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  Interview w/Painter David Moskow  
  By Chris Johnson, published in citylink newspaper  
     
 

"In the back of my mind, I kind of have the concept in my mind for another TV show. Doing interviews of artists. I feel there's a show there. There's nothing like that on TV. There's no good art show on TV. Nothing good on about visual artists. And if I did another one, it would be about painters. And instead of five artists in a half hour, it'd maybe be one or two."

You may be one of the lucky few able to claim viewership of Discover Art, a cable access series by David Moskow, in which the painter interviews other Chicago artists. David grew up in Chicago, has painted since childhood, and has the insider know on the local art scene. He stops by the Chicago Artists' Collective Pilsen studio for a beer, and we have a long conversation about local art.

CJ: How did you get started painting?

DM: "I walked down into the basement where my father was painting when I was a kid. I was about two. My father was an artist. So was my mother, for that matter. But he's the one who first put the brush in my hand. The first works I ever sold were magic marker drawings of hot rods. They sold like hot-cakes. They [David's parents] would do shows, and give me my own little stand. So at seven years old, I was making good money; like a buck a piece. That's when I first started thinking of art as a product, a commodity. I know that makes you guys cringe (laughter.)"

CJ: What drew you to the medium of painting?
DM: "I like when you can see expressive mark making. Which I have to remind myself of sometimes, because sometimes my work becomes over-produced. Because sometimes I get so involved in the process, I forget that painting is the legacy of the human hand, that mark."
"I find myself looking more and more for simplicity. And I'm not sure if it's because it gives my mind peace, or if it's the directness of the process, but either way, it's a comfortable way for me to work."
"It's like Haiku. How can you say what you want to say as briefly and succinctly as possible? 'Cause I've always wanted to be Japanese."

When I met David two years ago, he was in the middle of his Lost Highway series, a group of paintings that depicts lonesome highways under vast skies, using telephone poles or human figures to give a sense of scale. Each painting was somewhat different, yet similar to the others, with an overall effect that is both obsessive and haunting.
CJ: How do you get started on a painting series?
DM: "Sometimes it's based on something I've seen. Or someplace I've been. Or there might be a photograph involved, or a series of drawings where I'm trying to develop what I'm trying to do. There's a lot of repetition in my work. I'll revisit the same themes again and again. Perhaps it's because I'm unoriginal, or perhaps it's pure genius. I don't know."

"My recent series is based on a series of photos. Rooftops. Rooftops around town. It seems like a lot of my work has a lot to do with time recently. In this series, I've kind of represented some urban iconography. Water-towers. References to the great fire. Part of Chicago's past."

"In some ways they relate to my Highway series, and compositionally, they're the same series. You've got the land and you've got the sky. There's less space. They're the same point of view as those other paintings I did."

David put up his own web-site in 1996, uses his computer to edit his video documentary, The El Camino Diaries, and, recently, began using a digital camera and Photoshop to make studies for his Rooftop painting series.
CJ: What's technology's place in your process right now?
DM: "Sometimes it's embedded in the process, to the point where the painting is a version of the photograph. Sometimes, it's unrelated to the process. The means aren't as important as just the end. I don't get too hung up in the process. And I use a lot of different processes. Sometimes drawn, sometimes photograph, sometimes…film, digital camera…all just tools."
CJ: What place does painting have in the Digital Age?
DM: "Until they get rid of walls, you're not going to get rid of painting. As long as people have big empty walls, they need something to break up the space. Whether it's a Nagel print or a Moskow painting, people have art on their walls. Cyberspace is limited to that one little desktop. Most people live in much bigger spaces. And I've heard painting is dead but as long as people have walls, they'll have art."

I ask David about what's going on right now in the Chicago Art scene.

"I like looking at Chicago art. That's one of the reasons I want to do another Chicago art TV show. When I was doing the show with Chaz [his partner on the program, Discover Art], it was an opportunity to really get into the mind of the artist in a really intimate way, and get them to open up. Some of the best interviews were with the minor artists; it depends on the personality. I don't know if there's any one artist out there more fascinating than another. And they all come from completely different perspectives." "I was always looking towards the rituals. I feel that artwork is very ritualistic. Almost every artist will deny it, but, you come to find that most artists will have certain things they do every time they paint."

"My favorite painting in Chicago is the big Clifford Still that hangs in the Chicago Institute. And the curator is smart enough to put a big bench in front of it. There's this one little fissure of light that runs through it. It's really big. And there's this one little fissure of light that runs up through it. And that thing's just full of paint, thick with paint. And that is one bad, big, mother-fucking painting. And in painting, I generally think bigger is better…unless I'm making it, in which case, it's more economical to go smaller" (we all laugh).

You can see David's artwork on his extensive DIY web-site, www.moskow.com