In the Studio with Santiago Lozano
February 14th, 2024
Painter and sculptor, Santiago Lozano, virtually sat down with us to discuss his long evolving sculptral practice. Lozano centers his work around the themes of imperfection and collapse. Lozano searches for flaws, quirks, and foibles by exploring such topics as damage in otherwise perfect geometries, capturing the ephemeral moment of collapse in rigid materials and structures, or highlighting and creating compositions around the “error” in an artwork.
Working predominantly in steel and aluminum, Lozano’s sculptures often depict simple geometric shapes, such as rectangular prisms, which have been dented or collapsed in some way. Such imperfects frustrate the expected geometric perfection of the structures in favor the artist’s hand and all those things that make us truly human.
What’s your background? Did you always want to be an artist?
I was always artistic, creative. But I studied in a school that was much more focused on the “rational” mathematical aspects. When I headed off to University, I had to make a sort of inner compromise: I chose to pursue a career in advertising, focusing on design and art direction. I hoped it would serve as an outlet for self-expression while allowing for a more conventional type of income. And for a while it did just that: I spent almost 15 years working in large multinational ad firms, working blue-chip clients both in Colombia and in the US. But the actual possibilities for self-expression, for putting a part of yourself out there, was pretty much nil. So after a two year sabbatical spent in New York City, Barcelona, Milan and Africa, I decided to throw myself fully and unequivocally into Art.
What informs your work? What themes do you pursue?
For many years now I have been working on the theme of imperfection. Western culture assigns huge value to perfection. Whether of form or function, perfection is something to be highly desired and esteemed. While that eternal search for perfection seems laudable to me, I find it utopic, and impractical in the face of contemporary society and values. Actually, it is the small flaws, the individual quirks and the endeavor of falling down only to pick oneself up and carry on, that makes us truly human.
I have focused my work upon searching out all of those things; placing them center stage in my work, and giving them that added value that ennoble them as works of art. In that search, no single technique, practice or material is encompassing. I am constantly searching for ways to capture the flaw, the imperfection, the collapsing moment. My works across all media become a record of that quest.
What artist(s) or movement(s) have influenced your work?
One of the most enduring legacies of my time working in advertising is a passion for new things. A good ad man is intrigued and interested by EVERYTHING. Because you never know what will spark a new idea, a new concept. I have carried that with me ever since I devoted myself exclusively to art, and now I draw inspiration from art itself, but also from popular culture, from mythology and fantasy literature, from history. I look at cartoons, at comic books and action figures, at architecture and sports, at kid’s drawings (particularly my own kid’s) and they all fall like small seeds into my brain. Sometimes these grow into new ideas and paths for exploration.
In a more traditional sense, I have been deeply influenced by Modernism and its avid use and pursuit of technology (I use the computer as a tool for almost all of my work); by the sculptural work of Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Tony Cragg, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, John Chamberlein, Brancusi and Noguchi, to name a few; and pictorically, by Picasso, Albert Oehlen, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Ed Clark, Katherina Grosse and Karel Appel.
What is your most intriguing experience as an artist?
That would be the Navy Yards commission, placed by Cynthia and her team. It is, to date, my biggest piece. It involved many new things for me: a public installation space, new materials and processes, and a huge logistical challenge to transport the 8-ton piece. It broke many deep-set paradigms in my mind, and allowed me to see that I can tackle any artwork at any size, and install it anywhere in the planet.
Why/How have you chosen your medium? Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
My first medium of choice was digital painting: using the computer to collage scanned images to print out on canvas. I chose it because I had been working on that medium for 15 years during my advertising career. That medium presented its own problems: at the time, “digital art” was entirely unknown, and collector’s perceptions about it were mostly negative since it provided no guarantees about uniqueness and collectability. This forced me in the opposite direction: an unyielding, tremendously physical material such as steel, and a process of deformation that could not be repeated even if I wanted. The material became part of the concept I was exploring.
Due to the nature of my artistic pursuits, I am very inquisitive about materials and processes. I have not been static, and regularly try out new ideas. I have worked small pieces in stone, in wood, I have thrown cement into my paint mixes, burned my canvases, copied my kid’s doodles, and hurled rocks at my sculptures. It’s always been an ongoing exploration.
I am currently starting out a new material which I had been sort of cautious about: bronze. The process is complex and expensive, so I had always wanted to do it but felt afraid. But I am throwing caution to the winds and delving into it headfirst. It opens up a world of geometric possibilities which my previous methods precluded, and allows for fluidity and organic dynamics which I fully intend to exploit.