It is not especially surprising that wunderkind photographer and digital artist Joshua Citarella describes his studio as a “white cube.” The New York-based artist’s work is best characterized as clean and minimal with vaguely dystopian elements. They are the sort of images that would look at home in a futuristic magazine, on a well-curated Instagram feed or sparsely hung on the walls of famed New York photography gallery Higher Pictures (that last one happened last September).
Though Citarella’s practice is constantly evolving – one day he might be photographing the silver-speckled legs of a model, the next an impossibly slick wrought iron sculpture nestled in a pile of sand – consistency lies in the flawlessness of the images. It is a flawlessness achieved through meticulous planning and skillful post-production – the patience to ensure that an image captured in a mere moment appears just as the artist intended. If anyone knows that good things take time, it’s Citarella. His aforementioned show at Higher Pictures (which, by the by, was met with rave reviews) was two years in the making – two years to produce five, perfect images.
First, an annoying question: how would you describe your “aesthetic” to someone who has never seen your work and does not have access to Google (an alien, basically)?
Some elements of magic, a minimalist sci-fi future, cosmetic advertisements maybe?
At what point did you know you wished to pursue art professionally?
I started to think of myself as a professional artist somewhere around 2009 or 2010.
When or how do you know that a piece is finished and it’s time to step away?
It’s different for every piece. Some things need to be completely polished, others should be interrupted midway.
In what ways would you consider yourself a perfectionist in terms of your practice?
Previously, I worked as a professional retoucher and that knowledge greatly informed my practice. There’s a type of perfectionism there that comes into play often.
When it comes to your practice, are you good at delegating tasks? This can encompass both the physical creation of your work as well as activities that surround it, such as installation and PR. Why or why not?
I work with the best printers, framers and fabricators. I can’t thank them enough.
Is there a time of day that you feel most creative or inspired? Is there a time of year?
I always find myself working at odd hours, either really early or late. It’s hard to have a consistent schedule. Every project is different.
Are you deadline-oriented?
I tend to finish everything far in advance.
Who is the first person you show your work to? Do you show people your work when it’s in process or do you wait until it’s finished?
I post a lot of working images on social media.
How important is failure to your artistic process?
There is always some trial and error. I used to edit down my work a great deal. Recently I’ve been more lenient and just producing more.
To what degree is your work pre-planned or considered and to what degree does it manifest itself as you’re working?
Almost every work is carefully planned before hand. When working with live models you need to improvise on occasion.
Can you recall the first piece of art you ever made?
Haha, I have no idea.
What was the last great piece of advice you received in regards to your practice, and from whom?
“Don’t make paintings for the living room. Make paintings for the bedroom.” – Nick Faust
How do you handle criticism?
It can be helpful. I value criticism from artists whose practice I trust.
Would you say that your art making is ritualistic – is there a standardized process you follow when producing work, or does it vary from piece to piece?
It varies from piece to piece. I’ve been making some more serialized work recently, but I don’t consider the process ritualistic.
If you ever feel creatively blocked, what do you do to overcome it?
I make mock ups in the studio or in Photoshop. It helps to try out a number of small ideas very quickly.
In what ways, if any, do you alter your approach in response to context? This can refer to the gallery a work is being shown in, the city or other cultural contexts.
I would say that most of my work anticipates being altered by its context. I try to address that proactively.
In what ways has your practice changed/evolved/improved in the time since you first started? Is it still changing?
It’s definitely always changing. I think everything you do informs what you will do next.
What is your personal definition of quality?
Quality work changes the way you look at other images afterwards.
Can your recall a definitive moment or turning point in your career – perhaps a specific show or the realization of a new method or process (or one of each)?
In September I had my first solo show at Higher Pictures in New York. I spent about two years working up to that, so it was definitely a milestone in my practice.
For more examples of time well spent visit Levi’s Made and Crafted