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March 19, 2008

Artist Interview - Josh Azzarella - Part 1

So, you may not know the work of Video/Photographer/New Media Artist Josh Azzarella yet.. but you will!! Trust MAO! You will be hearing a lot more about this young artist..
First off..  Josh has the honor of being the first big solo show for the grand re-opening of the latest established Chelsea gallery high rent-refugee to move to the more hip and happening Lower East Side. See DCKT moves to LES.. Show opens March 20th.

Secondly.. We at MAO have been a fan from the first day we saw Josh's work. We find it bold and innovative. Josh has integrated new technology (digital video and photography) with our image obsessed culture to ask historically thought provoking questions. He's created new video and stills from well known subject matter, hence the new images are all somewhat familiar.. but they leave the viewer asking the question.. What if ??

(photo #1,     Untitled #15 (Tank Man) 2006, archival digital c-print, 20 x 30", note.. here's the Pre-Josh original Column of Tanks vs. Man at Tiananmen Square press image, more details here)

Thirdly.. Josh is a blogger. and all new young smart ambitious enterprising artists have blogs..

Josh_azzarela_untitled_28_ce_133_bFourthly.. Josh won the 2006 Emerging Artist Award from the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, and most NYC collectors still have yet to discover his work and his prices are still very affordable!

(Photo #2, Untitled #28 (CE 133-B), 2006, archival digital c-print, 30 x 20"..
Note.. here's the pre-Josh Lee Harvey Oswald photo)

so now that MAO's got your attention.. here's the first half of a Q&A with artist Josh Azzarella...

MAO : Hey Josh, So, why did you become an Artist?

JA :    I don't feel as if I consciously chose to do this. For various reasons, other career paths didn't work out, and one day I picked up a camera and started making photographs around town.    Next thing I knew, I had completed an undergrad art program and was on my way to grad school.

MAO : So, many of your works involve altering (or re-writing) recent American history.

Why did you make these works, and not something else?

JA : In early 2000, I began looking at the breakdown of technology and communication. I was watching videos online (several years before YouTube) and they would stutter, stammer and, more frequently Josh_azzarella_untitled_33_balconythan not, simply quit playing. Sometimes, during or after the initial failure, I would think I saw movement in the image but wasn't sure and worked to try and detect any change in frames. This led me to question how slowly a moving image could move before it's no longer a moving image.

(Photo #3, Untitled #33 (Balcony), 2007, archival digital c-print, 20 x 30"..
Note.. here's the original pre-Josh image from the 1972 Munich Olympics Terror Massacre)   

But simply slowing down a piece of footage via software or hardware isn't the solution, as it makes the movement very obvious – when the frames do progress, they jerk from one to the next. This led me to develop a system of manipulation that involves layering, varying opacity, offsetting and recursive frames. This system yields a slow moving, undulating piece of footage. Initially, I made several small tests, and within 6 months had created the first piece, Untitled #3 (B.B.).

Concurrently, I was interested in personal memory, collective memory and cachectic energy, mostly due to the constant replaying of 9/11 images and the removal of the World Trade Center from contexts such as movies, etc. Add these interests up and the results are Untitled #3, 4, 34, 36 and 45 - works in which a recognizable piece of footage is rendered unrecognizable and new as a result of the obfuscation process. As I was completing the second obfuscated piece I realized what was happening and wanted to make work that didn't obscure the source imagery but altered it, which leads to #6 and the rest of the work. . 

MAO : You've been working with still photography, Video, and the creative use of new age computer technology... If you had to, how would you currently classify yourself as an artist..? Video, Photographer, digital, or something else? Do you see staying with this media for the rest of your career?

JA : Classification is a daunting task. It's a task I've never set out to accomplish. So to that end, when Josh_azzarella_untitled_13_ahsf_2asked this question, I point to a passage written about the work when it was at Lawrimore Project in  Seattle. The passage is contained within an article where Elizabeth Bryant uses the term "post-medium" to describe both the work and my practice. I feel this term gets pretty close to how I feel about the medium as a tool and not the focus of the work itself.

(Photo #4, Untitled #13 (AHSF), 2006, archival digital c-print, edition of 7 + 3 AP, 20 x 30".. Note, here's the initial press photo the image is based on from Abu Ghraib - Iraq US POWs torture)

As for the future, I don't foresee any change in media primarily because I have the next group of works tentatively plotted out and they take me through 2010-2012. However, if the work necessitates a change then yes, of course, but there aren't many things I'm interested in making that I can't in some way generate from in front of my laptop.

MAO : So far, which artists has been the biggest influence on you and your art work?

JA : I can’t really identify one person, however I find myself looking time and time again at the work of Gerhard Richter, Robert Frank, Sherrie Levine, Walker Evans, Michal Rovner, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Eugene Atget, Sharon Lockhart, John Gerrard, Susan Sontag, Rineke Dijkstra, John F. Simon Jr. and Shirin Neshat.

OK.. Stay Tuned my little MAO-ettes.. Part II of the Josh Azzarella interview will be posted tomorrow..


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very informational!!... educative as well, i read and felt like reading over and over again....good job!

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