In 1984, Dr. Egon Spengler famously declared, "Print is dead." Thanks to artist Nick Georgiou, however, print is now officially undead, which is all the more ironic considering Dr. Spengler was a Ghostbuster. The New York-born, Arizona-based Georgiou brilliantly crafts artistic works—both sculptures and framed wall art—from old novels, newspapers, magazines, manuals and other print mediums. When a person views the art up close, the print materials clearly reveal themselves, but like modern-day Monets, the works come alive when viewed from five or more feet away. His latest works appear in a new exhibit, Codex Chroma, premiering May 16 at the Allouche Gallery in New York City. PRØHBTD spoke with the artist about all the news that's fit to paint.
Tell me about Codex Chroma and in what ways you challenged yourself with this exhibit.
Codex Chroma… it was not so much a challenge but an observation of living.
The year 2019 marks a decade since I relocated to Tucson, Arizona from NYC. Codex Chroma bookends an epic shift in my life and work, in which all sorts of polarities have surfaced for intense examination. I started here with Obama in office and now there's Trump; I knew no one and now I have a local community; I went from the city to the desert; I posted images on Friendster, MySpace, Facebook and now Instagram; and on and on and on. You get the idea. The world we're living in now is marked by extremes in weather, politics, mental health, religion, social media—calm days get shattered by chaos. And as I reflect on the never ending cycle of it all, I seem to be washed over with chroma. Waves of it. Color evokes emotion and character, symbolizing all things: red for love and passion, black for death and mourning, blue for peace and flow, green for life and growth. Color is a language as much as words are, and the ancients knew that. It plays mysteriously against the backdrop of books. Instead of [literal] words, colors are the words.
You work with books, newspapers, manuals and other printed material. Do the physical natures of the different media types make them more applicable to different parts of your art?
They all share the same space equally. I generally like to use pages that take well to ink and can be saturated with color. I rarely use glossy pages or magazines because the material is less malleable. Essentially every page on its side is a line, and they are cut in dimensions that create the 3D space with which to interact.
If you recall, what are some of the more interesting books you included in your work? And do you ever purposely make a piece using one specific genre, like romance novels, for example?
I stay away from using any specific book to reference the subject matter of a piece. My materials mostly consist of discarded paper in all states of life and decay. The works are large so there are many different kinds of texts that share the same area. I also like the idea of all of those texts working together to create a new story. It helps me to create a spontaneous visual reaction. During the production of this show, I was called by a lawyer who had a room full of law books that were of no use to her because of technology—new versions of the books were digitized. Several pieces in Turn the Line have DNA that can be traced to Arizona Revised Statutes.
How would you describe the symbolism of adding color to the gray/black text in the printed media?
I'm fascinated by the psychology of color—the shifting of emotion based on hues and the juxtapositions of patterns. After the first few monochromatic portraits came out, I added one color to shift the visual and emotional narrative. It was my way of adding depth and layers to the story.
How do the technical challenges differ between making a framed piece and a sculpture?
One word: gravity.
How did the move from NYC to Arizona change your perspective on spatial distance, and has it influenced the art in any way?
I've lived and worked in Tucson, Arizona for [about a] decade now. Leaving a large city surrounded by water and transplanting myself to a small city in the desert was a huge adjustment. Your spatial awareness changes: Mountains replace buildings, sunlight is always present and pops of color in the desert have a hypnotic quality. The desert can give life or end it. I have a lot of respect for this land, the people that come from it, and the ones that protect it. I feel really fortunate to call it home. The Sonoran Desert is mysterious and beyond inspiring.
You studied film and television at NYU. What skillsets did you develop in your studies that you are able to apply to the visual arts?
With film you have a screenplay, actors, music and time to develop a story, but with a sculpture, you have seconds to impact an audience. Like film, I wanted my art to interact with the public so I’d place them on streets and photograph people reacting to them. That still image would become the film. I would break it down like this: Film school helped me value the process and all forms of production. Creating the sculpture is equivalent to writing the screenplay, photographing the sculpture is like filming an actor, and posting the image online is like releasing the film.
A major theme in your art seems to be the death and rebirth of the written word. Does this renewal theme extend beyond media in certain pieces?
Renewing a sense of figurative art plays a role in my work: re-creating what the "real world" looks like made of "real objects" through a 21st-century filter. Beyond media, it's a process of observing the collective consciousness, life and death, and all the joys and sorrows in between.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.