To paraphrase the worst Clash album ever, let's cut the crap! There's about zero chance that you're reading THIS blog without knowing who the hell Anthony Ausgang is. Unless you're my mother, in which case, Hi Mom! But really, do you need me to remind you of Anthony Ausgang's secure seat at the pop surrealist table? I can safely assume you're familiar with 'Dude Descending A Staircase', right? If you're an artist who does your homework, you already own the seminal Kirsten Anderson book on the lowbrow movement. Hell, you can probably quote the Robert Williams essay in that book verbatim. Maybe you're here because you're a MGMT fan, and you're hoping to dig up some dirt on the band (sorry, we didn't really go there). Maybe you're a fan of weird abstract literature looking for clues to deciphering the "Pawnee Republican" and "Sleep of Puss Titter" (I can't help you there either). I arranged a meeting with him, to ask only 5 questions. But if I'm completely honest, I just really wanted to see his studio, and get to know the man a little better. I wasn't disappointed. Ausgang possesses a keen intellect, a witty, jovial veneer, and his studio (as you'll see below) is brimming with archival delights from every stage of his artistic development. Let's go!
1) What was the most revelatory art experience you've ever had?
Well, really it was when I was sixteen, I went to Bali, Indonesia with my family. We stayed there three months. You know, my experience with art up to that point was strictly in museums, art museums around the world. So, I hadn't really had an experience looking at art outside of a museum situation, and when I was in Bali I saw all kinds of art that was being made...for example, there was a tree that had been carved by the side of the road, just this phenomenal sculpture. It was really interesting to see how art was integrated into everyday life there. When I saw that, it made a lot of sense to me. It clicked, right there...about what art is, and the purpose of art, and how it can actually exist outside the laboratory of the museums.
2) You've paid homage to a number of artists in your work, perhaps most famously Duchamp. You've also had some harsh words for John Baldassari. Who do you consider the most historically underrated and most overrated artists?
(laughs) Wow! Yeah, actually I have shifting tastes. My fandom of certain artists comes and goes, but when I was younger I was really impressed by Franz Marc. He had this tragic story, where he was killed in World War I, before he really managed to get any super masterworks done. I find his work really inspiring, because he did some really great paintings of animals, that sort of caught the essence of what it is to be a non-human, sentient being. There's also a Dutchman, colonial cat, living in Indonesia. His name is Walter Spies. He combined, sort of European painting technique with Eastern perspective. So he did these really beautiful paintings, where they seemed to be flat, but they still had that kind of Japanese perspective. Where they don't really decrease in size, things are just kind of stacked on top of each other? He's almost completely unknown outside of Dutch colonial circles. Overrated? Yeah man, Baldessari. I'm against the dude a hundred fucking percent! I don't have anything personally...you know, this is not a personal attack. But I guess in the art world, if you attack somebodies work, you're attacking them personally. I don't necessarily feel that way. But yeah, I think he's overrated. Art should be an additive process, and when it becomes a subtractive process like that...I think it's bullshit. Unless you're sculpting, taking a block of stone, and subtracting the sum until the figure is there. But with painting, where you actually remove imagery, to me is counter intuitive.
3) I asked Isabel Samaras this question once, and got a rather enthusiastic response. What's the most beloved brush in your arsenal?
I use a fan brush, which are for blending...from one color to another, or one value to another. those are my favorites now...because I've seen people use them...like Ron English can use these, and he can actually stop in a perfect spot, whereas I still have to tape it off, it's almost like airbrushing. So, yeah, I love those right now, because I still haven't figured their mystery out. I'm still sort of intrigued by how to use these brushes. Probably my least favorite brush is the pin striping brush. I did pin striping, I use a line brush. You know...actually, my favorite brush is what most artists would consider their worst brush. I use these brushes, and so they get to the point where they're just shit...and most people would just use them to mix paint, or just use them as a stir stick, but at that point...say it's a round, and the bristles are all splayed out. Somehow I figured out how to use those brushes to blend, so they are like a fan brush, but it's a round. Most people would've thrown those brushes away years ago.
4) If you could create the artwork for any Link Wray song, what song would you like to do?
Well, it would be "Rumble" wouldn't it? Link Wray...here's this dude who got shit on. They called his music dangerous. "Rumble" was taken off the charts, right? It was banned...and the dude still kept fucking going...and to me that's one of the most important things about art, is you gotta be in it for the long haul. Sure, I was the hot new flavor at one time, and I've seen other kids now, they're the hot new flavor, and yeah, that's great, but it's longevity and commitment that I think are one of the most attractive qualities for artists...assuming that they do good work, 'cause you know, Baldessari's been around for a while too.
5) I read you were shot at...twice! What the fuck?
I was walking down the street in Austin, Texas around 1978. Austin was entirely different at that point. I walked by this movie theater, and this black dude was...at that moment he was getting kicked out of the theater for drinking. I thought, 'oh, that's fucking weird'. So, I stood around to watch. The ushers got this dude out in the street, and he kicked him in the ass. Then this guy just turned around with his gun, and shot the usher three times in the stomach. Everybody scattered. Everybody split---except me. So, I'm standing there like...'Wow!' Then the guy pointed the gun at me. The instant he pulled the trigger a little alarm went off that said 'Hit the ground dude!'. So, I hit the ground...and split. He went one way, and I went the other. I ran down this alley, and he suddenly changed his mind. He came back and he was running down the alley behind me, and I thought 'This is fucking it man.' So I just stopped, and I got on the ground. The guy ran by me. He was really stupid. He was wearing a white Panama hat, white suit, you know? He couldn't blend in anywhere. I went back the next day and saw that there was a bullet hole in the glass. Another time, I actually did get shot, but it was self-inflicted. It was really stupid. It was the day of the L.A. riots. I learned my lesson. You never have two people handling a loaded gun (laughs), at the same time. But some things you can be told, and other things you have to learn by experience.
Anthony Ausgang will be included in the Daniel Rolnik curated 'Season of Spring' group show
at Flower Pepper Gallery opening March 1st, 2014.
He's also busy curating a Kustom Kulture show in Milan this September, and working on a new novel.
|Ausgang in the studio.|
|A work in progress.|
|The Ausgang brush corner.|
|The 'why would you throw it away' brush.|
|A life in sketchbooks.|
|From the Ausgang sketchbook files.|
|I'm really hoping I posted this right side up.|
|A Raymond Pettibon palm frond!|
|Another Raymond Pettibon from the Ausgang collection!|
|The Ausgang album cover files.|
|Thrift store score #1.|
|Thrift store score #2.|
|Old Skool Ausgang Xerox manipulations.|
|The end? Spoiler alert: it didn't.|