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Meet Josh Meillier

Meet Josh Meillier

@ his studio in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ana: How did you get into painting in the first place? 

Josh: I started in high school just taking all of the required courses to graduate, and ended up finding something that I enjoyed in drawing, which slowly developed into painting later on. Then once I decided to go to art school for undergraduate I fleshed it out a little further. 

A: And when did you get into sculpture? 

J: I became interested in sculpture right before I started graduate school, and then it took a stronger hold once I was in school, where I was able to focus more on theory. 

A: Do you have a preferred medium or do you like to experiment?  

J: I definitely like to keep it as open as possible. I absolutely have an affinity for oil paint, but in the end, it’s something I like to keep very open-ended. My sculptures are highly mixed-medium from fabricated and found objects. For my paintings, at this point, I’m using a lot of acrylic and digital transfers, but for me basically, anything can be paint as far as I’m concerned. 

A: I saw you have some silkscreens on your website, when did you get into that method of production? 

J: I discovered silkscreen in undergraduate school, but I didn’t really understand it at the time as a tool for making paintings. Now it is something that I try to treat as openly as possible. It is very far from what you would consider traditional screen printing, but it is something that I like because since it is a screen it already has a sort of pixelation. I am interested conceptually in a lot of things that have to do with the Internet and access to information and digital information, and so the silkscreen seemed like a very natural tool and a tangible material-based thing to incorporate in my process.

A: This is a perfect segue to our next question– your art has a lot of representations of the “Information Age,” what drew you to this subject in the first place? 

J: I was actually drawn to it based on the Mueller report that came out about the Russia-United States “relations” during the 2016 election. I was interested in the report specifically because it is a document that was supposed to provide us information, but at the same time, since it is so heavily redacted, once you actually try to go in and access any of that information, you can’t. So I think it is this interesting problem of providing information and comfort but simultaneously negating that as a means of protection. I tie the Mueller report as something that is very akin to the Internet, which is a progressive resource for information but at the same time, it is a tool that intentionally provides misinformation, as of course, we’ve seen very closely recently. 

A: How do you use social media to further your practice and sell your artwork through it? And how do you grapple with the idea of misinformation in the media that you criticize while also taking advantage of the good things it has to offer? 

J: I use social media as a tool to connect with more people. It is a fantastic way to discover other artists and engage with them. It’s been really interesting to me how many artists are out there that will come across your content and message you to set up a studio visit or chat about some work. I have found social media is one of the best resources to do that, outside of the established networks like academic institutions.

I am not trying to make a claim as to what is good and what isn’t. What I want to do is be open to the conversation of what it does when we use these tools for one thing or the other. I think once I get into the position of making a claim, I start to get into some political territory that I am not an expert in and so I would much rather be asking some questions that make us think a little bit, as opposed to being like “I have the answer for this,” which I don’t want to do. I do think that social media presents challenges, but I think they are interesting. I think that’s the whole point of the work I’m doing now. Currently, I am thinking: how can I reconcile with those challenges? Or how can I use those challenges to focus on the work in a different way? How can I make the viewer reflect on their own life and their own experiences with objects and images? 

A: Do you have a favorite artist? And is there someone who heavily influences your work? 

J: I definitely look at a lot of different artists. At the moment Taylor Anton White is a huge inspiration. I also enjoy the work of Aaron Curry, who makes sculptures, prints, and paintings. My influences are constantly changing though. And of course, I have some modernist references that I love as well, it is hard not to like them. 

A: How does Williamsburg as a neighborhood influence your art? Do you only create work when you are in the studio or do you branch out? 

J: I make work primarily in the studio, and that has a lot to do with how dirty my practice can be– there’s a lot of pigments and that sort of thing involved. But also casting objects, like the fire hydrant (see below), is just not possible to do at my apartment. Being in this neighborhood, which is a super industrial area, there’s a ton of metal scrap yards and milling of stone, so I’m constantly going out and trying to collect “trash” or things that I think are interesting, whether it is a fire hydrant, or pipes, or a lamp base. I’m constantly pulling from what is around me in the neighborhood. 

Grace: Would you describe your work as industrial organic? 

J: Very much so, yes. Growing up my family would build a house, and we would live in it for a short period of time, and then we would sell it and build a new one, and sell it, and repeat. So for me, from a young age, material and process were instilled into my existence. I would help frame walls, or drywall and mud, and because of that background, I think I have a relationship to a more industrious aesthetic. This is something that I’m constantly pulling into my work, such as the use of cast tools and rougher materials. 

A: Do you have a routine to get into your creative flow?  

J: Every day that I come to the studio, I bike here, which takes me about 20 minutes. I find this refreshing and it helps me get into the mindset. When I get started in the studio, I’m usually listening to podcasts, starting with the news, and then kind of going into some more fun things. Often I start with small paintings and work my way up. It is also a lot about playing and figuring out how I can stack things together or hang one thing off of another thing in order to find a form that is interesting. 

G: Do you find it easier to work on small paintings or large paintings? 

J: That’s a hard question. I think that they are very equal for me. I tend to struggle with the small paintings after they are done because I think I tend to work through them too quickly since I prefer to work on a larger scale. The large paintings are tricky because of trying to figure out how to make a mark on a large enough scale and figuring out how to make things look natural, but also not wasteful. There are completely different sets of rules and problems with each of them. 

A: Where is your favorite place to look at art? 

J: I am a huge fan of Petzel Gallery, the artists that they have there are absolutely phenomenal. In the Bushwick area, I love going to Onderdonk and Tiger Strikes Asteroid

A: Is there a dream place for your work to be exhibited? 

J: I’m sure there is but I’m not exactly sure what that space is yet. I think a lot of it has to do with site-specificity. I try to make work leading up to a show, as opposed to making work that I can fit into a show. Every space is great, but they all have different challenges that I love dealing with. For example, I love a very raw, industrial space, the same way I might love a white cube space– I’m just looking for the interesting thing that I can play with involved in the gallery or whatever space I’m showing at.

G: How does time as a topic or a factor influence your work? 

J: Time is interesting because some works take forever to make– I can spend a month and a half or six months on a painting, but I can also finish a painting in six minutes. It’s something that either clicks or doesn’t. I also think of things I am responding to that are very much of the moment. For instance, from when the Mueller report came out until now, I’ve been reflecting on information and misinformation from the Presidential campaign, which is very much of the moment. At the same time, I’m not only interested in this because it is of the moment but also because it is something that we are going to be dealing with for a very long time. 

G: How and when do you know that a painting is finished? 

J: I don’t think I ever know. I think it is constantly changing. Although I might be infatuated with a certain work right now, in six months I might not be. I rarely revisit works, but there is always that possibility. I typically would like to start something new and revisit the problems I see in old works and work to address those concerns through the new work, while still having the original to reflect on. I’m constantly changing how I feel about a particular work.

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