Artist of the Week

Robin Juan

July 25, 2011

Robin Juan lives and works in San Francisco, California.  She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010.  Robin is the founder and Curatorial Director of Hungryman Gallery in Chicago and San Francisco.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I shoot large format film that I then scan and digitally print, which can be a pretty time-consuming process. It can take me a whole month to make a few images. Though I recently had some digital paintings of galaxies made into slides. It is still photographic but they are the first non-photographs I’ve made in years. Luckily I have a studio inside my house where I can set up stilllifes and make messes. I’ve been using a lot of plants in my work since I moved back to California. And I think I’ve finally been able to resolve the work I was making in Chicago right before I moved.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Things that I read are always a huge influence on my work one way or another. I can find inspiration from reading art history text books or witchcraft spells. I was reading Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color while I was making these spray paint studies. JD Salinger has always been a huge influence. The way he weaves religion into his story telling is brilliant and his personal relationship with Buddhism is fascinating. Franny and Zooey may as well be my handbook. I just read Bret Easton Ellis’ Less than Zero a couple weeks ago. I can see why he is sometimes called a contemporary Salinger, but definitely heavy towards Catholicism. I’m trying to move more away from religion as a point of reference in my work, but I think I has a pretty good hold on me whether conceptual or aesthetic. Right now I am reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, because I bought it at the airport. I’ve been trying to get back into narrative literature. It has been my goal of the summer. All I did was read essays after I graduated because I didn’t want to stop having an education. Anything can be exhausting without moderation.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I just participated in an show with Azimuth Projects in Chicago founded by Maureen Cooper and former HungryMan Chicago Director of Operations, Mia Billetdeaux. It’s up in the west loop. I’m taking a web design class at CCA this summer. I am also a new blog contributor for Humble Arts Foundation’s blog that is going to launch in August. I’m going to work on having some more free time, too. 😉

What do you do when you’re not working on art? Sleep, or watch bad television on hulu, or go to Theives Tavern across the street from the gallery, or be at the gallery.

How long have you lived in San Francisco and what brought you there? I have been living in San Francisco since March 2010 after completing my BFA atriumt the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am a third generation, and all my family is here, which can sometimes be cool. But I can get pretty stuck in my habits like anyone who has lived in a city for a long time. I moved back because I was offered a job as a graphic design consultant for Wells Fargo’s retail store formats division. We are making custom murals for branch locations that are currently being converted from Wachovias. I spend a lot of time on Photoshop being awesome.

How has Living in San Francisco affected your art practice? San Francisco is great. The landscape and weather are beautiful and there is amazing food. Quality of life is all around unreal. I definitely think I started utilizing nature more in my photographs, but really I think that my job has influenced the evolution of my practice more than anything else. I’m more inclined to be experimental in the way my photographs are presented and fabricated.

What are your thoughts about the art scene in San Francisco? You know how Chicago has that second city complex? Well San Francisco has a pretty similar issue because it just isn’t taken seriously. I think it is really easy to identify with the San Francisco art scene if you were trained here or are making art here. It’s kind of hard for me to hate on the art scene in San Francisco, especially having an art gallery here, and being from here, and making work here. But it is a bubble. I think there’s a lack of competition to fuel the fire. But there are also multiple art scenes. I think it is pretty rare to find artists from San Francisco who can compete on a national level. I think there is tremendous potential, there are so many creative people here. But the bay seems to create such a divide. There’s San Francisco and then there is Oakland. It’s not like Manhattan and Brooklyn. At least not yet.

Top 3 favorite or most-visited websites and why? Design sponge: because like most things, my home is forever needing self improvement.  Twitter: it’s essentially the only way I know what is happening out in the real world.  Contemporary art daily: because it’s awesome and I could get lost in there for hours.

What were you like in high school? Weird. I hated my academics so I did every extracurricular activity that I could. I took photos for the yearbook, was on student council, the basketball team, took AP art, and was in the drama club. I also managed to get into a significant amount of trouble. Maybe I was a freak, maybe I was just ambitious. I guess not a lot has changed now that I think about it.

What are your plans for the next year? I’d like to focus on more of my own work in the next year, rather than other people’s. Maybe do some gardening. Go to New York in the fall to hang out and do some studio visits. Maybe do some art fairs.

Favorite music? I will forever be a fan of Patsy Cline.

What’s your absolute favorite place to be? There’s this spot in the Marin Headlands where a bunch of us used to go and build bonfires in an old military bunker. You can stand on the edge of that cliff and not see anything but ocean.  That’s my favorite place. You can have the whole city behind you. You don’t even feel like yourself.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? I always wanted to be a psychiatrist like my dad, or a lawyer. Oh well.