“I began to access corners of my imagination that were previously lying dormant” – an interview with Andrew Sendor

By Anna Savitskaya - Friday, December 4, 2015
“I began to access corners of my imagination that were previously lying dormant” – an interview with Andrew Sendor

Andrew Sendor (1977, U.S.A.) is the type of artist who revels in the use of different and differing media, mixing the visual effects in such a way that the viewer must decipher not only the subject of the work, but also the technique. All of Sendor’s works give the impression that they have been taken out of context, appearing as the imprint of a moment from the artist’s narrative. It is up to the viewer to then build up the story around these presented moments.

“I began to access corners of my imagination that were previously lying dormant” – an interview with Andrew Sendor

Andrew Sendor  (1977, U.S.A) is the type of artist who revels in the use of different and differing media, mixing the visual effects in such a way that the viewer must decipher not only the subject of the work, but also the technique.

All of Sendor’s works give the impression that they have been taken out of context, appearing as the imprint of a moment from the artist’s narrative. It is up to the viewer to then build up the story around these presented moments. Andrew Sendor describes the characters of his work as “navigating their way through some sort of existential crisis in meaning”, and, in a way, the audience has no choice but to also live out the same crisis.

Artdependence Magazine talks with Andrew Sendor about his work, the turning points in his career and his attitude towards success, as well as his preparations for the running solo exhibition "Paintings, Drawings, and a Film" at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum Michigan State University, on show until April 24, 2016.

Artdependence Magazine: How could you define the main themes in your work? 

Andrew Sendor: There are numerous themes, subjects, and concepts functioning in my work, all of which have secondary and tertiary forms. The characters who are portrayed in my paintings, drawings, and films are often navigating their way through some sort of existential crisis in meaning. For example, in the 13-minute film FENOMENO, Boris Flumzy is conducting the ritualistic act of "spiritually cleansing" Fenomeno in an attempt to expel any tainted energy from his soul and spirit. Fenomeno is a concert violinist who has a cross-dressing alter ego named T.V., who is prone to extreme emotional rapture and bouts of altered consciousness. Boris Flumzy, a mercurial dendrochronologist, is a character that I personally played the role of, and was consequently relegated to sporting a half-bearded face for no less than two months while shooting various scenes for the film. It was a challenging psychological task to subvert my own essence to become another person who inhabits another life, and by extension this proved to deepen my investigation into the underpinnings of contemporary identity.Several recent paintings and drawings portray Plumita Lunes Nuñes, a 7 ½ year old Spanish orphan who is partaking in a spiritual quest with the intention of finding her long-lost parents; a narrative that vacillates between enlightened hope and dim tragedy.

From the documentary "The Philosophy of Maibritt Lemon", 2015. Oil on panel. 34 x 45 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

(detail) From the documentary "The Philosophy of Maibritt Lemon", 2015. Oil on panel. 34 x 45 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

AD: When did you realize that you wanted to become an artist? 

AS: While I hold very few memories of playing with toys as a child, I do remember creating things all the time. I began to take drawing more seriously when I was about 13 years old, and then a few years later I realized that I wanted to do that forever.

AD: What were your initial preferences and interests as an artist, and how did they change throughout your career?

AS: While my work has seen several shifts both materially and conceptually over the last 10 or 11 years, there are certain streams of thought that continually resurface. Generally speaking, I often think about the ways in which ideas and images are transposed into the language of painting. Specifically regarding the representation of performative events in my current work, which are executed in a way that often corresponds to natural ways of seeing, it seems irresponsible to ignore the interrelationship between the act of painting and that of photographic processes. This topic has been the subject of critical discourse and debate ever since the first daguerreotypes appeared in the middle of the 19th century. However, it is only in the last couple of decades that this multifaceted and convoluted conversation has started to adopt a new tone with new content. In 2015, there is a seemingly endless flow of images in our daily lives, and the way in which images are often rapidly and casually consumed is a rather recent development,considering how long we've been surrounded by them. Since the creation and distribution of images has largely been democratized since the advent of the smartphone and the ubiquitousness of social media, how does this influence the role of the painter? 

From the documentary "Nocturnes: A Music Therapy Clinic Founded by Lamar Beray", 2015. Oil on panel. 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

Installation view: Cypress Society, Humdoulasky Flumzy Visits the Retrieval Room at Delicates, Performance, 2036; Aristod A. Sandoval, The Pluto Paradox, 2017, lenticular image mounted to black onyx and mixed media, dimensions variable. 2015. Oil on panel. 46 x 62.5  inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

AD: Starting from 2014, you have been mentioned quite often as one of the most promising artists of your generation - feturing in Thames and Hudson’s “100 Painters of Tomorrow”, and numerous articles such as Artphaire’s  "Top 5 Artists to Watch at Art Basel Miami Basel, and Huffington Post’s “10 Painters who are Changing Their Medium in the 21 Century”, to name a few.  Do you identify a turning point in your career when you entered into the spotlight of worldwide attention?

AS: In the late summer of 2010, when we were still living in Madrid, I created two small-scale paintings in the reduced palette of black, white, and gray. This proved to be a significant shift in my working process, as I feel that I got closer to the subject - closer to the core. Then, about a year later, I moved away from working with historical photos and began staging performative events and collaborating with performance artists to play the roles of characters who appear in my consciousness. At that point I felt as though I began to access corners of my imagination that were previously lying dormant. Narratives began to flourish as characters took on a vivid and meaningful presence in my studio.

AD: What does success and recognition mean to you?

AS: I'm endlessly excited about the prospect of the viewer experiencing a heightened sense of visual and/or emotional, intellectual, and spiritual awareness when in the presence of my work. I'm very grateful to the owners and staff members of the galleries and museums who exhibit my work, the collectors who have expressed enthusiasm and support, and the writers who have published their thoughts on my work.

From the documentary "The Tchaikovsky Effect on Fenomeno at the Geirangerfjorden, Norway", 2014. Oil on panel. 45 x 34 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

(detail) Seven scenes from the documentary "The Interior of Delicates and the Enigma of Boris Flumzy (2029)", 2014. Oil on panel. 43 x 34 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

AD: What contemporary artists do you follow and what do you like about their works?

AS: There are so many artists whose work I am captivated by, and here's a brief list (not in any particular order): Rineke Dijkstra, Michael Borremans, Llyn Foulkes, Cat Power, Ragnar Kjartansson, David Altmejd, Andro Wekua, Ashley Bickerton, Chris Ofili, Wolfgang Tillmans, Antony Hegarty, Anj Smith, Inka Essenhigh, Matthew Barney, Robert Gober, Cindy Sherman, Tony Oursler, Ryan Trecartin, Werner Herzog.

While I am drawn to these artists' creative output for different reasons, I find that all of them create work that exudes a certain potency that is undeniable. I appreciate Matthew Barney's unstoppable will to realize his multidimensional grand visions at any cost, which is a similar case with German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who has been an inspiration since my days in art school. I have a deep affinity with the sculpture and multi-part installations of Robert Gober. I love how his poetic work functions as a catalyst for thinking and feeling, which often seamlessly evolves out of his personal take on current events, adding up to narratives that allude to religion, sexuality, and various aspects about childhood, among other substantial topics. Rineke Dijkstra possesses an uncanny ability to both tap into the psyche of her subjects, and present them as archetypes. I am particularly moved by her  "Almerisa" series, in which Dijkstra tenderly documented her subject incrementally over many years, from her days as a child through to adulthood when she eventually had a child of her own.  

From the documentary "Plumita Lunes Nuñes: A 33 Day Mission to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela", 2015. Oil on panel. 45 x 34 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

One replica of a still from the documentary "Interview Sessions with Seda Mercedes: On Reason, Perceptual Phenomena and Zilpah Gershowitz", 2014. Graphite on paper. 13 x 17 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

From the documentary "Interview Sessions with Plumita Lunes Nuñes: On Suspicion, Self-Preservation and Universality", 2015. Graphite on paper. 13 x 17 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

AD: Could you please describe the ways in which you work alongside a curator, with regards to the choice of works for a show, the theme and title of the exhibition, etc? How much do you usually get involved?

AS: My relationship with a curator, gallery owner, or director is typically close in nature. I engage in an intimate and intense process with the works as they are growing in my studio, and then I also have specific ideas as to how they will function in a gallery or the institutional setting of a museum. I enjoy collaborating with others to explore ideas regarding the recontextualization of the works from the private space of my studio to the public platform of a gallery or museum- a shift that can be vast.  

AD: Can you share with us  any interesting details or facts about your running solo exhibition "Paintings, Drawings, and a Film" at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum Michigan State University? 

AS: My solo exhibition at The Broad MSU occupies two gallery spaces within this exquisite museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid. In one gallery, an installation of 8 paintings and 6 drawings is on view, while another gallery features my 13-minute film FENOMENO, projected at a width of 17.5 feet and accompanied by 8 speakers, creating an immersive environment of moving images and a richly textured soundscape. It has been a terrific experience collaborating with the staff of the museum, all of whom are very thoughtful, detail-oriented, and basically willing to do whatever it takes to realize an artist's vision. Working with Caitlin Doherty, Curator and Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at The Broad MSU, has been a very positive experience, as we are often thinking very similar thoughts before we even communicate them with one another. So the process of planning the exhibition - from conceptualizing, selecting the works, and executing the installation - has been very fluid, graceful, and inspiring from its early stages through to its completion. It is truly an honor to have such a well-respected institution host what is my largest exhibition to date.

FENOMENO, 2014-2015. HD Video, 13 minutes, 44 seconds. Installation view, "Delicates," Sperone Westwater, February 28 - April 11, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

Andrew Sendor: Paintings, Drawings, and A Film, installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2015, photo courtesy Eat Pomegranate Photography

Andrew Sendor: Paintings, Drawings, and A Film, installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2015, photo courtesy Eat Pomegranate Photography

More information about Andrew Sendor's running solo exhibition "Paintings, Drawings, and a Film" at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum Michigan State University is here.

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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Luc Tuymans, Flemish Village 1995.  Collection MuHKA, Antwerp

Luc Tuymans, Flemish Village 1995. Collection MuHKA, Antwerp

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