Interview with Rick Caruso

February 14th 2010

Interview with Rick Caruso

As part of my research into New York based artists, I spent an afternoon browsing through the P.S.1 Studio Visits. Rick Caruso’s studio had a bright yellow door.  I wanted it.  Ok, so admittedly not the best reason for contacting an artist. However, I then had the same reaction to his work….. Just like the yellow door, there was something about it.

Rick Caruso Studio

IS: Can you tell me a bit about the main concerns of your art practice?

RC: Well, right now my main concerns are fairly formal. When I left SFAI, My studio practice revolved around a set of concepts and I would find imagery and relationships to fit and illustrate the concept, but after awhile I began to feel that the work was becoming too didactic and the studio process boring, and for me the work became boring to look at. Because it was overly conceptualized, I think the work communicated a certain type of calculation and there wasn’t much to discover in it once it was complete. My studio practice has mostly developed away from a hard pre-conceived concept and instead I begin by constructing and organizing various forms until I find something or cancel out something I dislike and mostly allow my conceptual concerns to grow out of that process.

Waterside, Rick Caruso, paper on paper, 8'' x 10'', 2010

IS: How important is interaction with artists, to the development of your practice?

RC: I think in general it’s really important to be around friends whether they make things or do something totally different. It’s really easy to become isolated making work alone and the experience of someone else looking at what only you have been looking and thinking about really forces you to consider how the work comes across outside of that bubble of your studio space and head.

IS: How did you get involved with the Gift Cycle project? Can you tell be a bit about your experience of it?

RC: I got involved in the Gift Cycle project when Sarah Sandman and Melissa Small organized a group of friends to make T-shirts and artwork for them to ‘gift’ or exchange with other artists at events in cities that they were biking through on their way across country. I think Sarah and Melissa’s idea for the project originated in part from Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift. I hadn’t read The Gift, but I had been really influenced by Dave Hickey’s The Invisible Dragon and what he writes about the value of art to be overly determined by academic institutions, grant committees and, now on the other side of that, by galleries and dealers. With the Gift Cycle, Sarah and Melissa created communities of artists that operated outside of the normal art world and determined for themselves the value of the work they were exchanging. As with this transatlantic art exchange, it’s really interesting to exchange my work with work I like from artists I’ve never met and don’t know.

Pinwheel, Rick Caruso, ink on paper, 8'' x 10'', 2009

IS: You studied in San Francisco and then moved to New York.  How did your experiences of the art world differ in each city?

RC: The time I lived in the Bay Area was mostly spent going to the San Francisco Art Institute and my relationship to the city was mostly as an art student; so I enjoyed San Francisco a lot. It’s an awesome city. I moved to Brooklyn about a year later and was new to living in New York and needed a job. New York is just a difficult city to move into and the fight between how much time you need to spend at a job and how much time you can devote to artwork is even more pronounced on account of how insanely expensive everything is. And yet New York has such a large community of artists, spaces, events, museums, galleries, grants and support for artwork that smaller cities just can’t compete with. There is just so much more going on. I recently moved back to New York from Providence, Rhode Island, where I was living with my girlfriend while she was in school at RISD. Providence is a cheap and cool little city with a funky community of artists and designers, but it just doesn’t have any actual jobs. But it’s cheap and I had more time but not actual consistent employment. So I guess that’s the big dilemma everyone has everywhere for everything: where do you go?

Boarder, Borders, Rick Caruso, paper on paper, 24" x 22.5 ", 2004

IS: What are your thoughts on the importance of networking as an artist?

RC: Well, It’s really important and I’m pretty much terrible at it.

IS: What advice would you give to an artist moving to a new city?

RC: I’m not sure I have any good advice. Try to figure out the best way to keep working in your studio and spend as much time as you can with fascinating people you like to be around. And have a job that isn’t terrible. But pays decently. And is also only a couple of days a week. Maybe figure out how to network without coming across like a weirdo.

Castle, Rick Caruso, ink on paper, 8" x 11", 2008