The Unbusiness Of Art
An Interview with Joe Roberts
Eben Benson: Exploring art as a form of self-expression without commercial intentions is a rare sight in the contemporary art world. Did you ever anticipate showcasing your artwork in galleries?
Joe Roberts: My art career took an unexpected turn. When I moved to San Francisco with minimal resources, I stumbled upon opportunities that helped shape my path. Tony Cox, a friend of mine, offered me his studio in New York, which eventually led to a show at Fuse Gallery where Leo Fitzpatrick first noticed my work. Leo took a risk by showing my art and later collaborated with Marlborough Contemporary.
Navigating the Gallery Scene
Eben Benson: What were your experiences showing with Leo Fitzpatrick and Marlborough Contemporary?
Joe Roberts: I’ve always been skeptical of the gallery scene and never felt fully satisfied with my exhibitions. Despite that, Leo took a chance on me, and I value my relationship with Marlborough. However, I am more focused on creating art for the joy of it rather than constantly striving for gallery shows.
An Artistic Journey
Eben Benson: Your journey as an artist seems akin to skateboarding, where professionalism can sometimes diminish the magic. What are your thoughts on this?
Joe Roberts: While I understand the need for professionalism in the art industry, I try to strike a balance. I occasionally withdraw from certain engagements and find it challenging to navigate aspects like pricing and presentation. These considerations are not my primary focus when it comes to creating art.
The Role of Instagram and Clothing
Eben Benson: How has social media, particularly Instagram, influenced your art career?
Joe Roberts: Instagram has been a platform for me to share my artwork, although I have mixed feelings about it. Initially, I started posting my art on Instagram to a small audience. Additionally, I have explored incorporating my art into clothing, which started during my time at Skate Mental.
Eben Benson: When did you begin painting as a medium?
Joe Roberts: My transition into painting occurred when I prepared for a show at Marlborough Contemporary. Although I had dabbled in painting before, I had never felt compelled to invest in canvas and paint. My focus had mainly been on collages and drawings.
Working with Constraints
Eben Benson: How did your collaboration with Leo Fitzpatrick influence your artistic process?
Joe Roberts: Leo’s input was invaluable in guiding my artwork. He encouraged me to explore specific ideas, such as creating square compositions for the gallery space. His suggestions challenged me to think differently and refine my artistic approach.
The Art Show Conundrum
Eben Benson: Art shows can be both important and perplexing. How do you navigate the significance of exhibiting your work and the pressure to participate in frequent shows?
Joe Roberts: I often ponder the importance of art shows and how frequently they should occur. This contemplation, combined with various external factors, has occasionally made me question their value. Despite this, I recognize the need to continuously create art, independent of exhibition schedules.
The Unbusiness Approach
Eben Benson: Your approach to art seems detached from the business side of the industry. Can you elaborate on your perspective?
Joe Roberts: I am not driven by the desire to operate within the art business realm. Instead, I prioritize making intentional choices and allow my artwork to speak for itself. Commercial considerations are secondary to the joy and freedom of creating. It is essential to me that I can maintain the space to make art purely for the sake of it.
The Universal Urge for Creation
Eben Benson: Do you believe that everyone possesses an inherent inclination to create art?
Joe Roberts: I firmly believe that a creative impulse resides within everyone, even if they may not consciously recognize it. As children, we often engage in drawing and art-making instinctively. Unfortunately, societal judgments and self-doubt can stifle this natural inclination. Nevertheless, I encourage individuals to pursue artistic endeavors, as it can be a deeply fulfilling experience.
Influences and Inspirations
Eben Benson: Who were some of your early influences in the art world?
Joe Roberts: Jack Kirby, the comic book artist, has always been a personal favorite. Additionally, my grandfather, who was an artist, played a significant role in inspiring me. I was also captivated by the original Ninja Turtles comics and the works of Vincent van Gogh.
The Impact of McKenna and Dystopian Literature
Eben Benson: When did you encounter the philosophies of Terence and Dennis McKenna and the concepts they explored?
Joe Roberts: I discovered the McKenna brothers’ ideas through their literature and lectures. Dennis McKenna’s book, “The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss,” resonated with me, particularly his experiences and insights gained from psychedelic substances. The dystopian novels “Brave New World” and “1984” also left a lasting impression on me during my formative years.
Exploring Consciousness and Recapturing Childhood
Eben Benson: Have you ever felt the need to reconnect with your childhood self and recapture that sense of wonder?
Joe Roberts: My longing to reconnect with my childhood self is a constant presence in my life. Despite the limitations that come with age, I continue to strive for that childlike perspective. While physical constraints may surface, I remain committed to creating art and cherishing the simple joy it brings.
In conclusion, Joe Roberts’ artistic journey embodies a refreshing departure from the conventional art business mindset. His focus on authenticity and the pure act of creation sets him apart from the pressures of the gallery scene. Roberts remains committed to engaging in art for the joy it brings, rather than succumbing to external demands. As a result, he encourages individuals to embrace their own creative impulses and express themselves freely.
1. Is Joe Roberts primarily focused on showcasing his artwork in galleries?
Joe Roberts prioritizes the act of creating art rather than actively seeking gallery exhibitions. While he acknowledges the importance of showcasing his work, his main focus lies in the joy of artistic expression.
2. How did social media, specifically Instagram, affect Joe Roberts’ art career?
Instagram has provided Joe Roberts with a platform to share his artwork, albeit with some mixed feelings. Although it offers exposure and connectivity, he maintains a nuanced perspective on its impact.
3. How does Joe Roberts navigate the balance between art and commercial aspects?
Joe Roberts emphasizes making smart choices and allowing the artwork to speak for itself instead of prioritizing commercial considerations. He avoids becoming entrenched in the business side of the art world and focuses on creating from a place of authenticity.
4. Has Joe Roberts always been inclined to create art?
Joe Roberts believes that everyone possesses an inherent inclination to create art, even if they may not fully realize it. Childhood experiences often involve artistic expression, and he encourages individuals to nurture this innate creative impulse.
5. How does Joe Roberts reconnect with his childhood self?
Joe Roberts acknowledges his yearning to reconnect with his childhood self on a daily basis. Despite the physical challenges of aging, he remains dedicated to maintaining that childlike wonder and engaging in art as a means of recapturing its essence.