Interview by: Atesh M. Gundogdu
In over fifty new paintings depicting the circular labels of assorted vinyl albums and singles, Muller draws upon his endless fascination and encyclopedic knowledge of music and its capacity to shape both individual and cultural identities. He culls resonant records from the ‘20s through the ‘90s, some familiar and others forgotten, tapping into shared poetic moments and a collective dialogue. Dave Muller’s tenth solo exhibition with the gallery and he answers our publishing director Atesh' s questionnaire.
Atesh M. Gundogdu: To begin, can you describe your studio space?
Dave Muller: My studio is a large two car garage behind my house in Pasadena. The way it is set up varies by project. I like being around the house and available to my family.
AMG: What was the impetus for Sex & Death & Rock & Roll?
DM: There is the cliché that all art is about sex and death and I have never been afraid to embrace a cliché, hopefully critically. Because I see the world through music colored glasses, I was thinking about the Ian Drury and The Blockheads song Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll song in relation to the work. These days I am not interested in Drugs, so substituting Death seemed a reasonable way to modify the themes of interest to me. Rock n Roll is associated with euphoric abandon but can also be interpreted as enthusiasm, and it was the popular mode of music when I was growing up. I think of Rock n Roll in a historical context in the way one might think of Modernism, and how at a certain point it becomes of a specific period and no longer contemporary.
AMG: Can you describe for me the connection between your source material and your paintings?
DM: I like a level of verisimilitude. I came of age in the era of the Pictures Generation and felt their level of semiotics was interesting to me.
When I lived in New York in 1990-‐1, I had the opportunity to see art by artists such as Alex Katz, Richter, Barbara Kruger that I initially expected to like or not like, and once viewing the work in person ended up having my expectations inverted.
I wanted to be a conceptual artist or use things in a conceptual way. I misread conceptual art as whatever it took to get the job done versus a territory, and a level of surrendering the ego.
An early series of works I did were Xeroxed from posters then directly hung on the wall, and I decided I needed to be more involved to make the work less cold.
Showing photos did not excite me, because I wanted to be more engaged with the subject matter rather than being detached. I taught myself to draw and paint. I also like that the paintings from a distance may seem photographic but dissolve upon closer inspection.
Working this way enables me to be a closet Pictures Generation/conceptual artist but with painting, and for my work to be recognizable.
AMG: Why painting?
DM: Painting allows me to think with my hands.
AMG: What emotions are you channeling into your art?
AMG: What do you think is more important in life: Self-‐actualization or making art?
DM: Are they diametrically opposed? I think they are the same. What is great about putting your art in the world is then receiving the feedback of what other people have to say about your work.
AMG: What is your favorite title of an art work?
DM: Yes. (Related to Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s introduction at Indica Gallery.)
AMG: What is your favorite ritual?
DM: I perform yoga for 20-‐30 minutes twice a day, when I wake up and before I go to sleep.
AMG: What songs/albums are on your playlist nowadays?
DM: Right now I listen to a lot of audio books at 1.5x speed. I started the Comey book yesterday and am almost finished with it.
AMG: What is so scary about the future?
DM: Not knowing. It is the same thing that is scary about death: that no one knows what is going to happen. The future involves your death.