As the Trump presidency spins further into catastrophe, artists of all stripes are taking on the administration in unusual ways. One such creative is Sam Jablon, a Brooklyn-based artist whose work you’ve likely seen if you frequent the Bowery. Emblazoned on a wall outside Ideal Glass’s 2nd Street space is OUTDEMONSOUT, Jablon’s public homage to the seminal Lower East Side rock band The Fugs, whose politically charged music provided a soundtrack for anti-Vietnam activism in the mid and late ’60s.
BULLETT caught up with Jablon to discuss art, poetry, politics, and the joys of binge-watching something mindless after a long day of fighting the demons that be.
Name: Samuel Jablon
Location: Brooklyn, NY
I’m splitting my time between Brussels, where I’m doing an artist residency, and here in New York.
Jimmie Durham, Eva Hesse, Kerry James Marshall, and Louise Bourgeois are a few of my favorites.
Binge watching horrible TV shows. The content is irrelevant.
Can you explain a bit about the idea behind the mural? How did you come up with it?
I’ve done public performances and guerrilla poetry readings, which address passersby on the street, so I like engaging with people in situations outside of the physical spaces of the art world. This is the first painting that I created while in view of the public, and it’s also the largest. I wanted it to have meaning, but also feel mysterious and difficult. The text in the painting reads “covered in rain sweat tears,” and has to do with struggle, and the title is “OUTDEMONSOUT,” which I lifted from The Fugs.
Earlier this spring, Bob Holman and Stefan Bondell organized a marathon poetry reading at Cooper Union titled “House Divided,” and, at the end, Steven Taylor and Ed Sanders performed “Exorcizing the White House.” The song ends with the chant, “Out, Demons, Out! Out, Demons, Out! Out, Demons, Out! Out, Demons, Out!” It got stuck in my head, so I went with it.
In what ways does the song “Exorcizing the White House” feel especially relevant to you right now?
It seems to be something of a call to action, to come together as a community and recognizing the power that citizens have and can wield.
How and when did you become a fan of The Fugs?
I studied poetry at Naropa University. Steven Taylor, my thesis advisor, is actually a member of The Fugs.
What was the process of creating the mural like?
It was difficult and the weather was not in my favor…we either had incredibly hot days or rain. Normally, if I’m in my studio and decide a painting isn’t quite right and repaint it, there isn’t anyone to notice. But doing things in public makes the process public. I enjoyed meeting and talking with people on the street. I felt a sense of community and being part of something bigger than myself, which is a nice break from being alone in my studio for hours on end.
What are you hoping passersby might take away from it?
I hope it interrupts their day just long enough to make them pause, reflect, hate it, challenge it, like it, love it, or question it.
What else are you working on right now?
I did a series of solo shows in 2016, so I have been making a lot of drawings and pushing the larger works in new directions. In Brussels, I’ll be working inside an old penthouse at the Hotel Bloom, which Harlan Levey of Harlan Levey Projects has turned into an artists’ residency. I’ll be in a few summer group shows , including one at Yours, Mine & Ours that’s themed around Roger Ailes..
How did you begin creating visual art?
It usually starts from a need to make something, and then I just keep doing different things until it feels finished.
Who have been some of your influences?
At Naropa, I studied with Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, and Bob Holman who influenced me when I was studying poetry. After I moved away from poetry I was lucky enough to study with Vito Acconci at Brooklyn College. I remember talking with him about how writing and poetry can move in, out, and between mediums. I’ve also always admired the color and structures in the paintings of Elizabeth Murray.