What I love about Robert Minervini’s paintings are how they grab your attention and draw you closer – so that your nose is nearly touching the canvass in order to eye all the complexities of his process. We spoke over the phone, just before he was getting the last of his paintings photographed for an upcoming exhibit, in which we had a good round kvetching over conceptual art and how we were both hopeful that collectors will welcome back a return to aesthetics. Robert is about to have his first solo show of 2012 at Marine Contemporary in Venice [CA] entitled On The Nature Of Things, which opens on January 14th [6-9pm] and runs until February 18th – so be there, or be oblong!
Daniel Rolnik: What’s the theme for your exhibit at Marine Contemporary?
Robert Minervini: The title and theme of the show come from an ancient Roman poem – On The Nature of Things by Lucretius. Although it’s not a literal theme since I’m not basing the paintings directly off of each poem – it’s more of a subconscious influence.
DR: How did you even find out about the poem to begin with?
RM: I caught wind of it through an interview with Stephen Greenblatt, who wrote a book about the discovery of the poem entitled The Swerve: How The World Became Modern. I thought it was a really interesting topic, so I immediately started diving into it – pulling out quotes while working on the paintings simultaneously.
DR: Has working on public murals changed the way you approach working on paintings for a gallery show?
RM: I think so. There’s something natural feeling to me about working with the large scale of a mural that I bring with me when I make a painting. The difference between the two is that on a mural everything has to be read from a distance, and on a painting everything has to be read up close – so you have to be more detail orientated. I always get confused when I go to a museum and people aren’t getting right up close to every painting, because when I see a piece I admire I just want to go right up to it and see how the artist made it.
DR: Do you make a study before you start painting your larger works?
RM: I tend to start each painting by coming up with a photomontage that I put together in Photoshop as my sketch. I’ll usually only use it as a reference until I get all the proportions right – after that, I’ll change everything up a bit. It’s a natural process for me and really comes from my experience of doing murals, since it’s pretty common for muralists to use Photoshop to come up with their mock-ups.
DR: What kind of images do you collect the most to make your sketches?
RM: I have a lot of architectural pictures, but I tend to go through heavy periods of research where I’ll actually visit the library and flip through books to find inspiration.
DR: What’s one of the hardest things about being a professional artist?
RM: Developing a body of work with its own consistency of language, while still being the kind of artist who has enough wiggle room for all of their interests.
DR: Does each painting have a story behind it? Like a description of the people who live in the room?
DR: How has working with Marine Contemporary been?
RM: I really like to bounce my ideas off of people whose opinions I respect. And Claressinka, who started Marine Contemporary, has been amazing with that. I’ve known her for quite some time now, so it’s really helpful to work with someone I trust.
DR: Do you use an airbrush in your paintings?
RM: Yes – there are two things I really enjoy about it. One is that when you think of airbrushing, you usually think of a t-shirt you got at a boardwalk and so I like the idea of using a medium like that in fine art. And the second reason is that it’s really great for luminosity.
DR: Have you finished any murals recently?
RM: I just finished a mural in San Francisco, but other than that I don’t have any public art projects lined up. It’s just too much of a hassle to deal with all the politics – I had an assistant years ago who put it perfectly: making murals is a logistical cluster f#$&. It’s also really stressful knowing that any dickhead can ruin a piece you’ve spent your heart and soul on in just minutes with a can of spray paint.
DR: What’s your favorite quote by another artist?
RM: There’s a good quote by Phillip Gustan, which I totally relate to where he says “I make art so I can see it.”
ROBERT MINERVINI: http://robertminervini.com