Where are you from and where are you currently based?
I’m from New York City, and I am currently based in New York.
What is a typical day like for you?
I go out to read my paper and have breakfast - I’ve been doing that for 40 years. I go to the gym and, in the warmer weather, I’ve been heading to the parks to do scratchboard drawings. In the evening, I continue to work on my art until the early hours of the morning. I have the privilege right now to be able to devote my entire life to making art. I have held jobs working in the arts and held jobs that had nothing to do with art at all; now that I’m older and retired from all these other things, this is all I want to do.
What drew you to making art? Was it something you knew you would do from a young age?
I didn't start speaking until I was three years old. What I did do was draw. My mom, who loved drawing, placed paper and pencil in my hands as soon as I could use them. As I grew older we would go sketching together and she would introduce me to pastels, pen and ink, and watercolors.
Howard Gross, Helena and Friends (6), 2005, © Howard Gross. Image courtesy of the artist.
Can you describe a memory associated with art that could be considered a turning point, either that led you to pursue making art or that influenced your work?
Drawing was always where I got the most positive feedback. In Chicago, I started becoming a professional artist and was very comfortable with it. Ideas would come to me and I would act on them. When I read about artists with very lengthy explanations of what they’re trying to make - I’m very suspect. It’s an internal process and we’re externalizing it. Art is the way I communicate with the world.
Your work has spanned a variety of media - sculpture, photography, watercolor, paint and ink. Do you consistently find new inspiration in different types of media? Do you find yourself returning to certain media over and over?
I look at a blank piece of paper or a blank scratchboard and I start somewhere and every line I make leads me to the next line. It’s not like I know what I’m going to be doing from line to line. Even with my photographs I think I discover the image in the darkroom. The new white boxes [that I’ve been making] — originally I made the same form many years ago in Chicago but they were made out of hair. With the boxes, I’m still doing the same kind of imagery and decided to use a different medium. I started doing the small wall pieces in 2011 and that’s when I started working with molding material and I believe it’s made of paper mixed with other materials. It is very malleable and it lets you make these incredible little details, which I would never achieve with regular clay. When you glaze it, it really looks like porcelain. I’m always looking for new materials.
Top image: Howard Gross, Celebrating, 2015, © Howard Gross. Bottom image: Howard Gross, Diversity, 2015, © Howard Gross. Image right: Howard Gross, Landmine Soliloquy, 1985, © Howard Gross. Images courtesy of the artist.
Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
My mother was a gifted painter. She made these watercolor paintings all her life and one time I actually had someone visit my studio and ask about one of her paintings! Paul Klee, too - I remember seeing a piece in the Museum of Modern Art, a still life with fish and I’ve returned many times to see it. The beautiful detail of pen and ink and watercolor really is something I’ve used in my own work. I know that he hit a nerve with me.
What concepts or themes are you continually drawn to?
Well my photographs of cracks look like some of my drawings. Visually - there’s a certain imagery that I seem to be attracted to and it’s a very intricate and obsessive thing. And why - I don’t know. Going back as long as I remember I was always as detailed as I could be.
Left image: Howard Gross, Broken Path, 1985, © Howard Gross. Right image: Howard Gross, Emerging from Oblivion, 1985, © Howard Gross. Images courtesy of the artist.
What is the most difficult aspect of your process?
Making art is a challenge - you constantly have to solve problems. How an artist deals with the time when they’re not making art - that’s how you get in trouble!
Has there been a recent exhibition that you’ve seen that had a lasting impact?
Every now and then MoMA puts work up by artists that I know but that I’ve never seen before and you see another aspect of an artist that you thought you knew all about — that’s special.
What are you currently working on?
I have returned to drawing, painting and sculpture where I still focus my attention and began having exhibitions of that work again. My current work includes that pre-occupation though the materials for the sculptures has changed. I continue to make scratch-board drawings as well.
Discover more of Howard's works in our shop or come visit our gallery space on October 24th to check out his work in person. Howard's work will be featured in our Autumn Exhibition along with three other artists.