Artist of the Week

Erick Medel

December 26, 2017

Erick Medel (b.1992) lives and works in Providence, RI. He is currently completing his MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. His multi-media practice investigates assimilation, otherness and political undertones embedded in American symbols and consumer objects.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.  I’m an artist from LA currently finishing my MFA at RISD. When I’m in the studio I like to play and experiment with different materials.  I think that approach has given me the freedom to take ordinary objects and re-contextualize them.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?  I’m currently working on a project titled “Politics of Consumption.” In this project I’m looking at the different forms in which we consume culture and how they inform people’s identities. This project encompasses photographs, ceramics, sculptures and video.

Can you discuss the role personal identity plays within your work?  Personal identity is a real important component in my work. I’ve become interested in the way symbols and ideologies are targeted and sold to specific groups based on income levels, class and race. People buy into those ideas daily with or without noticing. Also I’m interested in the idea of assimilation and otherness. Can someone assimilate simply by imitating the dominant culture’s consumer habits?

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing?  
I would say the biggest challenge after grad school will be to choose a city to continue my art practice.  I know that’s also a challenge for other artists in the same spot as me. I think affordability and a flourishing art community will determine my decision.

How did your interest in art begin?  
I’ve been a maker since I was a young child. My parents had been really influential in my development as an artist. Their DIY attitude has instilled in me the idea of being unafraid of taking new materials and techniques and incorporating them into my work.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say?  I would tell a stranger that my practice involves taking symbols from consumer culture and the transformation of them by changing their form, materiality or context. By doing so I want to point out how identity is customized.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you?  An Incomplete History of Protest at the Whitney Museum comes to mind. It was an excellent collection of compelling works of art that addressed various political standpoints. The experience itself was pretty memorable. Daniel Joseph Martinez’s piece “Divine Violence” was one of my favorites.

What artists are you interested in right now?  I’m really into the work of Annabelle Arlie, Rafa Esparza, Katja Novitskova and Sarah Braman.

Can you explain the challenges and importance of working as an artist in the current political climate?  To be an artist in today’s political climate means to be outspoken and direct about the issues affecting us everyday.  I think we have a responsibility to challenge archaic ideas in society and push forward innovative and progressive views for future generations.

Where are you currently based and what influence has it had on your work?  I’m based in Providence, RI for now. I think the east coast weather in general has an influence on my practice, especially during the winter haha. Since I got here my practice has become studio based which has really shifted my practice into sculpture, which I love.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be?  Sunny LA.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?  I want viewers to take a closer look to their own position in relation to otherness,  as well as how unaware we are sometimes about the power of symbols in promoting ideologies.