Over the past year, curator, writer and gallery director Stephanie Buhmann has been conducting a series of conversations with artists, which she has generously made available on her website. The following excerpts from a recent studio visit with Melissa Meyer speak to newness, abstraction and the notion that our surroundings seep into our work in countless, often unintentional, ways. [Sidebar: I sometimes wonder what contemporary art would look like if artists lived in environments like, for instance, the South of France instead of the post-industrial neighborhoods around the country. And when will the next generation begin converting abandoned strip malls and big box stores into studio space?]
Stephanie Buhmann: The concept of time is very important and becomes even more so in this day and age when an artist’s audience is increasingly prone to zap through visuals, information, installations, and art fairs. To be able to slow down the visual experience is crucial – especially in regard to abstraction. Sometimes I think that we had reached this sophisticated place of how to engage with abstraction but that many are now brushing it off again as easy to take in or make. I think that many contemporary abstract artists have to fight again against a quick overall assessment of their work and a decorative viewing in general.
Melissa Meyer: Abstract viewing and analyzing is not taught – at least that’s what I believe – because of what happened in the Greenbergian age in regard to formalism. It’s also because you can’t put it through a political sieve even though it was considered radical and aligned with radical political thought. I identify with young Jazz musicians. Working in a form that was once considered avant-garde but which now is considered traditional. And what do you do with it? You don’t abandon it because…
SB: …it’s not the newest thing anymore.
MM: Right. After all, it is still relatively new….
SB: I love that there are stacks of newspapers in your studio.
MM: Sometimes I wonder if I should stop getting the New York Times.
SB: There is an interesting relationship between these towers of newspapers and your work’s gestures and overall abstraction. Both provide a column of information, but stacked or re-ordered it’s not legible in a traditional sense. I think it captures what I feel when I look at your work: there is some information, but its abstraction encourages me to search for a new way of reading it.
MM: Looking at different things, such as these windows, always influences me. Like that one you see the reflections of on the other building. I love all of that….
Image above: Melissa Meyer, Smokey, 2013, oil on canvas, 60 x 84 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.