Juxtapoz x Converse: Richard Colman Profile

March 04, 2014

During 2014 SXSW, Juxtapoz and Converse have once again teamed up, bringing artists to Austin to create installations, performances, and interactive art to accompany the music, tech, and film experiences going on throughout the early weeks of March. One of the artist featured this year is Richard Colman. Colman is a San Francisco based fine artist, with an extensive exhibition history in both the United States and Europe. We have always been huge fans of Richard’s art, a unique style that blends recognizable characters amidst abstract geometric patterns on both canvases and installations. Over the past year, Colman has began to evolve his work into more psychedelic, surreal realms, with women, bears, ceramics and other hidden mysteries in each color-blocked painting.

This interview with Colman was conducted in the September 2010 issue of Juxtapoz:

Evan Pricco: Do you want people to think that the characters in your pieces are happy or sad? I’m still contemplating how I see it, but I lean toward happiness.
Richard Colman: I want people to think what they’re going to think. For me it isn’t really necessary to soapbox with anything. If you’re going to do that I think you just need to just say it. I think it kind of eliminates something to have to explain outright. One of the things that’s so powerful about artwork is that you can interpret it. A lot of times I’ll look at some art and then hear the artist speak about it, and they will say, “This is what this is, that is what that is,” and at that point I’m over it.

It almost becomes a form of shit talk to the audience.
Yeah, and I don’t think that it’s all that necessary. I think that earlier on my paintings were simpler. They were definitely more “this is this, and that can be that,” and I don’t need to keep doing that. Now people bring their own ideas into it, and I think that’s fucking rad.

You draw a bizarre, graphic orgy scene, cause a reaction within yourself, and then say, I’m going to have to answer questions about this. I guess it becomes a nice little experiment in seeing what you can handle at your own openings.
Going back to one of your earlier questions, like where has it gone, where have I taken the work? I think with these newer paintings it’s sort of on the same level as that graphic stuff. They cause uneasiness but not quite so literally. There are a lot of the same elements, where the subject matter is really dark but I use all these bright colors.

Your characters look like they’re on a movie set or about to perform a show for people. And now I think the new work looks like they have been put into a 3-D movie, almost on a whole different budget, like the difference between Blair Witch and Avatar. I feel like the characters are performing in a different universe now.
People say there’s a certain set of characters that I use in my bodies of work, and sometimes when I think about it, that does seem to be the case with me. Like reality, you’re always the same person, but it’s the environment and surroundings that change in your life.

Almost every novel Faulkner wrote was based in the same county and same family. That’s his thread connecting to part of a bigger story and a greater history.
I do approach artwork like that. When I think about making stuff I tend to think of the bigger picture. I know that when I first started looking at art and being into art on more of a grown up level, when actually looking at it, the stuff that really got me to do that was seeing retrospectives of people’s work.

Was there a retrospective in particular you can remember?
I think the first thing that set me off to really loving art was Philip Guston. To me, I think that that is one of the most impressive art careers, ever. A lot of it has to do with the range. That stuff definitely has that thread through everything, but it changed so much over the years.

Locate each artist's work: