I probed Sam Falls about his recent MFA Thesis Show at our LIC Studios. The following is a Q & A we conducted via e-mail after Critique Class and a few images from Sam’s website.
AB: Your photography show speaks so radically of expressive painting techniques and a longing for romanticism. When did you start working that way? Why choose photography as a means of reinterpretation?
SF: Well, I agree that the techniques are expressive, and I’m interested in Romanticism, but I wouldn’t classify it as a longing. It’s something that’s always there. True, as movements both forms have already past, expressionism and romanticism, yet as modes or reinterpretation they are still quite available. Photography is what I know, it’s the most malleable tool at hand for me so I use it at will, maybe just even by default.
AB: What’s the last painting you sat with the longest? Why?
SF: Probably a Vija Celmins drawing, Clouds. She’s undervalued and similar to Richter. There were some Richters and Celmins in the last contemporary show at MoMA from the Rothschild collection, but the Richter’s weren’t too fantastic, just abstracts on paper, but Celmins is similar in photo-realism and I love thinking about the time indebted to those works.
AB: Critical reading and pop culture are so prevalent in the images you create. What readings were sitting by your bedside when you were putting this show together?
SF: Richter’s Daily Practice of Painting, Words Without Pictures, Dave Hickey’s The Invisible Dragon, David Berman’s Actual Air, Barthes’ Pleasure of the Text, and Krauss’ The Originality of the Avant-Garde – those are what I’m looking at on my desk right now.
AB: Can you tell me about The Red Shoes in Thanks Jack?
SF: Yeah, those were made from film stills in this book I have, two examples of color signification – it’s called Thanks Jack, after Jack Goldstein‘s video where a ballerina’s foot on point slowly levels flat on the floor after the bow of her shoe is released and the shoe comes off. It’s beautiful and looks somewhat similar. Jack Goldstein’s videos are a precedent I’ve followed and something I think people today owe a lot to, consciously or not. They are like Outerbridge in motion.
AB: Music. What haunts you?
SF: Haunts? Hm. I guess if we’re talking about haunting I think of death, so Elliott Smith. But also I guess In the Aeroplane Over the Sea makes me think of death (Anne Frank). And so does Bradford Cox (Atlas Sound, Deerhunter). Benjamin Smoke.
AB: You’ve had a number of shows this year including a solo show at Higher Pictures and another coming up at Capricious in the summer. Does your thesis show feel any different? How so? (in concept? development? presentation?)
SF: The thesis show is more cumulative, all my own doing.
AB: What’s it like to receive so much exposure and deal with Grad school at the same time?
SF: Well, I don’t think it’s been so much, feel like I could use more – I mean I’m broke. I worked part time the whole way through school – everything is exhausting and there’s never enough time to just make new work.
AB: You’ve had quite the prolific and productive experience at school. How will you continue with that momentum?
SF: Oh man, I don’t think making work will be the problem, just not letting it consume my life, both saving time to read and watch movies like I’ve had to throughout school. As well as maybe now see my friends.
AB: Favorite Tool?
AB: Questions you want to ask the world at large?
SF: Are you afraid to die?
AB: Layers. Layers. What does the build up and release mean to you?