Ian Carr is a Brooklyn-based sculptor and painter influenced by the constructivist tradition. He studied at the distinguished Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.  Since his graduation in 2011, he has exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, and New York.  His aesthetic pays homage to collected ideas of forms found in architecture, design, and materials.  He does so with adroit attention to detail.

Photos by: Anna Louise Jiongco

Ian J. Carr’s Website

Ian J. Carr Interview Beautiful Savage by Douglas Turner The Architecture of Tomorrow Photo by Anna Louise Jiongco

Douglas Turner: What do you consider to be the foundations of your 3D work?

Ian J. Carr: You can take it back to the efficacious existence, a term from the Realistic Manifesto, written in 1920 by Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, two of the founding fathers of constructivism.  See that building?  The manifesto says we see it standing and all its weight and ingenuity, so that’s a success. We can see the work of thousands of men who built it.  When I make a sculpture, that is the evidence of my work, which is heavily layered in reference to structures like that building— everything that has that efficacious quality. Things that we can see. That’s a bit of whats behind the work.

The works themselves come from respect or admiration for the proletariat, the one swinging the hammer.  The architect gets all the respect, fame, and money.  But if you don’t have the men on the ground actually building it, sweating and risking their lives? The building wouldn’t stand up.  That is the success of many of, you could say, the collective.

Ian J. Carr Interview Beautiful Savage by Douglas Turner The Architecture of Tomorrow Photo by Anna Louise Jiongco

I grew up writing graffiti and skateboarding, doing all of this shit that takes you to different places and teaches you how to see the environment in a different way.  It was a kind of meeting point between the graffiti on the wall and the wall that its on.  The wall that it’s on was built by many men.  There’s an architect involved, there’s money and government.  It’s legal, it’s big. Then there’s the efficacious existence of the individual, i.e. the tag on the wall.  The illegal, the small, the individual; the person and where the urge to write on that wall comes from.  It’s because you want to conquer these big things, they’re in our face.  For some, the only way they can deal with it is if they climb all the way to the top and write their name on it.  It’s a certain way of saying “I conquered this.”  As you grow up, fuck graffiti, and art takes over.  

What is the relationship between your drawing and sculptural work?

Sculpture was always more visceral, it’s there, you can walk around it 360 degrees.  It’s heavy, you can hurt yourself on it.  For the longest time drawing played a role.  I would be working on a sculpture, I would get stuck—like writer’s block.  The way I work, I never make a plan, never have an idea of what the end result will be.  People make plans, and they draw it out with blueprints, and then they just build it.  That’s boring because there’s no room for the work to really do its own thing.

Ian J. Carr Interview Beautiful Savage by Douglas Turner The Architecture of Tomorrow Photo by Anna Louise Jiongco

I’m not in charge, just holding onto the reigns of this wild horse.  I can kind of pull it left, and I can kind of pull it right.  But, I don’t want to have any real control.  That kind of submission to art is important—taking out your ego, what you think is cool, what you think looks good as a person… who cares?  What the materials are doing in front of you are more important, more fascinating. That’s real, more truthful for the audience.  It stands the test of time.

Drawing became this tool to fast forward through problems I would have with a sculpture. Working in 3D and the different metals and materials, there’s a different pace involved, a different pressure. You can’t crumple it up and throw it away.  Richard Serra can crumple it up and throw it away, but I can’t.  So there’s a different pace involved.  Eventually you get to a point in a work in progress where you’re a little bit stuck or have mixed thoughts.  So you break into a different medium. With drawing you can go through ideas quickly, find your way through these problems.

At your last show “Broken Language” curated by Daine Coppola, you showed 2D work.  How has the role of drawing evolved in your work?

You gotta give it to Daine.  He saw those paintings during my residency at B.A.S. in Gowanus.  I left one card tacked to the wall, he took that and put his card there.  It was a pleasure working with him, I hope to work with him again.  He’s on point, and has a clear idea when choosing work, and what he wants to say for an exhibition.

Ian J. Carr Interview Beautiful Savage by Douglas Turner The Architecture of Tomorrow Photo by Anna Louise Jiongco

As of late the drawings have become more autonomous, they’re works in themselves.  I’m proud of that.  I can make a drawing with no reference or connection to my sculptural work.  I feel like that’s a success.

It’s partly to do with the uprooting from my comfortable situation in Amsterdam, to finding myself without the same resources, material, and tools. These always dictate what the work comes out to. But more resources don’t necessarily make the work better. That challenge is exciting.

As a young artist getting your start in New York City, will the cost of living and making here limit the highly technical aspects of your sculptural work?

Technique is not meaning.  All the fancy materials and resources in the world don’t make the art work, in fact, it’s almost guaranteed it won’t make the artwork any better.  It’s all concept based, beginning with an understanding of what art is and what it means to be an artist.

Ian J. Carr Interview Beautiful Savage by Douglas Turner The Architecture of Tomorrow Photo by Anna Louise Jiongco

In your 3D work there is a homage to collected ideas of forms found in architecture, design, and materials—what guides your choices?

I don’t want my ideas to be nailed down, to be one thing.  The indeterminism, that ambiguity, is very important.  I don’t want to draw a horse, because people will look and say “That’s a horse.”  I try to leave things open ended, a minimalist technique coming through.  There’s a constructivist quote: Rigidity plus indeterminism, equals infinity. This is not a conceptual idea, it’s saying that a rigid structure or form with no reference to something will become new things, as new generations see it.  Does that make sense?

Yes, your work clearly allows for a dialogue.

That’s exactly what I want.  I want to start a dialogue.

Douglas Turner is a Brooklyn-based writer and critic.  He maintains a digest of art and cultural criticism, news, and reviews: The Architecture of Tomorrow.