Daniel Arsham: True Illusions

The Renaissance Man Mounts His Spatially Subversive LA Debut Solo Show

Lauded for transforming industrial spheres into Pantone-hued “pixel clouds,” New York-based artist and set designer Daniel Arsham shows photographer Tierney Gearon around the surreal sculptures and fictional cityscapes of his new show at OHWOW, Los Angeles, The Fall, the Ball and the Wall. At only 31 the cross-genre savant has collaborated with the likes of former Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane and choreographer Merce Cunningham on projects that upturn accepted notions of space and structure, such as flooding a stage with tens of thousands of ping pong balls, and “eroding” a pristine dressing room using carved foam. “There’s definitely an uncanny quality about this kind of work, and it comes from this idea that you’re seeing something that you know and have an expectation about,” Arsham says of the works at OHWOW. “It’s like a haunted house; something familiar where there’s something’s not quite right with it.” The artist will soon unveil a commemorative public artwork at the new Florida Marlins ballpark in Miami created by Snarkitecture, the architecture practice he runs with partner Alex Mustonen; he is also currently at work on a furniture line for Chicago gallery Volume. Here Arsham talks deconstruction and dreams.

Where does your fascination with deconstructing form come from?
I grew up in Miami and when I was a kid there was a hurricane that completely destroyed the house that I lived in. The ceiling was ripped apart and there was a big hole in it. Seeing the architecture dismembered in that way was my first experience with what’s inside the walls. They’re built to appear to have this solidity so that we feel like buildings will stand up, but in fact there’s all this crap behind them. So my works allow the architecture to be fluid in a less violent way than I experienced.

Your piece “Hiding Figure” depicts a person trapped inside the wall. How did you achieve such a realistic effect?
I test all of these [sculptures] out with fabric in the studio—one of the assistants was definitely stapled to a wall at one point.

What was the inspiration behind your new architectural paintings, which depict banal words as floor plans for city buildings?
Out of all the products that humans make, architecture is the biggest and most lasting and relevant form of cultural expression—it’s the only thing that’s going to last. And this series plays with the weight of that.

There’s a hallucinogenic quality to a lot of your work. What would you say is your favorite high—natural or otherwise?
There are not unnatural highs in my life. Never was. I’m pretty clean cut. But I have pulled things from dreams before. I had this really weird dream last night that I was in the Italian cruise ship that capsized recently [The Costa Concordia]. I knew that it was going to capsize, so I had already figured out how to walk up the stairwell sideways.

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