Bad Goods: Q&A with Matthew Lusk

When I was living in this building on Eckford Street, I used to see lots of cool garbage coming in and out. There were pickle barrels, tarps, tons of tires and weird stuff I couldn't quite figure out. They were being brought into the loft at the end of the courtyard where Matt was living. I was suspecting something good was going on in that loft.

After I moved out, I googled him and found sculptures of hipsters, thugs, good guys and bad guys that Matt made with salvaged materials and hats. I really liked those sculptures because they were humorous and utilitarian-looking. I am especially fond of the fact Matt used hats as a key item to characterize types since he's also a great hat wearer (It's great when he pairs them with red striped overalls.)

Q1: Can you explain a little bit about the work?
This show at Outrageous Look was in the form of a window display in a vernacular storefront in South Williamsburg. Taking into account the location, I decided to couch my presentation in the realm of a hat display. There are several hat stores in the immediate area. I set out by creating some simple forms, figures really, to place the hats onto. They eventually became parodies of types: a couple of hipsters with boards for bodies and nails shooting out of their faces, newspaper-chubby western Good Guy and Bad Guy with knotted rope genitalia, a dirty-shirt newsboy, a burlap feed sack thug, and a big blue plastic tarp hobgoblin with a green plastic dealer's visor.

The other window had a geometric construction in garish pink and green. Inter-tangled twin replica spice racks from the pages of Martha Stewart Living. Inverted. Being the middle of winter, I had chosen the colors and the title: Ode to Spring. A little tongue-in-cheek adoration to wistful abstraction/distraction.

In place of curtains, I used commercial perforated black rubber mats like one would find in a kitchen or behind your favorite bar.

Both window displays, I'm remembering now, were sitting on a thin carpet of fresh asphalt.

The whole effort was untitled at the time, but I refer to it as Bad Goods.

I've been working on storefront ideas for awhile now. In my last residence, on Java Street in Greenpoint, I constructed a storefront in my loft to separate my studio space from my sleeping and office quarters. I had three little group projects in that storefront and four others in the rest of the loft. That space was referred to as Weather Records, a name that I keep in use now as a picture blog without words.

Q2: I always suspected you make cool art work from witnessing a pickle barrel coming in and out of your house. Do you mainly work with found objects?
This is something I've been doing for a long time and thinking about very seriously as of late. It's hard to distinguish between the fiscal necessity of using salvaged materials, the content of past use and the ramifications of removing that use-value, and the political or ecological arguments for using recycled objects. When I think of doing something, I'm usually drawn to removal/relocation rather than outright fabrication. But on the other hand, I'm very good at crafting objects and have a lot of experience in building structures and fabricating furniture and other somewhat traditional things.

I'm afraid that what you saw was someone stealing my pickle barrel and I'm very angry about that. I'm in the market for a replacement.

Q3: Where do you get the supplies?
Recently I've been very happy with a recycled building supply warehouse in Queens. And eBay. But nothing really beats going out there and rooting around. Getting out of the neighborhood is imperative. Especially if that neighborhood is New York. Though the garbage here is usually surprisingly good. McMaster/Carr is good if you have the money, and construction supply houses are probably my go-to guys. There is always something there that is really simple, familiar, and mutable.

Q4: Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
Robert Gober. H.C.Westermann. Fischli&Weiss. Magritte. William Wegman, even the later stuff. Hans Bellmer. I think about Louise Nevelson occasionally, but maybe that's because of her first big show in awhile that's up at the Jewish Museum. Roni Horn. Felix Gonzales-Torres. Frank Stella. Mondrian. I was thinking lately about artists whom I used to like, but no longer do, and it seemed like an interesting alternative to the usual "favorites" list. Like if it were music, it's more interesting to my friends that I used to listen to a lot of ska than that I now occupy myself with the Hold Steady and Pere Ubu. I'm just saying that it's just as important to know what you hate as what you love. Just as long as there's more love going on.

Q5: What are your favorite museums?
Triple Candie. They've got more of an idea of what they're doing and how they're contributing to dialogue than just about anyone going right now. And their last show cost about twelve dollars to produce.

Q6: I often saw you wearing red striped overalls and you looked cute in them. What are you wearing today?
Red-and-white striped overalls. I found them on the trash by the L about five years ago. Neatly folded. They're the exact same kind that my friend Tyler Bush wore when he was on the cheerleading squad at Wabash College called the Sphinx Club. They wore beanies. I usually have a newsboy's cap or some other thing to keep the sun out of my eyes.

Q7: I was wondering you must be a good curator. Tell me what about the high and low of organizing art shows.
Organizing shows is great, at least how I do it. Come up with an idea. Plan to change the space you're in to carry the concept of that idea. Invite able-bodies and elastic-minded folks to make things expressly for that idea/space. Get some cards printed up and make sure the beer is cold. Simple.

I distinguish this process from curating by choosing artists based on their abilities and potential, rather than choosing specific works, and also by the absence of editing on my part. Once you're in, whatever you want to contribute is in the show. This is where it gets interesting as some people play well with others and some just don't play at all. The lows are when people who showed interest don't bother to do anything at all. I won't mention names, but they know who they are. The highs are when people totally blossom under the circumstances and do something good and out-of-the-ordinary.

Q8: Any new show coming up?
I just finished installing three new outdoor pieces at ArtOMI up in the Hudson Valley for a show curated by Max Goldfarb called Bivouac.

I'm also working on a suite of half-a-dozen group projects that will be looking at products of American identities, the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves, and the lack of supporting evidence for the American Dream. The first two shows have their roots in the pages of The Great Gatsby and are titled Daisies and Valley of Ashes. I'm shopping them around to a few spaces that I think might be interested in hosting them.

Q9: What is your plan for summer?
Not to accidentally kill myself. Not to go completely broke more than twice. To drink a lot of water. To go fishing with my father. To make a good trip or two. To go to Hale County, Alabama. To eat well. To make some good work while nobody's watching.

Q10: Anything we should know about you?
I play left field for the Mendoza Line softball club in theWilliamsburg Softball League and I love my life.

Thanks, Matt!

Check out Matt's picture blog Weather Records

See matt's portfolio onWhite Columns and Artists Space.