Libby's Niche (
Monday, March 03, 2008

Interview with Seth Koen
Some words Seth and I had a chance to exchange about his work over email.

Bio: Seth Koen is originally from Maine. He received his BA from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Koen currently lives in Sacramento, CA and works as an assistant to the sculptor Ron Nagle in San Francisco. He has shown widely in the US... and has been the recipient of the Cadogan and Trefethen Fellowships, and the Jay Defeo Prize.

Can you talk about the shapes your work. What are their significance/translation for you?

I've said in past artist statements that the circles and balls act as place holders in the internal system of each piece. while I don't intend any literal reading for these "place holders", and want to leave it very open for people to bring their own meanings to the work, I always have my own associations and stories that go with each piece. the genesis of each piece tends to be very formal, with these association developing as the piece develops, often manifesting in the titles I give the work.

Your current show at the Gregory Lind Gallery has much different work than past exhibits. What caused the change? Do you see yourself entering into a new phase?

More than entering a new phase, I think I'm revisiting some threads in my work that I dropped a while back and never really explored. With the work in my last few shows at Lind and elsewhere, I feel like I've really pushed the language of the crocheted work, but I was feeling sort of stitched into a corner and wanted to find some new elements to work with. In grad school and even before, I was experimenting with carved wooden forms and doing a lot of simple drawings. The wooden work I'm currently showing is a return to both of these, sort of melding them into one formal gesture. I am looking at many of the same issues with this work as with earlier stuff: gravity and the physics of things, connections- both literal and figurative, and drawing issues such as perspective, space and the picture plane.

The photo of your piece, "3 inches above the floor," hanging from an unfinished ceiling, really brings out the color and freshness of its shape and being. Have you thought about showing your work in a space with similar rustic elements? Do you often think about altering the environments where you are exhibiting?

When I was invited to participate in that show at the LAB, I made an appointment to go in and scope out the space. I've always thought it is a pretty odd and cool exhibition space, for all the layers and mixed architectural idioms it has built up over time. I was really interested in making a piece that would engage the ceiling of the room, which is above the eye line that one normally pays attention to when looking at things on the walls there. I find that more than altering a space with my work, i am interested in making work that responds to a space and works with in the parameters that the space provides, highlighting what is distinct about a place or drawing attention to what is overlooked.

What other artists' are into right now? Who inspired you when you first began? What inspires you everyday?

This could be a long, long list. The artists I'm looking at now are many of the same I've been looking at for years: Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois, Martin Puryear, Winsor Mckay, Turner, Sargent, Eakins, Tony Cragg, Bruce Nauman, Gustin, Twombley, Tom Friedman, Brancusi, Rosso, Olmsted, lots of traditional arts such as shaker drawings, Native American basketry, Islamic and medieval illuminated texts and paintings, etc... and lots of natural things, succulent plants especially!

How was your work received in Germany? How did those exhibits come to be? In what other countries would you like to exhibit?

From what I've heard, the Germans seemed to like the work. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get over there to see first hand. I would really like to show some more over there. Honestly, I'd be curious to show all over the place to see what kind of reaction folks from different cultures would have to my work. I hope that due to the materials I work with, my work is pretty universal.