Studio Visit with Anthony Campuzano
By Shanna Waddell
Anthony Campuzano is a Philadelphia based artist who works out of three spaces: a large studio in Port Richmond/Kensington, a basement studio, and an office in Fishtown. After visiting each space and gaining more insight in how the artist works, here is a taste of his practice and how he goes about it.
Shanna Waddell: Your studio space in Port Richmond/Kensington is filled with light from large windows that face Northwest Philly. There are newspapers piled up and art supplies scattered around. Explain how your studio serves your work and how it functions in your practice?
Anthony Campuzano: The most important part of that studio is the long table in the center of the space. I have made most of my work on that table and I really like how I can walk around all sides of the surface. I have had the Port Richmond/Kensington space since around 2007. For a while it was my main work space and therefore stuff has piled up over the years. I like to pin stuff up, write notes to myself on the wall, listen to dance pop and sports talk radio really loud, and pace the length of the space. I utilize this space more so now to begin ideas than to finish.
When I am in this space I often stay for a day or so and then not come back for a few days. The light is really great, and at night the building is often empty. I have this beat up couch that I take naps on when I run out of steam. If I need supplies there is a Sunoco gas station nearby for chips and Gatorade, a corner store for six packs, Crispy Pizza for slices, and Happy Donut for breakfast. The drawback of the space is that in July and August it is sweltering and in January and February it is freezing. Which leads me to your next question…
SW: Your basement studio in Fishtown has a similar feel: piles of sifted-through newspapers, a low yellow-lit room with random art supplies. How does this space operate, and do you feel it informs your work?
AC: When I moved back to Philly from NYC in late 2003, I set up a studio in the basement
of my parent’s house in Lansdowne. The lighting was bad and the table that I worked on was pretty cramped. I was working at an after school program three hours a day and would work on drawings really late into the night when everyone had gone to bed and then take a nap before work, when everyone had awoken. Once I got the big studio in 2007, I worked there on all my work, which also coincided when I began to get more opportunities. The work became more sophisticated and labor intensive. I needed to work around the clock to get the work done. This past year I showed work at NADA Miami and had a solo exhibition both with Churner and Churner of NYC. Earlier in the year some of my work had been damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, so I needed to remake some things and was really behind schedule. This winter the big studio was just way too cold to keep round the clock production. I moved in with my girlfriend the year before, and she has a studio in the house. I started bringing work home and eventually set up the basement studio that you described. I usually only work on one drawing at a time in this space. In fact the table is almost the exact dimensions of the largest board I work on – 30×40 inches. This space is all about finishing the work. There are fewer distractions than at the other studio and, because of the limited room, I am less tempted to start new works. I just put my headphones on and draw for six hour stretches.
SW: The office space, a room upstairs from the basement studio, is filled with past Artforum magazines and stacks of papers—possible kept memories—scattered about on a desk. How does this space inform how you approach your work?
AC: Before I became an artist I harbored dreams of being a writer. This previous goal
manifests itself within the work I make in that text is included in about ninety percent of my output. Over the last three years I have worked on a number of projects that involved less of my “artwork” and more of my writing. The Summer Studio project I did at the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia in 2010, the show I curated at Fleisher/Ollman in the summer of 2012, and a series of web projects for the Pew in the past few years enabled me to engage in way that is outside of my usual exhibition model. It has been really exciting and is something I am interested in continuing. The office space is an attempt to finally get serious about organizing this other part of being an artist. As I go forward I have a need to have a space for reflection. The office space is small with two windows, three desks, and one hanging naked light bulb. I made a drawing in my last show about the office called “Self Portrait after Phillip via Thurber” so it is already becoming a point of contemplation.
SW: There are yellow works on paper on the table in the basement studio that repeat a phrase about getting various rooms cleaned up and Comcast coming out on Monday. Can you break this down a bit and explain how you came about this particular text? Is there a hierarchy of how you choose what to include or not to include?
AC: The work you are describing is called “Triple Note from Mother” and is a new work, currently on view in the group show “New Wine/New Bottle” at Fleisher/Ollman. When I was growing up, my mother would often place notes on my things in order to tell me to put them away. In fact a recurring one simply stated “Put These Away” in her proper cursive. The one in the show dates from when I had the basement studio in Lansdowne and refers to a series of problems my mother was concerned with, including: cleaning the basement, my bedroom, my sister’s bedroom, the third floor, the computer desktop etc. This idea of cleaning up, or putting these things away is almost a metaphor for my artistic practice. I make piles of things, I sift through them, I lose things, I find them, I work from things, I put them away, I take them out again and remake. I also want to point out that I admire Georges Braque, particularly his late studio paintings. I have always preferred Braque over Picasso. Picasso takes complete things and tears them apart to show his skill, where Braque takes scattered things and puts them together in order to understand them better. I feel I do the latter also.
SW: Finally, why do your friends call you TC?
AC: My father and I have the same name so technically I am a junior. While I go by Anthony, he is referred to as Tony. When I was born he and my mother began calling me TC after Tony Campuzano. I was TC from that point on. Besides the nuns in catholic school, no called me Anthony. In the summer of 2000, when I was at Skowhegan, it said Anthony on the roster list so everyone called me Anthony. There were a few people that summer who had known me as TC though, so there was a slight confusion, and people wondered why I had two names. Paul Ramirez Jonas had been a teacher of mine at Tyler and he was faculty at Skowie that summer. During a critique he asked me what my art name was going to be. He said I should make a choice before the end of the summer. I thought about it for a bit and decided I didn’t want to be a single moniker artist. While I admire Madonna, Prince, and Cher, I just felt two names were better in my case. My last name is long already, so I figured I would lop off the ‘junior.’ A different way of explaining this is: Robert DeNiro is also a junior. His father was an abstract expressionist painter named Robert DeNiro. When his son became an actor he was billed the same way. Now Robert DeNiro the painter is referred to as Robert DeNiro Sr. Also Robert DeNiro’s close friends call him Bob. My father is a general contractor and has been involved in local politics. He was president of Lansdowne’s Borough Council and is a democrat. He is also running for mayor of Lansdowne this November. If you live there you should vote for my dad, Anthony Campuzano Sr. Also my close friends call me TC (everybody calls my dad Tony).
Anthony Campuzano b. 1975 received a BFA from Tyler School of Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine as well as Yale University Summer School of Art at Norfolk, CT. He has had solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia and at White Columns and Churner and Churner in New York. His work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Woodmere Museum. In 2009 he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He does not hold a drivers license and is a fan of pop music and pop music videos.
Campuzano’s film Forecast 1998/2013, 2013, recently purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and reviewed by The New Yorker and Artforum.com, will be screened on July 12th 2013 as part of the Galleries at Moore’s Film al Fresco series.