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Reaching Out: Andro Wekua

May 15, 2020

Andro Wekua, By the Window, 2008, Single channel video transferred from 16mm film, 8:30 min, sound, color

Andro Wekua’s By The Window (2008) collages a sculptural mise-en-scene with film footage that originates in the titular window. The film is even more fascinating during this time of social distancing, when we are all, in some ways, watching by the window, whether it is an actual window where we are watching spring come into her own outside or the windows on our computer monitors which may be playing films, or harboring unfinished emails. The digital solutions we employ to connect with others during the necessary social isolation of the Covid-19 global pandemic have created a pressured point of inflection between the public and private spheres. To connect in this time, we cannot help but share our private lives out of choice on our social media posts and video chats or out of necessity, as in the views into coworkers' and acquaintances' homes during while working online. 

With the idea of physical and emotional distance becoming so intertwined­—and in that relations so convoluted—what is private or solitary is called into question, as in this moment of necessary human (dis)connection we sit alone together.  It is in this spirit of negotiating the blending of the public and private spheres and finding new avenues of connection during this time that Andro Wekua shares his private sketchbooks for us exclusively. Composed of collage and drawing, its pages map out the latent potential imagery and meaning of his paintings. We asked him about how the sketchbook functions in his practice, how they bridge between the public engagement of his exhibitions and the private communion with self, and how they represent both struggle and triumph over the unknown. 

Gladstone Gallery: Your sketchbooks are fascinating because they collage so much together—diverse media, found materials, drawing, images of your past work, and photos from your younger days. Collage has always been, to my mind, central to your practice, whether they be works on paper, paintings, films, or sculpture. What initially drew you to collage?
Andro Wekua: It happened naturally, it mirrors how my mind processes things: it allows me to combine different times and spaces, which I am always trying to understand. If I am trying to understand something and draw it, it comes fully from myself, while if I make a collage, there is more coming from the outside which allows me to wonder about things further, somehow, it makes it easier to read the unknown.

GG: How do your sketchbooks relate to your current work? And what are the traces of the sketchbooks that are evident in the finished pieces?
AW: They are always related to my work. Either they feed motifs to the work or come back from a work to be in the sketchbook. It also helps me process my work. It is also a way to make new motifs which I can then use in different setting, in different individual works.

GG: You once mentioned that you have trouble with letting go, whether of your own past, or your past work. How do these sketchbooks help you hold on to what you aren’t ready to let go?
AW: I think it is an attempt to give a face to this unknown that I am battling. There is an abstract element to collage that communicates better the unknown because it gives a face to feelings, because it combines different motifs in an illogical way which you can still read, it combines different aesthetics and each piece comes with its own load of information that you can still understand.

GG: There is certain syntax of connection in your collage, as if different repeated images or marks compose a certain alphabet. How do the sketchbooks represent the germination of all you do?
AW: There are small circles of repetition in the sketchbooks, which are repeating themselves differently, in different motifs, until they are gone naturally. Its kind of like a carousel where the elements are always changing until they disappear. 

GG: At the end of 2019, you had an exhibition of new paintings and sculpture at Gladstone Gallery in New York. How did the sketchbooks help you put that show together? ​
AW: The exhibitions are more or less always connected to the sketchbooks.  The individual works somehow grow out of some of the motifs in the sketchbooks. Sometimes the individual works go back as a collage in the sketchbook to create a new work.