, yet each one is distinct.  He built his practice up to that singularity, and I am taking from that and trying to expand it back out into every conceivable route it can possibly go in.  To hint at every different physical, perceptual, psychological manifestation of Black I can possibly fit into the canon of my work through each individual work of art whether that piece is a painting, drawing, or object, which each bring another element to the discussion.

So as a result, I’m not in my studio working on a particular painting or series of work relating to one of these concepts, which then fit into the greater scheme of things.  I mean, I am, but I’m not.  I’m in my studio working backwards from a lifetime of absolute devotion that breaks down into these independent series’ and objects to more succinctly reference an element of Black, Darkness, or Matter.

4.5 Cubic Inches (Volume of the Inside of My Head), Vincent Como, 2007 Cast Sumi Ink 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 4 1/2in

IS: You have shown in several cities across the country. Have you noticed any major differences in how your work has been received in each city?

AV: Not on a direct city by city basis per se, which may be due to the fact that most of the exhibitions come to fruition within that particular city’s art circles, or a heavy art community that is engaged in the greater discourse, but I do notice that the first ones to really engage the work are other artists, they personally understand a certain level of insular mania towards an idea or color because they’re usually just as focused on something else.  They relate and “get” it.  Then eventually the rest come around…or not if they just can’t get into it.  It happens, it’s pushing something as far as it can go and it gets beyond some people.

I just recently had a show called Black Mass open in Boston at Proof Gallery and the gallery interns all coordinated with each other to wear all black for the opening.  I didn’t quite notice at first, but the Gallery Director informed me at the post opening dinner, and I thought it was both hilarious and humbling that they were compelled to support the work in that way.  My closets are full of only Black clothes and living in New York there’s a lot of Black and Grey around, so it didn’t occur to me until it was mentioned that there are people who may actually wear a lot of color on a regular basis.  So that particular instance was a funny revelation, and was really a touching demonstration of a public engagement with the work.

Blackshift, Vincent Como, 2009 Watercolor Gouache and Ink on Paper

IS: Having taken part in several solo, two person and group shows, how do you feel about your work in the context of the exhibition? To what extent is your work affected by it’s relationship with the work around it?

VC: That’s actually a funny question to me, as I’ve had studio visits where I’ve been told that since the work is pushed to such an extreme it becomes difficult to fit it in to the context of a group setting without creating an imbalance in the show.  I can understand that, but at the same time my resume kind of shows that it is possible to put the work into a context and exist with other objects in a room, so I think it comes down to a matter of the accessibility of information and understanding of the ideas that the gallery or curator has at their disposal to be able to work around what I’m doing and contextualize these things.  As far as the extent that my work is affected by the pieces around it in a show, I may not be the best judge of that.  I definitely have seen my work overpower a room, but I’m going to naturally gravitate toward certain aesthetic concerns anyway, so it’s not an impartial observation at all.

The Blackening, Vincent Como, 2008 Site Specific Installation at Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn Spring 2008

IS: To What extent do you get involved in the curation of your work?

VC: As long as my vision and intent is still clear in the context, I try to be supportive and accessible but not overbearing towards any project that is not a solo endeavor.  That’s what creates the broader associations and categorization of what I’m doing and reaches beyond the immediate context of my work into the deeper realms of Color Theory or Hermetic traditions etc.  That helps bring another audience to the work that aren’t necessarily accessing it from its independent location.

IS: How important do you think it is for artists to build up a network of artists in which to exchange ideas?

VC: I think that’s potentially the MOST important thing an artist can do.  We exist in our studios and in our heads 90% of the time, yet we produce work and ideas that are meant to be accessed by the world outside. We’re generating locations in time and space that are part of the ongoing discussion of art.  Your network becomes your support system for when you’ve painted yourself into a corner and can’t figure out the next step.  They work through the same issues with different mediums or endpoints and it’s valuable to be able to share in a dialogue of how one person is getting from point A to point B.  I don’t mean like stealing each other’s ideas, I’m talking about the working/thinking/problem solving process.  Sometimes it’s easier to see the same problems or issues happening in someone else’s work and through the interaction you get that arm’s length distance that you need to see the bigger picture and how it relates to what you have been trying to work out. This way you are supporting each other’s work and supporting each other’s successes.  It all helps to raise everyone’s expectations for themselves.

Untitled, Vincent Como, 2000 Framed Ballpoint Pen Drawings on Shelves 84 x 56 in