On November 17, 2018, for the opening weekend of West by Midwest, groundbreaking conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg and contemporary artist Amanda Ross-Ho sat down for a conversation in the Edlis Neeson Theater moderated by Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow Charlotte Ickes. Ross-Ho and Ruppersberg’s collaborative artwork is featured in the exhibition and grounds a discussion exploring their individual practices as well as the trajectories of their lives and careers spanning from the Midwest to the West Coast.
Allen Ruppersberg and Amanda Ross-Ho Transcript
Charlotte Ickes: I am so, so thrilled to be sitting here with Allen Ruppersberg and Amanda ¬Ross-Ho. As Christy said, they both have works in the exhibition and a collaborative work that we’ll discuss at length that is in the last gallery of the show, so if you haven’t seen it please go upstairs after the talk and check it out. Allen Ruppersberg currently lives and works in New York and Los Angeles, and I had the deep pleasure of seeing his recent solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center. I caught it in July and it was a magnificent triumph and it’ll be traveling, if you missed it at the Walker. It’ll be opening at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2019, so I encourage you to go if you’re in Los Angeles.
Ruppersberg has shown in solo and group exhibitions across the world, too many to name, and he has––he’s represented in collections at the Berkeley Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and, proudly, in our institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and you can see his work upstairs.
I also have the pleasure to be joined by Amanda Ross-Ho who is a native Chicagoan and she currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions across the world including the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and, in 2014, she had an incredible project on our plaza, which we might get into later today, a public art project in front of the museum here. She’s also been in shows at the Henry Art Museum [Henry Art Gallery], The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Biennial and I’m pleased to say I can call her friend after many conversations [laughs] over the course of these months, so I’m just delighted to have both of them here and really thrilled and honored to be sitting next to both of them so thank you so much for making the trip from California.
Allen Ruppersberg: Sure.
Charlotte Ickes: And sorry the—
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yay.
Charlotte Ickes: Weather is so crummy.
Allen Ruppersberg: Thank you.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs] So I think we’ll start since the show is called West by Midwest and the idea was really conceived, the basic premise of the show was conceived by Michael Darling, my cocurator, who approached me to look at artists who have ties to the Midwest and then at some point in their lives went out to the West Coast, Northern or Southern California, and the way in which we started thinking about that migration was through a series of relationships between and among artists, alongside their work and their practice and then I could think of no two more perfect artists to invite today to discuss both the connections to the Midwest and the West Coast and the idea of artistic connection and collaboration than Amanda and Al, so maybe we’ll start since the show is called West by Midwest with your Midwestern connections and why each of you at some point in your careers, in your lives, moved to the Los Angeles area and maybe I’ll start with you.
Allen Ruppersberg: With me?
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: Yeah, this is old. It’s working I guess.
Charlotte Ickes: It is.
Allen Ruppersberg: I have to look down.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Allen Ruppersberg: Because the light is so bright.
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: So if I’m looking down it’s because I can’t see otherwise but so, yeah. I grew up in Cleveland and some people may have heard this story or read it because it’s been in interviews and things before, but I’ve kind of made up my mind when I was about 11 and the family went on a trip to LA so that I could go to Disneyland, not just me, but to take the family and I wanted to go to Disneyland to go to the Art Corner and because I wanted to be an animator or some kind of commercial artist, or something, and so Disney was the gold mine there so we went to Disneyland and I was about 11 and I think it was at that time that I decided, “Okay, that’s where I’m going as soon as I can get away from Cleveland.” And so I had to wait, of course, until I got out of high school and then I got accepted at Chouinard, but I would’ve gone out to LA anyway because at that time, you know, it’s like growing up in Cleveland and you’re looking at the sun and the surf and the beach and the girls and the music and everything else and so I would’ve gone anyway, but I had no interest in university, I just wanted to go to art school and so I got on the bus and went to LA and moved into a rooming house, which I don’t think they even have such things anymore.
Charlotte Ickes: Where in LA was that?
Allen Ruppersberg: It was right by Chouinard because Chouinard didn’t have any housing, or anything like that. It was just—it was, like, by McArthur Park if you know where that is and so you just had to find your own place to live and so we all eventually found apartments and whatever, but you were always right in that area so that’s where it was and then I started when I was 18 at Chouinard.
Charlotte Ickes: What were you studying there primarily?
Allen Ruppersberg: The way the school was set up was that you took one or two years—certainly one year where you had a variety of classes. I mean when I went there I thought, “Oh, I’m gonna be a commercial artist,” because I didn’t know anything else anyway, you know? It’s not that there was any art scene in LA because it was about as big as my hand and this is the early ’60s and…so I was gonna be a commercial artist, coming from Cleveland and wanting to be an animator or something like that. So you take all of these classes, these kind of introductory classes and in the second year you kind of—I don’t know you had to decide kind of what you wanted to do. And then, after the second year, you said, “Okay, I’m gonna be a commercial illustrator or a fine artist” or whatever and, in those days, it was either painting or sculpture and so I had to have a painting class and once I took that painting class—
Amanda Ross-Ho: It was all over, wasn’t it?
Allen Ruppersberg: It was all over—
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Allen Ruppersberg: For commercial art. That was the end of that. And so then you know you rethink everything and Chouinard was great that way because if you read about the history of LA, almost everybody went through there whether it was a few months, or a year, or whatever so it was a place that changed my life.
Charlotte Ickes: Can you—you mentioned this briefly but you said the art world or art scene in LA was about the size of your hand in the early ‘60s. Can you talk a bit about that? What it was like back then?
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, it was just, you know, once I changed and started to look into being an artist…it was just a very beginning of what now is Second City, or at least the only other city besides New York where there’s a real art world, but at the time it was so small that you knew everybody and you saw that there was two or three galleries that were serious and then there was the other ones, but there was no hierarchy, you know? It’s not like somebody’s like a big star and…and you look up to that because everybody was kind of just beginning, in a way, even though there was an established kind of generation just a few years—maybe half a dozen years before me, a little bit older, you know, Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode and—
Charlotte Ickes: Who all went to Chouinard.
Allen Ruppersberg: And they all went to Chouinard. Maybe Kienholz didn’t go to Chouinard, but so that was kind of established, but that was still so new and so small that you just knew everybody.
Charlotte Ickes: And of course a lot of the institutions, the museums that we know of in LA, didn’t even exist back then.
Allen Ruppersberg: No, the—
Charlotte Ickes: MOCA—
Allen Ruppersberg: The LA County Museum didn’t open until, I think it was, ’65 and then you didn’t have MOCA until the late ’70s…’79, I think, and you had the Pasadena Museum.
Charlotte Ickes: That’s right.
Allen Ruppersberg: And you had Walter Hopps running the Pasadena Museum. So you had important things, which were very influential on me, but that was it.
Charlotte Ickes: Right.
Allen Ruppersberg: But they were good enough.
Charlotte Ickes: So Amanda has deep connections to this city, still does, and you moved out to LA in the early aughts, early—mid-aughts?
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, 2004.
Charlotte Ickes: Right.
Charlotte Ickes: Maybe you can talk a bit about your life in Chicago. I mean you were raised here, schooled here, and then why you went out to the West Coast and the differences between the early ’60s and the mid-aughts? [Laughter]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, I don’t know if I can encapsulate that exactly. I will do my best, but, yeah. So my story is very different than Al’s I think, or obviously, yeah, I grew up here and—
Charlotte Ickes: Where in Chicago?
Amanda Ross-Ho: North side, so I grew up in the Edgewater and then artist parents so that’s a different kind of foundation than Al’s story and I went to the Art Institute, moved around departments in that kind of scene in the sense of moving between photography and the textile department, the fiber department, and sculpture and kind of—I don’t know—laid sort of an imprint for, like, an interdisciplinary type of practice and then…yeah, and then—
Charlotte Ickes: And studied with Ken Josephson.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yes, took classes with Ken Josephson who’s on view here.
Charlotte Ickes: As did your father, right?
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yes who I think— shout out to my dad—is somewhere in the audience who also studied with Ken Josephson so it’s his, like, legacy time.
Charlotte Ickes: Whose work is…who has a show up on the second floor.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yes, yes, yes, yes, and I think—I mean those of you who are living in Chicago and still working and making art here know that it’s one of a kind in the sense that it’s incredibly close-knit and it’s a very kind of tight, nurturing place, very—I don’t know, I think rooted in self-starting, has a long history, as you guys know—or hopefully do—of you know, alternative spaces and kind of self-made kind of energies, I guess. So I spent the time between my undergrad schooling and going out to grad school, you know, working very collaboratively with friends and showing at sort of countless spaces here that were mostly garages and basements and such, right? So, and that was a really good foundation because even though those were kind of alternative modes of presentation they were also incredibly critical and incredibly kind of engaged in terms of there being a very high kind of standard that was established outside of a market sensibility and more about being really just kind of for the love of the game in exchange with everybody else and kind of having intellectual camaraderie and healthy kind of competitive sort of energy in that regard. So and then I mean there’s a combination of things that made me actually leave. I mean one of the things—it was just the human impulse to leave the place you’re from and that’s just being honest. That’s like something that comes up in your life at a certain point and you have to leave, or at least I felt like I had to. And then also, I was sort of feeling the pressure to go to graduate school, or kind of push things to another place and quite frankly I think I felt as though I had kind of established so many patterns here that it was really time to sort of widen that scope and there felt like, it felt like I needed to have a bigger framework to work within, but my ending up on the West Coast was actually really random.
So unlike Al who sort of, like, set it as a goal very early and went towards that thing, I actually had no plan to end up on the West Coast at all and that was, it was kind of a fluke, actually. So, in the process of applying to graduate schools I kind of put together a whole group of possibilities that were both on the East and West Coast and really truly expected to end up on the East Coast because that felt as though that was going to be the natural path and many of the friends that I had had who had left the city had gone that way.
Charlotte Ickes: You were thinking New York or something?
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, yeah, as just being you know as an obvious—
Charlotte Ickes: An obvious choice.
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughter] Yeah and then that didn’t work out meaning, you know, in terms of school applications coming back, et cetera, I was just weighing things. I got an offer at USC that I had thrown in as, like, a random, grab bag school, “Let’s just see what happens with…” And they offered me a full ride and I went for it. So that was kind of a scary, kind of dice roll thing that had happened.
Charlotte Ickes: You had barely––you hadn’t been to LA much.
Amanda Ross-Ho: I had a cousin that lived there and I spent a little bit of time, but I really hadn’t spent much time, no.
Charlotte Ickes: Pretty unfamiliar.
Amanda Ross-Ho: And so you know I was familiar with sort of the broader brush kind of aspects of its history, Al being part of that, of course, but it wasn’t a place that I had a real connection to, so in the end that was actually the reason why I felt confident to go and at the end of processing that experience in the sense that I realize that this sort of…this destination had a lot of unknowns and question marks. It was probably gonna be a more productive experience than something that I had already, was already kind of written and I could kinda predict what might happen to me on the East Coast so….
Charlotte Ickes: And you had, I guess, when you graduated, if I’m recalling correctly, you had shared a big studio space in a old warehouse with some artists who are also in the show—
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: Who went to SAIC: Sterling Ruby and Aaron Curry.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, yeah so there had been sort of a little, kind of, a history of a pipeline actually from Chicago to LA and it should be mentioned, too, that there’s a huge Chicago population there now. I mean you’ve—
Charlotte Ickes: Huge, yeah.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Half of the people on your show are it, but also younger generations beyond where you sort of cut the show off in terms of generation. That has continued and continued. And so, if you’re at an event and look around, half of the people in the room have some Chicago connection, it’s actually really insane but, yeah, so…but I had a couple of friends, Sterling being one of them, who had just moved to go to—he had moved to go to ArtCenter, and actually was one of the people who encouraged me to come—
Charlotte Ickes: That’s right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Because he had sort of established a connection there and so we lived together for a little while and then eventually shared a studio with a bunch of other people. It should be mentioned there were, like, 11 people in this space––people that had just finished graduate programs so there were people from USC, which was my program and ArtCenter and a couple of other places. So yeah there was a heavy Chicago contingency in that space, so.
Charlotte Ickes: So that brings us to 2010, 2011, or so when you guys connect formally. You had known about each other’s work prior, of course, when the Orange County Museum of Art approached each of you and, correct me if I’m getting this story wrong, to work together for a show called the Two Schools of Cool, again, at the Orange County Museum of Art that brought artists based in LA from different generations together and we’re lucky enough to have, as I mentioned, the piece The Meaning of Plus and Minus up in the galleries in the last—in the last room of the show here that you two made together, so I’d love to first start thinking about LA at that moment, 2010, 2011, you talked a bit about that and the backdrop of Pacific Standard Time, which was a really important series of exhibitions that brought attention to homegrown Southern California art practices, so I’d love for you to talk about how you first got to know each other and how that process unfolded before we kind of dive into the intricacies of the piece itself.
Amanda Ross-Ho: You know I think it’s first good to kind of contextualize PST because that was kind of—
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah, please do.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Like a pretty—sorry to, Al, I didn’t mean to. You were ready—
Allen Ruppersberg: Oh, no, no.
Amanda Ross-Ho: To go. [Laughter]
Allen Ruppersberg: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughter] But that was kind of a—
Charlotte Ickes: Contextualize away.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Sea change moment, or you know it was an evolutionary moment for the city and I think it kind of—I don’t know, I sort of identify it as this kind of turning point, I guess, in a certain aspect of LA’s, like, self-consciousness and a sort of revisiting of its blueprints and history, et cetera and so yeah that show was initiated in that kind of backdrop, so that was kind of happening, I believe, exactly in tandem. It might’ve been opening the same, you know? I mean there were hundreds of openings that were, or exhibitions, that were happening over the course of many weeks but it was at the same time, right?
Allen Ruppersberg: Yeah, no it was organized by the Getty and it included all the museums and all the art spaces from San Diego to Santa Barbara and, like you say, it was the first kind of move in an evolution of trying to decide what the history of what LA was and it was significant in that way. It’s interesting though that the first attempt to do this was at the Pompidou and the Pompidou did a show that, maybe two years before that or something, I can’t remember—
Charlotte Ickes: Paris.
Allen Ruppersberg: In Paris, where they did the history of LA, of Southern California, and it was really good. It was quite comprehensive and then you know then comes the Getty effort after that and so it’s this kind of, you know, unearthing of all of this stuff and when you were talking about coming out to LA at the time it reminded me that one of the things that maybe drew you out there, which didn’t exist when I came, was the fact that the schools had become such an important aspect of art in LA. It became the community of LA, like when I came out there, people went to UCLA, or they went to USC or something, but it wasn’t anything that went outside of LA.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, and that leads into, or that opens up a conversation about how artists were kind of, you know, providing mentorship via the schools and so you had Mike Kelley and Jim and Richard Hawkins and all those folks, like, making work or teaching at ArtCenter and so people literally were, like, you know flocking in droves to go work with Mike and then you had other folks working at UCLA.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, and so there were definitely community, like microcommunities that were forming around this mentorship and legacy kind of thing, which I think is distinct for LA, too, because—
Charlotte Ickes: Totally.
Amanda Ross-Ho: That would also be kind of a pipeline for those artists to sort of build their studios and atelier models where they would have students, you know, kind of working with and for them, but by proxy, like, kind of having sort of—whatever training in the field so to speak, right? So that became this way of—for some, not everyone works like that but that was a big draw, I think for some folks.
Allen Ruppersberg: A huge draw.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: And everybody was identified. As people graduated from the different schools it was always, “Oh, you are from CalArts” or “You are from USC” or “You are from ArtCenter” or whatever, it really kind of, you know, specifically identified different aspects of LA and before that developed, or as it was developing, I think I was—I and other people who were there in the ’70s, one of the great parts about it was the fact that, as I said, there was no hierarchy and you were free to do whatever you wanted, uh, you know? There was no history like when you’re in New York, you’re up against the kind of solid history of New York painting, or New York art, and in LA we didn’t have that. Nobody wanted to buy anything, you know? It was––
Allen Ruppersberg: It was just a few galleries to show things and so you had the ability to really kind of make it up and, at the same time, that’s the reason that the schools became important because that was the only way to earn any money was to be teaching—
Amanda Ross-Ho: To teach.
Allen Ruppersberg: And so you had all the really best artists who were all teaching whereas in New York they had, you know, so many artists that they didn’t—you know, there was not enough jobs to go around and so you know I actually went out to LA to start teaching after I had been in New York for a number of years because it was a better atmosphere for teaching and had been established by the fact that all the years the really best people were teaching to, you know, earn a living.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Just quickly, I was gonna say that the one thing that you just mentioned that you could kinda call out as, like a difference, or a similarity, between the moment when Al went to LA and the moment that I went to LA is that, I think one of the things that was preserved is that idea of “making it up.” So, at that time, the one thing, and the difference between now and 2004, or whatever that period of time, is that that was still pretty preserved, I think, and then, post-PST, that started to change, right? So that there was this moment, there was this sensibility that I tapped into right away that was about the fact that there’s no sort of blueprint to kind of build upon, like, you really were sort of tasked with the—kind of, like, happily tasked—with the ability, or you’re given or granted the opportunity to invent it, absolutely, from the beginning, which now I think has—that’s the thing I think has shifted. It has. It kind of has a sensibility now that you, then, for it to, some degree, you know, will have to respond to, or the energy is a little different.
Charlotte Ickes: That’s interesting and you identify PST as one of the factors that made that shift, it’s almost like the institutionalization or recording of the history.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, because I think prior to that people would be like, “LA doesn’t have any history” or, like you said—
Charlotte Ickes: Right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: It doesn’t have any, right?
Charlotte Ickes: So now it’s written.
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughs] Right, right. Yeah, we’ve—
Charlotte Ickes: With a very big—
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: Catalog.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Even though of course there was history. I mean you made it, partially, right? Like there was all kinds of history but it wasn’t acknowledged—
Charlotte Ickes: In the record.
Amanda Ross-Ho: It hadn’t been kind of, yeah that hadn’t been kind of set in the same way.
Charlotte Ickes: So that’s the backdrop. Oh, go. No—
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, I was gonna just say that you know it kind of––it’s great to hear you say that it still is at the period where you make it up, you know, that you’re not, you know, kind of—
Amanda Ross-Ho: More so than other places, but less so in relation to itself earlier, I think.
Allen Ruppersberg: And you know I constantly—noticing a difference between what gets made in LA and what gets made in New York, for instance. We’re not bringing Europe into it at the moment but looking at your show up there, I kept thinking, “You would never see this come out of New York.”
Charlotte Ickes: Interesting, in what way?
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, I mean you would never see carpet nailed to the wall, you know, and claim to be a painting or a work or something. That’s just one example, but you can go through a lot of this stuff in the show and I kept thinking, “I would never see this being made in New York.” Although you’re right, it would come as more kind of cross influence all the time and it of course that’s been growing, too, but still when I was reminded again by seeing your show that no, you would not see this stuff made in New York.
Charlotte Ickes: So—
Amanda Ross-Ho: So—
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah, go ahead.
Amanda Ross-Ho: To just say and kind of answer your question, which we kind of didn’t a minute ago, so, within that kind of backdrop of the Pacific Standard Time kind of a situation, Al—
Charlotte Ickes: It’s like a huge series just to give the scope.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: Huge series of exhibitions, an enormous catalog.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Right, hundreds of exhibitions? I don’t know exactly, I can’t remember. It’s a blur. [Laughter]
Charlotte Ickes: So focusing on, as Amanda said—
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughter] It’s a blur.
Charlotte Ickes: On the art of Southern California so—
Allen Ruppersberg: Really good catalogs, for the most part.
Charlotte Ickes: Great catalogs. Oh, I mean I’ve used it. It’s on my desk right now upstairs.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yep.
Charlotte Ickes: So it’s a huge reference and they just had another iteration last year, but it really was like a citywide or I mean Southern California-wide––
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, I also…I think also WACK!—that exhibition WACK! at MOCA—happened pretty around that time so there was all, there was a lot of, that was in the air was this like —
Charlotte Ickes: Lots of energy.
Amanda Ross-Ho: And kind of revisiting practices that had been underappreciated or you know so a lot of artists were also in PST so there’s just a lot of that at that time that was kind of the context of that.
Charlotte Ickes: The context. So then, that brings us to your collaboration, which was right around that time. Correct me if I’m wrong, you hadn’t met before so it was an experiment to bring them together that thankfully went very well [laughter] and so maybe you can talk about how––who approached you, the process of coming together and how you first started to get to know each other and eventually how you came upon this idea.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, so, Orange County Museum chief curator at that time was Sarah Bancroft and this was her brainchild and she approached––I’ll tell my side of [laughter] how that happened and then you can tell me your side.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughter]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Actually I forgot to mention this, too, but so she approached me about participating in this exhibition in which a generation of kinda more established artists would be paired with younger artists and kind of floated this concept, which I was open to doing and she was going to sort of play matchmaker so to speak and kind of try to draw these connections so it wouldn’t be a random kind of connection, it would be somebody that you know perhaps, you know, there’d be some crossover in your work, whatever. So there were a few conversations actually that went back-and-forth and her first proposal to me was Dennis Hopper, which—
Charlotte Ickes: Wild.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Also I totally forgot that detail [laughter] and anyway––but that evolved into a conversation—talking about being paired with Al— and I think at the beginning there was to some degree, like, a superficial connection. Not superficial, but sort of a visual aesthetic connection between Al and I’s work in that we were both using the material of pegboard extensively in our work and I don’t know if at the time she talked to me. She had already talked to you about that connection but there had been some kind of possibility that there’d be some interesting chemistry should we kind of connect and kind of talk about maybe that or some other aspects of connection. That turned out not to be what became the most interesting—obviously, based on what you see upstairs—but I think that was the very kinda like seed of the conversation, but anyway I don’t know.
Allen Ruppersberg: If I remember right it’s kind of—she presented me with a couple of different names, two or three different names. There was some attempt to say, “Well, you know, would you rather work with this—” or something like that and I had just seen Amanda’s show, she was included in the New Photography show at MoMA at that time.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Oh, I think The Whitney. I think—you’re talking the pegboard one? It was The Whitney.
Allen Ruppersberg: Was it at The Whitney?
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: I thought it was the New Photography—no, anyway, you know better than me, but anyway I had just seen the work for the first time and I really liked it and felt some kind of interest and connection to it and so I guess that’s how I made the decision because I was just, you know, fresh from seeing the work and went, “Oh, okay, well that sounds pretty good.”
Allen Ruppersberg: And then we went from there and did studio visits and began to try and you know figure out what a collaboration is. I think collaborations between artists is very difficult.
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah.
Amanda Ross-Ho: And I remember there was kind of a very extended, very long period of time where Al and I exchanged emails, probably like thirty or forty emails trying to nail down a time that we could actually be in the same city, because both of us had very crazy schedules and he’s bicoastal so it’s, like, you know, he’d be in LA, like, every, you know, little chunk and so we were kind of, you know, spent a lotta time trying to find each other and then once that happened I think we had a great chemistry. I think you could say we had a great chemistry and yeah, we were able to see each other’s studios and kind of have a longer discussion about maybe what the crossovers could be or how we could do something productive with this prompt. I think one thing that I knew right away was that, you know, it would be interesting to sort of, like I do everything, kinda take that prompt apart a little bit and hopefully, to some degree, address, address it in a way that was interesting and maybe less expected so as we continued our conversation, we realized that there’d be some obvious ways that we could kind of produce something that would have the kind of complexion of something made by both of us and then there’d be other forms that we could arrive at that would be kind of like a true hybridizing of our sensibilities. That would be something that neither of us had either made but you know definitely that wouldn’t have one person’s hand more prominent than others, et cetera, so that’s––that was, like, kind of a big part of the conversation, I think.
Allen Ruppersberg: Oh, I think that was really…that was. That was a big decision there––that it won’t look like you and it won’t look like me, it’ll look like something that, you know, is maybe…if you know each of our work that you could figure it out, but it’ll definitely look like something new. And—
Amanda Ross-Ho: There was a little, a little rebellion in there just, like, wanting to not quite satisfy the or, like, indulge, oh, it’s like—
Charlotte Ickes: I see.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Perfect, like, very clear mash-up, you know what I mean?
Charlotte Ickes: And we should say not all the artists … some artists just showed work, side-by-side together, the artists of different generations living and working in LA and so yours was an example where you actually created a new, an entirely new work together.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah and actually like totally synthesized into a new, a totally new object.
Charlotte Ickes: Right, so maybe we can talk a bit about that object [laughs]. For those of you who haven’t seen, there’s a greenish-blue pedestal where we were able to find the exact color match, which was detective work on Amanda’s part and, on it rests an oversized binder, three-ring white binder that you got, you know, for school or organizing things and it’s empty and slightly open so you can see that it’s empty. It has the side folders and everything and on each face are two kinda projected images. One is a video that provides the wonderful soundtrack for the … there it is, perfect. That’s not our install shot, that’s at Orange County, a video of 78s playing, which we can talk about and provides a wonderful soundtrack and, on the other side is a slideshow of over or close to 4,000 images that appear about three to four seconds and then move on from Amanda’s vast archive of images. So perhaps we can talk about how you landed on the binder and then we can go into the images?
Allen Ruppersberg: I think if you begin to take the parts of the piece apart then you can see the different parts that maybe I contributed and you can see the parts that Amanda contributed and you can begin to see how the pieces fit together. The pedestal is…it’s not just a pedestal but––
Charlotte Ickes: Yep.
Allen Ruppersberg: It’s a piece of kinda prop furniture––
Charlotte Ickes: Mm-hmm.
Allen Ruppersberg: That I was working with at the time anyway and so that’s one of my contributions that we decided on––
Amanda Ross-Ho: Right and those are recreations of stagecraft objects, right? Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: They are. They were literally small-town stage prompts. Uh, I found a book in a flea market one time where the guy had laid out how to make all of these props so that they could fit into any kind of play or any kind stage work.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Sort of assist any, any type of narrative structure––
Allen Ruppersberg: Right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: That would happen onstage.
Allen Ruppersberg: That it [could] work in any way.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: And they had this kind of great, late ‘40s aesthetic to them and so I dunno, we decided, “Okay, well, the pedestal, I can use that” and you had a fabricator, which was making things for you at the time and we both had a lotta binders laying around because we have collections of different kinds of stuff.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Okay that’s a gross understatement, Al.
Allen Ruppersberg: That’s what?
Amanda Ross-Ho: So what really happened on one hand I have to just amend a little bit is I went to Al’s studio in LA and one of the things that he had were these incredible giant stacks of binders everywhere, white binders were everywhere, filled though with kind of photographic and mostly photographic archives I think, right, or is what’s inside them?
Allen Ruppersberg: Pretty much, yeah.
Amanda Ross-Ho: But sometimes, sometimes other things like CDs or discs of music or something.
Allen Ruppersberg: Ephemera of all types.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Ephemera yeah, exactly and in one of our exchanges I think the key word is the archive, like, both of us were negotiating the archive in one way or another and we realized that we both had this kind of sensibility in a lot of the work that we were doing of trying to sort of encapsulate or the impossibility of encapsulating the archive in some way and that the binders seemed like this interesting vessel, this kind of like banal vessel that is an attempt to compartmentalize some part of the archive so the archive is, like, capital “A” Archive, big and, um, yeah so but it specifically came from hanging out in your studio and seeing all the binders and binders and binders after.
Allen Ruppersberg: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah and I think I asked you if I could steal one. I was like––
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: “Can I take one?” So I took one and we based it on that, the actual one that I took from his studio.
Charlotte Ickes: Took from the studio?
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: Okay.
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, the archive is the key word.
Charlotte Ickes: Yes, it is.
Allen Ruppersberg: You know?
Charlotte Ickes: Yes, it is.
Allen Ruppersberg: If you look at the work obviously there’s two archives there, you know? There’s an archive off of the internet, which you’re more familiar and there’s an archive of 78 records and it’s just another thing that coincided, not only was I working with the prop furniture but I was also, at that time, beginning to, like, kind of decided to collect 78 records before they disappeared completely.
Charlotte Ickes: Mm-hmm.
Allen Ruppersberg: And so that’s what you wind up with. You wind up with images off the internet and you wind up with a record collection facing each other in some kind of mode of collecting, this case being a binder.
Amanda Ross-Ho: And in a way they were kind of speaking to our generations a bit, right? The imprints of our own sort of archiving. I mean I was, I kind of pulled my whole, well, a large amount of my sort of digital research files that were just mining the internet for various things and then also screengrabs from my phone and things like that and this accumulation of all this, some really relevant, some complete just garbage, just accumulating all of this imprint of like––
Charlotte Ickes: Digital stuff.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Looking basically yeah but it’s very much like dematerialized whereas Al’s videos were based on these videos that were about preserving the kind of tactility and the physicality of the record and making sure in some ways that that experience of holding a vinyl record and all of that stuff, the physical engagement with that doesn’t get lost or preserving that somehow so it’s not just the music or the recording it’s the whole act and the ritual of the vinyl itself, so it’s the tactile part.
Allen Ruppersberg: Which I did discover on the internet, you know, when I started to get those 78s that then there is a whole genre of people who make videos of them playing their 78s, you know, that they talk about where they find ‘em and then they put the record on, all you see is the hand, and you see the record playing and you hear it and so, yeah, it was kinda fascinating to see this kind of really sub-sub-sub-genre of collecting types and so that’s actually where I got that image from. I wanted to do to it, too, and, uh, that’s what you have upstairs.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah and it should be noted, too, that my file or sort of my side of the archive was taking place and it’s slightly earlier time in Google Image Search, not like very early but slightly different, you know, time so you see some of the––what I like seeing it again is that there’s some age to a lot of the infrastructure or the kind of digital architecture and the old interface of the old iPhone, you know? Like there’s these funny little things that age a little bit and obviously will more so as time goes on to the point where if we see this piece in 50 years no one will even know what Al’s side is, [laughs] you know? And will look like Rosetta Stone or something.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: You know like it’ll all just feel really, like, anachronistic, which I think is super interesting, too, that these are, like, time-based archives, also.
Charlotte Ickes: It archives itself.
Allen Ruppersberg: Even making objects like this, who knows, you know, people might not even make these kind of things anymore.
Charlotte Ickes: Absolutely and maybe we can talk about the fabricators. We talked a bit about this earlier, the fabricator you worked with to help make the binder because it seems like it’s a very Los Angeles type of person.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah so one of the things I did, when I first moved to LA, which is so kind of cliché and obvious but, uh, I started making props for the movie industry a little bit just to make extra money but also because I was really interested in the production environment and the space of the set was always interesting to me in terms of kind of borrowing gestures from that aesthetic but I was also interested in the difference between technicians who were trained in object making for the purposes of lens-based kind of objecthood, meaning things that were meant to be seen on film as opposed to, or in photographs as opposed to things that are meant to be kind of archival and kind of the permanence of a sort of fine-art object. So the difference between a fine-art fabricator and somebody who makes things for props, there’s a time element that I was interested in, too, in the sense that the metabolism is absolutely different, right? Like the objecthood comes from needing it to serve its purpose for a period of time and be convincing on camera, like, I liked that temporality but also the ability to make something with absolute faithfulness to the original object that is kind of creating that sort of native to that world is recreation often and so one of the things that happened is I started to collaborate or started to meet different fabricators on these movie sets and started to––and then ended up meeting one fabricator, in particular, that I just had chemistry with and was just actually really, just really amazing at it, even within that world was very special. And we started kind of making a bunch of projects so I think overall I’ve done about 15 projects with him. The binder was probably like the 12th or something or 11th, so by the time we were working with him on our thing, I’d already established––
Charlotte Ickes: A well-oiled machine.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, a good relationship with him and we had made many things already so I knew that the way that he makes objects in particular would really service this piece because actually I have an email from you, Al, looking back on our email conversation where you said that, like, it really needs to be exact, like, in order for this to work, it really needs to, like, exactly like the binder.
Charlotte Ickes: It does.
Amanda Ross-Ho: I’m like, “Trust me, it will, [laughs] trust me,” like––
Charlotte Ickes: Delivered.
Amanda Ross-Ho: “I’ve worked with this guy before, it’s gonna be, like, beyond,” yeah, yeah so there as absolute trust in his ability to, like, make something that’s psychedelically identical to the thing that it’s––
Charlotte Ickes: Uncanny.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Imitating, yeah, exactly, which really I think was the turning point for that and interestingly, like, seeing that next to your stagecraft object, which is this admitted kinda like approximation of something, you know, of a prop, right?
Charlotte Ickes: Right, right, right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Like it’s like the absolute––
Charlotte Ickes: It’s really interesting.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Just bare minimum prop. In a way I think some of that was intuitive but I think that it’s actually a nice function of the piece that it combines these two generations or not just generational but two approaches to prop-making, too, and, like, what a placeholder for a narrative or a placeholder for something can be. It can be kind of this optically or retinally-perfect thing or it can be this stand-in for, you know, a table that’s just a box, right, or whatever, like, that frequency is interesting to me that those two things bristle against each other. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of pairing that’s in the piece by talking but also diagrammatically in the sculpture, like the two covers, yeah, anyway.
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, I think that brings up a subject, which you know somebody will have to do a lot of research to find out about but, you know, it is a huge subject about the difference of being an artist working in LA and the influence of Hollywood.
Charlotte Ickes: Yes.
Allen Ruppersberg: And you know obviously that’s one of the things that brought me out there, too, and this is why I’m not sure about it but it seems that the idea of artists using fabricators probably comes out of that. I mean if you look into the history of object-making usually the artists made it themselves and then there’s a certain point where fabricators step in and begin to make things and I kind of have a suspicion that that might have begun in LA. I mean we all used Hollywood in one way or another. If I wanted to do a work where I needed something from a prop place or whatever, you could go and get it and everybody had jobs working in the industry whether it was for TV commercials or whatever and then the rise of fabrication with these elaborate Paul McCarthy pieces and all of this kind of stuff. That’s something else I don’t see in New York at the same time and so I think this Hollywood, you know, not only because of the films and the narratives and all of the things that go into a movie but also the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that influences how you make things.
Charlotte Ickes: Absolutely.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, well I was going to say it goes back to the thing we said earlier about being in an invented landscape, like, I mean I think that one of things that kinda blew my mind when I first got to LA is I recognized physical places that I knew very deeply and I realized I knew them very deeply from TV and movies, right, I’d be like, “Oh, why do I know this place? Oh because it’s in every car commercial ever.”
Charlotte Ickes: Right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah right.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: And things like that and so, but it kinda lends itself like the industry aesthetic or the industry’s influence I think kind of is not an accident that LA’s sensibility I think feels as though it’s about invented reality because literally our visual kind of at least media memory is largely being made there so, you know what I mean? It’s like really embedded into the muscle memory of how things are made there and how you think about production and it creates some comparison I guess between Hollywood fabrication and, say, art fabrication where you’re servicing a different kind of legacy, like a canon of sculpture versus a media history, besides the obvious things of how things are made without regard for archivalness and permanence and things like that. There’s also just a different sense of if it doesn’t exist you can make it, right, in that matte way. There’s like a lot of like mushy cliché in there but that is sort of why that feels like a dreamscape or has been sort of the dreaminess of the West I think if you wanna get [that], go there. [Laughs]
Allen Ruppersberg: Or if you don’t wanna make it, it’s already laying around. All you have to do is find it.
Allen Ruppersberg: You know for instance at some of Paul McCarthy’s early performances he used thrown-away sets. You go and get a backdrop from some thrown-away set or something and use that and there used to be a time where I could drive around Hollywood at night and go to the dumpsters behind the studios and fill my car up with old film that they had shot and it didn’t match or whatever reason, you could just go to the dumpsters and fill your cars up with it.
Allen Ruppersberg: You can’t do that anymore of course but you know there was a time where all of that stuff was just laying around and you could take it and, uhh, one of my first studios, I don’t know where I got this stuff from but I built a loft that had, like, a banister or something that kinda closed it off and then I was watching old Perry Masons one time and I saw that’s the same banister––
Allen Ruppersberg: That I had in my studio and I––
Amanda Ross-Ho: That’s so classic.
Allen Ruppersberg: Got it from the trash somewhere and then I had a lot of photographs that I had got from a flea market or from the trash and they were in the same Perry Mason episode and you know all that stuff was just there and nobody cared. You could just go and take it.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah one of my very jobs in LA was working on a sci-fi movie and I walked onto the set and someone was, like, “Oh, do you know what this place is?” And I was, like, “Mm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.” And they opened a door and it was the fully-intact set from Cagney & Lacey that, like, they just had [laughs] preserved and I was, like, “Oh my God” but yeah and then in those productions, too, just like you were saying, like, oftentimes that’s what I was saying about the temporality of objecthood, so much labor and work and energy put in to making an object and then once it’s served its purpose it’s like this decoy that doesn’t hold any value so oftentimes, like, even now, the fabricator I work with once a production is over, he’ll have this surplus. They’ll give it back to him and he’ll be like, “ Do you want this giant foot” or whatever it is from something and it’s, like, it doesn’t really have a currency anymore so it’s super, I think, interesting to kinda mix those streams a little bit and especially given the way that we sort of elevate and whatever the art market, which is maybe a less-interesting conversation but it is a conversation.
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah so before we turn it on to the audience I just have one last question and it’s about the title of the piece, The Meaning of Plus and Minus. Maybe I’ll ask you since it comes from a film in your collection.
Allen Ruppersberg: Yeah I have a…. I got my hands on an old library of educational films that really covered the whole history of them from the beginning of sound to the beginning of videotape and one of the films was The Meaning of Plus and Minus and you know it’s a great kind of title that you can deconstruct in many kinds of ways and so somehow we hit on that and I don’t remember exactly how but it fit somehow. I don’t know. Maybe you remember more.
Amanda Ross-Ho: I think you just said and I was, like, “That is what we’re calling this.”
Amanda Ross-Ho: I don’t know. I don’t care what we make [laughs] that’s what we’re calling this, this is crazy. I don’t remember but it was just––I mean it was definitely your title that you had had swimming around in your consciousness, too. Did you make something else that actually used that title or I can’t––?
Allen Ruppersberg: It certainly was swimming around and I think, oh, I––yeah, I did have some blow-ups of the title frame that I had used in something else so it was, it had been around for a while but not so specifically as naming a work like that.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, I mean I think the piece as we were saying earlier kind of combines these dichotomies or whatever of different things whether it’s the empty binder that’s also filled with thousands and thousands of images, like the contradiction of it. I think we were both interested in the, we were both interested in language, which could be a whole other talk actually but using that language to kind of almost diagram the way that the piece functions like it’s kind of this thing that is this container for everything and nothing at the same time and we are both––that was something that I was already interested in, the sort of inversion or the possibility of, like, what happens when excess negates itself and becomes you know––zeros itself out.
Charlotte Ickes: Also another pairing.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, exactly I mean that was, like, through and through, the piece was kind of about all those pairings, I think. I mean it’s also actually really interesting as we’re sitting here, like, I’m realizing there were things that maybe we sort of intuitively arrived at and I can kind of read it almost better now than I could at the time just because there’s a little bit of long view, which is interesting or maybe it’s just because whatever, you know, just time has passed and you just have critical [laughs] distance or historical distance or something but, yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: Oh, I think you’re right. I think we could talk about it better later––
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughs] Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: Than when we were making it––
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughs] Yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: Because it is, a lot of it is just intuitive and it’s only later that what you did and I think most artists are kind of like that, that you know a high percentage is intuition that you learn. It’s not––you’re not born with it.
Amanda Ross-Ho: I mean I think the piece has a lot of precision too. I mean there were things that were, we knew that there’d be this combination of this really like specific index and the kinda real trompe-l'œil aspect to the object in relation to sort of the cycling or the unfixed nature of the imagery in the videos that those are just cycling and kinda in motion because I think we’re both trying to think about how you could kind of talk about the flux of information that goes through whatever you can use, you know? The studio as a metaphor, the studio, the brain, you know, whatever it is, that container and then sort of fluctuation of things through it became, like––and so in that part I think we were really in control of it but then there’s other things that kind of reveal themselves more slowly, which, yeah, exactly.
Charlotte Ickes: Well, it’s been wonderful. I’d like to turn it out to our audience. We have time for a couple of questions. Christy has the mic, I believe, if it’s working, and [laughs] yeah if we could turn the lights on that would be nice, too, but if anyone has any questions for our artists, please raise your hand.
Christy LeMaster: I see one in the back.
Amanda Ross-Ho: No.
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Amanda Ross-Ho: Hi, Chuck. [Laughs] I can see him. I can see you now. I was just, like, focusing on whatever. Uh, no that is prop-making magic. [Laughs]
Charlotte Ickes: There’s a question down here.
Audience: Thank you. Is it on? Can you guys hear me?
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah.
Audience: Okay good, so I guess I have a question. You brought up the work that you do with fabricators in the fine art work and also I know that Allen has had, like, letterpress posters printed by professional printing presses in studios and things like that before and I guess my question is just about this kind of like outsourced labor as a part of the fine art production and what kind of reception you get in the art world, whenever pieces are produced in that kind of way versus whenever there is, like, that stamp of, like, your handmade from start-to-finish on a piece.
Allen Ruppersberg: Well, you’re right. I mean I used a commercial printing company that had been in existence since just after the Second World War and they were the last, not the last but when they closed two or three years ago, they were the last commercial house that I knew of anyway and I knew most of ‘em around the country that did letterpress as a commercial job and so the idea of letting them design, you know, I would give them the text and they would know how to design it better than me for the poster. They’d been doing it for 50 years and so you know I kind of enjoyed that. It’s collaboration in a way but of course I’m paying them to do something and now the idea of who makes it, I don’t think anybody cares anymore, you know? I mean it’s a different issue. Who paints all those Jeff Koons paintings, who does that, you know?
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughs]
Allen Ruppersberg: And so…
Charlotte Ickes: [Laughs]
Allen Ruppersberg: You know the reception, if I’m going back to your question, if I get it right, that the reception now I think is different than before it was, like, “Oh, wow, you know, you didn’t do this yourself,” you know, like, or “You didn’t draw it” or whatever, uhh, it was an issue but I don’t think it is an issue anymore and I enjoyed using the commercial house because it was so many steps removed and closer to me anyway because I like commercial stuff but that’s pretty much gone now, too, that’s––that’s an old, you know, technique. Now they have kind of little boutique houses that will do letterpress for you but you don’t have the big commercial sensibility that I liked.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Yeah, I mean I think if I can also give Al credit for being a generation of artists who is using that as a conceptual gesture that that wasn’t just about a means to an end, right, like, not just about a way of production but also like a form of ventriloquism the idea of kind of removing the author’s hand a little bit in order to sort of use these more kind of mechanized forms of production that aren’t necessarily associated with fine art production and to some degree I’ve inherited that and appropriated that in the fabrication work, which is your question but you know that that’s not just a means to end but that was also you know, and the reaction that you described was intended, right, like, that to some degree that you are carving out that space for use of that to be relevant and to be kind of a conceit, conceptual conceit in and of itself. And then in terms of the prop fabrication, I mean, I think that kind of a similar thing like it wasn’t arbitrary to use a person who makes work for camera. That became a really specific choice and not just because of what they could accomplish but because that would create a distinction, for me, directly in contrast with things that are hand-hewn. I’m a maker so I know how to make things but I don’t make things that way and I liked creating a material diversity or a contrast in a tableau of images and objects so that you’d have a very different experience synthesizing an object like that next to something that was very clearly revealing the hand and so, for me, it was about kind of creating these really extreme contrasts within the same field of vision and it being very obvious that that was made in a very particular way, almost like a high-resolution photograph the way we’d use an 8x10 camera versus an iPhone, you know what I mean? That you’d see that and be very, very much absorbing that as part of the kind of logic. I mean I think that as far as the reception there’s definitely a wonderment when you see [laughs] something made that way and I think in this piece and other pieces in which I’ve used that kinda production, I try to factor that in so it’s not a random effect of it but hopefully there’s other ways that that gets kinda tempered or grounded with some other kind of materiality whether it’s something that’s you know completely found or completely handmade or whatever that is, yeah.
Allen Ruppersberg: And I always think if somebody can do it better than me then let them do it.
Charlotte Ickes: Fair enough.
Audience: I had a question. You were talking about archiving and dumpster diving and so forth. So you’re all in a sense are archeological people who look into each other’s lives so I guess I’m asking Al and Amanda when you did each other’s studio visits, what your initial reactions were, maybe a few adjectives and since you’re cross-generational and maybe Charlotte you can even add in, you coming from the East Coast, going into the archives of the MCA and your reaction doing this wonderful event, what you found as well. Thank you.
Charlotte Ickes: Thank you, Larry.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Oh, I can talk about my first time at Al’s studio, which was very exciting [laughs] we were just talking about our experiences of each other’s archives or our experience of each other’s studios so, yeah, I had a really great visit, first visit to Al’s studio and one of the things they asked me if I could do is take pictures of how you had all your archive organized because that was really exciting to me at that time. Can I say a little bit about that? Is that all right? [Laughs] I don’t wanna reveal all your secrets but, Al, obviously is bicoastal so you know has an LA and a New York studio so I wasn’t seeing the whole thing and I actually haven’t seen your New York studio so I’m curious how you split your archive between those two spaces.
Allen Ruppersberg: They look the same.
Amanda Ross-Ho: They look the same, [laughs] yeah, I got the feeling but Al had these really kind of amazing ways of organizing particularly, like, ephemera and flat material so I was taking a lot of pictures for example and I think it actually ended up lending itself to the sensibility of the ultimate piece because we were thinking about things being stacked on each other where he had, like, folding tables stacked on top of flat files and then another set of folding tables so you’d have, like, layers and layers of ephemera kind of building in this beautiful way where there was, like, a picnic table, I remember, that was also stacked on top of something else.
Allen Ruppersberg: That’s right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: That was filled with books and photographs and so yeah it was really, and also your binders, obviously, so it was that immersion like really immersing in all of his kind of like idiosyncratic organizational kind of strategies and I also have a similar or I have a similar kind of tendency to kind of accumulate but in different ways and some of it was, a lot of it was digital at that time so I had a lotta hard drives but I have a lotta stuff, too.
Allen Ruppersberg: And you have it spread around the studio in different ways, yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: But very organized now.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Very organized now, yeah, but I’m not always that way. [Laughs] I’m sort of a pigpen, scattered person.
Allen Ruppersberg: I have more years of collecting stuff too so I have more ways to have to organize it.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Well and if you’re, if the things that you’re collecting have a predictable format, like if they’re mostly flat that’s one thing.
Allen Ruppersberg: Yeah, that’s right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Whereas I was collecting all sorts of random stuff.
Allen Ruppersberg: That’s right.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Right, right that’s like all over the place so––
Charlotte Ickes: I [crosstalk]––
Allen Ruppersberg: Like old backpacks.
Amanda Ross-Ho: [Laughs] Yeah.
Charlotte Ickes: Yeah just to, I guess to wrap up, yeah, this show, I encourage you to go upstairs. It’s definitely a research-based show. I went into some archives to dig up some great images and that was really important to me as part of the process is to dig really deep in terms of the research whether in secondary sources talking with artists or going to actual archives and finding some treasures and unearthing them, which is always a pleasure for someone like me. So it’s been such a pleasure to have you both here. I can’t thank you enough for making the trip and I’m sorry the weather is so crummy for your arrival but it is Chicago.
Allen Ruppersberg: And thanks everyone for coming out in this snow. [Laughs]
Charlotte Ickes: You know it well. And thank you so much for being here and taking the time to speak with us and contributing your amazing work and intelligence to the exhibitions so please join me in thanking Al and Amanda.
Amanda Ross-Ho: Thank you, Charlotte.
Allen Ruppersberg: Happy to have the piece out again.
[End of Audio]
- West by Midwest–
- Short A black-and-white photograph of two men shaking hands is mounted to a light-colored piece of wood.
- Long A black-and-white photograph with white borders is affixed to a small wood board with photo corners. The photo shows a scene in a supper club or restaurant. It features two fair-skinned, dark-haired men in suits standing, shaking hands. The man on the left holds a small box and the man on the right extends his left hand to receive it. In the foreground, two seated, light-skinned people with long dark glossy hair look up at the men from their table. The two men look directly at us. A date stamp reading "JAN 3 1968" appears in the bottom border of the photo. The ends of two knotted leather cords emerge above and below the photo on the left side of the wooden board, seemingly binding the board like a book cover. A signature reading "Edward Ruscha" appears on the board in blue ink below the image, and the initials "B.A.B." are signed and underlined in black on the wood above the mounted photograph.