Bozidar Brazda Sinks and Swims


In the work of Bozidar Brazda, theme and material, production and context become a structure by which the artist creates. In his show this spring at Bortolami Gallery, Brazda showed pairs of colorful typewriters on shelves affixed to the gallery walls. Text floated above the typewriters, word pairings that matched each other incompletely or contradicted each other entirely—”RE-RITE” punned multiply on text as a material, the inability to undo a mistake, and the historical impossibility of reverting to a typewriter.

Water Pop (detail), 2009. Courtesy the artist.

In a solo exhibition at The Fireplace Project, water is theme and material—and an analog for text. Visitors enter the gallery into a sound installation, comprising two dialogues about crossing the Atlantic Ocean in opposite directions. Willem de Kooning discusses escaping to America from a rainy Holland; Brian Wilson speaks about his own drug use and depression, and the conditions under which he was forced to Holland to produce the eponymous Beach Boys album. Water is what must be crossed for both and, via the weather, is the ultimate object.

ALEX GARTENFELD: Water is both the theme and material for you in this show. Water also seems to function in this show as a structure, or an organizing principle.

BOZIDAR BRAZDA: When Edsel [Williams, Director of The Fireplace Project] approached me to do aHamptons show, I obviously thought of the ocean and the beach. My work usually has an autobiographical slant, but the theme of water suggested a more biological direction. Water as a theme and material allows the work to have both autobiographical and biological connotations.

GARTENFELD: Your site-specific installation of vinyl water bottles, Water Pop, are also at a human scale, and here water is in btween figure and abstraction.

BRAZDA: The bottle shape are even anthropomorphic, with a head, shoulders, and hips. For me the water bottle is a perfect metaphor for the artist. It’s destructive and it’s creative. It’s also a good proxy for art. Free for a moment and then quickly bottled up and sold.

GARTENFELD: How do you compare/contrast the water bottle piece with a Warhol screenprint? What was the effect of the site on the application of the piece?

BRAZDA: The vinyl applique technique is as commercial as Warhol’s use of silk screening was in the 60’s. In a way I was trying to expunge my own Pop tendencies, perhaps ironically through Pop techniques. Warhol was a second generation Slovak, and so am I, so maybe there’s an Oedipal element.

GARTENFELD: MoMA’s Dutch Conceptualism show looks at the city of Amsterdam, and its connections of water, as a mode of transmission. Your sound installation involves many fo the same themes, and a similar suspicion of objects, but you’ve added pathos, and autobiography. How much time did you spend in Amsterdam, and how arose your interest in Brian Wilson and De Kooning?

BRAZDA: I spent a few years in Amsterdam. I was working as a tattooist in and around the Red Light District, and my clientele consisted of sailors, prostitutes, Russian mafiosa, and soccer hooligans. The “tall ship” tattoo on my left forearm attests to the period. De Kooning and Brian Wilson, whose own themes have often revolved around water, It seemed to me that these two men could act as stand-ins, as code, for me. 

GARTENFELD: The audio was quite different, and crisper, before you brought it into the gallery.

BRAZDA: I modified it the day before I left for East Hampton to install the show. I added the delay, which gives it this manic, and aquatic quality—like the echo chamber of a big tiled indoor swimming pool. The site always influences me, and I design my work to fit the space. In this case it was interesting that De Kooning’s daughter Elaine has property next door—which was a coincidence, and which I didn’t know before. So her horses where galloping around like crazy while we were installing. (LEFT: WHEN ATTITUDE BECOMES FORM, 2009. COURTESY THE ARTIST)

GARTENFELD: In the steel drip pieces, When Attitude Becomes Form, 2009, could you describe the various effects of water on the material, and in the generation of the piece?

BRAZDA: The steel works were made by water-jet laser and then rusted by rain. So there’s a kind of creative/destructive cycle that suited my theme. I had almost no say in how the pieces rusted. I just left them outside. It was a very rainy summer. 

Bozidar Brazda’s solo exhibition is on view through October 5. The Fireplace Project is located at 851 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, New York.