(Paul) What are your interests in life and how do they translate into your art? What pulled you in the direction of working with metal?
(Alexi) I draw inspiration from two things mostly. The concept of painting both historical and contemporary as well as my deep curiosity with the built environment. After starting out as a painter and through the years working as a builder, I became interested in physical objects that exist within my environment. I am equally inspired by how a handrail is fabricated and fastened to a building as I am by the construction and composition of a painting.
My art is the combination of both. Within this context I explore color, positive and negative space, light and shadow. Every sculpture is riffing off the idea of flatness or the picture plane in some way. I have been using steel over the last few years because it can behave in so many different ways. I like to create the illusion of lightness and delicacy using a material that is generally associated with bulky forms and macho sculpture.
Enamel, steel, epoxy clay, 19.5 x 5 x 1.5 in
Enamel on steel, 53 x 20 x 2 in
(P) I can clearly see this in your work. All of your sculptures have a strong sense of rhythm and balance. I can especially see this in your outdoor sculpture. Are you planning to create more of these?
(A) Balance and rhythm were especially important to me with my first outdoor sculpture I made in 2018, at Fruitlands Museum. The sculpture entitled Eden 2.0, conveys a sense of symbiosis between connected lines. It is relatively shallow so the landscape can be viewed through it as a sort of screen, much like my indoor pieces incorporate the white of the gallery walls. The rhythm of the multicolored paint job both contrasts and fades into the landscape causing an ephemeral flickering effect. I’ve continued to create outdoor sculpture since then and managed to install one in Napa, CA. right before Covid hit. My other commissions are on hold until life returns to somewhat normal.
Polyurethane paint steel, 126 x 264 x 36 in
Sour Patch Cinema
Oil on steel, 56 x 67 x 3 in
(P) Can you explain the process that goes into creating one of your sculptures and how important is drawing in this process?
(A) The drawings in my sketchbook are a major part of my process. I consider them to be records, ideas or plans that I continually reference while making sculpture. In my recent work I’ve been referring to the drawings even more so, allowing them to maintain the energy they have on the sketchbook page. The image of the face is the springboard to explore new spatial concepts and image possibilities.
(A) Drawing is at the core of your practice as well. I know you were once a landscape painter and then transitioned to abstraction. How does your representational work relate to the work you are making today?
(P) I continue to draw from direct observation to stay connected with the source and to keep in practice with my eye-hand coordination. With my early landscapes, I was mainly interested in capturing “form and space” using a soft, muted palette. Gradually I’ve been reducing things down to essential shapes and colors. Today my work appears to be abstract but the imagery is still there whether in paintings or my wooden forms.
Woodblock Chine Colle´ 5 x 3.75 in
Woodblock Chine Colle´ 4 x 4 in
Two Tier Fountain
Acrylic on basswood 21 x 9 x 2.25 in
A: I appreciate the scale of your work as it needs to be walked up on and scrutinized, it feels special. Almost like a precious collectible. I know you are a collector of objects. What are some of the objects you collect and do you view your own work as a “collection” of sorts?
P: I do have an emotional connection to beautiful unique objects and take pride in ownership of them. Whether they are displayed in books or in special boxes, the sight of these objects bring me inner peace. There certainly is a correlation between my art and collectibles, from their scale to presentation. I tend to work in series and your question makes me realize that I am in fact building my own collections. A few examples of my collected objects are matchbook covers and wooden toys. I bring the qualities I see in these objects into my own work.
Matchbook Labels 1960s
Kage Dollhouse Furniture 1940’s
Anonymous mechanical wooden toys
R A Miller tin cutouts 1980’s
Gardener’s Pick 3
Woodblock Chine Colle´ 6 x 3.3 in
Gardener’s Pick 1
Woodblock Chine Colle´ 6.5 x 4.5 in
(P) When we first met, you were working on a series of wall sculptures inspired by your travels to the Southwest. Can you talk about that experience and specifically what inspired you most about the trip?
(A) Well, it’s funny because my work had just taken a turn towards a more distilled, symbolic direction right before that trip. In 2018 I traveled through New Mexico with my wife and kids and we became obsessed with all the petroglyphs left behind by the Jordana Mogollon Indians, who inhabited New Mexico 900 to 1400 AD. Searching for them was like a time travelling Easter egg hunt. For me, seeing them gave me a deeper understanding of my own work and reinforced my new ideas upon returning to the studio. I really appreciated how the petroglyphs connected mankind and nature through line, pattern and abstract symbols. I started to think of my own personal iconography and compositions in that way. Like with my sculpture, “Mirage”, which contains a human story that fluctuates between implied figures, natural elements and the interconnectedness of the two.
Oil on steel, 29 x 16.5 x 7 in
(P) How did you transition from that body of work to the faces you are working on now?
(A) This year has been a crazy one and everyone is emotionally distraught. At this moment in time I am using the motif of a sorrowful face to convey empathy and humor executed in frenetic line, color and layered forms.
Oil on steel and epoxy clay 20.5 x 9.5 x 1.5 in
(P) I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work and I’ve been a fan for many years now.
(A) Thanks Paul. It's been a pleasure to get to know you better and exhibit with you.