Artist, Erik Sommer, recently invited us to his studio in Harlem to check out his new work. If you aren’t familiar with his work, you will be pleasantly suprised by the forthcoming photos. He is an amazing man inspired by the juxtaposition of urban landscape’s imperfections and unconventional beauty. We would like to thank him for reaching out to us and allowing us into his world to see first hand how truly captivating his work is.
Why did you choose cement as your medium?
Without realizing it I have always been attracted to the gritty, urban
feel of texture. In my earliest work I used to mix gravel in with my
gesso to try and create a faux stucco feel. I like the random
chanceness of weathered surface- how the rain or sun or time has
seemingly arbitrarily damaged/ altered a sidewalk/ the side of a
building/ a crumbling wall. Over time I have progressed from mixing
gravel in the gesso to using real cement. I combine industrial
materials (no real paint except for the colored parts) with cement and
allow it and encourage it to dry/ flake/ peel/ warp. I like the
chanceness of it, but I do allow myself some sort of control as far as
the compositional elements are concerned. I scrape off and go back in
and add on, layers upon layers upon layers. The final layer is often
the removal of a layer. I like the surprises that occur underneath
when layers are removed.
Living in New York City is a big influence. Urban paradise.
How long does a painting usually take?
I work on several at a time, all in various states of completion. On
average I can finish 7-9 in 3-5 months. I can do more in a lesser
amount of time, but I do like to allow myself time to go back in if a
piece is not working. Right now I have a show in April for which I am
working on 11-13 pieces. By the time of the show I will have worked on
them for 4-5 months.
Name 3 artists (past and present) that you’re influenced by.
This is tough.
Rudolf Stingel- The godfather of ‘What is Painting?’
Mark Bradford- I like his use of salvaged torn billboards into huge
colorful collage paintings.
Ryan Sullivan- I first heard about his work last year and am excited
about what he is up to. He paints by relying on chance/ gravity and
chemical reactions. Very cool.
My daily routine might be a bit different from other artists’ as I
spend my mornings and afternoons as a librarian. During the week I
usually get to the studio by 5:30pm and work until 10:00pm. My work is
such that each layer takes 30-50 minutes, so I can layer several
pieces per night. The nights when I work with cement take longer, but
other nights might be spent removing layers or adding softer/ acrylic
layers, which might not take as long. I get to the studio 4 nights a
week during the week.
Saturdays and Sundays I try to work from 10:00am-6:00pm or so. These are
stretches of time when I can work on a greater number of canvases, do
more of the dirty cement work, take the work outside to peel off some
of the layers, clean the removal of layers, basically really make a
mess and see what happens.
In all I try to get to the studio 5-6 days a week.
What gallery represents you?
Currently I am represented by Rooster Gallery in New York City and
AdamWaymouthArt in London.
I met Alex and André from Rooster because they saw my work during an
open studio tour a few years ago and when they opened their space on
Orchard Street invited me to join their roster. It is a super cool
gallery, and I will have my second solo show there at the end of April
I met Adam Waymouth by sending him an unsolicited artist submission
email. He was one of the founders of 20 Hoxton Square in London and is
now acting as an independent curator (much like Vito Schnabel). In
2010- 2011 Adam invited me to participate in a few group shows that he
curated, and I worked with him for my first UK solo show in London
that just closed in December 2012. It went very well and we have a few
more things planned for 2013.
NEWTHINGS (Ricardo Reyes & Edwin Bolta)
Illustration & Art Direction
Ian C. Sautner