An Interview With Gabert Farrar

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We sat down with Gabert Farrar, whose exhibit “Drawings on Typing Paper” is currently on display at Flying Object through June 17, to talk a bit about his work.

Flying Object: When we put the final drawing up, we sort of laughed at how heterogenous the show was, sort of a combination of abstraction, figuration and furniture design. Then it occurred to me that lots of your output works this way. Tell me about your other stand-alone exhibitions, and where these drawings fit in your process.

Gabert Farrar: Each exhibit I’ve been in has mainly consisted of work that I’ve had at hand—work that was made out of concerns present at that time. Images in these shows were consistent only in that there was a thought or a consideration that generated groups of paintings. However, I was involved in a collaborative exhibit, which was an exception to this because the work was made specifically to fill the boundaries of that project. This approach felt like a simple and direct way of making paintings because the result had to be very clear. These drawings fall between these two approaches. On the one hand, they are generated without any thought whatsoever: each drawing is unique, encapsulating whatever impulse popped into my head at the time it was made. On the other hand, their formal regularity, visible when seen as a group, serves to unite them into, I feel, a coherent, clear whole. It’s nice to make drawings, because I don’t feel bogged down by anything.

FO: There are two drawings with color among 75; one of which is just the yellow patch, the other has brown, black, red and blue. Why did you use color in these two instances?  Why not elsewhere?

GF: I actually meant to add color to many of the other drawings, but never got around to it. I think when I made those drawings I had finally bought some watercolors and had them sitting out, so it was natural for me to paint a little. The other drawings were mainly made with a pencil, so it didn’t occur to me to add color until later. I guess if they were to have color then that should have been part of their making at the outset. But also I think it would have been a lot of fun to go back and color a bunch of them too.

FO: What is your process like these days? How did you produce these drawings, and in what time frame?

GF: I tend to draw a lot on small pieces of paper that generally get shoved into my pockets and destroyed. Many times, if I like one of those drawings I will make versions of them on 8 ½ x 11 paper before it gets too chewed up. Usually, though, by the time I do make a drawing, it’s about a group of shapes or something that I’ve been thinking about and comes out automatically. These drawings were produced over the last year along with many others.

FO: Which hand do you draw with?  Do you ever switch hands?

GF: I draw with my right hand and I rarely switch hands, though I hold pencils in varieties of ways.

FO: The last time we were talking about art, you had a bee in your bonnet about waste, garbage, refuse. Spill about that.

GF: I was interested at that time in how a system, be it governmental, economic, or biological, in order to function, must make use of some elements that exist within it, while simultaneously actively ejecting other elements.  These other elements are waste, and can be seen at all scales:  turds, litter, body fluids, criminals, geniuses, insane people, etc.  For instance, a society will impose its standards on those who live in the geographic boundaries of that society.  Certain members and certain elements within those boundaries will be allowed to continue what they are doing and will interact easily with each other.  Other members and other elements will be ejected.  They will be marginalized, and interaction with those valued members and their institutions will be difficult.  What then do they have access to?  They have access to each other, and turds, litter, body fluids, criminals, geniuses, insane people, etc.  In short, everything that makes life interesting.  It is this stuff that a lot of art is made out of.  I got a lot of these ideas from reading Bataille and horror film analyses by Robin Wood.  In the end, what I got out of thinking along these lines was the realization that art is made out of what is accessible.  It doesn’t come from ideas or intentions—it comes from what is available, whatever that may mean.  It comes from using whatever is at hand:  again, whatever that may mean.

It is important to note that it’s rare to have a society value one type of person completely while ejecting another type of person completely.  Usually, a society will value a part of one person while marginalizing another part of that same person.

FO: Who do you get inspired by?

GF: Cheesy as it sounds, I get inspired by anyone who trusts themselves enough to create their own world.  I see it all over the place.

FO: Will these drawings inform your paintings?

GF: I think some of these drawings will turn into paintings.  If not exactly, some new paintings will look like some of the drawings.

FO: What music corresponds to your work if any?

GF: I listen to and love music, but I’m not sure any music corresponds to my work right now.

FO: Can you tell me about your experience with furniture design, and where you think that’s going?

GF: I have some practical experience with furniture design. I’ve made furniture, cabinets, and built-in things, but for the most part the designs of those objects have been determined by budgets and spatial constraints, which are actually extremely interesting limitations to work with. It turns out I like drawing furniture because I like drawing shapes, and it’s fun to create relationships with shapes. I hope to make something on paper that’s interesting enough to make out of wood. Or, also, I hope to make things out of wood in the same spirit as making drawings.


Gabert Farrar has exhibited his work at such galleries as Artjail, moniquemeloche gallery, LZ Project Space, Paragraph Gallery, and the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art. He holds and MFA from Brooklyn College and lives in New York, where is works as a furniture designer.