George Byrne’s “Exit Vision” opens this week at Olsen Gruin in New York. The new series of work includes pastel photo-collages of images captured in Miami, Los Angeles, and Sydney—inspired by architecture, color, and culture.
The Los Angeles-based artist shares with us below how he has moved away from creating just with a camera, and beyond to intentional images designed in his studio.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for the body of work that will be on view in “Exit Vision”?
GEORGE BYRNE: The starting point for the show was a work, included in the show, called Target #1, 2019. Usually when I’m searching for inspiration for a new series, there is an image that comes along that encapsulates a direction that feels like a starting point, Target #1, 2019 was it.
WW: What is the meaning behind the title, “Exit Vision”?
GB: The term “Exit Vision,” refers to how my work has shifted away from what is actually seen in camera, to what is created in the studio using photographic material. These works are largely photo-collage, often designed initially with pencil drawings.
WW: The images were captured while traveling to cities like Miami, Los Angeles, and Sydney. What brought you to these cities and what about them do you find inspirational in your practice?
GB: Miami, Los Angeles, and Sydney are all sprawling coastal cities with a few cultural and architectural through-lines. I was keen to explore these themes and see how the photographic material accrued from all three cities could potentially be mashed together into photo abstractions.
WW: Can you tell us about your choice of color for these photo-collages?
GB: I think colors work together in harmony and disharmony much like notes in musical scales. My works deal primarily in pastels, and through trial and error I look to match chunks of color that hopefully end up creating their own unique alchemy.
WW: You use a mix of technology for these works— an iPhone, analog, and digital cameras. Do you have a favorite method to work from?
GB: For this series, the seed of an image would often start with me noticing something cool, and using my iPhone camera to scout the location, then I’d return to the studio to make a little pencil sketch based on that, then I’d go back and shoot the location again with a large format camera to get the photo material for the final image. Many steps! As to my favorite method, I think they all have their merits but nothing beats the raw beauty of a perfect negative shot on medium format.
WW: Tell us about your studio in Los Angeles, where you’ve been since 2014.
GB: I’ve had a studio workspace in at wilhardnaud.com for five years now. This is a multi-purpose art space that has tons of studios and exhibition spaces. Having the luxury to be able to come here to work completely transformed my work process and made me able to really laser in on what I was doing. The building is a converted factory, right by a train line on the edge of LA’s historic Chinatown district. I love it.