Among the highlights of D Gallerie’s contributions to Art Stage Jakarta 2017, held at Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel from August 11-13, is an exhibition of six large works by American artist who is known through his abstract landscape paintings, Micah Crandall-Bear.
Born in Northern California in 1980, Crandall-Bear has won acclaim for his abstract landscape paintings. The artist’s work is collected by the Crocker Art Museum, university hospitals, Facebook data centres in Sweden, Malaysia and more. It has been featured in ArtSlant, Art Maze Mag, American Art Collector Magazine, Forbes and PBS.
After rebelling against the peaceful vegetarian co-housing community his parents founded, Crandall-Bear moved out on his own at age 17. He began an internship at the Michael Himovitz Gallery in Sacramento. Chuck Miller, the gallery owner, quickly noticed the talent and passion of his young intern. Chuck negotiated the sale of Crandall-Bear’s first piece, and was a mentor and ambassador for his career until he died in 2009.
As Crandall-Bear’s career grew, so did his artistic maturity and ambitions. He became one of a few leaders pushing the Sacramento art community to recognise and support abstract art. He exhibits regularly, and his reputation has brought him consistent commissions and support from both personal and public collectors. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Prestige:
Tell us about your exhibition at Art Stage Jakarta.
I will be showing six large works. They will all be new paintings from this year. These pieces will be very immersive. They are abstract landscape paintings that are meant to examine Earth’s intrinsic resources and our disposition toward their accelerated transformation.
I work a lot with horizontal line. I try to create these spaces that might seem familiar to us because the horizon is tied to our equilibrium, but they aren’t an actual place. They contain more than that. They cascade from atmospheric to subterranean, hinting at daily and seasonal shifts in light, evoking a sense of evolution and balance. I hope they inspire a deep and effusive connection to nature.
I am very excited to bring my work to a foreign setting. My work has been described as California coastal, so it will be interesting to see how it flows with the rest of the fair. I think the best thing about art fairs is that you get to see current work from all over the world, in one place.
Is this your first show in Indonesia?
Yes, I’m extremely excited. I feel like when we become so involved in our day-to-day, it’s hard to remember to breathe and take it all in. I’ve been working so much to hit to these kinds of goals in my career. I will take in the culture of Indonesia as much as I possibly can and remind myself that my art brought me to this amazing place.
How do you know Esti Nurjadin (of D Gallerie)?
Esti and I met on Instagram. Showing my work in Jakarta is the perfect example of how amazing social networking platforms can be for the arts.
What was your first encounter with art?
When I was 17 or 18 years old, my parents took me and my brother on our first trip to Europe. I was exposed to so much art in such a short period of time. But there was one moment that set my course in motion. As I walked into the Vatican and into the Sistine Chapel and looked up, I saw a team of men and women up on scaffolding finishing a restoration project on Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment. Something about being there at that time and seeing Michelangelo’s frescoes being touched by the hands of artists 500 years later moved me. It was at that moment that I knew I had to paint.
I never really thought about why I wanted to be an artist. I feel like I was born with a curiosity toward creativity and flow. Creating art became like breathing. It just is.
You started out with a series of figurative works with hard urban tones. What made you shift to abstract landscapes?
When I was younger, I was so eager to try as many things as I could. I loved and respected so many different styles of art. Experimenting with my own versions of all that I saw in books and in the streets was my way of honing my skills and finding my own voice. It’s all necessary. It’s all growth. You can’t go around what you’ve got to go through.
What and who inspires you?
I am very inspired by mid-century modern architecture and design. Combine that with my love for abstract expressionism and you’ve got a recipe for an MCB painting. My work is also very tied to open parts of the world. Places that are wild and free, where there is nothing man-made. I hope that my work reflects a sense of place like that.
So many artists inspire me. I see new work every day that blows me away. And not just painters. Musicians inspire me to paint. Right now, I am listening to a lot of Gregory Alan Isakov and Tycho. I believe one of the band members of Tycho creates all of their album art which I have always loved. As far as painters go, I am most influenced and inspired by Mark Rothko and Gerhard Richter.
Tell us about your early life.
I was a troubled teenager. I rebelled and did not do well with rules and social norms. I craved anarchy. I skateboarded a lot. I experimented with drugs and stopped going to school. I was arrested a few times. Maybe I wanted to grow up fast. I don’t know. Anyways, after a while I started spending more time camping with my friends and going on surfing trips. I slowly grew out of the angst and started to pay more attention to art and started taking a few college art classes.
Through it all, I was very fortunate to have amazing parents. They have always been supportive of my pursuits as an artist.
What about your parents and the community you grew up in? How has it shaped you?
My parents were two of the founders of Cohousing Sacramento. Cohousing originated in Denmark in the 1960s as a community of private homes clustered around shared space. The one I grew up in (and the one my parents still live in) has a common house with a large kitchen and dining area, laundry and recreational spaces. It’s a place where neighbours share resources like tools and lawnmowers. Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbours collaboratively plan and manage community activities such as meals, meetings, workdays, parties, games, and movies.
Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring. Communities, usually 20 to 40 homes, typically adopt green approaches to living. When I was a teenager, I didn’t like living in a cohousing community. It felt like I had 25 moms and dads always watching me. I couldn’t get away with anything. Now, I see what a special place it is.
How important was your relationship with Chuck Miller?
At that time (1999-2001), Chuck was one of the only people to show good, edgy art in Sacramento. He brought Andy Warhol to Sacramento in the late 70s/early 80s to do an installation show at a department store. I loved listening to him talk about art. I remember a married couple coming into an opening one night and telling Chuck how offended they were by the art on the walls. Chuck said: “Good, that means I’m doing my job.” He didn’t care much for what was pretty or popular.
He cared about social and political issues. He represented artists who pushed boundaries and made statements. I learned so much from him. I lived with him for four years. He took me to every client meeting and every installation. I was always afraid to show him any of my paintings. I lived and painted in his guest house for nearly two years before I ever let him see anything I was working on. Before he died, he had sold nearly a half-dozen of my paintings to his closest clients. They were some of the proudest moments of my life. I think about him every time I have a show.
Can you tell us about your “wet-on- wet” technique?
I use wet-on-wet as a way of creating a clean gradient between two colours. If I want to grade a navy into a white, I will paint a block of each colour and then buff the middle where they meet with a clean, dry brush. If both colours are somewhat wet as I blend them together, the gradient becomes more fluid and easier to control.
How much of an environmentalist are you?
I consider myself very environmentally aware. My parents raised me to be that way. I think my work touches on both respecting the environment – and on what happens if we don’t.
What is your best achievement as an artist?
Right now, I am under review to be accepted into my first museum collection. If accepted, that will be an accomplishment I’ve always dreamed of.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a large mural for Wide Open Walls, a major mural festival in Sacramento. It will bring nearly 40 artists from all over the country to paint individual murals all over the city.
What is your goal as an artist?
To always grow.