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By The Editors
Baby I’m a Star, 2021. Original acrylic paintings projected on bust, faux flowers, stadium light, faux fur, lanterns, wooden structure.
To snap out of our winter lethargy, we caught up with Dario Mohr, an illuminating artist, designer, curator, and founder of AnkhLave Arts Alliance. You might have read his recent curator's statement about "On the Inside Looking Out" at the Queens Botanical Garden (we just published it here), but he's been just as dazzlingly productive creating as he has been curating. Mr. Mohr is currently the artist-in-residence at Materials For The Arts (MFTA) in New York City. This beloved warehouse and reuse hub takes in donations of surplus materials and distributes them to schools and non-profit organizations throughout the five boroughs. On any given day, MFTA could have mannequins, furniture, paint supplies, beads, and more. As the AIR, Dario was tasked with exploring the warehouse, conjuring splendor, and presenting his artwork for the adoring public...virtually.
Here's what he had to say about the experience:
How did you find out about this residency? And when/how did you find out when you were selected?
I’ve known about the MFTA residency for some time now. It’s basically my dream residency.
Keep Ya Head Up, 2021. Acrylic transfers of original painting prints on PVC roll, hanging on clothes rack, wooden dominoes, faux candles, photos, meditation bench, LED lights.
What was your art like before the residency?
My work was reverential and using ordinary objects to build sacred spaces. I believe the series Archetypes: A Visual Soundtrack is functioning along the same lines, but from a very specific vantagepoint. I had never created sanctuaries so directly tied to pop culture, referencing famous people’s legacies, or with reference to literary character types. MFTA’s warehouse provided so much to play with, that it only took me about a couple weeks to develop the concept.
…I Got Life, 2021. Glass, LED lights, original painting print, faux candles, photos.
Did your work change or advance in any way because of the residency? If so, how?
It definitely did! I had only made a couple pieces working with projection previously. Through the pandemic, I had to scale down my work, and ended up creating a lot of digital art at home. It was nice to be able to create the Archetypes: A Visual Soundtrack series with some of the digital art projected on some of the pieces. I also created two additional series: Altar-Eden and Black Temple, with both series including projected digital art. One of the Black Temple pieces is featured in the show iLLUSIONAL group exhibit, alongside works by Joshua Gabriel, Kat Ryals, Jonathan Sims, and Valeria Divinorum, at Chashama on 14th St. in Manhattan from February 15th through March 15th. All three of these series were in part inspired by the Effigy Room diptych that I created in 2019 but quite different. For my larger concepts, I like to work in 10-12 piece series, and Archetypes: A Visual Soundtrack was my first large series meant to be viewed in the dark, setting the trajectory of the other two series.
Natural Mystic, 2021. LED lights, sconces, wood, acrylic on canvas, acrylic on paper, leather fabric, shear fabric, beaded curtain, mirror, rope, miscellaneous objects, faux flowers.
What sort of work did you produce during the residency? What themes were on your mind? What was your process?
The themes for Archetypes: A Visual Soundtrack include memorials and reverence for idols. We all have idols in pop culture that we identify with. For some, it’s athletes or actors, and for me it has always been musicians. It was nice to be able to put all of my music nerd knowledge to use using objects.
One of my favorite pieces from the show, Points of Authority [after the Linkin Park song] was an interesting story of conception. Rock music can be chaotic and interpreted in a lot of ways by different people. As an arcade frequenter, I noticed that only the most iconic heavy metal or rock n’ roll bands have pinball machines made in their honor. Most of my favorite bands either weren’t famous enough or were contemporary bands entering the mainstream after pinball’s heyday. I wasn’t surprised that [Linkin Park] did not have a pinball machine, though I felt like they reached that pinnacle and should have their legacy cemented in this way among the other great bands of rock music. For this reason, I made nods to the pinball aesthetic while creating Points of Authority.
I Care 4 U, 2021. Original paintings on canvas, partition, large vessels, lights, cushions, bookshelf, miscellaneous objects.
What was the timeframe of the residency? What was your personal schedule like?
The timeframe was from November 2020-March 1st, 2021. The entire warehouse was closed down, so I spent much of my time there alone. For this reason I felt safe enough to go almost every weekday and construct the pieces in between teaching sessions. I had access to the studio from around 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. daily and would usually spend around seven hours per day there.
You had a public Zoom event toward the conclusion of the residency. How did you prepare for it?
If it was a Zoom livestream [a public event], I would have attempted to get at least 12 speakers to play low music out of each piece to support the visual experience. I ultimately decided against it since people wouldn’t have [actually] been able to come and experience it in person. This was a blessing in disguise, though, as I decided to make image transfers of the song lyrics and include them in each of the pieces, which became major reference points in the Archetype Initiation Ritual performance that I carried out [in the Zoom event]. I also plan to use the lyrics from each piece in a new piece that I will unveil in a public art project later this year.
What would you consider the finished works that resulted from the residency?
They are Archetypes: A Visual Soundtrack, a series of projections and assemblage called Altar-Eden, and another projection and assemblage series called Black Temple.
How can audiences experience these works now?
They can check out the full virtual art exhibit on the MFTA website here. The virtual show is on view on MFTA’s website, and they can also see the full show opening here. The Archetype Initiation Ritual performance is here.
How can readers find out more about your work? How/where can they see it next?
They can go to my website at www.DarioMohr.com, Instagram @Dariomohr_Art, and my facebook page at Dario Mohr, LLC.
Love is a Losing Game, 2021. Velvet, wood, brass instrument case, original paintings, prints of original paintings, lampshades, wheat, lights, shelf, miscellaneous objects.
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