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alex bailey

february 18, 2017

richmond, virginia

Ava: Are you a cat or a dog?
Alex: Dog. Definitely a dog.

Adele: What have you been listening to recently in your studio?
Alex: Dog sounds.
Adele: The menagerie.
Alex: The Ventures and The Nerves and Lil Wayne and Yung Thug.

Ava: What is your studio beverage of choice?
Alex: Coffee.
Ava: How do you take your coffee?
Alex: Black.

Adele: Describe your studio practice as a party.
Alex: Everybody talking really loudly but not being able to understand what the others are saying. It’s definitely a dance party.
Adele: What kind of music?
Alex: Fela Kuti. It’s a dance party with lots of drumming. Very percussive. Maybe Lil Jon. Turn Down For What.
Ava: Is it a late-night party, or…
Alex: It’s an all-day event. It’s like spring break, Cancun ‘99 type of thing, like a Say What Karaoke kind of party. I think that was kind of inspirational as an aesthetic. I didn’t feel comfortable watching MTV—I was like “ooh this is bad!”—but I was incredibly fascinated by everything about it, and I’m kind of obsessed with Miami, for that reason. It reminds me of that.

Adele: What is your idea of home and what is your relationship to home?
Alex: I grew up in Virginia Beach, but it didn’t ever feel like home even though I grew up there. And then when I left, all I wanted to do was make stuff about the beach, so I was obsessed with beach art—
Adele: Like shell art?
Alex: No, like, the aesthetic of Hurley but also towels, where it’s really happy and bright. I don’t know. Like towel prints, prints on towels. And just the iconography, like suns and waves and things like that. [referring to paintings] A lot of them are pretty abstract but that’s totally suns and a palm tree and waves. I don’t know if home is where my heart is. It’s where I’m going. Home’s not where my heart is, it’s some imagined other place. Probably not very Buddhist.

Ava: What is your vision of romance?
Alex: I think romance is being able to be with someone and actually really let your guard down a lot. I probably don’t seem too guarded, but it’s still being able to really know that that person knows what a piece of shit you can be, and you know that about them, but it’s ok. I think that’s probably my idea of romance.
Adele: Would your definition of intimacy be similar or different?
Alex: Similar, I guess. Yeah, maybe that’s what that definition is for. If I was to define romance outside of myself, it’s about fantasy or sensation, it’s about imagining and then trying to live this fantasy. I think about balloon rides, or something.

Adele: How relevant do you think painting is in 2017?
Alex: Honestly, I haven’t really been paying attention to painting since 2014 or 2015. Someone once said to me, “you know, painting’s kind of stupid, you just put something on your wall, and you’re like, ‘that’s pretty.’” But I think that will always be relevant, actually. You still put shit on your wall and go, “hey, that’s pretty.” Painting is static and fixed, unlike new media. Compared to a lot of things, it gives you more freedom to look around. As a viewer, you’re more mobile, you can look at the sides. I’ve been thinking a lot more about painting the sides and bottoms of paintings. A painting shouts at you visually but you can choose how to engage it, from what distance, and choose your positionality. I’m also interested in the idea that a painting stops you. When you read, you’re being moved, you’re turning pages. Or how environmental signage moves you through a space. People would meditate to pictures, they’d sit there, and in that sense, they stop people. It’s almost about stopping time, I think, even though a lot of the time I’m trying to depict motion or capture that. There’s a feeling like a painting possesses you, and I feel like that’s fascinating. And maybe that becomes more important in 2017, that aspect. It’s why I’ve been wanting to make something different and want to be more focused about it, while trying to keep a sense of humor.

Adele: When was the last time you screamed?
Alex: Pretty recently, I’m sure. It probably wasn’t from anything bad happening to me, I think it was from me doing something and immediately regretting it. Putting my foot in my mouth a lot or getting into an argument with Lizzy over something stupid but not being able to back down until after I left and telling myself, “I’m a stupid idiot!” You know, in the moment you have your flare-up, you’re like “I’m fighting!” and then you leave and you’re like, “God, not only do I not care about what we were fighting about, I was wrong.” And I’m always realizing that I’m wrong—not always, I’m not always wrong—but a lot of the times, I’ll say one thing without thinking, and then defend the thing, and then realize that I’m going to have to apologize later. Which I do.
Adele: And that makes you scream?
Alex: That doesn’t make me scream. Apologizing doesn’t make me scream. It’s when you leave the fight because you need space and then you’re like, “SHIT I AM AN IDIOT. I was wrong!” I just think about the points later, because you can’t really listen well when you’re angry, which I think is a big problem. We’ve actually avoided politics this whole time, so I’ll try—I think it’s a big problem, you can’t listen when you’re angry.

Adele: I mean, one of the reasons we ask this question is to see if anyone wants to talk about politics. It’s not a particular avoidance, I think it’s really important.
Alex: I’m not a political artist. I’m a butterfly, man. Ideas of taste have a political dimension to them, possibly. I think that I’m a pretty well-educated and fairly privileged white man, so there’s aspects of me looking for this primitive tribal tropical exoticism I think--you know, I’ve got some Gauguin things going on. And that could be used as a criticism.
Adele: Yeah, but you’re not like, raping exotic—
Alex: No, no, I don’t have that. I don’t want to appropriate cultures or their imagery, but I’m fascinated by how different cultures structure pictures and also this idea of paradise. Paradise to me isn’t super clean, so it is a trash rainbow, it is a place with smells. I love how stinky and messy dogs are. There’s so much really dire, tragic, dark art, especially movies and popular culture being made, like video games, that show a different idea of ideals or paradise that actually has some value. It’s like, when I watch a Miyazaki movie, like Totoro, it has minor conflicts but it shows you a kind of magical world that isn’t just an escape. It’s a quality—and in those movies I think it’s like a meditative quality—that I think is a really great presentation of value. Those are the kind of politics I’m interested in, a re-assessment of value and what’s beautiful, because I think ultimately if we don’t have an idea of beauty to aspire to, then it doesn’t matter if we displace Trump. And having that beauty be inclusive. I don’t want to live in an all-white Need Supply.