INSIDE THE EYE(PHONE) OF DEVIN TROY STROTHER

Strother shares BBQ secrets and iPhone pics from the making of ‘Space Jam’  


By Cecilia Salama
Photos by Devin Troy Strother

When Devin Troy first watched the 90’s classic, he was playing with his brother’s basketball cards. Now, he’s crafting his own cards, remixing the imagery of Michael Jordan with the likes of art superstars. With titles such as “Just a bunch of niggas in space reedited (tell that nigga Jordan, he made a mess trying to be Gerhard Richter”, it’s hard to tell which culture should feel more re-appropriated, and that’s just how Devin wants it.

“The music world does whatever the fuck it wants (Iggy),” he says. “In the art world, if you’re really under the eye and being discussed in an institutional way, I feel the re-appropriation of black culture would come to attention in the same vein as Kelly Walker.”

Artist Devin Troy Strother, 2010 graduate of the eminent Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, first gained recognition through brightly-colored abstract collages featuring handmade cut-outs of blackface men and women. His titles, which he says take him just as long if not longer to create as the actual pieces, cleverly blend contemporary pop-culture references while also making collectors feel extremely uncomfortable.

“I use ‘nigga’ in the titles because it takes the actual work to a totally different place,” he tells me. “One word can completely change the dynamic of the piece. I don't know, but to me that's something to be explored.”

Loosely based on the film of the same name, his latest show, ‘Space Jam’, at Marlborough Chelsea Gallery, manages to tie artists like Jasper Johns, Joan Miro, and Lynda Benglis to the same notoriety and reverence of basketball legend Michael Jordan using courtside iconography: holographic panels, paper cut-outs of Michael Jordan strewn over brightly colored impasto paint smears, souvenir styrofoam cups painted bronze, stadium flags stuck onto canvases, and, of course, a basketball court, complete with marble-backed hoops, is installed within the main room.

The Space Jam show featured multiple large-scale works. Do you miss making the smaller works on paper, or are you still making those?

I still make the smaller more intimate works, but it was great to take a break from that to do something really challenging. Making large paintings was definitely a big shift for me. 

Are the artists you reference in the Space Jam show the main artists you source inspiration from?

Nope just the opposite, they're probably who I "look to" the least, but they're very prominent right now, so it's more of reference to the here and now.

Who do you look to for inspiration?

A: I look to http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/ inspiration, and comedian Marc Maron.

Do you find that the space you created at the Space Jam show really changes once it is filled with an audience? Do you see the audience as the players on the court/locker room, or do the pieces stand for that? 

I think it's more functional without the audience for some reason. The space is totally something else with people in it. I don't know exactly how I feel about it being filled with people, I really enjoy the show when I’m in there by myself. The paintings that are titled "A bunch of niggas in space" function more as an audience for the court. 

What are you working on now that the show is up?

Myself.

If you had a reality show about your life right now, what would you call it?

Nigga on the couch. 

What are your favorite type and brand of basketball shoes?

Nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike nike.

What are your thoughts on BBQ? Fave spot in LA?

I’m a big big fan of the BBQ, my Bro Bro (Urbyn Yates) and I like to cook up whenever the weather’s ready, which is quite often in LA. My buddy Chico also makes a mean brisket. My favorite spot in LA is either my dad’s back yard or Bludsoe's (the one that's in Compton).

What kind of punk music did you listen to growing up? Do you still listen to that music or has your taste changed?

A: Flux of Pink IndiansCrassRudimentary Peni, Gutter mouth, X, The exploited, NoFX, (had a short-lived ska phase, had to do with a girl), Cro Mags, Penny Wise...I still listen to all that shit.

What's in your fridge currently?

Pizza box, some old parsley, orange juice, almond milk, Brita Water Filter.

devin'sfridge.jpg


Space Jam is up until February 15th, 2015.

Marlborough Chelsea Gallery
545 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001