an interview with Sam Bennett

ALEX PUZ AND GOOD CONVERSATION

Today I’m sitting in the back of Image Gallery in Bushwick with a recorder, Alex Puz and good conversation. 
S.B. Where did you grow up, go to college and what was the art you were making around this time?

A.P. I grew up in Long Beach CA and moved to NYC. At age eighteen to went to Hunter College. Thats when I was exposed to the art world, galleries, etc.. In undergrad I was doing all kinds of crazy experimentation and trying a lot of different mediums out. Then after graduation I got into painting and approaching it from a formal sense looking at what painting can do as a wide frame of art. So yeah, I guess thats where I’m at now. 

S.B. Looking at painting in a theoretical way has led you to geometric abstraction. I’m wondering how you ended up there rather than organic or formalism? What artist influenced you in this direction and why not pure conceptual work?

A.P. I mentioned in undergrad I was really experimenting and kind of all over the place making objects out of fur, astroturf, bags of sand …just everything. After getting out of that I wanted to approach painting from a very clear baseline using simple elements such as line, form, color shape  and value. All the elements that were intrinsic to all of painting. I came to geometric abstraction by looking at artists Adam Henry and Mernet Larsen who does figurative work that is very geometric and blocky. The way Larsen’s work is mapped out really gives a sense of intentionality, which I think is really important and comes out of mid-1960’s conceptual art which is a transparency between the intention of the artist and the actual art piece.  

After college I worked as a studio assistant under Robert Swain who is a colorfield painter. I adapted some of his techniques and acquired a fluency in geometric abstraction. I think there’s a lot to it. I’ve been reading a book titled, Slime Dynamics by Ben Woodword. He states, “That meaning is subtractive in the way we can think about things,” and I like the idea of starting somewhere that is so scorched earth and so selective instead of being generous or organic in my techniques. I use a lot of tape.

S.B. You’ve been in New York for a while now, coming up on 11 years, as a student and studio assistant. As well working in a gallery, art handling and now as a crate builder. I’m wondering what don’t you like about the New York art world? 

A.P. I dislike how it is catered to very wealthy people. The point of art in my opinion is to be a universal language that everyone can enjoy that shifts perspectives and experiences. I feel like galleries have become such retailers in a sense that it can limit the possibility of reaching the widest audience that they could. And its nothing against people who can afford to buy artwork for thousand or millions of dollars, but a lot of time those people are really boring and don’t have good taste in art. This art informs and has an influence on the art world.

S.B. Such as in LA and Silicone Valley?

A.P. Exactly, people would rather buy a $400 photo or painting of a robot. They don’t have a taste for actual fine art and they don’t get why we would even spend three thousand dollars on a painting because they are not following contemporary art and so its a push and pull. I think there is serious value and power in reaching a wide audience. Its that serious power in art that should be as unconstrained as possible. Sadly money tends to make things very constrained.

 
S.B. I couldn’t agree more.
S.B. To shift topics a little I know the largest painting you have made is 84 x 84 inches and you worked for Jim Lambie installing an installation piece. It’s evident you have experience with developing art at a large scale. So what is your dream project?

A.P. Well I’m really interested in scale shifting right now in my paintings. Going big to small and warping that. Off the top of my head I would want an all encompassing environment that becomes almost hypnotic in that you can’t judge distance anymore because there is so much conflicting visual information. So for example there would be a room with the walls painted and paintings on the wall with patricians in the room. But nothing lines up so that everything is hidden in terms of where the paintings ends and the room begins. Something very busy disassemble and flat, not sculptural. Making an environment out of these elements that are transforming around your eyes. Even though everything is static it would be very hard for your eyes to rest which is very appeasing to me, to make a very busy painting.

S.B. Working long hours in the studio, how do you keep your brain active?

A.P. Listening to music, podcast and comedy helps me in the studio.

S.B. Whats your favorite art piece?

A.P. Thats a pretty hard one to answer my favorite piece of art…. Well I can say a painting that I think about a lot is a Mernet Larsen painting, which is too parents hunched over looking at a baby [Aw, 2003]. She has this great ability to capture the uncanny and there’s something very elemental about it. An alienation, the way the figures arms and ears are rigid; the perspective is slightly skewed and the colors are beautiful. I think about that one a lot.

S.B. In your previous studio in Long Island City is large and perfectly lit. Now are working from home (sorry to rub that one in). How has the transition been and do you any advice for artist out there that don’t have a studio and work form home? The artist and the studio what is the relationship? What strategies have you gained?

A.P. It is really great to have that professional separation. To have a home and a place to live where your art does not. It gives you fresh eyes everyday and it gives you a chance to hang art as you would want to see it which can spur creation. So it’s important to have a sight, a place its hallowed ground. Its the Benjamin idea of the ora. It really adds a lot.    Working from home you learn to adapt, maybe work a little smaller a little cleaner or discreet. Advice is bring your lights told and setup. You have to learn how that translated home. Taking the efficiency from the studio and go from there. One main thing is lights, lights are really important.

S.B. One last question, do you have a favorite porn star?

A.P. I dont have a favorite porn star

S.B. A porn site?

A.P. Well I will say I recently came across this show on youtube which is porn stars doing recipes. so all the porn stars cooking food and its very strange. Its like a food show but with a pornographers eye.

Haha sounds great we all should check that out. Big shout out to Alexander Puz for taking the time out of his bust schedule to have this interview.

You can check out his work at  www.alexanderpuz.com and his instagram, alexanderpuz.