Sunday, March 17, 2019

Joseph Montgomery Studio Visit

Shim piece, gouache and gesso on wood shims and canvas.

This past week I took a trip to NYC. During my stay, I saw a lot of art and visited a couple of studios. One of my first stops was at Matthew Marks Gallery to see the Jasper Johns show. Shortly after I arrived there, a woman arrived whom I thought I had seen somewhere before. I said hello and said I thought I had seen a documentary about her and asked, "Are you," "Yes, I'm Susan Weil," she answered. I then said, "Weren't you were married to," and before I could finish, she said, "Robert Rauschenberg, yes." We spoke briefly before she continued viewing the exhibition, and she said that she had made a special effort to see the work as she and Jasper Johns have been friends over the years. You never know who you'll run into in the city.

Joseph Montgomery studio.

My next stop was the studio of Joseph Montgomery, who I interviewed back in 2014. Situated in an industrial building in Long Island City, the site seemed quite active with woodworker's shops in part of it, along with a variety of other studios and workshops. Leaned against the wall inside Joe's studio were several of his paintings made with very thin pieces of paint-saturated Thai paper layered on top of one another. Some pieces had been run through a printer prior to any paint application, which added even more visual information to the work. In some cases, air bubbles formed in the paper/paint-skin, lending themselves as residual artifacts of the production that went into them.

Detail of piece shown above; notice the air bubble in the paint skin near the middle.

Detail of work shown above.

Paint-skins made of Thai paper saturated with acrylic paint.

More paint-skins.

Detail of work shown above.

Joe also works with wood shims, both small and very large. His smaller painted shim pieces have a band of canvas around the perimeter and coatings of gesso, then gouache for the final paint layer. Spotted near the back and tucked into one corner were a few eight-foot long wood shims, ala somewhat Claes Oldenburg in scale, which are sourced from a wood shop with a set-up large enough to cut them properly. In some examples, they've been used in combination to create elegant wall-mounted sculptures with a strong vertical orientation.

Large wood shims are leaning in the corner behind the chair.

As we visited, we covered a lot of ground about materials and processes, exchanging notes on the particular things that are working best for each of us. Process is a crucial consideration in Joe's work as many of his pieces are constructed of various parts which are set in place to hold together over time. The evidence of process is also one of the strengths of the work as one can clearly see nearly every move made in their creation, and that added layer of interest means sustained viewing in order to take in all that went into each piece. I look forward to seeing how his work progresses over time.

Many thanks to Joseph Montgomery for taking the time for this visit. More of his work can be seen at:  and