William Corwin

Artist, sculptor, teacher, writer – William Corwin is a man of many talents. He has been exhibited in a splattering of shows across the world since the 1990s and has strong connections to the ‘underground’ art scene in America. Will is also no stranger to the British art scene (having trained with YMB Richard Patterson). He says the city is like a “catalyst” for his work and inspiration – he also met his girlfriend there.

Here, I asked Will about his hometown New York, his ‘alternative’ career and his attraction to unusual materials.

Can you tell us about what it was like growing up in New York? Has it had an impact on you as an artist?

I think New York is what made me an artist. My dad is a playwright, my Mum was a writer, tons of their friends were artists, writers and actors, and I just remember running around in old Soho lofts when I was a kid, seeing all this funky art and thinking how cool it was to be an artist. I think when your family is in the arts, you often end up doing that yourself – everyone thinks it’s a really rebellious thing to become an artist, but it’s really like a family business a lot of the time.

What influence has your ‘underground’ work and experience had on your work?

It’s very simple – alternative and “underground” art spaces take the pressure off selling your work. That’s key to making sincere and philosophically probing work, not having to worry about the dollar! The spaces are also often funky – in both a good and bad way! – and really challenge you to create something that works within a weird space.

As a sculptor, what is it about the structural aspect of art that interests you?

I like site-specific projects; that’s why the show at George and Jorgen Gallery was so cool [this was the artists most recent exhibition in London, March 2011]. The whole idea was to build something into the space. When the gallery told me to build whatever I wanted, and preferably make it big, it was like a dream come true! I like the process of figuring out how the materials and objects will inhabit the space, and then constructing a framework for the ideas.

What was it that interested you about the Last Judgment mosaic? There is clearly a theme of cataloguing in this work – can you expand on this?

My installation came about through the idea of ranking a lot of the objects and materials I make and produce as bi-products of my work. There’s plaster rubble, little cast plaster objects, and these wooden panels I build with or paint on. I thought it would be cool to apply a sort of moral filter to these objects, displaying them on shelves, and giving them a sort of cosmic hierarchy, which is also a theme in the Last Judgment.

Why do you like to use bi-products of your work in your art?

I don’t particularly like art stores – the materials are pricey and there is way too much selection. There are too many colors of oil paint, acrylic, watercolor and tempera. I think that the magic in art resides in the fact that looking at a Frank Stella Black Painting or in a simple stone piece by Noguchi, or a box full of stuff by Cornell, there is magic and there doesn’t need to be artifice, that’s why I like wood and plaster – it’s basic and yet you can represent the universe with it.

Any ideas or plans for your next project?

July and August I’ll be doing a residency at the Clocktower Gallery. I’m going to keep following this lead with the shelves and hierarchies that I’ve started at George and Jorgen. I think I’ll create an inaccessible library, of layers and layers of shelves that can’t be reached, laden with objects and pieces of things. It’s a residency, so there will be a time aspect. The thing will grow over a few weeks, and I’ll eventually build myself into the space.

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