The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

REVERSE ASSASSINATION: Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery Meets qi peng, Artist

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Qi Peng in conversation with Dam Stuhltrager Gallery’s

Leah Stuhltrager, Rebecca A. Layton & Paige King

Born in New York and based in Salt Lake City, Qi Peng, is an artist who adeptly walks the fine line

between text, art and technology.  Through the “Art Assassin” online, devoted readers follow Qi Peng’s

latest project, a written picture depicting the human faces that belong to the names composing the great art

world. His interviews at The Examiner are thought provoking surveys into the cultural and private lives of

the eclectic world of artists, gallerists and writers stealing the spotlight. Illuminating the personal voices

and minds behind leading living artists brings new dimensions to understanding the artwork defining

contemporary art today.

As the one usually asking unbiased questions as the interviewer, Qi Peng also has answers and a creative

vision uniquely his own.


*Qi’s: (note: in typical fashion, i decided to reply everything i write and

wrote in lower case, including my name, in completely lower case…

inspired by e.e. cummings and desired humility.)

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: The icebreaker: A book opens by introducing

a character and a setting. Your writing generally begins with inquiry

into the interviewee’s personal life. Dialogue on favorite hobbies,

restaurants, bookstores or galleries leads into discussion of the

professional art world. Your artwork (baseball card series and

installation of submission response letters come to mind) likewise

creates an immediately personal view of your subject from which

inquiry into the professional persona of the art world can be

initiated. What is your motivation in establishing a personal

relationship before entering discussing on professional views?

qi peng: this is a rather difficult question. being a failed novelist

in another lifetime, i wanted this to be, at first, a networking tool

to meet new people in the art world because of my separation from the

new york city/philadelphia visual arts scene and a roadblock in my

artistic practice around valentine’s day 2009. i was (and still am)

pretty unemployed and was living off unemployment compensation and

really didn’t have any opportunities for my art career in making

headway. even though i was in a group show at projects gallery (helen

meyrick’s philadelphia gallery) for one of my digital industrial

landscape gallery, i felt that my art wasn’t going anywhere. i feel

rather embittered and selfish at the time.

i realized that i would need to open up my heart very much and began

to rethink why i did art. it wasn’t to gain fame and fortune which was

pretty much how i had started out during my first professional art

exhibition back in october 2007. that valentine’s day i gave up the

ego trip and began to focus on a much broader agenda than i had

expected. i wanted to apply my belief in marxism and equalize in a

rather broad and democratic way the inequalities i saw in the

contemporary art world.

i saw that in the major art magazines such as artforum, art in

america, modern painters, etc. that salt lake city was a neglected

arts venue. so ironic that a liberal and often radical subculture had

neglected a growing experimental group of young artists here in utah,

often stereotyped as this conservative mormon country which it is

certainly not anymore. i found this job application

through to write online columns. i wondered whether this

little job would do anything and suddenly the idea just hit me up. i

realized that i could work on becoming a faux art world journalist who

could turn the world topsy turvy with a hybrid version of visual and

verbal article that would describe art professionals in a good way.

but how to gain his or her trust to providing information about their

lives? i hit on art as a form of problem solving… in fact, a way of

using journalism as a record of my performance art but also a way to

help offer a democratic, utopic view of the art world that was the

antithesis of the slick art magazines which seemed too vapid and full

of artspeak. who were the real humans behind the branding that

galleries seemed to focus on?

damn the auction houses for packaging the artists in such a commercial

veneer. we talk about the richard prince artwork without knowing who

that guy is. i was realizing that i couldn’t just whip out oil

paintings of facebook portraits of these art professionals i would

meet online. forget that route… too cliched. already paul campbell

did that in “facebook portraits” at roebling hall. i chose the more

difficult route, something way more intimate than attempted.

i chose to dub these traditional/new media results as “interview

portraits.” here the paradigm was reversed where innovative social

networking would be new media tool to produce a traditional result

which was an online newspaper or blog article that could be converted

to pdf format or printed out as an offset print. and these would be a

lot more difficult to achieve. the traditional portrait method assumes

that the artist is in power and the “interview portrait” would be a

lot more collaborative, a true portrait in that the subject would be

forced to reveal something private or professional through gained

trust. the first interview set of questions i sent out was to rosson

crow. alas, no luck, she seems to be working on them still after

nearly five months?! i was not discouraged as i kept on getting more

leads for interview sets to be emailed out. the first portrait i

completed was jerry hardesty, a local utah artist. i felt rather

happy. i grew my facebook and twitter connections and tried to take an

active interest in the lives of these art professionals. i went

totally anti-elitist in fact. i attacked this traditional hierarchy of

the new york/los angeles being on the top of the world in terms of

feeling free to draw portraits of artists who were famous like william

powhida to the emerging like robert darabos. for me, my interest was

not just the subject but sharing his or her heart to the world who

would love to learn more about these subjects in their lovely lives. i

didn’t just do artists but did gallery owners like edward winkleman

and even blog owners like buck naked who pissed off a lot of gallery

owners by hosting this “how’s my dealing?” that allowed artists and

collectors to post anonymous comments, supposedly truthful, about the

problems with galleries who didn’t pay or gallery owners who cheated

clients. for me, art is a passion that had to be shared with everyone

not just by the powerful or wealthy elite.

i hope that these “interview portraits” will help many to realize that

the contemporary art is a broad environment encompassing a lot of

different places in the world. i am still surprised how many new york

artists and gallery owners don’t know a single blue-chip gallery in

dallas or how little utah artists know about the varied array of young

new media artists such as cory arcangel. granted, i wouldn’t think of

myself as a teacher but joseph beuys said that everyone is an artist

and that teaching is one of the most important component of art. i

would like to think myself as a playful yet sober postmodern version

of balzac, a documentary sociologist with a twist of conceptual art

who paints people like a verbal chuck close or lucian freud. it is

something which i hope to improve on and create a full-blown

installation piece based on the networking amongst these people.

my envoy enterprises show in june, which was my first in new york

city, was a mixed success. despite it being rushed, i managed to plant

the seed of this installation that was like some huge mark lombardi

drawing done with sharpie that i connected the nailed up interview

portraits upon the white wall. it was like eva hesse with a very

powhida-ish feel to it. i felt happy most about it in terms of having

this incomplete idea become a reality that i could never do here in

utah because people wouldn’t get it and still wouldn’t.

ironically, the “art world baseball cards” was a solution to the lack

of responses to my interview questions where over half of the surveys

sent out didn’t get responded to in due time. i thought that it would

be fascinating to have these artists, gallery owners, etc. be

celebrated as heroes or anti-heroes or heroines or anti-heroines into

this pre-packaged format that would be unique and show their

personality. it would be appropriation art with a huge twist of design

art combined with my childhood love of baseball cards. i think that it

emotionally allowed me to retain the control. plus these baseball

cards are a form of portraiture as well. granted, i learned later that

this idea wasn’t unique which was not surprising considering the

legacy of michael leavitt, don celender, mike mandel, and so on.

however, i am going to try to be way more ambitious and do 2500-3000

of them and execute a large wall installation with these, again,

showing the interconnections between the people. and not just

collector’s items either. i dream also of having the gallery as the

baseball card shop, as that is integral to a venue that has been lost

in american history… this local business fixture gone due to our

obsession with the virtual reality of video games, etc. who knows?

perhaps these art world baseball cards can become a teaching tool?

and the baseball cards act as framing devices for the wonderful gamut

of characters that we meet in the art world. some friendly, some

hostile, but all good in the book of life that i hope to paint out in

this galaxy of art stars and unknowns, all of who deserve a chance in

life to be happy in what they do.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: You connect the art world’s public names to

their private faces, places and inner circles. Would you say that the

perspective of your work is that of an art world insider?

qi peng: first of all, i have to thank those who responded to the

interview portrait questions… they had to give out their heart

willingly… second of all, i would hardly be considered an art world

insider although now i feel less shy about going into a chelsea

gallery, say the winkleman gallery and saying hello and holding a good

conversation with edward winkleman, for example… third of all, it’s

about trust too. i would love to thank you leah and paige and rebecca

for allowing me to join into the circle of your gallery and to be able

to help other artists and gallerists to interconnect within the art

world. needless this isn’t a naive view.

ironically, being an art world insider would entail that i would know

the gossip and the dirty stuff in some ways and well, the salacious

stuff isn’t always my thing. even though i did ask in rick herron’s

portraits about whether people had sex in the new museum. however, i

can’t say that i know a certain gallery’s finances very well like the

way buck naked’s blog divulges so in that way, i’m hardly an insider,

but maybe into a few things. actually, william powhida would be the

best source for pretty much any information.

i’m just trying to be a lot more straightforward and be more

democratic in portraying art professionals as themselves, not just

this slick pre-packaged product that the art world has been obsessed

over during the past decade. unfortunately i seem to have made a lot

of enemies unwittingly in the process as some galleries (you know who

you are) won’t facebook friend me or i get de-friended by some artist

who doesn’t like my style. anyways, i’m open to being a friend to

anyone and open-hearted so i don’t judge publicly and keep my opinions

to myself. i think that being here in utah, i probably will be seen as

some type of outsider and perhaps that’s for the best as i can have a

fresh perspective that isn’t hackneyed about the new york city/los

angeles/utah, etc. arts scene. definitely nonfiction is the hippest

and better type of fiction. like why in the fuck is reality tv not my

type of reality?

can’t be a true art insider if some important peeps don’t keep

rejecting my friendly facebook adds… hello there, becky smith, lisa

cooley? (laughs)

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What should we know as readers, viewers or

thinkers about Qi Peng right from the start?

qi peng: just like james kalm except not on a bike, i would love to be

perceived as an unselfish and caring artist who likes to help other

artists and gallery owners, etc. through their own self-examination in

these interview portraits. socrates via plato said that the unexamined

life is not worth living. i feel that the art world in the large

cities could be too rushed that self-reflection time or meditation

isn’t always there… here in utah i feel a sense of being one with

nature in a zen-like state. for me, if the public perceives me as

being more of a playful monk, that would be ideal… a simple

conceptual artist who feels passionately that art is the highest form

of problem solving, an engineering of visual aesthetics, a

deconstruction of our arrogance of our beliefs. i never think that i

am right. that would be the worst sin i could do as an artist… i

prefer the complexity and lack of resolution within my beliefs.

i just don’t want to people to see me as a threat. granted, yes, i am

a subtle marxist politically but for me, it’s not about overthrowing

the art world system in place. i respect the architectural structure

already but i feel that being a little more democratic, a little more

open-minded in both directions can be there. if i contributed to that

view, i would be grateful. yes, an artist that helps art professionals

would be nice.

also the flip side is that as an emerging artist, although not defined

as such by white columns recently, i do hope to build my career.

granted, it’s a little bit selfish, but i do desire to propose

hopefully a new and cutting-edge way of looking at people. an

anti-capitalist humanism i believe. it would be good to have respect

in the art world and vice versa.

totally, it would be cool to be a well-respected utah artist who is a

displaced new yorker and seen that way by the art critics. it is like

a ninja who has an unexpected style of fighting that is of certain

beauty but completely unorthodox. i guess that i could be most glad

that most of my new york friends don’t see me as a typical utah

artist, so that for me, is a good thing. although i don’t mind an

occasional landscape painting…

oh and there’s the rebel part of me. a naughty conceptual artist part

but i leave that to the wind. yes, there are times when i would love

to throw caution to the wind but i don’t want to burn too many bridges

before galleries are scared to touch me like rob pruitt in the late

1990’s. that would be bad. but what’s wrong with qi peng being an

artistic prankster of the intellectually jester type?

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Where did you grow up?

qi peng: that’s a toughie. i was born in jamaica, queens, new york

city. yes, jamaica represent. i do identify with hip-hop and note that

the lost boyz come from the same area. lots of great lyricists like ll

cool j and run dmc. but i didn’t stay there very much and left around

four years ago down to the south… kentucky. grew up mostly in

bowling/boring green, kentucky and dealt a lot with racism and

anti-intellectualism as a kid. best memories were that of my mother

beating me consistently with a cheerleader’s baton and kneeling down a

lot in shame, cherry bombs on the front porch of my real parent’s

home, getting called racist insults and on the back of that yellow bus

watching those dumbass, cute cheerleaders like amy and shelley and

elizabeth of which there were two of them poking fun of my little

asian dick and perhaps other forms of sexual exploitation. death being

a constant thought in my childhood. suicide a smart possibilities, a

most honorable death. well still up to college i was the nerdy type

that freaked out most of the cheerleaders and dance squad. certainly

wasn’t the one who got the pretty ladies in high school, that’s for

sure. i had to escape fucking hard.

i moved everywhere after heading to college at vanderbilt and later

yale, so somewhat i consider myself always as a displaced new yorker.

that is why i feel that i don’t really have a home, or at least,

multiple homes, right now, one in utah and one in new york city. like

tony bennett sang, i left my heart in the big apple. and i do miss

philadelphia a lot for friends like andrew wrigley who still lives


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What was your earliest introduction to art?

qi peng: i remember back in third or fourth grade that i would do a

lot of collages with naughty lingerie bits that the teacher rebuked me

for. naughty, yes, but hey, i thought that i was doing richard prince

before i knew who he was in the early 1980’s. also my real parents

back in kentucky had three art books i obsessed over… gardner’s

history of art, and monographs on picasso and dali separately. good

stuff as i was addicted to mondrian and cubism at an early age. i

didn’t care much for contemporary art until undergraduate when i got

into vanderbilt when i got hooked onto mel ramos and his pretty

ladies. was huge into pop art then as an english literature major.

went to yale but mostly sneaked around classes there. peter halley, i

could say hello to. ironically those were the days of jason robert

bell and amy pryor… two friends now that i vaguely remembered back

then. as i suffer from being bipolar and partial amnesia, those days

remain hazy. anyways worked mostly in documentary photography post

9/11 until 2007 when i switched completely to the conceptual artist

that i am now.

childhood interest in art developed a lot through attending museums as

a kid. most memorable was the willem de kooning retrospective at the

national gallery during the early 1980’s. washington d.c. is just

awesome like that. the boston museum of fine art was great too. i did

attend a high school summer arts school where i did love the j.b.

speed art museum where i saw my first susan rothenberg painting. i

remember that odd, expressionistic horse.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you find that your childhood experiences

inform your work as an artist?

qi peng: most definitely. ironically as a kid who has been verbally

and physically abused, i do remember many thoughts of death and love

being this solution. a few times i have attempted suicide during my

teenage years by trying to drink drano at the arts school when that

malicious, bitchy blonde flute player stefanie rejected my asking her

out and the final time during my yale graduate years when i tried to

get run over by a mack truck. too many damned times i felt that i

shouldn’t be an asian guy… that we are too much of a threat to the

world here because society stereotypes us as being too smart and

nerdy… dammit i prefer to be smart-ass maybe to avoid being cast

into the racial net. many times i felt jealous of wanting to be this

white guy or gal and have an easier life, which is an illusion as i

learned later on in my life. so art has been somewhat an emotional

solution for me to keep on living and not die. it’s pretty much the

anti-dash snow solution here.

which is why i don’t care much for attitude and pretense or cocaine or

the glitz in the art world seriously. for me, art is the crutch that

keeps me wanting to live and find love romantically (yes, that lady

thing again) in some odd old-fashioned way. i like the straight-up

personalities in the art world, the curators who speak their mind and

don’t give a fuck about whether the tobacco companies subsidized the

show at the whitney, the artists who have to support a family and

achieve a meaningful sacrifice of making a spouse happy while creating

awesome installation pieces, the student who forsakes smoking blunts

and getting wasted for a night in studio trying to solve a meaningful

problem. these characters i admire most and identify with a lot. i

don’t judge anyone but those who have undergone a lot of hardship to

do art are the ones whom i feel ought to have much props as they had

to realize that art is a philosophical solution, how ever tenuous that

may seem. for me, art prevented my death and allowed for a rebirth and

being more optimistic and less cynical. now i feel very happy helping

others and fulfilling my social and artistic responsibilities to

anyone whom i meet in real or online life.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you think there is a cultural difference

growing up in an urban area like Philadelphia, New York or Salt Lake

compared to a suburban or rural childhood?

qi peng: in some ways, yes. growing up in the urban environment and

living there offers a lot of opportunities that the suburban life

doesn’t. even here in salt lake city, which is a pretty growing city,

there are a few awesome museums for contemporary art such as the salt

lake art center, the utah museum of fine art which used to suck ass

but is much better now with a new director who digs video art, and the

sego arts center which just got reviewed in art fag city recently. and

one can’t even begin to list what contemporary art is around in

philadelphia and new york.

ironically, just as a side note, it would be hilarious to mention

claire oliver, a chelsea gallerist whose life intersects salt lake

city, philadelphia, and new york city by the way. she studied college

at the university of utah in salt lake city, and ran her gallery in

rittenhouse square (or lived perhaps too?) before moving her gallery

up to chelsea where she is now. so there, you have salt lake

city-philadelphia-new york city in the single life of gallerist.

pretty cool eh?

however with the internet age, things are changing rapidly. i don’t

think that it matters as much information-wise where a person lives in

terms of knowing contemporary art. my artist friend dave thomas who

lives up in boise, idaho and is a graduate from calarts is able to

watch all of the videos of the james kalm report as much as i can down

here in salt lake city. the only thing is just traveling to see the

works in person. it’s just a lot easier being in a large city to visit

venues of contemporary art although art fairs maybe have changed that.

being in smaller city doesn’t mean that you are more ignorant of the

art but just means that you may have to work harder to find it and/or

produce it in the studio as well.

which is why i hope that new york and los angeles galleries take on

artists from smaller cities who have a cutting-edge vision. i think

that sometimes i do get a little bit tired of perusing the resumes of

an artist roster of a typical new york gallery and seeing “lives and

works in new york city” again and again. which is why it was fab to

see mark flood’s show at zach feuer. finally! someone from houston who

didn’t have to move to new york city, dammit. and some mighty fine

work too i dig.

by the way, all three cities in salt lake city, philadelphia, and new

york city have awesome food. in philadelphia, the stephen starr line

of restaurants especially jones, barclay prime, and the continental

are just pure bliss. good philadelphia cheese steak and italian that

you can’t argue against. in new york city, there is just too much to

list there. damn fine indian food at cafe spice at university place,

man. of course, the old todai’s place which got renamed has some of

the best cheap korean and all you can eat sushi. there’s a few

brooklyn bars that i really dig in addition to joe’s shanghai in

chinatown too. i could dig expensive places but i’m too much of a

marxist to go those places often unless i’m treating someone there of

course. match 65 is very good for a french-style burger. in salt lake

city, we have the best sushi buffet at simply sushi downtown as well

as the best dim sum with the hong kong tea house as well as some

kickass chinese food at j. wong’s near the salt palace. bars are

lacking here unfortunately and where in the fuck can i find some good

belhaven scottish ale except one bar in brooklyn? huh? but it’s all

love here and very affordable here in salt lake city and good dive

spots in my homebase of new york city too.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: At what point did you know you wanted to

persue being an artist as a career?

qi peng: this is a rather intriguing question in many ways. i admit

that from 2001 to october 2007 i was a failed documentary photographer

whose only legacy are some pretty trashy snapshots of new york city

similar to stephen shore on acid. i was fascinated by cameras and

trying to be some type of journalist but it turned out that i was too

playful and ironic to be objective by the rules of the game. so

photojournalism and documentary photography, of which i managed to

salvage photos i did of buildings along the wasatch front for my

digital drawings of industrial landscapes, was out of the question. in

october 2007 near my birthday, i decided to revive my interest in

becoming a conceptual artist who was a prankster from salt lake city.

i took on a pen name which is qi peng to mask my identity in case i

accidentally would get busted, then confusion would ensue. granted the

only illegal prank i did was to assist my painter friend circlegal in

bombing the bathroom of nobrow coffee house in downtown salt lake city

with stick figures and signatures on the fourth of july, 2008.

ironically it was joe the owner’s threat of police action and his

curse on both of our art career that helped to boost my conceptual art

away from salt lake city and back into my hometown of new york city. i

never did expect my career to head in a sudden direction back to the

big apple but there i was, a complete outsider to the salt lake city

art community where i was being blacklisted for helping out circlegal

on her mission. now that qi peng was free, my long-term prank of

submitting a faux portfolio to new york city and other city galleries

was working and to date, i managed to get forty physical rejection

and/or acceptance letters that would become part of my installation

project at envoy enterprises in june 2009. i realized that conceptual

art was a form of alchemy… that failure would be converted into

success just like shit into gold. art became a form of mining, a

search for the holy grail of gallery representation that was

pointlessly fabulous. a salutatory gesture as the market crash was

impending. it wasn’t until my getting laid off last christmas from my

government job then that i decided to make it as an artist nearly full

time until i could show in new york city on my own terms… it was in

mere despair that i would hit upon the idea of the interview portraits

that the unexpected turn of events would happen and i would join in

marriage with the new york city contemporary art world i had always

wanted to become a part of without having to relocate. for me,

friendships and optimism displaced my terrible cynicism and love was

the force behind my art which had until that time focused on shock

value and provocation. i felt mature by the time that my solo show at

envoy enterprises happened and my interview portraits are an extremely

long-term work in progress. i admit that i have not felt happier being

artist and having as a serious career of a playful prankster helping

others like a guardian angel is an unexpected boon and dream of

networking the community together in a new paradigm that the art world

had moved away from since the playful experimentation of the 1960’s

and 1970’s when the mary boone era hit to make capitalism the perforce

for the existence of contemporary art. now it’s back to an era of

contemporary art being what it ought to be, a sandbox for ideas and

framing devices to be unshackled and unleashed without regard to

client satisfaction. the era of visual prostitution is over, at least,

for a little while.

also my friend andrew wrigley who graduated from pafa in philly has

been a solidly good example of a professional artist to me. he was the

first real artist i ever hung out with even before i got into art

hardcore at yale. granted his work is pretty conservative looking if

you don’t delve into its surface but it’s very radical in its theme

and exploration of the metaphysical and mysterious. i really dig it

and didn’t really understand it back in the day. i have mad

appreciation for his skills now. unfortunately he got picked up by

some top notch chelsea galleries only to have it completely ruined by

mismanagement. that’s why i learned that being with the right gallery

is more important than being with just any gallery. it’s a lifelong

relationship just like the crew that you stick with in any case.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What was something about being an “artist”

that you learned along the way?

qi peng: that being an artist, one shouldn’t take rejection too

personally. for me, success is happy but failure is good to learn

from. at least, i found a method to make failure a form of success.

learning that a mixed or bad art review of a show isn’t such a bad

thing… look at duchamp and how many hated him at the time when he

was chucking out readymades. and see which museums have readymades

now? that’s why it’s always interesting to see whether art criticism

is valid still after ten years. art criticism isn’t like vintage wine

in many cases, i suppose.

so failure isn’t really failure in art. art is an experiment which is

part of the larger sandbox. and documentation of supposed failure can

be very interesting in itself. that’s the hardest lesson that i had to

come to terms to as a conceptual artist.

oh, and shock value isn’t always meaningful too. that’s another

lesson. i prefer a subtle approach now. changing the system through

being a good example in society and making other people feel valued as

a human, even if it pisses off others who like to have their art world

very much an elitist type of affair. i want art to be for everyone,

regardless of whether they choose to analyze it with the gibberish of

artspeak. art speaking to the heart and mind in balance with gentle

subversion is the best.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Has your definition of what an “artist” is

changed at all over the years? How would you define “artist” today?

qi peng: william powhida intelligently stated a maxim “I’m just not

sure what an artist does anymore.” in his recently self-published

monograph “the writing is on the wall,” available through

as a kid, i thought that an artist is more of this swaggering jackson

pollock who “scored chicks, snorted coke, and exploited the public

with misdeeds.” granted, i have matured a lot since then. being a

feminist, i have a high regard for the achievements of women in the

visual arts and glad to see the high percentage of female art dealers

and curators in the field as well as many fine female artists.

being an artist for me nowadays means being a humble, fine artisan who

is disciplined enough to enter into the dojo and practice the craft. i

try to mix being aggressive in terms of trying to get my work out

there and just holding back waiting to see what galleries think of the

work. being an artist requires 50%/50% marketing and studio time but

since a lot of my artwork is based on the art world, it’s a lot easier

in that my research on the art world can help both sides of the coin

in fact. i am not interested in the ego trip but contributing

meaningfully to the dialogue of intellectual sparring about the

critical nature of art. it’s just like being a rap producer… i would

love to erase myself in the background and let the voice remain like

the later samuel beckett characters. my art does help other artists

mingle with each other. for example, kadar brock flew out to do a

studio visit with mark dutcher after learning that he was an influence

on the latter’s artwork. a rare case of a younger artist influencing

an older artist. the same thing happened between my friends matt jones

and william powhida. these interview portraits can be a form of

artistic diplomacy in terms of having different worlds intersect. in

fact, someday i hope to do a studio visit for liz markus, etc. etc.

it’s ironic that when i started out as a conceptual artist how much i

wanted to be the most shocking artist and just out there but now i am

the complete opposite as i prefer to disappear into the background and

have the real-life counterparts of my interview portraits interact

with each other.

i think that an artist can be defined as one who is true to self. it

doesn’t have to be a visual product even. i admit that the luxurious

beauty of the assassin killer who gets his rocks on steaming rice and

insect-fueling plotting in the movie “branded to kill” is an artist

even though he deals death as the result. there is a certain way in

the last scenes of fighting that is similar to modernist dance that i

can’t begin to describe that most performance artists can’t duplicate

in terms of this bloodshed that is horrifying as well as mesmerizing.

the same can be said of the dual, homoerotic killers in haneke’s two

versions of “funny games.” that’s why i am fascinated by sex because

it is the most powerful art to overcome death. and being a virgin

still (yep, you heard right) at nearly 33 years is tough because i

can’t stop thinking for death until that obsession gets erased by a

first experience in the bedroom. for me, it’s a way of trying to

rebalance the yin and yang between life and death in this ever growing

sense of mortality that plagues me like john keats on a bad hair day.

it just is.

yeah, that’s right, i think. an artist is an acrobat who has to avoid

falling off the tightrope between sex and death, those two elements

that threaten to consume us in the void. the void of the missing

letter “e.”

any good artist ought to be a character actor too. charm part of the

equation in fact.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What drew you towards Yale’s program?

qi peng: i really loved the fact that they were interdisciplinary

program in that i could audit russian literature courses, sneak into a

ton of great art classes particularly the wonderful peter halley as i

haven’t finished an actual degree there just like my pal tom sanford

at hunter, and work on a practical degree in public health so that i

could graduate well-rounded while being able to pay bills on time.

yale had two art museums on campus where i did a lot of my artistic

studies. at the time, i wanted to be the alex katz or francis bacon

rather than say the next mel bochner. i was rather conservative at the

time but these were the seeds that blew up my fascination with fine

art in general. plus i’m still pissed off that you couldn’t really

check out the library books from the yale school of art library. loved

the student gallery there and even though, i focused a lot on painting

and drawings, my practical skills tended into documentary photography,

mostly photojournalism at the time.

and the students were fabulous. lots of good brew flowing at the time,

and it was swell to bum around before finals and not study for them

and play mario kart 64 all day long for three days and have a blast.

yeah, i was lazy like that. but cramming for exams, working on art,

and just plain fucking around with my friends. at that time, i was

working on my performance art piece as a faux mormon which was pretty

good as researching the religion was very difficult since there were a

lot of esoteric doctrine that were rather historical in context.

honestly, in retrospect, i really didn’t care for yale’s elitist

attitude. growing to be more of a marxist at that time, i was glad to

be in public health in terms of wanting to help improve the lives of

people before i got slurped to work for some shady hmo in downtown

philadelphia. being an artist is more meaningful in terms of helping

people because cultural jamming is a powerful tool. the yale thing,

either in art and public health, i really don’t care much for except

to chat with my friends jason robert bell and amy pryor about. i

really even don’t remember much from those days either because of my

partial amnesia as well as my interest in erasing my past history like

a fictional character in a nabokov novel. it’s not something that i’m

big on showing off.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Colleges are governed by different

philosophies, what do you see as Yale’s school of thought?

qi peng: in terms of culture, yale’s school of thought was this faux

liberalism decked with gems and a pseduo-interest in learning. hated

all that dumbass hypocrisy. people who pretended to care about the

poor but refuse to sacrifice the time to help a poor brother out on

the street. and there is still racism too. worst offender is that

skulls and bones shit i tried to sneak up on to find the scoop only to

get booted out like some crazy motherfucker. there were few authentic

friends and when the legacy of the undergraduate school was that ivy

league porno movie from the sterling library, very sexy place for

finding good tomes there, and the chloe goes to yale novel, then i

think that yale is pretty much superficial.

yale art school was all right. jason robert bell is an awesome guy and

lots of good people but again, too much like art school

confidential… too much affectation or attitude, mostly stuck-up shit

to deal with. not my bag of beans honestly. the public health school

was fabulous and good for training so i’m grateful a lot for that. but

too much attitude there still and i preferred to stick it out alone on

the medical campus.

sometimes i wished that i had gone to risd or hunter but who can bitch

when you have the likes of robert storr, peter halley, and so on? i

really missed the graduating class of jessica stockholder and becky

smith the art dealer so perhaps i was on the wrong boat? as tom

sanford said, good art comes from good ping pong and maybe i should

have duked it out there instead? i love ping pong.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How did your college experience translate

into your artwork and professionally into your career?

qi peng: well, apart from all those art books and esoteric doctrine i

mustered up at yale while plowing through kiki smith books at the yale

art museum bookstores, my experience is that of being more

economically socialist. it translates into my battling against this

elitism that pervades the art world too and equalizing everything

amongst the people i meet. i don’t judge on whether you are a high

faulting blue-chip artist or a struggling artist who is trying to make

ends meet. i believe in the value of the heart…

my conceptual art isn’t about empty intellectual exercises like a

military drill; it’s conceptual art of and from the heart (bad rhyme

there). seriously, that’s the activist side of these interview

portraits, to dispel this pantheon we afford to characters like larry

gagosian and mary boone as superhumans. quite a bullshit veneer that

we tend to impose on people who have ordinary lives and we tend to

ignore those aspects of superstars. which is why i ask about food

choices because that can reveal as much the soul of the art

professional just as much as what their favorite paintings in their

collection are.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What is the current relationship between top

rated colleges and the greater art world?

qi peng: not much i would hope. sadly, being in a top rated art school

program is about purchasing the way to connections in the art world

and less about conceptual skill or innovation. that pisses me off and

explains why i prefer to be the outsider when i was at yale. but in

regards to that rather cynical view, yale does offer good guidance and

resources for artists and curators. since the art world been full of

navel-gazing of late which william powhida brilliantly documents and

loren munk to a lesser extent, this connections have become more and

more crucial. in fact, who an artist sleeps with can be a good

indicator of where his or her career goes. that’s pitiful but a fact

of the contemporary art world.

an example that where you went to college doesn’t mean as much is the

roster of zach feuer gallery. jules de balincourt who got his mfa from

hunter, nathalie djurberg gone to malmo art academy for her mfa, mark

flood who didn’t go to art school at all, justin lieberman (a good

friend) who went to yale too, dana schutz who got her mfa at columbia,

and phoebe washburn who got her mfa from school of visual arts. zach

is a smart dealer who chooses the artists based on talent most of the

time and doesn’t seem to base his decision on where they came from as

much. a good art dealer will prefer to look at the driving concept of

the artist’s work over their resume. the goodness of a resume is icing

on the cake hopefully.

an art gallery shouldn’t be about nepotism but during the past ten

years, it has. a lot of bad art passed through what seemed to be top

notch galleries. not anymore, it seems or is it? having yale or any

top-rated art degree doesn’t ensure anything in terms of success in

the art world. my good friend amy pryor doesn’t have gallery

representation and jason robert bell is represented out in chicago

because his work hasn’t been accepted by the new york dictates. and

both are awesome artists who went to yale. the sad story is how

well-oiled the marketing machine the artist has employed over the

actual contents and underlying foundation of the artist’s work.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Does a college education today have a

different role in an artist’s career than it did in past generations?

qi peng: yes, back in the day, the college education was about

obtaining skills to master craftsmanship as an artist like an artisan.

in today’s world, it’s about social networking skills and being able

to interface efficiently and logically into the overall puzzle that we

call the contemporary art world. and yes, marketing plays a much

bigger role especially as the mfa programs have become a cottage

industry and fodder for those high-powered, glossy galleries driven by

the slick eye candy.

i think that self-education in art is very important. going to a

variety of art openings even with stuff you hate is important.

appreciate and be nice to everyone because they could provide a way

in. gratitude and being full of good manners is a key thing because

unless you are lucky like dash snow, the badass attitude is like

spinning tires in a bunch of ice cream. it just isn’t pretty there

indeed. read a lot of monographs and art books. avoid artspeak like

the plague and look to the heart of an idea. ask why is something

there and whether it is necessary. we often get bombarded with too

much in an exhibition, particularly installation art unless you are

jason rhoades.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How is technology and new media integrated

into a traditional art education at Yale or elsewhere?

qi peng: had very little experience with new media art and technology

when i went to yale in terms of art classes but my public health

program was awesome. i got the chance to use the top of the line macs

when i was in the laboratory and it was good to play around back then.

because i was into traditional painting back then, i really didn’t see

much into technology and art because i held a rather conservative view

of painting, photography, and art back then. not anymore.

yale has good opportunities now for new media artists if one chooses

that route but their emphasis is still on painting and printmaking as

the bread and butter of that program. i think that scad and sva are

slightly better in resources for new media artists. being close to new

york city or even down in atlanta has an advantage of capital because

lots of capital is necessary to finance ambitious new media projects.

my type of new media art is rooted heavily in a traditional output,

whether it be in an artist’s book with the ART ASSASSIN series or the

art world baseball cards which can be perceived as small limited

edition prints. the new media aspect is mostly in the methodology of

online social networking. it is possible to have an emotional

connection now without a physical meeting although it’s nicer to have

the best of both worlds.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How is technology implemented into creating

your artwork today?

qi peng: interview portraits require the use of facebook, myspace,

twitter, the internet browser, and e-mail to conduct the completed

product. and uploading software to do the

online posts. for my art world baseball cards, i use an online program

with siteprint for the creation and design of the works as well as the

internet for the research. for my traditional paintings and works on

paper, i use images downloaded from a digital camera or the internet

as the basis for those works, either autobiographical or historical in

nature. my spray paintings doesn’t require any technology except

krylon and a lot of gas masks! (laughs)

painting is a lot more influenced by technology than one would think.

hopefully someday i can see an ipod in a dana schutz painting, pretty


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How is technology applied to building a

career as an artist today?

qi peng: technology is good as a tool but not as a crutch for artists.

for example, thomas ruff uses stolen jpegs as the basis for his

wonderful blown-up photos in diasec. on another hand, matt held and

paul campbell use facebook photos as the skeleton for wonderful oil or

acrylic paintings. for me, technology is the gateway to

recontextualizing the framework for artwork. how is one to decode the

enigma of a certain piece? because technology is so pervasive, i can’t

see how even the most traditional artist can avoid the industrial

influence. apart from the use of technology as a studio tool, there’s

another side.

that is technology as a very powerful networking to meet other

artists, curators, gallery owners, etc. online. for example, i am most

grateful for you, leah, paige, and rebecca for discovering my work

online and then allowing me to join forces into a solo show’s

documentation process. as much as i hate facebook being owned by that

pesky microsoft corporation, i really love the idea of facebook as

this artist’s networking tool to gain entry into portals which i could

only dream about an year and a half ago just when i reinvented myself

as a conceptual artist. this year alone i suddenly became a relatively

unknown artist hanging around utah and got propelled into the tiny

limelight of the new york art world with a solo show that i didn’t

even expect at all. for me, i began to realize how powerful the

connections that one make online are just as meaningful in real life.

so much that sadly enough, a few art dealers defriended me on

facebook. i wish that people weren’t so secretive and private as life

is something designed to be shared with each other. maybe i’m just too

optimistic there but it’s all good.

oh and jerry saltz’s presence on facebook certainly hasn’t hurt its

use in the contemporary art world. direct feedback from the public can

influence the decision-making on the highest level even at powerful

museums. wow.

i don’t know whether i’m cutting-edge but i think that it’s somewhat

unique that facebook and twitter can be the basis for portraiture in a

rather abstract way. it certainly adds a little cool twist to the

whole visual experimentation.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What do you see as the difference between

social and profession networking for an artist?

qi peng: social networking for an artist is a more friendly gesture

like a good handshake… for example, i had a chance to hang out with

william powhida, jennifer dalton, tom sanford, jason robert bell, matt

jones, kadar brock, marissa shell, and amy pryor over some lovely

drinks. very rare that i hang out with art dealers or gallerists.

except you as a wonderful team at dam, stuhltrager i would feel very

comfortable to invite all of you for some good meal and drinks at say

a local brooklyn diner or taco place.

the professional networking tends to be more focused on the logistics

and operational direction between gallerist and artist or another type

of similar relationship. as all art is part of this huge relational

database. often professional networking is mixed with social

networking, in fact, professional networking is a subset of social

networking except that it’s more formal and designed to propel the

artist’s career towards an “upwards” direction.

ironically, i think of social networking as being part of having fun

time which incorporate a broader sense of being amongst humanity

whereas the professional networking as being a more focused type of

gallery-artist interaction which is specifically geared to the daily

operation. it’s like the difference between production time for the

creation of a music album and a bunch of musicians jamming and maybe

recording the results.

that is, unless you consider sex between a gallery owner and artist so

that the artist can get representation encompasses both types of

relationship. unfortunately i would suppose that type of sex would be

rather cold and unforgiving but i can’t speculate on its nature as i

have no experience in that domain particularly. although i did hear of

a gallerist out in a local Western city sleeping with the commercial

landlord to “pay” her dues. sad but true i suppose.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How would you describe your relationship to

the gallery community in Salt Lake and the greater art world?

qi peng: wow, i am rather bipolar in my origins there. my relationship

is that i can interface decently in the salt lake contemporary art

scene, particularly with heather ferrell who is doing her own thang

over at the remarkable salt lake art center with some kickass shows

going on there while traveling in the intimate circles of the new york

art world.

honestly, i wouldn’t care to have gallery representation in utah at

all apart from showing at the non-profits. the commercial galleries,

particularly kayo, are puzzled that my art is considered art out in

new york city which is why i show up at the gallery strolls just to

prowl for hidden beer at the galleries. shilo jackson, the director at

kayo gallery, told me that i didn’t know how to draw. what the fuck?

does academic realism even with a contemporary realism present the

only face of contemporary art? not everyone can be a neo rauch

wannabee. i prefer to be a neo rauch don’twannabee instead. and she

hated my work even more after i suggested wanting to do a lori hacking

installation project with an anti-domestic violence agenda. bad idea

apparently as kayo gallery isn’t into activist art but a huge ass dose

of pop surrealism and figurative expressionism. and well good luck on

my work, even my most traditional oil paintings, getting into the

other more conservative galleries in utah. i pretty much have ducked

out the commercial gallery system there or here, dependent on

perspective, in utah. not my bag of beans indeed.

on the other hand, new york city has been awesome and much more

receptive to my type of conceptual art. in fact, just recently, a new

dumbo, brooklyn gallery called central booking is going to represent

my artist’s books there starting in september 2009. even though i am

still looking for gallery representation in either new york city or

los angeles which is likely in order to continue working on getting to

more ambitious projects i hope to execute someday. i am extremely

grateful to envoy enterprises (formerly envoy gallery) and dam,

stuhltrager gallery (thank you leah, paige, and rebecca very much) for

allowing the seed and plant of my conceptual projects to exist however

short it may have been. i think that in new york city there is much

higher bar in terms of intellectual comprehension and open-mindedness

than here in salt lake city by a long shot. however,  being here in

salt lake city is mostly practical as well as playful.

first of all, the art grants in utah are a lot less competitive and

there is that $10000 visual arts fellowship each year that is pretty

good for funding relative to hypercompetitive atmosphere out there in

new york city, particularly with art in general, etc. second of all,

the cost of living is a lot less too about 1/3 studio costs in utah

relative to new york city. finally, it’s often nice to have some good

local inspiration in the uniqueness of utah’s quirks for good fodder

for conceptual art ideas… doesn’t hurt that it’s beautiful in nature

and mountains out here plus wonderful food and grand steaks for the


plus the story of a utah conceptual artist makes for a better and

weirder story than just another new york artist story. people are like

freaked out that such art exists from utah but that’s what keeps the

art world interesting are the stories we love to hear again and again,

in a park way back when.

i suspect that someday a new york gallery hopefully will represent my

artwork in due time… the good galleries are geographically agnostic

because they will appreciate the artwork on its own terms, not because

of the shipping costs between salt lake city and new york city.

i love both places and wouldn’t have it any other way, except someday

it would be nice to rent a studio space in new york city just to crash

and have my stepdad powell relax and have an easier time there.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Can an artist have a career without social networking?

qi peng: nowadays, i don’t think that is possible. maybe in the

literary world, yes, if you are thomas pynchon or don delillo but the

visual arts world is very much about having that magical presence in

the public. sadly enough, that’s where the talent of dash snow and his

crew managed to exploit in a very brilliant way. social networking is

the key to gaining trust and thus, the opportunity for the work to be

considered because contextualization of the work is key to

understanding its meaning. which is why unsolicited submissions fail

complete with gallerists in most cases because the context is very

difficult to determine in terms of presentation and thus most of them

won’t have the time to ponder the meaning. sadly enough, that’s why

much of the art is all prepackaged in terms of its conceptual drive

and i really find that somewhat distasteful.

the only recluses i know in the art world are outsider artists and the

tragedy, most of them have passed away before their legacy are

discovered… people like henry darger or james castle. galleries seem

to love them because it’s all secondary market gravy and the estates

don’t have to get much payment in return for sales. tragic i must


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How is the internet reconfiguring

socializing in the art world?

qi peng: it certainly has sped up the process in fact. i only have

been exhibiting since october 2007 and it’s scary how quickly i got a

solo show at envoy in less than two years as a conceptual artist just

through the socializing aspect. and i’ve only been doing the interview

portrait series since february 2009 so for me, i just realize how

dependent i am on the internet for my studio well-being.

of course, the internet isn’t the only thing that helps. small press

publications and magazines like new american paintings have brought

curators and gallery owners to the attention of emerging artists as

well. for me, i would broaden the category to include press media as

well as the internet in furthering an individual’s art career. also

the internet has helped to speed up the studio process as well. i can

convert a whole blog into a press-ready pdf in less than ten minutes

which used to be a herculean design task back in the day. for me, it

has allowed me to focus more on innovative driving concepts and less

on the mundane studio techniques that would suck up too much time as

an artist. i feel that the internet is going to be a powerful behemoth

that helps artists in the future more and more.

Dam, Sthultrager Gallery: Is the art world elitist?

qi peng: sadly enough, yes. i need not say too much about this except

to point to examples… just look at the review section for the new

york times. big chelsea galleries getting reviewed first and the

rarely candy dose of a brooklyn gallery. same thing with art in

america and artforum. lots of chelsea galleries and the occasional

brooklyn gallery review. and where in the fuck are the denver or salt

lake city galleries? seriously that isn’t democratic. it’s no wonder

that a lot of new yorkers assume that other places don’t have

cutting-edge contemporary art. which definitely is not the case.

hopefully my interview portraits and art world baseball cards can

change the course, granted as some quixotic one-person operation, in

terms of showing that there are cool denver gallery owners and so on.

i love new york city and not to get things wrong but sometimes i feel

that the art world there can become too insular and somewhat

xenophobic. the holy triad of new york city–london–los angeles can

be a little too much for emerging artists who don’t live there exactly

to want to offer the work… sadly enough, the main reason for wanting

new york gallery representation is to get the exposure to order to

fund more ambitious installation projects, so it has become a

necessity in some perverse way.

i was astonished when one of my new york friends couldn’t name a

single contemporary art gallery in dallas. floored to be honest. and

she knew the chelsea ones by heart. which is why i love brooklyn and

lower east side galleries a lot… the raw power and modesty that

masks the lovely grandeur of ideas which ought to be the focus of the

artwork itself, like a dynamo of concepts.

originally the gallery system in place was supposed to have a

benevolent purpose in keeping good art into the galleries and the

terrible kitsch out of the fine art world. however, just like our

economic system, this gallery connect has been abused like cooked

books of bad accountants. too bad for the past ten years the art world

has been so intertwined within the world of commerce to the point of

absurd capitalism. emerging artist galleries became less inclined to

take risks and just depend on the coterie of friends rather than a

systematic, curated program. the gallery system became a tool of the

sale rather than artistic empowerment like the way that white columns

started out in the 1970’s when gordon clark-matta was the main man. in

fact, just like rapping lost diggin in the crates as its main symbolic

gesture of power, the art world had lost much of its raw magic to

explore and redefine the boundaries against established thoughts…

instead, being usurped was the worst that would happen until now. it’s

time to have power back to the people, the artists from the

underground who speak for the voices who are oppressed.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What resources do you utilize to see what

the art world is up to?

qi peng: apart from twitter and facebook and actual in-person studio

visits and art blogs like edward winkleman’s and william powhida’s,

there is “how’s my dealing?” blog as well as the art magazines off the

stand of barnes and noble and sam weller’s in salt lake city. plus

chatting on the phone or instant messaging or email doesn’t hurt

either. for me, i wouldn’t want to be too close to the action as i

would love to have a unique perspective and slant on the whole thing

indeed. just helps that i am here in salt lake city so that i don’t

fall into the trap of being too involved within the scene and art

parties and perhaps crazy cocaine buffets and thus losing some

objectivity here.

also being good friends with artists help too. i love when they are

forthright about the operations of galleries. and i respect art

dealers very much too as well as the hardships the true ones have to

endure. it’s all good for sure. the truth will stand in some fashion.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Who/ What visually or conceptually inspires you?

qi peng: wow, this is a rather difficult answer to throw back the life

preserver. but to be honest, everything inspires me from feminist

magazines like ms. to anselm reyle to sophie calle to even the layout

of the centerfold in hustler or scientific american magazines. but why

is that? because art is about life. it encompasses its breadth and if

art is to reflect that mode, then out of necessity the art needs to be

a patchwork of information to capture that stuff.

my personal interests here is perhaps going to be a short list.

evidently i would like to give a personal shout-out to william

powhida, tom sanford, matt jones, kadar brock, jon coffelt, wendy

white to mention this first time, loren munk for some brute

inspiration… much of my conceptual drive can be touched by sophie

calle, andrea fraser, eric doeringer, hip-hop music from the golden

era of the early 1990’s to mid 2000’s, dj premier, public enemy,

regina spektor, colbie caillet, jack johnson, mel bochner, anselm

reyle, josh smith, joe bradley, steely dan, pirate radio, cassette

mixtapes, obscure swedish erotic films like i am curious yellow and

blue, pier paolo pasolini, michael haneke, brian de palma, alex cox,

james brown and the jb’s, rachael ray, ingmar bergman, richard prince,

sherrie levine, thomas ruff, gerhard richter, fischli and weiss, hans

haacke, christopher wool, jenny holzer, barbara kruger, john

baldessari, wade guyton, edward ruscha, tom sachs, on kawara, mark

lombardi, art & language, wendy white a must mention once again,

damien hirst, tracey emin, 1970’s to 1990’s playboy magazine design,

taschen books, various imported brews, tanya tucker, jazz music with

all types from gary burton to ornette coleman, eugene james martin,

alex katz, rubens and his crew, henri matisse, marcel duchamp,

stereolab, warp records especially the boards of canada and aphex

twin, dj spooky, bootleg records, obscure funk records like the

ambassadors and so on, classical music from anton von webern to

mozart, dan flavin, julian schnabel, will cotton, mel ramos, my close

friend vincent como, and this list goes on and on.

think that you all get the drift here. lots of goodies for the folks

out there connected to my tastes. loverly.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What trends or new developments do you see

emerging in the artwork being created or exhibitions being launched?

qi peng: from the looks of the last whitney biennial and the younger

than jesus show at the new museum, it is difficult to discern a trend

among emerging artists. most problematic is that none of the artists

were particularly emerging but established young artists who probably

weren’t as famous as tom sachs or dash snow. so i would prefer to base

my decision from another registry online called culturehall which is

run by david andrew frey representing long island city… his curating

is truly of really emerging artists, the ones in the raw.

based on the culturehall database of real emerging artists, the trend

i see is in less commercial artwork where the idea consumes the end

product. artists such as joshua luther who use google to create a

brilliant array of photos defining search terms of “love” and “hate”

or tema stauffer who explores raw portraits in emotional fixation…

certainly not documentary photography at its most refined. david

andrew frey does a most wonderful mining submissions for the raw art

that speaks conceptually without regard of its commercial value. and

many are wonderful young artists who don’t have gallery representation

because they don’t have the connects yet. but they will for sure.

another wonderful database is the nurtureart one down on grand street.

sweet load of stuff and i just wish they would upload all of it

digitally as i have to fly back to new york city to peep what’s going

on down there. i am a part of it and this i will discuss in further

detail in a another question there.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How do you see the current market

interpreted by artists, gallerists and curators?

qi peng: it used to be that galleries were burdened with the

responsibility of trying market the difficult to sell artwork back in

the 1960’s. check out the french gallery, iris clert gallery which did

some awesome shit back in the day. stuff like robert rauschenberg

sending a portrait of the gallery owner as “This is a portrait of Iris

Clert if I say so.” in telegram form which was crumpled and uncrumpled

for display after being discovered in the trash. that’s a true work of

genius because the power was in the hands of these artists who could

promote art strongly based on the force of the work’s driving concept.

the 1980’s was the beginning of intellectual laziness i suppose. here

the galleries got the upper hand over the artists and then a bunch of

eye candy hit the market. so instead of having artwork that forced the

viewer to sit twice to understand the meaning, much of stuff was

wallflower shebang. will cotton, for example, is masterful but empty

from an intellectual stance… in fact, it reaffirms the very values

of the nouveau riche that i am trying to break down. i can appreciate

it in its context but it just isn’t my kind of thing in terms of being

a challenge to the status quo.

the main problem i see is that gallery owners got too be too

complacent in terms of having sales come to easily. instead of

researching and figuring out how to promote the artist’s vision to the

collector, the owners ended up distorting the artist’s intentions much

of the time and molding the ideas to look like they were part of a

slick package instead of the raw and brutal ideas that were supposed

to be the core of the art in the first place. lazy curating and sloppy

ideas didn’t seem to help but those artists who kept in real, i give

props too. their names may not be well known but doesn’t matter. who

knows, maybe after the hoopla is gone, their work will be appreciated

in the right time when the concept dominates the market.

in fact, i sincerely do believe that the gallery is responsible for

supporting the artist’s vision at all costs rather than the artist

following the dictates of the gallery’s style. isn’t the artist an

explorer of the psychological and philosophical realms?

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: As reputable galleries close and budgets at

other venues are reconfigured, do you see an impact on artists’

opportunities, specifically in respect to artists in beginning stages

of entering the art world?

qi peng: yes, this ought to be a golden opportunity for emerging

artists to step up to the plate and offer their best work to the

public. apart from a mass swelling of artist registries, i think that

going from emerging to established artist becomes a type of political

guerilla warfare in terms of jumping up and down very noisily in a

huge crowd of artists all huddled together. the question is how to be

noticed by the head honchos while keeping one’s own voice. every

artist has to face that on a potentially practical level every single

day of studio work.

the problem isn’t so much the artists as much as the curators and

gallery owners. honestly, i am tempted to vouch that curated shows

ought to be double blinded just like clinical trials. the curators

should not know the artist’s resume or names when looking at work

initially and analyze the work in its own context and then on a second

look, factor in the personal and professional context when determining

the actual history of the piece. a piece is complex in its own

existence and a superficial look isn’t going to divulge a particular

philosophical slant on the first tug. there is no fixed meaning for a

piece of artwork so a curated show to be truly challenging

intellectually has to focus on a common thread of not-so-obvious

elements rather than a slapdash effort.

a lot of established artists are not happy with this shake-up because

they are worried about the lack of easy revenue stream. but good art

shouldn’t be easy come, easy go. it needs to be a good struggle

psychologically to find the solution since art is all problem solving,

just mere paint slapping on canvas. i suppose that these established

artists need to step up their game and produce solid work that

challenges our visual perceptions with hard jolts, not melted

chocolate bunnies.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Has the recent climate of change at

galleries – which has included shake ups, shuffles and entire rosters

finding themselves free agents – opened up more opportunities for

artists to find representation?

qi peng: as long as there are young, fresh galleries to take up the

place of the deceased, established galleries, there will be

opportunities for artists to get representation. however, producing

art shouldn’t be about the existence of whether you have gallery

representation or not. it’s a bonus in many ways but the studio

practice is going to be consistent regardless of the outside

circumstances. with free agents, i found that many of friends whose

certain chelsea gallery went bankrupt in court when the owner ran away

from her fancy apartment and juicy space then got served are happier

now as they don’t have to worry about fighting with her on what to

paint, how to paint, and a lot of illogical bullshit that took time

away from productive studio time. having gallery representation

shouldn’t be a ball and chain experience but a liberating support

group that entail a collective force of vision like voltron. so it’s

no wonder that a lot of artist friends are happy to avoid the gallery

system until they are comfortable with the trust issue, getting paid

on time, and being allowed to whip out whatever they desire from the


i wouldn’t joke but perhaps there should be an age limit on when an

artist is allowed gallery representation just like alcohol? (laughs)

seriously, the heyday when galleries ripped bfa and mfa kiddos and

repackaged immature work as well-developed, profound masterpieces when

they certainly were not, not at all… gangstarr kicked it best in

their song “mass appeal” when they declaimed:

“and no we dont make wack tracks

and all the suckers get pushed back when i’m kickin real facts

i represent set up shit like a tent boy

you’re paranoid cause youre my son like elroy

and you’d be happy as hell to get a record deal

maybe your soul youd sell to have mass appeal”

word. seriously the rap game and the art world game are pretty much

alike. give my career longevity precedence over that quick up and down

on the merry-go-round of the fame busters. it’s about providing the

goods that truly deliver a message to the public with hard-hitting


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Has the momentium of change within the

gallery community simultaneously provided a climate of new or more

experimental exhibition possibilities for artists?

qi peng: it’s too early to tell now as right now we just experienced a

slew of more galleries disappearing off the map like caren golden fine

art, hudson franklin, bellwether gallery, and so on. it’s not that for

the past ten years we didn’t get really experimental work and then all

of sudden, the flood gates of really kickass, test the waters type of

stuff got unleashed to the public. that’s an illusion, i really do

believe. artists always did very experimental, edgy work but they

didn’t get any shine. now the climate of this harsh economic time will

make them shine. i would love to see a solid gallery try to sell what

people try to think is unsalable. for example, catherine clark gallery

is going a fucking grade a in selling an internet website-based art

“momentomori” to a collector who can’t even own the website on a disc

as it is publicly available. instead it was about trust and the

gallery gave the collector a certificate and allowed him to speak

about why he invested in a piece that wasn’t his physically but in his

mindstate. for me, that’s an awesome gallery and kickass gallery. it’s

about having faith in that the artist’s vision was more important than

the greed for a physical object that is designed to show off to the

local call girl but a true investment in an idea that could lead into

further innovation in new media art. and yeah props to catherine clark

for her ballsy nature in showing that unsalable work can be sold.

thanks to you ken goldberg and theo armour. both of you are great!

collecting the uncollectable is the bomb, man.

that’s living proof that there are a few galleries that can kick it.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What resources for artists – networking,

registries, opportunity

listings, nonprofits, residencies, etc. – have you found most helpful?

qi peng: easily, i can recommend both nurtureart and culturehall

registries as being the best right off the bat. culturehall as i

mentioned before is run by one guy david andrew frey who curates very

well the most innovative art. he doesn’t care whether you had chelsea

gallery experience at all (i know this for a fact because of my art

buddies who was represented by a now dead chelsea gallery got

rejected) but whether your idea is truly cutting-edge and pushing the

limits of what art can do. seriously, i think that more curators need

to peep the website and check out his featured artists magazine

executed in terms of theme rather than style.

nurtureart is awesome despite not being fully digital like culturehall

does. karen marston, benjamin evans, and hannah gibson are a swell

team. they seriously support artists both in and out of the city and

their benefit exhibition which is held in a prominent venue has helped

various emerging artists to find new opportunities. and emerging

curators get a chance there too which is very crucial to growing this

community which has been opening up in new ways. nurtureart is an

intellectual utopia for getting artists to look at the gallery as a

playground rather than shopping mall.

artists space, white columns, and the drawing center’s viewing program

are all cool. i don’t think that i will apply for white columns ever

again after being rejected recently for having a new york solo at

envoy. artists space is nice but there is a visual overload since it

is not curated and the interface is too difficult to navigate. the

drawing center i really enjoy even though i got rejected twice

already. but i planned to do another round of submission next year. i

think that they got something shaking nicely at wooster street.

networking tools… again try facebook and myspace and even twitter.

seriously as an artist hunt down and become friends online with other

established artists, art critics like jerry saltz, gallery owners, and

other art professionals. most are generally friendly but granted there

are a few assholes that you have to deal with sometimes. don’t worry.

it’s not like you did something wrong except encountered a diva. being

nice to everyone is very important because a tough and good natured

heart wins in the end, seriously. and real art peeps respect that.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What art world avenues would you not

recommend to other artists?

qi peng: i wouldn’t recommend cold calling aka cold submissions like

the way i did my documents series where i did a mass mailing of

portfolios to bait all types of art organizations to send me

acceptance or rejection letters. the art world is not about casting

calls but about a serious, hardcore relationship. it’s about being

friends and sharing a common vision and not purely self-promotion. an

ego trip is not the way to go at all. and don’t submit to the moma,

the new museum, or the whitney unless it’s their independent study

program. focus on non-profits because they are more open to exciting


gallery representation will come in due time. a cold beer and nice

chat with a gallery owner goes a hell of a lot further than just

trying to bribe the owner with candy-laced portfolios. gallery owners

want to know that the artist can have a face and shoulder a great deal

of financial, artistic, and intellectual responsibilities. unless you

are dash snow and can get away with a shitload of wonderful pranks.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: In the big modern picture, do you see (or

desire to see) any new resources that expand opportunities to artists?

qi peng: yes, apart from my great equalizer experiment, i think that

more artists ought to band together and form collectives. there is an

unspoken power in numbers. actually there are many solid galleries

like momenta art which are run by fabulous artists. what better way to

curate than through the eyes of other artists?

apart from artist collectives, other new resources is the formation of

online artist discussion groups. i see that as a venue to bounce

ideas. in fact, i just had a wonderful talk on twitter with william

powhida and hrag vartanian plus tyler green about the nature of the

politics of museum curating and feminist politics. it’s awesome to

have spontaneous conversations about art and philosophy online. don’t

be shy in the art world. it’s worth being bold out there.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: The physical, intellectual and contextual

connections within the art world are fodder for your recent works

exhibited at Envoy and art projects previewed online in various stages

of development. Do you see any incentives or consequences of making

your projects public before they are completed?

qi peng: fodder, hmm. if fodder be the basis for the leftovers that

artists can mine, then it will be. actually the connections in the art

world are a crucial aspect to the idea of process art. the envoy

enterprises exhibition was designed to be an exhibition that focused

on its very own existence. of the backroom deals that cause shows to

happen not out of the blue. there is not a financial incentive for

depicting the slow motion details of an exhibition unfolding from seed

to kernel to blooming plant but rather the intellectual satisfaction

of having the public relate to the overall process of art making

becoming much more transparent. i don’t know to this very day how much

envoy was happy with my airing of all those emails before the

exhibition existed coming into the exhibition itself but that’s a

honest assessment there. no fiction in how it all came together.

which is why i love underground hip-hop songs. apart from the dissing,

i really like the songs that are truly postmodern and really reflect

on the process of lyrical combinations. for example, as mc shan once


“but all mc’s will feel my wrath

the system is my power the mic is my staff

i have the power of command, the power of lust

at the battles all papers read…”

that’s the ultimate magic of how art is created from the raw materials

like alchemy, no compromises for recognition. granted i think that

both the rap and art worlds are very self-reflective, perhaps too much

at times but what else to explain the sexy appeal of william powhida’s

fabulous diagrams of all the new york art backstabbing that happens

under the radar now seen by the public’s eye?

i wanted to reveal the process of art because it was an engineering

and logical solution of showing an exhibition about an exhibition. i

don’t know whether it pissed off anyone but certainly i suppose a lot

of people there really liked the way it congealed in terms of being

bold. still, i wouldn’t mind redoing it better next time with clearer


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Understanding that a wider audience views an

artist’s work online than at via a gallery show, is there now a new

precident between virtually and physical exhibiting?

qi peng: yes, it’s cool to view the work online in a list of

thumbnails but very hard to judge the tenor of the exhibition in its

rich flavors. which is why the james kalm report series is the most

crucial… hardcore video footage of shows where you can view the

artist like lisa yuskavage interacting with other important art peeps

like jerry saltz. these are the meaningful context that help the

viewer get immersed into the work better in addition to the

professionally done shots of the work. it also goes against the

pre-packaged format that has predominated during the past ten years.

so for me, the james kalm report is the foremost example of that

bridge between virtual and physical exhibition for many people out

there. kudos to the man on the bike with the half-assed production.

it would be cool if galleries programmed so that there was a 360

degree view walkthrough online for each exhibition. that would make it

a lot more interactive in some ways. either that or an artist’s book

about the show too. that’s the solution i’m taking with the envoy

enterprises is the creation of a complex artist book that shows the

whole story of its existence sandwiching the one day that it was

around in the gallery itself. it’s a traditional narrative just like a

movie. and people would be happy to see what goes on i hope.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How is an artwork’s first impression online

alike/dislike a first impression in a gallery?

qi peng: the first impression online could differ in intent from the

first impression in person. however, i think that there can’t be one

single reading of any body of work and the online version adds a

divergent view that kills any privileged viewpont there just like

roland barthes’ s/z battle. the viewer needs to be an active purveyor

of that information so for me, an online viewing is just another

alternative and equally valid reading to the artwork as much as the

physical viewing. so i have no problems with galleries serving up

various remixes for a particular exhibition. there is going to be

always that imploded viewpoint for any given exhibition.

i think that visual arts can be read in the five ways that barthes

alludes to: the hermeneutic code (the voice of the truth), the

proairetic code (empirical voice), the semic code (the voice of the

person), the symbolic code (the voice of symbols), and the the

referential code (the voice of science). so instead of the exhibition

guiding the viewer’s interpretation around, the visual cues are

reconstructed actively within the viewer’s mindstate as to promote a

sense of continuous disorientation and orientation.

which is why art fairs are the best, most beautiful lies possible

because it deliberately decontextualizes the artwork as a form of

merchandise, thus confusing the viewer and potential collector of the

artist’s original intent, however, problematic that may be. it’s no

wonder that bad art has an easy time selling at the art fairs

sometimes because the confusion helps the art dealer gain the upper

hand in terms of hiding the code by which the collector can decipher a

poorly made work.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What’s more important as an emerging artist,

where you show or that you are exposed to the widest audience?

qi peng: the widest possible audience, from a financial stance, isn’t

necessarily going to contextualize the work effectively because the

decoding of the artwork is going to be somewhat compromised by the

occasional failure to communicate. in fact, many key pieces in

contemporary art have been better served by where they were shown

initially because the gallery’s power to provide a construct and

mythical status around the artwork is going to offer the artist a

stronger venue to provide the better presentation. more people seeing

it doesn’t mean that it will have a greater impact. in fact,

subversion prides itself on the code of the hidden and its greater

power to the public through its absence which is why banksy’s physical

absence has become just as great a myth as the lack of later

photographs of the famous writer thomas pynchon.

as some would advise in dating, don’t reveal all your cards on the

first date but leave some mystery to keep them coming. same principles

apply to the art of presentation in gallery spaces too.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you see your interactions with the art

world as inspiring, informing, transforming, ripe for introspection or


qi peng: all of those and much more. for me, the interactions with the

art world has been a fountain of youth, helping to boost my creative

spirit and fueling my desire to create art that help out people in the

art world. it’s like creating a transparent mirror to the souls of

these people who want to forge new paths for the star trails of their

own ideas.

art = the blood line between people who never met, art = the

relational database of everything that we can know and don’t really

know, art = the activist’s tool to transform the world through

transference and pure alchemy of physics and spirit, art = the

zen-like self-reflective humor that balances out the power shifts that

get abused too often… and so on.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you see your artwork – such as your

baseball card series, rejection letter installation or interviews – as

presenting the realities of the art world, the fantasy of the art

world, a mixture of both or neither?

qi peng: well the root of these projects are always going to reflect

the correspondence to a real life event or actual character but also

the fictional projection of how that person chooses to present his or

her own image to the whole world. for me, there is never any fixed

meaning whatsoever to any type of reality or piece of artwork, so for

me, fiction and nonfiction are going to be locked together in

indistinguishable forms.

the alchemy is the act of transformation for the artist’s

recontextualizing. just like duchamp magically dumped an urinal and

called it art, my acceptance and rejection letters are converted into

autobiographical statement by my act of autographing them, thus making

them part of my public history on full display. the baseball cards

analyze the raw image of the double entendre within a particular art

world character. for example, does the baseball card of leah

stuhltrager represent the actual person in the card or a projected

image? since the baseball card portrays this fixed image of the real

person, this reductionist approach adds another layer of possible

interpretation in terms of the character’s new existence into a

fictional world. at this point, i would recommend highly everyone to

read robert coover’s novel “the universal baseball association, inc.,

j. henry waugh, prop.” to get some idea of what problems exist in

trying to separate fact from fiction in our personal lives. we would

die instantly if we didn’t have the benefits of fictionalizing some

part of it.

plus these artworks are a fantasy of the problem solving imagination.

a tour de force when the problem is extremely knotty and the artist

manages to recontextualize the commonplace elements into a

configuration that hits an unexpected epiphany.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you see your art projects as documentary

or having historical relevance?

qi peng: all of that plus a strong dose of autobiography. considering

that these art projects mirror the society i live in, i dream of them

following more in line with what balzac intended to do in his

all-encompassing series “la comédie humaine.” these are studies of

individuals… in fact, i wouldn’t be surprised that a few of the

people i interviewed lied to me and i counted their answers as a form

of veracity. there is no lie detector for creativity here.

yes, documentary mostly in the sense of creative interpretation but

straight-up facts, maybe not. as there is no privilege viewpoint

whatsoever, i recede to the background and follow through into a

supposedly impartial observer of the happenings of this rather

fascinating subculture we call the contemporary art world.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Do you see a connection of your work to the

work of Brooklyn artists such as Ward Shelley, William Powhida or

Loren Munk who (each in their own unique way) interpret the art world?

qi peng: even though, i am classified as a utah artist, my heritage is

hardly with the utah arts scene, which is too much stuck into the

literalist and academic art rut. so yes, my work is akin to the work

of the fine heritage of brooklyn artists such as ward shelley, william

powhida, and loren munk in terms of agenda. but the tenor and intent

are different amongst all of us. for me, these interview portraits are

about capturing the microcosm of each art professional as a human

being with a unique signature and breathing pattern and then the full

installation of these interview portraits as the macrocosm that

reveals the overall patterns of relationships.

for me, munk is a colorful documentary painter who wants to capture

the ideas of art movements and groups based on geographic location in

psychedelic patterns, powhida is an incisive satirist who tries to

latch onto the quirks and devilish politics of the art personae, and

shelley is a brilliant historian who attempts to codify our sense of

art history movements based on the patterns of both locale and the

ideas quite similar to munk’s approach but without the cartography and

using the timeline formation more often. i think that we need to count

in mark lombardi as well. his elegant drawings are pure joy and

inspired me a hell of a lot. too bad that he didn’t have a sense of

wry humor but he was one awesome researcher and that i have to give

him a tip of the hat. by the way, no confusion between munk’s and

shelley’s works as both have a distinctive style. conceptual painting

has a harder battle to plow henceforth. munk is an awesome mapmaker

whereas shelley is more into the hardcore history of it all. i guess

that i’m more partial to munk’s work.

so for me, it’s about seeing the art world as some huge ass star chart

where galleries are like constellations and the artists and gallerists

as individual stars with faux lines representing those personal and/or

professional relationships like the way we draw the big dipper even

though we can’t see the physical lines. and some stars shine brighter

than others, sadly enough. the north star is going to outflank orion’s

left belt just like richard prince will seem to be more prominent than

cady noland. but don’t forget that stars can die out too. who knows?

maybe the star of damien hirst may disappear someday and he becomes a

footnote in history? these things we can’t foretell very easily in ten

years when the art critics reassess the canon of art history. for me,

focusing on the art world isn’t about being for the times or the

fashionable attacks on certain entities but more into the

psychological drive that makes people do or want art. for me,

character sketches tend to date rather quickly so for me, it is the

archetypes that i’m delving more into that are more meaningful in

certain aspects. that like august sander, there are individuals from

which certain groups could be matched with. for me, it’s about

generalizing types or typologies in the art world while still focusing

on the individual spunk that forms a particular individual.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What about Californian John Baldessari?

qi peng: that’s hilarious as i did an interview portrait of patrick

pardo, who is the ringleader of the john baldessari catalogue raisonne

project. anyways, apart from that naughty side note, i would like to

be happy to own up to the same type of prankster attitude with a

serious philosophical core that baldesaari, one of my heroes, has from

day one. i really dig his commissioned paintings series the best along

with his new dot cover-up peekaboo huge ass photographic collages.

those are the dopest. but my work is going to be less about

philosophical perception of play and gamemanship and more about the

relational database which is my primary focus and something that

baldessari doesn’t really look at much. these relationships and

connections amongst characters are the nexus for my own examination of

these rather intimate details and emotional ties that can’t be

codified very easily through intellectual constructs.

baldessari is definitely an inspiration but we have different types of

artistic concerns. but of course, his commissioned paintings just

worth studying and points to the direction of my traditional paintings

that I am working on that focus on the fraud of the larry salander

case going on right now as we speak.

and people tend to forget that baldessari could really paint like a

master but chose not to. really good conceptual artists have a

masterful skill that they choose the path otherwise. just like a

gritty note on a post-it.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How do you see your work as different from

these artists- or others- conceptually or aesthetically?

qi peng: apart from the obvious visual cue differences, the conceptual

drive is going to be that i hope that my work will have more of the

capturing of the emotional side of the art world, not denigrating or

lowballing. i respect my enemies in the art world and i really believe

that the aesthetics for me isn’t the product of providing the easy

solution but a solution that’s elegant but jarring at the same time.

no one will acclaim that my interview portraits are beautiful from the

painterly view but that’s the point. the interview portraits are the

best part of the conceptual full-frontal nudity of the person’s soul.

that is what i am trying to drive at. these interview portraits are

the result of an unpredictable form of engineering, a strange hybrid

between new media art with online social networking and works on paper

or photographs with the final output. same parallel with the art world

baseball cards too.

that’s a good point that i can’t disavow these roots in those

wonderful conceptual artists. i hope that i am forging a different and

unique viewpoint through the idea of the ART ASSASSIN. for me, that’s

the crux similar to hip-hop. acknowledging the roots from the streets

you rep and the style you could bite while pretending or actually

being rather unique. yes, image maintenance but i suppose that all

conceptual artists are going to be low maintenance on their own


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: Ideally, what would you want to gain from

being affiliated with a


fabulous question, i dig. for me, having gallery representation is not

about having an ego trip or throwing down another notch on the damn

resume. it’s about a serious and confident relationship between artist

and gallerist who is a foil for the artist’s character. no artist can

be an island. he or she needs the guidance of a person who can help

the artist do problem solving. for me, gallery representation is

necessary for me to create the framing device for my large-scale

projects, whether it be the art world baseball cards or the interview

portraits or even the traditional oil paintings that i am working on.

being in a new york or los angeles gallery would provide the proper

context for the way my art can be perceived because of the

multifarious voices out in each region’s art scene and cultural

connects. here in utah, most people just didn’t get what i was doing

and that was all right with me. but in new york city, there is this

preset framework by which my art can be decoded by the public and the

art critics all ready in place. i feel strongly that my work can

continue but may not evolve as easily because it requires the

intellectual support that i don’t get here in utah much at all.

but cross my fingers that i can have the good fortune for a gallery in

my hometown to take on the work which isn’t an artist book as that is

being represented soon by the central booking art space. just need to

find a home for my paintings, works on paper, installations, and three

dimensional projects. they would be happier than in my own stuffy

condo indeed.

for me, being a gallery provides that foundation for a stable art

career, especially as these projects grow in size and level of

interaction with the public. the artist eventually would need to focus

more time in the studio at some point. for me, i do dream about

gallery representation in new york city or los angeles as the next

step, a good sign of progression in what i hope to achieve someday.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: In general, how do you percieve the artist’s

role in the artist-gallery relationship?

qi peng: the artist’s role is basically to support the gallery through

providing cutting-edge and visually and culturally challenging work

that tests the bar higher and higher. new forms of perception and a

deeper sense of being with no promises of easy consumption by a

voracious public. artists who churn out the same goodies again and

again i think are going the lazy route because it caters to the

desires of the public’s needy eyes without a cautionary note.

the responsibility of the artist is to foster a sense of community as

well. lately there has been a lot of art which seemed to be

self-indulgent and self-serving… a celebration of the excesses of

society, which i don’t really need as i could always head to the local

store and grab and eat a bag of hershey’s kisses. not the route that i

think would contribute to the dialogue very well. which is why i

admire baldessari’s trajectory of art career very much. he wasn’t well

thought of during his younger years but then like vintage wine, his

art career grew in respect. looking at all the solid, well-researched

monographs help me to contextualize what baldessari has done for the

arts community regardless of trend or fashion. he is a problem solver

like me and gets what needs to be said out there without hesitation or

crass catering.

and galleries shouldn’t be call out artists for making art that is

just sub-standard. too much the quality control is lacking. but i

don’t want to get too much into specifics as i prefer to take the

friendly skies here.

but the irony of it all is that i do appreciate art that i know is

terrible. a lot of people questioned merlin carpenter and joe bradley

but the strong effect was i truly understood where the artist came

from. and i am jealous. i wish that i could get away with selling work

for a shitload of dough by one short scribble on paper or canvas. but

the one-note approach can only go so far. which is why the interview

portrait series is the best type of self-imposed torture that could be

deemed possible. i presuppose that i could be caught up in all that

todestrieb and dark shit but i’m just a happy-go-lucky type of artist

who finds conceptual art the necessity predicate for amusement, mere

legos put together for the bemusement of the off-the-wall public

caught off guard.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: How important is it for an artist to

understand how to interact professionally with a gallery?

qi peng: that’s everything. the art world needs to be about respect.

too often rudeness and distrust are the results of artists pretending

like they rule the world which they don’t. they are part of this

larger network that includes them. but the art world doesn’t revolve

around the people as much as the ideas behind their creations and the

stupid media machine tends to focus way too much on the cult of

personality over the brilliance of the ideas.

for example, i am saddened by the recent death of dash snow but i

wonder whether his legacy will be meaningful in ten years. will his

semen-encrusted yellowed newspaper articles about police brutality

outlast the mere scandal that his gism was sprayed all over terrible

media which gets scooped by charles saatchi? personally, like william

powhida, i doubt that snow’s works will be studied in great detail by

art scholars in a decade but that’s just my gut feeling. the divorce

between emotion and a mere act of rebellion is just too great to house

a complex viewpoint that isn’t falling into the trap of a one-liner,

which has been the tenor of too much today’s artwork.

yes, a succinct punchline isn’t bad but there needs to be an element

of that emotional involvement and not too much critical distance.

which is why i am feeling the paintings of kadar brock which draws me

into his world of mysticism and grandiose liveliness that i rarely

feel in abstractions from contemporary art. how long can joe bradley

keeping throwing a grease pencil onto canvas and call it significant?

he is good for that one show but to repeat that beautiful joke again

and again would draw away too much power from the hilarity of that

conjunction between viewer and joke paintings during the unexpected

first time like same bad case of teenage sex turned into sour patch


Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: In your experience, what expectations of a

gallery have come as learning lessons, surprises or disappointments?

qi peng: learned lessons– the importance of an emotional and

intellectual rapport between gallerist and artist, the necessity of

responsibilities between both parties, the difficulty of getting

artists to explore the territory in a deep manner.

surprises– how often chelsea galleries paid their artists in drugs,

especially cocaine, rather than cash. what the fuck? are they trying

to create dash snow the second? artists need good, healthy food, not

drugs seriously. so sad how many of my friends had undergone rehab and

i am grateful to avoid that whole scene all together. the glamour

being such a huge part of the success of an exhibition… that killed

my spirit for a long time. presentation is important, yes, yes indeed,

but it’s not a substitute for the driving concept the work.

disappointments– how often galleries don’t pay their artists on time

and how often artists pass sloppy and incomplete work to the gallery

owners. it’s a two-way street… bad communication leads to a terrible

relationship in the end and artistic burnout. apart from that, the

gallery system is quite awesome… a great support group for helping

artists get their work contextualized by a reliable group of people

including curators, critics, and gallerists. generally things aren’t

as bad as they seem and the media tends to focus way too much on the

negative. yes, sales are off but dammit, aren’t artists and gallerists

making better friends nowadays without the shambles of artificial

mutual back scratching? a sincere and open relationship… the heart

of an art world that isn’t scared to forge new modes of perception and

reinvented forms of lovely appropriation. history circling itself like

a crafty dragon in eternal fire. a muck that derrida devotees have

nothing against.

the largest problem i see is broken trust between the two parties but

for me, if the art is the primary concern, then this trust will fall

naturally in place.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What else should the public know about the Qi Peng?

qi peng: the qi peng. hmm… there are quite a few qi pengs running

along. perhaps i am just “a qi peng” rather than “the qi peng?” in any

case, i do like my whole world in lower case to be honest. it’s a

modest want. i found a faux qi peng on artnet whose painting isn’t

mine. that was hilarious as hell. but it’s a lot better than my real

name. doesn’t albert sound too damn nerdy?

that to the nice ladies out there, i’m single and quite available

without a current girlfriend. also i enjoy lots of good healthy scoops

of haagen-dazs ice cream and did a little bit of dj scratching back in

the good old days. hmm… i enjoy all types of books from sentimental

shit like stephenie meyer’s twilight series to profound awesome works

of literature like vladmir nabokov’s lolita to offbeat choices like

wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations. euclid’s elements sound

good too. i don’t bite unless i’m eating something tasty. and that if

my fiction intersects too much with my nonfiction, i wouldn’t mind a

light slap now and then back to the planes of reality. and yes, i am

still the record holder for 89 pieces of sushi at benihana’s in one

meal. doubt that i will do that ever again but for me, it’s kinda cool

to enjoy large doses of seafood in one turn.

and by the way, i’m not an obsessed artist who burns crazy hours at

the studio. for me, art is about life, so you could find me out there

in the public doing art without the constraints of some artificially

defined space. hopefully i can get an assistant or a few to help out

with some conceptual projects that are too time-consuming. oh and i

really enjoy kicking back to a lotta good old school vinyl records.

yes, crackling music isn’t such a bad thing to remind us of our

humanity, our willingness to be free without an artificial high. plus

organic cookies are tasty. oatmeal just as fabulous and i still try to

collect the cheapest baseball cards without worrying about who’s the

rookie. powerade makes a wonderful treat for all the peeps out there.

huge ass doses of brutal honesty straight talk new york style and the

stigma of being a 33-year old virgin. dammit, that’s the fatality.

(laughs) but it’s all good, no worries there, no rush like fools who

rush in. i’m a softie romantic at heart indeed with crazy bat

shit-laced conceptual shebang up there in the dome. peace. shantih.

finally to dispel the idea behind the ART ASSASSIN. why interview

portraits in the form of assassination, this art of violence even

though i am for the total ban on guns? partially a slight dig at my

asian-american heritage and endless fascination with hong kong triad

films which talk about family and honor in the context of the harshest

violence. in fact, my zodiac sign is libra, the same sign as lee

harvey oswald, the most famous assassin of them all and the subject of

one of my favorite don delillo novels. also the assassination humor is

a sly reference to one of my all time favorite flicks “branded to

kill” directed by seijin suzuki or otherwise known as koroshi no

rakuin where the assassin named number three killer gets horny over

the smell of steamed rice while making whoopie with his lady friends

and he gets marked because he fucked up a botched assassin job when an

insect distracts him from the target. for me, my continual rejection

from galleries (apparently i gets no love) is a similar predicament…

my attention deficit disorder is my insect of distraction although i

gets no love from ladies either. failure in love and art, geewhiz, i

don’t win in too many departments like number three killer. it’s a

must watch because that’s the story of my life in black and white. and

someday i will beat killer number one, someday, this puny utah artist

will have straddled the beauty of failure and winning like a split

legged praying mantis… but at what moral hazard, at what price? at

what compromise? this i know not.

Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery: What would you like your legacy to be?

qi peng: that i am glad to have been part of a group effort at dam,

stuhltrager gallery with jerry blackman’s solo show and that it meant

something to the public and critics out there. thanks so much for the

invite, leah and rebecca and paige, seriously.

my legacy is pretty hard to say. apart from what leftover interview

portraits and art world baseball cards, i hope that my abstract and

figurative paintings will survive what impending disaster may happen

in the near future. hopefully it will be cool to sneak a few into a

nice new york museum or two, say the moma or whitney or guggenheim if

the guards don’t catch me or my body double. maybe my name will have

the same number of times of being mentioned in the same breath as

william powhida’s name. but this is all speculation and my life

trapped in this lovely nonsense of the web of the fiction and

nonfiction we all weave together. artists are like spiders who can’t

be disoriented because they are oriented in any direction they very

well please.

as long as whoever has my work didn’t throw my stuff away into the

trash bin, i can just be happy that a few people out there didn’t

completely dismiss what i was trying to do in terms of having the art

world focus on its own inner humanity and connect in some unknown,

spiritual way that goes beyond the mere veneer of professional ties,

as important as those may be.

i would like to thank suzanne fredericq for being a huge supporter of

my artwork regardless of whether it was unsalable. she bought my first

artist book the day after it came out which was rather nice. it was

appreciated most deeply that someone had the bravery to share that

unrecognized voice, a voice in the darkness that gets swallowed by our

being caught in the snare of eye candy. also jon coffelt and shawn

boley for helping me out with my solo show at envoy this past june.

it will be exciting to see how the artist books go with their

appearance at central booking art space out in front street in the

dumbo area of brooklyn. it’s a new gallery led by maddy rosenberg, who

has a solid history of helping out artists who focus on the book as a

piece of art. with the era of the kindle coming, will books be

extinct? probably not but they will evolve i am certain of that path.

hope that everyone out there will check out this unique gallery space

devoted to this oft-neglected art form.

thanks for the questions and the interview portrait perhaps growing

incoherent with more and more entropy as i continue to ramble with

more thanks to leah, rebecca, and paige, part of this wonderful team

comprising the dam, stuhltrager gallery. deep appreciation, thanks.

the composition of which is a form of personality conspiracy. my

sincere wishes.

life goes on beautifully… on and on…

***Leah, Rebecca and Paige want to thank Qi for his enthusiasm for this interview. It was much

appreciated and provided an endless amount of insight into his work as an artist, through personal and

cultural lenses.***


Written by qi peng

July 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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