Mark Gelband: Last month, I went back to Miami, my hometown, for spring break with my family. I had reached out to Ello’er Andrew Reid (@shed) prior to going because I love his work and was hoping to meet him, poke around his studio and get an interview.
The afternoon I went to his workshop in Little Haiti, I brought my two teenagers. They weren’t as thrilled as I was, especially when the conversation started flowing. Turns out we knew some of the same people from back in our early South Beach days.
What’s clear when you step into Andrew’s workshop is that he is a versatile artist who works in many mediums and brings rigorous process and practice to his work. Sculptor, printmaker, street artist, painter, furniture maker – his work spans the canvas to murals to architectural details and conceptual installation.
MG: You moved to Miami Beach from NYC in 1994 – set-up studio in the Miami Arts Center on Lincoln RD. South Beach was still very much an emerging reality. What was it like to immerse yourself in this burgeoning art scene?
AR: Once we moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in ’90 I knew in my heart I’d left New York City, so it was liberating to move to South Beach in early ’91 – an undiscovered affordable little universe filled with odd individuals. The South Florida Art Center was our home. I played the artist/survivor living in paradise getting commissions while still earning New York dollars through my commercial work. Perfect! It was the place to grow a career and a family.
The Art Center just sold their main building for $45 million. My remaining art friends are all involved somehow with Basel/Miami art week with varying success. There are few artists living on South Beach any more; it’s now the Miami art scene. I have a studio in Little River paying close to the same sq’ price as we payed on the Beach 25 years ago.
MG: Your art career comes from a background in design. How has doing design work for clients translated into your fine art career?
AR: Because of my commercial background I’m used to bouncing from one project to the next. The only difference now is I have to invent my own projects! The process is still pretty much the same: big idea – research – nail it – move on. It’s always been my mantra to escape the confines of the desk, with varying degrees of success.
MG: Design is a semi-steady paycheck. “Fine artist” is saddled with financial risk. What are some of the positives and negatives of each?
AR: There are a few positives to being a commercial hack, except the money…a lot of that too went away after the ad-crash of ’07 followed by the trend toward viral (which means free art for clients). So the financial risk is now moot – artists have trouble getting paid in any field if they are independent, so why not at least take the creative path? I don’t believe artists are entitled to make a living, it just pisses me off when the business world rips them off.
Of course you meet some cool and smart people and I have worked with many of them. The business world is littered with frustrated writers and artists maintaining a middle class lifestyle, and everyone else is now a curator, hence the need for Ello.
MG: You grew up in New Zealand (Aeteroa – Land of the Long White Cloud). How have you been influenced by your childhood? Being surrounded by Maori and other South Pacific cultural and artistic references?
AR: Aotearoa, New Zealand is my most powerful memory force. It never seems like a small country to me – full of wondrous adventure from childhood, thorugh my art/graphics education and into art direction. Kiwis are multi-skilled so my growth until I left for NYC in ’86 was pretty encompassing. I was just tired of advertising.
Culturally I came of age during punk vs disco, with punk winning the aesthetic war. There were also political upheavals forcing change too.
The Maori culture is all-powerful and pervasive unlike the marginalized native societies in Australia or the US. Auckland is also the the capital of Polynesia.
And of course, above all, there are the All Blacks – don’t ever forget.
MG: Your work crosses many media: painting, mural, street art, sculpture, large-scale public work and architectural work. How do these works inform each other? What do you find yourself most drawn to and why?
AR: Each project has to challenge and drain me completely – leaving a void to fill by something different or new when it’s over, whether it’s a graphic novel or a carved slab table. Correlations include strong design and form. And effort. Visual consistency is not part of my MO – a flaw of which I am often reminded.
Public art is rewarding because I sacrifice stylistic trends in an attempt to get to the core of the community that the art serves. That means a lot of listening and studying before the art is resolved.
Carving wood and casting fiberglass is the most physically rewarding. Painting is the hardest to do well.
MG: In some of your large scale conceptual work, you’ve explored how design and art might reinvigorate architecture. Can you provide your thoughts on this?
AR: I’m most interested in wrapping average architecture in graphic design, distinct from street art and graffiti which don’t often address quality of life issues. Art can do that if it’s relevant to the people it serves, but a lot of the time it’s self indulgent. As a muralist I understand the possibilities and the limitations of figurative narrative stories, whereas pure design or pattern offers subconscious emotions. We are surrounded by concrete and glass – materials of necessity. And some of the shit people have to live around is uninspiring to say the least!
MG: You’ve been active on Ello and a supporter. When we met, you said some of your friends questioned the exploration and publishing of art on social media. Can you talk a bit about influence, iteration and exploration through inspiration of other’s art?
AR: I am a reference thief! I pull pages from waiting room magazines and I capture screen images. It’s part of my process for inspiration and essential for referencing. We all do it – you just have to take a look at current dumb trends like tiger drawings and pencil masterpieces. Some artists fear their genius creations will be stolen but they probably ripped off – or worse plagiarized – someone else to begin with.
So I’m OK with putting my own stuff on social media for others to see and steal.
MG: What positive values do you see in a social community like Ello that help you as an artist?
AR: Ello is the place where I get to show off and the viewers get to decide what is interesting or not. I respect the variety of subscribers, and I spend way too much time thinking of what to post next! So I see Ello as an important way of exploring what people like. I’ve also discovered some genuine talent, be they writers, artists, photographers or quilters.
To learn more about Andrew Reid and his work go to www.she-d.com.