What We Talk About When We Talk About Swimming: A Conversation with Brandon Lipchik
Swimming pools are an interesting subject to paint. They are both a personal and almost secretive plae of discovery, and often they can be a place of community and fun. Brandon Lipchik has captured the essence of swimming in a way that is both unique and spiritual. For his new solo show at Richard Heller Gallery, Inground, Lipchik has taken the pool as a place of personal revelation, those moments of desire that are so engrained in the mind that the openess of water seeps into your psyche.
Evan Pricco: How have you been? I figured I should just start with asking you how the last year has been, how productive you found yourself.
Brandon Lipchik: Thanks for asking! My year has actually been super productive regardless of COVID. My practice as a painter is pretty isolated anyway so it just gave me an excuse to continue to be productive in quarantine. I am sort of quarantined pandemic or not.
Let's talk about swimming pools. Did you have one growing up? And if not, what was your first experience with a swimming pool?
Certainly I did! I think it started as a kid splashing around in one of those plastic blow up kiddy pools in my hometown of Erie PA. The landscape was very suburban, conservative, middle America. Then later I graduated to community pools such as at the YMCA. Now that I think about this more, the early days of Brandon swimming... I think I could honestly say it was the beginning of my development of sexual desire and sexual discovery. Perhaps I am not the only queer person who may have had experiences like this. However I don’t think this is the only interesting thing about swimming pools.
My parents eventually bought a family size above ground pool one summer. I really enjoyed that. I always felt it was a place for me to be alone in my thoughts. Later of course, as an adult also experiencing pools some as extreme luxury or leisure.
I like that this was a theme for you. And I know you have explored this theme in your past work. I think of swimming pools in a few ways, but there is this dichotomy of it being a collective experience: the community pool. Also, there is the solitary, almost Hollywood esque idea of the swimming pool as this romantic, "by-yourself" luxury. Where did you go with this work?
My aim for this show was to use the swimming pool as a collective thread that would tie the narratives of painting together. They appear with paint as rectangular gradients. I had been making some pool paintings for a while and the theme kept recurring in my work so I decided let's try to go all out and focus more on this exploration. Then I read a really great short text written by my Berlin Gallerist Robert Grunenberg that he had written a few years back. The title was “Champagne, Sex, and Death by The Swimming Pool.” This sort of clarified to me that there was so much more to explore. To summarize we see the swimming pool as a repeated motif in popular culture, whether it be film, painting, photography, etc. In these moments, characters often found themselves in contemplative thoughts, solidarity, desire, and even leisure/ excess. The setting really interested me without hopefully coming off as cliche when it comes to Hollywood. I felt that Hollywood and California have played such a huge role in American culture that it is hard to ignore. Truthfully I haven't been to many pools in LA, I became interested in fiction and fantasy when it comes to the paintings.
Did the Los Angeles showing of this work tie into the subject matter? Or a certain avenue you wanted to touch on?
I think the show taking place in LA was certainly considered but not the driving force of the subject matter. I think the reference to the swimming pool could be said as a more American symbol to a degree and California just so happens to have had a huge influence on American media for example the films or images we consume.
What is the process of making your work. Take Sprinklers for example. Talk me through your process.
For this piece I wanted to create a dialogue with one of my favorite paintings by Hockney Lawn Being Sprinkled. It's an image of a house, fence, green grass, and sprinklers going off. I love how simple the composition is. How honest and frontal he depicts the mundane activity watering the grass. I wanted to reappropriate this composition and have a visual dialogue with my own figurative language and this composition. So it's a bit of collaging.
When staging my compositions I am often using 3d rendering to stage figures to formulate narratives and specifically using the inground pool as a stage setting. I set up the figure sort of abstracted but foreshortened on all fours in a muddy puddle being created by a garden hose. I wanted to hint at something figuratively raw or primitive in the struggle on the lawn of perhaps a suburban house setting and create a sense of contrast to the leisure and luxury a pool represents. Specifically with the year we have had in 2020 I felt this sense of struggle on the grounds of America.
When did the title Inground appear to you?
The title appeared to me as a word play with the idea of an inground pool. Using the pool as both a setting stage as well as thinking about themes that are ingrained in American culture/politics. I became interested in playing off themes that I found funny, ridiculous, to even be damaging from my upbringing in PA. Some conspiracy themes such as chemtrail skies, Alien abductions, and burning ballots to more political like an imagined failed insurrection painting, to burning houses which to me made me think alot about the recent challenges of BLM. In the painting “ House on Fire, House not on Fire,” I was really questioning how Americans can react when our neighbors house is burning and mine is fine.
Are you going to be able to see the show in person? Will you be in LA, and what is the rest of your year looking like?
I am here in Los Angeles taking it all in. I am happy to be here when the world is starting to shift once again.
Well for the time being I am moving my studio to Berlin for a while for some more space to hopefully try some metal work alongside the painting. I think Berlin will give me the space to do so.
In the future I will be preparing for a show at the Kunstpalais Erlangen which I am very excited about. This will be a great opportunity and a stepping stone more institutional shows. We will also be making a catalog which will be fun!
Brandon Lipchik's solo show, Inground, will be on view at Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica through June 12th, 2021