Artist of the Week: Dan Rizzo-Orr

Dan Rizzo-Orr (born 1989 in Phoenix, Arizona) currently lives and works in Chicago. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. Dan Rizzo-Orr’s work is a hybrid of mythologies, coincidence, sexuality, and alternate realities. His paintings rely on a compendium of materials, references, and elements that combine personal history with the greater visual history and evolution of painting.

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What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Earlier this year I was part of a group exhibition called Seven Over Seven on the west side, at a new space called Silent Funny. I also had a two person show this year titled View with a Room at Heaven Gallery in Chicago with Mika Horibuchi. Mika and I have been working on this project (of which View with a Room was the first iteration) using painting to create a unique domestic type of space within a gallery where our paintings are specific to the dimensional and aesthetic abnormalities of the gallery itself. This mode of working has been exciting because it has allowed me to move far out of my usual visual lexicon and think of projects with different parameters and different needs then the typical painting I would make.

How did your interest in art begin? My interest in art as a kid began with comics and drawing video game characters, which I was not terrible at, so it seemed natural to move in that direction. I think I always had the ability to copy other things that I saw and make a weird hybrid of them as my own drawing. Most of what I did either looked like Gary Larson comics or something from the X-Men, just a little wonkier. When I was a young teenager they built an amazing library just down the street with a great collection of books on the arts and an art house film collection. I found out that the building had a secret fire escape through the exterior porch, and through this hidden door I was able to continuously steal these art books and movies. So I had stacks of books on a wide range of artists to draw from, plus French movies about piano teachers who had sex with their students. At 15 I started traditional training, figure drawing etc. at a local college and then I decided at 19 to go to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I think at one point I used to say something about Jimmy Buffet and Modernism however now I would say that I make larger scale paintings for the most part, using doodles or borrowed images with materials in a way that draws significance from those materials.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I use a range of painting and drawing materials in my work and depending on the project the process can allow for lots of intuitive decision making or very little. For the paper collage paintings I do a process of taping up pieces of paper on the wall and doing a quick painting across them, then putting up a new set of paper and doing the same thing. After about 4 or 5 times I puzzle them together and mount it on the canvas. As all painters know, working on raw paper or raw canvas and linen is not very forgiving so I try to have my work come to terms with that. I work in a similar way with traditional oil; I start with the underpainting which tends to be fast and have bolder moves, then I spend weeks painting over those moves mimicking and restoring them into something more refined that still maintains the excitement of quick decision making. Recently I’ve been doing digital mock ups before starting a painting and although this doesn’t have the reactionary type of mark I’ve liked, it does help draw attention to quieter parts of the surface, like the raw linen next to a paint that’s gone through a system of mediums to look exactly how I want.

Tell us a joke. Who is this Rorschach guy and why does he keep drawing pictures of my parents fighting?

What’s your favorite thing about your city? My favorite part about Chicago is that it rides this line of being attainable for the average person while still surprising you with whole new demographics you’ve never seen before. Just as soon as I start to feel comfortable that I know whats happening around me, something new appears that I had been looking over the whole time. I think specifically with art, it is a privilege to be able to be involved with what is happening around you and still see new alternative spaces and new artists around you consistently.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? I was so glad to have been able to see Elijah Burgher‘s show at Zieher Smith & Horton a few weeks ago. I thought the installation and pairing of the work was perfect.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? There’s a great corner Italian deli by my studio called Fiore’s that has dope subs and cannolis. Besides that it’s just cigarettes and coffee.

If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing? If I hadn’t gotten into the arts I could see myself doing something like construction or forklift driving. Some part of me wants to drive a metal scrapping truck. It’s legal but a little grimy, I guess like being an artist.

What are you listening to right now? When I’m alone I usually listen to a blend of podcasts, world news, NPR, and hip hop. So recently it’s just a mix of Fresh Air with Terry Gross and Piñata by Freddie Gibbs.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? I’m not sure exactly if this counts, but when I was in college I made a dumb painting of Bart Simpson smoking a joint and blowing out fire. The discussion about it was way too long and questions about the “figure’s gesture of defiance” were not necessary. Someone ended up stealing that painting so I figure that’s a reaction I probably won’t get again anytime soon.