Residency Alum Interview: Detlef E. Aderhold (Painting and Mixed Media Residency, 2014)
An SVA Summer Residency Program is a great way to immerse yourself in the New York Art world, but it can prove just as valuable for the community that it creates between residents. For example, Detlef E. Aderhold participated in the Painting and Mixed Media residency in 2014, and his time there led to collaborations with critic and Summer Residency coordinator, Eric Sutphin, whom he had met while attending. Eric has curated Detlef’s work for an exhibition at Rogue Space: Chelsea, and more recently in an exhibition in Germany.
Will Patterson of SVACE asked both Detlef and Eric a few questions about their thoughts on painting, their experience in the Residency Program and what they have been up to since meeting in 2014.
Will: Why do you think painting is important as a medium?
Detlef E. Aderhold: The discussion about painting being alive or dead has been going on for a long time. It has even been suggested that painting reached its final stage with Kasimir Malevich’s Black Quadrat in 1915. In 1997, Catherine David said that painting as a form is “illegitimate,” and Documenta X (which she curated) served to substantiate her opinion. But then Luc Tuymans responded to David’s claim with a series of paintings that he titled Illegitimate. For me, painting is still very much alive, it’s my medium, and through it I can best develop and express my ideas, fantasies and impressions of the world.
Eric Sutphin: I contribute to a website with the tongue-in-cheek title Painting is Dead. It was started by a painter named Scott Robinson and its focus is painting. Painting is Dead publishes reviews, interviews and conversations with painters and being a part of that project has demonstrated to me that painting is still a medium that excites and challenges people. I think because painting has such an enormous and complex history and is tied to the development of societies and cultures at large, that its import remains inescapable.
Will: How have the connections you made during the Summer Residency Program expanded your artistic practice?
DE: I stay in contact with some of the fellow residents via social networks and email. We share new work with each other and continue to support each other’s artistic practices.
ES: Since I began working with the Residency in 2013, I have met artists from all over the world. I have had the opportunity to talk with and in some instances work with these artists beyond the program. I’ve learned about arts communities in Brazil, Tel Aviv, Mexico City, Melbourne, among many other places. I’ve seen firsthand the energy and excitement of an expanding global network of artists who come together and stay connected through the Residency.
Will: How did the program expand your own studio practice? Do you feel that you became more experimental in your approach to painting as a result of the immersion and exposure to the diverse range of faculty and fellow residents?
DE: At first it was difficult to integrate and follow the new ideas into my work. When I returned to my studio in Germany, I had to process the experience and to figure out how to integrate the residency experience into my old studio practice. At the time, my studio contained unfinished work and old habits. I needed time until I was able to implement my “New York ideas” into the old environment. But as I got back to work in my studio, all of these different influences and experiences came to fruition. As a result, I am much more experimental in my work now. Some of my paintings have begun to become more sculptural and I have begun to explore installation.
Will: Since completing the residency, you have gone on to have multiple exhibitions and have been included in a number of international art fairs. What have been some of the highlights of your career since completing the program?
DE: The first highlight was my solo show at Rogue Space: Chelsea in New York in the fall of 2014. Eric Sutphin curated that show and I was surprised by the choices he made and how everything was connected in the end. During the opening and while the show was up, I reconnected with some of the friends I made during the residency, including faculty members. In summer of 2015, I was selected for a juried show at the Islip Art Museum. I recently had a show in Venice during the Biennale–that was a great experience. I won the Secret Art Prize (mixed media category) and my work was shown, along with some of the other winners, in London’s East End. I was selected to be the Artist-in- Residence on Villingili Island, Maldives for a month during December and January. The unfamiliar setting, the vibrant colors, the air and the sea right outside of my studio was a wonderful way to invigorate my work. During that residency, I had the opportunity to talk about art with people from all over the world.
ES: My connection with Detlef was completely natural. It started when he was preparing for the 2014 Open Studio, I popped in to his studio one afternoon and helped him hang his show and we connected and worked well together. Since then, I’ve curated two of his shows (in New York and in Germany.) Former residents have contacted me after the residency for advice about graduate school, which for me is very rewarding; to be able to help artists along in their professional development.
Will: What do you think of the state of painting in 2016? Do you feel that the medium has changed or is changing in recent years?
DE: My feeling for painting shifted during my time in the residency through my exposure to faculty critiques, viewing contemporary art on our gallery visits, as well as through discussions with the fellow residents. Today, there are endless ways to deal with painting. With the end of the postmodern era, there are no regulations on how an artist should paint: (s)he can use everything (s)he thinks important for his or her creative work. Painting will continue to include new media and will look critically at, or be part of, larger projects like installation and performance. In our digital world, images play a very important role, but unlike digital images, a painted picture is very special. For me, painting is, and will always be, about material: canvas, pigment, and brushes. Painting is about invention and reinvention, critical thinking, and conceiving of new strategies for complex problems– it is still a very powerful medium.
ES: Painting is always looking for alibis. Over the last 20 years or so, painting has folded a multiplicity of other media into itself: neon, digital elements, video, performance, sculpture etc. These strategies have yielded exciting results at times, but to me, great painting relies on its subject matter and content to do the work and assert its vitality. I’m old fashioned in that way. It often seems to me that painters try to do too many things without really getting into the meat of the medium. When this happens, the work feels confused.
Will: What’s on the horizon for you? Are there any plans for future collaborations with fellow residents?
DE: In April this year I will have a solo show in Perugia, Italy. In June, Part II of my solo exhibition Signs (also curated by Eric Sutphin) will open in June in Germany. During the same time there will be a solo show at a gallery in Paris. Some of my paintings will also be shown at Art Madrid and Scope Basel. In 2017, I will exhibit with fellow SVA resident Gail Winbury at the historic Heinrich Heine Haus in Luneburg, Germany.
ES: I’ve been reviewing a lot for Art in America and there will be opportunities for international stories and coverage there. I am working on a biography of Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003), a post-war painter who began her career as a second-wave abstract expressionist. In the late 1950’s, she turned to narrative painting. That project has been very important and I am working on organizing an exhibition of her work for 2017.