I have a great deal of respect for Richard Rezac’s art and also for him as an artist. All too often the best-known artists in Chicago and elsewhere are recognized for their mastery of self-promotion in an attempt to draw attention to themselves because their work is lacking. Rezac doesn’t need to revert to this strategy; his art is exceptional and has been so for many years.
The thing that impresses me the most about his work is that it doesn’t stand pat. It is continually evolving and changing without any diminishment in quality.
Rezac’s art stands on its own, no hype or bombast is needed.
I asked Richard Rezac nine questions and these are his responses.
Michael Hopkins: What was the reaction of your family and friends to you wanting to become an artist?
Richard Rezac: Before graduating from high school, I knew that I wanted to attend an art college, so I applied and was accepted. That summer I planned the move to the West Coast for study. My parents were neutral in my decision, yet respectful because as they were not in a position to assist in the cost, they knew that I was intent on pursuing this and that I was willing to undertake that financial responsibility. In later years, my mother first, and eventually my father came to know that my choice in this life’s work was important to me, and consequently they, rightly, took some pride in that too.
Richard Rezac, Untitled, Cherry wood, 20.5″ x 60″ x 3″, 2004-2008
MH: You’re a teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During your time teaching there, how have the students changed?
RR: I have taught there part-time for 30 years in the Painting and Sculpture departments, and most of all have been involved with Graduate Advising, cross disciplinary. Within this group of students, I see no real change in their seriousness and engagement, and if there has been a shift among MFA students, it is their international composition and a greater awareness of the broad range of contemporary art and culture – and a greater lack of understanding or exposure to historical art. Among the undergraduate students, the digital screen is a profound distraction for them in their attention span and serves as a too convenient — and far too limited — source for outside input.
MH: You have said that the cities (Chicago) architecture has influenced your sculpture, any buildings in particular?
RR: More for me is the work or aesthetic of some Chicago architects taken as a whole for their contribution. Those are John Root, Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe. And if I cite one building here, it would be the Monadnock by John Root, for its nobility and the perfect match it presents in its material and overall form.
Richard Rezac, Curtain, Cast bronze, 24.5″ x 26.25″, 1997
MH: What do you think of the art coverage in this city compared to other large cities?
RR: I do not have a good understanding to fairly compare Chicago with other American cities, but for the size of our city and its broad activity, of course much more coverage is deserved. Certainly non-print, on-line reviews and commentary are increasingly important and prevalent and younger artists who live and work here are especially engaged by this form. The general public has too little exposure to daily, weekly or monthly coverage in printed publications here, but I know that this is also true for most American cities now.
MH: What do you think is the future of art galleries?
RR: In the past twenty years my impression is that there has been a diminishment in attendance in galleries, due I’m sure by the high number and frequency of Art Fairs. Consequently, gallery exhibitions tend to be longer. I’m confident that there will continue to be the need for a physical gallery location, so while perhaps their sheer numbers may decrease in the future by the ill effects of the Fairs, the one benefit of Art Fairs may lead to wider interest and active curiosity in contemporary art, which may then contribute to sustaining current galleries, or encouraging more galleries to begin operating.
The main regret that I have is the weakening of an ongoing appreciation and understanding of a given gallery’s architecture, its distinct physical identity, and how exhibitions therein confirm and relate to that space – in one, two, or numerous iterations by an artist. Art Fairs are temporal and forgettable as spaces for exhibiting art.
MH: Do good reviews and praise for your work ever get in the way of your creative process?
RR: No. Like most people, I would rather have expressed positive support than not, and I do read a review if it concerns an exhibition of my work, and I certainly appreciate the interest and consideration given by the writer, and I gain insight from it. But it’s also true that soon afterward that particular review or comment is definitely in the past.
Richard Rezac, Untitled (93-01), Painted wood, 20″ x 22.5″ x 30.5″, 1993
MH: Do you consider an audience when you make art?
RR: I can honestly say no. I work slowly and with deliberation and in that time the internal decision making process overrides much else, almost everything else.
MH: When you get stuck, stopped, blocked, aren’t able to make work, how do you get yourself out of this situation?
RR: For me in recent years this has not happened, except rarely. But when it has happened, I tend to read and/or keep busy with practical things in my studio that have mounted, that I had set aside at lower priority and that have little aesthetic consequence. Eventually the urge to focus and be involved with more important and urgent matters re-emerges.
MH: How do you know when a piece is finished?
RR: I think that like most artists whose work is based in intuition and a degree of uncertainty within the creative process, when I arrive at a state of completion, it is a feeling or awareness more than anything else: similar to the confidence one may have in knowing you made that right decision about something large or small, and then accepting it as a given. Only in retrospect can I then naturally rate the work on a comparative scale.
Top Image: Zeilschip (knot), nickel plated cast bronze and bronze, 7″ x 6.5″ x 3″, 2013
Richard Rezac has received prestigious awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and the Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome. He has exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art- Chicago, Yale University Art Gallery, Aspen Art Museum, Portland Art Museum and others. Public collections include the Art Institute of Chicago, Dallas Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Art, and the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, among others. Rezac lives and works in Chicago, IL where he is Adjunct Professor of Sculpture, Drawing, and Graduate Advising at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). www.richardrezac.com
Michael Hopkins is a writer and artist who makes drawings, paintings and sculptures. He has work in numerous museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago. He has work in numerous corporate art collections including the Progressive Collection and the Wellcome Trust Collection in London, England. He is a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant recipient. michaelhopkinsdrawings.com