The Iranian-American artist has become known for her exquisite cadaver-like photographic assemblages, which overlay gelatin silver prints and photograms of female body parts (her sister’s, if not her own) with materials such as ceramic, nylon and rope, the latter resembling celestial rays of light.
Hovsepian’s surreal tactile works have been collected by institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. They are placed in walnut frames that she crafts with her own hands in her studio in East Village, New York – a “warm, nest-like” space, as she described it, with high ceilings and good sunshine, not to mention stacks of photos. and ceramic pieces.
While vacationing in Menorca, Spain, where her husband Rashid Johnson is presenting a new exhibit at Hauser & Wirth, Hovsepian took the time to tell us about his life and his latest studio work.
What is the most essential object in your studio and why can’t you do without it?
My iron used to mount photographs.
What is the studio task on your calendar this week that you are most looking forward to?
I’m not in the studio this week because I’m in Menorca. I rest and sunbathe, which is extremely important in any creative practice. Upon my return, I will focus on finishing work for my next exhibition, which opens at the Rachel Uffner Gallery in September.
What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I listen to podcasts or NPR. Last week I streamed the talks and panels from the Venice Biennale, which I really enjoyed. All lectures are available on their YouTube channel. I don’t like listening to music because it interferes with my thinking; I’m a music lover so it takes too much concentration. It’s an art form, so it can persuade my mood and seep into my psyche. It’s a strange thing because, beyond the studio, I’m often the person who brings the music and insists on playing the DJ.
Who are your favorite artists, curators or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
Benjamin Godsill, Cecilia Alemani, Hank Willis Thomas, Hilton Als and Ian Alteveer.
Is there a photo you can send of your current work in progress to the studio?
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get out of it?
I force myself to go into the studio and work on any “dumb” or “flawed” ideas I might have. Physically working on and through ideas often stimulates new ideas. The simple fact of being in the studio and surrounded by my belongings helps me in my decision-making. And that’s all artistic creation is – a series of decisions.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you despise the most?
I admire transparency. I despise insincerity.
What images or objects do you look at while you work? Share your view from behind the canvas or your desk, where you spend the most time.
I am surrounded by my work in my studio. I like to have the trajectory of my practice available for tours because there are common themes and ideas that flow in and out of my work and it’s good to have examples on hand when talking about them. Being surrounded by my works allows me to find common threads or resume conversations within my process. I also like to have my books close at hand.
What is the last exhibition you saw that marked you and why?
Rashid Johnson at Hauser & Wirth Menorca. He is so nimble in his practice and moves his work around in a way that shows the permeability of his thinking and how he responds to the magical setting of the gallery.
What made you choose this studio over others?
I moved my studio to the city of Brooklyn during the pandemic. I live in town and like to be able to walk to my studio, it allows me more flexibility in the day. It’s in the East Village, which is such a vibrant neighborhood with great food. When I saw this particular space, I knew it was perfect. It has very high ceilings and I love its architectural details.
Describe the space in three adjectives.
Warm, nested, complete.
How does the studio environment influence your way of working?
I generally like to work alone in the studio. My studio may be a little messy, but there is order and a system in the mess. I work with collage in what I call an additive process; the photos are stacked and the ceramic pieces are grouped by color so I can see and play with all the components.
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