Q&A With Ethan Cook
Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in rural Texas in a town of 898 people where there wasn’t a whole lot to do. When I was 18 I quickly moved away to college then moved to New York in 2008.
Q: What was the first artwork you made? What / How /Why?
Two of my grandparents were whittlers. I would help them out around their shop occasionally. My first artwork was probably a whittled piece of wood of a bear or a train I worked on with them, but I don’t recall exactly.
Q: What is most important to you regarding your work: – The Process. The visual outcome. The material? Or something else?
The process is secondary to the idea the work is exploring. The process and materials are a vehicle for making manifest the idea. My works also have to work as images so the visual outcome has always been important to me. Generally I will find a methodology and stick with it for awhile.
Q: Do you have any routines and or rituals in your daily practice?
I drink a lot of coffee, especially iced coffee because I need a lot of caffeine. I used to run from my apartment in Chinatown to my studio in Greenpoint everyday, iced coffee in hand. That was a healthy ritual. My studio now has a coffee shop right across the street, so that’s been convenient. I just bought a house in the Catskill Mountains with a garage studio, my routines will be different up there. Hopefully I can do more swimming in the stream behind the house before work each day and need less caffeine. I want to build a big concrete lane pool like the one Judd built in Marfa.
Q: The process and the choice of material and ideas surrounding your work, can you tell us more about it?
As Mike Kelley said, “Materials are only what you do with them”. The process is a means to an end. For the woven works, the process of weaving is done to create canvas as that’s how canvas is created. For the oil on canvas still life paintings the process of painting is used because the original paintings my paintings are based on were painted using oil on canvas (or copper). The imbuing of meaning into something simply by creating or re-creating it is what interests me. The origin, transference and language of symbolism and meaning are primary concerns of the work.
Q: What influences you?
I can be influenced by basically anything. I’m generally drawn to ideas that are universal and easy to understand. Most of my ideas get edited down and only exist on a list in my studio. Eventually I’d like to let them all fly, like Kippenberger making his subway stations to nowhere and other pointless, large-scale building projects.
Q: We are all dying to know more about the shift from the woven canvas works, to the new works you have recently shown. Can you tell us more about how that came to life?
The reliefs, the still life paintings and the woven works are all addressing ideas of the fake, of the copy, of that copy’s effect on the original, mass production and its effects on value, of intent vs effect, of cultural and art historical iconography. The works switch between readymade imagery (collectibles), materials (canvas) and symbols (still life tropes).
Q: Can you let us in on some of the future projects, works?
For now I am re-focused on the woven works. They have returned to their origin point of being all-woven and compositionally determined by the dimensions of the canvas off the loom. Within the series I’m exploring artificiality, repetition and interchangeability through color and composition. The more straightforward the works are presented the clearer their intention to the viewer becomes. I want people to appreciate the works visually then the concept will hopefully start to slowly come through.
Link to Artist Page Ethan Cook
Link to Install Shots at Sundays
Images Courtesy of Anatebgi – Gallery