I Want to Believe X I Will Pour Out my Spirit, 2015. Hand-cut paper collage on wood. 36 x 24 inches.
Glossy printmedia tell us a lot about capitalism, consumerism and even religious fervor. BRYAN SCHNELLE cuts, collages and manipulates fashion magazines, gossip rags and posters in order to expose the emptiness of the promises of these dominant forces. He uses strategies of masking, selective erasure and juxtaposition—ordered and random—to create compositions that allow the biases of the viewer's brain to determine the meaning. Bryan has had solo exhibitions at Kana Manglapus Projects (2013) in Venice, California, Phone Booth Gallery (2009, 2011 and 2012) in Long Beach and the now defunct White Walls (2009) in San Francisco. His work has been featured on fecalface.com, on beautifuldecay.com and in Studio Visit Magazine. Bryan lives and works in Seattle, Washington.
OtherPeoplesPixels: You’ve worked with glossy magazines for many years, mostly fashion magazines. What was your relationship to magazines in general before you started using them in your art practice?
Bryan Schnelle: Well, as a child, magazines like Transworld Skateboarding and Thrasher were important and exciting. I remember my dad would take me with him when he would go grocery shopping every Friday evening and I would just hang out in the magazine aisle the whole time. This was before the internet, so that's how I got information about skateboarding and the world outside of my safe and boring little suburb. And they were just simply always around. I was always drawing as a child, and then in high school I started getting into realism and would draw images I tore out of common pop culture magazines or National Geographic or skate magazines.
How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue), 2010-2013.
OPP: Please talk about erasure and masking in How to Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue) (2010-2013) and other Works on Print Ads.
BS: The sharpie and white out on print ads stuff is something I arrived at fairly organically, over a period of time. I was thinking about common art supplies and their cost, and I just grew bored of drawing and painting in general. I liked the idea of "correction" implicit in the use of office supply mediums like white out. Using them on print ads from common magazines was a way of exploring notions of identity, normalcy and complacency.
How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue) was a response to the documentary film about the September 2007 issue of Vogue, but also to the insane amount of importance placed on the unimportant, meaningless and temporary in our society. It was sort of a visual cleanse, I guess. But also a bit of a meditative experience for me. It took four years to make, and I'm not a particularly patient type of person. So it was definitely a challenge for me, but as weird or corny as it sounds, I sort of feel like a stronger person, or like I gained something from going through that experience and sticking with it. It's definitely a piece I'm really proud of.
Fade Out, 2010. Permanent marker on paper and enamel on canvas. 76 x 72 inches.
OPP: In Sunday (2016) and Megachurch (2015), the psychedelic fractal imagery and recognizable movie posters mostly dominate the religious imagery—although Crown of Thorns X Spiral Mind Warp is an exception. Is this an accident of the process, a very intentional critique or a symptom of my own visual bias towards pop culture?
BS: That’s interesting. I would have to say it must be your own visual bias, because those works are all exactly 50 percent of one image and 50 percent of another image. When visual information is missing our eye tends to sort of try to fill in the blanks, so it would make sense that at first glance our eyes would kind of gravitate towards the more easily recognizable image, the one we have all seen a million times, possibly giving the illusion that that image is more dominant in the piece, but they are equal parts.
Crown of Thorns X Spiral Mind Warp, 2016. Hand-cut paper collage on wood 36 x 24 inches.
OPP:Tell us more about the 50/50 works. How do you choose what two images go together? Is this more visual or conceptual?
BS: It's a little of both. Most of the 50/50 work I've made so far deals in some way with religion, so one image is some sort of religious imagery, and that's paired with an advertisement or some other kind of "pop culture" image, depending on which series you're looking at. I'm very picky and take my time figuring out which 2 images to combine. Of course the conceptual relationship comes first, then things like color and composition are considered afterwards. And I don't do any sort of computer generated mock-ups or anything, so there's still a fair amount of surprise involved. No matter how much you think you have it figured out in your head how it will look, it always ends up a little different. It's hard to predict, but I kind of like that. It keeps it exciting.
Untitled, 2014. Paper collage. 10 3/4 x 8 inches.
OPP:Your hand cut paper collages on wood evoke the blockiness of a plain weave structure. Have you considered literally weaving these images together? What is important/what do you like about the cut and paste method of mixing these images?
BS: I have considered weaving them, the squares would work with that, but if I want some of the pieces to use a different shape like a triangular grid then I'm back to the collage method. So it would have to be an entire series using just square grids. I like the idea, my only problem with it is that I'm aware of a couple of artists already using that weaving technique with photography, and I don't want my work to end up looking like anyone else's. That's important to me. However, I feel that the idea/concept should always dictate the medium and scale. So if I had an idea that I was really excited about and knew that it absolutely had to be woven, then I'm sure I would just go for it.
Untitled Color Study (Pink), 2014. Hand-cut paper collage on wood. 20 x 20 inches.
OPP: The Color Studies (2014) seem to be a bit of an anomaly, despite using the exact same materials and processes as other bodies of work. They seem purely formal, while the fashion magazine work and collages using religious imagery have an implicit critique—although it is somewhat ambiguous—through juxtaposition. Agree or disagree?
BS: I can definitely see how they may look a bit out of place right now, but they're actually not an anomaly. They were the first step in the direction of the body of work I'm currently working on, and will probably make a lot more sense to visitors of my website once this new work is finished and on the site as well. It's an ongoing series/project/experiment that runs parallel with the 50/50 stuff. I have a lot of ideas and due to other responsibilities, I'm having kind of a hard time physically keeping up. So I kind of work in cycles, based on some sort of internal sense of urgency. I don't like to be doing the same thing all of the time. So once I've extended one arm in a certain direction, I'll go back and elaborate on or further push a parallel arm in another direction. I guess maybe it's a way of trying to give a sense of where I'm headed overall while also fulfilling my own need to keep things interesting/fun for myself.
Untitled works in progress, 2018
OPP: Well, you are certainly not the only artist pulled in a million directions! I relate to that. What can you tell us about the new project?
BS: I wanted to make some more work that was purely abstract, like the color studies, but a bit more involved, and limiting the palette to just black and white this time. No figure, nothing being depicted, they just are what they are. Some use squares, some use triangles, and some use rectangles in sort of a brick-like pattern. Some are all one solid color (either all black or all white), and some use both black and white. For the black and white pieces, I removed myself from the composition determining process by flipping a coin for each space. Heads meant it was going to be black, tails white. Additionally, I shuffled all of the pieces and glued them down in the order that I picked them. On the other hand, the single-color pieces are not random, I allowed myself to intervene in the picture building process a bit until they felt finished. So the works that at first glance may appear random are actually not, while the ones that may seem to have some direction in fact do not. I had become interested in Michael Shermer's idea of patternicity after reading his book The Believing Brain, and thought it might be funny to do kind of a literal visual interpretation. The result is these very simple and honest works that have sort of a digital quality to them, bringing to mind pixelation and QR codes. They exist somewhere in between a painting and an advertisement.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indiana 2017). In March 2018, her solo installation Where Do We Go From Here? will open at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction, the atrium will exhibit two-dimensional artwork by artists who were invited by Stacia to make new work also titled Where Do We Go From Here?