It’s easy to misdiagnose artist Andre Razo’s paintings. For one, they’re not paintings at all, or even prints, they’re drawings. Also, Razo isn’t even comfortable with the term artist, despite the fact that his work represents one half of the show currently on view at Leo Fitzpatrick’s Viewing Room, a charming space tucked into the back of Chelsea’s Marlborough Gallery. He’s that rare breed whose work is defined solely by process and output, rather than the lengthy press release that comes along with it.
And that output is effortlessly satisfying. Though they appear as Photoshop cut and pastes, in reality each piece takes hours of meticulous work, resulting in a 2D image that’s impossibly textural. Shown alongside David Aron’s similarly graphic, 3D paintings and sculptures, the show is any design dork’s wet dream.
I chatted with Razo over a couple glasses of wine about the show and what it means to be an artist who isn’t really an artist but, whether he likes it or not, totally is.
How did you celebrate last night after the show?
There was an after party at Happy Ending but I skipped that. I wanted to go with a little crew to my favorite meatball spot – Emilio’s Ballato on Houston.
Do you get a post-show fatigue?
Yeah. It’s just stress. Basically I hate being at my own birthday party, and that many people being that nice to you because they have to…. Even if they don’t like it they have to tell me it’s nice. The show part doesn’t stress me out, it’s more the interactions and talking about it.
How did you meet Leo Fitzpatrick for the first time?
He was a friend of a friend’s. I’ve known him since the early 90s. We met a little bit after the Kids thing.
Things must have been pretty crazy for him at that time.
He’s a very reluctant talent – he’s always been very reluctant to indulge that.
What were some of the early conversations you had with Leo about this show?
When Home Alone was closing, he said, ‘[Marlborough] has a small room, I think I’m going to take it over, it’s a long way away but I’d love you and Dave to do something.’ He was pretty familiar with both of our work. Dave and I are friends but he’s moved upstate and both of us don’t show as regularly anymore. Leo liked the relationship between Dave and I, and our work.
How would you describe the relationship between your and Dave’s work?
We both have a graphic sense but it’s still pretty organic. I think the way we deal with space and dimension is really similar too – a lot of layers, a lot of overlapping.
Your drawings are so meticulous. How long does each one take to make?
It’s usually a two-week to a month process per drawing. Each step takes a long time, so there’s a lot of time that I spend with the piece.
Do you listen to music while you work?
Oh yeah. There’s usually a playlist of mostly Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. I have one Sleep record that’s a really good record to paint to – one song is an hour long, so it’s a good time gage. The work is so task-oriented and takes such a long time, you constantly think you’re gaining ground but you’re not.
Are you a perfectionist?
With this I am, but I want to expose the flaws, so if I make a mistake I try to leave it behind. I want to leave some evidence of the hand. A lot of people mistake them as prints, which I like.
When did you start developing this style?
I painted for years before, and it was really loose. Then I moved to the place I’m in now, and there’s probably enough space to paint in there, but it’s so modern and new, I didn’t want to turn it into a paint studio. So it really was a product of a space. I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll just start drawing. I’ve never drawn before.’ I also had sort of run out of ideas. I always feel like I need to make something, and I kind of hit a wall. So I was like, ‘I’ll just make a grid and I’ll work with these tools and see what comes out.’ And that’s been slowly evolving since five or six years ago.
How rigorous is your planning?
No planning at all. I draw a grid and I have my tools – a ruler, these markers, a protractor for the curves – and I just go. I trust my instincts enough. There are things that I want to happen – I want it to be organic and flowy but I want it to be very technical and structured. I’ve been doing it long enough that there’s a language developing and elements repeating.
Do you think about where your paintings will live once they’re sold?
Absolutely. I like them to find good homes. A lot of times I’ve just given them away.
Do you have any thoughts on there being a “painting renaissance?”
I’ve never even heard that. I don’t really pay attention to what’s happening in the art world, besides friend’s stuff. But that’s cool, I like that. That’s funny you say that, because a lot of people refer to my work as paintings, but really they’re drawings. I approach it like they’re drawings of paintings. But I’ve heard that saying a bunch of times: ‘sculptures are just obstacles that get in the way of the paintings.’
But speaking of painting versus drawing, the stippling thing, which is the dots, that came about because when I started, it was missing texture, and that was something I loved in paintings – the goopy, textural part. So I had to learn to draw texture.
You have a day job too, right?
I’m Creative Director at Spike TV.
When people ask you what you do, what do you say? Do you say you’re an artist?
Naw, I just say I work at Spike. I don’t consider myself an artist at all.
What do you mean by that?
I don’t like the term. I make things – I think that’s what I’m most comfortable with. I don’t really know anything about art.
And now you’re showing in a Chelsea gallery.
Which is really exciting, of course. Anyone who makes stuff wants to have a conversation and share it with people, so I’m super happy to be showing there.
I love that they’ve given Leo that space, it’s a little slice of LES.
It’s like sneaking in the back door.
“Viewing Room: Andre Razo and David Aron” is on view at Marlborough in Chelsea, 545 West 25th Street through April 23rd