Artist of the Week: Allison Reimus

Allison Reimus‘s work explores the psychology of the domestic interior by addressing elements of the decorative through abstraction. She is currently based in Chicago, IL, but earned her BFA from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI in 2005 and her MFA from American University in Washington, DC in 2009. Reimus is the 2009 recipient of the Crisp-Ellert Prize, awarded by Michelle Grabner. In 2010, Reimus was featured in New American Paintings, No. 88. South Edition as an Editor’s Selection. She has most recently exhibited at Heiner Contemporary and the (e)merge Art Fair, both in Washington, DC, Salon Zürcher in New York City, Nudashank in Baltimore, MD and Kunstraum Tapir in Berlin, Germany.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Hello, I’m Allison Reimus. I’m a painter based in Chicago. I grew up in Michigan and attended Michigan State University. After college I traveled the country with an art museum on a train, aptly named Artrain USA. After that, I spent a few years in Washington, DC where I attended graduate school at American University and now I am here, back in the Midwest with my husband, dog, and 10-month-old son. I have a studio in the West Loop which I share with four really nice people and the best new contemporary video art gallery in town, Aspect/Ratio. I also update a couple of blogs every now and again—Jumping In Art Museums and my newest endeavor, Henry Goes to Art Shows.

What are you currently watching on Netflix/what’s on your Netflix queue? We don’t have fancy cable, so we rely on Netflix to view past seasons of television shows everyone else has already watched. Right now, we’re watching season 3 of Boardwalk Empire and season 2 of Homeland. I love Netflix original programing too—House of Cards and Arrested Development! So, so good.

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What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? I often wonder what the negatives might be with artists relying so heavily on social media. The benefits of connectivity are huge, of course, but what are the drawbacks? Is it making us less critical and lazy as viewers? Are we just accepting things without giving them proper thought because they show up on our news feeds? We’re seeing these tiny images on our smartphones and are confronted with making a quick decision about whether we “like” them or not. We see that so-and-so “killed it” at their last show, but rarely hear an opinion as to why. Seldom do we hear about a show that sucked. I think we’re all a little bit guilty of this in our own way. Everyone wants to be nice and supportive of their friends, but wouldn’t a little more honesty do us all a favor? Just a thought! I might be completely wrong.

If you had one wish what would it be? I have two and they more closely resemble goals than wishes. Anyway, the first is to raise my son to be an interesting, conscientious humanist who lives his life with purpose and doesn’t put a monetary value on success. The second wish/goal is to have a long, non-complacent and relevant career that keeps me engaged and makes for better, smarter paintings. Simple, right? Ha.

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How did your interest in art begin? I knew I wanted to be an artist since middle school. I was lucky enough to have been accepted to study visual art at a school for gifted and talented students in the arts and sciences. The school was free, which was amazing considering its located in the economically depressed city of Saginaw, Michigan. I studied art and art history for half of each school day from 6th until 12th grade. The school is called Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy and its one of the city’s greatest assets. I wish I knew then just how fortunate I really was.

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What artists are you interested in right now? I recently saw some new work by Dustin London and wow. Just wow. I’ve been thinking a lot about pairing my vocabulary down to its essential elements because I have come to realize that I make my best work and find the most freedom when working within tight, self-inflicted boundaries. I think Dustin is doing an amazing job at this. His use of color is inspiring to boot. I also admire the paintings of Gianna Commito for these same reasons. I have a thing for paintings that show, unapologetically, the remnants of past decisions. Gianna’s work has that. And Tomma Abts—I’ve been revisiting her work for that same reason. Intentional surface quality is huge for me. I also look at the work of interior designers—right now I’m obsessed with Kelly Wearstler.

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How has your work developed within the past year? This past year has been a struggle, in a really good and productive kind of way. As I mentioned before, I’m a new Mom and with motherhood comes a complete restructuring of your life as you know it. Any big life change comes with a learning curve and I’ve noticed my work adapting to my new way of thinking. Before my son was born, I could spend hours mixing a color and would worry about whether it was perfect or not. I’d also spend studio time doing non-essential tasks that I didn’t realize were non-essential. Now, my studio time is cut in half. I don’t have time for bullshit anymore. I’m not afraid to mess things up either. I show up, half dead or not, and I try to give my paintings what they need. If it doesn’t work, I try again at the next session. This makes for a more rich and varied surface, which is something I’ve always desired but never could do. It’s been a battle, but I think my work is getting better because of, not in spite of, this life change. I’ve also started painting with oil on linen which I haven’t done in years, so that’s fun. Expensive as shit but fun.

What are your thoughts about the art scene in Chicago? As an outsider, I have noticed a few things about Chicago: There seems to be a large gap in population between students (mostly SAIC)/ young artists and mid-career/ established artists. I get the impression that after the students graduate, they stick around for only a few years, if that. Basically, I think Chicago is a layover on the way to New York or LA and that is really sad because this is a great city!

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What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Just last week I visited Judy Ledgerwood’s show, Love, Power, Color, at Rhona Hoffman and it blew me away. I’ve admired her work for years but had only seen it in images. She is such a badass! The paintings were so decisive, so confident and yet so fresh. I had been anticipating the show for months and it didn’t disappoint. It was like art Christmas.

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Any current or upcoming shows we should know about? Yes! I have two internet-based appearances coming up. I will be the featured artist on Buy Some Damn Art as of September 24th. This will be my first time selling work in an online venue. In the past, I have been skeptical of online art sales, but this site is different. The curator, Kate Singleton, does an incredible job bringing fresh talent to the masses at reasonable price points in a non-intimidating way. Similarly, I’ll have work featured on Artsy as of October 1st through Heiner Contemporary, a gallery based in Washington, DC.