Artist Interview with Skidmore Contemporary Art
Skidmore Contemporary Art: If you could choose a different medium to work in, what would it be and why?
Laurie Raskin: I would be interested in making large sculptures. I would like to see my abstract works become large and dimensional.
SCA: How would you describe your creative process?
LR: I start with an idea and then I draw from my vast collection of gathered images. I collect images of art history from the 20th Century—most specifically in Europe with an emphasis on The Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism and the artists living in Paris, as well as, the Pop Artists in the US in the 1960s. I also take a lot of photographs around Los Angeles and love vintage hunting at bookstores. I Xerox a lot of materials that I keep in large baskets with different categories. When I begin with an idea, I go hunting for inspirations from my visual collection. I then begin to collage in black and white on paper as a starting place or map for each piece. From there, I let my intuition be my guide.
SCA: Has social media impacted your work in any way? If yes, how? If not, why do you think that is?
LR: It has had an impact in a minor way. I follow many artists and art institutions on Instagram and it has inspired ideas and colors in my work, but I would not say it has had a huge influence.
SCA: What is your most memorable museum experience? Can you briefly describe it?
LR: I grew up going to many museums as a child and took art classes for children at LACMA. When I was in high school, there was a traveling show in LA on the 50th anniversary of The Bauhaus. That show profoundly influenced my visual vocabulary and got me to California Institute of The Arts which was referred to The Mickey Mauhaus in its early days.
SCA: What is something unexpected that has impacted/influenced your artistic style?
LR: All the events in my life influence my style. Growing up in LA, going to Cal Arts, but first spending a year at Immaculate Heart to study under the teachings of Sister Mary Corita. The biggest unexpected event was the large Sylmar Earthquake in LA in 1971. I was about to start Cal Arts in Valencia. There was a lot of damage to the building and the school was delayed for 2 months. Because of that event, I hopped on to a trip with my parents for a month in Southeast Asia and Japan. The art and culture especially in Japan influenced my aesthetic taste and visual vocabulary.
SCA: If you weren't an artist, what would you be doing?
LR: I would 100% do something in the arts. I would probably be a musician—most likely a pianist. I studied piano much of my life.
SCA: What city/town/geographical location has provided the most inspiration for you?
LR: Los Angeles. I was born here, I grew up here, and although I travel extensively around the world, it’s the place I always return to and love. I did a solo show here at the gallery a few years back called LA Story based on my memories growing up in LA.
SCA: Were you professionally trained as an artist? Tell us about that experience.
LR: Yes, I received my BFA and MFA both from California Institute Of The Arts. I went for one year before entering Cal Arts to Immaculate Heart College, as I mentioned previously, to study under Sister Mary Corita. I studied graphic design, photography and printmaking at Cal Arts. My education also gave me a strong background in art history.
SCA: If you could sit at a dinner table with 3 famous artists, who would they be? Why?
LR: I would choose 3 Women Artists from different times and places. They all have inspired my work. The first would be Sonia Delaunay. Her work is on so many applications including paintings, graphics, fashion, furniture and much much more. Her work, done at the beginning of the 20th Century, remains modern today. Next would be Sister Mary Corita. She was an early inspiration since high school. Many people are familiar with her work on the love stamp. I love her graphic sense, her mixture of words and images, her sense of social justice and her sense of humor. And the 3rd would be Carmen Herrera. She was born in Cuba, but moved to New York in the mid-50s. She had her first large solo show at the Whitney Museum in NY when she was in her late 80’s. I saw that show in NY and was blown away. She was born in 1915 and she just passed away the beginning of 2022 at the age of 107.
SCA: What challenges do you face as an artist that people might not expect?
LR: This is very personal. My challenge is that I have severe arthritis in my hands. At times it has been very painful and I have not been able to work at all. I was limited to the amount of time I could work and was in constant pain. I sought out many therapies and have been blessed to discover Shock Wave Therapy. It was first used in Europe. It is sound wave therapy. It has made a remarkable difference and has given me the ability to work almost pain free.
Press Articles (pdf)
Laurie Raskin: Modern Again
by Peter Frank
We have outlived the modern era, but we have not outpaced it. The drama of modernist aesthetics and the still-stunning glories those aesthetics yielded lurk in the back of our worldly consciousness like the dreams and glimpses of our childhood. Modernism was a radical reorganization of perception, an undoing of the Renaissance as forceful as the Renaissance itself, and its shock waves still resonate. But now, so do its charms, its wit, the inner logic of its inventions. The shock waves are no longer shocking, but simply stimulating.
In the post-modern era, some artists are more stimulated than others—although as we re-discover this item or that factor in modernism's history, the movement's intricacy and range of possibility become more and more credibly renewable, recyclable, reinterpretable. At this point, an artist can "look like" Picasso in order to determine what escaped Picasso, not just what fed him. For an artist like Laurie Raskin, resemblances are evident, even obvious, and secondary to her exploration of modernism itself. The art Raskin makes pays homage to the art of fifty or a hundred years ago, but does not imitate it; rather, it spins new art out of old artistic DNA.
At present Raskin works in two modes, both of them readily recognizable as couched in modernist formal language and thinking. One mode in effect reconsiders the late work of Henri Matisse from the other side of Abstract Expressionism; the other looks back at the Bauhaus from the "position" of Pop Art. The modernist reach, spanning decades, collapses in Raskin's approach into a visual experience that indeed feels hybrid, but also feels integral: she draws out the visual essences of high-modernist phenomena by finding their echoes in late-modernist practice. Henri Matisse's spare yet extravagant cut-outs become rich and complex canvases, full of restless energy, when translated into what looks like gestural abstraction. In fact, Raskin's crowded, colorful paintings are not at all gestural; they are as clearly and flatly limned as those ultimate masterpieces of Matisse, and as calculated in their composition. But they burgeon with Abstract Expressionist brio.
Sight unseen, it would seem something of a joke to run Matisse through 1950s abstraction. But his cutouts were themselves "1950s abstraction," and his overarching oeuvre was universally embraced by gestural painters on both sides of the Atlantic. In bringing the spirit of Matisse to the visual realm of action painting, Raskin is not attempting the absurd, but reconfiguring history, and not that radically. Finding commonality, even harmony, between her sources here, she determines an abstract style as distinctively hers as it is distinctively modernist.
Raskin's non-abstract style is no less faithfully modernist, and is again sourced in the conflation of high- and late-modernist tropes. Raskin, a former designer, has a particular fondness for the Bauhaus style, most particularly in graphic design and photography—and notably in and with collage. Instead of Matisse's "pure" collaged shapes and colors, here Raskin emulates central European photomontage, that of the Bauhaus not least. Her rhythmic compositions recall Moholy-Nagy; her clustered figures and buildings suggest Paul Citroën; the tumble of incongruously paired clippings conjures Russian constructivists such as Lissitzky and Rodchenko.
But if quotidian reality invades the space of abstraction through collage, in Raskin's work as in her predecessors', it does so here in a manner that brings attention to the nature of the "invasive" imagery. The artists and designers of inter-war Europe devoted themselves to the creation—imposition, if you will—of a harmonious environment. The visual language of postwar America, on the other hand, strove to determine, influence, and exploit a social status quo, an environment determined not by the artist's vision but by the consumer's appetite. This was the subject of the implied critique Pop Art brought to artistic discourse in the 1960s. This, too, was the issue in the air, the "Mad Men" issue, during Raskin's own childhood—making her a consumer of Pop Art. As an adult, she came to "consume" the Bauhaus as well.
Raskin's collage and collage-like work features not only Bauhaus and Pop qualities, but those of Cubism on the one hand and Pattern & Decoration on the other. To a certain extent, these two disparate movements—one core modernist, the other crucially post-modernist—also recur in her painterly Matisse-meets-action-painting work. The brittle rigors of Cubism, which shivered the boundaries of the real to free time from its linearity, seem light years away from the self-consciously beautiful and surface-affirming manner of Pattern Painting. But both isms rely on an entirely reformulated concept of structure, thus in their own ways upending given notions of design on a plane.
What Laurie Raskin has done is to reconsider modernism, and even its post-modernist echoes, as design on a plane—design in which pictorial incident can co-exist, even interact, with entirely self-contained formal elements. The real and the imagined, the banal and the beautiful, occupy the same optical realm and even interact so as to modify one another. The modernists, we suppose, preached purity—purity of intent, purity of content, purity of purpose. But in fact modernism wrestled continually with the contradictions and complexities of life, it did not reject or ignore them. The heterogeneity rampant in Raskin's oeuvre not only provides room enough for the concurrence of disparate elements, but reflects in such syncresis the ambition of the modernist project itself.
Los Angeles-based artist Laurie Raskin has a unique method for creating her colorful pop paintings. She uses the processes of collage and antiquated technology to create black and white monoprints. These she intricately works with layers of gouache in palettes and patterns that evoke mid-century modern design and social culture. She finds much of her inspiration from her personal memories of growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960's. For the collages, she mostly uses her own photographs, but also draws on source material from her extensive collection of vintage magazines, books and postcards.
Laurie Raskin had a one-person exhibition at the Gallerie Bellechasse in Paris in 2018, and her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions at galleries and art fairs in the United States and Europe. Raskin's work is held in private, public, and corporate collections internationally.
In 2017, she collaborated with Didden & Co in Belgium to create a carpet line which was featured in the October 2017 issue of Paris Match Magazine. In 2015, her work was licensed by Art on Fashion in the UK for their spring line. In 1984, she was one of 12 artists chosen to design an official signature series poster for the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Over 100 murals of her art have also appeared in retail stores.
The following quote is from the April 2018 issue of London Lux Magazine: "Her graphic designing past has worked its way into the DNA of her art and you can see this in her calculated and precisionist method to using negative space."
At Cal Arts in the 70's and 80's, Raskin studied graphic design and savored the art history of the 20th Century. The art and artists of that era have informed much of her visual vocabulary, especially those of the Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism, Sister Mary Corita, Sonia Delaunay, and Andy Warhol.
After a successful career as a graphic designer in the late 1970´s and 1980´s, Raskin pursued her passion for architectural and interior design from 1985-2008. Then she returned to her first love—making art.
Raskin has representation in Brussels, Paris, Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Laurie Raskin states, "I engage with images intuitively and allow the process of creating to take me on a personal journey."