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Image: Gabriel J. Shuldiner

Studio visit with Dev Harlan

Dev Harlan Artist Statement:

"Dev Harlan is a multidisciplinary artist whose current practice is a  captivating blend of sculpture and digital projection. As a self educated Artist and Designer, his work is rooted in personal exploration and self initiated practices.


The work is perceptual and encourages the viewer to enter into a "liminal" mode of awareness with the deliberate use of polychromatic color palettes and geometric pattern. On the one hand a sort of contemporized psychedelia, light and surface are also precisely aligned with a dimensional relationship allowing the perception of a sensorial whole."


Dev Harlan Q&A

Natalie Kates: I am in the studio of Dev Harlan. We are here in the East village, also the lower East side. I do a lot of studio visits and this might be the whitest studio I have ever seen. You have lots of geometric shapes, lots of textures, lots of forms, but it is all white. Is there a reason everything is white?

Dev Harlan: Absolutely, because part of what I am doing is working with video and with light. So if I’m projecting video on surfaces, the surfaces, of course, read best when they are white surfaces.

NK: Most of the work in your studio are of geometric forms that read like perfect mathematical equations and origami shapes. Do you use a computer to create these shapes or is it something you just do organically by bending paper?

DH: It is a combination of both and, for a lot of the older works, yes I was doing everything digitally, designing things in 3D space as part of my process. And then lot of the more recent stuff here I am actually working in more of an intuitive fashion, using so-called mathematical origami and folding paper until I arrive at a desired  form.

NK: Some of the geometric patterns remind me of patterns in nature whether it’s a beehive, DNA models or cellular strands. How big of a role does nature play in your work, if any at all?

DH: I think, if there is a similarity, it’s because nature is also mathematical. I think that often times I’m looking at the simplicity that is found in nature, the economy of form and function that is found in nature, and I think those things are absolutely influential. It is not that I am looking at it literally, but more in terms of how systems play themselves out over the course of time and with the resources available.

NK: With that said, what is your favorite shape?

DH: Well, for me it’s the triangle. It's a fundamental building block but I'm also intuitively drawn to it. And often times working with it, creating structures, architectonic structures, the triangle makes things a lot simpler in the long run.

NK: Are you formally trained artist or is it just something that came naturally to you?

DH: I have no formal training in art, design or architecture or anything. So, it is all been a process of self-learning, basically I'm an autodidact. 

NK: Your pieces are really incredible, also they are remind me of a lot of what’s going on in modern architecture, as well (I know we spoke about that earlier, before we started to record). Is there an architect that you admire?

DH: I think there’s a lot of interesting people now, and of course there is a handful of the visionary architects that I'm inspired by, groups like Super Studio or the Archigram Folks from the 60’s and 70’s. Most were really pretty much doing theoretical work, really figuring out how architecture is shaping society and also reconstructing the utopian ideas that architecture traditionally had been focused on.

NK: With architecture being on monumental scale, your pieces are, when fully realize, massive pieces. Are your all pieces big in scale?

DH: Pretty much. That's just the way I work, at the present, the smallest work I have shown in any exhibition has been at least four feet or so, but works have ranged from 8, to 11 to nearly 50 ft wide.

NK: In 2012 your work was shown at the New Museum. Can you tell us a little bit about that, the name of the show and a little bit about what your contribution was to it?

DH: Yes as part of the New Ideas for the New City festival, I had been approached to participate in the outdoor projections on the New Museum building. Instead however I proposed a free standing projection sculpture which we installed on the block of Mulberry between Houston and Prince. That was the first incarnation of a sculpture called “Parmenides I” which was large-ish, at about eight feet across and projected all around.

NK: If somebody who sees this interview would like to acquire a piece of yours or do a studio visit, what would be the best way for them to reach you?

DH: They can e-mail me, call me, Skype me, knock on my door, whatever. (laughs) Seriously the best approach for a collector would be to contact my gallerist, Christopher Henry, but for anything else I remain pretty accessible.

Natalie: What are some words you would use to describe your work?

DH: Finding a single word to describe it is difficult. You’ve got faceting, you’ve got tessellation, you’ve got illumination, it is also a time based thing, so there's a lot of words.

NK: Speaking of illumination in the context of video and your video projections, because the foundation of your pieces are geometric and white, can the pieces be viewed in daylight or do you need to be in certain conditions to fully realize the finished piece, or is it two pieces, is it a sculpture? Does it need the video content or is the finished piece the sculpture with the video content?

DH: The finished piece is the sculpture and the video, it is the hybrid of both that is the work. While I strive for both to read well on their own each is incomplete without the other in most cases. I’ve done some short-form animations in the past where the work is screen based, but for most of these projection pieces it is the sculpture and the video that is the work. And yes, there are often times where I need to control lighting conditions, make sure there is no daylight in the room or altering the light to such that the video reads well.

NK: The installations, do they have a sound element as well or is an audio element or visual element?

DH: In one show I did have a sound track but in most pieces there is no sound as part of the work, it is just the video and sculpture.

NK: I think that you’re interesting, I think that your works stimulate multiple senses.  I need to now figure out how to fit one of your massive installations in my apartment.

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