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How do you decide if a painting is terrible or great? What makes you decide to scrap a piece? Is it something intensely personal?
I don't know, I guess so. Sometimes, obviously, you see a lot in the composition and color relationships, the traditional ways of seeing parts of the painting. But the big part of it is you just don't feel it, like "this is bullshit." That doesn't mean that it's bad, I just don't feel that it should be there, so it goes to a sculpture, or sometimes I put it in other paintings so we cut it. We always still use it. Most of the time they come out cool. As soon as we're halfway through I'm like, "Wow, this is gonna be killer."
How long does a painting take, from the moment you start painting on glass to the moment it's stuck on the linen?
I'll stay painting on it for at least a week, maybe more. And then it takes several weeks to dry a little bit. Obviously colors are different pigments, and different pigments dry differently. Reds are kind of difficult, that's why you don't see too many reds. The whole thing takes about a month, a little less than that.
Do you just keep painting on the same layers of glass?
Yeah, and it's cool because some residues stay and transfer to the next layers, so sometimes you'll see a face out of nowhere or something.
We have a lot of materials. All the money I make I just put back into the studio. I try to save a little bit, but I'm like a material freak, I just go to the store and buy the whole thing. I know everyone at Blick. Sometimes I kinda flirt with them a little to try to get a discount like: "Come on, I'm spending two thousand dollars here." In fact I've stopped going because it's a little disrespectful me buying a lot of stuff and then nothing being left for students.
Do you usually work on one painting at a time or do you have several going at once?
Several. I paint here, I paint there, I like having a conversation between the work. I tell [my assistant] Miguel to help out with something, I work on a sculpture. But I don't paint in front of anybody. I stay here at night and I paint, because it's very personal, I feel kind of stupid sometimes because I'm so zoned out that I'm not sure how I look, or if people are staring at me. So when they [my assistants] are here we're usually scraping the materials, but the actual painting of it is just me at night by myself.
The gallery [Lehmann Maupin
] is so respectful and they're super-helpful, but they met me doing a specific kind of work, not extremely far from this but a huge step. And they love the work that I was doing a year and a half ago, and then eventually this kind of work pulled me so hard. I spoke with them, and showed them how I was feeling about this kind of work, and they were scared, but honestly they backed me up hugely. At the end they came for a visit and they were blown away by the work and they've been extremely supportive with everything, which is very important. For me it's important that the gallery feels good about what I'm doing. Also I'm young, I can't say: "I'm Angel Otero, I do whatever I want." I really like working with them, they're super-professional. I know it's something different out there, very challenging. It deals with many, many things at the same time, and at the same time it's very honest, which is the best part.
Have you been stressed out working on the pieces for this exhibition?
Um, I'm nervous. I have a very good friend who's also an artist, so sometimes I ask him to come look at the work and talk about it. Yeah, I'm a bit nervous, it's a big deal for me. I come from a totally different background. My mum still doesn't know exactly what I do, or that I really make money. Sometimes she calls the gallery or asks people if it's true what my paintings cost because she thinks I might be dealing drugs or something. Because they don't believe the amounts of money that people pay for art. So it's interesting; they're coming for the show, it'll be an interesting night. I'm very nervous and very happy at the same time. They came here just once before; they didn't even take one picture of the paintings, they just took a picture of the skyline from the window. I thought that was funny though because the work is kind of about them being like that. I'm excited that they're coming.
A lot of people are putting a lot of thought into process these days, especially for painting. It's so intense right now because everybody's, well not everybody, but I see the art world looking for something new in painting, and you want to be part of it. I don't like the attitude of "just let me paint what I feel" and not caring what people will say. That's not me. I like trying to change things or challenge things. Trying to make history.