Sweetart: Steven Barich

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Swee(t)Art artists Interviews.

1. What is the next project you are working on?

I am working through a few interests: the American Buffalo, Chinese Scholar’s Rocks, as well as resolving a few artworks that haven’t made it to prime-time yet. Mostly investigations through drawings, but some sound recordings and sculptural projects are getting off the ground.

2. Where do you live and do you want to live there?

I live in Alameda. It is convenient to get around on a single-speed cargo bicycle and was cheaper to live in than Oakland when I was last looking. I think it has the best air quality of the entire Bay Area, which is big plus in my book. Culturally, it is still a backwater town. Sorry Alamedians, but it is true.

3. Who is your favorite artist right now?

I never have single favorites. I am currently reading/studying up on Hokusai, James Rosenquist, Piet Mondrian and Matt Mullican.

4. What is the best show you have been to lately?

The most impressive show of artwork I’ve seen lately was at the Headlands Center for the Arts Open Studio, where a woman named Ellen Fullman created a room-sized acoustic string instrument. The harmonics shook your body to its core (in a good way). She has been designing and refining this artwork for many years, and I’m totally impressed by that kind of dedication and realization of an idea.

5. What is your favorite thing about the Oakland Art Scene?

Having lived in or around Oakland since 1986, I have the city thoroughly ingrained on my psyche, and I’ve seen fluctuations of interest in an Oakland Art Scene for a long time. However, in the last two decades, I haven’t before seen this much development and interest in the arts and culture, and I attribute it to the influx of many educated and gainfully employed people who couldn’t find space in San Francisco: a new audience for culture. After many years of stumbles and minor successes, a “scene” has fully developed and is establishing its permanence…I hope. I enjoy participating in smaller contexts and undirected development, and I think that is where Oakland is at, at this moment, within the art scene.

6. What is your least favorite thing about the Oakland Art Scene?

Oakland might have many art spaces in which to see art and an art scene to identify with, but without critical dialogue and thinkers/philosophers putting time into vetting the artwork and the art scene itself (i.e. writing, articles, marking history with words…), Oakland will never expand beyond itself. I’m not asking Oakland to become SF, LA or NYC, however, I just wish that more of an open, outwardly, international feel and context will bring itself to Oakland.

7. If you could label a movement taking place in the Oakland Art Scene right now, what would you label it? Who are your examples?­

I identify a youth movement. Tons of young artists have developed and support this art scene from the ground up…not collectors, not blue chip galleries, not parents (ok, some are becoming parents). I could go on, but you get my drift. The scene is young, vibrant and malleable, and that attracts more of the same. It is not a thing that will last indefinitely, so get in when the getting’ is good. Just get to know the players, and you’ll see what I mean: Blankspace, the Compound, Mama Buzz, Rowan Morrison, Johansson Projects…and to that extent Sweet(art) publ., the now defunct Kitchen Sink mag., etc. The real question is whether the players are in for the long run, and whether the audience will be as well.
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