Studio Session: Lane Hagood

Art Attack is kicking off a new series of studio visits with local artists. To herald it in, we've interviewed Lane Hagood - sculptor, drawer, painter, member of Sketch Klubb, and 2010 winner of the Hunting Art Prize. Before taking us to his home studio, Hagood invited us to come see his most recent project: painting the side of a taco truck.

How did you get the opportunity to do a taco truck?

Well, the main chef is this guy named Jason Hill. He used to be the chef at Brasil, and I used to work at Domy so I kind of became friends with him through that, and I guess he liked my art. It's been a few years since I've really hung out with him, but he was doing this taco truck and he wanted to kind of do something different and fun, so he asked me to do it and I was definitely stoked to do it, because I think this is way cooler than having an art show. This is going to be driving around and all these people are going to see this thing. It's kind of your dream to have that many people see your artwork - even if they don't really recognize it as that.

Are you going to put your signature on it somewhere?

I don't know. I usually don't - I might. I might put a fake name, I don't know.

Do you have a fake name that you use?

I've shown under probably about six different aliases. I used to never use my real name with my art, but I had a show in Austin about a year ago - November it will be a year - and that's the first time I actually used my real name. So I've been messing around with that whole idea, taking other people's last names that I like, like authors, philosophers and all that.

Did you have to submit a drawing of what you imagined for the taco truck?

Yeah. On Thursday, the last day I worked on it, we went out to eat, and the dogs ate my sketch. Here's a little piece of it here ... nothing's sacred.

What kind of paint are you using?

I'm just using acrylic paint. It's going to flake off a little bit. If you look at other taco trucks, they definitely, after time, lose some of that. And I could've used sign paint, but I kind of wanted to be true to the roots of the taco truck. So I know that someday probably parts will peel off.

Do you come up with names for these characters while you paint them?

For a while, I've done a bunch of drawing of like grids. I really kind of like lists, names -- name dropping especially. I would just draw a head like that and then underneath I would just write "Nietzsche" and I'd write all these different philosophers, writers, filmmakers, people that I really like. I don't know why, I just thought it was funny. I've done that for a lot. I don't really - I've worked in series before where I tried to do that, but I don't really think of them as a coherent narrative for drawing. I just kind of like the ambiguity of having these weird characters doing something and I don't really care if anybody understands what I think is going on, because whenever I talk to people about my drawings and it's somebody I don't really know, their interpretation is always way more interesting than what I - "well actually, I was thinking this..." So I prefer to keep a distance from them and let them create themselves, have their own little thing happening without me telling people what to think about them.

Well that should be fun: this thing driving around and people recognizing it and coming up with their own story. Did you make some sort of deal where you get free food for life?

No. Actually, the first time Sketch Klubb got a show at the Joanna at the end of July, he charged me for my tacos. It's straight business, it's cool, we're friends, but he's got to eat and pay for the supplies so I can't expect too much.

What have you been working on in your studio?

I've brought out a couple of things I've been doing. These are some sculptures that I'm going to have at the Joanna show. Only one of them is finished - that golden one right there.

Have you worked in sculpture before?

Yeah. I have my bachelor's degree in sculpture from the University of Houston, but I actually spent most of my time making drawings because that's what I've always liked doing best. I actually think that my sculptures are better a lot of times than my drawings but it's just a different process. I actually like making drawings more than making sculptures because they're more detached from the creation. But a lot of these are old busts - I really like busts. I'm messing around with different materials right now. I don't know what I'm going to keep and what I'm going to discard, but it's fun, it's different. It's totally different. I actually enjoy it a lot; it's a lot more physical. For a lot of these, I'm breaking them with this hatchet that I bought at Southland Hardware - this little guy. I got this and I go out and take these busts and I'll just be sitting outside and chopping them off like this. And last time I did this, my neighbor who I've never met before came by, and I was sitting there with a hatchet in my hand going like "uhhh..." I should be more careful with this. This blade is actually probably really dull. I even bought a little saw at Home Depot, but it's so much more fun to just chop them off.

Is this [grid painting] a work in progress?

Yeah, I've been working on this on and off for the last eight months.

The painting that won the Hunting Prize [Books I Have Possessed] was the grid of novels, right?

Yeah, just books.

So this is a similar kind of thing?

Yeah. I pretty much only worked on paper and anytime you do anything on paper, it's considered to be a drawing. I went to frame that piece that won the Hunting Prize and it cost like $700, which is just - once you want to start working big ... I don't mind just like tacking a drawing up on the wall like that, but people want to have them in a nice frame, so I decided I'd try to do paintings instead. It's a challenge, because I've just worked in the medium of paper and watercolor and pen for the past four or five years, and I really enjoyed it, but I wanted to do something different now. My friend suggested, she was like you should make a painting of other paintings, and I was like, alright, well that sounds cool, because I really wasn't sure what I wanted to make. And in the process, I watched Orson Welles's last documentary he made, called F is For Fake, which is based off this book that's out of print--I think they only printed one edition of it. But I got really into this idea of making these really crappy fake paintings, and so that's kind of been snowballing. At first I just did it and I wasn't sure if I was going to continue, but it really got to the point where it became kind of fun. But it's really time consuming and it's one of those things that ... I'm really like ADD and can't really concentrate on things, but only in art, not in real life. So I just get really scatterbrained and I'm doing like a million different things at once.

When you started doing this type of organization with your paintings - the grid or the matrix - did you start with books?

I started just doing heads. I was doing drawings of heads and I'd write a name under it. I think the first one I made was this drawing that I gave to my friend that was like "characters and writers who suffered from the disease of loneliness" or something. And it was just these random heads with like "Nietzsche" or "Dostoevsky", "Raskolnikov", all these random people. I kind of like bringing in that stuff and I like lists and I like a lot of information. With this in particular, I was thinking of kind of like a Tumblr blog where it's just all these random images put up into one thing. I'm really attracted to that because you can not like this little part right here but maybe you like this one. Sort of calling into question meaning, like what does this all mean, to put all this stuff together, because I honestly don't know and hopefully I'm the last person you'll ask about something like that.

Do you feel like it makes you take on the role not just of painter but of curator?

Yeah. I just quit my job, and my last job was where I was essentially the assistant director of a gallery in town and I enjoyed that, but my friends started calling me "the curator." My friend was telling me instead of "Thug Life" I should get "Curator" tattooed across my belly. To me, that idea extends even further than curating a show or picking out what paintings to put into this. I feel the same way about music, and I go to the record store and pick out the music that I want. It's about collecting these different things and not really just concentrating on one thing. Once you find something, you want that next new thing: "I have Leadbelly, what's next, probably Robert Johnson, and then I want..." One thing leads to the next, and that's what I'm interested in because I'm never sated, I'm never happy with any one thing I do. So I'm always looking for something to take me to whatever the next step is.

You talk about this painting in terms of the people who view it and how they can take what they like, but as the person putting it all together, do you feel like you're expressing something about your personal taste since you're the one selecting it all?

Yeah, I had a show in Austin and I titled it "Things That Own Me" because I got really into Georges Perec, who's a French writer. I bought this book called Species of Spaces and Other Pieces and he writes about the most mundane things in the most amazing ways. This one article in particular is called "The Objects That Are On My Work Table" and in this last paragraph he says ... he's talking about everything on his table where he writes and about his process, about how before he starts a new piece he clears off his table, cleans it, and puts only those things that he wants on the table. And that really got me thinking, because I'm an obsessive collector of records, and books, and art and stuff like that. What does that say about me as a person? In the last paragraph, he says "Thus a certain history of my taste, their permanence, their evolution of phases, will come to be inscribed in this project. More precisely, it will be, once again, a way of marking out my space, a somewhat oblique approach to my daily practice, a way of talking about my work, about my history and my preoccupations, an attempt to grasp something pertaining to my experience, not at the level of its remote reflections but at the very point where it emerges." And that was just like, boom, that just totally got me, because I'm like a pack rat, and what does that say about me, what I'm obsessed with and what I won't ignore.

When you start, do you just add each thing one by one?

Yeah, I started here and went across. I choose them - Georges Perec was a part of Oulipo, which was a group of writers.

Like Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino...

Yeah. Those guys. One of his main things is setting restraints on yourself, and I kind of really got interested in that. With that book piece, those were all books that I either had or borrowed from my friends. This is the same way. These are all images from books that I have or I can borrow from my friends.

No Google image search?

I don't Google image search anything. This piece is black-and-white in my book and it's really funny because I was at the Menil bookstore and on the cover of one of those books is that piece and this is wood and I was like, oh shit. It's too late, I'm not going to go back and change it. But I like giving myself a little bit of restraint. Within that, you can still - Georges Perec is a perfect example of that, of someone who can write a brilliant novel without using the letter 'e'. He just fucking did it and you can do that if you want. And that's not a crazy restraint for me because I collect books all the time and I have a lot of friends who are really into art.

As an artist trying to make a living at making art, is it also a weird thing to let all those things come together and be what the work is? You talk about people being able to come up and pick the parts that they like, but they can't just buy that part of the painting.

Well, I feel like if you're making work to sell it -- there's nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want to do -- but I didn't really think about it. I haven't sold that much work and especially the things that I put a lot of effort into. I've sold small drawings, but not the things I'll really put all my time and effort into. It's also, when you're focusing in on that book piece, with the literature, it's all mainly subversive literature, and some banker who has money isn't going to want to - I don't know. They're just things that most people aren't that interested in, especially people who buy art unless it's New York fucking City, and people are collecting to be the coolest people in town. Houston's a totally different scene and I don't understand. I don't understand a thing about the Houston art scene. I try to make my way in it, but I also don't care that much. I'd like to make a shitload of money off my shows, but it doesn't happen that way. The right people haven't been told you need to buy this - you need to buy this because in 20 years it will be worth a lot of money. I had that insane thing happen to me [the Hunting Prize] and still no one's knocking on my door like "oh, I must see you work" - it's not like that. I know people think that's how it is, but it's never been like that.

Do you have any shows coming up?

Yeah. I have a show at the Joanna. We haven't nailed down an exact date, but it should be sometime in the middle of December.

Anything else?

I've had some drawings going around Europe. I got asked to be in this book that was published in Berlin. I got to show in London, Paris, Berlin, Bordeaux, and it might go to Rome next, I think.

Have you gone along with it at all?

No, no. I wish, but ... I wish I could follow my stuff around but I'm there in spirit I guess.

What has the aftermath of the Hunting Prize been so far?

Not much, honestly. I thought it'd have a lot bigger effect, but I also think that's part of ... I think in Houston, in the art scene, you really have to prove yourself. I feel like me and my friends are doing awesome, really cool things, but people just still aren't ready -- we're not old enough, we don't have enough stripes on our sleeves or whatever - for people to take us all the way seriously yet. But I think that day is coming soon, we're going to take over this place.

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