STUDIO VISIT: JOE CRUZ

I first came across Joe’s work five or six years ago when Open Doors was just starting out. We were working on our first few pop up exhibitions and were hungry for fresh work to satisfy all our projects. Even then Joe was making something that seemed quite different from a lot of other work out there. He appeared to keep things supremely simple; Thoughtfully selected black and white found photos, printed with grain, then using clean linear streaks of pastel or paint over the top of them. Adding an energy and making those portraits ‘his’. I assumed the process was that simple and never looked deeper… that was until last week when I kindly invited myself to his studio in north London. What a treat!
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For all its benefits, Instagram does have a disturbing way of compressing certain artworks to a point where some of their power is reduced. Perhaps it’s the scale at which these images are consumed on our phones, or the sheer volume of work pumped out every day (95 million posts a day at the last count). We are so saturated with imagery, so spoilt for choice, we forget sometimes that the work we are looking at has been created by someone. That it took time and effort to get to you. That it’s real. That the image can exist as a unique object or a rare print. That it could be yours!
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Anyway, I had noticed that Joe had suddenly deleted all his posts on instagram and had started afresh [@jcruz_art]. I was intrigued as his page had always been an exciting place to visit and seemed to be very popular. After ten minutes with him I was struck by his almost Warhol factory style approach to image making. Selecting material from from the vast stream of output on the web. Sometimes using his own images, images from his youth, stills from films and your tube videos, even stills from face time chats with his girlfriend! Anything that strikes a chord with him… that free and relaxed attitude with his own process’s is set against the seeming discord he has with the proliferation of his own work on the internet. No longer is he satisfied simply by posting flat digital representations on his work (Yes @odtakeovers has been guilty of this too up until now). Website stripped bare, it’s now about drawing attention to the physical nature of his work and shining a light on his processes and exhibitions.
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He has a point, artworks like these definitely need to be seen to be properly appreciated. You need to hold them in your hand and to be able to play with them in the light to see their true colours and textures.
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So by now, in his Yves Klein blue jump suit and thin gold rimmed glasses, Joe was knee deep in an experiment. After a brief conversation about stained glass windows I was swiftly left to my own devices and he was carefully rummaging through endless sheets of paper searching for a single sheet of tracing paper. The Idea was to print out an image on his trusty old Brother printer (career long partners in crime) and see how it worked overlaid on images on his screen. The printer jammed. What would normally lead to expletives from me or you “f*%k technology!”, led to Joe smiling, reeling the half printed and creased sheet out of the printer as if he had intended this all along. “Hmmm, the toner hasn’t set” his trusty sidekick had only half completed the job. For some reason only half the printed area had set, the rest you could spread about with your finger like charcoal. Excited about this new medium he’d discovered, he set to work!… What had started in one direction, had led to a completely different outcome. I had the distinct impression that Joe’s days are filled with these discoveries. Constantly following his intuition and toying with different ways of layering, printing and presenting his ideas. Some work, some don’t, but “You have to try these things” he’d say.

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Taking my time to breeze through his wonderful archive of work housed in stacks of boxes above our heads. Each box with a twist on that last set. Then within each box are neat crystallisations¬†of series. Like opening up a Russian doll you are curious to open the next one. There were lots I could have picked but the series we are sharing here are Matisse-like cut outs of the human form. Each one printed, scanned, distorted, printed, coloured, cut and stuck, to the point where they become more like sculptures in your hand. A pleasingly simple array of colour and forms arranged so that that the black card behind is exposed in the cracks… perhaps thats where the stained glass idea first took shape?
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I left Joe’s studio invigorated and excited about what photography can be but also armed with a much deeper understanding of the time and energy that goes into each and every one of these pieces. I hope the photos of these works in his studio do them justice. Make them real for you. Not just another torrent of 2D.
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Get in touch for further details of these works or to arrange a viewing. Each one is for sale. Each one is unique.
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tom@opendoors.gallery
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