5 for FIVE: Lucky DeBellevue
The recent exhibition at the Marjorie Barrick Museum, Five featured paintings, sculptures, videos, installations, and photographs from contemporary artists based in LA and New York. Materiality, attitude, and wit tie their work together, as well as their past participation in the ongoing UNLV Artist-in-Residence Program.
This summer, I asked Alisha Kerlin and D.K. Sole if they would join me for a walk through of the exhibition to talk about the show and create a list of questions for the five artists. Alisha Kerlin, Spring 2012 UNLV Artist-in-Residence, relocated to Las Vegas from New York and is currently serving as the Interim Director at the Museum. D.K. Sole joined the Barrick team in 2012. She leads educational tours and produces written material for the Museum. Many thanks to the artists, Kerlin and Sole for agreeing to participate in this current S + N series “5 for FIVE” and for sharing their unique insights into the work and its reception by the public. This fifth and final post shares our interview with artist Lucky DeBellevue.
Lucky DeBellevue was the university’s most recent resident artist, completing his Barrick Museum installation the day before he left Las Vegas to fly home to New York. It was his second professional visit to the city after a P3 Studio residency at the Cosmopolitanin 2015. “A fascination with repetition, whether of structure or motif, is at the heart of DeBellevue’s current practice,” wrote Dawn-Michelle Baude last April when she reviewed his P3 show for the Las Vegas Weekly. Like other critics she was struck by his dedication to unorthodox low-status materials such as pipe cleaners and stamped patterns. Innovative flexibility came to his aid during a residency on a campus with no art store nearby, and it can be announced that dorm room cork boards from the UNLV bookstore have made their debut in his repertoire.
You’ve told us that your 81-minute film, Sahara/March (2016) was “an accidental pocket video” you made during a walk while you were in Las Vegas for your residency. The screen throughout the film shows us almost nothing except darkness. Could you describe that walk from the point of view of the human being, yourself, now that we’ve seen it from the perspective of the camera? What was it about the video that prompted you to think of it as an artwork rather than a disposable mistake?
LD: If a mistake is interesting, then I like to use it. Declaring something an artwork because an artist says so is as old as Dada. Being open to chance moves through the Situationist, Fluxus among others, ideas that have been incorporated into the different ways of art making up to the present. This film was a record of an experience lived in real time with no editing. There are dramatic moments where there is a lot of light flashing as I walked, which makes it a bit aspirational and sublime, and it deals with the individual movement patterns of the body, which is an interest of mine. It has a lot of interesting sound, both syncopated and ambient, so I think there are many moments where things happen, just subtle ones within certain time spans in an overall minimalist context.
Would you have considered showing your wood sculptures and printed linen pieces as discrete objects, without the context of the patterned wall behind them? Could you talk about the relationship between these objects and that surface?
LD: Art is always presented in a context, whether it’s a sublime white cube or a garage. I like to make one aware of this, to play with and make my own stamp on the space so to speak, to intervene and collaborate with the architecture. These artworks may appear within the whole as an installation, but one where nothing is dependent on the facets of the installation to make sense outside of it, so the work stands on its own .
Why do the titles of your works refer to some of them as “studies” — Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4 (all 2016), etc?
LD: In this case, it was the first time I used cork as a medium, so it was a study or test, to see what happened when printing on it. Working with cork does have a few challenges, but I think I will be using it again.
You used the word “dumb” in a 2011 interview with Brandon Johnson of Zing magazine — “At first, I thought it [using chenille stems] was a kind of dumb joke. I was at a point when I wanted to clear my head and start from zero as far as my practice” — and then again, in a similar context, earlier this year during an interview with Dylan Kerr at Artspace: “I thought using the shells as material in artworks was kind of dumb and embarrassing—that’s usually a sign for me to go with it.“ Could you tell us more about the importance of “dumb and embarrassing” materials to your work?
LD: I guess dumb is my own word, it’s an easy catch-all one for me, and perhaps I should qualify or modify it. For me it means jumping in without overthinking as far as an approach to making art, and trusting that the reason will make itself known later. And if it never does, so what? All explorations and processes don’t always lead somewhere successful, but that’s part of it. But the ones that hold my interest I incorporate into my process. The ones that fall into the embarrassing category would be using chenille stems as a medium, which I used for many years, to the more recent pistachio shells. I think I work in a pretty traditional way for the most part, but the materials I use that aren’t traditional usually fall into the abject/readymade/I’ve-never-seen-that-in-an-art-world-context-before category.
Do you have any anecdotes from your time in Las Vegas that you'd like to share?
LD: There are so many examples I could speak about, and I keep thinking I will write about it one day. Seeing the other side of Las Vegas off the Strip and being at the university was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. Who knew that the Fine Art graduate students' studio building was a decommissioned Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant? As someone from New York City who has been meaning to renew my driver’s license for years, but hasn’t, I rode the bus a lot while there. Let’s just say that it could be an eye-opener and that I saw a few things you might not see in one of the posher rooms at Caesars Palace. And I don’t mean that in a necessarily bad way.
Lucky DeBellevue’s densely patterned installations level high and low art hierarchies. He has an ever expanding vocabulary of materials, including chenille stems, pistachio shells, and wood veneer. DeBellevue lives and works in NYC. UNLV Artist-in-Residence Spring 2016. His work is currently featured in Assignment, a solo exhibition currently at Kai Matsumiya gallery, New York, through Oct 30. Upcoming projects include: Haus zur Sul, a book published by Hacienda Books and a solo exhibition at Weiss Falk gallery, Basel Switzerland, spring of 2017.
For more information on the Marjorie Barrick Museum and the recently closed exhibition FIVE, click here.
Read the Deborah Aschheim, Ash Ferlito and Erin Cosgrove and David Gilbert interviews here. This Fall the Barrick will be publishing a catalogue of the exhibition with all five interviews, generously underwritten by Patrick Duffy, "with hopes that the next show at the Barrick encourages the next catalog underwriter."
For more information about the UNLV Visiting Artist Program click here.
Posted by Wendy Kveck. Special thanks to D.K. Sole!