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Image: Lucia Hierro - El Costo de la Vida -Independent Art Fair - LatchKey Gallery


NATALIE KATES:  When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

GABRIEL J. SHULDINER:  That’s a long and winding story… in short, let’s just say art found me… and had it not, I don't think I would be here. Literally. It was the last thing I thought I would ever become. Ironically, it was also really the first thing I truly ever wanted to be… but I didn’t know that until… until art found me. Truly a long story.

NK: Did you go to art school? 

GjS: Yes. I did go to art school. I studied for a few Summer’s at SVA before pursuing my MFA at Parsons. Once I decided I was actually an artist, I also decided I wanted to learn every single thing I possibly could on the subject. So although I do sort of consider myself anti-institution, I immersed myself in those institutions and sucked as much knowledge out of them as I could. I was a sponge. Black was my obsession since the beginning. So art school didn’t teach me anything about painting or guide my work in any new manner. But the interaction; being around other artists and professors… The conversations.. Being exposed to other types of work, different ideas… the collective knowledge.. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I realized no one was right or wrong when it came to my art work or to the work of others; although some thought they were ;). It was only an opinion. I took what I wanted and left the rest. I don’t know if art school is important or not. It’s a personal decision and you really get what you put in to it. Don’t tell anyone, but now I’m seriously considering a ph.D in “black”. More will be revealed…

NK: How would you classify your works?

GjS:  My work revolves around the non-color BLACK and all of it’s disparate associations... from the existential to the scientific, all-the-while incorporating the art historical. I create multi-dimensional “hybridsculptural-paintings” that take the form of architectural interventions, floor sculptures, wall-based objects, pseudo-functional furniture (chairs, tables) and wearable body objects. That said, my work is pretty much unclassifiable… and that’s sort of the beauty of it. I’ve coined the term: bruteminimalism™ to make it easier for everyone. I think that word says it all. To be a little more direct, I feel my work falls somewhere between the minimal, abstract, conceptual and absurd.

NK: Why is black the dominating color in your works?

GjS: I love black. I always have. Even way before I started painting. Black has always moved me in ways nothing else can… emotionally. The extreme of human emotions.. from the darkest depression to the most revered, sexy, sophisticated and elegant. It is power and mystery. It is timeless.. It is also utilitarian: you see it everywhere and probably don’t even notice: text, tires, night.. the unknown. Plus, it’s loaded: socially, culturally, existentially, scientifically. All of these elements excite me. Literally everything I’m interested in revolves around black… so conceptually my work bounces around amongst them all, continually investigating, researching, experimenting, learning… It was also the first color ever used in art by the earliest of humans: the black ash of cave paintings. It will also probably be the last color future humans ever use, before the end… although, I suppose there will be no way of proving that one.  

NK:  How important is social media to you?

GjS: If I wasn’t an artist, I don’t think I’d use it at all. But as an artist, I find it a really good and rewarding additional outlet for my art work. It’s sort of a necessary evil. I’ve met so many other artists and curators and collectors and such, that I find it almost an invaluable tool. That said, my art is a physical experience. The flat screen of Instagram really doesn't do my work any true justice. A photograph of my work is NOT my work. But

NK: What is your preferred social media outlet? 

GjS: Instagram. By far the best of the bunch.

NK:  What would you like the viewer to take away from your works if anything?

GjS: Perhaps a meditative self-reflective state. A personal moment of pause; of calm and .. of confusion… Maybe 5 minutes of NOT looking at your phone because you are somewhat transfixed as the light bounces off the heavily textured varied black surfaces at angles that shift independently of one's orientation... Layers and layers of information, seen and unseen... the work is reminiscent of things familiar, yet entirely non-categorical. Eerily moving and grotesque, yet somehow comforting, and in fact playful.. Am I asking too much? This is what a successful finished piece does for me; whether it’s one of my works or a work by another. When art moves me as such, for me, it is an absolute moment of perfection. Albeit fleeting….

NK: What would your dream art project be?

GjS: I want to work with an architect again. Somehow merge my work into a physical, functional space. I’m always thinking in those terms. But you said “dream art project”… In that case, a two-person show: Pierre Soulages and myself. He is a god to me. So a two-person show: “A Frenchman and a Jew”. That would be a dream. Or a sold out solo show at LevyGorvy, Pace, Lisson or Team. I dream big.

NK: Favorite Museum?

GjS: Probably a tie between two… places I loathed as a child: Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art… The history in those buildings; albeit perhaps slightly skewed… Pretty much everything you need to know is there. I am interested in the ancient cultures that have lead to today; how they succeeded and how they failed. That includes their “artists”… the objects and art that influenced the “masters”… For the contemporary, I love MoMA. I’m a New York City boy… I want to travel more.

NK: Who would your dream artist trade be with?

GjS: My dream artist trade would be with Pierre Soulages. Actually we wouldn’t even need to trade. I would just love to meet him; that would be a dream. Although they do say sometimes it’s not a good idea to meet your idols. But I’ll risk that. He’s 97 years young. My favorite artist in the World. I don’t know why, but when I was much younger, I didn’t realize it was “ok” to work exclusively with black. I thought it wasn’t allowed or something. I think I was even told that. My recollection: no black and no tape. You make your lines with your hand. No tape. I have no idea where that stuff even came from! But I remember it because I loved black… and tape! Eventually I discovered Pierre Soulages… and the chains came off. Fuck the rules. Actually, wait! There are no rules! Only the stupid ones we somehow self-impose. This was a super profound moment for me. I was literallyfreed artistically.

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