Interview: HALFartist

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Earlier this month the dA was taken over by HALFartist, a Los Angeles-based young visual artists promotion platform. The result was BOOM. Individually this exhibition displays the work of eleven young artists and includes a combination of paintings, photography, videos and video installations. As a whole, BOOM breaks the border of nationality, and unites Los Angeles artists and their foreign born counterparts as the first generation to come of age during the information age.  HALFartist founders Tianyu Xiao and Wan Wang took the time to answer a few questions about young artists, their organization, and the future of art.

dA: Tell us about HALFartist?  What exactly do you do? 

Tianyu Xiao: HALFartist is a promotion platform for young visual artists. We want to explore young artists with great works and lifestyles, and bring in people with more meaningful inspirations. Our vision is to explore and leverage the power of young visual artists in the contemporary arts. Since there are only two people right now, we’re basically doing everything by ourselves and do it together. We are receiving new applications almost everyday, and we need to review their profile and make the decision together. If we got some new collaboration opportunities, we will talk and meet them in person. We always make a mutual decision.

Wan Wang: I am the PR Manager. Tianyu takes more responsibility of the design works, while I do more of the network aspect of artists, as well as projecting a series of online marketing campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Sina Weibo, Douban, E-newsletter, and many others. We do everything together, always.

dA: What inspired you to start HALFartist? How did this all come about? How did you decide on the name HALFartist?

TX: I guess it was skateboarding that made me interested in art, especially subculture art made by young artists when I was small. I got an opportunity to study arts management in the U.S., which enabled me to experience a new mindset and culture, preparing me more for my dream; to help young artists with their careers and find more opportunities for their works. As for the name, HALFartist, it means artists “halfway” to realizing their goals.

WW: I personally have many artist friends both here and in China, they talk to me about their future concerns and about how to making a living as an artist. I really do like their artworks, and deeply believe that they’re all extremely talented. Sometimes they don’t have opportunities, not because they’re not good enough, but they’re not very social, or they don’t have the resources and time. Since I study Arts Management as my graduate degree, why not start do something meaningful, and change the young artists’ situation?

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dA: What type of artists do you focus on? How do you choose artists that fit the HALFartist label?

TX: We select artists born after 1980, who work in the visual art field. We select artists according to the applications they submit, and judge them on the criteria of the quality of art works and the lifestyle they express.

WW: We’re focusing on young visual artists born after 1980, who have plenty of ideas and creativity in their artworks; continuous passion towards their art careers, and original lifestyles to express themselves. Sometimes we’re looking for artists actively by viewing artists’ website, Facebook page, and other ways, but most of the time, people applying through our online application system. Tianyu and I will review their applications together and see if they fit the HALFartist label. Sometimes we just know if the person is right for us based on the conversation through email, language and attitude as well. Conversely, some artists have really amazing artworks, however, they’re lacking the attractive personality that might draw your attention and inspire you.

dA: Can you tell us about some of the artists that you are currently working with?

TX: There are more than 100 young artists in the HALFartist database, and we have featured artists (19 on the webpage), who we give in-depth interviews. People should check on our website (http://www.halfartist.com), they all have lots of potential.

WW: Right now we mainly consult for 19 young artists and maintain long-term working relationship with them. Due to their different focuses, we are looking for opportunities in different fields too. For example, we helped an LA based photographer hold an exhibition in Beijing, and sent the other Chinese photographer to a Barcelona Art Fair. That’s because the first artist is more suited to the fine art gallery, while the second artist’s style fits the Art Fair. For the BOOM exhibition, we selected 11 artists out of 19. Three of them are video artists: Amy Ling Huynh, Danny Yang, and Shanshan Chen. Two of them are painters: Bao Mo and Zheng Huang. Three of them are photographers: Sookyung Bae, Yining He and Jingyi Yang. Two of them are installation artists: Julie Orr and Nate Little.

dA:What has been your approach in curating HALFartist’s exhibitions? Can you tell us about some of your past exhibitions?

TX: We have always been looking forward to curating an exhibition for our featured artists, using diverse art forms in one exhibition, for BOOM. We want people to see the geographical gap minimized by these young artists, and how art unifies the world. In our past exhibitions, we have had solo exhibitions, online exhibitions, and had artists attend art fairs. But BOOM is really the first important exhibition for HALFartist; we appreciate this greatly.

WW: I feel really grateful that the dA gives us this absolutely amazing opportunity at the end of 2012, and I think it is a perfect gift for the New Year. Curating is something that I’m always interested in, but for the former exhibition collaborations, I didn’t have a chance to experience the entire process for different reasons: such as I cannot go abroad for the show, etc. What I did in the past is I only take some part of the curating jobs. I connect the artist with the gallery, provide the contract, shipping, and postcards. However, for BOOM, I was almost involved in every single detail, from connecting artists, to hanging works, to clean-up. I learned a lot from BOOM, and I believe that it will allow me to produce better in our future shows.

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dA: Tell us about BOOM.  Can you elaborate on the title of this project?

TX: BOOM has two meanings: One is the prosperous, and the other one is the loud roar. All in all, BOOM gathers the voice of 11 artists born after 1980 from China, the United States, and Korea, showing a prosperous contemporary art scene built by them, which could be regarded as a loud roar.

WW: We just want to have something simple, easy to remember, powerful and something that presents young spirit. I think BOOM is just perfect for everything.

dA: How would you describe the organization of the exhibit itself? Can you walk us through some of the exhibition’s major highlights?

TX: There are surely challenges in organizing BOOM, since each artist seems doing a different theme, however, we really don’t want to curate in a traditional way, we just want to emphasize these artists’ individuality in an appealing way, making the audience willing to experience their difference actively. In other words, people will walk around the exhibition and find highlights in their perspectives.

WW: It’s hard to say what the major highlights are since different people have different taste. For this show, we’re trying to include everything: painting, photography, video, installation, and even toys. You can tell their distinguishing features easily since they all have an extremely strong personal style. Also, there will be some interactive activities during the opening night and during the show. For example, one video artist will perform music at the opening. I highly recommend that people should come to the opening and have a look.

dA: How do you think the internet is changing our relationship with viewing and creating art?

TX: The internet makes people see more art work, but also spend less time viewing each work. People get to know lots of artists but hardly remember one. However, there are benefits like fresh information, viewpoints and inspirations come more quickly.

WW: Internet is changing everything right now. The two biggest changes to me, are: it increases our working efficiency and; secondly, it provides us the possibility of interactivity. With the internet, everyone could upload their art works on their own website, Facebook, Flicker, etc. and they could review those works no matter where are they. Some great online art projects also show that how powerful the Internet is, like the Google Art Project, Saatchi Online, and HALFartist!

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dA: To what degree do you feel connected with Pomona? How does the HALFartist identity connect to the community as well?

TX:  Pomona is one of the notable cities in the Los Angeles area, and Pomona downtown is a really cool place to hang out. Interesting young people, bands culture, galleries, etc. Lots of cool stuff is happening down here. We hope that HALFartist could contribute to this culture, and add artistic inspirations to the Pomona Community.

WW: I’ve known the Pomona Downtown Art District for two years since pursuing my master’s degree in Claremont. I love the cultural environment and the people who work and live there. I already made connections in Pomona due to the BOOM show, Susie and Juan from Bunny Gunner helped me with the letter wall, and Gorge next door helped me with the foam board. I also know many local artists, gallery owners, and curators. I am looking forward to more connections here for the future work!

dA: What are your plans for the future?

TX: I will persist doing HALFartist, seeking more interesting collaborations with other media, brands, galleries and organizations. Of course, I want to meet more young artists through HALFartist, and get continuous inspirations from them.

WW: I will definitely be doing HALFartist consistently. This is something that is meaningful to me, to young artists, to the art industry, and to society in general. No matter where I am living, I can do it with the internet. I’m planning on more and more collaborations with professional people in the art & culture industry across the world, as well as promoting the HALFartist brand. More importantly, I can learn a lot from my daily work, all of those working experiences are beneficial to me and my future career and life.

Don’t miss BOOM on display through December 29th at the dA:

The dA Center for the Arts Presents:

BOOM

BOOM | December 8 – 29,  2012
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