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Q & A with Greg Lindquist

for The Brooklyn Paper
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GO Brooklyn’s Chris Varmus sat down with local artist Greg Lindquist, whose exhibition “To Brooklyn” is  currently on display at McCaig-Welles Gallery in Williamsburg, to discuss the show, his influences and his take on what’s happening in Brooklyn.

 

GO Brooklyn: How did you first start painting, and how did you develop your art? What have some of your past subjects been?

 

Greg Lindquist: I consider my first serious painting to have been done in undergraduate studies. In this body of work, I did a series of paintings depicting concentration camps in Germany, Austria and Poland and the post-war destruction of Germany. I was interested in what temporal context these spaces rest in contemporary culture and consciousness. This work inspired travel research on memorials and memorialization in Germany as a dual art and literature major, and then in graduate school, I moved towards addressing the genre of landscape as a memorial. It was then that I started considering the transformation of the Brooklyn landscape as a motif to be painted.

 

GO: Who and what are your major influences?

 

GL: In terms of painters, I am influenced by a wide range of [the] historical and contemporary, including Georgio Morandi, Fairfield Porter, Tintoretto, Anselm Kiefer and Ryan McGinness. In terms of this show, the poetry of Walt Whitman was a huge influence. Many of the paintings’ titles — including the show title — reference specific poems Whitman wrote about Brooklyn. One thing I found interesting was how he saw the shapes of skyscrapers as being similar to ship sails (which no longer populate the East River), thus referring to the island as “Masthemm’d Manhattan.” I used that as a title, in homage to Whitman.

 

GO: How do you envision your work being seen in ten years?

 

GL: I hope that the work is viewed in ten years as an aesthetic documentation of the Brooklyn landscape in its transitional moments. I am aware that my choice of a muted palette and painterly sensibility suggest more of a pseudo-documentary quality to them, because the paintings as scenes are just as transformed from their original sources. I hope that this says something about my individual experience with these places; I desire to communicate this elegiac mood with the viewer.

 

GO: What do you see as a likely next subject?

 

GL: Have you ever seen Morandi’s paintings of bottles? Morandi made over 1,700 paintings in 54 years of living — yet they largely depicted various arrangements of the same twenty bottles on a table in his studio. Never were two paintings ever the same, which speaks, I guess, to serial art. I’m offering an extreme example, but perhaps I’d be just as content to return to the same sites and paint them over and over again as they change, and maybe I wouldn’t. I do know that the most interesting painters to me can be measured to some degree by their growth as painters.

 

GO: What is your relationship to Brooklyn?

 

GL: My relationship to Brooklyn is that it’s my first love of a city, Manhattan being, to me, second to Brooklyn — perhaps it’s the diversity here of the landscape that attracts me. There is still a lot of open sky and psychologically it’s very comforting. Manhattan appears like a distant stage set, yet remains very accessible. Brooklyn is a more manageable live/work situation as

I can still navigate a car easily and warehouse loft space is still relatively reasonable to rent. Also, I am interested in the previous history of these spaces as production sites of the industrial revolution. For example, my studio is a converted furniture factory, which now houses artists slaving away, which will undoubtedly someday be made into luxury lofts. That’s the trend with many

Williamsburg buildings and the future of such architecturally significant warehouses as the Austin, Nichol and Company building, which was designed by the architect Cass Gilbert.

 

GO: How long have you lived here, and how long do you foresee yourself wanting to stay?

 

GL: I moved here in 2004 to attend graduate school and I plan to stay for the rest of my life, notwithstanding living temporarily in places like Tuscany, Berlin and Venice.

 

GO: How (if at all) does that play into any “message”?

 

GL: Living here for the rest of my life, if anything, will privilege me with more opportunity to see Brooklyn’s metamorphosis unfold. I’ll grow as Brooklyn transforms around me. I guess it’s John Ruskin’s idea of the pathetic fallacy, the tendency for humans to project one’s feelings onto one’s external environment, to credit nature with human emotion.

 

GO: Is there a political/activist slant to the work?

 

GL: The work is political by implication. By this I mean all good visual art has a certain degree of ambiguity present. Take Pop Art, for example. I think there have been excellent arguments made on the position artists of the movement had to commercialism, planned obsolescence and mass production. But, at the end of the day, I think the work can never be accepted as an extreme celebration or critique of these issues. Similarly, I think my paintings capture a mood that may be interpreted as a solemn protest against urban renewal, yet at the same time, such things as the materials I am using, such as iridescent stainless steel pigments, could certainly imply a celebration of the building process.

 

GO: What other talents, occupations, or interests do you have that might be relevant to a discussion of your art?

 

GL: I have a love also for writing, which is at times a conflicting one. Presently, I am writing about art as a regular contributor to the online art journal called artcritical.com. I review shows I find interesting to my own issues in painting. I also am a research intern in the education department at the Museum of Modern Art, where I have done large amounts of digging through and photocopying interesting artist-based files and then also had the opportunity to write wall labels for the museums permanent collection. So far the artists I have written about are Richard Diebenkorn, Willem de Kooning and Arshille Gorky. I am finishing my art history masters thesis at Pratt Institute on contemporary landscape painting and its relationship to digital photography and media. Also I have had a long-time interest in architecture and probably would have pursued that had I more interest in the mathematical technicalities of it.

Updated 4:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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