I meet David Schroeter last summer at the Lychee One Gallery during the group exhibition “Summer Blue”, where he was presenting few of his paintings right after graduating from the Royal College of Art.
When looking at his work you can straight away perceive an influence from comic books, there is a strong feeling of motion and a sense of narrative in David’s paintings despite the fact that his houses and landscapes seem empty from any form of human (or animal) life. He manages to give a breath and an impulse of life to something that could be banal a priori. Meet the artist.
Hi David, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your background? I’m David Schroeter and I’m a painter from New York, based in London and New York. I make paintings as well as videos mostly dealing with my favorite things—humor and architecture. I also just received my MA from the Royal College of Art in London.
Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to become an artist? I made comic books, stop-motion animations, and great geocities websites throughout high school and I think I always assumed I would work with art or design. The first time I felt strongly about painting was in college, studying abroad in Florence, Italy. While I was there, free from the usual restraints of normal university classes, I got very into high renaissance, mannerism and the Venetian school.
What’s your definition of an artist in 2017? Oh I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer that—I’m fully willing to admit I’m an artist, but I don’t know how much more I can define that group as an active participant in it.
What’s your favourite medium to create and why? I primarily make paintings—oil or acrylic on canvas. My acrylic paintings consist of thin acidic transparent layers that reflect print media and comics, while my oil paintings are greasy and thick, usually on a thick weave linen. But I always start with drawings—watercolor pencils or ink on paper or in sketchbooks. I usually do a stack of these in one go, as a warm-up or exploration of a theme I want to work through. A recent series of these consisted of scenes from a fictional family winery, Weingut Schroeter. The drawings attempt to mine my brain for scenery or features of a fictional place. There’s no research for these because I want the end result to feel personal, autobiographical.
Can you tell us a bit more about your practice and your daily routine as an artist Currently I have a studio sublet in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and I live in the Bronx. My commute is 1 hour 40 min one way—sometimes 2 hours. But I love it because I get a lot of reading done. It’s been a real benefit to my studio work.
Who or what inspires you? Recently I took a deep dive into comics—Marvel of course—specifically the Marvel Masterworks collections of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. What Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko accomplished given the confines of the medium, I find astounding. I’m fascinated by the artists’ ability to wield power visually—which stands in contrast to their complete lack of political power in the publishing and intellectual property side of Marvel. Speaking of politics and comics I also recently saw Philip Guston’s Nixon caricatures at Hauser & Wirth. Talk about visual power. And similarly to the artists working at Marvel, Guston struggled to control the distribution or display of this body of work.
Who is the most overrated artist according to you? In high school, my art history teacher indoctrinated me in the belief that Pierre-Auguste Renoir is the most overrated artist of all time. I think I still agree. Sure, there are arguments to be made and all that but I’m not the guy to make those.
What’s the difference between being an artist in NYC and being one in London?In London I was a graduate student, and benefitted from the community of artists that experience provides. On the other hand, I felt I was a student more than an artist so it’s hard to judge. In New York I feel certain art communities don’t necessarily overlap—there’s an incredible amount of artists and spaces that seem to multiply in every direction.
A lot of young people don’t relate to contemporary art nowadays, why do you think that is? How as an artist you could change that? Maybe it becomes a question of participation? I feel like friends ask me how to participate in contemporary art—attending events or visiting galleries generally but also finding out what’s on specifically. The culture doesn’t seem to encourage accessibility.
You are more art galleries or museum? I’ll go to anything—I’ll also go to anything twice or more. I was talking to some friends recently about the excellent Francis Picabia exhibition on at MoMA and it occurred to me I visited it 3 times. That isn’t some kind of really weird brag about how many times I went to an exhibit—I think what I’m trying to say is I’m not so discerning but attempt to see as much as I can.
Which artist(s) shall we keep an eye on? I just saw a series of holograms by Louise Bourgeois at Cheim & Read in New York and that blew me away. I left that exhibit wondering why we aren’t all making holograms all the time. Probably strange to recommend keeping an eye on Louise Bourgeois, but hey wonders never cease.
What would you ask if you had five minutes with your favourite artist? Well I can get very hung up on technical details—at grad school I wandered the halls discussing preferred white paint. So maybe I would try to steer clear of that topic and ask about context or repetition, which are two things I think about a lot but never seem to come to any useful conclusions about them.
According to you, how can culture change the world in dark political times? All art is political. In my experience, painting is definitely political. The choice to make a painting in today is a political act in the face of all the ways we can make images.
What’s next for you? While I’m in New York, I’m monitoring at the Robert Black Printmaking Workshop—so come visit me while I sit behind the desk there.
Don’t forget to visit David’s website for more visuals and information.