I got the opportunity to go to the opening of "Open for Business" at the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University last Monday, April 13th, 2009. Artists included Patrica Burns, Jessica Riga, Sydney Snyder, and Christopher Richmond. About a year ago, I did a little review of Chris Richmond's show "I'm A Real Group Show". This year, I got the opportunity to interview Richmond himself about his art show which included 12 large portriats of his father and photo exhibit, As far as opening mail is concerned. This exhibit included a nice arrangement of photographs of unopened mail against black. Very interesting and fun to look at. I thought there was a good use of space. I'll let the man expand on the work himself. Here it goes:
JC: Hello Christopher. In a few sentences, please describe your installation.
Christopher Richmond: The images in As far as opening mail is concerned are displayed as a loose grid filled with gaps and varying size prints, to reflect the complexity of awareness and the nature of existence without signifiers to place them in context.
The photographs in this work are not windows into a known world—a souvenir of an exotic land, the face of a lover, a landscape, or a documentation of objects. Rather, the content of this work is like the knowledge concealed in the photographs of mail, and is not based upon any concrete information that is known.The meaning in this installation lies as much in the photographs as it does in the recesses of the photographs.This is hard to do in a few sentences (and there lies yet another one).
JC: What were your influences? Are they all artists, does film, music, or anything nonrelated ever influence you?
CR: Roni Horn, Hans Peter Feldman, Felix Gonzales Torres, Charles Ray, and an ever-expanding list. Usually when I look at these artists though, I don’t feel like they influence as much as they give you permission to do something.I also read a lot of theorists like Michel Foucault, Hal Foster, Jean-François Lyotard, and Fredric Jameson.
JC: Is there anything you are unhappy with in this installation?
CR: Yes.But I would never write it down.
JC: Mystery. As far as opening mail is concerned is presented very nicely. I want to ask, why mail?
CR: I am interested in the process of mail and its nature. As initially conceived, the project was to be about only these letters as displaced objects and signifiers for the knowledge and information concealed within because legally I could not open nor keep the letters, so I photographed them and sent them back to the sender. As I continued, however, I began to see that it made sense to think about other objects in a similar fashion.Why mail?Mail is a physical means of communication.This interests me.
JC: What were your father's thoughts on the piece? How did you approach him about posing for the work?
My father was and is very supportive.Granted, I didn’t inform him what I was doing when I took his picture, however, he sat down each and every time and stared at the camera without pulling teeth.What were my father’s thoughts on the piece?You’d have to ask him.
JC: Was your mother jealous at all?
CR: I took one unflattering portrait of my mother two years ago, and she hasn’t let me take another photograph of her since.She was delighted to stay out of the limelight.
JC: Explain those older photographs in your display. I was a bit unfamiliar with them.
CR: The obituaries?I think you are referring to the obituaries so I will talk about them.I am fascinated by the obituaries of old type-cast actors and stunt men who made their living doing the same part or same act over and over again for public display.I found it very interesting that the photographs of them playing these parts were selected for their obituaries and not images of them at home in their day-to-day life.After reading their obituary I felt denied a certain access into the real life and their real character.
JC: Did you steal mail? That's a federal crime I think.
CR: I am not a crook.
JC: Hm. Do you like black licorice?
JC: I went to your exhibit, "I'm a Real Group Show" last year. How have you seen your work progress since then? Your work then focused on photographing hallways. Do you like shooting objects, locations, or portraits?
CR: I am interested in reception and perception—enacting a loss of control in the world.My practice is a consequence of what the work does in the world.The relationship between the viewer and the work is a driving force.The content of the work changes—portraits, location, objects—as my interests evolve, however, my work always aims to create pieces that challenge the viewer to re-align his awareness of physical phenomena in order to investigate how we live and interact with objects and events often scene as ones outside of the realm of artistic inquiry.
JC: What is next for you?
CR: I will have my first solo show this June at Vienna’s C17 Gallery featuring old work and a new video installation.I am very excited to travel.After that I will move to Los Angeles and thrive like a bear cub in the wild.
JC: I like bears. You're also a cinematographer. Tell me a bit about your film work and your art work. Do they compliment each other or conflict?
CR: They are in harmonious disarray with one another.
JC: Thank you, Christopher.
CR: Thank you.
Christopher Richmond is from San Diego. He is finishing up his last year at Chapman University with a degree in film production, ephasis in cinematography, and a minor in art.