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Alumni Studio Visit: Todd Bienvenu
October 31, 2018 · Alumni
Todd Bienvenu (b. 1980 Little Rock, AR) received his BFA from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2003 and his MFA at New York Studio School in 2007. Solo shows in 2018 include Jaywalk at Laurent Godin in Paris and Slapstick at Almine Rech opening November 24 in London. Bienvenu lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
I arrive to my studio in Bushwick around 11, turn on the lights and lay out the paint. I’m working in acrylic these days; my next show is in London and I wanted to make sure everything was dry in time to ship it. Also, the space is quite large and so are the paintings, acrylic gives me the flexibility to make a mess and come back an hour later and repaint it. I kind of putter and play with my phone, look at what I did yesterday, then I get to work. I have a number of things going at once, sometimes I’ll go from one to the next, other times I have one that sucks me in. After a couple hours it’s lunchtime, I step out and get a bite. Sometimes I’ll take a nap on the floor after lunch. Then I’ll lay out more paint and go until it’s all gone. If there’s any left at the end, I’ll start something new or use it as a ground. Wash my brushes and go home.
2. Walk me through your process. What are some of the parameters or problems you set up for yourself within your work?
Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a painting, I look on the internet for things that might be interesting to paint and save them in folders on my computer and phone. I take pictures and draw. I read things and look at art. But usually the painting emerges out of the process. Usually the idea I begin with sucks and has to change. It often feels like I’ve run out of ideas, but then I start making things and then there’s a room full of problems to solve. I work on lots of things at once, it keeps me from being precious. I want to be surprised, I rarely do a preparatory sketch. I try to come up with new subjects and ideas, although lately I’ve reworked some themes. It’s all pretty intuitive.
3. What do you keep in the studio for inspiration? Reference material, artist monographs, music, fiction, found objects, foods etc.
I don’t look at source material too much in the studio, I want the painting to be its own thing, I don’t want it to look like real life or a photo. It’s interesting to me to find painting solutions for depiction. Color to color, find a shorthand way to say it rather than getting out a smaller and smaller brush and rendering every eyelash. I’ve got my phone in the room but I try to listen to what the painting is saying. I’ll google image search if I need to see what some particular object looks like, but I don’t look too hard. Lately I feel like I do more thinking and searching for inspiration outside of the studio. I’m always looking, trying to be open to things to bring to the work. I get to the studio and just paint in a short burst then let it set until tomorrow.
4. Do you listen to anything while you work?
Yeah I make playlists to listen to, it needs to be music I know so I can zone out or ride it. Listening to something new takes up too much of my headspace.
5. How did studying at the New York Studio School influence your current studio practice?
I got a lot of good things out of the NYSS, I was there for three years and took just about every class. Graham said to have ambition for the work, not the career. Bill Jensen told me to keep my overhead low. Good advice for life after school. I got a lot from spending 12 hours a day working and being around artists. The chats with my classmates at the bar were just as important as anything a teacher told me.
6. Are there any upcoming shows or projects on the horizon you would like to share?! And where can people see your work in person and/or digitally?
I have a solo at Almine Rech in London on November 24 and a solo at Galerie Sebastien Bertrand in Geneva in February. Check my Instagram, google me, or go to Sebastien’s website for more.