Some Strings Attached 037 (detail)
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"
snags and unraveling edges of STEVEN VASQUEZ LOPEZ's colorful,
hand-drawn textiles embody the accidental beauty of mistakes, acting as a
graphic metaphor for an optimistic way of viewing life's chaotic
moments. Influenced by the perseverance of his seamstress mother
and mechanic/welder father, he reveals the connections between drawing,
textile production and manual labor in his patterned grids,
which echo Minimalist painting, the weave structures of plaids and the
color palette of Mexican serape blankets. Steven received his BA from UC Santa Barbara and his MFA from the San
Francisco Art Institute. He is a past recipient of the William Dole
Memorial Scholarship (1999, 2000), Abrams Prize (2000), Murphy and
Cadogan Fellowship (2006), and the 2012 ArtSlant prize. He has exhibited widely throughout California and is represented by CES Contemporary (Los Angeles), where he had his first solo show Accidental Moments in 2014. His work is currently featured in the San Francisco-based The New Asterisk, now available in print and online. Steven lives in San Francisco.
Your paintings and drawings are dense with color and pattern. Where did
your love of pattern come from? What influences your color palate?
Steven Vasquez Lopez:
I grew up around a lot of sewing and fabric. My mother became a
seamstress at a very early age in order to earn her own money. I spent a
lot of time next to her while she worked, so I have an intimate
relationship with fabric swatches and pattern. Also, I went to Catholic
school, where we wore plaid uniforms. Then, during high school I took
some architectural drafting classes that nurtured my interested in
linear and geometric drawing. Over the last five years, these influences
have merged into my current work with pattern and color. Now, I
continue to be influenced by plaid and color from uniforms, men’s
clothing, and Mexican serapes that I see around me.
Some Strings Attached 043
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"
OPP: The ink drawings from Patches and Some Strings Attached,
equally recall Agnes Martin's abstract grids and woven textiles. Of
course, the entire history of painting has been covering over the
natural grid of the woven canvas itself. Do you have any weaving
experience or interest in learning to weave?
SVL: I’m glad
you mentioned that. I received my MFA at the San Francisco Art
Institute, where there is a real importance on understanding the linage
and history of the work you are making and ideas you explore. I’m well
aware of and influenced by prolific artists like Agnes Martin, Cy
Twombly and Sol Lewitt, as well as contemporaries such as Jim Isserman, Amy Ellingson and Nike Schröder, for their use of color, form and ideas as they relate to art history, culture and technology.
My domestic sewing machine and overlock/serger machine
never has time to collect dust because I use both so frequently for
alterations and making my own clothing. I’m obsessed with well-tailored
clothing. A few years ago, my mom taught me how to crotchet. I have to
be careful because I love compulsive, laborious projects, and drawing
already consumes a lot of my time.
I would love to get some
instruction on weaving or creating textiles on a loom. Do you know
anyone in the Bay Area you can introduce me to? Haha! My work has been
used with a few research projects in fashion and textiles. It would be
fun to collaborate with a designer on avant-garde and conceptual textile
designs. I get a lot of recommendations to put my work into fashion.
For me, it would need to be the right project. Although the drawings are
influenced by fashion, I don’t envision just silk-screening them onto
t-shirts. It would be important for me to get my hands and understanding
on the technical side of a fashion project, then develop the conceptual
parameters. There is a lot of potential there. I’m sure when the right
opportunity presents itself, I’ll be on board.
Shelf Life 003
Ink on Paper
22" x 30"
OPP: Tell us about the process and experience of drawing so many straight lines. Free hand or ruler?
I can’t give up all my secrets! However, I will tell you that I don’t
use any pencil or preliminary under-drawing. It’s all hand-drawn with
ink, and it’s a one-shot deal. I like that intense precision. I’m
obsessed with the notion of a human imitating a machine to produce work.
It makes the drawings more personal and valuable on both a conceptual
and tangible level. Also, I have to learn a formula for each pattern and
repeat the math in my head as I’m drawing. I don’t write down or record
any formulas. Instead, I sing the numbering in my head. All these years
of drawing, I have developed an ability to measure out the spacing
really accurately. The entire process feeds my obsessive-compulsive need
to make laborious, challenging and meticulous hand-made work. I thrive
off it. It’s fulfilling and rewarding!
Ink on Paper
9.5" x 13.25"
OPP: On the one hand, the drawings from Patches
(2013) are pure color and pattern. They evoke plaid fabric scraps and
bring to mind patchwork quilts and mended clothing. But these patches
seem to have personality. The more I look at them, they become blobby
beings hugging one another instead of flat scraps of fabric. Could you
talk about your intentions in this body of work?
SVL: After making about 30 of the abstract pattern drawing from Some Strings Attached,
which is a ongoing series, I wanted to work on drawings that could be a
little more organic, personal, quirky and silly. By using blobby
shapes, the swatches transform into these interesting characters with
personalities. I come from a very big, supportive, funny, loving Mexican
family, and I wanted to use these amoebas to tell stories about the
relationships with my family and friends in a vaguely narrative way. The
patches are beautiful and resourceful support systems for one another,
disregarding judgment based on economic elitism. I’m glad to hear that
you see a few of them hugging each other. That is exactly what is going
Some Strings Attached 111
Ink on Paper
14" x 17"
OPP: Talk about the metaphors of the snag and the unraveling edge.
Initially, I didn’t intend on any unraveling in the drawings. I needed a
project that I could do while traveling so the series started without
“imperfections.” I made about fifteen perfect uninterrupted pattern
drawings. Then I hit some turbulence on a plane and messed up a drawing
that I had been working on for about five hours. I put it aside and had
to deal with the disappointment. When I pulled the drawing out a few
days later, I realized that moment of disruption was the precise moment
of awareness in the work. It turned out that a happy accident was my
awaking into Some Strings Attached.
One metaphor is that we
spend so much of our daily lives on autopilot, trying to keep life
stable, predictable and consistent. This way of living is so consuming
that we forget to look around and be in the moment. We need to get off
our phones and devices and pay attention to the real nuances and quirks
that make life special and memorable.
On a personal level, I spent
a lot of my younger years making sense of diversity. A large part of
the population conforms to preconceived ideas of success and
lifestyle. We need to teach both our youth and “old dogs” to embrace
difference. There’s nothing more boring and depressing than a homogenous
culture. Self-deprecation based on the ideals and expectations of
others is a disease learned at an early, impressionable age. Let’s
embrace and celebrate our uniqueness, rather than oppress and demonize
anything or anyone outside of our comfort zone. I’m optimistic that it’s
getting better with more awareness and visibility, but there’s still
more terrain to cover. A snag in my drawings can either be viewed as a
mistake or a beautiful, unique moment. It’s all perspective. How do you
look at life?
To see more of Steven's work, please visit stevenvlopez.com
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis.
When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence 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 received her MFA in 2006,
and was a 2012-2013
Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian,
Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago
. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown.
NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.