Narrow Objecthood

Rebecca Morse, Associate Curator at LACMA, interviews artist Sam Falls for the April 2013 edition of the Artist of the Month Club.

Rebecca Morse: You work in a range of mediums, which reflects your background in painting, graphic design, and photography. However, your approach is decidedly photographic in that it is often about the passing of time and light, do you see this as the dominant through-line in your work?

Sam Falls: To a degree, I like to think that I’ve taken the defining or theoretical elements of photography and abandoned its narrow objecthood or professional materials. So I’m conceptually engaged with light, time, and representations, but materially working with an everyday vernacular that has lent itself more openly to painting, sculpture, and installation. The jumping off point is often photographic in theory then, but the end point is something totally different with the concept still preserved. I think the work then floats in an undefined area of art which is very exciting.

RM: This aggregate of mediums works against the idea of a singular isolated image, making the passage of time more readily felt in the objects themselves. Is this a conscientious approach to something you see as largely absent from photographs?

SF: Yes, exactly. I find photographs themselves to be quite alienating for the viewer – always distanced from the moment of production in regards to a photograph, as well as the homogeneity of photographic paper, it’s a leveling that not only isolates the viewer but the subject and artist as well. The process of working on a photograph digitally and then again physically creates a linear timeline of production and gives life to the object over time, so by the time it reaches the viewer they are incorporated to a degree in that artistic process. The physicality of the object becomes present to by using it as a printing tool, and my hand also is visible, which I see as the inviting nature of painting. The works left in the sun or rain also inherit time by the very nature of their durational production, and that duration is what eventually produces the image which I find to be in nice opposition to the instantaneous nature of traditional photographic production.

RM: Fighting against the emptiness of commercial photography and desiring to give more to the viewer’s emotions, your work rests on a fine line between conceptual and personal, how do you set out to achieve that balance?

SF: I think it’s merged, the conceptual and personal. No matter how conceptual the work is, that concept comes from my experience and the desire to dedicate my life to producing this work is a very personal decision and I think the work carries this feeling. The work deals with time and time as a universal issue everyone has to deal with. The subject matter is a sign of where I am geographically and mentally, but also my relationship to art history and obsession with the place of art. I believe in a progressive art and there’s a lot of work to do. I actually see conceptual art as the more universal and accessible side to art and I try to leave a place for the viewer’s history rather then tell the whole story through my emotions. But then I’m a viewer of my own art as well.

RM: You clearly have an affinity for being in the landscape and have found a compelling way to focus on the elements as subject rather than the landscape itself, has this been heightened since your move to California in 2011?

SF: Yes, and that’s part of the reason I moved to California. I noticed the rain for example, since it’s a special occurrence here, unlike New York. And the approach is quite collaborative, I think of it existing in a space between land art and studio practice. It’s like camping rather than building a house. The potential of synthesizing the outdoors with the indoors appears limitless to me and California feels like the best place for it!