Friday, January 20, 2017

Landon Metz

By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch


Landon Metz, brought us most thoughtfully into the experience of what it is to be a painter in today’s world of the Internet, Instagram, selfies and Snapchat. Not that it he isn’t up to the challenge of it—he doesn’t even see it that way. “It’s just happening” is how he expresses it. There were times when we felt a bit old and jaded, whining about how we prefer “skill” and how Marina Abramovic is a hoax (“Maybe you think she is but for some people she means something”) but mostly it was fascinating to listen, from a millenial’s viewpoint, to how the making of art is changing—apart from when he said, “What can I say? I’m a millennial. I’m meta.”—which we didn’t quite get.

So … your work is … well, do you identify more with being a minimalist or being a colorist?

Um … probably maybe neither, in a weird way. I think that I pull different motifs from art history and use them as tools, something to sort of latch on to.

I guess maybe like a way of saying it is that when you see a blue painting, like a blue color field painting that carries a lot of specific weight, one of these paintings by these beautiful, incredible artists like Helen Frankenthaler, their sort of initial intentions have bled into a broader discourse so that their work means something very different today than it did when they were doing it. It sort of becomes more aesthetic. We’re more comfortable with this type of work being part of the canon.
The living room of Landon and his wife, fashion designer Hannah's Bed-Stuy apartment—when we did the shoot, they were waiting for Santa Claus. The hanging light fixture is by Aafra and Tobia Scarpa and the Eero Saarinen 'Grasshopper chair' is from Bright Lyons in Park Slope.
A glass-and-chrome coffee table is by Italian designer Marco Zanuso and the Moroccan rag rug is vintage.
A George Nelson bookcase displays the family stereo system.
Landon created this 'Untitled' silkscreen for a fundraiser at Printed Matter.
Why does so much contemporary art look the same? I have pictures on my phone here that I gathered. They’re all by different artists but they’re indistinguishable from each other.

I can’t really answer that question! [laughs] I mean there’s two ways of addressing this. The first is like what Jerry Saltz would say, which is that this [kind of art] is bullshit—there’s a lot of nonsense in the world—because of the Internet. It’s very easy to generate your audience, whereas 20 years ago that was a much more difficult thing to do. But the other way of looking at that, the more positive way, and perhaps what I might say, is that you have access to so much information and so much historical precedent, there is a bit of timeline collapse. We live in this strange time—sort of post-modern, killing the author. But there’s so much information you end up having to choose. We live in a time where the viewer is [also] forced to choose. Thirty years ago there was less information and it carried more authority.
'Ashoka' table lamps by Ettore Sottsass 'Ashoka' stand atop the fireplace mantel.
A cast lemon by Ethan Cook is arranged next to a bowl by Ettore Sottsass. The small print is by Luigi Ghirri.
So we have become our own gatekeepers instead of relying on other gatekeepers to select for us?

Yes. [And] the generation younger than me feels very entitled to appropriating their own content. They have some sense of ownership—when they post [on Instagram] ‘this color that I like’ or ‘this dog that I like’, whatever, it says more about them than the person who made it.

How do you feel about that as an artist?

It’s just happening.

So is everything derivative—is everything appropriated?

Yes. We live in a culture of appropriation.
Landon's "scraggly" Christmas tree was admittedly purchased too far in advance.
Peeking into the kitchen.
Windsor chairs from an upstate antiques dealer flank a cast iron-and-marble top table.
A kit cat cuckoo clock entertains Landon's 2 cats.
A 1950s hutch holds the couple's dishware and cookbooks.
I mean how is that different from say looking at a Kenneth Noland painting?

Well when you’re standing in front of a Kenneth Noland painting you’re admiring the craft that went into creating this object and you are remembering the time that went into this thing. You are recalling the act of creating this work. In my work, and what I’m interested in, is that standing in front of something and admiring it strictly for the artist’s intentions is one end of the spectrum and standing in front of it for your own personal like, “entertainment” is the other end … somewhere exactly in the middle is what I hope for and what I believe in.

I think people are exposed to art but their interest is, on the whole, pretty superficial even though they do go to shows. I guess that’s better than a lack of interest—are you okay with that?

It’s not okay—it’s just true! I guess from my point of view all you do is provide some work. I can’t expect anyone to read the texts. I can only expect people to care as much as they care.
A view into the living room from the kitchen.
Landon in conversation with Sian.
Rescue cats Pippin and Bobo posing for Jeff.
What do you think about people who go around galleries taking photographs on their phones of pictures? Is it a new way of seeing? Do they want to store them in some way?

It is weird. Do you think they want to store it for themselves or for their peers? I think it’s part of what I was saying before. It’s the way that people relate to the world now.

Why did you become a painter rather than another kind of artist?

I’ve always felt that painting is a very confusing and convoluted medium. The idea of a human touching an object and leaving a mark is very primal. And after the person’s gone it’s like a ghost of that person’s presence. And the art world has always wanted to annihilate painting.

Why?

Because it feels formal to some people and it feels antiquated. It feels maxed out.
The bedroom hallway is lined with various artist works, including those by Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Henry Gunderson, Andy Boot, Sergei Jensen, Connor Backman and Ethan Cook. Many of the works are by friends and colleagues with whom Landon trades his own work.
A wall cutout by Andy Boot hangs next to the doorway to the bedroom.
In the bath a vintage table is chock full of skincare and hair products.
'Blue Woman' by Sam McKinniss.
In your head is an object seen as a whole and then you break pieces off of it?

My work I hope is a multi-tiered experience. I come to you and I allow an uninformed viewer to have an aesthetic experience. To me that is the most vulnerable and the most welcoming gesture an artist can make. For me I have this way [where] the image and the object have a relationship. The image is broken off of the object so it’s never continually realized … the image is continued via seriality and repetition. And I believe that everything [perceived] is informed by past experience.

Do you feel that you need to be doing what you’re doing?

Yeah, sure. For me I think it’s dangerous to say that a human being is any one thing. To create a world that is so black and white is where you have racism and sexism. Sure I would say I strongly believe in what I’m doing. I would not do anything else with my time. There’s no right way to be anything. So what’s real and true to you could probably be the opposite reality or truth to another artist.
Looking across the bedroom. A light by Achille Castiglioni for Flos hangs above a bed covered in a Moroccan throw.
Two vases by Ettore Sottsass flank a vintage mirror.
Pippin and Bobo hanging out in the bedroom.
A lamp by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis stands behind a chair by Harry Bertoia.
A cartoon painting by Michael Dotson hangs above an illuminated sign with the words 'PARADISO É QUI'—a common phrase from Landon's Italian gallerist Massimo Minini. It roughly translates to "paradise is here" or "paradise now."
A lamp by Ettore Sottsass and ceramic works by Jessica Hans are arranged upon a George Nelson bookcase in the dining room/study. Two vessels and a wall sculpture by Gaetano Pesce are positioned nearby.
A painting on a wall of the dining room/study was purportedly done by Sol Lewitt.
You sound so accommodating. Don’t you want to kick against something?

I can’t expect to have a conversation with you and you and him and everyone driving the cars outside and the bodega guys …

What about Michaelangelo?! Did he think, “Well a few people are going to get this but most people won’t.” That’s really depressing! No universality! Oh well.

[laughs] But that was such a different world! I don’t believe that humanity today can address the world so broadly.

You sound so nice. Don’t you have to have some mean ambition to get into galleries?

I’m very successful. I have four galleries. I don’t know. There are lots of ways. Massimo my gallery in Italy [represents] Anish Kapoor, Dan Graham … I’m among huge artists and I’m very young, I’m only 31. I guess I’m a hustler. I’m very, very street smart and I’m also very good at making people comfortable. I’m good at getting on people’s level—that’s a natural skill for me. I think it is a form of empathy.
Entering Landon's East Williamsburg studio.
An untitled work of Landon's dominates the studio wall.
Landon's immaculate studio. Many paintings were recently shipped out for an upcoming show.
Landon in conversation with Sian and Lesley.
Paint is stored in large plastic containers in a corner of the studio.
Tell us more about the hustling.

This is actually the problem. You go to Yale for your fucking MFA and “I know everything about art history” and “I know what it means to be a painter. I’ve got all the fucking answers.”  Totally not true. We live in a very malleable world that is changing world …

Oh … I want you to be nice again …

No … I’m giving you answers. Education does not end after Yale or Columbia. Everything is up for grabs. You cannot stop. Nothing is precious. Nothing is sacred.
Stretches for sections of paintings are stacked against a studio wall. The chair is by Mies van der Rohe.
More views of Landon's light-filled East Williamsburg studio.
A corner reading area of the studio with Marcel Breuer's 'Wassily' chair and a George Nelson bookcase filled with art books.
A catalog from Landon's show is stacked with a book on favorite artist Joseph Beuys and another by his Italian art dealer Massimo Minini.
In a corner seating area a sofa by George Nelson faces a coffee table by Ettore Sottsass. The office chair is by Charles Eames.
Plants in the studio thrive because of the light streaming through the corner windows.
Did your parents sort of instill the hustling thing in you some way?

I come from a kind of strange background. My dad is a real hustler. He’s from Chicago. I learned a lot from him. He was formally uneducated. He did like off-the-books jobs.

But you grew up in Arizona. How was it growing up there?

You know, riding horses in the desert. I rode a lot. It was like my thing.