Thursday, January 04, 2007

Studio Visit: Casey Roberts

[image: Blood, cyanotype and collage on paper]

This shall be the first in a new monthly series of studio visits with Indy based artists. I have always had a fascination with the comparison of artists, their work, and their studios. So here, I hope to introduce some talented local artists that I believe are worth keeping an eye on and while doing so share a bit of insight into their work and their studio practice. This month I decided to introduce people to artist Casey Roberts, a recent Creative Renewal Arts Fellow.

This studio visit was in no way an unusual thing for me, or even out of the way. In fact, I can be found there several times a week as my studio is just a few feet away. Casey's studio is currently in the basement of the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. For the sake of disclosure, I have been friends with Casey Roberts for several years now. I have seen how his work has evolved since I first saw some of his experimental prints in the Herron School of Art printmaking labs when I was an undergrad. Over the last few years Casey has been one of the few artists (local or otherwise) whose work I have personally collected and have hanging in my home.

Aside from his love of art, he has a love for music. He can often be found listening to any one of the vast number of records in his collection, either while he is working or sitting there deciding the next step in the process. With a vinyl collection of such diverse styles from free jazz, folk, some avant-garde stuff like the Red Krayola, and what have ya, you can obviously say it is not your typical music collection. Honestly, half the times he has named one of the albums for me, I had never heard of it but I am beginning to learn.

[image: Ghost Stories 1, cyanotype on paper]

Casey Roberts is most notably known for his cyanotypes on paper. This has caused some confusion for a number of people when they look at his work and wonder how it was made. His process and materials are not easily identifiable. Usually the first question people ask after seeing the gallery description or label is, "what is a cyanotype?" Well cyanotype is an old photographic process (think blue prints) that he has been using in a very non-traditional manner. He paints the cyanotype solution on to the paper, exposing, adding, deleting, building the works up much as you would a painting or drawing. Through his use of the photosensitive cyanotype solution, bleach, and other chemical mixtures, some unexpected things to take place that he then works with into his compositions. However you may want to classify his work, be that paintings, monotypes, drawings, or simply as works on paper; they are unique in their process.

Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms. -Milton Avery

[image, Motherload, cyanotype and watercolor on paper]

This quote by Milton Avery I feel is a good springboard into the understanding of Casey's art, yet it is not quite that simple. Casey's work, while appearing to be narrative, is always ambiguous about their meaning. His work is often embedded with personal symbols, a symbolism that adds to the content of the work. The viewer has to do some of the work to understand these works. And while a single work may have an implied narrative it is usually through the grouping of several works that the story starts to unfold for the viewer, only to realize you may never be sure of the meaning.

[image, Fun Fun, cyanotype on paper]

His subject matter, while usually depicting wilderness landscapes, often deals with the dichotomy between the relationships of man and nature, both literal and metaphorically. And though much of the work is dealing with some serious issues, there is usually a hint of humor and wit within them. But I think it is best that each viewer decide for themselves what the works are about.

[image, Ghosts, cyanotype on paper]

Where can you see Casey's work? Well, unless you make plans to visit his studio, you can see his work at a few locations over the next few months. Next week, January 12th, he will be part of a group show "le papier (part) deux" at Gescheidle gallery in Chicago. The show will also feature works by Clayton Colvin, Peregrine Honig, Chris Jahncke, Abigail Lazkoz, Kacy Maddux, A.A. Rucci, Erika Somogyi, Chris Uphues, and Patrick W. Welch. In and around Indy, February 2nd you can see a small solo showing titled, "Please and Thank You" at the Basile Gallery at the Herron School of Art and Design. And on April 6th we shall all see something a bit unexpected from Casey at Big Car Gallery where he will be part of a two person show (including local artist Trevor Renwick) titled, "visible/invisible".

12 Responses to “Studio Visit: Casey Roberts”

Shelly said...
January 4, 2007 at 6:23 PM

I love this idea of a monthly studio visit! Hopefully this will tear down a bit of the “fear factor” the general public seems to have about buying art and visiting studios here in Indy. What a great way to showcase an artist. A little peek into their world makes the art even more attractive for some reason...maybe people will not feel so intimidated and buy something!

Also, you guys do a wonderful job with this blog! I only wish we had a big enough art scene where you could do a 200 page magazine. These photographs are fantastic! Of course something as stunning as Casey’s work makes for a great feature and photo! Keep up the good work and so excited about your new monthly studio series!

carla said...
January 5, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Scott, great choice! I’m a fan of Casey’s work. I appreciate the level of engagement he achieves. (It’s so depressing when this is missing). His cyanotype process is sort of a bonus layer of intrigue. I believe it encourages the of-the-moment imagery-making which makes this all a rodeo, and not a riding show.a game of chance, not parlor, anyway.... Personal engagement in one’s work restores power to the artist, and negates oppressive influences.

Word for 2007: Engagement

Phrase for 2007: Engagement=Power

Formula: E=P

Anonymous said...
January 5, 2007 at 8:49 PM

What does that mean? "Personal engagement in one's work restores power to the artist"? All artists are personally engaged in their work, that doesn't mean they have any power outside of their own practice.

Scott said...
January 6, 2007 at 1:12 AM

I think that she is saying that when people (the viewer) engage the work that the power is then handed back to the artists. That when people take the time to thnk about the work, try and understand it, then this is best for the art and the artists.

Just my interpretation of what she was saying...

carla said...
January 6, 2007 at 11:10 AM

I've been trying to identify what makes some art work great. It's not the type of work it is. And it's not "because that's what I like". A traditional landscape can be merely good or, on rare occasion, defy comprehension. Same with contemporary art. I do believe there's some manner of transcendence happening. (Though I would like to call it something else).This is more important to me than where an artwork belongs on any socio-cultural map, and it seems ridiculous to dismiss the concept as being "old school". It's hard to define directly, and so I'm searching for the practices which encourage/allow it to happen.

When I consider one's level of engagement as a factor, I mean as an artist, making work. I think the approach one uses greatly affects how readily they can get beyond the first, superficial, stage of engagement: "I am an artist and I’m gonna make some art", "and these are my artistic intentions". Certain materials and methods of working, like Casey's use of a cyanotype process, can open up an entire world of experience, THAT DID NOT EXIST BEFORE! This world is Casey's world. He develops his own visual language, and the fun begins.

This type of engagement, this intense and continual personal involvement at a non-verbal level, results from a genuine interest in and reaction to a process. I believe this sort of personal engagement actually makes the work more universal, and sets the stage for something incomprehensible, yet meaningful, to happen.

Intuitive exploring within a process, via painting or whatever, may not be the only ‘worm hole to sublimity‘ (album title here, any takers?), but it is a valid and pertinent one, me thinks.

Carla Knopp

carla said...
January 6, 2007 at 11:24 AM

Oh yea,
and it restores power to the artist because it negates any bullying attempts by those who desire to herd them and direct them. Personal engagement creates independence which makes other influences less relevant.

Sorry to sound bitter, but the puppification of artists has become ridiculous.

Liriodendron said...
January 8, 2007 at 8:10 PM

Neat thoughts Carla....I like it!

Anonymous said...
January 9, 2007 at 10:01 AM

Great idea. Casey's work looks so always does. This new feature is a fine way to kick off the second year of OTC blog. I appreciated your including Casey's blankie and pillow in the portrait photo, because we all know that when the going gets rough, we all need a nap. I am so happy to learn about Casey's upcoming shows, because it is not likely that he would be shouting it out to those of us wandering around The Harrison Center. A thought:would it be possible to include a couple of quotes from the featured artist or ask a few questions and print a couple of short answers. It might be nice to "hear" a little of the artist's voice, while we look at the work.
On another note: I am recently back from Minneapolis, where I did get to see the Eva Hesse Drawing show at the Walker. Once again, I am struck by how strong the link is between her drawings and her assemblages and installations. Many of the drawings are small, intimate and quite moving. And she did so much work in such a short time. A reminder to myself: focus, focus, focus. Judith G. Levy

Anonymous said...
January 10, 2007 at 6:40 PM


Great feature and addition to OTC!


A magazine sounds great. Maybe start with a 56 page bi-annual with features of artists, exhibitions, and a general listing of galleries.

I think the magazine can include other disciplines like fashion, music, and design. But most importantly feature the arts community as a whole.

About 20 pieces from "25 Above Water," an exhibition I organized and participated in is feaured in Stereotype 02 magazine from New York City.

The Stereotype format (6.5" x 8.5") or similar can be helpful for an arts magazine in Indianapolis. They started with an initial print run of 1,000.

In 2006 the exhibition "25 Above Water" reached an audience of over 1.1 million with the help of magazines like Stereotype.

View Stereotype


Many thanks to everyone who stopped by the "25 Above Water" exhibition at Herron School of Art and Design this past September.

Keep up the great work!


Anonymous said...
January 12, 2007 at 8:12 AM

Ok, why does this stupid 25 above water comes up aaallll the time!?!? Let it go brother!

Anonymous said...
January 12, 2007 at 10:50 PM

Yes. I agree. 25 above water days are numbered and he should let it go. But I disagree in the exhibition being stupid. It was for a great cause. I have to say that it was well put together. Damn!!! Herron School of Art picking it up! When was the last time a local artist put together an exhibition of such magnitude. Hell! I was in Europe not to long ago and picked up a magazine from The Netherlands and there was 25 above water. Another friend artist saw it on a Tokyo magazine and email me about the curator being from my town. I checked it out earlier on and the artists on it are heavy hitters... SpotCo, Stereotype Design, Rick Valicenti, and others in this exhibition have done work for the likes of RENT the musical, Madonna, Maroon 5, Nike, Telepopmusik and other well known artists and projects. Sam himself has done some big shit... Conseco Fieldhouse, The Grand Prix, Chicago Museum of Science and Industry... From what I hear he is also well known in the graffiti scene in New York City and as legend goes he has had run-ins with a then unknown artist by the name of Keith Haring.

I would like for Sam to put the same efforts in building the arts here in Indy but I hear he is a very low key guy. A friend told me Sam was having lunch with a fellow artist that wanted him to get more involved in the Indy arts scene and since he was famous he should use it to shine the spotlight on Indy. This didn't sit well with Sam who replied something like; "I am not famous... fame is only a perception of who you think I am." Hell! I would've basked in the spotlight and praises. Instead he shot it down. Okay, I am going to come out and say it. Although Sam may not have wanted to shine the spotlight on Indy he did.

I hear Sam has a place somewhere in the east coast and that he is dating a beautiful and famous artist. Maybe that's why he doesn't want the spotlight.

Okay so which will be the next big exhibit or artist in Indy this year? I am a young and hungry artist and I will definetly grab the spotlight if given the chance!!!

Anonymous said...
January 13, 2007 at 1:06 AM

I attended Herron School of Art in the early 90s when Sam had just arrived from New York City where he grew up and graduated from art school. What Sam has is that he can do almost anything; photography, painting, illustration, silk screen, sculpture, film, music, design, installation art, and exhibitions. At times I would sit in class and watched him. I learned so much from him. He will use a scanner and a xerox machine as a camera and was always looking for ways to reinvent the use of technology. One time he kicked a press in the middle of the printing process just to see what the image would look like. He felt like computers/technology can't move at the speed of his thoughts. He is big on process something he carried over from 10 years of doing train and rooftop graffiti in NYC. His portfolio is deep with 20+ years worth of work.

Yep, the Keith Haring story is true. Him and his brother witness Keith paint the "CRACK" mural just a few blocks from his apartment building in Harlem. He then was surprised to see Keith's work being lectured in contemporary art history class at Herron. Imagine that; being where things are happening (NYC) to coming to Indiana where things are read about.

I agree that he is quite reserved. Never wanting the spotlight. Perhaps it is the result from some teachers at Herron using his work as an example for everyone to learn. He never felt comfortable being in that position. He was often criticized by other students for been so focused. Sam once told me; "I guess some people think I am here to make them look bad." I must say that Sam's personality has much to do with where he grew up. To most people here in the midwest he may come across as arrogant but in New York City he is the norm. Something he missed while at Herron. The sense of being invisible and allowing the work to speak.

Sam, if you are indeed in the east coast I am happy for you because I know that's where your heart is.

Thank you for the great times at Herron and for your words of wisdom.


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