Studio Visit: Greg Gossel

Greg Gossel caught my eye a while back with his incredible collage of Bill Murray, a part of an exhibit called “Bad Dads, A Wes Anderson Tribute” at Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco. Well, he’s back in the city for a sexier show “Head Over Heels” at White Walls, and I got the chance to visit with him as he was setting it all up. His work is a confluence of layers of hot models, combined with his signature use of typography. He also took me around the corner to check out his piece on the street, which was grabbing a lot of attention as we were shooting. His background in design is apparent in his work, and it will be a fixture at White Walls until June 29, so if you are in the area, it’s definitely worth a gander. Have a read of the interview:


LF: You have been described as a “mix between Shepard Fairey and Roy Lichtenstein.” Do you consider that as a once valid statement?

GG: That’s definitely flattering, but those guys are both legends who I respect immensely, so I think I have a lot more work to do to be compared to that pair of artists.

LF: How did you get into using found billboard scraps in your work?

GG: I started out creating work with paint that mimicked the shapes and textures found in old decaying billboards. That just naturally led to seeking out actual scraps from billboards and street posters to incorporate into my work. With my new show I’ve kind of come full circle, exploring the same ideas using layered screen prints to emulate those found scraps as the predominate medium in the work.

LF: The typographic elements mixed into your collages change the landscape of your collages. What is the importance of the written word in your pieces?

GG: Coming from a background in design I’ve always been interested in incorporating typography into my work. It’s kind of a magnet for your eye to bounce around a piece and creates the feeling of a narrative even if it’s not legible.

LF: You’re kind of a midwest guy, born in Wisconsin and now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Why not New York or San Francisco? How has your upbringing in the midwest influenced your work?

GG: I love both those cities and think it could be great to live & work in either location. That said, I also enjoy having the space and more relaxed vibe that comes along with being in a city like Minneapolis. I think the biggest influence the midwest has had on my work is just my overall work ethic. When you’re living in a city that isn’t necessarily considered a destination for art, you just have to work that much harder to get your work out there.

LF: If you were to give advice to a young up-and-coming artist, what would it be?

GG: Kind of building off that last question, I think my biggest advice would be to just bust your ass and keep creating work. I really like that Chuck Close quote about just showing up and working and not waiting around for inspiration. For me the best moments and ideas usually come from the process, and to get there you just need to keep working your way through things.

LF: You’ve talked about the significance of layering of elements in your collages. Can you tell us more about this?

GG: Yeah, I’m big on the process. Usually the first few series of layers I put onto a piece when I start are almost always completely covered up or torn away by the time the piece is finished, but they’re still important to the process of the piece. Each layer, even if you don’t see it in the finished piece, is important to the work to help inform and influence the layers you do see.

LF: What would you consider your biggest achievement in your career?

GG: It’s tough to really point out one moment or achievement that I would consider my biggest. There are definitely some shows or projects that I am happier with than others, but I try to look at my career as a whole that is constantly evolving and not single out specific achievements.

LF: If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?

GG: That’s tough, I tend to think the best collaborations usually come from unlikely pairings. I’ve been collaborating with more photographers lately, which I’ve really enjoyed. So I think right now I’d be most interested in collaborating with a photographer on a larger scale.

LF: What do you do when you are not making art?

GG: I usually like to just take it easy if I’m not at my studio. I like to cook and grill out a lot, so that’s usually what I do to wind down and relax at night. Come home, make a big dinner and just hang out with my wife and our dog.

LF: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?

GG: I guess it’s just those fleeting moments that happen throughout the creative process where you’re really happy with something. They seem to come and go quickly, so it’s just always chasing that feeling.

LF: How fast do you live?

GG: I try to take it one day at a time.

Head over to White Walls for a close and personal look at Greg’s show “Head Over Heels,” open until June 29, 2013.

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