Artnet recently included Andrew Brischler (MFA 2012 Fine Arts) in its article “5 Key Trends We’re Seeing at Art Basel in Miami Beach This Year” for his bold and captivating “word art.” With Brischler in the spotlight during Miami Art Week, SVA Close Up thought it would a perfect time to revisit the following feature story on the alumnus, which originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the Visual Arts Journal.
Something is “off.” You immediately notice the slight imperfections in a sea of solid colors. Confronted by the bold and bright abstract paintings of Andrew Brischler (MFA 2012 Fine Arts), you get a sense that you are looking beyond the surface. “I want to make work that people can understand on several levels,” he says. “There’s an initial beauty that you see in it, and when you get closer, either physically closer or seeing a lot of the work together, you start to understand there’s something insidious, strange, flawed and wrong going on under the surface.” His work is intentionally battered and awry; you can see his hand in each painting, disrupting the solid color fields, patterns and typefaces.
Brischler acknowledges there are many ways to make cleaner images than he does, but says the flaws he adds are an indication of human failure. He also leaves areas of certain paintings unfinished, which allows the underlying gesso or the rawness of the surface to show. “The paintings are really orchestrated,” he says, “and I sort of have an idea when I start of where it’s going to disintegrate and fall apart. But while everything is preplanned, I don’t really know what the piece will look like. Things happen organically. It’s the push and pull of making a mark and then making another mark.”
In his latest works, Brischler explores his influences, which can be anything from lettering from a horror movie poster to the logos for Eternity by Calvin Klein to vintage gay pornography or 1970s disco album covers. “I’m listening to what I aesthetically respond to,” he says. “The finished paintings are examinations of our cultural climate as well as documents of my own uneasiness—images that conflate definitions of success and failure, chance and contrivance, aloofness and emotional unraveling.” He wants his work to be about who he is at the time that the work is created.
He also wants to trigger memories or strong sensations in his audience, whether that means viewers recognizing the source of a typeface—the “A” in his Tantrum (Clockwork), 2014, for example, comes from the book cover and movie poster of A Clockwork Orange—or getting vertigo from looking at one of his spiral paintings. “More than anything, I am interested in the need for people to want to ground themselves somewhere,” he says. “It’s a balancing act between giving people enough and not giving them too much. I just like that people need to recognize their own history in the work.”
Over the past year or so, Brischler has been using colored pencil almost exclusively. As a result, some of his larger images take over a month to complete. This labor-intensiveness means the artist, by necessity, is heavily invested in every inch of each panel. “There’s a futility to making a ‘painting’ with 80 or so of the same colored pencil,” he says. “I could easily make a similar-looking image with tape and acrylic paint, but I’m quite attached to the strange, frenetic, flawed surface I get with colored pencil.” The pencil also gives the works—thanks to the sheer amount of medium covering the surface—a strange waxy sheen.
Brischler’s abstractions are bright, colorful and above all very human, evoking a sense of style and deep connection to pop culture. The works pulsate with energy and verve, draw the viewer in and allow an escape through their imperfections—the same imperfections that make them, in a sense, perfect.
Top image: Andrew Brischler, Dreams, 2015, colored pencil, acrylic, graphite, and oil stick on panel, 84 x 72 inches.