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AJ Fosik Interview

Written by Alex Lukas   
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 04:08
Alex Lukas interviews and visits AJ's Philly studio before his big show There's Aliens in Our Midst which opens Saturday June 13th at White Walls in San Francisco.
AJ and I have known each other for a long time - going on eight years or so - and I have a hard time writing introductions for old friends. I never know if I should write something glowing, tell an amusing anecdote or spew some artspeak and pretend I don't know the guy. Anyhow, I don't think I need to say much because AJ's work really speaks for itself. His fierce work ethic, which combined with his finely honed sense of craft, yields beautiful results; you know it when you see it. There is no confusing his work with anyone else's, and how often can you say that these days? Somehow it seemed appropriate to visit his studio in Philadelphia with the old 35mm camera in addition to the digital one. AJ has an opening Saturday the 13th of June for his show "There's Aliens in Our Midst" at White Walls.

Words and Photos by Alex Lukas

Okay, lets get the basics out there, can you tell us who you are, where you are from and a little about your background?

Ok, I am AJ Fosik. I'm originally from the post-industrial blight known as South East Michigan. I currently live in Phila, PA. Right now I primarily work with wood though I hesitate to use the term sculpture. I've been making three-dimensional wood constructions for about 5 years now and I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

You told Caleb Neelon and I, for an article we wrote in Swindle a few years back, that your work is about "how we relate to one another through a jumble of ideas that all constitute American culture." Does that still hold true? Do you feel that your work has gotten more or less iconic in the years since? You showed recently in Paris, and a while back in Brazil, how did this jumble of American ideas translate?

I don't know, I think there's probably less of a search for an American identity in my work although that's is sort of inescapable for me but I think the sort of questions I'm wrestling with now are more about the random, chaotic and arbitrary nature of existence. I've been using a lot less recognizable iconography as well and I think right now the way my imagery functions is much more along the lines of a totem or fetish although with a different aim. As far as showing overseas it's interesting that the more personal my work has become the more there seems to be a universal shared understanding.

It's that same interview for Swindle, you talked about the value of travel; of the freedom that exploration and a kind of nomadic lifestyle provides. We both ended up here in Philadelphia at around the same time, about a year and a half ago, and now you have a full wood shop and two dogs, does this mean your desire to travel been satiated at all, or do you still think another move is in store? Is there something new that scratches that itch the way traveling did for you a few years back?

I do endorse the idea of traveling and moving as much as possible, being attached to nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. On the other hand I think having a more permanent workspace has really improved my work. It's a definite trade off. I used to just have one saw and an assortment of hand tools that I would lug around with me. Also, I was also dong more paintings, so my set up was very primitive, nothing I couldn't put in the back of my truck. In the last couple of years my shop has really grown along with my work and it seems like every new tool I acquire opens up new possibilities to me so I really can't imagine downsizing at this point. I don't think I'm done moving either, but with the current manifestation of wood shop/ studio I don't think paying off friends with beer is a viable moving option anymore.

I know this question is a few years late, but can you tell us a little about your transition from two-dimensional work to three-dimensional work? The three-dimensional wood constructions you make now are still reminiscent of your older, two-dimensional work; can you talk about the relationship between the two? You still make some paintings, yes? When you do, how do your approach it differently after focusing on sculpture for a while?

Working 3d and 2d are sort of interchangeable for me right now. The basic way I construct a 2D image or 3D construction is really very similar and I think that's why there's is such a strong connection between the two. I mean essentially when I'm working on a 3D piece it's a lot of smaller drawings cut out of wood and then assembled together. I really like to play with that boundary between 2D and 3D, my pieces really exist in both places and that tension between the two is something I'm really interested in.

Your work seems very conspicuously "hand-made", and so much of it is done by hand, but you compliment what you do with your hands with computer technology. I'm interested in how you use that technology as a tool in your work. I know a lot of your very early pieces were started in the computer using a lot of clip art. Since, you have transitioned to making sculptures, and you still use the computer, but in a new way. Can you tell us a little about that process and the practical and aesthetic reasons for using a computer to compliment the work you do with your hands? What are the benefits and what are the complications?

Yeah, surprisingly as much as I dislike using computers now they really have had a formative influence on my work. In a lot of my early stuff I was using digital techniques and collaging and morphing pre existing imagery. It was a way for me to achieve results beyond what I could do by hand. The end result of this was that I always felt a certain distance or detachment from my own work and when I look back at it now I think I probably felt a bit of dishonesty. I really made a point of ditching the computer all together and focused on doing everything by hand and my current work partially grew out of that struggle or opposition to working digitally. Recently I have started using the computer again but my approach to using it now is almost a complete 180 from what it was. The computer in my shop now functions as little more than another power tool for me. It's really just another tool in the shop to manipulate the medium I work in instead of being the medium.

This, I guess, is a pretty standard question, but can you tell us what your daily work schedule is like? I know you work at home, but that hasn't always been your situation, right? Do you enjoy working that way, or is it more of a practical decision? (Personally, I have a really hard time working where I live, but I know some people really like it.)

Daily schedule is the same everyday- coffee, walk the dogs, make sawdust. My studio is in my loft space and this is the last time I'm doing that. I'm really somebody who needs that physical separation of workspace and living space. It really does take much more discipline to work from home. I have to make a conscious decision that OK I'm in the studio and then OK I'm done working, both can be equally challenging. Plus in the middle of winter I start to feel like I'm in Super Max lock down.

What should people look forward to at your White Walls show and, past that, what do you have lined up in the future?

I really feel like I'm just getting warmed up so in the future I'm not sure were it's going but it's going to better. As for the White Walls show I like this line from Dan Reading 'I recommend going to see the White Walls show because I bet that up close, these things look like they are going to devour you, digest your spirit, and regurgitate it in the form of a thousand brightly colored pieces.'

"There's Aliens in Our Midst"
AJ Fosik solo show
June 13- July 4, 2009 (Opening June 13, 7-11pm)

@White Walls
835 Larkin St. @Geary {moscomment}

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