Artist of the Week: Amir Nikravan

Amir Nikravan is an artist based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited with Various Small Fires, Brand New Gallery Milan, Greene Exhibitions, Pepin Moore, and Rosamund Felsen Gallery. He received his MFA from U.C. Irvine in 2011.

How did your interest in art begin?  I’m an only child, so my parents trained me to be very self-sufficient in terms of entertaining myself and keeping busy. Naturally this involved lots of art projects, drawing and painting. They were also incredibly good at taking me to museums and galleries often, which in hindsight made me very comfortable around art, even if I didn’t understand it at the time. This all eventually led to a turning point which was attending the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which introduced me to a level of criticality and seriousness in art unmatched by most schools.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do? Even though I consider myself a painter my practice is quite hybrid, fusing painting sculpture and photography in an exchange that melds the physical and pictorial concerns of these distinct mediums into a unified medium I refer to as ‘image’. My work aims to evince the gaps between image and experience, made explicit through the presentation of objects that enact the frustrating disconnect between sight and touch, absence and presence, desire and possession. In my attempt to make all this happen, I have devised a complicated set of procedures that successively remove the physical object while preserving its traces. At different stages the work is transformed from a painting to a sculptural relief, to an indexical photographic positive, and back to a painting that poses as a flat sculptural object.

Tell us about your work process and how it develops? My work has always evolved very intuitively and logically. Recently while looking at my arc of paintings that span figurative realism to hands-off abstraction, it became quite evident that each body of work has been refining many of the same themes, namely the body and materiality, just through different approaches and techniques. I always seem to be asking myself “what is it that the work requires and needs from itself to move forward,” as opposed to forcing an agenda of what I want it to be and look like. That being said I am very committed to a certain working model in which form and content are inextricably linked; where everything is made in a way that is necessitated by the conceptual underpinnings of a certain project.  This framework allows me to really put ideas and modes of making to task, which I find both stimulating as a maker and viewer.

Describe your studio or workspace. I live in a duplex where my studio and home are connected side by side.  I’m an incredibly private person, so it was always important that my studio was separate from my friends and colleagues and could be a place where no one was looking over my shoulder. Even in grad school I worked from home and used my on-campus studio as a viewing room. My studio is and incredibly sacred space to me, so when I allow people to visit, it also means allowing them to visit my home, which is also an important part of getting to understand who I am as a person. Visitors get to share the art that I surround myself with (and that nurtures my personal interests), play with my dogs, and share food.

What kind of things are influencing your work right now? I’m really interested in the Mono-Ha movement. There have been some museum-quality exhibitions in LA recently focusing on artists from this group, showcasing work that ranges from monumental earthwork installations to precious meditative sculptures. I’m incredibly drawn to the movement’s humbleness of materials and striking simplicity. Through incredibly complex triangulations of form, composition and materials, these artists were able to enact the body through the corpus of the art object itself in the most striking of ways.

Top 3 most visited websites and why?  In order of how they are bookmarked on my computer: Contemporary Art Daily, Gallerist NY, and ArtInfo. I’m known by friends for having over 300 galleries bookmarked, and expected to always know what is going on, but these 3 make it incredibly easy to get the days pulse before I go to work.

What past trends in art do you think should never come back? I am incredibly bored with seeing artists expose the support—stretcher bars to be exact. The gesture has become so hollow and corny at this point in time that it has lost all meaning and is merely style.  That being said there are a few artists pushing the territory of what I like to call ‘constituent materials’ into really interesting directions, like Noam Rappaport, and Marcus Perez.

How long have you lived in your city and how has living in your current city affected your art practice. I am a lifelong Angeleno, with the exception of a few years in San Francisco when I was at SFAI. Everything about my practice has evolved from being here. My color palette is reflective of the awkward colors and light that are trademark to LA.  My impulse toward thinking about my work in terms of ‘image’, is as much a result of experiencing everything through the frame of a car window as it is a symptom of a photographic impulse. Access to every sort of industrial material and the space to play with them has also been paramount to my work. Within 15 minutes from my house I can directly source aluminum to make my paint panels, purvey incredible lengths of fabric from a Hollywood film supplier and even buy rocks from a local quarry for some recent pieces I’m working on. I feel this ability to have a deep connection with materials lends an element of site to my work that is very much where it comes from.

Any current or upcoming shows? I will be having a solo exhibition this Fall at Various Small Fires in Los Angles. It will be the inaugural exhibition in the gallery’s new Hollywood location, designed by Johnston Marklee. The space will be gorgeous and I could not be more excited.