We are delighted to begin our artist interview series with Fredo Conde. We're always looking to expose new talent give us a shout!
Give us a brief bio, where are you from and how you began in the visual arts? I emigrated from a small coastal town on the north of Portugal to the States as a child with my parents, who are laborers, a fisherman and a factory worker. While still in Europe I first encountered art before I knew what art was on the surfaces of riverboats. The boats were decorated with saturated enamel colors and the sides of the bows had painted folk narratives of everyday life. Presumably untrained people, non-artists, painted the boats. Great stuff.
While a painting undergrad at Mass Art in Boston I was exposed to the ideas of artists from the 70s, 80s and 90s, the typical art school program. I’m drawn to sloppy paint paintings and austere bare minimal sculpture as a result.
Tell us about your work. What themes do you pursue?
Despite my training in painting my earlier work was sculpture. One time while walking on Canal Street I noticed these dudes hawking their fake bling watches from open briefcases resting on top of rolled cardboard stands. After that I abandoned whatever painting I was doing and took up recreating the briefcases and contents. From there it led to other sculpture of commodities that I reproduced by hand to make look like the fakes. It’s a lot of effort to simulate the cheap that itself is imitating luxury. It’s all in the appearance.
The sculptures depict objects as surrogates for desire. Knowing that someone is willing to buy a knockoff in the place of an expensive brand name reflects a socioeconomic situation. Like I can’t afford what I really want so I’ll get the next best thing. Or it could just be a trendy thing to do. Anyway, I was attracted to the traveling vendors because they were immigrants and in my mind their wares were live sculptures.
Has your Portuguese background influenced your work and if so how?
Consciously, probably not since I don’t flesh out my concepts based on personal history. But I was exposed to painted forms floating on water so I would say the riverboats still influence.
Jeanette Ingberman/Exit Art first introduced us to your work with much excitement. And we then came across it again at Proof Gallery? In both instances you were doing sculpture and at Proof you presented sculpture & painting. There seems to be a distinct difference between the two in that your sculptural work comes off as precious, intricate, and cared for. Whereas your painting at times can seem labored and intense. Can you explain?
Yes Exit Art. Camilo Alvarez recommended me to Jeanette for that show which was mostly sculpture and installation. William Matelski made it possible to mix it up at Proof. At the time the sculpture was being phased out and I was moving toward painting so I showed the two. Since Proof I’ve spent a lot of time reintroducing painting as the primary body of work and recycling subjects from the sculpture. You must have seen a painting that still was under the influence of 3D. In the case of the sculpted commodities I stayed true to actual scale. I can see how it can look precious.
How has your practice changed over time?
Since the transition back to painting I have approached creating from the inside out instead of the outside in. As a painter the end result is more organic. With sculpture I impose on the material and will it to exist. Working in painting makes me feel liberated from materialism.
I carried over some themes to painting. The canvases are treated as surfaces where an image rests on. I still depict objects of desire painted in desaturated gross colors, like generic kitsch art. They maintain a look of a canvas that looks like it was produced to look like a painting. Artificial paintings.
I was on your site recently and I’m really into your “watch" paintings. I’m not clear on the dimensions but I’m hoping that they are large scale works! What are you currently working on?
Awh! They’re domestic 11x14 inches. Maybe that’s why I didn’t put the dimensions on the website hoping you wouldn’t notice. Not to worry larger paintings of watches are in the works.
What was your most recent show?
This year I was in a pop up show in Dordogne, France and the Chain Letter exhibit at Samson Projects.
Do you find yourself more attracted to work that is not like your own, or work that has similarities to yours?
I look at work that I like and don’t like. What I don’t like stands out more. But I do like the work of Jules de Balincourt, Matthew Monahan and Seth Price.
What do you do for fun other than your work of course?
I watch movies. Black Cat White Cat, American Psycho, Borat……. listen to music of all kinds.
All images copyright and courtesy of Fredo Conde.
A note of remembrance to the late Jeanette Ingberman, cofounder and executive director of the nonprofit Exit Art. Forever a pioneer and dynamo!