by: Miska Draskoczy
Today’s studio visit: James Ewart’s piece, ‘In and Out of Circulation’ is part of this week’s CURRENT: Gowanus show which opens on Wednesday. I stopped by James’ studio to discover more of his work and the motivations behind it.
What I love about James’ work is that the pieces all start with very personal, honest experiences which he then extrudes into conceptual works elegant in their simplicity and wider cultural commentary. With ‘In and Out of Circulation’ James’ Swiss childhood and a presumed desire for precision drives the impulse to trim the edges of US currency to a perfectly uniform border. After recirculating the improved bills, the discarded trimmed edges are woven into secondary bills, blank and featureless, yet technically made up from the same volume of paper ‘bill’ as an original. Worthless as money, yet of value as an art object, it calls into question our definitions of currency and the power of printed symbols (or their absence) to assign value.
Of other pieces James says ‘I love spooning’ (who doesn’t?), ‘This is all the porn I watched when I was 27’ or ‘I love mayonnaise, so that was pretty much it’. They are direct motivations that mirror the simple object-ness of the works, and yet there is more to the story. A Concorde jet hugs a French high speed train in a consoling embrace of outdated technology, a grid of porno stills plays with our attraction to abstract form versus potential repulsion to literal content, and a jar of Hellmann’s Mayonaise rendered in stained glass converts the mass produced to a singular totem of endearing veneration. James pulls off an admirable feat in many of his works – delivering thought provoking conceptual art that forgoes a dry intellectualism in favor of warmth, humor, and soul.
Come see James’ piece in CURRENT: Gowanus this week and check out more of his work at http://www.jamesewart.com/ . Thanks James for taking the time to meet!