Brooklyn based Scott Albrecht (covered here) creates colorful plays on typography and symbols using repurposed found objects and wood cut apart like puzzle pieces. His latest series, which will debut tonight in “Here and Now” at Andenken/Battalion gallery in Amsterdam, is an extension of his style and themes. For this exhibition, he challenged himself to explore new ideas; there are more characterized motifs like abstractions of Hamsa, or the Hand of Fatima from Middle Eastern faiths, and hidden messages that represent more than what is written at the surface. Albrecht takes a moment to tell us more about his new creative writing exercises and creative upbringing in this exclusive interview with gallery owner Hyland Mather, below.
HF: You use a wide variety of materials in your work, and yet somehow maintain an identity throughout. Do you have a favorite medium right now? Is there a stepping stone process from one material to another, or have you always worked in various materials?
SA: I’ve been working with wood for awhile, and that usually feels the best to me. It has weight and tangibility, and also inherited character that I really like – each piece is different from the next. But I’m always looking to experiment with new mediums and process’. A couple years ago I got a little burned out on what I was doing at the time and felt like I needed to just step away and try something completely different which lead me to collage and the Bloom and Amalgam series’. Collage was relatively new to me outside of those pieces so I was learning as I went. Those were really fun at the time and I try to keep that spirit of not getting pinned into one execution style or medium. I like being able to move around and let the piece dictate the medium.
HF: Geometric patterning is riding a wave right now in the contemporary art world – How do you think we’ve come to this place? Is it something you see as cyclical? Where do you see it heading?
SA: I think it’s interesting. I see a lot of commercial patterns and aesthetics creeping their way in to the art world from contemporary design and illustration. Bigger, bolder, more graphic shapes and patterns, typography, illustration styles, even branding within a collection or an artist’s work (or of the artist themselves). A lot of it isn’t necessarily new to the art world, it just seems to be a more contemporary take on it. But I think this happens in waves, and probably makes sense in some ways. People get inspired by their surroundings, and these patterns also live popularly in a commercial space that is more and more readily available, making it easier to get inspired by what’s happening culturally.
HF: Text is often a strong element in your work. How do you arrive at your phrasing? Do you ever ‘borrow’ or appropriate wording for your own purpose?
SA: The type works are inspired by events or situations happening around me. I tend to think of the works I’m creating as what I want to be reminded of in the future. I have a habit of writing notes on scrap pieces of paper or collecting mementos of things I want to be reminded of – people, trips, ideas, etc.. My studio is a growing collection of these things.
I try to keep the voice and the language in the works unique, but more importantly, relevant to the situations I’m inspired by, which can leave sometimes familiar phrasing. It’s not on purpose, and for the most part I’m looking for wording and sentiments that are less familiar, but I don’t see it as a bad thing as long as it’s genuine to the emotions and history that I’m referencing.
HF: What does a day in your creative life look like? How much of your work week is dedicated to creating, and how much is about the business of finding projects and exhibitions?
SA: I currently work as an art director for company called Gilt, so the majority of my studio work is done in the evenings and on the weekend. For the most part, since my time can be limited, I try to use my studio time for creating new work as much as possible, but I’m always scouting and looking for new projects and people to work with.
HF: Are there any pieces or projects you’ve made that you really wish you hadn’t made?
SA: My earlier work can make me cringe at times. Not really by any piece in particular, but those pieces were figuring out a lot of things – technique, voice, tone. It took some time to hone in on those things. I don’t know that there’s any that are on a burn list that I absolutely wish never saw the light of day. I see it all as part of the creative process, the good and the bad.
HF: Like many fine artists who are also designers, your work has foundation in graphic and industrial design. What was your education like?
SA: My Dad started a design & illustration business at home when I was 11 or 12, so I started picking up on a lot of design practices pretty young. I was already really interested in art and building things at that point, and design seemed like another potential outlet to create with.
When I was 14, I started publishing a music zine called the Uptown Beat as a way to share a lot of music I was listening to at the time with my friends – mostly a lot of punk, ska and hardcore bands. At the time, I didn’t really think much of it, but it taught me a lot about design and creating because I was doing everything – from writing, design, interviews, ad sales, promotion, distribution, etc. It snowballed into a bigger production over the next couple years and ultimately pushed me to going to school for graphic design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
At school, I had a shorter program that was more fundamental and hyper-focussed on graphic design as a career only. There weren’t really any electives or side workshops that were offered, which I was always kind of jealous of from friends who went to other schools around the city.
Early on in my program, I started to realize the balance of creativity and clients in the graphic design world, and was struggling with it. I didn’t love the idea of only doing projects for other people so I started making work and projects for myself which was heavily influenced by my design interests but I started going back to more tangible, traditional forms of art. It helped come to an understanding that you need to make the work you want to make for yourself and not wait for it or be at the mercy of projects and clients. That ultimately pushed me back into art.
HF: Ryan McGinness’ famous book and art project “Sponsorship” is all about it’s subtitle, “The Fine Art Of Corporate Sponsorship”. How do you feel about doing design for corporate clients? What are some of your more memorable projects?
SA: What you put your name on is important. Everyone has to make a living but you can still choose who and what to associate yourself and your work with. I currently don’t take on too many corporate or commercial projects within my work because my time is fairly limited working another job. I try to dedicate my studio time to mostly creating new work but the projects I do take on I want to be with people I respect and that value what I’m doing, not just thinking of me as a hired hand to push product for them.
A couple years ago, I did a portfolio postcard set of some of my paper works with Random House/Potter Style. The set is a little older to me at this point but I love seeing and hearing how people use them. I get a lot of messages about people planning to send them from a big trip they’re going on, or that they give them out to strangers that they meet throughout their day. I had a teacher in Massachusetts contact me to let me know how she had used the cards to inspire a writing exercise in her class. She had prepared it so the kids could choose the card they wanted but it had to inspire their creative writing lesson that day. It’s been great seeing people continuing to enjoy the cards and how they are inspiring situations.
HF: You’ve been working a lot with puzzle like patterns in wood – where do you see this going?
SA: These newer pieces are an extension of my typography works. I’ve been challenging myself to step away from the more traditional forms of typography and explore different outlets and executions. These works are made up by a grid, with very simplified characters that are abstracted to a point where they are showcasing the forms more than legibility. I like this idea of a somewhat hidden message that the work embodies and represents more than what people are able to read. I really don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I guess we’ll see when we get there.
HF: What is the evolution of this work? What tools are involved with the making of these detailed pieces?
SA: I start by drawing everything by hand, getting all the elements where I want them and then I’ll re-draw it in Illustrator as perfect shapes. To cut the wood, I currently use a laser cutter to execute the initial shapes. It’s important that these pieces line up as perfectly as possible to not throw the rest of the piece off. I’ve cut similar works like this by hand on a smaller scale in the past, and it can be quite intensive getting all the pieces to align just right. Once I have them cut, I go through a process of sanding, painting and re-assembling. I started smaller with this series and have been slowly stepping up in size. I would love to eventually do some much larger, possibly full-wall size pieces in this style.
HF: Talk to me about your hobbies outside of art – what areas in life are you still itching to explore?
SA: Travel definitely. There are so many places I want to go to and explore. I would love to go to Central and South America and do some backpacking and exploring. I also have some side-business ideas I want to try at some point. I’m always scheming to do my own thing. One of which being a platform for editioned releases of art objects. I’m hoping to actual start that later this year if possible.
HF: You are currently living and working in Brooklyn now – what drew you to that city?
SA: I’m going on 8 years now in Brooklyn. Before that I was living in Jersey City just across the river and before that in Philadelphia. I originally moved up here despite not really wanting to. I wasn’t ever really attracted to NY to begin with. It always felt really big and overwhelming, and like someone was always trying to hustle or get over on me. But coming out of school I was really focussed on finding work that was creative and inspiring. I had been working a little bit here and there between New Jersey and Philadelphia but was really seeing that all the opportunities I was interested in were in NY. So I found a job and decided to move up and I’ve been here ever since.
HF: What are you hoping to inspire when someone sees your work? Are there general feelings that you try to convey and pass along to an audience?
SA: I try to keep an optimistic perspective in the work I do, despite the situation it’s inspired by. I think one of the biggest things that I try to keep in perspective that translates into my work a lot is that things are what you make them regardless of the circumstances. Whether people see that or agree is up to them.
HF: What is your dream project?
SA: I would love to release a monograph at some point. That’s the type of project that’s still a ways off, but I geek out on art books. I think it would be kind of wild seeing all the works together from a longer period of time. Seeing how much they’ve evolved, what’s remained consistent, shifts in perspective, etc.