Interview with Taylor McKimens

New York based artist Taylor McKimens creates installations that are like three-dimensional cartoons. As well as showing his two-dimensional works and painting directly onto the wall, he uses paper and cardboard to make three-dimensional alterations to the space, creating new walls, objects and even people.

poster for Boroboro Dorodoro Exhibition - The Return of Japanese Subculture

Boroboro Dorodoro Exhibition - The Return of Japanese Subculture

at Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art
in the Omotesando, Aoyama area
This event has ended - (2006-10-14 - 2007-01-28)

In Interviews by Ashley Rawlings 2007-01-15

 The world he creates is one in which everything is deteriorating: you find yourself surrounded by broken windows, leaks and puddles, moulding walls and the recurrent image of a sweaty fat man standing or sitting alone in his underpants. His current exhibition “Boroboro Dorodoro” (Japanese for something like “broken down and dripping with sludge”), showing at the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, is a joint show with his girlfriend and fellow installation artist, Misaki Kawai.

How does it feel to be exhibiting in Japan for the first time?

I’m really excited to be having this show in Japan. I’ve been to Japan several times before, and of all the places I’ve been it has one of the most exciting underground art scenes I’ve seen. It’s been great seeing what people in Japan think of what me and Misaki have been making in New York.

Installation Views

You’ve been adding work to the installation as the show goes on — a broken window here, a leak in the ceiling there — slowly the space is degenerating more and more into your Boro Boro world. Do you enjoy “breaking down” the formal gallery space?

I do. But I’m also just into the idea of all things breaking down, or being in a state of disrepair. But the gallery space is especially fun to show as falling apart because it’s traditionally thought of as such a clean sterile place.

Installation View

You’ve said that the world you portray is not one you find disgusting, that you see the beauty in what other people see as ugly. Nevertheless, the topless, sweating figure with the bucket on his head seems apathetic and listless, even vulnerable. Is this a wider social comment you’re making?

It’s definitely not a social comment. It’s much more about just making art that gets across feelings that are complicated and not easy to convey with words. I guess maybe they are feelings inside me that I get out through images. I do think though that I’m not the only one feeling these things. We’re all living in and experiencing this same age, and I think any wider social comments would more likely come from how many people can relate with the imagery than from the imagery itself.

There’s a work which has a six panel, cartoon-like sequence of two blobs talking to each other, saying “nope, nope, nope.” It’s really intriguing, but is it meant to be pessimistic?

It’s about whatever is taken from it. Usually that stuff comes from things that are bouncing around in my head, and then I put them into the drawing. It’s not about having a predetermined idea like pessimism, and then trying to make a pessimistic drawing. For me, drawing is more about sort of creating a direct line from my head to my hand without planning or double thinking anything. Then afterwards I can only try and guess at why I drew it. I’m not sure why I drew the “nope, nope, nope”. I think it might be about the feeling that comes across when you hear that word repeatedly.

The catfish nailed to the telegraph post is a really unusual image. Where does it originate from?

I grew up in a small town in the southwestern American desert. The town is right along the Colorado river, and people catch some really large catfish in the river. A lot of times people nail the catfish heads to the telephone pole outside their homes. It was a really common thing for me to see when I was young. It wasn’t until I drew it the first time, that I realized that most people find it to be so unusual. Now I can kind of understand why, but to me it’s a pretty common thing.

In some of the work on the second floor, you’re showing a hint of Andy Warhol’s silkscreen style. How much of an influence has Warhol or Pop Art had on you?

I guess that gets into how you define Pop Art… I think for most people it brings to mind the artistic genre “Pop Art” so they think of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons etc. But I guess I see Pop Art as more of a way of describing the intentions of the art. If you are making art and from the beginning you intend to make work that is appealing to a broad audience, then you go about it a certain way. You make things cuter, more pleasant, more fashionable. Factory-style art making and printing methods start making more sense in order to keep up with a large demand. You start thinking of art more along the lines of a business. To me, that is Pop. Lichtenstein made very traditional paintings using popular imagery as subject matter. Warhol thought a little bit more in a Pop kind of way, but not nearly as much for instance as the music group SMAP, who might be seen as a kind of extreme example of an art from a Pop point of view. As for me, I like the way printed imagery looks and incorporate it into my art, and I’m realistic about where business and contemporary art meet. But I don’t think of myself as much of a Pop artist.

Taylor McKimens’ Website

Ashley Rawlings

Ashley Rawlings. Ashley Rawlings was the editor of TABlog from 2006 to 2008. More information about his work can be found at » See other writings


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