Artist Talk: Andrew Kuo
When I first saw Andrew Kuo’s work, I instantly took a liking to his personal yet universal story-telling. Andrew is known for documenting personal life, emotional experiences and the minutiae of everyday life, translating them into colorful “infographics” that incorporate both image and text. His work brings together his experience as a painter, graphic designer, and art history student, referencing postmodern artists such as Josef Albers and Frank Stella. With titles such as “Some Things I am Scared of in November 2007”; “A Late Hangover On February 17, 2009”; “Being Accused of Being an Asshole (Via Instant Messenger) on June 21, 2009” his work reads like a comprehensive diary that is funny, witty, and insightful. I had a chance to talk to the New York-based designer and artist at his gallery, Taxter and Spengemann.
Your charts are like a diary – very personal and honest, and very relatable. When did you start making them?
Hm – at this point I’ve been making them for maybe 6 years? Or 7? I could find out but it might be depressing to know.
What about the chart format appeals to you?
It’s a way for me to talk about more than one thing at once, literally plotting one idea against the other within the same eyeshot. I wear glasses so I am inclined to be X-, Y- and Z-axis-obsessed. And also, this may sound really weird, but I think about the idea of paint a lot and these charts let me talk about that.
Are there emotions that are too abstract to represent in a chart?
I don’t think anything is too abstract – it just depends on how much you are willing to talk about something. Some emotions are more interesting than others, but that’s a different (and more uncomfortable) conversation.
Do you ever find it difficult to put your work into the public?
Yes. Some of the work gets really personal. I try not to think about it in studio, but I’ll go back to work I’ve shown and not be so sure I should’ve gone there. On the other hand, life’s short! Cap’n Jazz was a great band!
I love your music graphs and charts in the Times. They must be mentally exhausting to create. Can you enjoy an album after analyzing it?
Thanks! Some of them are easier to make than others. I can definitely enjoy an album after breaking it down- more so sometimes. Destroyer put out a great album this year called “Kaputt” that was so dense with imagery and wordplay. I made a quick little book about the lyrics and sounds, hoping it would help me think about it in a different way than listening to it. So I guess I like making things about things so I can enjoy them more (or less).
Along with visuals you do a lot of narrating. Do you write?
Sometimes for days all I do is write, but it’s not like I’m working on “Moby Dick 2.” It’s Twitter, texting, blogging, instant messaging, Post-It notes to myself, etc. Also, I have a few friends I email at length frequently. I’m sure they wish I wouldn’t.
What writers do you like?
Of course I love David Foster Wallace. M.F.K. Fisher writes awesome words about food. So does Sam Sifton. I enjoyed Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” so much. Who’s mad at Joan Didion? I wish I liked Bill Simmons’ writing more, but his podcasts are where he seems like he’s having the most fun. Kelefa Sanneh, who wrote the intro for my book, is an awesome writer for the New Yorker. Is Chris Ware considered a writer? If he is, he’d be one of my favorites for sure.
What/who are you inspired by for your graphical works?
Rothko! Barnett Newman! I literally copy Josef Albers’ paintings. Frank Stella is cool. Bridget Riley! Peter Halley is awesome. Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, and Gary Hume are also artists that I “borrow” moves from. That was the art school answer to that question. The stoner answer to that would be: the Interweb, TV, and New York City.
Have you ever thought about making films or putting your work into motion?
I have! I enjoy thinking about moving images, shapes, colors and sounds all at once at the same time, but who doesn’t?