Huston is about to move to Detroit. Last Friday, a pre-move group show organized by the artist titled “Clorox/Envy” opened at Still House in Brooklyn. The show, according to a press release from Huston, is “full of artworks that have inspired me to the extent that I had to take something from them, ingest them, and let them not purify, but clarify the water.” Below is an email interview with Huston about the future of Knowmoregames and his time in New York, his upcoming move to Detroit, the current Still House show, and much more. It has been lightly edited.
What is your current involvement in the future of Knowmoregames?
“NoMoreGames” is in its second “Aepisode” of its final trilogy. We will have our final show this fall. KMG started July 4th 2011. It has been a real wild ride and I thank everyone who took a seat and supported it. artist-run spaces have a life span and that is directly related to the community you work with and the personal goals you embed into the space. For us, so many of the artists we have exhibited are doing fairly well with their “art careers.” We all came up together and met many of those goals. At this point the space needs to evolve. We were operating under a suitable business model that allowed us freedom and sustainability. Jacques put it this way, “We are a commercial gallery and a not-for-profit space and we do both things badly.” That statement was perfect and problematic. Then after awhile, when the sweat equity dries up, you get to a point where you need to decide whether to become a commercial endeavor, like our neighbors 247365, go not-for-profit like White Columns, or just lay it to rest. KMG cannot exist as a one person project. We have different focus’ now, so we are going into a cryogenic sleep. I owe a lot to Brian Faucette and Jacques Louis Vidal for being such inspiring forces in my life. I think we will always be open to an idea of a roaming curatorial reunion concert.
Why the move to Detroit? What plans do you have in your new city?
I have a vision, not a plan. I want more. I want to get a little more creative with my lifestyle. My family lives nearby too. A simple way I have been thinking about it is as if I were a photographer on assignment or if I was shooting a film or even writing a book. You need to go on location. For the Artwork I am thinking about I want there to be a real life applied aspect to the work so that the content will be related to how I am living. For that, I need to be in the Midwest. I want to tap into the buried Modernist history of that area: Gyrorgy Kepes, Mies Van Der Rohe, Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoria all spent time there when it was a powerhouse of American production. There is also that incredible Diego Rivera Mural that is haunting me since I saw it last. I love the idea of getting a building there, we’ll see. It is also great that Detroit is a major airport hub, so hopefully by having lower expenses that will mean more traveling.
Was there any overarching statements you wanted to make with this show?
If I were a collector this would be my collection. If could buy the works, I would. I love all the work in it, I really do. However, it does reflect my personal interests in my art practice and I admit to the vanity in that. The art is very compressed and direct. The abstractions that occur are embedded within. The Lew Welch poem “Chicago Poem” in the press release I think reveals a similar approach in terms of the structure of these artworks. It sets a dark and romantic tone towards the individual and the built environment. Resurrecting Becky Howlands “Transmission Line Towers” from 1985 was amazing. Watching Becky so happy to re-patina them made me so happy. Also, working with the infamous FDR performer Otis Houston Jr. (Aka Black Cherokee) has turned into a surprising friendship. The show is full of inspirational people from different times in my life, so maybe it took that long to curate this show.
Why did you choose The Still House?
As I am leaving I thought it would be good to acknowledge how things started for me here in NYC. After I graduated from Yale in 2010, there wasn’t any real interest in my work. The idea of an “art market” was pretty abstract. I lived in an expensive apartment with my girlfriend at the time and could not afford a studio. A year later, we broke up and I moved into the Knowmoregames storefront. Alex Da Corte brought the Still House over and they offered me their residency. I was suddenly immersed into another crazy almost school-like environment. I was a teacher and a student at the same time. It really helped me get back into a studio mode and make a decision to be an artist and not go into advertising. They were very supportive and encouraging at a time when I needed it. They were organized, professional, and they sold art too. It was all overwhelming, considering that when I was in my early 20’s I was driving a converted school bus that ran off of veggie oil. I had long hair, I smelled like french fries and I was out of my mind.
The Still House Group was also ahead in the now predominant artist-run self-representational model. This was something Knowmoregames believed in too. Now, there are at least 40 artist-run spaces in NYC somehow supporting themselves. That’s pretty amazing and says something about their roles within the larger system. I do think people make a lot of assumptions about the members of Still House and while some of the boy’s locker room antics are true, their hearts are in the right place. They also make something about the art world transparent that many play off. That being: the relationships between artist production vs. what collectors want, process vs. stylized-tricks, opportunity vs. nepotism, and hard work vs privilege. The argument that they are merely rich kids is mute, because a lot of people in the art world have money. Some people have the luxury to appear a certain way. Some galleries have to sell dumb paintings to pay the rent while some magazines have co-opted critiques of Capitalism to just help sell more shit for big companies. I am not saying Still House operates with ambivalence towards these subjects, I am saying they do not hide or veil them. So for me, the show is also about bringing a large and diverse group of artists that exist in different social spheres into their home. Then hopefully, the work will press both ways and further into their collector base, to pose an alternative kind of artwork for sale. It’s important that Still House makes an effort to meet these people in the community I am part of (and I think they have) and vice versa, because SH does have a lot to offer. Lastly, it is just a big space. A really, really nice big beautiful space with a great group of artworks in it.
There is a large amount of artists included in the exhibition. What was the curation process like?
This show could have had 100 artists. I wanted to keep adding. There were a few that slipped through my fingers (I’ll get you next time). The process was really fun, but I decided to focus on works that had influenced or excited me enough to get myself back in the studio, because they were something I wish I made.
How are you feeling about New York City right now? Would you ever come back?
New York is not going anywhere and I am not trying to disappear. There are moments, like around the new Whitney Building, when I feel like I am living in a complete computer-rendered developer ideal. The developers have succeeded in creating extremely efficient and lucrative programmed spaces. It’s a bit of an amusement park and it can fun to be in, but the recent article in Hyperallergic “In the Bronx, a Pop-up Art Show Is a Lightning Rod for Fear of Gentrification” exemplifies how art is entangled with development and “programming.” This I don’t like. I don’t think the Whitney should be advertising artists to help businesses like Bubby’s sell more burgers. I have the same fears about Detroit or any American city for that matter. However, in NYC, Chinatown-LES, Bronx, or Harlem the situation is at such a heightened and contentious state where you are dealing with people with serious capital and communities whose culture is at risk. When you read the article, you will see, even if you run a large community initiative, offering to pay top dollar for a building, these real estate tycoons won’t sell to you because you don’t fit within their economic model for development. I don’t know what I can do, except make art in the best place for my art. Maybe I am just tired of Brooklyn? I love Manhattan, but I have never lived there. I am not from New York and I don’t consider myself a New Yorker. It’s a great city, but is not my home. I will certainly miss being around my friends, but I’ll visit. I enjoy much of the hyper-specific nuanced things to consume in this city, but honestly I can’t afford it all. I am little tired of pretending that the amount of money I spend here justifies the quality of life. For now, I will follow this equation: Reduce your cost of living and maximize your free time. If I stay any longer I will have to compromise my art. It is very expensive to be truly free with your work, this is why I am poor. Will I come back? I haven’t even left yet!