Jeff’s studio, Brooklyn
The art writer Dave Hickey once said about abstract painting that “pattern is survival.” This instinct is prevalent in the practice of Jeff Elrod who I met up with at his studio in Brooklyn this summer.
BP So you just finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers?
BP Which is kind of ironic for a guy who spends so much time drawing on the computer.
Usually it’s an attempt to decorate bad architecture. So, in 1996, I get a part-time job at The Houston Chronicle proofing their front page. I would sit around their office in the middle of the night waiting for the editors to lock down photographs for the front page… it was an amazing job with tons of downtime. I didn’t know anything about computers. My friend, Mark Allen, from The Museum School got me the job. And he basically showed me the ropes, dropping the images into the page, etc… I asked him to show me how to draw something and that was my introduction to Illustrator. I just started drawing little architectural abstractions… the weird stuff I’d see driving around Houston.
BP Did you know it was a game-changer?
BP Which is why you think of them as analog paintings even if they have a tech assist from your computer?
BP Is it sort of a man versus machine dynamic?
BP But I do know that you respond negatively to the term primitive? You’re not trying to embrace the anachronistic, right?
BP And this here (what we’re looking at) is the first drawing you ever made on a computer?
BP Is that a Nate Lowman collage over there?
BP Is Marfa where you hooked up with Mark Flood?
BP Are there other artists to come out of the Museum School?
BP So what developed from your first stint in Marfa?
BP So Christopher Wool you met in New York then?
BP And did Wool introduce you to Lurhing Augustine where you recently had your first solo show?
BP To me the real turning point for you – when everything exploded – was your MoMA/PS1 show in 2013 “Nobody Sees Like Us” where you had that one room of blurry paintings or what you call echo paintings. JE Klaus offered me the show at PS1. And he was the person who decided that we should make the room with no corners, you know, where they all round out so it’s hard to concentrate spatially. I thought it worked really well with the paintings which are already hyper-retinal. BP Almost akin to a seamless backdrop at a photo shoot. It creates an environment like a Robert Irwin installation where your perspective is off-kilter, only you do it with painting instead of light.
BP I feel a spirit connection in your work to Wool’s, particularly how you both harness different modes of technology to make paintings by hand.
JE I wouldn’t argue that at all… I’ve always looked up to him as an artist. He works almost in the reverse of how I do though. He’ll make a painting, take a photo of it, then start messing with the image and do a silkscreen of that. I usually start on the computer.
BP Is there too much abstract art in the world right now?
BP In optometry there’s a term called the resting point of accommodation which is the place your eyes go if you don’t consciously focus them. I think art can hit us in primal ways we’re not always aware of.
BP Hence your interest in frictionless drawing. Your earlier paintings seemed to have more text in them.
BP What about the shaped canvases in your “Rabbit Ears” show?
BP Before we end, you have to tell me about your ESP paintings.