Janine Roger

"...While expectations of what I should make annoy me, I don’t feel pigeon-holed by other people’s expectations." - A Conversation with Adrienne Elise Tarver

Janine Roger
"...While expectations of what I should make annoy me, I don’t feel pigeon-holed by other people’s expectations." - A Conversation with Adrienne Elise Tarver

In this interview Adrienne Elise Tarver discusses setting the tone of your career.

Adrienne Elise Tarver. Photo courtesy of artist.

Adrienne Elise Tarver. Photo courtesy of artist.

 

Hi, Adrienne. Congratulations on your second solo show with Victori+Mo. These interviews always open with establishing the artist’s career placement, so where would you consider yourself in your career?

I’ve been out of grad school for six years, but I would consider myself an emerging artist. I’m not really sure when you move onto the next stage, which I suppose is mid-career. This has never been clear to me. Self-reflectively, I’m at a really good stage in my career because I know what I want to make. I’m at no shortage for new ideas and I’m not unsure of my voice or perspective.


This question may feel obvious but I’ll ask it anyway: were there things about being a business—as [opposed to what] one is as an artist—that you were not prepared for when you finished your studies?


Yes, it’s one of the main things I think needs to change in art school...and I think it has changed some since I’ve been out of school. I wish there was a class that broke down the practicalities of running a creative business—budgets, taxes, marketing, press, correspondence, etc. I learned a lot about the gallery world and the business of art through internships and jobs I had while in school and afterwards. I think every artist should work at a gallery at some point. It’s very interesting to be on the other side of the gallery/artist relationship.


Studying in Boston, then in Chicago, and now practicing in New York—will you touch on what you learned from navigating those three art cultures and markets?


I would also add Sydney, Australia; with less knowledge, South Africa; and Italy to that list [of] places I’ve lived/worked. Every city, in my experience, has a different interest or focus in what [type] of art they want to consume and what kind of art the artists are interested in making. They have distinct personalities and, in some cases, agendas.

"Secrets of Leaves." 2017. Photo courtesy of Victori+Mo and artist.


I’ve learned to stick with what interests me and to move (or share outside of [my] city) to find my audience instead of trying to mold myself to fit the interests of the place. New York has perhaps the most multi-faceted art world personality I’ve experienced, so it’s harder to figure out what the interest or focus is here. Since I currently live and work here, I also have no distance from it and therefore no benefit of retrospect to help me better understand it.


I’m only going to ask one race question and here it is. While not all your works overtly deal with blackness, you have explored that conversation in your paintings. Have you ever felt that because you’re black the market expects you be a “black artist?” I suppose what I’m asking is: have you ever felt pigeon-holed or boxed in [to] how the art market was willing to receive you?


Yes, I definitely believe the market wants black artists to be “black artists,” and while expectations of what I should make annoy me, I don’t feel pigeon-holed by other people’s expectations. In my work I look at intrusion and privacy as a way of questioning the conclusions we draw from the outside. From the outside of any place or experience, there are limits to what we can know, regardless of what we see, so whatever assumptions you make about me or my work because of my race say more about you and your perspective than mine.

Having a solo exhibition is a significant step in an artist’s career. What has reaching that phase done for your practice?

It’s always nice to know someone else likes your work and, in the case of a gallery, they like it enough to show it and attach their name to it as well. In my recent shows working with Victori+Mo, they’ve had enough confidence in my work and trust in my vision to let me really try out my ideas and transform the space.


As far as changing my studio practice, I find that I’m thinking of my work—new work and new ideas—more in the context of full exhibitions because I’ve been thinking that way recently for these shows. Ideas are coming more as fully formed exhibitions and installations instead of individual works.

"Secrets of Leaves." 2017. Photo courtesy of Victori+Mo and artist.


What do things look like for you over the next year?


I hope the next year is as busy as things have been recently. I have work in the Bronx Museum of Arts AIM Biennial this summer and a few other things [are] percolating. I have a lot of ideas for new work, so I’m hoping to get a good chunk of dedicated studio time as well.

 

Though she currently practices in New York, Adrienne Elise Tarver embraces Boston, Chicago, Australia, and South Africa in her development as an artist. With her MFA in Visual Arts (school of the Art Institute of Chicago) and her BFA in Painting (Boston University), Tarver uses the full space as an engagement with her work as she explore the emotional relationship we have with art.Her works have been featured in Brooklyn Magazine, Hyper Allergic and ArtNet New, among other publications. Tarver has held residencies at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Brooklyn Art Space, and the Vermont Studio Center. Earlier this year she had her second solo exhibition at Victori+Mo in Brooklyn, NY.