As luck would have it, some wonderful Chicago collector friends invited me along on their visit to the studio of Amanda Ross-Ho and her husband, Erik Frydenborg. Amanda is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, Shane Campbell in Chicago, The Approach in London, and Cherry + Martin in Los Angeles. Probably best known for work she had in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, she has also been in many other museum shows including last year’s New Photography show at MoMA in New York. Luckily, Amanda has an upcoming show at LA’s MOCA in June so the studio was filled with works in progress.
Her downtown Los Angeles studio is vast but somehow manages to feel cozy; perhaps it is Amanda’s friendliness and her eagerness to discuss her work that adds to the pleasant atmosphere. Amanda is originally from Chicago but came out to Los Angeles for graduate school. Since receiving her degree from USC (where she met Erik), her career has had a meteoric rise.
As we stood in front of a large canvas that had a huge section cut out of it, the drape still hanging at the bottom of the work, Amanda explained that it is important for her to work simultaneously on many pieces. Negative space is just as important to her work as the painted elements. It seems that all of the cut pieces that are removed during the creative process always make their way back into her work in some way.
She uses blue painter’s tape to create shapes and those, in turn, inform other pieces. The tape used in the creation of one work can be, and often is, photographed and then used in another piece in some manner. A huge part of Amanda’s practice is incorporating gestures used in one work back into another work at some point, translating work that is hers. She believes that every gesture is productive—there is no wasted gesture. Every piece has a life beyond itself and “every gesture is caught.” She is a keen observer who uses these gestures like brushwork. She constantly takes pictures and takes notes while out and about in the world that inform her studio practice.
Works live on eternally in Amanda’s production. Even if a work is finished and lives in someone’s collection, themes, gestures, subject matter may reappear in a new way. In that cyclical process, all of her work is related and thus makes it that much more powerful of an experience to see her studio.
Her hexagon painting series came out of a vintage quilt pattern book that she acquired. Amanda was drawn to the predetermined abstractions and the idea that a fragment can be used to create a totality. She still has plans to make all of the patterns in the book. She stated that she likes to “saturate the whole archive in making a series.”
One thing I noticed and asked about as I got up close and personal with her works and studio walls is that there are phrases written in pencil in random areas on the actual walls themselves. She told me that she hears these phrases that catch her attention in some way whether it be while listening to music or speaking to Erik, and instead of going to get a pen and paper and disrupting her flow, she just reaches over and jots them on the wall. This made me step back and take a hard look at her studio walls.
She has worked on many pieces over the years and elements of her works can be seen all throughout her studio. The walls themselves are works of art and inform her practice. As she said, she “builds a field” when creating her work.
Scale shift has been a part of Amanda’s oeuvre for many years. She has a background in textile design and prop making from when she first arrived in Los Angeles that helped her when creating her larger than life apron pieces. She would wear aprons when making paintings and as each mark landed on the cloth, she would consciously become aware of it and reflect on what it would take to make it look real and unplanned once she began the process of making an inauthentic item look authentic. That type of work requires a particular eye, focus and heightened level of attention to make. But Amanda is wired that way and thinks about things like what happens when a screw is drilled into a wall—it does not just create a hole, but it splays out and creates a unique mark. Her practice involves some elements of chance but a good portion of it is informed by a serious intentionality. The human-scaled aprons hang on the wall and around them loomed the outline of the larger aprons that have long since left the studio and been exhibited and purchased by collectors.
Oversized objects will also be a large part of her June exhibition at MoCA. She treats works she has made like found objects that she groups the way she groups source material on her studio wall. [I love looking at idea walls in artists’ studios. I had a dealer friend tell me that just because I am not an artist doesn’t mean I can’t have a wall like that of my own. I am now going to begin one.]
In addition to her paintings are installations using found objects, kind of happy accidents. One piece included a found chair that ended up living in the studio. A sculpture seemed to emerge from it and so she played with putting it on a stand to see what would happen. It is nice that these objects are embedded with an intimacy due to having been in her space. There is an organic feel to all of her creations. But for Amanda it is only once works have been exported out of the studio that they really exist.
A smaller room houses Erik Frydenborg’s meticulously cut out abstracted shapes from books and magazines.
He makes small collages using these cutouts that look beautiful when hung in a group. He then scans the collages and prints enlarged versions for wall hangings. Some of the geometric forms are repeated in freestanding sculptures he creates using wood and polyurethane. The collage began as a substitute for a drawing practice and he didn’t think of them as works in their own right, but now that has changed. He explores the forms and translates them from 2-D into 3-D objects.
Visit www.amandarossho.com for more information.