Jun 20, 2019 | By Quentin Humphrey
Even if you don’t know artist Jordan Griska, you’ll know his work. Specifically, it’s Griska’s “wreck” sculpture that has taken the art world by storm. The 12,000 pieces of mirror-finish stainless steel piece depicts a totaled luxury sedan. The lesson here being: Everything, no matter how expensive, will eventually find its end.
Griska himself is a classically trained multi-disciplinary artist and a product of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his BFA then his Certificate in sculpture from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)
Griska’s studio, a warehouse tucked away in the very industrial Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, serves several functions. In addition to being his artist studio, Griska operates a metal fabrication business, builds his own cars, makes surfboard for friends and even works with glass.
On a sunny summer afternoon earlier this month I was lucky enough to get an exclusive peek into Griska’s art studio. Joined by Jordan Griska and Leonhard Kohlmayer, artist manager and close associate of Griska, I was given a swift tour of the warehouse before heading into Griska’s massive artist quarters.
Soon after browsing through Griska’s space, I realized that by juxtaposing the opulence of luxury with the ruthlessness of wreckage, Griska is able to monumentalize tragedy like no other.
We caught up with him to find out more about his art, his creative process, and what’s next for him.
WGSN: How would you classify your work?
Jordan: Sculpting is a big part. And it all stems from me wanting to understand things better. So, I take them apart and put them together. Like “Let me take this bike apart to see how it’s engineered and what all these little pieces do, and then put it back together.”
Every artist’s favourite question (not) What artists have inspired you the most?
What other forms of creativity do you like, other than sculpture?
I make all sorts of things across the board. Some time ago I made a machine specifically to machine the glass, which allowed me to precisely grind surfboards at complex angles.
I’m keen on interaction and discovery and I’m also multi-disciplinary so I pretty much channel whatever it is that I envision into whatever medium feels most appropriate. (Laughs) Most times its turns into a sculpture.
What’s your training in this medium?
Yeah, I went to art school of course and was classically trained at Penn. But I don’t know exactly what I got from that (laughs). School was interesting for me because you can sharpen your eye, mind and hand but you still have to use them as tools to create your own vision and hone in on a skill you can hopefully translate into your work.
What do you try to convey / express through your work?
My works recently have been monumentalizing tragedy while still building upon iconic American Imagery.
Which artistic project are you most proud of?
The Mercedes Benz “wreck” piece without a doubt. From materials, to my real life, the struggle up to the triumph was real. The project gave me a full spectrum of emotions, from the excitement to the darkness and hurdles to executing the piece and that joyous moment when it is finally complete, 2 years and 12,000 pieces later. Well actually 3 years including research and development.
What is there to gain by making sculptures?
Sculpting is a conversation with a lot of people. As a sculptor, I often communicate and interact with people I would never cross paths with otherwise; From getting materials to getting renders and even buying materials the conversations and company can be quite eclectic.
The most interesting part of the process is the interaction. It’s an experience that’s akin to surfing the ocean – you have a vision but you don’t know what it is going to take and although you may have an idea of the weather you don’t know exactly how the waves will treat you once you’re out there.
So in a nutshell and at the very least you get an experience and create a conversation.
What obstacles do you face in making and exhibiting your work?
The logistics are always tough. Every project is different and presents a particular process. Like I said before it’s always a journey and each journey has its unique roadblocks and inconveniences that ultimately, in most cases at least, help to better fine tune the work.
How does travelling affect your process?
I try to travel as much as I can. In school I got a travel scholarship, so I went to Poland, Russian, Norway & Germany – looking at art and exposing myself to as much culture as I could. Even from an early age my friend’s family brought me to Holland, and even road trips with my family traveling always made me curious.
I feel like sometimes travel can be taken for granted because of the access we have but that’s the digital age we live in.
Favourite place to travel?
Nicaragua for surfing but it all depends on the type of trip. Warsaw & Krakow in Poland were unexpectedly nice.
Is there any destination that helps to channel your inner sculptor / creativity?
The Ocean is a must for me. It’s meditative, but depending on the water it can push you mentally and physically.
I’ve been surfing for years so I have a soft spot for being on the water. With surfing in particular, it all about timing and waiting but really about catching a fleeting moment. It’s great to get out of the city and get in touch with mother nature. You’ll realize just how powerful she is.
It’s also a great community – no politics or religion, just waves.
What is your favourite experience as an artist?
The Journey without a doubt. My artistic expression is always a journey and it always starts with an idea, and from there the art is the exploration of how to bring the idea to life.
There is an endless amount of exploration in sculpting and failing definitely helps. Hitting the wall or an obstacle is one of my favourite moments. Overcoming those obstacles are a part of the discovery and exploration about not just the piece of art but myself as an artist. The more I learn, the more I can take on and if there were no stumbling times I would walk away.
Right now Leonhard (Griska’s manager) and I are planning a show for next Fall. I’m also working with him on some product collaborations for the retail space, brand sponsorships, and pop-ups across the east and West coast but we are still in the process of working out the details.
Jordan Griska’s work, “Grumman Greenhouse” is currently on display at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Read more about Jordan Griska Here
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