ARCHAIC ORNAMENTS IN THE ARCHITECTURE
A Studio Visit with Artist BEAU STANTON
By Lori Zimmer
I recently visited artist and friend Beau Stanton’s Red Hook studio for the first time, to get a personal preview of his first New York City solo show, which opens April 12th at Bold Hype Gallery. Admittedly, I’ve only been to Red Hook to go to IKEA, and was pleasantly surprised to find the 25 minute walk from the subway to be met with historic homes and cobblestone streets, making me feel like I was transported to some sort of nautical day-cation.
The escapist feeling continued once I finally arrived to Beau’s studio, which is in a woodworking warehouse on the water’s edge. The expansive studio echoes the building’s past, with knotting floorboards that give glimpses to the floors below, and a million dollar uninterrupted view of the Statue of Liberty. In fact, his studio is as much a work of art as the paintings he creates–ancient bottles are arranged carefully on a shelf, antediluvian cogs and machinery are hung on the walls like prized masterpieces, pictures of giant squid and letterpress patterns are tacked to the walls. Beau’s studio is like peering into his brain.
Much of Beau’s work has a feeling of nautical history, combining his love for the beautiful decay of steamboats, rusty gears, and oil rigs, with stories of oversized sea creatures and sea nymphs. His new show further delves into this, with the new work adding even more narrative than his works past. My particular favorite–please, feel free to buy this for me–is called “ The History of Semiotics” and for an art nerd like me evokes the cross section of Heaven, Earth and Hell in Jan van Eyck’s “The Crucifixion,” with a chronology of symbols replacing van Eyck’s figures of angels, demons, and humans–aptly topped with the symbol of today: oil rigs.
“Archaic Ornaments” is a solid debut for Beau into the realm of New York City solo shows, I hope to nab a piece for myself!
Lori Zimmer: What does the title of your upcoming show, Archaic Ornaments, mean?
Beau Stanton: Archaic (meaning no longer in everyday use but sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavor) Ornaments (meaning a thing used to adorn something but usually having no practical purpose) refers to ideas from the past that have remained in our consciousness as vestiges of our former traditions while also referring to the design elements that are found in my paintings.
LZ: What inspired your new body of work?
BS: Visiting Detroit, the Antikythera Mechanism, ancient mythology, the apocalypse, Jungian ideas about the collective unconscious, and boobs.
LZ: Tell me about my favorite piece, “The History of Semiotics.”
BS: I was looking at a map of geological strata one day and though it would be cool to make something like that but show different graphic ornaments from throughout history as the layers. This painting depicts a flaming oil derrick on top of a cutaway of the earth’s crust. A passage cuts down from the derrick descending through layers made up of design motifs and ornaments from different time periods and cultures, some human remains, and a mechanical layer eventually ending up at the bottom level that is occupied by Pre-Cambrian sea animals. We don’t think about it much but someday we will be oil.
LZ: Your studio is rad! What a view–does it inspire your work?
BS: Absolutely. The maritime history of the building and surrounding neighborhood provides lots of content for my work. Red Hook is sort of like a mini Detroit where large share of the historic buildings were abandoned until fairly recently. My studio is in a Civil War-era warehouse on the waterfront, complete with floors made of giant timbers and cast iron storm shutters. Every time I look out my window I imagine the huge ships that used to dock there. It’s not hard to want to get up and go to work in the morning.
Beau Stanton is a Brooklyn-based painter. He has a sweet studio, and is also Ron English’s right hand man.
Written by Lori Zimmer
Edited by Meaghan Coffey
Photography by Lori Zimmer
Design by Marie Havens
Beau Stanton in his studio, 2012, Photography by Lori Zimmer