Georgia-born, Seattle-based artist, Dylan Neuwirth has been making the rounds over the past several years. He has shown his work, which consists of social media-inspired sayings (think: lol, tag you in hell, burn your blog, just be your selfie, and more) in the form of "neon gas trapped in manipulated glass", neon/glass sculptures, and 24 karat gold skulls, in solo shows at Vermillion, Punch Gallery and Bumbershoot in Seattle and at On Main Gallery in Vancouver, as well as in numerous group shows across the West Coast. He spoke to us about his work, social media, his thoughts on copying, Bret Easton Ellis, and more …
How old are you and where are you from?
If you grow up in the south, you better pray you grew up in Athens, GA. I was lucky enough to have been born there in 1977.
How would you describe your brand, so to speak?
Sharp, minimal and direct with a focus on stylistic substance and a dedication to authenticity.
You work with a lot of other Seattle-based talent. What are your thoughts on the art/fashion community there?
My work takes me all over the world and I collaborate with so many talented people, many of whom are in Seattle. There are an abundance of craftspeople in the Emerald City whose skills blend old-world wisdom with new technologies. Most often I work with Western Neon to realize my projects. I've also developed long standing relationships with fabricators and production teams that I can trust.
I'm really fortunate to pull influences from all over the globe into my work and blend it with the energy in Seattle. Additionally, for me, I shoot for a global audience. I don't want my work to feel regional. It needs to speak to a broader network. That's why my work is so web focused as well. I want to be everywhere and experience my work in as many locations as possible: real or digital. For me, operating out of a silicon city like Seattle is key for all those reasons. I'm psyched to see how the markets shift when the IT crowd begins to connect with art and invest in it. It's the next frontier and I'm psyched to be on the West Coast, near LA and in Seattle.
A bunch of your work is inspired by Bret Easton Ellis, which is amazing!
My approach is very much influenced by his oeuvre. The sense of detachment from the subjects. The use of violence to destabilize the reader, so that you feel something, anything.
Glamorama is by far his best work in my mind. Such a pivotal work of pre-9-11, fall of nostalgia; literally the book is "sliding down the surface of things" as you read it. End of empire. So slippery and direct in its associations, just like cocaine, like terrorism, like the 90's.
I only wish I could create works as layered as this. Horrendous in scope, gigantic in scale, without mercy. Yet even so, the filaments of what it means to be human and to be frail in the face of something you'll never understand shines like a diamond from the glitter filled dust of Mr. Ellis' frosty apocalypse he so eloquently renders. Most of all it's the feeling that he's talking right to you. Conversational poison that you can't get enough of. He's right in the room, it's intimate; yet he's so removed. Very similar to David Bowie in that respect. They both have mastered the art of deflection so well that their work is the epitome of authenticity in a world that has no idea what to do with it.
Tell me about your social-media inspired collection.
MMXIV grew out of a desire to manifest this thing I saw happening in late 2013 across the various platforms (FB, Twitter, IG, etc.) and a concurrent, latent realization that my work is heavily concerned with the philosophy of the Internet. Specifically our relationship as humans to social media. What it means. What the totality of it expresses.
I was seeing what I felt like was the end of the Bronze Age of Social Media. Meaning the groundwork was there and we, as a culture, had embraced it for better or worse and the tone of social media as an entity onto itself had been defined. Absolutely ironic, sometimes beautiful, often brutal, and of course, perfectly honest. All of the things that make us human. But now, we are irreversibly posthuman. Our analog and digital realities are immersed in such a way that this thing, social media, is an expression of the soul of what it means to be human. Existing in constant flux, informed from so many viewpoints, this creates the posthuman civilization we are striving to realize and define.
So with MMXIV, I wanted to create a body of work or collection that expressed this condition. It had to be as immediate as social media with a sense that it extended beyond the room. It was also a way for me to trend cast this year right as it happened; how the phrases and texts would capture 2014, the types of ways we would feel as a culture. From an aesthetic view, the exhibition was like actually being in a screen or floating in an iPhone. The white I chose is by far the most crisp and synthetic option, so being in the room felt very digital.
Have you come across anyone copying your works?
From time to time I've seen my fingerprints all over something. The look perhaps, but not the overall feel. That's hard to really copy from anybody. Most often, others point it out or show me. Honestly I don't have the time to focus on it; I'm always moving forward and off in new directions, so hopefully anyone wanting to borrow has to work harder to keep up. That's the only reason people do copy or borrow; fear that that they aren't good enough or the ideas won't hold up. And the reality is, people are always wanting something new but quick to criticize what is unfamiliar. So, in essence, you mostly end up stealing from yourself so that you extend your work.
Or at least I do. I'm always keeping up on things. Or where they came from. I have to be very ready when people bring up [Bruce] Nauman or [Tracey] Emin in regards to my work and set them straight about where my work comes from and what is going. You have to respect the history and always know when to say "no" because you haven't pushed yourself to do your own work, or do your best.
But let's face it: nothing is original and anyone who tells you they are hasn't created something from nothing. Or at least is still operating under a veil of fear from which nothing will come. And that's not very original.
Whatever you do, however you do it: steal it better.
I have a serious shoe habit. Limited edition/custom Nikes sit alongside distressed Vans hi-tops and military inspired zip-ups flesh out a heavy collection of Brogues and wingtip boots from Allsaints. I'm obsessed with the perfectly elusive pair of shoes. I really focus on my outfits for openings and usually get a new pair for each one. It has to be perfect. My BAE said I buy shoes like a woman and that's why she loves me. Really this is the only drug habit I have left except for caffeine. I'm cool with that. But I might OD soon if I don't watch it.