Interview with Alberto Salvadori

Originally published in Mousse Magazine, February, 2016

Salvadori – How important is photography for you as a medium and as a tool for reproducing and processing reality?

Metz – My work is deeply invested in direct experience. That being said, I think the photograph can provide a blueprint, if you will, for an intended viewing. Almost like notes from a choreographer, it's about using something static to suggest movement. In this sense, choosing an "optimal" angle for the images is comparable to installing the work in the space itself: I'm still dealing very much with time, rhythm and space, composing in a way that's instructive but open-ended. So the photograph really serves as a living document of the performative nature of the work—it doesn't so much reproduce reality as lay the ground for actions to follow.

Salvadori – At first glance, your work seems uniform, as if the construction of space were almost a computer rendering. But as one comes into closer contact with the artworks, everything changes: the manual, choral aspect becomes perceptible, reading as the outcome of a choreographic, scenographic process. Is that just my impression, or do you think that's true to some degree?

Metz – I love the notion of having various, equally valid interpretations of the work, each depending on the viewer's particular vantage point. Whether it be through a photograph or in person, viewed from afar or closely inspected, it's important to me that each additional reading cumulatively informs the experience as a whole. In a sense, the construction of the work is very uniform: there is a systematic approach to the physical format of the stretcher, and the application of dye's grown more precise over time. On the other hand, the use of materials is still very organic, allowing for their natural properties and chance interactions to serve an authorial function. So while the work's the result of a predetermined process, each canvas ultimately becomes a document of unique, unrepeatable events.

Salvadori – What are the goals of the spatial and pictorial exploration you carry out through your practice?

Metz – It's difficult for me to speak of my practice in terms of "goals," if only because my works are so much about encouraging an open narrative—whatever intentions I have are always offset by the reality of the materials and the surrounding environment. In the end, I think what resonates most isn't what we're told, but rather what we discover, discern, come to know through experience. That idea is a definite anchor for this work. So ultimately, I think of it less in terms of goals than of challenges: How much can I strip away and still retain coherence? How specific do I need to be in my presentation while still allowing for a broader reception? It's a constant negotiation, one centered in trying to retain this fundamental balance while refining it with each succeeding offering.

Salvadori – Could you tell me how you define vocabulary and translation, and how important those terms are to your practice?

Metz – Translation is about approaching one's content as something at once grounded and flexible: the impulse remains intact, but the means of presentation changes. In my work, this means adapting a fixed vocabulary to a particular space or environment. In doing so, an interesting transformation takes place, as with each new translation, the vocabulary becomes more refined by way of contrast. The conversation grows at once broader and deeper.

Salvadori – How important to you is the legacy of Color Field painting and the great art of the late modernist era?

Metz – Perhaps up to a point, but there are probably more differences than similarities between my practice and, say, Frankenthaler's. Whatever similarities do arise tend to lie more in visual effect than conceptual impulse. In Louis's work, for instance, there's certainly a shared interest in how image offsets material—e.g., the way the viewer's gaze sinks into these deep stains of color, only to be pulled back repeatedly to the grained, still-intact surface of the canvas. There is a certain technical strategy, a balancing of aesthetic impression and literal space in his work that I'd relate to my own; though image-conscious, we're both looking to center the viewer in an embodied, real-time encounter. But that's really as far as it goes. It occurs to me that artists might often arrive at similar places through different threads of activity. But whatever their shared concerns, the point really lies in where they're grounded and to what ends they're explored. Sensitivity to historical precedence is very important me—as it should be to any artist—but it must be emphasized here that I approach painting less as a pursuit than a vehicle. Any interest I have in its baggage—particularly from the very period you've mentioned—lies less in its paradigms than its utility. For me, the medium's always a means to an end.

February, 2016