Interview with Andrew Mount

Stock, on view from February 16 through May 8 at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art (SMCMoA), engages with themes of capitalism, leisure, and wealth. SMC art student Isaac Kyoungho Kim (IK) interviewed artist Andrew Mount (AM) about his forthcoming exhibition in early January. Below are highlights from the conversation. 

For more insights into Mount’s process, join us for an afternoon dialogue with the artist in conversation with his art historian Hossein Khosrowjah on Thursday, February 17, 2022, at 4 p.m. More information can be found here >>

 

IK: What is this exhibition about?

AM: All the work I’ve created the last few years is made to interconnect in some way. The piece, Debtstock, featured at the entrance of the gallery, connects some of the topics and themes of my work. I am interested in finance and debt and those effects on society. My work signifies participation and play in the environment of the gallery to help prevent people from feeling a kind of apprehension or sense of out-of-placeness as I understand that the majority of people do not go to museums and galleries. When they do, they certainly do not spend time looking. So by asking them to participate, they spend a lot more time with the work and they come out with an impression that stays with them. I think that is the goal of every artist: to communicate in a memorable way.

 

IK: Speaking of communication, students at Saint Mary’s –who are not familiar with your work –possibly have seen your work in the Oliver Hall (cafeteria). Would the exhibition include works that were part of that series? Or are there others you want to mention?

AM: Yes, those are my banners. They represent the second phase of this body of work. I do not have one title paradigm for all that work. Those banners were made under the name, We Are Market Makers, featured in Oliver Hall as screen prints. There are five of those banners, but there are probably fifteen different drawings that I made in that series. The rest of those images were made as screen prints instead. The subsequent work I did was a lot more graphic detail, taking a lot longer to complete. The drawings for the five banners in the museum took eighteen months. I was making them parallel with each other.

 

IK: As someone who went to your previous solo show, I noticed that there are a lot of symbols. I believe they all display a narrative that you want to tell your audience specifically. Before you explained the meaning of the work, I was not sure what it meant. I would recognize some of the logos of banks and some individuals.

AM: So, you are asking me to help define what they are? 

IK: Or, do you want to approach your audience in a way to lead them or let them discover on their own?

AM: Well, I thought quite a lot about this. And I had changes of heart about how to deal with this problem. Because I do recognize that those pieces do have a great deal of density in them. The works in Oliver Hall, which are far simpler images, have content that is a kind of density in imagery and symbols. So, I plan to include a taxonomy to close out that project. The paintings are associated but different in type. With that taxonomy, I include symbols and explain them and their uses. What I won’t do is explain what happens when two symbols are adjacent. I want the viewer to be active in cognitive-communication with the work. I think that is an important thing. When I refuse to provide more explanatory material, I'm asking the viewer to explore the work visually and take from it what they choose to.

I use logos because I know they are common for most people to recognize, and they act as an entryway. These are specific logos that are all over the market segment of finance and capitalism. I am happy with this because it follows the logic of the origination of the work, which came from my deep interest in heraldry–the image in heraldry. Formerly, that is where all those pieces came from. 

IK: Heraldry? I have no idea what that is.

AM: Heraldry is the sign system of the nobles and the royals. And it goes back like five or six hundred years. 

 

IK: So, that is why you use things like banners?

AM: The form of the banners is important; it signifies and comments on that history. The imagery of Real Property is situated more contemporaneously because it is black ink on canvas. The viewer looking at it may not know it is ink. They may think it is paint. But either way, those materials are important, especially the canvas. You can’t give them where they are in the painting. You cannot associate a canvas that size in a gallery with a painting. And I like that lack of association. 

 

IK: Personally, I know you are very fond of materiality. The way you specifically chose materials to work. Do you want to speak about that?

AM: Yes. So there are two video works in this exhibition. One of them is called Dumbtime, and the other is called Wealth. In Wealth, the video is screened on an iPad and is the largest iPad that you can find. This is appropriate for the piece because while it could play on a hundred other screens, this one is the most expensive and luxurious. To put it to this use, while knowing what an iPad can actually do, creates a sense of waste or frivolity. This idea –of waste and productivity– spills out into other works, particularly the other video Dumbtime.

With Wealth, the iPad is positioned on a big mound of ultramarine pigment. The iPad plays a very short video, which begins with a half a second image of the sky. Then the sky becomes covered. The entire screen goes to red, a form of red that is not static. There is precise manipulation as the red varies in intensity from dark orange to very bright cadmium. Through the sound, you can hear people around me when the video was recorded. It's a leisure scene that you don’t really see, but we (in the western world) intuitively understand. It mimics the experience of closing your eyes under the sun. And the opportunity to do that is something you gain through wealth, which doesn't even have to be extreme wealth. A lot of people in the Western world feel that this is a right they have. But, many more billions of people worldwide have no opportunity for such leisure. So, I am very interested in that idea and how that works in terms of how we understand what we think of as freedom, what we think of as our rights, and how those things have been delivered to us through a kind of materialism that we take for granted. It is sitting on ultramarine pigment because cobalt is the most expensive color. I couldn’t afford cobalt. The ultramarine and the red make a very vivid combination,  which I enjoy. It’s sitting on top of the plinth, which is white. Of course, I am happy with the combination of red, white, and blue because of the association with certain countries’ flags. 

 

IK: Capitalism, leisure, and wealth. Your work has associations with current issues like debt and finance and how. At first, people might not notice the way you use these themes, but it sparks something. So, my question is, what would you tell your audience? Will you expand on why you are interested in finance, debt, and all these hierarchies and privileges in leisure? 

AM: Well, it is a big question. But, I’ll try and answer that. I mentioned a minute ago that I am going to make a taxonomy. That’s in response to this idea that students, for example, who come into this museum or other visitors who come in, who have never seen my work before, may not immediately connect. I recognize that. My response is to make the taxonomy a book, partly because bookmaking is a process of my art practice. It is the ideal way for me to present a companion to those works without presenting a didactic statement or spoon-feeding the viewer. The taxonomy will provide some interpretations and definitions, in addition to examples of the drawings. It will be made with great care and with the highest quality materials; I can afford to align the ideas in the work with a part of the historical reference material. 

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Stock opens February 16 and is on view through May 8, 2022. More information can be found here >>

Image credit: Andrew Mount (1969-) Detail from Real Property, 2021-2022, courtesy of the artist