Last weekend, Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco brought together some of the best international contemporary paper artists for a group show cleverly named "Paper Cuts." The exhibition's curator, Jessica Ross, kindly shared some insight behind the works themselves, the inspiration of the show, and the role paper art and fine craft plays in the big picture of fine art.

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RR: As described, "Largely seen as a style of craft art, Paper Cuts seeks to investigate the intersection between fine art and crafts." It's interesting to think that graphite on paper is seen by some in a different artistic context than paper on paper. Do you feel the show helps bridge a gap? How do you foresee the impact this show has or will have on paper art in general? 

JR: Good question! In essence, all art is one form of craft or another (as it is 'crafted') it's usually society that defines art into paradigms of fine art or kitsch. I wanted to mostly focus on the crafters themselves and show a range of artists that handle the same exact medium in different ways, to me that is fine art. The amount of precision that goes into these works is on the same level as say an oil painter for me. 
Yulia Brodskaya
"O"
paper
11.81" x 15.75"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

RR: Some of the work in "Paper cuts" is representational and figurative, some is abstract and focuses on forms. It's thought provoking to imagine replacing paper as a medium with say, paint, and the imagined paintings would be equally as strong as their paper counterparts. With this idea, what roles do materials and artistic intent play in selecting works for the show?

JR: My selection of artists do vary in their artistic intent, many have experimented with different mediums and practices. For example Ryan De La Hoz is a painter, printmaker, puzzle designer and textile worker, for him paper holds a kind of graphic aesthetic in which his work really resonates. For the works in this show I think all of the artists wanted to highlight their skills with paper, not just because it's their primary medium but because it's what they feel comfortable with as an artist.  

Crystal Wagner 
"Spectrum: Bio Interloper VI"
screen print, relief print, cut paper, wood, paint, wire
25.5" x 8" x 25.5"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

RR: Asia, specifically Japan, doesn't primarily impose a distinction between craft and fine art, whereas western Europe and the US primarily does. Before the British Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of last century, western art schools would teach a hierarchy of art forms, restricting the term fine art to describe paintings, sculpture, and printmaking. Do you feel a preconceived distinction between craft and fine art still exists in the US? Between design and fine art? Where and how do you see these distinctions blurring? 

JR: Totally, I think before the turn of the century this kind of hierarchal organization of art was meant to hold class structure. In 8th and 9th century China, paper art was a common domestic art reserved for the middle class, while royal artists usually practiced mainly with poetry and painting. Today, obviously because the expansive globalization of art and its respective market, these kind of rigid class structures are not as enforced. Of course there is still a distinction between say a fine art gallery in Chelsea and a more low-bro gallery in Los Angeles but I feel as though most collectors (at least the ones we have at Spoke Art) are open to many different forms of art. On space in particular that comes to mind is Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco. At the moment they are in-between spaces but their roster of artists span many different mediums they are definitely trying to push the boundaries between fine art and craft, they are doing a spectacular job if I do say so myself! 

Crystal Wagner 
"Spectrum: Bio Interloper IV"
screen print, relief print, cut paper, wood, paint, wire
21.5" x 5" x 21.5"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

RR: Images of design, architecture, craft, and art are so easily shared and readily available within the digital landscape. Do you feel the virality of images from fine and applied art forms -especially where traditional concepts are being pushed beyond normal boundaries in terms of execution and imagination-contribute towards a widely open and equal mainstream acceptance of craft as fine art?

JR: Definitely! I have a love/hate relationship with the way art is shared online (in an effort to not stray I'll hold my tongue) but the internet definitely holds a major presence in the way we view art, whether it be craft or not. I definitely think craft art is well on its way to acceptance especially through the online community. People see a detailed hand-cut/ hand-sewn/ hand created piece of work and can't help but be awed, especially because most everything is digitized in this day and age. The analogue processes that create craft art are not only appreciated but envied by an entire generation of people that can only click or drag. Bottom line: people appreciate hand-crafted work and want to see more of it! 

Elaine Penwell
“Menagerie" - Detail
Hand cut paper
18" x 24"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

RR: The work selected for "Paper Cuts" is primo- Megan Stratman, Hari & Deepti, Ryan De La Hoz, Kevin Jay Stanton, Elaine Penwell, Sarah Dennis, Yulia Brodskaya, Charles Clary, Crowded Teeth and Dan Jaffe all delivered. Where did you initially find the inspiration to curate a paper themed show and group these artists together? Any personal standouts or certain pieces that have proved to be crowd favorites? What are some of the stories behind the pieces?

Hari & Deepti 
"Enchanted Land" 
Cut paper 
8" x 10" 
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

Hari & Deepti 
"Enchanted Land" 
(View of piece when illuminated by light box frame in a darkened room)
Cut paper 
8" x 10" 
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

JR: Well let me start by saying this is my first curatorial endeavor so I'll be blunt, I didn't exactly know how I wanted to do this show at the beginning. The grand plans in my head wanted to showcase over fifty artists from around the world and include massive (and very expensive I might add) installations and immersive paper environments. Ken the owner of Spoke Art graciously helped me edit down my list of artists and helped me figure out what would fit best for Spoke Art and our collector base. Having worked for Spoke Art for almost three years and seeing countless themed group shows, my favorite works were always the paper ones, I always felt like a little kid again, unwrapping the work, discovering the painstaking detail and kicking myself for not having more patience.
 
Charles Clary
"Hugg-a-Diddle Workup #8" 
Hand cut paper and acrylic on panel
12" x 12" x 5"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

A lot of the artists in PAPER CUTS we've exhibited before at Spoke Art and then of course I got to reach out to some of my favorites. One in particular was Charles Clary, I had found his work online several years ago and posted him on my side project blog, Exhibition-ism, he was so sweet and told me that he would be using my blog in his class syllabus! That really stuck with me and when I was thinking of new artists for PAPER CUTS his name just popped back up in my head! Don't you just love when things come around full circle? His psychedelic abstract island-y formations have definitely got some amazing reactions from our viewers, it's hard to believe he doesn't laser-cut his pieces! I don't want to play favorites but I could stare at his work forever. 

Charles Clary
"Patiflasmic Flamungle Gestation Movement #4" 
Hand cut paper and acrylic on panel
24" x 24" x 7"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

Charles Clary
"Patiflasmic Flamungle Gestation Movement #4" - Detail
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)


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A few of the artists exhibiting in Spoke Art Gallery's "Paper Cuts" show were kind enough to share the history behind their pieces and processes. Paper artist Kevin Jay Stanton:

RR: Kevin, what are the inspirations and stories behind your pieces? 

KJS: Well recently I worked on a piece for a different show that was about spirit animals, and a bit of that bled into these pieces. Plants and animals as symbols really speaks to me - I love the idea of taking on the attributes of them or making them into a sort of shrine. With these two pieces I took two favorite birds (Blue-Eared Kingfisher and Bumblebee Hummingbird) and added flowers I thought paired well (Lotus and Vanilla Orchid, respectively). I also added a crescent moon and sun to play off of each other.

RR: Please guide us through your process in creating these pieces:

KJS: My process varies a lot depending on the project, but it tends to revolve around hand-cut paper. For these two pieces I also added in some hand cut stencils (the gold corona and the silver stars), and also did some acrylic monoprints on the birds and flowers for added texture.

Kevin Jay Stanton 
"Bumblebee Hummingbird and Vanilla Orchid"
Cut paper, metallic spray paint and acrylic
8" x 10"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

Kevin Stanton 
"Blue Banded Kingfisher and Lotus"
Cut paper, metallic spray paint and acrylic
8" x 10"
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)
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Another heavy hitting paper artist in the show is Meghan Stratman:

RR: Meghan, what are the inspirations and stories behind your pieces? 

MS: "There and Back Again" was inspired by a video game, and "Journey" and "Laputa" was inspired by the anime "Castle in the Sky". Both of these pieces were originally created for an adventure-themed show at Hero Complex Gallery in LA. "The Cat" and "The Bat" are new pieces made specifically for the PAPER CUTS show, in which I played around a bit with ways to combine color and shapes into the collages.

RR: Please guide us through your process in creating these pieces:

MS: I use layered, cut paper to create texture and dimension in my collages, my work is illustration based and on the cartoony side.
Meghan Stratman
“There and Back Again”
12” x 12”
Paper Collage
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

Meghan Stratman
“Laputa”
12” x 12”
Paper Collage
**SOLD**
(Photo Courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art Gallery)

 

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RR: Jessica, as the curator, is there anything else you'd like to add?

JR: PAPER CUTS for me was a really fun way to showcase a group of artists that I've been following and loving for years, it just so happens they all work with paper. I am fascinated with the return to a more analoque way of art making, especially in this day and age. All the mistakes, flaws and cuts along the way are what make this kind of work memorable and in the end completely unique. It's important to continue to blur that line between craft and fine art and I can't thank Ken Harman and Spoke Art enough for giving me an opportunity to put all these great artists in one show!

"Paper Cuts" will be on view at Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco from May 3rd to May 24, 2014, and online at www.spoke-art.com

A big thank you to Curator Jessica Ross, Artists Kevin Jay Stanton and Meghan Stratman, Gallery Director Ken Harman, and the Spoke Art Gallery team for coverage of the exhibition!
-Rebecca Rose
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