“Dinner with an Artist” was inspired by the many dinners ANNE REED GALLERY‘s owner, Barbi Reed, has had the pleasure of enjoying with gallery artists over the years. It was during these dinners that the conversation twisted and turned to the delight of all sitting around the table. There was no more perfect way to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of artist, collectors, and staff after the intensity of curating, preparing for, and installing an exhibition. Today, we invite you to this virtual dinner table conversation with Alex Zecca to discuss his current exhibition: Collage Radii.
ARG: Do you remember any experiences in your childhood that sparked your interest in art? Were you drawing straight lines early on?
AZ: In the mid 70’s my mother became a film student at San Francisco Art Institute, so from that point on, I grew up in and around the wonderful and crazy extended art communities that created.
Carols Villa, an artist and teach, has been a lifelong mentor and inspiration for my early decisions and understanding about a career dedicated to a studio practice in visual art.
And yes, the silly irony is, I drew with basically the same tools even when I was 8.
ARG: When we see thousands of lines forming patterns, we know the piece is yours. When and how did you decide to focus entirely on lines? How has the work evolved over the years?
AZ: After years of adding more and more elaborate processes to my oil paintings, I needed drastic simplifying. Also, the solvents, pigments, and alkyds were undoubtedly killing me slowly. So, almost 10 years ago I had a turning point, and knew I was ready for the deconstruction of my process. It had to be simple, direct, and sincere.
I wanted immediacy as well as a good platform for mixing color, which had always been the main focus of my work. As it turns out, the answer for me was the action of drawing a straight line from edge to edge. It is completely fulfilling, meditative, and focusing. For me, this wonderfully simple mark, has it all!
Now after years, a million or so straight lines, and adding a little registration with some simple math to this process, the work has evolved into the moiré dimension in a way I could have never imagined. But it is still built upon the same simple principle of repeated action.
ARG: We’re mesmerized by the thousands of lines and the sensation we feel when we view your paintings, drawings, and collage pieces up close and at a distance. You mention that your work is an “exercise in precision and focus”. What are your specific challenges as you express yourself?
AZ: The specific challenges in making these drawings are typical: don’t screw it up, or spill coffee on it – which I’ve gotten really good at… But being focused and mindful of my body position is the real exercise. The drawing action is a Tai Chi-like, whole body movement. The only way I can make such work is to be very aware of the mechanics of my drawing action. Have good form, balance and posture, and most importantly, shake it out, and stretch it out, a lot.
ARG: We can’t imagine how much patience it must take to create these pieces. Can you tell us about your process? Do you envision the completed work prior to picking up your pens?
AZ: The drawings are multiple overlaid radii sequences. In other words, I draw a line to each registration point covering the field with one color, reregister the ruler, change color, and repeat. Over and over until I get saturation and a new and unpredictable moiré pattern. I have some idea of how it will turn out but slight adjustments to the pattern of the fixed ruler’s placement have a huge affect on the moirés outcome. As much as I may try to control or anticipate the result, the discovery and surprise of the finished piece is the whole deal!
ARG: Do you ever create anything entirely different from these linear works? Are you ever tempted to make a “squiggle”?
ARG: How did this body of work, “Collage Radii,” evolve? The collages emit a wonderful sense of freedom, almost as if controlled chaos was introduced to allow a different dimension to emerge.
AZ: They grew out of more compulsive processes. Namely cutting my drawings in to long triangle strips, thousands of them, with the intention of assembling these radius pieces. This collage work was my attempt at loose and dynamic.
ARG: Can you tell us a little bit about where your studio space is located and how you work? Also, do you work in silence or do you have background music playing?
AZ: I have a small studio in my beautiful backyard. Which is a wonderful place to be, but mostly makes both the work and my family readily accessible. My two 80+ lb Ridgebacks and I enjoy listening to Giants baseball games on the radio, PBS, and the Howard Stern Show. Music too, we like the heavy stuff, loud! Rarely a silent moment, but it all helps me focus, and laugh, and cry.
ARG: You have spent a good portion of your life in San Francisco. Has the city or its environs had an influence on your work?
AZ: I’m not sure in what way SF has influenced my work, but a lifetime here has made me so connected to, and totally dependent on, the city. Just like the way so many Manhattanites can’t function off the island. It’s a bit like that. And of course, I’m also jaded and bitter…
ARG: Funny how that happens. Here’s one for fun: If you could meet two artists (current or historical), who would they be and what would you ask them?
AZ: I’d talk anything technical with Gerhard Richter, and have a drink and smoke with Francis Bacon.
ARG: Great choices! We toast you and your latest wonderful exhibition with ANNE REED GALLERY. Is there anything you would like our guests to know about you or your work before this dinner conversation ends?
AZ: Nothing more… I toast you back. And thank you for your thoughtful questions. I’m always so grateful for inquiry and conversation about my work, so thanks for that.
ARG: Thank you Alex, we look forward to many more discussions with you!