OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Adriean Koleric

Viper Sisters and The House of The Holy!!!!

Using digital and handmade techniques, ADRIEAN KOLERIC assembles collages from 1950s publications like Mechanix Illustrated and Life, Action Comics from the 1970s, and images of romantic landscapes and Nicholas Cage's head culled from the Internet. His collages are fantasy landscapes that offer an escape from hum-drum reality. Adriean is interested in democratic modes of disseminating art, including Flickr, Tumblr and street art. His most recent collage series, The Viper Sisters and The Sinister Reasoning of Abstracta!!!!, is available for purchase as at Blurb.com, an online, self-publishing platform. He has just completed his first album cover for the Edmonton-based, electronic band Zebra Pulse. Adriean lives and works in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Who are the Viper Sisters!!!!? How did the series of collages begin?

Adriean Koleric: The Viper Sisters!!!! came about around Christmas of 2012. I was pretty burnt out at the time and kept having this urge to work on a series of collages that were more scaled down than what I had been doing. I was after a somewhat punk vibe. I came up with the name first. I wanted a name that could easily have been a band’s name in the early punk movements of the 70’s. I jotted down the name The Viper Sisters!!!! and rattled off the first of 60-plus panels in minutes. It was like a three-chord composition. The three chords were character, landscape and accessory. In all honesty, this was supposed to be a one-off joke series for me to giggle about to myself. But it was pretty addictive, especially with the convoluted, Smiths-esque titles. They only enhance the experience and humor for me.

I used a number of social media outlets when posting the Sisters series. The interest especially began to grow on Flickr. From there, they began to pop up on Tumblr sites, blogs, etc. I received a lot of comments asking where the sisters were going next, who exactly are they represented, why they carried the head of Nicolas Cage. As the series progressed, people began to follow each panel as though each one was a continuation of the last. But in reality, it was one battle scene of destruction after another. These are awful characters who have no respect for life. They don’t experience remorse. Yet, somehow, viewers connected with them. I’m guessing it comes down to the escapist avenue they provide from our daily grind. It was a loose series for me that, of all the work I’ve done, reached the most people. Several galleries even approached me to show the pieces which still makes me chuckle a bit.

Viper Sisters and The Valley of Mercer!!!!

OPP: Did you turn them down? Are you more interested in disseminating work through the internet than through the gallery system?

AK: I did accept one of the gallery shows. If I’m asked, then that shows me there’s genuine interest in the work. But I hate the process of writing proposals—nine times out of 10 they are full of shit—just to appease a selection committee. Plus I can’t stand meetings, especially art-related ones. They go nowhere and are boring as hell. If I wanted a life like that, I’d have been an accountant.

I’m more interested in producing, putting it out there and moving on. If someone wants to sit there and dismantle my work, then have at it. Once it’s posted, it’s no longer mine.

OPP: You've worked in both digital and cut-paste collage. Can you talk about the differences in these methods?

AK: For me, digital is a helluva lot easier in terms of throwing a composition together. The ability to adjust the scale and tone of images and to duplicate individual components makes it more controllable than traditional cut-paste. The process is always easier, but it’s harder to walk away from the piece at the end. I just want to keep fiddling with add-ons, layers, etc. Cut-paste is a much slower and more involved process. I develop more of a relationship with the piece because I spend the majority of time flipping through pages, cutting, tossing, ripping . . . crying. I have an idea in my head, and then I have to treasure-hunt for the clippings that will help me achieve the vision. I’m always relying on the hope that I will come across that magical image which will take me to my rainbow land. It’s a damn lottery most of the time! I also find it more satisfying at the end because I am physically holding the finished product in my hands as opposed to messing about with a printer. It makes the hassle worth it.

Untitled 26, from The Life and Times of B.Sherman
2010 Digital collage

OPP: In another creative life, you were a furniture designer. What made you shift from the three-dimensional to the two-dimensional?

AK: My last furniture piece was a lamp called MONSTER. This piece was specifically designed to cater to the designer toy community and it looked like an over-sized toy with an "eye" for a lens and clean surfaces that could be a platform for artists to interpret as they saw fit. I wanted to create a vehicle that would allow me to collaborate with artists that I had been following at the time. So once I hooked up with guys like Chad Kouri and Motomichi Nakamura, the two-dimensional bug hit me hard—especially collage, a medium I hadn’t touched since I was a teen. I literally dropped all interest in furniture design and haven’t gone back since. That was eight years ago.

OPP: What kinds of collage did you make as a teenager?

AK: My collages back then were pretty crude. They were mostly made up of content from magazines I got in movie theaters as well as old Action Comics. I was fascinated by Superman, who was the primary character used in these collages. In most cases, he was in a dialogue with other popular icons of the day, including RoboCop, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from Commando and Stallone. It was very teenage boy-masculine. The dialogue was awful. Arguments over chocolate milk were about as intelligent as it got.

OPP: How does your training in design influence your collage work?

AK: It makes me focus more on aesthetics rather than concept. The latter has never been a priority for me and always has a danger of skewing the viewers' perceptions. I want viewers to think for themselves. Ever ask a writer to draw out his/her book in order to explain it to you? Sounds silly doesn’t it?

Untitled 55, from America
Digital collage

OPP: Clearly, you are a Star Wars fan, as evidenced by your 2009 solo show Herd, featuring an army of modified and decorated imperial walkers, your series Star Wars Galaxy 5 TOPPS (2010), and all the TIE fighters, X-Wing fighters and storm troopers that populate your collages. Is fandom an important part of your work?

AK: The funny thing is that I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan. I don’t even own a single DVD copy!!

OPP: Wow! I’m actually shocked. I was certain you were a fan. What is it about Star Wars that makes it come up over and over again in your work? How much are you counting on the viewer to recognize these iconic images?

AK: For me it was all about the iconic imagery that I wanted to reinterpret. I liked the idea of taking a well-known image and making viewers look at it in a completely different way. It’s also a way to draw in viewers by providing a sense of familiarity. They recognize a few items, feel comfortable enough to enter, but then realize they are in another place. From there, I hope the thought process shifts and sheds a new light on what was once old and true to them. 

Modern Hopeful #3
Paper on Plywood
8" x 12"

OPP: Talk about the recurring visual motif of absent human heads. Sometimes the heads are replaced with with cameras, boxes, furniture, and other times, the figures are simply headless or the faces are erased. There are a lot of examples in your Sketch Card Set (2012) and in your series Paper vs. Wood (2011-13). In The Life and Times of B.Sherman (2009-2011), the heads are mostly replaced with pieces of furniture you yourself designed and parts of machines that I don't recognize. How do you think about these replacement "heads"?

AK: It really started with the B.Sherman series. I wanted to somehow preserve the work I did as a furniture designer. B.Sherman is my direct connection to my furniture design past. His ‘head’ is actually the very first piece I designed. At the time it was called "Sherman" but was later renamed "Bento." I had a string of attachments to the piece and wanted to somehow keep it alive in my work. It was a way of creating a self-portrait, and it allowed me to travel through each piece. It sounds hokey, but it really is about escapism for me. We all want that moment to change our heads and just go elsewhere for awhile.

OPP: Escapism generally has a negative connotation, as if it is solely a function of a character flaw in people who have no sense of reality or no skills at dealing with the real world. But I see it more as continuum of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. The desire to escape is a natural human impulse that we all experience at one time or another. In fact, I think fine art is as much a part of the escapism continuum as mass-media culture. What do you think?

AK: For me, art is entertainment. Entertainment is there to take us away from the daily bull. That is escapism. Well to me it is. Anyone who thinks escapism has a negative connotation is either a liar or the most dry person out there. We need to recharge ourselves every now and then. I like the idea that right now, some guy in his cubicle is reading this interview and checking out my stuff. I’ve given him a moment in his 9-5 drab day to loosen up. I, myself, have the skills to deal with the real world, but, man, there are days when I could care less.

To view more of Adriean's work, please visit thinkitem.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and existential significance of participating in mass media culture in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received her MFA in 2006, and is currently a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT Residency in Chicago.Her work is on view through September 2013 in Abstracting the Seam (Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago) and she will mount a solo show titled I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.