We had the good fortune of connecting with Stas Orlovski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stas, how do you think about risk?
When I was young, my family fled the former Soviet Union to Tel Aviv then Paris before settling in Toronto. This was done with no money, while having to learn new languages and change careers multiple times. Growing up, I internalized the idea that taking risks was fundamental to not only achieving success, but also a matter of survival. As a visual artist, risk-taking is a fundamental component of both creating my work and getting it out into the world. In the studio, risk is characterized by making a “move” in my work even when I don’t fully understand why I am making it, or where it is going to lead, or if anyone will care to look at it. Over time, I have come to realize that my best work is often a product of pushing processes, materials, images and ideas to a point where they are flirting with failure – both formally and conceptually. For me, powerful work always hangs by a thread, threatening to collapse, or dissolve at any moment. I invest a significant amount of time and resources into research, development, materials, production, documentation, archiving, etc. The work gets done without any guarantee that these costs will be recouped. It is impossible to function as a professional artist without taking significant psychological, emotional, intellectual and financial risks.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I would describe myself as a painter who also happens to work with objects and moving-images. I completed my undergraduate art education in Canada at York University and the University of Toronto before moving to Los Angeles in 1994 to pursue an MFA at the University of Southern California. Since then I have been exhibiting my work at various galleries and museums throughout the US and abroad. Ten years ago I became interested in the moving-image. Old-school, hand-drawn, stop motion animation seemed like a perfect fit for my sensibility – it was slow, laborious and completely impractical. I didn’t know the first things about animation. Through experimentation and collaboration with some incredibly talented folks like Beau Leduc, Melissa Piekaar, Eddy Vajarakitipongse, Anna Wittenberg and Steve Roden. I managed to develop a successful working process. In 2012, I got my first to opportunity to realize a moving-image project. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art invited me to create a site-specific installation for “Drawing Surrealism”, a survey exhibition of Surrealist drawing. Entitled “Nocturne”, the LACMA installation combined wall drawing with projection-mapped animation. Since then, I have created a number of multi-media installations incorporating projected animation with wall drawing, sculpture and sound. My current work has become decidedly more autobiographical, referencing Russian Suprematism, European Surrealism and Soviet experimental animation. The imagery draws heavily on my own childhood by combining memories, dreams, incidents and events. Themes of migration, loss and dystopia are expressed with a sense of absurdity, humor and tenderness to reflect on the state of our contemporary culture and politics. My recent one-person exhibition at Traywick Contemporary was centered on a series of sculptural works that paired found objects with projected animation. Collected at various antique shows, flea markets and thrift shops, these objects reference motifs that I have been using in my work for many years – heads, torsos and feet. The figurative fragments are activated by animations that are projected onto and into the items transforming them into dream-objects. Projection in these works is both material and metaphorical, physical and psychological. Other recent exhibitions include “Running Man”, a site-specific installation at the Wende Museum in Culver City and “Chimera” at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art . “Running Man” transforms a former East German guardhouse from a symbol of surveillance and oppression into a magic lantern where disparate histories merge, intermingle and collide. The installation at the San Jose ICA, marked the 3rd venue for “Chimera”, which was originally exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in 2014 and later traveled to the 56th Venice Biennale as part of “We Must Risk Delight”, a collateral exhibition at the Magazzino del Sale No. 3.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Day 1 – Coffee at Menotti’s in Mar Vista. Grab a Mutsubi at Sunny Blue for a long walk from my studio through the Venice Canals to Abbott Kinney. More coffee at Intelligentsia. Detour to visit LA Louver Gallery. Late lunch at Gjusta. Walk along Main Street to the beach. Take a bike ride along the beach. Sunset walk through Palisades park on route to dinner and drinks at Cassia in Santa Monica.
Day 2 – Coffee at Sachi.LA in Mar Vista. Head to downtown LA and walk through a few landmark buildings (Bradbury). Lunch at the Grand Central Market. Visit MOCA and/or the Broad Museum. Take a walk through Little Tokyo, then head to Hauser & Wirth in the Arts District, end with dinner at Manuela or Bavel.
Day 3 – Coffee at Mavro in Mar Vista. Drive to the Getty Villa. Continue up the coast with stops at various beaches on route to Neptune’s Net for sunset seafood dinner. Stop for a nightcap at Nobu in Malibu on the way back.
Day 4 and 5 – Coffee at Alana’s in Mar Vista. Drive to Joshua Tree. Hike in the park. Dinner and overnight stay at 29 Palms Inn. Next day hike in the park and visit the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art. Drive back to LA.
Day 6 – Sleep in. Coffee at Bar Nine in Culver City. Visit Culver City art galleries. Break for tea at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Stop at Tacos 1986 for lunch. Continue to Hollywood area art galleries. Stop at Barnsdall Park to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Head back down to Koreatown for dinner at Parks BBQ. Late night drinks at Normandie Club.
Day 7 – Cappuccino at Balcony Coffee and Tea in West LA, followed by a walk through Japantown on Sawtelle Blvd with a stop for Ramen at Tsujita. Continue to the Getty Center. Sushi dinner at Sunji.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California for providing me with a full-tuition scholarship to pursue my MFA as an International Student. The following Non-Profit Arts Organizations have supported me through grants, awards, fellowships and residencies: Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Art Omi International Art Center Yaddo Corporation for the Arts United States Artists California Community Foundation City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Center for Cultural Innovation Joan Mitchell Foundation
Facebook: Orlovski Stas
01. Running Man, 2019, ADN Guardhouse, The Wende Museum, Culver City, CA. Projected, stop-motion animation. Duration: 14:24, 94.5 x 102.5 x 62 inches. Photography courtesy of Brian Moss. 02. Feet with Flags, 2018. Found object, wood, enamel and projected stop-motion animation. Duration: 14:48. 15 x 18 x 7 inches. Post production Eddy Vajarakitipongse and Anna Wittenberg. 03. Head with Running Man, 2018. Found object and projected stop-motion animation. Duration: 04:56. 10 x 7 x 6 inches. Post production Eddy Vajarakitipongse and Anna Wittenberg. 04. Chimera, Installation View, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. November 16, 2019 – March 22, 2020. Charcoal, ink, xerox transfer, collage and projected animation on wall. Sound by Steve Roden. Post-Production Beau Leduc. 05. Chimera, Installation View, We Must Risk Delight: 20 Artists from Los Angeles, curated by Elizabeta Betinski, La Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015, Magazzino del Sale No. 3, May 9 – Nov 22, 2015. Charcoal, ink, xerox transfer, collage and projected animation on wall. Sound by Steve Roden. Post-Production Beau Leduc. 06. Skazka, Young Projects, September 17, 2015 – Feb 15 , 2016. Projected animation on wood. Sound by Steve Roden. Post-Production Beau Leduc. Photography ©Don Milici. 07. Pastoral, Mixed Greens, NYC. October 16 – November 15 , 2014. Charcoal, ink, xerox transfer, collage and projected animation on wall. Post-Production Beau Leduc. Photography ©Etienne Frossard. 08. “Drawing Surrealism,” October 21, 2012–January 6, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA, Nocturne, Charcoal, ink, xerox transfer, collage and projected animations on wall. Animation assistant: Melissa Piekaar. Post-production: Beau Leduc.