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From ruin to respite

The opening of my show at Schneider Gallery last Friday was a blast!

(Left: Me with Director Martha Schneider and Assistant Director Rose Licavoli)

And here’s a review of the show from Newcity.

“Xavier Nuez and Valerie Oliveiro/Schneider Gallery

Positioning himself squarely inside the popular genre of contemporary ruins photography, Xavier Nuez rockets beyond the familiar conceit of redeeming derelict spaces and trash, and embraces them in an orgy of riotous glitz. Shooting at night in color in garishly illuminated spaces, Nuez’s images are phantasmagoria of graffiti-covered abandoned surfaces cheek to jowl with sparkling

and scintillating skylines bathed in ink-blue darkness. Ruins photography tends to be meditative and to reveal beauty in decay that defies design; by introducing a play between decay and hyper-sleek urbanity, and stepping up illumination to a neon level, Nuez gets the eye excited and the mind energized. Juxtaposition invigorates. If you need to relax, look at the opposite gallery wall and fall into Valerie Oliveiro’s color nighttime takes of stubble-filled patches of land—lots and fields—that can make you feel so lonely, something that Nuez would never allow. (Michael Weinstein)”

The show continues until April 28. My next show is my first solo museum show, at the Bolinas Museum in the Bay Area of California. I’ll be at the opening reception March 17th.

My Glam Bugs were featured on a couple of popular blogs recently, in particular jazjaz and A Parliament of Owls

And finally, Lindsay Auten, arts writer at the School of the Chicago Art Institute, interviewed me recently. I thought she did an excellent job, so here’s the transcript:

Q+A ::

From ruin to respite: a conversation with photographer Xavier Nuez LINDSEY AUTEN

“I take these things that are rejected, and I try to make them beautiful.”

In his work, photographer Xavier Nuez has made urban ruins, lifeless insects and shattered dishes into compositions of enlightened pigment and grace. Photographs from his ongoing collections, Alleys and Ruins, Glam Bugs and Crystals have been featured in museums, galleries and corporate and private collections across North America. The photographer, born in Montreal, now living in Chicago, sits down to discuss his work.

Lindsey Auten: Before you were a practicing artist you were a commercial photographer?

Xavier Nuez: My art was always the main thing for me, but making a living was tough at the beginning. Most of my commercial work involved architectural interiors. I was hired by magazines, design firms and architecture firms to photograph beautiful buildings, offices and public spaces. That was my bread and butter for many years. Ironically, at night I’d go out and photograph the opposite, the ugliest most run-down buildings I could find.

LA: Of Alleys and Ruins, Glam Bugs, and Crystals, which came first?

XN: The alleys and the bugs started around the same time. Alleys and Ruins is something that worked its way into a series gradually over many years. With the Glam Bugs, it didn’t exist, then a week later it existed. I made the decision to do the series and I started the bugs all in the same period of time. For all I know they started the same week.

Crystals has a very different history. The first shot is actually from 1985. Around 2000, I decided these few images of crystals were something I liked in my little portfolio. Unlike the other collections, which were photos of found things, Crystals is something I created.

LA: Alleys and Ruins is still a work in progress. Were the bugs and crystals pre-conceptualized bodies of work?

XN: Glam Bugs was more a conceptual series from the start. The concept changed completely quite a few years into it. When I started the series I was shooting fashion. One day, I had gotten some new gels for my lighting equipment. I’m sitting on the floor in my studio, flipping through these gels. I wanted to test them, so I started looking around on the floor. There was a dead bug. I got my macro equipment together and took some pictures of it. I didn’t want to just take pictures – I was looking at it, trying to figure out what to do with it, and when I got the shots back, I saw on the ground near it there were two tiles that crossed. They looked like a cross because of the way the dirt was arranged. I nudged the bug toward the cross and posed it. When I looked at the photo, it spoke of the life of the bug. The early part of the series became about beauty and the fleeting life of beauty.

After three or four years, I realized I actually liked these bugs. The way I was framing them was a little insulting to them. I gave them beautiful names like Cassandra, but I wanted them to be more humbled. I wanted them to reflect my life more than this life I didn’t have a clue about. The concept changed completely: what they are now…they’re anthropomorphized people on the lower runs. I give them the names of superheroes. They all have a legacy and a history. It’s about the lives of people who struggle. It’s a fantasy of them being superheroes.

LA: Are people ever turned off by the Glam Bugs?

XN: The bugs are harder for people to deal with. The ruins are actually closely related to the bugs because they are places, like the bugs, that are reviled and people want nothing to do with them. We wish they weren’t around. They’re at the bottom of the barrel, just like the bugs. I try to glamorize them like I do the bugs.

LA: Bottom of the barrel: anything to do with the Crystals collection?

XN: Crystals is apart from these two. They’re more decorative. I could find connections: they are discarded dishes that I paint and re-glaze and I give them a new life, one more enchanting than existed for them before. I find them in the Salvation Army, or garage sales. They’re sitting there, and I take these things that are rejected and I try to make them beautiful.

LA: Can you describe some of your favorite moments shooting your work?

XN: I love the exploring part. That’s largely how I started. I grew up exploring. I loved to escape the city – full of people, stressful, noise, and advertisements. I would go down an alley, junky, dirty, quiet, nobody around. It’s peaceful. An unbelievable setting, and I saw a lot of beauty in it.

LA: Any future for new collections?

XN: I’ve had ideas for other projects, but I really like the 3 series I’m working on and I’ll continue to expand them indefinitely. With the Glam Bugs, I feel like I’ve just skimmed the surface. The Crystals, too. The Alleys and Ruins have been full throttle for the past ten years. That series has been explored pretty deep, but it’s still something I enjoy. And after all these years, the series continues to grow and evolve, so the plan is to just keep doing it.

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