We asked Darin some questions ahead of his next solo exhibition opening, “SuperDeath Pt 1 (Let it Bleed)”….
How did you get involved with Elephant Room Gallery?
I’ll try to do this in Bullet Points because it’s a little convoluted. In 2001 I wrote a screenplay entitled ‘Deathlessness’. It nearly, but did not quite, make the Top 10 for the then-still-important Sundance Filmmaking Labs. It being my ‘Jesus Year’ I decided to take a Hollywood Hiatus from my life consuming gig running Zingerman’s Delicatessen and pursue this. I got a part time gig at a wonderful Antiques and Auction place where Lina and I were enthusiastic and very modest customers and worked there for a couple of years. We became part of the family (This would be Schmidt’s Antiques in Ypsilanti, MI – now a 5th generation family business). I kept in touch.
We moved to Chicago. Some years back Schmidt’s came into possession of a late, largely undiscovered New York Artist’s estate – James C. Harrison, the ‘C’ added to differentiate him from the famed writer). I got curious about it and asked if I could come back to help out. I proposed a Chicago show.
I knew Kimberly because we frequently walked past Elephant Room and, one blessed day, signed up for an art talk by my now-beloved colleague Jennifer Cronin – about her then new series of breathtakingly detailed paintings of condemned Chicago houses. We bought a print. Friendship formed. When I made my profoundly inept rounds of inquiries to Chicago galleries about a show, Kimberly was the one who saw the merit in Harrison’s work.
When she came over to pick out final selections for the show we finally put on (‘Buried Alive’) she looked up at the walls covered with paintings and said ‘What’s all this stuff?’. That was my stuff…that’s how it started and that’s why we’re here.
Your upcoming exhibition is entitled “SuperDeath pt 1 (Let it Bleed)”. What is the meaning behind this title?
It’s a Description as much as anything. Right before the first show a routine chest x-ray revealed a lesion on my 9th rib. I want to pause and note that lesion was 8 ½ ct. long – because even my maladies, apparently, must be film references. The consensus was that I had Multiple Myeloma (and I do) The expectation was that many more lesions would be discovered through more thorough testing and I would be…doomed, effectively. 3 years maybe, 5 years possibly.
But I only had the one so the ‘Multiple’ part got kicked down the road a bit. I’m in treatment now – Chemo and Stem Cell replacement coming up as my personal ‘Rites of Spring’ but, again, early so the prognosis is a bit more chipper. So the title just describes that – it has started. It’s a blood cancer and there is no cure…but I think there will be at least a Pt. 2, maybe even 3. What is Life without Adventure?
A lot of your previous work has been inspired by some of your favorite actors, directors and movies. This new body of work reflects a shift towards drawing inspiration from your favorite artists or works of art. Can you expound on this shift and how the process of creating this current work feels? Is there a difference in how you approach the canvas?
Do you remember that early 90’s movie by Kevin Smith ‘Chasing Amy’?…it was his only kind of realized actual adult movie – the protagonist is a comic book artist, his second banana guy is his ‘inker’, a crucial role in the industry. In an early scene at a comic convention a fan of the artist turns to the ‘inker’ and declares you’re just a ‘tracer’, you just trace what he does.”
When I went ‘deep’ for the first show I unearthed my old sketch books, shoe boxes, spiral notebooks – some containing drawings 35 years old. And I turned them into paintings, but a lot of the paintings were mostly inked impressions of the old drawings (We’ll talk about Krink Ink at the end)…but it all came from what tradition calls a ‘drawing practice’ and I have a million of them. I am my Tracer.
To crystallize the Film Stuff we have to talk about Otto Preminger. He can stand in for the rest. It’s complicated. My works are rife with film titles, portraits (arguably recognizable), but for purposes of explanation Otto will suffice.
He was offered the full control of Nazi Germany’s Filmmaking Enterprise, just like Fritz Lang had been before him. Like Fritz Lang he fled to America.
Preminger made the first movies that talked honestly about Rape, Homosexuality (not exactly the way you wish but he did it first), the Differently Abled, Racism, Questioning the Military Dominance of our culture. He was the first public figure to have an open relationship with a woman of color. He should be exemplar of 20th Century Liberalism (and in many ways he is).
But he was awful. He destroyed lives. He was an egomaniac, a screamer, a Monster.
I’m going to keep trying to understand him (he’s on the T Shirt)
The Film Stuff is never going away…Maya Deren, Brakhage. I’m just going to cut it off now…but go see ‘Drive My Car’ if you don’t think they still make great movies every single year.
You’ve shared in your new work you “fixated on rooms depicted in paintings, compressed, even crushed spaces – back to my old formative heroes Picasso, Giacometti and, particularly Matisse (Cezanne and Cecily Brown too…)” can you share more about the choice in representing architectural spaces, particularly spaces that are compressed/crushed?
The ’crushed space’ was specific – first to Giacometti’s ‘Pear on a Sideboard’, he did a number of these, the subsequent more severe than the (for him) relatively exuberantly colorful original, but that’s the one I thought about. I didn’t revisit it in my ruminations for this show and I don’t have the confidence to say I really understand it…but he broke something – in perception, in aspiration. Not for everyone, but certainly for me. I don’t have an answer for that painting.
The next other, before we talk about Matisse, is Picasso’s ‘Skull’. Picasso remained in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. He was a celebrity by then, but this was still brave (the less photogenic Matisse fled to the South). Picasso received unwilled Nazi visitors and one asked, looking at the sculpture of ‘Skull’ – “Did you do that?”, Picasso replied flatly “No, You did That.”
So, let’s talk about Matisse. He is a 19th century painter who became the bedrock of 20th century modernism. He also started painting seriously when he was ill (he would be ill a lot). His mother gave him a set of paints in the hospital.
I have dubbed ‘The Quarantine’ my doubled-damned hibernation because of my malady…but it hasn’t been all bad. It drove me back to my books and the first ones off the shelf, some not cracked for 20 years, were Matisse. There’s no dearth of landscapes but I fixated on the rooms, the odalisques, the studio paintings, the apartment in Nice – which I actually visited. The granting of a single color to be the Architecture of a single image. His whole career he worked like a coal miner and went through horrible struggles. I’m going to cut it off now because I could go on for 19 pages. This show is for him. But not about him. We will have to talk about that Armchair later.
You’ve been able to produce work in volume recently. This is partially attributed to several challenges you and the world has faced in the past few years. Can you share how it feels to create at such a quick pace?
It feels like the correct pace for me. While there has been a lot more actual painting in this bunch, I haven’t really slowed down. I don’t think it’s a working philosophy to apply to the rest of the working Artist World, but it works for me. I just love working. A lot of people don’t. That’s a Tragedy. There can’t be a Practicall Element (‘Oh, You’re just running out of fucking room…’, Trust me, I’ve run out of room for them)
Your primary mediums are Krink Ink markers and acrylic paint on paper, canvas and panel. Can you speak to why these particular materials interest you?
Krink is Fast. Lina read an article about Krink Ink in the New York Times 20 some years ago and bought me a set of the 6 original broad top markers. I went to Town. A Town I had no map to. When I say my ‘process’ is founded in not actually knowing how to do Anything, I’m not lying. The first wave of works were kind of idiot monotypes…blotted without certainty. I work flat. I’m not an easel painter. I initially preferred panels for the ink effect…but the effect has evolved. I’m not just an inker anymore.
It’s been a few years since you’ve had an exhibition at ERG and a lot has changed in the world. What changes have you seen in your work and/or process and how are you feeling about this show in particular?
Regarding the Show, people will look at it or not, get it or not. Never underestimate the Role of Luck (that’s from ‘The Hustler’) in the estimation of Art. The ‘Process’ has become a bit more ‘crushed’, back to a past comment of mine. For me anyhow. I started out (formally, not that long ago) making pictures about pictures. It was a point of pride. I am clearly not doing just that anymore.
I don’t know why but I’ll keep making stuff until I figure it out.
What is your favorite piece in this show and why?
I am related to Diego Velazquez by marriage (Journey of a Smaller World) and so have an additional emotional investment in his painting ‘Las Meninas’ and I have some company. Picasso painted dozens of variations of it while he was dying (they crowd the last gallery of the Barcelona Picasso Museum).
I have called ‘Las Meninas’ – ‘The First Movie’. It broke pictorial history in half. To the question ‘What is this a painting of?’ there is only one answer.
You, the viewer are the subject of this painting.
I only did one version. I can’t ever do another.