Cave presents li. An exhibition of new work by the preeminent and tall artist Curtis Glenn. Glenn hails from Detroit as an alum of College for Creative Studies, and has since graduating re-located to Prospect Park, Brooklyn. His solo exhibition at Cave Gallery will be on view through July 30, 2013 in the Russel Industrial Center. 

How long have you lived in NYC ? Do you have a ‘day job’ in addition to creating your art?  

I left my family in Philadelphia and moved to Michigan when I was 16. I moved around a lot, eventually ending up in Hamtramck which still feels like home now. I’m really bad at keeping track of time but I think I’ve been in New York around four years. I work at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in the West Village as an archivist/press-something/media-something-something. It’s a fuzzy job description.

What brings you to New York City graduating CCS?

I wanted to meet people that believed in good work and experimental life decisions. New York was the obvious choice at the time- but I don’t think those people are actually here any more. What I’ve largely gained is a deeper understanding of how the broader art world functions; turns out it’s a bit boring.

What is your medium of choice as an artist? 

I’ve never felt comfortable with any one medium. Spatial relationships and context are possibly the most consistent “mediums” I like to manipulate. That said, I’ve always painted even if I wasn’t showing paintings. I guess painting is similar to sketching for me. Expensive sketching. I don’t understand how drawing works. I get to experiment with space, color, subject, mark etc. within a defined space which is helpful when living in an apartment that’s essentially a walk-in closet [I<3NY]. Of course when I’m done with a painting, that defined space disappears and I’m more interested in where it is, what it is and what it’s interacting with. I only like oils because I hate commitment.

Video is great too, but display is such a huge problem that next to no one has figured out how to solve. Most people working with video seem to just ignore that but it bothers me too much. Dylan Spaysky and I have a flash drive with some videos on it. That seemed to work.

You’ve worked with Kevin Beasley in the past, can you elaborate on that? We just saw his show at Interstate Projects in Bushwick. 

Kevin is a good friend of mine and a really exciting artist. He, Miroslav Cukovic and I collaborated on a show back in 2006 called EVEN CLEAN HANDS LEAVE MARKS AND DAMAGE SURFACES at what was then called Detroit Industrial Projects in the Russel Industrial Complex. We named ourselves CMYK after our initials and the color of the floor (we had painted it a glowing industrial yellow). It was a purely collaborative show in the same vein of, and somewhat in response to, the first RICHRICHRICH show that artists Nolan Simon, Ed Brown and Mike Smith put together, where no decision was made without everyone agreeing on it. Everything was about arrangement and intimate details. That was probably a really formative experience for me and it was a pleasure working so closely with those two.

I’m really excited to be in New York with Kevin. His show at Interstate Projects was just lovely. So little and so much. He’s also one of the sweetest people I know. An absolute peach.

What is the concept behind the solo show up at Cave Gallery? When did they approach you about doing the show or how did that come up?

I have to emphasize that none of these ideas are intended to be drawn from the show. They are just organizing principles for my own use that hopefully add a subtle coherence to what could otherwise be a jumble of disparate parts, so I wouldn’t call it a concept but there were two ideas I kept as a basis for organizing the work.

First was the metaphor of Cyclops the X-Man. Cyclops can’t open his eyes to the full spectrum of light without destroying the object he stares at, disintegrating it, tearing it apart on a molecular level. I found in this the frustration I’m sure many feel being an artist and viewing work (your own and others) with a fully open critical approach. Under true criticism everything dissolves. So Cyclops wears ruby (rose) glasses.

Second I’ve been interested in too much content. So there’s a painting layered on a painting and a kind of riddle that’s really a dumb joke lit with a green light from a stand that has another painting rolled up inside of it. One use for this, I guess, is as a defense against the laser vision of Cyclops. It’s also just a bad idea but I’m curious what certain bad ideas look like.

The title is both of these things. li is aesthetically formal, a friend referred to it as a drawing in and of itself. It can also be “1 eye” or a play on the word “lie”. My brother mentioned it could also be lithium which is used in some antipsychotics and for bipolar disorder.

I had been approached to show at Cave when it first started but I never quite got it together. Dylan pushed me a little and I ended up texting the proposal from a bar. I frequently need to get pushed around.

Are you excited to be showing work in Detroit? 
Absolutely.

I love Detroit and will take any opportunity to come back. The drinks are so cheap!”

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Are there any other artists or organizations that you are or would like to work with in the future?
I do really enjoy collaborating with the right people. It can turn into some really weird shit. I’ve frequently worked with Dylan Spaysky through Malcolm Glenn Project Space in New York and we’ve been playing with some ideas to work with other small gallery type spaces. Or we might just send some easily rejectable proposals to Cleopatra’s in New York again.

I’d also love another CMYK show.

What inspires you and do you have a particular creative process that you have found to be the most succesful for you?
I’m not one to subscribe to art in general as being either socially functional or transcendental. Mostly people use it as a background for other forces that mean very little to me. Knowing that, I find a love for art as an honest acknowledgment of some fundamental absurdity. What else would be meaningful? That’s not a very good answer to the question.

As far as creative processes, I really like the experiment. I try to make the art I want to see and I like to see things that I don’t understand. I also find it much easier to add to a failed experiment than it is to sit down and do a good thing from nothing.

What concepts or themes does your work revolve around?

I don’t know about concepts. A dualistic theology with Bacchus on one end and a disembodied voice in the darkness on the other. That sounded less like bad poetry at the bar.

What projects and shows are on the horizon for you as an individual artist?
I want to make a video game. Just a regular one. I want to make something that possibly a lot of people will spend time with and enjoy. I think it will be a good medicine to take while making art that people drink beer next to.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NYC?
There are some bars that I just adore: Boat, Lucky 13’s and Iggy’s. I used to go alone to drink and fill out crosswords but now I know all the regulars and the bartenders.
What do you love about Detroit? 

Detroit is made mostly of un-curated experiences, the absolute opposite of New York.”

There’s nothing to discover in the analytically designed space and it’s exhausting to spend time in. My favorite places in the world to drink are in Hamtramck. Really almost any bar in Hamtramck that isn’t Small’s.

Describe what you imagine Detroit to be in 10 years.

I’m in no position to even hazard a guess but like my friend Johnny Ill was telling me the other day, ‘Detroit is huge, there’s a hell of a lot of it and most of it is going to stay the same for a long time, for better or worse.’