‘Meet The Artist Series spotlight is on local Artist Jef Bourgeau and his ZOMBIE ON THE WALL show.
Jef Bourgeau ‘Zombie On The Wall’, exhibit took place June 12th thru July 11, 2015, at galarie camille, 4130 Cass Ave Suite C, 48201 which is located in Detroit’s midtown area. I personally loved Jef’s geometric/abstract collection. Please click on the featured video to view photographs from this recent exhibit.
Thank you,Jef for agreeing to answer my questions in my Meet The Artist Series.
What is your connection to the Detroit area and where do you live now?
My dad’s family has lived in Detroit since the 1700’s. They were the early French. So, I was born in Detroit. My dad worked for a company on Oakman Boulevard. So, growing up our lives revolved around Detroit. Even after the jobs and shopping malls started moving people into the suburbs, my family continued to work and shop downtown. And I have vivid memories of Hudson’s, shopping there with my mom and of course their Christmas displays.
My mom’s family moved here in the Great Depression. Her dad came to study engineering at Lawrence Tech, which had just opened. And she had plenty of stories she told us about Detroit in its heyday. They lived in Royal Oak, but she would take the trolley every day to work downtown. She loved it. When she met my dad, they spent all their dates going to Detroit jazz clubs.
When they moved my dad’s company to Troy, he moved the family with it. He had nine kids and we grew up in Pontiac schools. Pontiac is a mini-me Detroit. It’s suffered as long as Detroit, racially and financially.
Today, I live in Troy near one of our museum sites.
Your educational background and training?
I’m a self-taught artist.
As a kid, I’d wanted to be a writer. I went to school for that, to write fiction. But I was horrible at it. Eventually, they kicked me out of college. It still took me until I was thirty to finally admit just how bad I was. I never looked back either.
Over the years, I’d include my drawings, prints, or photographs with the stories I’d submit to publishers. They’d send back my work telling me how bad a writer I was, but that they really sort of enjoyed my art.
So, taking all this to heart, by the time I was forty I’d managed to incorporate my writing alongside my visual arts.
With a few Polaroid’s of my work in hand, I approached several galleries. The first one, Feigenson Preston Gallery, gave me a show right off. I started out doing multi-media installations made up of film, video, paintings, soundscapes, sculpture and the written word. The second, OK Harris Works of Art, gave me free-hand in creating installations month after month for several years.
When did you first become interested in your art?
When I was in first grade, my mother was invited to meet with my art teacher. The teacher told my mom that I should be pulled from the class, explaining that I could not keep my coloring within the lines. That only encouraged me more. And my mother laughed. We had visited the DIA and its contemporary galleries many times.
Later, being influenced by Dada poets and also writers such as Alfred Jarry and Ionesco, my visual art-making easily embraced the work of Duchamp, Kienholz, Broodthaers and Fluxus. All of them showed me that art could be serious and also fun beyond belief.
And I’ve been having fun ever since.
Your personal experience in doing your recent exhibit?
I’ve been working with digital art since 1981. The medium has finally come to the point where it can both imitate and rival conventional painting, both in its brushstrokes and application onto canvas. The current art world is ruffled by an abstract movement critics are calling ‘zombie formalism.’ The notion being that many current abstract artists are simply taking old abstraction notions and giving them a new coat of, often very bright, paint.
But, art has been cannibalizing itself since almost the start.
With this most recent show, ZOMBIE ON THE WALL, I especially wanted to play with all these notions of appropriation, but also of making something old into something familiar but totally 21st Century ‘new’ … and what better medium than the computer for that.
Any new projects in the works?
Here’s the next project I’m working on: “Open Call To Artists.”
OPEN CALL TO ALL ARTISTS: The Next Big Thing
Saturday, October 24 at 6:00pm
MONA North, 15655 33 Mile Road, Armada, MI 48005
Thank you again for for the interview Jef. After doing some research I discovered that you have a reputation in the art world as to being somewhat of a risk-taker. I can’t wait to see your new project.
The following is a little more detail into Jef Bourgeau’s life and professional career.
Excerpts from Jef Bourgeau’s online-biography
“Jef Bourgeau is an American photographer, painter and conceptual artist who has become notorious through his sculptures, photography and curatorial work. The most famous and provocative of Bourgeau’s work plays on the relationship between iconic imagery and irreverent materials, together forming a new context often drawing upon current controversies and, perhaps, the willfully provocative.”
“An undiagnosed dyslexic, Bourgeau never finished his education. He spent his teen years working at a box factory in his home town of Detroit. During that time, utilizing the materials at hand, he began to make and experiment with several pinhole cameras. The early work from these rudimentary cameras developed into dark, moody photographs and paintings. Bourgeau has since remarked that he can only see ‘right’ through a camera lens.”
Jef Bourgeau is the founding director of the Museum of New Art (MONA), of Detroit’s artCORE (empty storefronts to galleries), and co-founder of the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography.” To read his complete official biography clicking here