I stopped by Robert Attanasio’s studio in Long Island City to chat about art and to see his new work.
AF: Can you tell me about how you ended up in the art world?
RA: I think my entry into the art world began in elementary school, at around the age of 12. We had a painting class once a week for an hour or so. In the Bronx, where I was born, it was what some considered “art education” in public schools. There weren’t enough supplies and easels to go around and I’d wait, not too patiently, for my turn. I wore an over sized white shirt backwards and waited with a brush in hand. The bell would always ring before I had a chance to make something. I have no memory of ever painting in those classes but do recall being sad and pissed each time I went home empty-handed. Eventually, I began using my multi-colored pen on the sleeve of a classmate. It was always on a Friday, so-called assembly day, when it was mandatory to wear a white shirt and tie. I remember taking wild strokes with my pen on his starched white shirt. They were beautiful slashes of red, black, green and blue. I took delight in his shocked reaction even though I knew it wasn’t right. His mother finally came to school to complain because I did this to him every week and she had to scrub the drawing off each time. At that point, I became aware of the fact that I had an audience.
In general, as citizens and artists, we need to speak out in the face of so much bullshit. Some of us do this by making art or trouble. I like doing both, and prefer reaching my audience in the streets, while remaining conscious of my coexistence and dialogue in the more insular art world.
AF: Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
RA: My work is generated from the constant stimulation of a city environment, especially here in New York. Being receptive to the bombardment of the senses, in spite of the toll this can take, always triggers various ideas for work. Beautiful and ugly sights and sounds from the streets, music, news of the day, cracks in the sidewalk, sighs through walls, fragments from sentences of passersby, and the smell of burnt toast–it’s all useful.
AF: What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
RA: The door.
AF: What are you currently working on?
RA: A series of text-based works called Perfectly Useless.
AF: Any shows coming up?
RA: Every day there’s a show–stickers and my paint marker. The streets, the subway, the world.
I also do interventions, surreptitiously, in museums and galleries, functioning more like a critic. You can find Attanasio’s sticker work on the streets of NYC (altho’ it exists anonymously).
Some of the works depicted above are available @ Jim Kempner Fine Art gallery, Chelsea, NYC.
Interview and photos by JAMIE MARTINEZ