CARTWHEEL Interview: Greg Haberny

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For the most part, the eight artists selected for this month’s annual springtime CARTWHEEL Art Street & Outsider Art Pop-Up Show are artists who have grabbed our attention at nation-wide art fairs. And Greg Haberny  grabs! There is no mistaking a Greg Haberny  space, which may include an airplane fuselage, a shredded piano, confetti, nails, screws, wood, scraps, toys, dolls and music.

Greg’s a New York City-based artist whose overwhelming, senses-stimulating installation work, revered in Europe and his native New England, caught the eye of CARTWHEEL founder Cindy Schwarzstein at Aqua Miami 2011. She then visited his New York studio in 2012 (we’re publishing a few of her photos here for the first time, with more in an expanded album form on our Facebook page). We’re excited to be the first to bring his emotionally and politically expressive art to California.  Greg was between preparations for this month’s Volta NY art fair and art show last month when we spoke.

Hi Greg! What do you like about doing art fairs?

I’m incredibly supportive of art fairs. I know a lot of people are somewhat against them, but I think one of the things about art fairs is that they create an environment where more artists have an opportunity to show–you can bring a large scale survey of art into an environment that readily allows that opportunity.  I think art fairs are good  for artists, for collectors, and for cities that support them economically. I think they give people an insight into art that they may not traditionally be exposed to, especially young and emerging art.

What’s your studio like? Your artwork makes me wonder if it’s a dangerous place… 

Noooo it’s not dangerous. It’s a little disheveled, and a little crazy, I mean there’s influences of everything–a couple hundred paint cans–crayons all over the place. I work very raw, so anything and everything I can get my hands on I use in a different way. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to people because it’s overwhelming. I have pictures everywhere all over the walls — but not paintings, just articles and drawings and news magazines. It’s kind of a fascinating place to be honest with you.


What kind of reactions do you get from people who visit your studio?

That it’s somewhat fascinating and a journey into my mind.

What are more details about it?

For a New York art space–my studio’s in Chelsea–it’s pretty large. Actually I’m very lucky as a New York artist in Manhattan to have a space of this size and magnitude, to be able to openly create and not have to worry about not working on large pieces or — I have the  freedom to really cut it up and just do it. Sometimes I think that artists in New York are really limited because of the size of their studio space.

You started installation work by doing it on the street. Can you tell us more?

It was a really long time ago. I think a lot of it was just trying to create a visual environment. I would use metal cages or things and set up and kind of  hawk and sell art in a very bizarre style environment. It was back when it was just for me, it was nothing but absolutely raw creativity–not worrying about the business circumstances, but I was just more or less doing it. And I think that kind of led me to believe through people’s reactions as to what I would do–this isn’t just a hobby any longer.

So what were you building back then?

You’re kind of limited as to what you can do on a street in New York. Some of them were just straight up illegal. A lot of them were just completely ridiculous pranks on a large scale–false advertisements.

That difference between L.A. and New York, in how people interact with their surroundings, is really interesting.

There’s an openness out there as opposed to this form of claustrophobia in New York. You pay for every single inch here. You have to fight for your elbow room here. It influences everything–as I said, even down to the way that artists work here, the spaces. It’s kind of unfair.

What else do you have coming up?

Right now I have a solo exhibition up at the HVCCA museum. It’s a massive, large-scale museum exhibition that I did. I crashed an airplane inside the museum and built it out. And I have a solo show coming up in late spring at Lyons Wier Gallery. And as I said Volta coming up. Then a show in the fall, and then back to Miami. So that’s pretty much the year.

Well I’m sure it’ll go by fast.

Yeah, art time is very different from regular civilian time. I have to prepare for things months ahead of time. it’s not really real life time. The average person wakes up and the things that need to be done are what’s in front of them for that day. For me, it’s what needs to be done within a three or four-month time period, and the deadline can be incredibly intense and stressful. But always enjoyable.


How do your ideas take shape?

Most of them all come from either reading or writing. By reading things, I digest things and come up with my own over-the-top way of presenting things. I take an issue and then interpret it into my own distorted thing.

What are your favorite things to read?

I love old magazines, old comic books, old newspapers. I have a variety of books I enjoy reading. Always different. I’m actually reading ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ right now. The reading element of things actually helps me come up with the visuals because I have to picture things when I read a book. For me, it helps jump start the process, just reading and writing.

Do you find it hard to make time for reading?

It’s part of the way I create. It’s not so much finding time, it’s more or less a point of — you have to make the time. It’s just an important a part of the creative process. It feeds and fuels ideas. It’s looking and seeing what ways I can interpret them… I’m not a huge internet person. I prefer physical books and magazines, and comics. Old bookstores and vintage stores help me enormously because I can physically go into a place and look at a massive library and pick up things that I’ve never seen before, never knew existed.

Do you have a big collection of books and magazines?

Yep. Enormous.

How do you keep it organized?

I don’t. …the place looks like a bomb went off in it right now. I’m working on so many different things at once.

Are there new themes in your work right now?

It’s getting more and more bizarre.

CARTWHEEL Street & Outsider Art Pop-Up Show
March 21-24, 2013
Opening Reception Thurs., March 21
1553 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Haberny studio photos: Cindy Schwarzstein/CARTWHEEL New York studio visit 2012


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