Joe Solano at Tif Sigfrids

Conversation Between Joe Sola, Adam Bram Straus, and John Wolf

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Introduction by Moto Okawa; interview by John Wolf

Last month, New York had horses in the gallery. This month, Los Angeles has its own to admire, albeit being little smaller and painted, at Tif Sigfrids. Even though Riba the Shetland pony is the namesake for the title of Joe Sola’s exhibition, A Painted Horse, there are multiple layers folded into his critical investigation. Upon signing the liability waiver and looking past the irresistible charm of cool-as-cucumber Riba, a transformation of the gallery space becomes most curious and engaging. Painted in deep navy-blue, the dining room of a fictional collector’s residence boasts works by Matthew Chambers, Sayre Gomez, and Rudy K. Slobeck. The compartmentalized ecosystem of the contemporary art world momentarily collapses, bringing artists, art, public, gallery, gallerist, collector, home, and guest (plus pony and its handler) into a palpably singular, simultaneously cohabiting experience.

Los Angeles-based art advisor John Wolf, who advised on the collaboration, sat down with artist Joe Sola and interior designer Adam Bram Straus on the opening day to interview the two on their experience — as Riba roamed freely.

John Wolf (JW): Adam, how did this collaboration with Joe alter your perception of art’s involvement in a design project?
Adam Bram Straus (ABS): “I don’t know that it altered my perception, but rather reaffirmed my thoughts and illustrated the relationship between art and interior design. I am a huge fan and admirer of art, and it is often important to my clients and plays a crucial role in their projects, some are avid collectors. I am of the belief that art should compliment a room, the room should not work around the art, or the art around the room. Rather, they are two separate entities that coexist exquisitely together, complimenting each other. I love the juxtaposition of a traditional environment with contemporary, modern art. It provides the unexpected — leading to a very high-end, curated aesthetic.”

JW: How does the white-box gallery space for exhibiting art conflict with the real-world residential space where the art lands?
Joe Sola (JS): “A conventional home or space is not like a white box or cube, yet this is how art is typically displayed in a public context — in a gallery — not a private home or collection. I wanted to alter this foundation for displaying my visual art. I like the concept of flipping the white box and residential collectors’ home on its head.”
ABS: “I find many clients have trouble envisioning art in their homes, how it will work in the environment, or how the environment will work with the art. I often hear a client ask, ‘How could such a bright abstract painting I like work in my traditional space?’ This show was a platform and opportunity to illustrate and visualize unexpected art in a designed space, and how it can shine within and further compliment a space.”

JW: Describe the give-and-take involved with two potential creative “butting heads” on this project?
JS: There’s a different set of problems with a domestic space in relationship with an art object I’m creating. I haven’t worked with the domestic space, only galleries or museums. For me there were so many different considerations from the work I wasn’t expecting, things I wouldn’t have thought of without working with Adam, I got to see a new set of problem solving in creating the space.”
ABS: “From my experience, it’s very much like an architect and interior designer, each with a specific vision and goals. We are both creating something. Each player with their own considerations and challenges, and it was important to be cognizant and communicate these. I am creating an environment which evokes an aesthetic, mood, and feeling. There are many facets and details in this multi-layered process. It was imperative to ensure that all be in sync with Joe’s vision.”

JW: Did your impression of art in relation to design change during this process and do you foresee it affecting future projects?
JS: “Seeing the domestic space for the artwork was very interesting. I’ve created the ideal situation to see the artwork, which is a living animal. From a design perspective the difficulty is that we transformed the gallery into a dining room, yet it’s also a stable for a living animal, which is also an artwork, that communicates an abstract image on its body — this is a very exciting relationship for me as far as what an artwork can be. There were so many issues involved in considering the horse such as: breaks, food, water, the flooring. Traditionally in aristocratic homes, shetlands roamed in the homes — so it speaks to that foregone domestic pet image and creating it again in the modern setting.”
ABS: “This collaboration has inspired and inclined me to integrate a live painted horse into all of my interiors. Kidding. I think it’s led me to continue to encourage my clients to think outside of the box in regards to art and what is possible.”

JW: Do you see this exhibition altering the viewpoint an interior designer might have with fine art vs. decorative art?
JS: “I would hope that’s what you can communicate with your visual language and clients.”
ABS: “Environments are ever changing and evolving, art is everlasting, I have a lot of clients that are scared to juxtapose cutting edge art in their space. This project is further reiteration of encouraging clients to be more bold and daring with decision making. It empowers them to be open to the possibilities of art within their environment. Living with your art. The art isn’t necessarily a part of design, it compliments design. Pitching any piece to a client, the furniture or art, they like the lines, the craftsmanship, the individuality of an item and how it will be a part of their life. Art can be found in a chair. I consider everything in a home to be art.”

Joe Sola’s A Painted Horse is on view at Tif Sigfrids until August 8, 2015.

All images by gallery.

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