Artist Interview: Andrew Rice
Andrew Rice has evoked emotions of protection and isolation through paintings that remind one of shell-like environments. Rice conveys a feeling of protection—while also asking that we recognize how easily protection can be a barrier from accessing new experiences in our surrounding world. Mixing his talents of printmaking, drawing and painting, Rice invites his audience to experience the various levels of depth, light, darkness and opportunities within his collected work, (re)Structured.
Originally from Colorado, Rice has been practicing his trade since he was very young, but has honed his talents in college. “It was a trajectory I kind of set myself on in high school, even though I wasn’t really active,” he says. “It was different modes of intensity.” Currently, he lives in Utah and teaches classes on printmaking and drawing at the University of Utah. “What I try to tell my students is though it may seem like [screen printing and drawing] comes easier to to some people than others, it’s a learned practice,” he says. “Talent plays a part, but talent—no mater what—is a reflection of the time and energy you put into something. If it’s something that doesn’t interest you, you’re not going to be putting that time and energy into it.”
Rice’s time and labor are certainly displayed in his 3D, oil-stick project. His pieces typically take a month to finish, depending on the size of the canvas and project. For instance, two of the (re)Structured pieces were started in January of this year. “I work on pieces in tandem,” he says. “I’m not just focused on one at a time. It’s more spread out.” Rather than thinking of individual pieces having a theme, Rice tends to work more with overarching themes that work together to invoke emotion. For this specific collection, he was particularly interested in the juxtaposition between protection and barriers. “Take for instance, this table between us,” he says. “It separates us and provides a barrier, but it prevents another layer of connection in many ways. These man made constructions that keep us comfortable also keep us isolated in a way. It prevents our access to surrounding environments. I wanted to address that idea, but in a different way.”
However, Rice’s work isn’t completely about barriers. Within each painting are streaks of light, door-like structures or open staircases. These small, but important, areas of light lend hope to the observer—hope for access, opening a new door or freedom. “That’s one of the best parts about making those pieces and it’s about the only decision I make going into the piece,” he says. “The first thing I do is block off where those spaces will be. I mark them with tape. Then I start with color at the base—let it dry. Add some layer. Black everything out and throw some color on. Black it out again. Very literal layers are what I reference conceptually—layers deep. Something that exists below the surface. And when it’s all said and done, I pull the tape away. Watching the space reveal itself, and watching those doorways suddenly appear—that’s the best part. It’s a literal reveal. And it’s a moment of personal happiness.”
As an onlooker myself, I found personal happiness in those doorways and small moments of hope. Rice hopes that many of his spectators have similar experiences. “I wanted it to be where the audience felt that they could almost walk into the space,” he says. “It’s their passageway in a way. That they can feel the same sense of isolation, but also feel protected. How do you place yourself into this collection? Do you feel comfortable? Hostile? Are you walking into something—or out of something?”
These questions are brought up much in part to the specific mediums that Rice mixes, which create the 3D effect. “I couldn’t replicate that same look through a print, as much as I could try,” he says. “It’s the mixture of drawing-painting-print. For a lot of people, they can jump back and forth. But for me, the reason I wouldn’t pick one over another is because of those intrinsic qualities.” His idea for combining these mediums initially came from an inspiration and interested in artist, Richard Serra, who is famous for his oil stick paintings. “I went and saw a print of his, and the print had the ink pulled off the page a good 1/8 of an inch,” says Rice. “I still cannot figure out how he did that. So I started to try.” Much of his current inspirations come from his students. “Being an art educator at the college level, I’m constantly looking at new pieces and new artists and reacquainting myself with old artists,” he says.
As an educator, Rice believes that hard work trumps talent—and that if you want to be an artist, too, it is entirely possible. “I try to get my students to walk away with the knowledge that they’re going to look at art and design everywhere,” he says. “This picnic table, the street, urban architecture, city-scape layout—it’s all been touched by humans. I try to give my students appreciation and knowledge of that, to help break down any barrier they might have of feeling intimidated by a museum because they feel like they have to ‘get it.’ You don’t have to get it. It’s about appreciation.”
Andrew Rice’s (re)Structured will be on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art from August 12 to October 8. Come explore this exhibit Tuesday–Thursday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Projects Gallery. To see more of Rice’s work, visit andrewriceart.com. –Alex Vermillion