INTERIORS OF DECADENCE AND SPLENDOUR
Rosson Crow’s paintings are like a visit in an abandoned house, exciting our curiosity and provoking our imagination. The bicoastal artist’s work has already been hung on many art collector’s walls, and in some of the most key galleries for contemporary art. Follow Rosson for a walk-through of her artwork…
Left: Shorts and Suspender Bra by Jeremy Scott. Right: Lace Dress by Dolce & Gabbana.
Do you think that your hometown influenced your art? If so, in what way?
I am from Dallas, Texas, and yes, I think I am very Texan—very loud, and outspoken. I think many Texans are, it’s the kind of “everything’s bigger in Texas” thing.
I love making big bold paintings. So I think it does all come from being raised a Texan.
You have a studio in NY and LA. How do you organize your time between both cities?
I hate making plans so I tend to move whenever I can. I am just starting to try the bicoastal thing.
And I feel that it’s important to remove yourself from situations that you get used to, and instead experience new environments; it’s good to refresh.
What is your background in art? Did you use to paint as a child?
I was always pretty artistic as a kid. My mother is an interior decorator, so I grew up with a strong idea of design. Then I studied art in NY, and afterwards at Yale.
Did art school help you perfect the skills you already had?
Art schools can be a joke, I guess… I think that what I learned at the time was from being in NY and making things happen for myself. I got very little from the school itself.
I think going to Yale was great though; it was a real education. Academics! That was great.
As far as influencing me, I think school just made me think about the ideas behind my work more seriously, being able to articulate what I am wanting to convey in my work in a stronger way.
Did your style change after school?
I like to think that my work changes a little bit all of the time. I’m trying to push myself to make things work differently and think about things differently.
I don’t know if being done with school was a specific marker because I was already making the work that I wanted to make long before school started. It’s just an evolution.
How would you describe the images that you paint?
I think I would describe my paintings as paintings of Americana, history paintings, but maybe [depicting] a darker history—a more decadent underworld of Americana.
I’m really obsessed with Edward Hopper at the moment, and I am reading a book about his take on Americana; I can really identify with it right now.
Which other artists inspire you?
I love historical artists like David or Gericault, Courbet, Goya. Also Bacon and De Koening.
You have a profound interest in history. Are there any periods that you are particularly keen on?
It changes all the time. American history is my primary inspiration. I went through a period when I was obsessed with French history, which is why I wanted to to move to Paris to do a residency. Living in Paris made me realize that I liked the French 17th and 18th century baroque and roccocco, but I had a preference for the fake American version of those styles. The Las Vegas version of Paris, rather than the real version. Because I am always fascinated by theatrical aspects and fake constructs or cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles—cities recreating history that never existed there.
What are the techniques you use?
As far as the paintings go, only oil paint. I like the quality of oil paint because it goes with the ideas of lush, dark, dripping decadence. Also, i use a lot of oil in my paints, so it drips, and creates that smeared look.
What are the subjects you enjoy painting the most?
I like to think that I can paint anything if I’m in the mood and inspired. So it’s not particular to a piece of furniture for example. I did have a moment when I used to paint chandeliers a lot though. But not as much lately.
You do not do many portraits or paintings of living beings. How can you explain that ?
I am just not so interested in painting figures. At school I did some history paintings with people in them but I always made the figures look fake. I was always less interested in them than furniture, and wondered why I was even putting them in my paintings. As I started making bigger paintings, they became empty spaces in which the viewer could enter and participate in, almost like theatrical backdrops. While figures are always kind of superfluous, empty spaces are more open to interpretation. Maybe these spaces have been empty for a hundred years? Or maybe just for two minutes.
When is your work the strongest? Night or day? A certain regimen? A specific mood?
I hardly ever work at night, and usually thrive in the morning and early afternoon. And coffee! No matter the time of day, I have to be in the right mind state. It’s almost like a transe state. I have to feel so energetic and focused that I am willing to stop worrying about petty to-do’s such as laundry.
Sometimes, I have worked a few days in a row. I like to work up until the last minute for shows, although I always have enough paintings to show. Then I have as much work possible available, and just choose the best for the show.
Do you get frustrated sometimes, and stop working on pieces? Or destroy them?
Yes, sometimes I just know when a painting won’t work out. I used to get really angry and throw paint at them ! But not anymore.
You seem to produce a lot, or at least huge pieces. Do you have any help, assistants?
No, I have never had an assistant. I feel there is not much I would need an assistant to do.
I hate cleaning my brushes though! That’s probably something I would need someone to do… But other than that I don’t really need help. Even for stretching canvases, it’s just part of the process.
Where was your first exhibition, and how were you discovered?
I used to intern at Deitch Projects and there I met Kathy Grayson (was Deitch Projects gallery director, now founder of The Hole gallery), we became friends and she started bringing collectors to my studio. I was really young and still studying. She also introduced me to the people at Canada Gallery, where I had my first show.
Being young and successful in the art world, do you feel your life has changed a lot?
No…It’s pretty much the same! It’s nice to have a studio in NY and LA though. I’m really grateful and happy.
Do you feel attached to a particular art scene?
I don’t know if I’m attached to a scene. I don’t feel that I am, I’m not friends with that many artists.
Do you ever collaborate with other artists on some projects ?
Not on paintings. But I design prints for Zac Posen, which I really enjoy. I have also performed with Kembra Pfahler for a couple of shows of “The Voluptuous horror of Karen Black“. Which involves having ones body painted entirely.
Once I was red and another time pink! She doesn’t give any instructions. I just had to be with her on stage and do whatever I wanted.
Besides painting, are there any other art forms you perform in? music, design, photography?
I’d like to do more acting. I studied acting in school. In fact I almost went to Columbia for acting instead of Yale for painting. I haven’t done anything recently other than being very theatrical in day to day !! But I would love to do stuff, anything ! And I sing. I just formed a band, Bang Time. We haven’t been together for long so we are just in the first stages of writing and composing songs…It’s still kind of top secret! I’ve always sung, but never officially learned.
You obviously have a strong sense for fashion. Where does that come from? is it a passion of yours?
I have always loved clothes. My aunt used to send me tons of dresses she used to buy at yard sales. So I grew up playing dress up. Now I collect clothes. I find great vintage clothes in LA. Vintage shopping is my favorite thing to do when I go to other states.And I wear a lot of Zac Posen. It’s great to be able to wear my own paintings!
If you were to have another profession, what would it be?
Acting, or something creative. Or my back up plan in case painting didn’t work out was always to be a barrel racer !
It’s a rodeo thing… You ride a horse around three barrels. And you get to wear really glamourous outfits.
What are your current projects? Are you currently working on an exhibition?
I’m doing a solo show at the Contemporary Art Center in Cinncinati in November, and it’s about motorcycles. And my next gallery show is in Los Angeles, in February at Honor Fraser Gallery.
Since this is the SEX issue, I would like to ask you if sex ever inspires you in your work.
I think my paintings are very much about desire and lusting after decadent spaces, objects or experiences. And spaces that convey power or authority, like palaces. Something about that is kind of sexy.
Photography: Aingeru Zorita
Paintings: Rosson Crow.
Stylist: Guillaume Boulez.
Photo Assistant: Lukas Bonaventura
Stylist’s Assistant: Eduardo Venguer.
Hair and Makeup: Jillian Halouska for WT Management using Smashbox Cosmetics.
Retouching: Jane Tam