Now Featuring Alexander Cheves
Oakland artist Alexander Cheves makes paintings and sculptures that blend seamlessly together, with strong colors and silhouettes that call to mind forgotten landscapes while also demanding immediate, close attention to tiny details and naked, simple form.
MH: I’m really liking the way the theme of silhouettes connects your sculpture and paintings. Can you talk about how you work in both forms, and the connections and differences?
AC: Thanks – making art is the same in all instances for me, regardless of material and dimension. The connections between works are the result of having come from the same source. They feed off of each other – like a conversation with someone familiar.
MH: What are some of the types of architecture that inspire you? It’s interesting the way some of your work skips from very abstract, almost story-book simplified, and other things make me say “oh, yeah, Oakland,” (which is where you’re based).
AC: I find all architecture inspiring at some level; it’s about filling space. Whether it’s abstracted, simplified or literal, it’s a vehicle for me to connect with the past, present and future. And sometimes it’s just a landscape painting. I don’t put up a lot of road blocks in my practice and out-put, so I can enjoy the variety.
MH: What’s the scale of your paintings? And what materials are using? Are you choosing materials (i.e. house paint vs. oil paint) that invoke some of your content on a material level?
AC: My current paintings are on the smaller side; big paintings right now are cumbersome. I’m working in many different mediums – mainly as a function of the final aesthetic – it’s not content driven. It’s also a result of what’s at hand.
MH: How do you relate to color and chose the colors you work with?
AC: Color is crucial to me, but it’s not scientific, it’s emotional. Trial and error – memory and connection. It’s great when it works, hard when it doesn’t.
MH: I see architecture cropping up in your work, but who are some of the artists and makers who inspire you, either directly, or who you’re just excited about?
AC: Isamu Noguchi. Jonathan Lasker. Heidi Pollard. Frederic Remington, especially his nocturne paintings.
MH: Can you talk about model making in relationship to your sculpture? I’m interested in the ways that that can fold in on itself: the idea of your fabricating small models of the larger but still model-like sculptures you make. Perhaps this is another question about scale.
AC: I don’t make models – they are all sculptures whether the scale is large or small. The scale has to feel comfortable and each work is individual. There is a certain practicality required in making sculpture – some pieces look good at any scale and others need to be one size. And some you need to make sure fit out the studio door.
MH: I wasn’t sure whether you make models or not, but I’m asking more about how, as sculptures that sometimes resemble/reference buildings, plinths etc. you sometimes pull off a huge shift of scale that seems to relate, perhaps only to a viewer, to architectural model making… and other times the work has a very exciting 1:1 size ratio with the objects it seems to reference. I like how that shifting of scale really puts emphasis on formal elements rather than functional ones but I wanted to hear about how you use scale, what makes it “comfortable” to you in each work.
AC: I think what you are asking is essentially, how do I know when a piece is done or how do I make any decision? “Comfortable” is where your heart lives. It’s intuitive risk taking – when it almost makes you weep you’re getting close. It’s when you feel strong and sad simultaneously. It’s the rush of a new day in object-hood with color.
MH: What are you working on right now?
AC: I just finished a few sculptures — currently there are three of them and I am working on a fourth. The series is called “Blue Sky Preservation.”