Wood, mirror, 2-way mirror, novelty light bulbs, lead
38 x 24 x 36 inches
ANDY DIAZ HOPE’s background in physics and engineering informs his work as an interdisciplinary artist. Scientific investigation and philosophical contemplation are equally present in his sculpture, photography, and installation. He is a frequent collaborator with next week’s Featured Artist Laurel Roth. He exhibits internationally and lives in San Francisco, CA.
OtherPeoplesPixels: You have an interesting background. You entered Stanford as a PhD candidate in physics, but ended up with an MS in a collaborative program between the engineering and art departments. How did you end up switching? How does this start in science influence the work you make nowadays as an artist?
Andy Diaz Hope: I was raised by artist scientists and scientist artists. When I was 5, my dad left. My mom, who is a painter, my brother, and I moved in with my grandparents. My grandfather had his PhD in applied physics, and my grandmother had a chemistry degree, though she preferred painting and working in the garden. We had a really nice balance of scientific inquisitiveness and artistic creativity at home, but the general wisdom of the family was that art doesn’t pay, so go into the sciences. I chose applied physics, because it was the foundation of all the different types of engineering, so I reasoned that, if I had a good grasp of that, I could keep my options open.
Once I was in school and immersed in science and math, I realized that I needed more. I took a course in Visual Thinking that was a requirement for most engineering programs as well as the gateway to the Joint Program in Design and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. A program that focused on science and art? and I’d get an engineering degree? Awesome! I think I might have pursued the sciences had I been born during the Age of Enlightenment, but having missed that window, product design seemed more satisfying. Bill Moggridge and David Kelly were both fully involved at the time, and, while pragmatic on some levels, the program was steeped in the idealism that enlightened designers and engineers could really solve the world’s problems. In practice, product design didn’t satisfy me. I found that I wasn’t a believer of wanton progress and technology. From there, it was a gradual acceptance that I should commit to making art. Along the way I designed and built furniture, consulted on new technologies development, designed interactive spaces, and made large expensive interactive art works until I finally accepted my fate.
I think I approach art as a scientist might. Each body of work begins with a question that I begin to explore conceptually and test with various theories before giving it a tangible form.
Mirror, lead, wood, video of tunnels and lights
12.5 x 14 x 74 inch
OPP: Morning After Portraits and Better Living are two bodies of mosaics made from gelatin pill capsules filled with pieces of deconstructed photographs. Illuminated Being is similar but with glass vials. How did you first start displaying your photographs in this way?
ADH: I have always been interested in photography and video and have incorporated them into my work. I feel that the power of a photographic image has been devalued by the explosion in the number of photographs taken as a result of the digital revolution. There is no cost to taking a photo anymore and very little cost to printing one even at a very large scale. I still believe that there are amazing photographs that stand on their own, but I think the viewers who appreciate and really take the time to contemplate the image have been desensitized.
I began working with capsules and breaking down and reassembling an image as a metaphor for how we are modifying our biology with recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, often with very little thought about the consequences. We are no longer just the whole of our heredity, but a sum of our heredity and whatever drugs we are taking to augment or ignore our heredity.
C-prints, U.V. treated gel capsules, artist frame
15 x 18 inchesOPP: Do you experience the process of cutting up the photographs and inserting them into the capsules and vials as tedious or meditative or something else?
ADH: The process of creating the pieces is very time intensive but gives me a space of time to really think about the work I am doing. It also gives me a job to do when the act of making art as my primary activity is overwhelming. I can sit in my studio and put in 8–12 hour days while seeing tangible progress.
I think of the work I do as creating artifacts that will color the interpretation of our current times when future archeologists discover them. It’s a subversive act, and I’ll never know if I was successful. In order to create an artifact capable of surviving until its rediscovery, the object needs to show the time and effort invested in it so that it won’t be flippantly discarded. I think that this also works for the art viewing audience. People are attracted to the pieces because the process is mysterious and because they look difficult to create. The hope is that they will then further engage with the piece and try to understand why it was made.
Mirror, leadOPP: Over the last few years, you have been working with mirrors and kaleidoscopes in a series of "mirrored sculptures based on geological formations, reflecting fractions of their surroundings—some with infinite loops of light and video." I've read that these sculptures are intended to provide the viewer with an opportunity for contemplation, and there seems to be a shift from focusing on social issues (like drug culture or the contemporary impulse to label others as terrorists) to focusing on philosophical or mystical concerns. What precipitated this new work? How does it grow out of the older work?
ADH: All of my work stems from a desire for people to think more critically, to understand that the information we are getting is not unbiased or infallible and that the only way to be sure you lead a well examined life is to ask a lot of questions and figure things out for yourself. In this way, the mirrored pieces evolve directly from the older work. In the clamor of our capitalist-driven world, very few people are asking you the truly important questions. It’s not whether your deodorant will keep you drier or your phone is smarter, but are you leading a life that will live up to the scrutiny of your final hours. Maybe all you ever wanted was dry armpits. I sometimes wish I did.
All of my work is a reaction to my surroundings. I began the terrorist series in the early 2000s when the fear of terrorism was being used as a bludgeon to silence all sorts of people. I began the series dealing with drugs at a time when the pharmaceutical industry was beginning to directly market to consumers and many friends were teetering on the edge of turning their recreation into a lifestyle.
OPP: Can you talk about how the mirrors act as metaphors in the new sculptures? I’m seeing a connection between the form itself and the idea of the “well examined life” you speak of.
ADH: The mirror plays different roles in different pieces. In the Centering Devices, the pieces are created to negate the viewer from the reflection they see when they stand in front of the piece. People expect to see themselves when they stand in front of a mirror, and the hope is that the cognitive disconnect of seeing one's surrounding without oneself in the mirrors surface might lead to a moment of contemplation. What does it mean? I am nothing? I am everything? I am my stuff? I am a vampire? In other pieces, the mirror acts to camouflage the piece and make it blend into or disrupt the environment it is in. Some of the forms are abstracted representations of crystal structures or geologic formations. Other pieces feel like portals to me, creating a ripple in the geometry of our living space. The original installation of the work at Catharine Clark Gallery in 2010 sought to create a version of the Philosopher's Cave that Plato referenced in his Allegory of the Cave. I think of caves as cathedrals of time and geology—representative of both science and spirituality.
Hand-carved walnut, mirror, candle light bulbs, brass, gold leaf
36 x 61 x 92 inchesOPP: You've worked collaboratively for a long time with Laurel Roth on several tapestries woven with a Jacquard loom as well as a series of chandeliers made from hypodermic needles, U.V. coated gel capsules, and Swarovski crystal, and most recently, Reflection Engine. How did this collaboration begin and how has it evolved through the years?
ADH: We’ve always discussed our work with each other and helped each other on pieces, but our real trial by fire was when, early in our relationship and art careers, we both quit our jobs and moved to India to collaborate on designing India’s first wine tasting room. Living in Mumbai, trying to get things done in a country with very different business practices, and being in over our heads was a great way to knock all the rough edges off our collaborative process. Our first collaborative art piece was the first installation of Pharmacopeia at the Headlands Center for the Arts. It gave us an opportunity to play with materials we had been using without the pressure and weight of an art show. My work tends to deal with humanity’s impact on ourselves, while Laurel’s work often deals with humanity’s impact on our surroundings. Our collaborative work allows us to bring both of these foci together and explore ideas in a way neither of us would on our own.
OPP: Has the work you make collaboratively with Laurel changed the work you make in your individual practice?
ADH: One of the benefits of our collaboration is that it forces us both to adhere to a higher standard of intellectual rigor. You really have to be able to understand and communicate the concepts you are working on or the other person will call you on it. I think this intellectual rigor carries to my personal work and helps me get through moments of weakness when I get lazy with my concepts.
Custom chromed chandeliers, hypodermic needles, gel capsules, Swarovski crystals
96 x 96 x 72 inches
Collaboration with Laurel RothOPP: What are you working on in your studio right now?
ADH: Collaboratively, Laurel and I are working on the 3rd and final tapestry of the series as part of our fellowship at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The tapestries are very involved both visually and in terms of research, and I’m really excited about the ideas we’re coming up with.
We are also working on an artist residency program we are creating at Double Down Studios in Sonoma county which involves first building the living space and the studio.
In my solo practice, I am working on some new mirrored video pieces similar to the Light, and Geode, and, when inspiration fails me, producing new editions of sold work from Better Living for a show we will have in Rotterdam later this year.
OPP: The fellowship program at the de Young is in its second year, right? Tell us a little about the program and the experience of being part of it.
ADH: We're just getting started with our fellowship and are excited to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers. So far, the experience has been great. The staff is incredibly supportive and helpful. On top of having access to the collections at the de Young and the Palace of the Legion of Honor, which have an amazing depth and breadth, the fellowship comes with a stipend that has really given us the peace of mind to be able to focus on our work and not struggle with the economics of trying to be artists for a little while. We're also very excited to be able to discuss the themes of the new work with the curators in the various departments within the Museums and bring their expertise into the work.