A source for interviews of established and emerging movers and shakers in the Northwest art scene as well as arts-focused articles and discussions.

Derek Franklin (Artist/Curator)

Stella at Knife River by Derek Franklin
Paint,Wood, Inkjet 96″x96″x18″

For over a year I have wanted to start doing artist interviews. There are so many fascinating NW artists that have interesting backgrounds, processes of working and ideas about the realities of being an artist in these times. My goal is to start reaching out to these artists collecting information on them (including photos of their work and the artists themselves) and providing this information as a source for people to discover new insights on up-and-coming artists as well as mid-career artists. Someday I plan on making a book, but for now…

My first interview is of Portland, OR artist Derek Franklin. He is a recent BFA graduate of PNCA who has exhibited and been involved in several curatorial projects around town. Currently he is represented by Pulliam Gallery.

Derek Franklin. Photo by Thomas Boyd

LN: What made you transition from a career as an industrial fabricator to an artist and what skills transferred over?

DF: Not that all shops are this way, but the couple in which I work never had very progressive ways of thinking, and for the most part were hard to work for. This was not the only reason. I had always wanted to attend college in some context, but neither of my parents graduated high school, or held the knowledge to allow me an excellent chance at pursuing a college education. It seemed ridiculous in the beginning to even consider art as an educational track to matriculate into. I studied a large amount of anthropology and history in community college while, taking a painting class every term. I did this simply because I enjoyed it, and I was mostly focused on the figure, which I believe the process of learning was much like my sheet-metal apprenticeship. When I decided to transfer to a BFA program I was not interested in any programs in Oregon, so I stayed at community college for two years studying painting and life drawing. I knew this was not the type of art I wanted to pursue, but I figured it was a good skill to learn and it made people think I had some talent, which I question and find to be a humorous notion. I wanted to be all in when it came to art, and if at any point I was not, I damn well be having a goodtime. This could relate to the people who surrounded me as an industrial fabricator and that Patrick Rock recently reminded me of. People everyday commit their entire lives to certain specialized things, they spend all their free time, money, and space on these hobbies. This can be drag racing, rock collecting, art collecting, model training building, all of which are aesthetic, and beautiful. Sometimes this person much like in art after many years of dedication, research, blood, sweat and tears leave their jobs to pursue these things professionally. This was inspiring to me, and inspires to keep looking at art. I finally went to PNCA and enjoyed my education in printmaking. Many skills have transferred from fabrication to art (with a small a) the first of which anyone who knows me well knows is community. Of course building helps too, but it doesn’t meaning anything if there are no ideas.

LN: Your work echos a lot of the esthetic and conceptual concerns of the modernists while maintaining contemporary relevance through humor and historical insight. What appeals to you about modern art?

DF: Modernist Art is interesting, because we are now in third generation appropriation of it, which is already strange enough. Then we are taught about modernist art through a tertiary experience of art school slide presentations, or library monographs. If we actually get to see a piece it is mediated by the museum or collector from its original context, or used as a conceptual crutch to open a conceptual basis for contemporary works. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is interesting, and opens the door for borrowing those aesthetics and even ideas to explain different culture phenomena that you have encountered.

LN: What are your current inspirations?

DF: I am really inspired by contemporary ceramics works by artists like Sterling Ruby, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Jeffery Mitchell, etc. I thing this will also bring a much needed bigger place for Peter Volkas in the story of art history. Reality TV, you tube, tumblr, my friend’s work that exists in a post punk culture realm. Paul Thek, and Robert Smithson should have a revival. Mark Mander’s recent show was outstanding. Urs Fischer, Wade Guyton Rikrit Tiravanija. Writing wise I am inspired by Zizek’s writings on psychoanalysis and cinema and Ranceire’s writing on the third citizen and spectators. Smithson and Halley I can read over and over.

LN: The primary platform for the arts seems to be shifting away from a traditional gallery centered format to a more open-ended realm. Attention is being directed to social practice interests and an “anyone can make art” attitude. In your view, what role do the arts play in society today?

DF: Art can and continues to function on many different poles. Social practice can be very good and very conceptually interesting, but I do not know if can reach a wider audience, because there needs to be a vast knowledge of theoretical discourse to understand the works. It needs the traditionally system regardless if it is willing to admit it for critical discourse, posterity, an not have a system to be adversarial towards. Generally Social Practice and Relational Aesthetics are based in Marxist economics specifically social interstices, a fear of the extinction of social interaction caused by the mediation of technology, and anti object, which relates back to society of the spectacle. These are viable concerns in working aesthetically and have a long history in art, which seems to be quickly forgotten. Currently, I see a large amount of ethical issues in these relational practices, which relates back to Thomas Ceville’s arguments in primitivism, Hegel’s modernity, and neo-colonialism. Today art is contemporary because we say it is, and this is to the artists’ advantage. If we can prove it is no matter what it is. As for anyone can make art, I buy it and find myself increasingly mesmerized by the everyday. For example in Portland 82nd AVE, dive bars, and the Internet blow my mind frequently.

LN: If you could pick the perfect venue for your art what would it be?

DF: I am not picky, and enjoy being involved in any exhibition from gallery to garage. I do feel most spaces in Portland are rather small, and I would like some room to spread out sometimes, but that may be my responsibility to facilitate.

LN: What projects do you have going on right now and what is planned for the coming year?

DF: Graduate School fall 2010, two curatorial projects in the works, one group exhibition in Chicago, a couple of small artist books, and that is it. I am currently working on two new bodies of work, which I hope to have finished in early summer.

One Comment on “Derek Franklin (Artist/Curator)”

  1. lorna says:

    Update: Current exhibit curated by Derek Franklin…

    The Quadratic Logogram of Almost Everything: The Democracy of the Contemporary Art Object
    Included artists: David Corbett, Alex Felton, Kristan Kennedy, Sterling Lawrence

    February 4 – March 20, 2010
    Opening Reception February 4th, 6pm-9pm

    625 NW Everett St #111
    Portland, OR 97209
    Tue-Fri 1pm-4pm Sat 11am-4pm