Category: Interviews

Estevan Maestas Talks About Art and the Challenges of Setting Up a New Gallery Online — Check It Out

Based in Northern New Mexico, Estevan Maestas is a young art enthusiast turned gallerist and founder of the emerging online gallery, Contemporary Collective Gallery. Estevan founded the gallery in 2015 with a vision to create a global platform to showcase new, up and coming contemporary artists from around the world. His goal is to invite and encourage his audience to connect with, support and invest in living artists.

Deianira Tolema: You are a young entrepreneur as there are many out there, however, you caught my attention for your spirit of initiative and the quality of the work displayed on your website. How did you come up with the idea to create an online contemporary art gallery? Who did you take inspiration from for your project?

Estevan Maestas: The gallery’s conception came about when my brother asked for my help in promoting his work. I’m more of the social network savvy one, so he asked me if I had any ideas on how to promote and get his work in front of a wider audience. Undertaking the project to promote my brother’s work gave me this sense of creativity, in the process of curating and presenting. This is also when I started establishing my own identity and aesthetic, which has now become the gallery you see today.

DT: How did you build your company step by step?

EM: The gallery started out very small, initially the ‘website’ was a simple Tumblr page. I started utilizing Instagram to showcase works and connect with art lovers, artists and potential collectors. As I started seeing a greater interest from artists on Instagram who were curious about representation, I recognized greater potential as an online gallery. I developed a professional digital presence and launched the official online gallery in January 2015.

DT: Please describe what is a typical Contemporary Collective Gallery day from morning to evening: how do you set your weekly goals, deal with brainstorming, etc.?

EM: Starting my day consists of checking emails and Instagram as those are my two main lines of communication between collectors, artists and collaborators. Social media is so very important for this reason, and I’m frequently accused of being on my phone too much but that’s where the interaction between the gallery and other creative groups takes place! Given that everything gallery related is almost exclusively run on my phone, I have incredible flexibility to work on the go and travel freely.

DT: How does one curate an online exhibition, and how do people perceive a gallery located in a virtual space that can’t be walked through, but only imagined?

EM: When I introduce a new artist’s work or new series into the gallery, I give them the freedom of choice on what work they wish to present. The curation is a conversation between the artist and the gallery, and that relationship flows smoothly making the process easier.

In terms of how people perceive an online gallery, I think it encourages people to examine and explore the works and the artist at a much deeper level. When you can’t be physically present with the work, it makes you enter this state of wanting to see and know more about it. It pushes people to do the research and become more involved until they’ve satisfied this curiosity and have become more informed.

DT: Do potential buyers trust you enough to buy your products without seeing them in person, or how does it work?

EM: As a newer online platform, this is a challenge I see the gallery facing. The younger generation is certainly embracing this type of art acquisition, whereas the more traditional collectors might be skeptical. When it becomes less tangible, I think it may bring about a sense of uncertainty and distrust. Transparency is key and I try to be very up-front with clients about the gallery’s methods and business practices. We want our clients to know that we are all about supporting living artists and that buying a piece from the gallery is instrumental in the continuation of their work.

DT: The artists you have been showcasing, though, are very real: Aaron Scheer, Maxwell Rushton, George Raftopoulos, and others. How do you choose your artists? Is it a matter of demands and sales, or is there more to it than that?

EM: I am very honored to be working with such an incredible international group of artists – emerging and established. The selection of artists for the gallery is not completely driven by demand or sales. I look for artists with a unique style, such as Maxwell Rushton. The diverse group of artists I work with bring a distinct quality, in their respective styles, to the gallery which is exactly what I’ve endeavored to accomplish.

DT: Are you planning to turn your gallery into a brick-and-mortar venue any time soon? Does it make sense for art magazines to be on paper or for galleries to be three-dimensional, or is the future a place conceived for abstract ideas only? Do we still need art to manifest itself as a full range sensory experience?

EM: I’ve entertained the idea of short-term pop-up exhibitions which I believe is a great alternative to committing to a physical space. I love the idea of having flexibility in choosing venues depending on the atmosphere that suits an exhibition.

Regarding the line between physicality and the digital space in publications and galleries, I believe the future will still hold room for both. Even though the world is embracing the transition to everything becoming digital these days, there’s still that issue with tangibility. There will always be a nostalgia for things we can possess physically. Now with art entering the digital era, it’s making it incredibly more accessible to the public than ever before. I think this is great because it will only serve to inspire a new generation of artists and a new way of thinking about art and how we perceive it. I think it could very well be the start of a new renaissance period.

Robert Feintuch on the Vicissitudes of the Body

Robert Feintuch draws upon historical, mythological and religious sources such as The Assumption, Bacchus, Icarus, and Tom and Jerry. His work has been described as simultaneously “tragicomic,” “tender,” and “subversively ironic.”

I interviewed the artist during the current exhibition Rona Pondick and Robert Feintuch: Heads, Hands, Feet; Sleeping, Holding, Dreaming, Dying. This is the first show which juxtaposes Feintuch’s paintings with Pondick’s sculptures in order to look at influences and correspondences between their work. The exhibition opened at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017, and has traveled to the Bates Museum of Art where it is will be on view until March 23, 2018.

Deianira Tolema: Often when we think of figurative art we think about the female nude, but your work is rather unique in how it centers around the male form. Do you ever paint female figures? Is there a reason why you prefer painting the male body?

Robert Feintuch: I have made occasional paintings of my wife, the sculptor Rona Pondick, or paintings that include her. When I made the transition from making abstract paintings to working figuratively, I began using myself as a model.

I hope the work speaks to more than maleness. I was a real admirer of John Coplans‘ work. He was a friend, and while I’m not sure he thought about it this way, I loved how some of his work seemed to both embody and parody images of masculinity, and to present his body as an object in ways that are historically associated with the feminine.

I like parody. There are periods in my work when I’ve taken poses or positions I saw in history paintings, or in newspapers, and in retrospect those postures often seem to be about assertions of power. That’s where the first images in my paintings of men with their fists up came from. I thought it could be interesting to try some of those poses on myself- both sincerely and as a form of parody, and in skeptical recognition of some of my own desires.

DT: Arm Up, Knock Out and Standing with Newspaper feature figures that seem to be in the process of disappearing into their surroundings. Is this representative of a larger theme throughout this body of work? Perhaps a memento mori or some other existential struggle with aging and mortality?

RF: Yes, there’s that. Things are disappearing. Also, some of my favorite historical paintings are unfinished, and I still love the magic of seeing something come up from nothing.

DT: Your paintings often seem to embody a tragicomic link between the humorous and vulnerable. Can you tell us more about this?

RF: The link seems real to me, and very much about looking at and finding a way to get through real life. I’m very much drawn to dark comedy because it seems accurate to me.

DT: Does it relate back to your Tom and Jerry influences at all? The way those characters torment each other is quite sad and cruel, yet we all laugh at their constant quarreling.

RF: Tom and Jerry were a cartoon cat and mouse – animals that clobbered each other in every episode. But their scheming, aggression against, and oddly, love for each other, seems entirely human. They openly acted out desires that are socially unacceptable, and rarely admitted to. I saw them as a comically accurate version of the unconscious unleashed.

And I always liked that after one or the other were assaulted and flattened, they sprang back to life, in a kind of resurrection.

DT: You reference mythical figures such as Hercules in your work. What relevance do you feel these figures have in our contemporary world? How do their legends translate into our modern lives?

RF: I look at both antiquities and contemporary art from a psychological point of view – as signs of desire. When I saw the Farnese Hercules in Naples, I found it funny. He is a hero, a symbolic protector, often depicted as if he is on steroids (which makes him proportionally pin-headed) The sculpture, though, is supported by a tree stump and a club. I have worked with the iconography for a long time, using myself as a model. A few years ago, I painted myself fat, propped up with crutches, and clutching a limp club.

DT: Does your training as an abstract painter still influence your work at all today, or do you feel you’ve moved away from that style entirely?

RF: Recently, an old painter friend of mine told me that I use color amounts like an abstract painter. I took that as a compliment.

I can think of form as a thing. I’m sure that comes from having worked abstractly. But I am mostly interested in the ways that form affects images and the meanings they suggest.

I do make little, kind of accidental, and casual abstract things on palette paper in the studio that I think of mostly as ways to look at color and composition. But I really don’t think of them as completed work.

DT: Who are some other artists you feel are making interesting work about the human body today?

RF: Visiting museums and galleries with Rona, I look at a lot of historic and contemporary sculpture, and it has been a great source. Rona’s work means an enormous amount to me. I’m an admirer of Jeanne Silverthorne’s work and feel very close to some of it.

Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture, and John Coplans’ photography has been important to me. Though most of my peers work abstractly, some work figuratively, and I am pretty much an admirer of any who are still on their feet.

DT: Are there any current/upcoming exhibitions that you’d like to mention to conclude the interview?

RF: Both Rona and I have work in an exhibition of the Sonnabend collection which opens this month at the C’a Pesaro in Venice, Italy.

Robert Feintuch was born in Jersey City and studied at Cooper Union and Yale University School of Art. Since 1985, he has had solo exhibitions at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Berlin, Studio La Città, Verona, CRG Gallery, New York, Daniel Newburg Gallery, New York and Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston.

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