FAITH IN ILLUSION____Peter Halley talks with Peter Klare (New York City - October 1999) __HALLEY: What do you feel is the relationship between painting and sculpture in your work? __KLARE: Well, I think they take advantage of each other. __HALLEY: Do you think of yourself as a painter? __KLARE: I love to say that I’m a painter, but I can’t think of myself as just a painter, because I love to make sculpture as well. I’m interested in structure and volumes and how to place things and sometimes the feeling in painting is not so much about placement. I mean, the problem of placement is much more intense if you're working with sculpture because it’s three dimensional, so it takes away space. With my first sculptural paintings, that was the main intention: to take away space.__HALLEY: You think of them as sculptural paintings? __KLARE: Yeah, they are paintings that occupy spaces. But it’s kind of a fake space because it’s not really a useful space. But, since they aren't sculptures and painting is more about the surface, there’s a nice combination between the volume of the painting and then this wasted space behind the surface. If it were a sculpture, it wouldn't be wasted space, right? Because a sculpture is a physical, heavy thing, whereas a painting basically is about surface and projection. You either project something onto it or something is shown on it's surface, so the painting operates as a projection screen, a skin-like thing. It’s so abstract. It’s just this very thin thing, where everything happens. Everything is on the top of that and what is behind it doesn’t really matter and what’s in front of it is just you. It’s two dimensions. And in making a three dimensional painting it's still about the surface, but also about the hidden wasted space behind it. That’s what I like about it.
__HALLEY: And the idea of creating an object and that object having an illusionistic or a spatial surface, it seems as if it almost is about creating a work of art that is overloaded with information. __KLARE: Well, I don’t think that it’s illusionistic. I mean, it never makes you feel: “Is that real or is that not real?”. It’s just that everything kind of pretends to be real but it's obviously not a real usable object. __HALLEY: That’s an issue I want to get into, the way that you’re making objects that pretend to be real. __KLARE: What I am interested in is that in a lot of the work I do -the painting work or the formica work or the photo work- there is no function to the objects. For instance, the mattress piece looks exactly like a mattress, but you can’t use it. So everything is there, and everything just suggests to you that it's the real thing. __HALLEY: You could say that your work has an interesting relationship to film sets. __KLARE: Yeah, props. __HALLEY: Props or, for instance, if there’s a kitchen in a film, they make the whole thing out of wood but it doesn’t work. Is there a relationship to props? __KLARE: There’s definitely a relationship, but the idea didn’t come to me from watching films. It was more when my father visited me in Los Angeles. We started traveling around and stayed in hotel rooms. And I think hotel rooms are somehow like film sets, because you’re never going to use all the furniture you have in there, but you need it to feel comfortable. You don’t look at the Bibles in the first drawer of your nightstand.
__HALLEY: That’s so true. It’s like a film set of comfort or familiarity. __KLARE: Yeah. And also all the paintings in your room just have to occupy a certain space in order to make you feel comfortable. So the nice thing about the furniture in hotel rooms is that they are like props, because they don’t really work and then most of them have this fake wood-grain surface, this “skin” of formica, which is just a photograph on top of something pretending to be something else. It’s like another layer, which I totally enjoy.__HALLEY: When I first saw your work, I thought you were involved in solving a painting problem, like how you organize a painting. __KLARE: Well, one of the problems which I’ve tried to solve, especially with that mattress piece, was: “How do I make an abstract painting?” Just a totally hard-core, striped, abstract painting. And since my mind doesn’t really work on that hard-core, abstract basis -and I still wanted to try to do an abstract painting- I just made an abstract painting, cut it apart and made it into a figurative painting.
__HALLEY: I thought there was a parallel with Jasper Johns’ “Flag”. Because Jasper Johns said he could never decide what to paint, so he just painted things that already existed in the world. And your solution is about organizing the painting as a representation, so you’re not representing something that's three-dimensional in two-dimensions, but rather, the things that you paint are already two-dimensional. So the paintings are like strange simulations of the real. __KLARE: I think the nice thing about them being simulations of something is that you know, of course, that it’s not real, but then you have this active process going on inside your head where you're trying to recreate the real, or to figure out the difference between the prop and the real thing. If you look at it, everything is there, but everything which is there doesn’t make the object the object. So then this gap has to be filled by the person who is looking at the artwork. That’s the impulse I want to activate: the impulse to recreate reality in your head. I want the viewer to supply the missing element, the essence of the object, which, of course, is different for every person.__HALLEY: That makes sense. So three years ago you moved from Munich to L.A.? __KLARE: Yes, exactly. __HALLEY: Can you specifically describe culturally the impact of moving from Germany to Los Angeles on your work after three years? Of going from being a European to a Californian? __KLARE: Well, the main thing is probably that you feel much freer here in California. There's a lot of structure you leave behind when you leave Germany! It’s a certain kind of cliché, but I have to say it’s somewhat true, that in Germany the whole world is kind of narrow, and it’s also a narrower mindset maybe, and it’s very much structured into hierarchies. There's a plan for how you work and how you move and how you behave. And then -I’m not saying there isn’t a plan in California- but you move to California and all of a sudden you’re just confronted with this endless space. Everything is just space: wide-open streets and one-story buildings. Ocean, desert, mountains, sky. That’s not only true for the landscape. It’s also true, I think, for the way people think. And then also for the way you feel. All of a sudden you lose all the walls and structures around you, and then you just expand.
__HALLEY: In terms of the motifs in your work, do you think they come from a visual vocabulary acquired in Germany, or did something in L.A. happen? I mean, is it a German mattress or a Californian mattress? __KLARE: I was thinking about that, too. I think it has to be a German mattress. It’s such a basic thing. It’s not something I saw first in California, of course. And also the aesthetic of the work -these very heavy German Expressionist gestures- it’s totally German. __HALLEY: In a way, nothing you’ve done in terms of the imagery is that Californian. But on the other hand, one thing that defines the imagery is that it confines itself to a certain kind of domestic world. __KLARE: Yes, I would say that, because California is all about privacy and living in your own little private paradise. Most of the stuff happens either in your car or in your living room... __HALLEY: where you sit is really important. __KLARE: Yes!__HALLEY: Why did you decide to do the “Bar” piece? __KLARE: Well, because I was confronted with this big gallery space, and you have this big space and you have to fill it with something, which supposedly has to be Art. I just wanted to make the appropriate furniture for an art gallery, for a huge white cube. And I wan-ted to move within the realm of classic modern Art. And I mean by that minimal sculpture and expressionistic painting. You know, if you had a house, you’d look through a furniture catalogue. For a gallery, you’d look through an art catalogue and see what kinds of things you want to use for that. I just wanted to create a domestic space in that gallery.
__HALLEY: Tell me about the “Pink Padded” piece that you did at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery where you upholstered the reception area. __KLARE: Ah, well, that piece has a lot of different aspects to it. One aspect is -like we were saying about Johns earlier- the excuse to just paint something real so you don’t have to think about something else abstract. I really wanted to make a big, luscious, pink painting with flowers and just go full speed in that direction. So that desire is what it's about in terms of painting. And in order to underline that or exaggerate that and make it more real, I stuffed it and put the buttons in. I wanted to do something to make it more haptic. __HALLEY: You know, the piece is really interesting to me, because it seems like you’re taking your strategy one step further. I mean, it’s not literally a copy or simulation of an object in the real world, and it would have been easy for you to just paint it on a flat canvas. And yet somehow, being stuffed or tufted does make it much more physical and much different. It sort of synthesizes your strategies. __KLARE: Yes. __HALLEY: And what were you thinking in terms of the placement of this kind of imagery around the entrance desk? It seems like a real intervention. __KLARE: Yeah, it is a kind of intervention. It’s actually a piece for the receptionist, who usually sits there exposed like a decoration. It's like a sexist cliché of a chick sitting there in a black velvet miniskirt with a Macintosh Powerbook, just looking pretty. And then people just walk by her to take a look at the artwork. I wanted to do a piece for her.__HALLEY: How is it for the girl? __KLARE: Oh, she loves it! She wants to be in the picture! __HALLEY: I mean, did you talk to her about it? What she wanted? __KLARE: No. I didn’t know her because the turnover rate for receptionists is so fast. __HALLEY: So it was more like sending flowers or a gift? __KLARE: Yeah, like sending respects, you know? It’s actually also really nice to have a pretty girl sitting in front of your painting. That’s another aspect to it. Like, when does that ever happen? It’s just nice, isn’t it? __HALLEY: Yeah. __KLARE: And the piece is made in panels, so the client can choose the configuration according to what they want. So it's a piece that really wants to be pleasing. It's pink and tufted and sensual and luscious to look at.
__HALLEY: Another piece that I’m really fascinated by is this ceiling piece in Munich. I mean, to make a ceiling out of a wood simulation done in painting, and lowering the ceiling just seems so perverse. For me the relationship was directly with Richard Serra. He once did a plate piece on a ceiling which was a two-ton piece of steel over your head. __KLARE: That sounds scary. __HALLEY: It was. But yours is scary, but not really scary. __KLARE: Actually, it was more scary before I did the piece. When I started studying in Munich I had a space which was about seven meters, like twenty-three feet, high. There’s just a little stool when you walk in there, and all of a sudden you feel this big aura, this big expectation. So I wanted to make this a really comfortable space. __HALLEY: Oh, I see.__KLARE: I mean, first I wanted to separate the aura from the real world, which is similar to the “Bar” piece, where I wanted to bring the real world inside the gallery space, size it up for a gallery. So underneath the ceiling piece you don't really see the art and you feel almost cozy, like in a train station restaurant or something.
__HALLEY: And in the newer pieces, in the installation you did in Los Angeles, all of a sudden the paintings are on shaped stretchers and they have this kind of forced perspective. Can you tell me a little bit about those paintings? Are they carpets? __KLARE: Yeah, they’re kind of flying carpets. There’s a long story to those pieces, with parts that come from different corners. First, I wanted to take on again those first pieces I did, the exploded view furniture pieces where I had the perspective built in to the shape of the piece. Then I wanted to go back to really flat paintings, after all my sculptural paintings. I thought if you take a really flat object and paint it like it is, it still could be a sculpture. And if I put it in perspective, then it is basically a sculpture, even though it hangs flat like a painting. And then I placed a column in front of each carpet that interrupts your view, so you can’t really look at the painting from just one standpoint. You have to move around and, due to the weird shape of the painting, moving around changes it totally. From one perspective it’s triangular, and from the other perspective it’s rectangular. The other thing about those cheesy carpets is that if you buy them in real life, say, at Home Depot, you're just buying an illusion of beauty, a simulacrum of a Persian carpet. So you put it in your home and you walk around on it and you feel better and it’s like a really nice projection space. You just project flowers, ornaments, Oriental motifs. And it’s almost like a flying carpet. So every kind of carpet you buy, especially those cheap ones which pretend to be expensive, are really like flying carpets. You know what I mean? Actually, that’s what you want. You want to fly away.
__HALLEY: As you talk more about motels and Home Depot, on a conscious level, is there any class commentary in the objects you choose? __KLARE: Yeah, but it's not my intention to judge at all. I rather want to appreciate those things. And everyone who buys these carpets knows what these products are: a devotion to fantasy, a faith in illusion. __HALLEY: Do you think in any way California might have opened you up to generic experience, like you go there as a stranger and you stay in a motel and you visit Home Depot for the first time. Do you think you might have seen it with fresh eyes in a way you might not if you had grown up there? __KLARE: Yeah, I mean, for sure you see it with fresh eyes. But, you know, it was almost the same in Germany. I mean, hotels look exactly the same! But you just see it, all of a sudden, torn apart.__HALLEY: In a way, your work from time to time reminds me of the career of David Hockney, this English guy who went to L.A... __KLARE: find himself. __HALLEY: Well, not only find himself, but find something out about L.A. that nobody in L.A. knew. Not only does he find out something about himself, and some of the same ideas about freedom that you spoke about, but he’s seeing things there that nobody else saw. There’s something basically modernist about that, the new view, the outsider’s view, the fresh view or the naive view, that is more true than the person who has experienced it for years and years. __KLARE: Yeah, that’s the advantage of going somewhere else. But there's a flip side that goes hand in hand with that. For me, coming from a German Expressionist, oil painting corner and going to UCLA where all of the other students view you as only that, was weird. You want to keep that identity, however much you struggle with it. You don’t want to give up your home. You want to keep it and just twist it slightly a different way so they understand it. So some of the work comes out of that.
__HALLEY: As a painter myself, the paint handling and the choice of color in the paintings really interest me. I think even if I’d never met you, I would probably be able to say that these were paintings by somebody from Germany. And I'm wondering who the painters are that you relate to, who you think have fed or influenced the way you paint. __KLARE: It’s really strange to see that my paintings look German. They look so German it's almost embarrassing, but its not necessarily intentional. But, the first painter I had a kind of crush on consciously was Max Beckmann. __HALLEY: Oh, really! That’s so interesting. Oh, I totally see it now. I never put that together. __KLARE: And I remember my father took me to a show in Munich, and it was a really beautiful show, and I just totally loved it. __HALLEY: And he paints with such a gusty, rough way. __KLARE: Yeah, like a woodcut. That’s what I thought. That’s what you think at first, but then you look at it and it's totally Matisse-y. The color range is turquoise and light blues and pink. Everything is so not brutal. __HALLEY: Oh, you don’t think so? __KLARE: No! Well, you could compare them to church windows. They have all these black, rough lines around the fragile forms. __HALLEY: Any other artists? __KLARE: I also really enjoy looking at the paintings of Dieter Krieg. I love his figuration, but it’s not so much artists in particular. It’s more this huge gap I feel between painting, especially Expression-istic German-style painting, and Minimal American sculpture. Somehow I don’t really understand this gap. I can relate to both of them and I really love minimal sculpture. It’s just that they’re both so human, you know?
__HALLEY: Well, many people would say that Minimalism was inhuman. __KLARE: I don’t think so. Sitting here in New York, looking out of the window, everything I see is kind of minimal. The shape of everything is really minimal, but the approach and the surface is so not-minimal. You know, the surface is made up of millions of bricks with concrete and dust on them. Everyone tries to be a Minimalist, but then ends up falling short. It’s just a way to try to structure your world. You try to be minimal, but then you end up being confronted by Nature, and then it turns out that there’s moss growing somewhere, and you get your hair on the table, and you get your fingerprints on the glass door.