Alex Paik is a Brooklyn based artist working primarily with folded and cut paper, but he is also a classically trained musician who values the art of color as more than just a means to an end, but rather as the essence of his overall work. Paik describes his works as performance pieces rather than fixed and unchanging entities. As the director of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, a community of art galleries run by artists in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles, he is also looking forward to the curatorship of the upcoming Satellite Art Fair in Miami.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey as an artist?
I was born and spent my childhood in Southern California and my teenage years just outside of Philadelphia, PA. My first introduction to thinking seriously about any type of art was through classical music, playing violin in various community and school orchestras. I didn’t take many art classes in high school and actually applied to undergrad as a computer science major. It wasn’t until my senior year that I decided to pursue the visual arts, focusing on animation, but once I got to college I got sucked into the old school art classes and, well, here I am.
Is there still space in your life for music and art to exist independently of each other or are they more or less inextricably bound?
They are more or less one and the same at this point. I don’t play violin anymore but I still tinker around on the guitar every once in a while and still listen to a lot of music while I work in my studio. More importantly, since classical music was my first introduction to thinking seriously about any art form, the language and qualities of music almost always inform my opinions and ideas about visual art.
How would you describe your specific style? How did you come to discover working with this particular medium: cut paper?
After moving away from painting after grad school, I was working on small-scale assemblages using different materials. During that time, I made a few pieces that were made out of cut and folded paper and I became attracted to those pieces more and more. I love how paper—simply by the nature of the material—softens the hard geometry in my work just from the simple fact that the paper warps slightly when I paint on it. I also love the intimacy of working with paper. You can see very quickly that each shape is handmade.
How do your installations work? Do you know going into a gallery how your pieces will be displayed or does it change depending on the gallery?
The installations change each time depending on the size of the wall as well as what I am thinking about at that particular moment. Maybe I’ll notice a passage in a previous installation that I want to explore further this time, or maybe there is a way of stacking or layering that I’ve been thinking about that I want to try out. I like to think of the installations as being different performances of the same piece.
How would you describe your relationship with color?
I think color is the closest one can get visually to music in that it can be organized in a mathematical fashion, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier vs. Newton’s Color Wheel, for instance; while at the same time being equally intuitive and subjective. The experience of color—like music—can be quite physical, even though it is immaterial and dependent on other factors like a surface to reflect off of or what color is next to it. I view color as an essential medium in my practice rather than as a decorative element.
Would you say there is an inherent message to your work?
I think the work is ultimately optimistic and hopeful. Each performance of an installation has the idea of change and movement present in the work, since that particular manifestation is temporary and will be different the next time I show it.
How did Tiger Strikes Asteroid come about?
A few friends and I started Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia in 2009, mainly as a way to make a place for us at the table. After moving to New York, a group of us started the [New York] branch in 2012. LA followed in 2014. The main impetus at the beginning was to show work that we felt was underrepresented in Philadelphia and to bring other artists in from other cities to expand our community. As we’ve grown our mission has changed somewhat so that we can take on larger and more ambitious projects. The core idea of building and expanding networks is still there, but we have become an organization that focuses mostly on promoting artist-initiated exhibitions and projects. Basically we believe that when artists work together, great things can happen and we do our best to be a platform for those things to happen! I think “Artist-Run” last year was a great physical manifestation of our mission.
How do you choose which artists to feature?
Each of our exhibitions is curated by one of our members and they have complete control over their slot. We do this so that everyone in our group can explore their own personal curatorial visions as deeply as possible. I think that since we are all artists first, we tend to curate visually, but I’ve noticed that as we’ve all grown as a venue and there’s been a shift to curating poetically and conceptually as well. Personally, I start with two or three artists that I think could work well together and then will keep an eye out for other artists that fit into that show over the next couple of months. I have a little note on my computer with half-started exhibition ideas that I am constantly updating and revising.
What and who inspires you to create?
The “what if’s” keep driving me to try new things. Granted, there are only a few elements in my work but it feels like there are endless possibilities that I want to explore. What if I change this one little variable, what happens then? Another huge inspiration is my artist friends and peers. Being a part of a community that supports one another plays a huge role in keeping me going in my studio, which can be a very isolating environment!
A couple of rooms from last year’s Satellite show
Can you talk a little about the Satellite show in Miami?
Sure! The Satellite Show is an alternative art fair that focuses on presenting concept-based exhibitions. We are thinking of it as forty-five distinct installations and are discouraging applicants from a typical “over-hung” art fair booth. We believe that this approach will put the art and the artists first and will continue the amazing energy of last year’s edition of Satellite. With our prime location this year I think that it will draw even more art collectors and institutions to the fair. The deadline to apply is August 15th for the 2016 Satellite Show. You can submit your application here.
What role do you play in the fair? What are you looking forward to most?
I am the curator, which basically means that I decide which artists’ proposals get in. I’ll also be working with Brian, the director of the fair, on the layout. I’m really looking forward to seeing the physical manifestations of all these proposals! There are some really great and wacky proposals in our fair that will really transform the rooms. I’m also excited to experience the same creative energy that was present at last year’s Satellite Show.
What galleries have you shown in?
I’m represented by Gallery Joe in Philadelphia, a gallery that focuses on works on paper. I’ve also shown work at Lesley Heller Workspace, Schema Projects, Drawing Rooms, Storefront Ten Eyck, Space Pittsburgh, Millsaps College, Nancy Margolis Gallery, and Parallel Art Space. I’ve also shown work in several art fairs, including Art on Paper, Drawing Now: Paris, Amsterdam Drawing, Pulse: New York and Miami, art MRKT San Francisco, and Texas Contemporary.
Aside from the Satellite Fair, what else do you have coming up?
I’m curating a show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid New York in September called “Lost Cause.” It’s a group exhibition of artists that set up impossible parameters for themselves in their artwork.
To learn more about Alex Paik, his current and future projects and Tiger Strikes Asteroid, see his website: http://www.alexpaik.com or
Satellite Art Show
Exhibits from December 1st – 4th, 2016