Artlog stopped by Fountain on Thursday as artists and galleries were preparing their booths. We spoke with Gilf!, a street artist whose social and political criticism has found a welcome audience in Fountain visitors. Gilf! first shared a booth with artist Danni Rash last year in New York, then rented her own booths at Fountain Los Angeles and Fountain Miami.
You’re showing new work, but on a wall outside the booth you’re also doing an installation of a tree as part of your Re Source project.
The tree is like a semicircle, it just attaches to the wall and uses the wall as a climbing lattice. The idea behind Re Source is to plant seeds in the vines, which are edible pouches, to create sustainable agriculture as well as a sense of collaboration and community. Haiti, Uganda and Afghanistan are the top three countries I want to visit first. The tree is created primarily from reclaimed wood materials, and the prototype I’m showing is built from 1×3-inch plywood strips. All of the pieces are modular and built to fit together. The outside is made of cardboard, and there are pockets built into the structure which contain pouches made from 100% recycled plastic bags. Inside these pouches you can grow vascular plant life.
One of your new pieces resembles an eye chart, but the words spell out the sentence, “Take off your blinders.” What blind spots of your own have you come across?
I think the blinders that I wear are not seeing the good that people do. I see a lot of the negative, which is why my work is always a call to action. I’d always kind of thought that nobody was doing good work, like how everyone is fucking up the environment. But I’m now in contact with a lot of people who are doing positive work. So maybe telling other people to take their blinders off has helped me take off mine too, to some of the good that people are also doing.
You’ve been quoted as saying that exhibiting at Fountain last year changed your life. Tell us about your experience as an independent artist-exhibitor.
Being here gave me the opportunity and the platform to show my work. As a new artist, how do you get into galleries? How do you get people to see your work? You put it out on the street, and people find you through a social network, or you can do something like this—but, I don’t know how many fairs would even let you in as an independent artist. So this is a really accessible way to show lots of people my work.
Street artists often go to great lengths to protect their real names and identities. How do you handle this issue and run your booth?
For me and what I do, it helps to be in the booth and to meet the people who are buying the work. I’m talking about issues in my art that I’m passionate about, and if they are too, they’re much more open to discussing these topics with the artist directly. They know I’m not just trying to sell something. The only people who buy my work are passionate about what I’m doing, not just because it’s visually interesting, they’re going to be engaged with the issues, too.
What do you remember about your first sales?
I was surprised people wanted to buy work. You know, you’re putting it out there to sell, but it’s still a surprise. This time last year, I was having a breakdown just getting all the work finished. Then for the first two days, I didn’t sell anything. I totally thought I’d failed; I went home and cried, but sold thirteen pieces the next day. That gave me so much validation that what I was doing is what I am supposed to be doing. I have a voice, and selling art gives the work a voice, because then it’s hanging somewhere else where people will talk about it. To me, it means people are actually responding. I’m not a salesperson—I figure the work just has to sell itself.
Would you rather have gallery representation?
I would love people to price and hang my work and to just drop it off, but then I would have to give them fifty percent. Not that I ever want to open my own gallery, but exhibiting has helped me understand the whole process of what makes a booth successful, how to hang work. Now I know what makes a wall look good. Figuring out lighting has been an education in itself. I didn’t know how to do this stuff last year.