Featured Artist: Matthew Hausmann
Periodically, we review newly created artist profiles in the BRIC Contemporary Artist Registry and selects one of exceptional merit to feature.
Brooklyn-based artist Matt Hausmann reclaims cast-off objects and repurposes utilitarian materials in order to construct wall-mounted sculptures which reference a variety of architectural forms. Using a plethora of materials--brass escutcheon pins, nails, screws, lead, steel, aluminum, encaustic, shellacs, urethanes and a wide variety of specialty and found wood--Hausmann describes his creations as obsessively fabricated and mathematically ordered, concentrating on their form, texture, surface and shadow. His process involves repetition and rhythm: multiple clusters of nail heads, intricate etched surfaces, layers of wax and paint delicately embellish surfaces. The works are architectural; referencing New York City's luxury condos as well as the turn-of-the-century homes sited on the streets of the historic Mississippi River town where Hausmann grew up. Each piece is textured and colorful, often gleaming with multiple finish layers, like pieces of hard candy. Born in 1968 in Alton, Illinois, Hausmann received a BA in art and psychology at Knox College. In 1991, after serving as a staff member at the Vermont Studio Center, he moved to New York City. Supporting himself as steeplejack, housepainter, art handler, tree-house builder, set designer, percussionist, carpenter, commercial fisherman, gardener, designer and general contractor, he accumulated 25 years of experience actively building and considering space and architecture. Hausmann's proclivities, activities and work has been featured in various venues and media including: Good Morning America, MTV, PBS/City Arts, NY 1, the New York Times, Time Out New York, The New Yorker, The Kitchen, PS 122, Galapagos, PS 1, Fringe Festival, Knitting Factory, Artists Space, Art in General, Cleveland Institute of Contemporary Art, Albright-Knox Gallery, Bass Museum of Art and more. Hausmann lives, works and coaches Little League in Brooklyn.
Q & A:
Much of your work seems to reference either the urban architecture of New York City or that of your hometown in Illinois. What is it about architecture and space that inspires you, and what do you hope to communicate through your works? I consider everything in my field of vision to be architecture. From the macro to the micro, if I can navigate it either physically or mentally it is architecture. Right now I'm looking out the window and there's a plane tree in the foreground. There is a sidewalk, a red door, a green fence and a couple garbage cans. It's a nice grouping in the afternoon sun. I frame them into a little composition of disparate parts. The tree is just a cylinder, its shadow defining depth as it crosses the sidewalk and climbs the wall. The red and green vibrate against one another. The cans, in number, balance the scene. Soon I will walk across the street and walk right into that composition. These compositional snippets that are everywhere, in all manner of scale, inform the things I make. I cannot copy it; I can only hope to chase its essence.
In addition to working as a visual artist, you have worked in fields such as set design and carpentry for years. Did these experiences inspire you create art which repurposes utilitarian materials, or do you feel that it is your creative interests in architecture which drove you to pursue such work? I believe they go hand in hand. I respond to materials first. They are the catalysts. It's then time to find them a home with some friends and an appealing array of structure so they shine. An object in the wrong context can be dull and lifeless. In the right spot, it will glow. I'm not the first artist to live with a random piece of junk for years in hopes of finding a proper place to leave it.
You describe your works, which rely on form, texture, surface and shadow to communicate with the viewer, as "obsessively fabricated and mathematically ordered." Can you discuss your process with us? The obsessive fabrication is just an adherence to a my internal logic. The process can take on a personal narrative. Not a long-winded story. More like a set of instructions: If piece X goes here then piece Y must go here, face the same direction and have the same number of fasteners. It is something you don't set out to do, it just happens and everything starts to make sense in the little world you're creating. The math or numbers component is similar. I just start counting. It is a gateway into the unconscious. It invites a deep meditation and an ability to work for long periods. It's just another version of "whistle while you work".
While your works recall architecture, they remain abstract. What inspires you to break down complex architectural forms into these more simplified constructions? I want to distill all the information down to its essence until the piece almost seems static. I was pleased to read a quote from Lee Bontecou who said when she looked in her studio in the evenings, the pieces had a "stillness" about them. I think too of Jungian archetypes and artists' life- long pursuit of that which is just out of reach. I believe the "breaking down" to be further pursuit of an archetype. View Matthew Hausmann's artist profile. Interview compiled by Lori Camilleri