Gabriel J. Shuldiner is a product of New York City, the best of New York. He’s been molded by the sounds and the art that shaped the cultural epicenter in the ’80s and ’90s. Stepping out on faith, taking the risk, Gabriel found his way to art and has never looked back. Using materials ranging from broken glass to cardboard, Gabriel has carved a very special place for himself in the art world. We were lucky enough to get the chance to hang with Gabriel in his mid-town studio, to talk about his journey and process as an artist, and to get a behind the scenes look at his work.
Tell Us A Little Bit About Background? Where Did You Grow Up?
I’m born and raised in Manhattan and pretty much exposed to everything from day one just by being in this town. Different genres of music, art, fashion, film; I absorbed it all like a sponge. One of my strongest memories was hearing Run DMC’s Rock Box on Manhattan Public Access “Video Music Box”. It blew my mind: rap music, graffiti, the subways, abstracted cracks in the concrete sidewalks, decayed sides of buildings It was my very own urban playground.
I went to museums and all that, too, but as a kid, my day-to-day environment influenced me the most along with the music. Rap, punk, industrial, experimental electronic, even techno got me, eventually. Early musical genres when they’re raw and unpolished the energy is electric. Album covers, band t-shirts, the clubs. Back then music and art were everywhere.
How did you find your way to art?
I found my way to art through a process of elimination. I eliminated everything that didn’t make me happy, and what I was left with was the first thing I was ever truly passionate about: art. When I quit my job and started painting seriously a few years ago, I really believed I had discovered art for the first time, but I came to realize I had merely rediscovered it. I was always experimenting and creating, but “art” was a “hobby” but not a “career”. And I realized FUCK that! Life’s too short. It’s the best and riskiest decision I’ve ever made.
Coming from NY, how has the art world changed from when you first started to now? Your time when you started to now.
Quite honestly before I started painting, I knew nothing of the professional art world. I only knew what I liked and what I didn’t. My previous incarnation was in the business side of the record business. Ironically, they are two very similar worlds. I suppose the art world is always changing. I remember my first year of graduate school, the economy was amazing, the art world was booming and we were all told, “this is the greatest time to be an artist!” Then my second year the economy tanked and galleries were going out of business and we were told, “This is the greatest time to be an artist!” The irony and the truth of it all. I make art regardless of the art world/art market/art trends: a few years ago people were saying abstraction is over and now every other piece I see is abstract. Eventually it will all be over again.
Where do the materials come from? How are they manipulated?
My materials literally come from everywhere. I’m just as comfortable using Belgian linen and the finest stretcher bars from the most pretentious art supply store as I am using found cardboard or broken glass from the streets of New York City. I like mixing traditional elements with the found. House paints, artist paints, spray paints, inks: I use them all.
What does a successful piece look like to you?
I have ideas I’m interested in, concepts I’m continually working with and exploring. I’m fascinated by science, space and dark matter, obsessed with the history of the color black in art, from the first painting to the present. But at the same time the materials dictate a lot. A successful piece to me is when surface, support, materials and intention and technique become one. It more of a feeling I get. It just feels right. When the canvas is no longer just a canvas, the material no longer just matter, when painting becomes sculpture becomes installation becomes object, that’s when it becomes alive: both particle and wave.
What’s on deck for 2014?
I recently created a series of small sculptural pieces and necklaces for The New Museum. Although the pieces can be worn, they function independently as stand alone objects. I’m working on a few amazing collaborations, and finally working on a new website, which will showcase a ton of new work. I’m in the studio everyday, and I was just granted another two year studio residency at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts through 2015. Creating work and getting that work out into the world, that’s 2014 for me.. Thus, I suppose the biggest thing I’m working towards is my first solo show in Manhattan; more will be revealed.