In which we chat with the artist Stephen Zerbe about beds, binaries, and which hashtags best describe his work.
07.05.15 by sean santiago | photos courtesy the artist
Tell me about your current show, Bed Sized Works (pictured, above).
It emerged for the most part fully formed from my head, and also through a specific series of social events involving a young girl, a sexual woman, a Land Rover, and a bed frame that I built in a dungeon on Orchard Street. The bed frame used my painting on a wooden panel ("Coral Field") as the surface to support the mattress. The pieces in the show are human scale and based on different modes of sleep, sexuality and other daily minutiae such as eating in bed, feeling like your wires are all bundled, floating in space, getting dressed, merging souls with someone else, or packing a box.
How does it relate to your previous piece, Hunter and Prey Gradient. Why this work? Why now?
Hunter and Prey Gradient is part of a series of fabric pieces that attempt to manually represent my ultimate goal of making a perfectly gradated, industrially-manufactured yard of fabric. For example, one that transitions smoothly and without breaks from cotton into nylon. Or tree bark into spandex. I have some leads on how that could be possible, but the unfinished attempt may be the ultimate point of the work. Switching pieces back and forth from one material to another creates interesting geometric shapes.
You're continuing to work reconstructing textiles and garments in Bed Sized Works—is this an evolution of themes you started considering with Hunter and Prey?
This series of works aims to highlight the modes of existence between the "binary" poles . . . I grew tired of having items from different origins "bizarrely juxtaposed" and wanted to create something new that could have more than one meaning. The desire to change, also known as growth, is a great spring of inspiration. Gradients are a shorthand for intermodal existence that will hopefully eventually not be classified along a spectrum at all.
Tell me about the hashtags "#identity #desire #art" you used in this Instagram. Are #identity and #desire key themes in your #art?[My work is] definitely about identity—clothing being one of the most visible ways that people can express themselves. In that way these works make the viewer consider anthropology in a direct way, in a way that an abstract painting could not. [The work is] really about the subject matter . . . pushing these materials into a recognizable fine art shape is just how I make them communicate with the rest of the world.
You work in so many different mediums. As you interact with these different materials, do they begin to feel more or less alike? Do you interact with them differently?
All the different materials are being used in the same way as I would use paint on a canvas. The techniques of sewing, sanding, gluing, soldering, etc. are still employed to create a visual impact on a mostly flat surface on the wall.
Do you think about the apocalypse a lot?
I don't think about the apocalypse because what does that even mean?? Prophets are bullshit, but if they're right and we all die then you can kill me.
Bed Sized Works is on view at Tanja Grunert gallery until July 19th.
Above: Zerbe at work. "Went to the gallery at night, tweaked a few of the works, mopped the floor with bleach," said the artist on his Tumblr of his current exhibition at Tanja Grunert Gallery. "Show has been up for a week, looking good. A few decipherable signatures in the sign in book."