Flash Art

Flash Art n.295 - single magazine
Prague Biennale 6 / Prague Biennale Photo 3 Catalogue
Art Diary International 2014/2015
Flash Art Italy n.314 - single magazine
Flash Art International + Flash Art Italy (EUROPE)
Flash Art International + Flash Art Italy (USA)
Flash Art Italia + Flash art international (REST OF THE WORLD)
Flash Art on iPad
Prague Biennale 5/Prague Biennale Photo 2 Catalogue
Flash Art International + 4 issues Flash Art Czech & Slovak
Flash Art Italy
Flash Art 41 years
Prague Biennale 4 Catalogue
Debora Hirsch
Prague Biennale 3 Catalogue

Art Diary International 2013/2014
is now out, packed with contact information for galleries, museums, artists, curators, critics, and other professional arts services around the world.

Maya Schindler
Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

Israeli-born, LA-based artist Maya Schindler makes sculptures, installations, and paintings out of her mediations on language.  She masterfully mines the vernacular for phrases and words whose usage and implicit meanings tell us about our contemporary social and political moment.  Dealing in the symbolic, iconic, and graphic, her practice works to visualize language as physical form, a process in which new signification accrues through the particularities of materialization.


Maya Schindler: I started working on this new fiberglass sculpture of a target. I’m making it outside because it’s so bad for you, it’s toxic.


Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer: Is that it leaning against the wall?


MS: Yeah, but the two sides you see next to each other are going to be the front and back of one unit.


SLG: Are they painted?


MS: No, that’s fiberglass with red vinyl inserted and set between three layers. I’ll put together the two halves to form one two-sided disc.  There’s another one exactly the same size, exactly the same look, but it’s a spiral. Two two-sided objects.


SLG: They come out of that painting you had made before of two targets, one concentric, one spiral.


MS: Yeah it comes out of that. And, like in the painting, the discs will be mounted at my height on a wooden picket, but a very nicely made wooden picket or dowel.  The thing is that it’s clear — fiberglass is clear and adapts to the light in the environment.


SLG: It’s translucent.


MS: Yes, and because it’s translucent, I wanted the physicality of the vinyl set inside instead of painted on top. That is important to me. I wanted the preciseness of signage associated with vinyl.


SLG: I’m very curious to see what will happen to light in them because of their translucency. How will you light them?


MS: Yeah, it all depends on where they are placed, but it is something I am excited about.

I had this idea of making what will actually look like giant lollipops. You know, when I was a kid, my dad used to go shooting… every Israeli man has a gun at a certain point.

My dad was a veterinarian working on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where it could be dangerous to drive around. He was a farm veterinarian so he would drive around to farms, carrying a gun. I was terrified. But you know this is a common thing; everyone carries a gun and growing up you also know that you are going to go to the army and play with guns or whatever.


SLG: What kind of gun did your dad have? A small handgun?


MS: Yes and it terrified me but I was also completely fascinated by it. And every month he would have to go to a shooting range to demonstrate that he was still qualified to use a gun, being part of the army reserves and because he was actively carrying a gun. I remember him going quite a bit, and it wasn’t for sport.


SLG: And you went with him?


MS: No. But I was always fascinated with this idea of going to a shooting range and I would always try to imagine what a shooting range would look like. And my imagined shooting range was like a teletubbies landscape with targets somewhere…


SGL: Like a carnival where you win a stuffed animal.


MS: Like a carnival. That was my ideal, or idealized situation. And for some weird reason I used to think a spiral was a target as a kid.

I got them mixed up, but it still resonates for me. And, later I came to understand the spiral as something super existential, related to Spiral Jetty (1970) — what does it mean to make a jetty as a spiral? ...It’s inaccessible and doesn’t make sense, but it works. There’s a center but the center is not really there. It loops out and you’re surrounding yourself again and again. I think of it as an existential state of mind.


SLG: It’s also an emblem for psychedelia.


MS: Exactly. You’re spinning around your own tail. And it’s exactly the opposite of being stuck in a loop, in your own funk. For years I’ve been obsessing about what a target is and what a spiral is.


SLG: And given your sustained focus on the social life of language, you must be attracted to how these particular words function in the vernacular… for example “spiraling out of control…”


MS: Exactly. And having gone to Spiral Jetty three-and-a-half years ago, I was so impressed with it in person. Robert Smithson’s whole idea of site/non-site was really, really interesting to me; the idea that when you are actually experiencing the work physically you’re not being able to actually see the work conceptually, and vice versa.

The way I imagined these pieces is that I needed the two of them, the target and the spiral, but now the more I work on it and think about it I’m not sure I actually need the target. Maybe the target is the literal one you actually don’t need. But the process of making it is important.


SLG: And technically, materially, how are they made?


MS: They are made with heavy-duty fiberglass. I actually bought an Ikea kids table that I used as a base, I liked the size of the circle as the surface to put the fiberglass on. Fiberglass is an actual fabric that you cut and sow together the way you want it and then you put resin on it. The better the fabric, the denser the weave, and the material I used is super expensive, like what they make boats out of.

I know the material really well. I teach it to students. Everybody at a certain point in their life as an artist comes across it — it’s accessible, light, and not fragile. It’s stuff you see everyday; you know cars are made of fiberglass. So I really wanted to work with fiberglass and use the elements of fiberglass that excited me: the fact that it’s translucent, that I can shape it as I like, and its roughness. Those are the things that intrigue me in the material. And I wanted to keep it that way. But I managed to find a way to insert my image into it without touching the surface. First I thought of just painting it, but then impregnating the fiberglass with the vinyl, which I work with a lot, was exciting to me.


SLG: How would a fiberglass target react to gunshots? Would it shatter?


MS: No, it shouldn’t shatter but it would get bullet holes in it.


SLG: Are you going to shoot at it?


MS: We’ll see, but I don’t think I’m going to shoot it. I don’t like to shoot. I did shoot in the army — I had to. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but I want to create an environment for it first. Like I want to make it into an object. I keep thinking the whole space should be pink or black because it’s see-through it’s going to activate the whole space around it. For me pink is the positive color, the opposite of black — like seeing life through rose-colored glasses. That’s why I use pink so much in my work; it’s a symbol. 


SLG: The image of the target and the spiral are powerful as things you stare at, fixate on. Like a hypnotist’s wheel, which is more of the spiral. Things that seize the eyes as they mirror them.

And while you were talking about Smithson on the one hand, I think Jasper Johns is immediately present on the other.


MS: I have to say that Johns’s white target is the piece that changed my life. I saw it in person maybe ten years ago in New York at the Whitney, and I was blown away. The materiality of them in person is incredible, and yet they are so simple.


SLG: Knowing how central language is to your work, I’m curious what their titles are.


MS: The spiral will be called Target and the target will be called Goal. But I don’t know, I’m not convinced about it.  It’s so much about language but it’s kind of the only object I’ve made that isn’t language. I don’t want the title to make it a one-liner. But my work is very existential, always. These titles are about whether a target and a goal are the same thing. They question themselves and each other by their own being. That self-questioning and humor is part of all my practice.


SLG: And what’s this black and white painting? You said it’s a sketch for a sculpture?


MS: Yeah, my plan for the sculpture is to dip the pole, inverted, into black and then white paint up to different heights many times, like twenty times, to build up layers.  So first white and then black and then white again and then black, so you get a stripy feeling, but there will be a swirling too of the materials interacting, like in the sketch. There will be an organization of the colors, but there will also be a melting together. The top section will have the most texture, especially because the paint has very heavy gel in it, and on top of the form I am going to put a very small flag. Not toothpick-sized, but sort of that idea. Like on top of the mountain. The flag is just going to say “We.” I am super interested in the contemporary use of the word “we.” Especially in today’s political rallies.


SLG: It is so clear that is a really strong factor in Barack Obama’s success. That’s the community organizer strategy, the “yes we can,” “we can do it” chant.


MS: Absolutely. And no one questions who are “we,” what that means. It’s about identity, where do you stand, do you go with the crowd, do you not want to go with the crowd… I was very politically active in Israel and actually, these days, I avoid political rallies. They freak me out… so many people altogether creates a mob mentality. I had too much of it before and no good came out of it ever. So that idea of “we” is very interesting to me. 

         Even watching Madonna interviewed recently she was talking about her new tour and kept talking about her team as “we” even though we think of her as an individual.  And then Steve Jobs introduced something at Apple and he kept say “we are doing this…” You can isolate segments from Steve Jobs and duplicate it on Obama.


SLG: Do you see it all as being sinister? It can also inspire people and motivate good action and change.


MS:  Definitely. I am interested in placing that word as mirror to what’s going on right now. It says so much about yourself — it can be said out of a truly un-cynical desire for change, or it can be sinister, as becomes very evident in certain moments of history. For me that’s almost a key, it can pivot either way. What could it mean if I can take that word out of its context and make some form out of it, not necessarily out of it as letters, but reflect what it’s about with the materials or process or the idea of the formal. The idea of “we” came before the formal idea of the sculpture.


SLG: So much of your work reflects on our political moment. Do you see the target as being part of the political impulse in your practice.


MS: I think it’s very political as well. The target and spiral together will be very suggestive. It’s definitely a bull’s eye. It’s going to be dramatic and completely in your face.


SLG: Before anything else, it’s about a confrontation.


MS: I think confrontation is assumed to be a bad thing, but everything is confrontational, through confrontation and having our buttons pushed we find out who we are. You walk around art and mostly don’t react to it, but the stuff that makes you angry or you actively like is what you remember.

… My work is political, maybe it’s about an aesthetics of politics and phenomenology of politics. It’s about the personal and political becoming each other.




Flash Art  subscription

Giancarlo Politi Editore - via Carlo Farini, 68 - 20159 Milano - P.IVA 09429200158 - Tel. 02.6887341 - Fax 02.66801290 - info@flashartonline.com - Credits