Who is Peter Bardazzi?
I am a procession of creative episodes representing different quests, challenges, experiments, discoveries, images and visual expressions which center around art. I try making my paintings a dramatic reflection of this with the medium of metaphors, my mind and creativity. Sometimes this all takes on a bizarre or awkward appearance, a little madness, primitiveness, or beautiful fascination, but it justifies my fulltime working at creating good art. My artist’s life is a creative experiment and exploration with lots of serious hard work and an eye on the culture.
But just as my paintings have integrated complex relationships, my career’s creations have been culturally varied. As Professor of Art at New York University, I founded The Center for Advanced Digital Applications, in collaboration with George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar and Sony entertainment. We produced some of the very first student feature length digital animations and large scale visual effects for live action at a university. As a Professor of Art I also lectured and taught at Yale University and New York University emphasizing the arts relation to cultural change, history, and the value of meaning, even in the studio classes. I also lectured extensively on the cinema, focusing on its relationship to a changing society, and the work of the cinematographer: telling a story with color and light.
I have presented my ideas about the cinema, the popular culture and art on television and in news media including guest appearances on CBS-TV News, NBC Today, Fox In The Morning, Good Day NY, CNN-TV, and written about in The L Magazine, The Huffington Post and Art F City, The New York Times, The LA Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Art News, Arts, Art Form Business Week and USA Today.
So my art isn’t only a painting, collage and sculpting. My art can be anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. If it is good it will resonate with the viewer, not only with the creator. My way of understanding life, is to add something to it by way of art. But I always end up in the studio painting or making something because great art exists in the making of it.
When did you know that painting was your life calling?
I remember clearly that It happened in three distinct stages. First, you have to know that I was always drawing something on any piece of paper that I could get my hands on when I was a kid. This is important to remember because it never really stopped once it started back then, except that now the subjects and how I draw seems to always change radically. The second point or event was when my parents took me to the newly opened Guggenheim Museum. It was the thing to do, to see the crazy Frank Lloyd Wright building. It was my first visit to an art museum, my first encounter with “modern art”, and it was very large exhibition of the surrealist movement. The work that struck me the most was Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) by Salvador Dalí. I felt a certain kind of visual power with strange imagery that I didn’t understand, but was very much attracted to it and kept looking at. I wanted to “make” paintings and objects like that too, I must have said to myself. It must have had a strong affect on me because as soon as we got home, I asked my parents to buy me an oil paint set. The final experience was several years later when I took my first evening art course and the teacher assigned us to see two major exhibitions that were happening in New York City, the Kandinsky and Arshile Gorky retrospectives. I studied all the paintings closely and also read as much as I could about the artists lives and saw that they worked hard on visual challenges, struggled with their personal lives to present meaning in their work but in the end created haunting and beautiful paintings, that are still fresh today. Gorky’s The Limit and Kandinsky’s Blue Rider paintings never left me. It was then that I knew that I wanted to paint and make serious works with meaning.
Have you studied fine art?
Yes, and always. I received a master degree, MFA, in art from Yale University and an undergraduate degree form Pratt Institute in graphic art and painting. Yale University was great because you had the whole university to integrate with your study of art and painting. You were exposed to real artists and lectures from all over the world with big ideas and some very talented students. The key was that it encouraged change and experimentation while showing the importance of traditional painting. But I want to add that visiting Sanjūsangen-dō, 1000 Buddha Temple in Kyoto and really looking at that procession of images before you and trying to understand what’s going on or looking at The Holy Trinity, fresco by the Early Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio at Santa Maria Novella, in Florence can be like a getting a master’s degree also. I have also been learning about Asian art in depth, specifically Japanese art recently form my wife, Asayo. It has been very revealing and it’s become clear to me now that the western tradition in art is not an adequate explanation of cultural history and that so much art and art history is left out. You have to keep looking and thinking about what you see. The process of learning and gathering clues never really stops in your personal quest if you think about art seriously.
Who is your favorite painter?
I don’t have a favorite painter, but for sure there were artists that meant a lot to me or had an enormous effect on me during my career at different points. Some were guiding lights, some were sources of structure and color, some were intense painters with a visual presence unknown to me and some were enigmas that I wanted to learn from. They included Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Karel Appel, Picasso, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, Joan Miró, and Cy Twombly. But I also want to add that there were film-makers that influenced my visual perception and sense light in painting like Michelangelo Antonioni, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.
Would you describe your painting as abstract?
If abstract art uses a visual language which exists independently from visual references in the real world, or if it is based solely on color, emotion or action, then I am not an abstract artist. I am very much connected and integrated with ideas real and unreal including philosophical concepts. In my work I use found objects, imaginary form, and designed elements to express myself. This does not mean that my work is tied only to the tangible world, on the contrary, I am also very much connected with super charged imagery, extremely expressive pictorial forms, experimentation, history and the future.
It may appear that I am part of or influenced by Neo DADA, Neo-Expressionism and Neo Futurism. But when I went to graduate school at Yale University most of the student painters were minimalists, and the student sculptors were conceptualists that had their careers all plotted out. I saw the time as experimenting in a candy store of artistic ideas, so I tried to absorb as many influences as possible avoiding trends at all costs. I looked at Bosch, Breugal, De Chirico, the landing on the moon, rare books, DADA, the ancient Egyptians, and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. I am still like that today, watching for clues, making connections, open to visual fascination, new ideas that could be integrated into visual expression.
Have you had your own exhibit before?
Yes. I had several solo exhibitions including early solo shows at the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery NYC and group exhibitions at the famous Stable and Leo Castelli galleries. I also participated in major group shows at museums and public spaces including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Spain, the Basel Art Fair, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Holy Bos Bushwick, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, the Neuberger Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art Washington DC. I am also in the permeant collection of Museum of Modern Art, NY, Neuberger Museum of Art, JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, Smithsonian Museum of American Art Washington DC, Wesleyan University, Kutztown State College, Rockefeller University, and Weatherspoon Art Museum.
When do you know that a painting you are working on is done?
This question is artist specific because some artists are very relaxed about the “end or finish” and others are anxious or unsure about whether its finished or not. For me it’s a little difficult but always gets resolved. My painting process contains destruction, creation, building, connecting, mixing, thinking, action, etc. A finished painting for me might contain metaphors, unknown but believable signals, light, color, form, motion, and contradictions, so it’s difficult to plan an end. What actually happens with my work is that the painting actually stops on its own. I just have to be aware of it with confidence. That’s it, then it’s over.
How long can you work on one painting?
Art is something you must concentrate on fully and have to be aware of its goals at all times especially during the creative and building process. During that concentration you lose a normal sense of time and how long the project might take. It actually depends on a lot of the nature of the materials and scale and if there are any self-imposed deadlines. If the intellectual content of a work is complex and its expression is difficult then a work appearing simple in its execution can take a very long time to paint. Also for me when I work on anything, the “painted aspect” of the total work has to be just right, and that can be time consuming. But in retrospect when I look back I could say I could spend a few months to a few hours on a work.
What are the emotions that drive you to paint, is it happiness, sadness or simply a combination of both?
I keep emotion out of the process. Simply put, I don’t paint with emotions or excessive feelings, I paint with my brain. I never paint dreams; I paint ideas with my conscience intellect. That said it is also true that painting is sometimes a reflection of the artist or society or both and those states can be very emotional. So I approach painting as kind of a collaboration between the artist and a form of intellectual and imaginative inquiry, not any high ideal. I think it is fine if other artists want to paint in an absorbed emotional fashion, but today with huge amounts of information and visual overload constantly present, you really need critical thinking. You have to find an honest way of analyzing and evaluating your art with the goal of improving it. It’s important that the artist must exercise control over their creations and the way the work might be viewed as cultural artifacts. I think imaginative experimentation needs both thinking and skill (the hand) but not so much emotion.
What is painting to you?
It’s a place where I can speak in my own luminous language and act in the purest sense. Where I can launch a complex set of challenges with unique goals and strive for simplicity. It’s where I can participate in a subversive and informative process that sometimes produces beautiful things. I paint for myself as if I am being watched by the great masters and feel it is my inherited responsibility to deepen the mystery that they started a long time ago. It can be hard work also, with long hours, technical problems, difficult changes, but with joyful and encouraging achievements. Also painting comes with an enormous responsibly to make good art that has meaning, not actually knowing what the criteria is to fulfill that task. In the end this is a question that artists should not think about…. never think about making art, just make art.
Describe a day in the life of Peter Bardazzi.
I live each day open to surprises, strange encounters, and learning, trying keep my identity growing and intact, but sometimes finding myself in a fictionalized realty. The day always starts with coffee and my wife Asayo Mogi Bardazzi. We talk about everything necessary and humorously unnecessary, but always interesting. She is a writer and loaded with great stories, information and stimulating ideas. Some of those ideas can launch me into a painting or how to think about art from an Asian point of view. Then we organize the day as best we can and set off on an adventure. My studio time starts early afternoon, lunch, then work again into the night. Asayo is also a great chef with Japanese influences and I make pasta so we eat well, workout regularly and stay healthy. We Travel a lot trying to see things that are important to us, for work or discovering new clues to our personal mysteries and keeping vital human connections and discourse alive. I guess if there is any struggle, it’s avoiding any classical approach to art and consumerism. Doing what you want, the very best way possible like a surfer riding the high and low waves. It’s a day hopefully filled with exploration, fun, good food and very hard work at art.
Any exhibition in perspective?
We have something planned in Asia and we are thinking of an open studio to inaugurate the new location. When all the stars are aligned, we will definitely go public with the events.