Rex Bruce is an artist based in Los Angeles. We thought that it would be a good idea to do a long interview and see where it goes. Hopefully we can cover art, the world, pop culture, and our selves. Here we go:
1. It's a summery day. I am relaxing next the pool in Southern California. How are you doing today?
REX: I'm out in the high desert. My boyfriend and I have a house in 29 Palms, a very arty dropped out place next to Joshua Tree. Today I took a computer moratorium. I wanted to go 8 hours, but only made it six before I had to check my email. OCD, for sure. But compulsion makes for a good artist.
2. You, more than anyone, have seen a lot of art in the past five years. People send you images all the time. What do you think of what you seen?REX: I literally look at over 10,000 images, videos, installation shots, websites, etc. every year. One big divide is between educated and not educated. There are equally bad and good projects on both sides of that. You can be academic and be not very thoughtful about what you are doing, there is a 'common practice' within that--visual iteration of cultural literature or "theory." You can be relatively naive and create very thoughtful work, very stunning and collectible. There is really lots of terrible attempts by those without the MFA though, and a vast and fascinating culture within academia.
The quantity of culture in our world is daunting. Now we have China, Russia and Eastern Europe--our art world has grown as never before in recent years.
3. In the past hundred years, much art has a certain look: early modernist pre-WW1 period, post-WW2 abstract expression, conceptualism, minimalism of the 1970s, etc. What trends do you think are going on presently?
REX: The trend is "no-trend." I think the art world is unusually unfettered lately. There is just too much going on, so many different cultures; tons and tons of art. No one I associate with in L.A. really cares what 'style' something is. Each specialty is judged on its own merits, not so much how it compares with some other thing. That's it, people specialize now. Mine is art and technology, of course.
4. LA had an art boom around 1986. MOCA opened and there was a gallery explosion. It died out after a few years. Something similar has happened in the past few years. What do you think?
REX: This boom is sustainable, it has already lasted longer and it continues to grow. It is bigger now, more solid and mature. The other major art capitals besides New York are growing. Berlin, London, Beijing, L.A... Urban renewal is a worldwide trend and it involves art as a main ingredient.
5. You yourself have explored various artistic mediums since the early 1980s. But it seems like you found your voice in shows like "Inversions." Was it because your vision had to wait for the technology, or what?
REX: Art works are made in a flow of ideas. One thing leads to another or reverses from the former. As technologies emerge they naturally become part of my flow. The new work is a result of that. My work is mature now, artists work for decades to come to a certain point where many complex things resonate in parallel within what seems a simple artifact.
They resonate with the people who see them, too. These new works are very popular, I sold 14 large images in the last couple of months--many to persons associated with museums. A person from Shepard Fairey's P.R. firm bought one. Two went to the set decorator for "Californiacation." They will be on T.V. in the third season.
A giant white move truck with the W.B. logo on the side came downtown from Burbank to pick them up: two 38" square pieces. That was bizzare. Those people do have money to burn.
6. I am just reviewing some of your answers and sidenotes. Do you still think of some art addressing academic issues and other art dealing with mass culture?
REX: I'm not sure the divide between academic and non-academic belongs to the issue of exploring mass culture. This is an important area in social theory going way back. Of course Pop and all of it's descendants deal with mass culture, much of which is a 'low-brow' area of experiment. Academics are largely upper middle class professionals. They get accused of being a big 'circle-jerk' of self-promulgating job creators. But I think this kind of study is largely in earnest, and is an important hotbed of progressive politics and a generally open and well informed discourse. It should not be seen as any 'better' or 'worse' than another culture. It just is what it is.
7. You have spoken about how there has been art explosions in certain capital centers. There are other reports that "art is dead" in other places like Berlin. Does good art follow locals anymore, or is connected to economic surges?
REX: The whole notion of declaring "art is dead" is completely silly. That is predicated by the notion that you know what 'art' is, and that people are no longer doing it much. There is more art now than ever, historically speaking. And it operates in a fairly free and freewheeling free-for-all. A lot of art is free, although a lot is overpriced. Meaning, the tides of economy don't really slow things down much, it just gets more Darwinian in terms of who will slug it out and survive. All art comes out of a local culture. In New York is is more directly connected to the upper class and established avenues for promoting artists amongst the wealthy. But, that is just another scene.
8. You mentioned the "no-trend." It's like this period after the post-modern which some called "post-everything" we are in with individual artists. These "no-trenders" often resonate with previous art. Is it taking art from the past, and adding a new twist, or new mechanism? Secondly is the grouping of artists into movements, just a selling point from now on?
REX: That would be a yes on all of that.
9. Can you talk about how the internet has open things up in art? It's no longer Braque and Picasso working in a basement, but a worldwide community riffing with each other.
REX: The internet has made the world shrink exponentially, and discourse expand by multiple exponents. It fosters more oppurtunity for anyone and engenders a more egalitarian environment for small business types. Small business makes up about half of the art world, I guess.
10. Just to comment on your footnote: we are now in a period where emails and cell phones are so much a part of daily life. We are all on facebook. We are sending messages all the time, but since they are texts, the meaning is warped, delayed, misunderstood. How does all this new techology inform the new art?
REX: It is a new area to be examined, explored and experimented with. The three "e"s (I just made that up). No one would argue the relevance of this as a cogent point of departure for aesthetic pursuit. The art world is obsessed with "newness," so as technology emerges it creates attention towards those who use emergent technologies (along with all of their side effects) for their creations.