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Sokolow_deartrusted 20100914013320-ds00600 20100914012444-ds00020jpg 20100914012617-ds00300 20100914012755-ds00400 20100914013021-ds000500jpg 20100914013727-ds009009 20100914013630-ds000808 20100914013916-ds0066666
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
20100914012227-deb_sokolow_persimage
Dear Trusted Associate, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, Dear Trusted Associate,
2008-2009, graphite, ink, acrylic, collage, glue, tape, multiple papers, pins
© Courtesy of the artist
You tell people you\'re working really hard on things these days (detail), Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
You tell people you're working really hard on things these days (detail),
2010, graphite, ink, acrylic on paper
© Courtesy the artist
People Don\'t Like to Read Art, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, People Don't Like to Read Art,
2009, graphite, ink, acrylic, collage on bristol board, 12 x 9 inches
© Courtesy the artist
The Dinner with the Famous Artist, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, The Dinner with the Famous Artist,
2009, graphite, ink, acrylic, collage on bristol board, 12 x 9 inches
© Courtesy the artist
CIA Failed Assassination Attempt on Castro #3 (The Pencil), Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
CIA Failed Assassination Attempt on Castro #3 (The Pencil),
2009, graphite, ink, acrylic, collage on bristol board, 11 x 8.5 inches
© Courtesy the artist
The Ways in Which Things Operate (installation view), Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
The Ways in Which Things Operate (installation view),
2009, graphite, charcoal, ink, acrylic on paper, 4 x 12 ft
© Courtesy the artist
You are one step closer to learning the truth, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
You are one step closer to learning the truth,
2008, graphite, ink, acrylic on wall, 5 x 4 ft
© Courtesy the artist
You are one step closer to learning the truth, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
You are one step closer to learning the truth,
2008, graphite, ink, acrylic on wall, 141 feet
© Courtesy the artist
You are one step closer to learning the truth (installation view), Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
You are one step closer to learning the truth (installation view),
2008, graphite, ink, acrylic on wall, 141 feet
© Courtesy the artist
Secrets and Lies and More Lies, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, Secrets and Lies and More Lies,
2007, graphite, ink, correction fluid on paper, pins, 8 x 50 ft
© Courtesy the artist
Secrets and Lies and More Lies, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, Secrets and Lies and More Lies,
2007, graphite, ink, correction fluid on paper, pins, 8 x 50 ft
© Courtesy the artist
Understanding Scarface, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, Understanding Scarface,
2006, graphite, ink, correction fluid on paper, pins, 6 x 15 ft
© Courtesy the artist
, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
Possible Meeting Room Set-up for New World Order, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
Possible Meeting Room Set-up for New World Order,
2011 , Graphite and acrylic on paper , 11 x 8 1/2 inches
© Courtesy of the artist & Abrons Arts Center
, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow
© Courtesy of the artist & Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
All Your Vulnerabilities Will be Assessed, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow,
All Your Vulnerabilities Will be Assessed,
2012-2013, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, ink, tape, adhesive and collage on paper, 18" x 325" (height variable to 44")
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
The Bodies in Mitchell\'s Cabin , Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, The Bodies in Mitchell's Cabin ,
2012-2013 , two inflatable mannequins, two black tablecloths, tape, 65" x 55" x 8"
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
The People Who Care About Culture, Deb SokolowDeb Sokolow, The People Who Care About Culture,
2012-2013 , graphite, charcoal, acrylic, ink, tape, adhesive and collage on paper, 30" x 22" x 1"
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
Deb Sokolow is known for her large and small-scale drawings and books in mixed media, which combine image and narrative. Sokolow received her MFA from Chicago Art Institute in 2004. Sokolow was born in Davis, CA; she lives and works in Chicago. Solo Exhibitions2010 Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL (upcoming)2009 Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL 2008 Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Deb Sokolow

Chicago, Sept. 2010 - I remember encountering a work by Deb Sokolow that read in her characteristically humorous and self-deprecating manner: "You've been told that people don't like to read art, maybe because it's really just supposed to be about images and fields of color and that sort of thing [. . .]"  I remember strongly disagreeing with her statement after reading it. She had proved it wrong.

Sokolow's work combines handwritten text, drawings and portraits with a variety of media, generally in large-scale installations.  Her artwork bears the mark of its creation and its creator. Her works ponder the nature of art itself or worry about a suspicious restauraunt that may be run by the CIA, the Chicago Mob or both.

Deb Sokolow will be exhibiting at Western Exhibitions in November 2010 and Lawrence University in February 2011. This summer visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, saw Sokolow's commissioned work You tell people you're working really hard on things these days hanging in their massive atrium space, a place of honor.

I met with Sokolow at her studio, which she depicted in her MCA commission. I couldn't discern any nefarious activity on my visit, as detailed in the work, but then again, if there was such activity going on an outsider wouldn't detect it, would they?

Deb Sokolow, Understanding Scarface, 2006, graphite and mixed media, 6x15 ft; Courtesy of the artist


Abraham Ritchie: Are you working really hard on things these days?

Deb Sokolow: No. [laughs] Yes, of course.  It seems like I’m having Attention-Deficient Disorder these days and I think that’s because I’m trying to move into a new sphere or new place with the work and transitions are always difficult. I actually started something new that I’m really excited about so things are getting a little easier in that respect.  I had sort of a block for a while—a maker’s block or a writer’s block or something.  I’m getting over it though, and it’s been a really good two months.

AR: So it’s been a productive summer?

DS: It’s been a good, thinking, summer, in getting to this new place in my practice.  It’s a place where I understand the new framework for what I’m doing and the way things fit into it.  It’s a lot more exciting for me, rather than making just one big piece that has a beginning and an end and when you’re done that’s it.  I didn’t really want to keep doing that anymore.  I wanted a new framework where I could work with it, where I can make smaller works that fit into it.  I’ll just tell you about it, ok?  Instead of just alluding it.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deb Sokolow, Whatever happened to the Pentagon (restaurant)?, 2007, graphite and mixed media, 5x4 ft; Courtesy of the artist


AR: Yeah!  I was going to ask anyways. . .

DS: I had this idea when I was washing dishes and it before I went on an artist’s residency in July.  It was probably the most productive moment of washing dishes and thinking for me, ever.

It’s this idea of writing chapters for a book that will never exist.  Not every chapter will be written, there might be too much pressure to write chapter one so I’ll just skip over it, and maybe I’ll skip over chapter two also because that’s also an important chapter in the beginning of a book.  So I’ll start at chapter three.

Now each chapter might be about a completely different idea, or place, or people or whatever.  They’re non-sequential chapters, but it’s understood that they all belong to the same book because they’re told in the same narrative voice, they’re on the same size of paper and there will be common references throughout, or maybe one chapter references another chapter.  Every time the chapters are shown it will be different chapters that are shown, maybe chapter three with twenty-two and fifty-five, but when you put them together there’s a common theme that will come out of the three of them.

Each chapter will have a group of supporting visuals that take different shape, some will be sculptural, maquette-like, book-like, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional coming off the wall.  The amount of visuals will change depending on the chapter and the type of visuals.  So there’s some flexibility here in the project.  As long as there’s some constants then I could keep writing chapters about whatever I want, like noodles or something. But as long as it’s in this particular narrative voice and links to other chapters and a main thread, then it works. In this case I’m looking at a particular conspiracy theory about how Denver International Airport is the headquarters for the New World Order.  So Denver International Airport is chapter nineteen, then noodles is twenty, maybe I never write chapter twenty-one and we just skip right to chapter twenty-three.

AR:  So what’s the plot of the new project?  Is it a project?  It sounds like a new way of working.

DS: It’s a new way of working, to just be making chapters.  It’s never intended for there to be an actual book, ever, where they all exist together.  But it’s a way to write chapters or episodes within a master narrative that they all fit into to.  I couldn’t really say what the plot is, because I just started, I can’t even tell you if it’s intended to be a novel or something else.  I don’t know yet.

AR: But, just to clarify, it’s not going to be an actual book, because you’ve made several books before.

DS: Right, there’s not going to be a book, but there might be books that relate to the project or a certain chapter.  For instance, all the visuals are labeled, like “exhibit 22” or “figure 11.” So it may reference those and somehow something is revealed and it connects to the chapter. The visuals for each chapter are hung or in the vicinity of that chapter’s text so it’s very apparent that they belong to a certain chapter rather than another.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deb Sokolow, You tell people you are working really hard on things these days, 2010, graphite and mixed media; Courtesy of the artist


AR: What’s it shaping up to be? I’m curious now, I can’t let the plot question go!  I want to learn more, what’s it roughly shaping up along the lines of?

DS: Well I’ve only started three chapters. These three are actually about the Denver International Airport conspiracy theory itself, which holds that it’s the headquarters for the New World Order. There are many things that support this theory and my narrator is this unreliable narrator who is writing these chapters, and doesn’t necessarily know what to believe.  Part of writing these chapters is to fly into Denver International Airport and take a look around so I can finish writing the chapters.  There are certain specific things that people say you should look at that prove that this isn’t just a conspiracy theory. Basically, I started on chapter three in the beginning of July.  Another thing I should tell you is that there’s no notebook, there’s no preliminary writing, it all starts here and ends here on this paper. So these items may not necessarily stay on here, this may have just been me seeing how it feels like on there.  It’s not the final form.

AR: Sure.

DS: I want it to be equal parts naïve and epic-like, but I also want it to feel like it’s a parody of the narrator.  Combining all those things is tough to do.  So I drafted things here on the page and erase them and I couldn’t erase the whole thing so I had to Wite-Out the whole thing.  But you can see that the whole writing process is on this sheet of paper, all the revisions, the mistakes, the thinking, this page becomes a visual record of that writing process. That’s a different way of working for me, it’s a lot more challenging way of doing things.  I’ve always used Wite-Out, I always made revisions, but I’d kept it in a laptop or the original text was in the laptop and in notebooks.  This is a project where those materials don’t exist anywhere but on the page.

There’s not going to be as much of a focus on representational imagery as there has been in the past.  I’m going towards this geometric, architectural kind of rendering with stark colors.  I keep thinking about this residency I was doing in upstate New York and I went to Dia:Beacon and I was looking at a lot of work there and I was looking at this Michael Heizer piece [North, East, South, West, 1967/2002] they have there.  It’s so stark.  In my mind I made a connection between this kind of imagery, Minimalism and Land Art, and conspiracy theories.  They seemed to join up very well.

AR: You’ve done something like that in other works, like the pieces about Richard Serra and Dan Graham, was that the beginning of this kind of thought?

DS: That was definitely a kind of beginning. The Dan Graham piece was from when he gave a lecture with slides and in one of the pictures there was a cat in one of his pavilions, which I thought was great, it gave some humanity to it or something.  It brought it back down to Earth and become less serious and self-important.

There’s a lot of people my age or younger who are very interested in the narrative form. That generation of Graham and Richard Serra kind of poo-poo this—the illustrative tendencies of others or myself.  There’s the making of ‘zines which is popular and embraces the combination of craft and art.  Of course not everyone is against illustration, or giving content to an image, but I had some clashes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I want something to broaden the narrowness of the High Art story and in my mind the exciting place to go is narrative and text.


ArtSlant would like to thank Deb Sokolow for her assistance in making this interview possible.

--Abraham Ritchie

FORMER RACKROOMERS

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