Alex Ito is an American artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Ito received his BFA from Pratt Institute with a double minor in Art History and Cultural Studies. Recent solo and two-person projects include Jardin N° 19 (with Erika Ceruzzi), Springsteen Gallery, Baltimore, MD (2014); Tales from a Sardine Run, Rod Barton Gallery, London, UK (2014), The Home of Tao Hsiao, Art in General, NY (2014); Think of Me Fondly, Water McBeer Gallery (2014); Single Image (with Brendan Lynch), Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA (2014) and Victory, The Still House Group, Redhook, NY (2013).
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? In September I had a solo exhibition, Tales From a Sardine Run, at Rod Barton, London. That was followed up by an exhibition in October that I had with Erika Ceruzzi at Springsteen in Baltimore titled Jardin N°19.
Im currently working towards two shows in February. One will be at Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Belgium with Brad Troemel and Haley Mellin. I will be showing a series of new sculptures that are influenced by pachinko parlors in Japan. The other will be at a new space in Los Angeles called SADE. I’m particularly excited for this project because it will be my first time exhibiting with my brother, Greg Ito 😉
Outside of preparing for shows I’ve been making some sculptures that are influenced by Ikebana flower arrangements and interior decorations from department stores. I’ve also been starting a new series of oil paintings that depict decanters in a kind of Kubrick-2001-alien vibe.
What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Young artists becoming seasonal handbags for superstar curators or gallerists. There are always promises for exposure, opportunities and $$$ that entice young artists to move hastily into a commercial environment. I’m not trying to say that commercial = bad, but trust is a big concern when your work becomes a part of that conversation. One moment an artist can be on every “ Top 10 Artists to Watch for 2015” and the next thing you know they are scraping for change because someone mishandled their work. I always believe that working with your friends is most important and keeping a firm grasp of what your long-term creative goals are.
How did your interest in art begin? I was really into graffiti when I was younger. I was sleeping mostly through school from staying up all night and taking trips to San Francisco to paint. Art was simple fun but didn’t hold an social responsibility or conceptual weight at the time. I was just an angry teen and wanted to destroy things.
I never really thought about “high art” until I started an internship at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles when I was in high school. Some of the first shows I saw that blew my mind were Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, Dan Graham: Beyond, Lawrence Weiner: As Far As the Eye Can See and Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure. There weren’t any challenging courses for art at my school except for one art history class, so I would read the books at the MOCA private library when I wasn’t working. A lot of things I learned there, even though I was only 16 or 17, still influence my practice today.
If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? That moment when you realize to can’t afford “it” but you need to buy something so you can validate your parking ticket. You settle for something cheap. As you drive home all you think about is how much you want “it”. You go back the next day and buy it. You’re in love.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? The work is predominantly aluminum, digital prints, glass and basically anything shiny a bird would like. Lots of white, black and grey. Lots of Amazon.com. I’m attracted to a commercial department store aesthetic—a strange space of imitation, repetition and twisted intimacy. The work is mostly prefabricated, looks clean and references a culture where the individual is flattened into a subhuman category of the consumer. I enjoy working with the coldness of my objects—struggling to put some sort of life into materials that are absent of empathy. I want that life to become a generalized intimacy and brought into a common language like a shop window—somewhat like a tagline for experience. Through the approach of intimacy as artifice, the work can reveal a subtle thread of violence within commercially induced seduction.
What artists are you interested in right now? One of my favorite painters is a Japanese artist named Shimon Minamikawa. His work has a quiet sense of emotion that I strive to achieve in my own work. The way his figures stare back at the viewer is incredibly magical in their odd state of vacancy.
I wish I could say more about everyone else but that would take forever. Here is a well thought out *+ LIST +* of artists that excite me: Amy Yao, Korakrit Arunonondchai, Mai-Thu Perret, Friedrich Kunath, Carson Fisk-Vittori, Izabelle New, Erin Jane Nelson, ODWALLA 88 (Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva), Darja Bajagic, Elad Lassry and Kelley McNutt.
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? A lot of green tea, tortillas and hummus, overpriced nuts and berries and Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips.
What do you do when you’re not working on art?
What are you listening to right now? I like anything that can give me the extremes of feelings. Super hopeful or super angry are usually good feelings. In the studio, I usually play Tonstartssbandht, Jun Togawa, Haroumi Hosono,The Locust, Dawn of Humans or Dystopia.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? “Are you related to Parker Ito?”