Monday, November 3, 2008

Say Hello to Matthew Offenbacher


Small Owl (2006)

Mr Offenbacher! How are you?

I guess it's been almost three years since we first met at a Microsoft lecture. And in those three short years, you have added so much to the Seattle art world. You have already had two great shows at Howard House. And this week, you are opening a third show called, "Light Show for UNESCO".*

Joey! You are such a sweetie. It's been incredible to become a part of the art world here. Everyone is so open and generous and doing such interesting things. Putting together "Light Show for UNESCO" has been a really fun experiment. It is a special project for Billy Howard's project room. I'm sure you've been back there? It's that weird little grotto way in the far back. The show has two parts: the light show, where I'm making a mural with colored lights, and a group show, with things by Jenny Heishman, Gretchen Bennett, Jeff Mitchell, Heide Hinrichs and Claudia Fitch. And me. We're going to all squeeze together on a table in the center! It's intimate! I've been thinking a lot about community, vulnerability and power, and how to celebrate special places.
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lsu study (work in progress)
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In addition to that, you've been publishing an art zine called La Especial Norte. Were you also publishing a zine down in San Diego? Or was it directly inspired by your new environment, literally The Northern Special?

It's the first time I've tried to publish something. It's totally inspired by this environment and the artist community here. There are so many smart people and good conversations going on. In studios and bars and coffee shops. I wanted to try to get some of it down on paper. My hope is that the zine can become a place to hone some of these ideas, and then project them back out into the world, to stimulate more conversation between artists, and also help guide the public conversation about the meaning of our art.
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La Espciale Norte mastheads
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It's such an unexpected present! You've gathered really great visual artists and encouraged them to be writers. Have any pieces especially surprised you? Gretchen's article, "You and I Have Memories Longer Than the Road " from Issue 1 was especially tender.
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I know! Gretchen's piece was so tender and revealing. And Eli's porn -- not really a surprise from him, but not what I expected either -- and Joe getting down all that history of how and why the Henry went contemporary. And then in the new issue there is Dan declaring why he loves public art, and Deb outraged at John Berger, Heide explaining what she sees in Kader Attia's plastic bag sculptures (which I found super helpful because when I saw them I kind of drew a blank). So I guess I haven't been surprised really -- but pleased, so pleased with what great work everyone has done -- how serious and thoughtful the writing has been.
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And your piece on Jeffry Mitchell's Fu Dogs is great. Your comparison to Felix Gonzales-Torres made me think of both artists in different ways.
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Thanks! I'm crazy about Jeff's work. I think because his surfaces and subjects are so appealing and seductive people sometimes don't think about the really deep conceptual stuff he's doing. I'm not sure if I got any of it right, but I am glad at least that it seems to have gotten people thinking.


Mitchell's Fu Dogs (top), Gonzales-Torres' Clocks (bottom)
illustrations by M. Offenbacher (Norte #2)
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Since both Gretchen and Jeffry have been involved with La Especial Norte (and your upcoming piece at Howard House), I asked them if they'd like to say a few words about you or the zine.
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Gretchen Bennett said, "I really enjoyed working with Matt on Norte. He's thoughtful and a very good editor. Jeff Mitchell has said to me that Matt's quietly changing the shape of the art landscape. Matt is very community minded, and along with his terrific paintings, he is creating a very generous context in which to form an art practice."
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Jeffry Mitchell said, "It's clear that creating and cultivating the artist's community are an important component of Matt's artistic practice. I asked Matt to help me make a painting. Etsuko Ichikawa joined us and we made "Black Star". I think the painting is beautiful but it really is the experience of working together I treasure more. It's unlikely that any of us artists will get a full return on our efforts in a business sense but the pure pleasure of the exchange with like minds and sharing in, say, La Especial Norte or in a collaboration like the making of Black Star is golden. Thanks Matt!"


an index to the history of lust (2007)
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Anyone in particular you'd like to have contribute in a future issue?
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You Joey! You do such good interviews. You are like the Terry Gross of the Seattle art world. But furrier! One thing I've been thinking about is printing conversations between artists, transcribed and edited. Like, sit down with a tape recorder and an artist buddy and talk about some things you both care about. I think this would be great. It would really help focus La Especial Norte in on what I especially want it be about: artists writing and talking about each other's work. What are we doing in this time and in this place? How do these surroundings and this community shape what we are making?
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Some Rothko Problems (2007)
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If there was a Northwest Mystics II, I think you'd be a leader of the pack, but your imagery predates your migration to Seattle. How do you account for that? Were you born with a NW heart?
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Well, I grew up in the NW, in Portland. I left right after high school though and lived lots of other places. I starting working with NW imagery in San Diego about six years ago (beavers, ferns, etc.) and I think, looking back, that it was coming from a kind of longing for this landscape and place, and trying to deal with these nostalgic feelings I was having about home. The So-Cal landscape is so anti-Northwest! It was more or less chance that brought me back two and a half years ago and it was weirdly time-warpy for the first year. I kept having these high school flashbacks.
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abstract painting, 2005
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Your titles are like little poems, "To anything, everything - to time, circumstances, slow effects, sudden bursts, perseverance, and weariness, health and sickness". Do they come easily -- all at once?
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Yes, because I steal them! That one is from Emma by Jane Austen. It's taken from a letter where Frank Churchill is making excuses for using Emma so badly earlier in the novel. Jane Austen puts this sort of super-poetic romantic language in the mouth of some of her characters(often it is her less savory young men) and you can't help getting swept up in it, it is so beautiful. But Frank is being wheedling and insincere here. He really is a manipulative jerk. I thought it was the perfect thing for a painting like this! I have such conflicting feelings about romantic imagery -- I love it, I hate it, it's beautiful, it's manipulative.


to anything, everything... (2005)
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Do want to say a few words about your opening this Thursday?
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The show will be open for first Thursday on the 6th, but the opening PARTY won't be until Thursday the 13th, from 6 - 8pm. It's also the opening for Richard Barnes' show in the main galleries, and he is going to give a talk, and I might say a few words, too.


Recognizing the diligence with which death approaches,
and trying to recognize also the desirability of her arrival,
and to take advantage of such recognition (2007)
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Any last thoughts?
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Joey, thank you so much for your questions and all this work you are doing on your blog. It is so super great!


"Light Show for UNESCO" press image
Update 12/9/2008: Jen Graves listed LSU as a "Stranger's Suggests" for today.

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