Beyond Gender is the art show pop and soli silent auction Kaltblut proudly supports at Factory Görlitzer on September 19, together with Your Mom’s Agency and Queens Against Borders, featuring Daniel Crook and Opashona Ghosh’s latest works. To learn more about the main guest from LA, visual and musical artist Daniel Crook, we asked him questions about his acclaimed painting series Precious Stones and how his work deconstructs toxic masculinity, one portrait at a time.
You started your series Precious Stones before #metoo went viral, would you say it is still relevant in the aftermath of this hash tag? Do you feel your art can help the models and the viewers heal or understand the root of gender-based violence? Daniel Crook: I believe this process is absolutely still relevant. One of the goals with this series is to help the models unpack the foundations of their programming in regard to their understanding of the social binary of “masculine” and “feminine”. I believe that this binary code has been rigged in many ways leading to the degradation and abuse of what is deemed as feminine. We see this in America when a boy is entering in to their teenage years and isn’t performing masculinity in a way that is deemed appropriate, they’re called a “fag”. Women not living up to the standards set by these same men are also subject to violence whether it is slander or worse, rape. I believe that this is endemic within the very binary structure, therefore, I believe this violence will not end until every being has had to disassemble it within themselves. I’m starting by investigating the structure that I was raised by in this society, I’m starting with masculinity.
What would you want the viewers to get out of seeing your pieces? DC: As for the viewers, I hope to bring their attention to the male body in a different way. The bodies are disassembled, a bit abstracted with heavy focus on the torso and genitalia. In the world of men, the torso and the genitals define their presentation; the face, hands, legs or feet kind of disappear when you observe them in passing. I hope to bring attention to these areas in a setting in which you cannot immediately sexualize or weaponize the models’ bodies.
When creating art with a message, how do you conciliate the social and aesthetic aspects? DC: I don’t think much about this when in the process. Tell us about your technique and why you chose it. DC: Coming from a poor family, I didn’t have access to formal training. I relied on mentors to guide me in learning how to move paint or focus on the line. My father was an artist but never touched paint unless it was being put on a muscle car. Upon meeting artists Melissa and Mercedes Baker, I began working with oil. Gouache and ink came in to the picture after I ran out of money and needed a more affordable medium. I fell in love with them and have been using them for this series ever since. And you work in different formats, how do you get inspired to choose the format? DC: When thinking of size and scale, I have been trying to move to larger and larger formats. I would love to be making work that cannot be avoided in a space. The pieces I have been working on are large enough to stand as a focus in a home. I have a few larger pieces framed in my studio and it’s wonderful to see people get hit by them for the first time. Something about that scale helps people to digest the enormity of what I’m doing a bit better, I believe.
Besides visual art, you also create and perform music, how do you conciliate both parts of your art? DC: Well, my life has dealt directly with heteronormativity and its effects since I was very young so, naturally, most of my work whether it is musical or performative deals with the feelings that arise from living in this world, looking through this scope. Even my love songs have a heavy focus on the systems and limitations that I’ve faced being a femme boy.
Are you also into fashion? DC: I am but that’s more for me than anyone else.
Can everything be art, and is your life art? DC: I loosely follow the idea that living an aesthetic life can improve your experience living. I won’t go down the rabbit hole of studies but I will say that sometimes getting dressed is the only thing that makes me want to get out of bed at this time and cleaning my house can be the only thing that allows me to rest. How do you envision your audio and visual arts in the next few years? DC: I have pretty grandiose plans both for my art and for my performances that I will be working toward leading up to the Los Angeles Queer Biennial in June 2020. Crook, my band slash performing arts group with Burak Yerebakan and Vince Gutierrez, have been given an entire night by the curators and we will be testing some pretty ambitious new ideas working alongside some forces of nature within the Los Angeles arts scene.