Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Emil Alzamora is one of my personal favorite sculptors, his dynamic and experimental work is an exciting marvel of contemporary sculpture. Alzamora's work focuses on aspects of the human body, pushing its limits in different materials and processes. There's a range of abstraction in his work, some is very deliberately a human form with some sort of outside alteration or influence while other work really focuses on material, or motion, or some other outside styling that makes the human form appear secondarily.
One of the things that really drew me to Alzamora's work was how open he is about his processes. He works in a wide range of materials, and with that comes a lot of experimentation, some very deliberate and some coming as a byproduct of the process itself. I remember one video in particular where he was just beating a lump of clay with a stick, seemingly senselessly, but it gradually morphed into this really beautiful and subtle bust. Alzamora really pours himself into all of his work, whether its meticulous and controlled details and processes or throwing himself at the mercy of an experiment, there is a very clear and beautiful passion in his work.
I greatly appreciate any maker who's willing to take risks, share their journey, and consistently put out quality work. Alzamora is the epitome of these qualities as he's never shy to try new things, share the journey of new materials or experiments and he puts out amazing work at a frequency that one can only sit back and marvel at. I was extremely excited to get to chat with him about things like his artistic journey, his inspirations, processes and so much more! You can find more of Alzamora's work at his site https://www.emilalzamora.com/, on Instagram @emilalzamora, and at his coming solo show in New York at Krause Gallery. Enjoy!
1. I always like to start off with background, what got you into art? Into making? Education? Big inspirations? What has made and continues to make you the artist that you are?
I have been drawing since I was two and never stopped. My family encouraged me as well. My mother, aunt, and grandmother were and are working artists. My mother has been a huge support and inspiration throughout my life, especially the early years of finding my way. I drew comics for a while as a child and that morphed into classical drawing and eventually sculpture when I was at Florida State University. These days I am hugely inspired by science and the natural world, process, my wife and life coach Annie and my dogs.
2. Your work is heavily focused in using the human body as a subject, but not in a traditional or representational sense necessarily. You really push the boundaries and experiment with the human body as a medium, what inspired to this to start? How do get to where you're headed with altering this form? Was this a gradual build and experimentation or did you just go wild from the start?
The human figure is a reflection of ourselves. Myself. Humanity. I don’t think we are finished exploring that language in art. As far as I can see, we will likely have human bodies for a very long time. I like the stories that can be told, the feelings conjured and the connection that is made with the viewer. I would say it has been a slow and steady process. The materials I use are very determining in how and what I sculpt. It is a conversation and I listen and sometimes yell.
3. What goes into the decision making behind a piece? From choosing the material to how you go about altering these forms we're so familiar with in your work?
For years I have had a more stream of consciousness approach to deciding what to sculpt. As I mentioned, material is very important to me and my thought and technical process. I like to listen to what it wants to do and either run with it or challenge it if possible. I also like to interrupt traditional processes to see what happens visually and therefore conceptually. Often I start with a sketch but of late I have been diving right into the building of a sculpture and approaching it as though it were somewhat like drawing. There is a spontaneous quality to beginning as sculpture without a plan. It is nerve wracking too. Sculpture requires tremendous energy and materials and equipment and psychic endurance.
4. You've been pretty open about your processes online and I think that you've shown that it can be wild but also incredibly controlled. How do you make the decision to, say, beat a lump of clay into the human form with a stick vs. cast a mold and work more traditionally from that? Your process certainly varies, so is it an emotional thing? Just doing things differently? I'm very interested in knowing how you decide what your approach will be each time.
I feel like I am a bit impulsive and creature like in the studio. Even the more deliberate works that I make are untethered to some extent. I have faith that this works. I have tried to be more calculating but I find it is both less fun and more prone to fussiness. Ultimately I want to be in the studio as often as possible to explore and discover new techniques and new ways of expression.
5. How has the variety of mediums and processes that you've used give you an understanding of the materials themselves and the subject/styles that you're using?
Every medium has its own peculiarities and limitations . This is what I find very interesting, the intended use of a material vs the experimental use in the studio. I love hardware stores. They can be extremely inspiring. So the material let’s you know what it will and will not do. You can trick it too to bend or yield to your whim but it has to be respectful and sensitive to its nature.
6. Going more off of the material things, do you just like to experiment? Or is there a very conscious decision making behind what material you use with each piece? Do you have a favorite material?
There is a range of possibilities with each material that I use. And they cross over often, in the form of mixed media or non traditional building of the form. Resins mixed with plaster or aluminum powder or wood glue combined with graphite powder... this is what excites me. There are some wild things that happen on the atomic level and I like to exploit the unexpected. With art and sculpture you can really get away with that. Nobody will be riding it or flying it.
7. How have you found that the varying relationship between medium, process, and the work itself has changed over time and shaped your understanding of your own work?
Like anything, the more exposure and understanding one has about an area of interest, the more agile and dynamic the end result will be. I don’t feel at all limited in how or what I make (mostly). Especially comparing my current self to young the college student who had avant- guard teachers tell me the figure has been done before and didn’t have a clue how to advise me on building an armature.
8. How does space relate to your work? Especially your larger scale, more installation type stuff, there's this forced interaction with each member of the piece that can evoke a lot of different emotions in the viewer. How do you play with this idea? Or any ideas really?
One thing I love about sculpture is that it shares our real space. It isn’t an imagined plane with a thin layer of technicalities defining the art and the interaction. Sculpture is infinitely complex and can be interacted with in any number of ways. With that, installing shows and site specific works is always fun because you really get to have the work inhabit a location. Scale too has a huge effect on the viewer. Small is intimate and covetous. Big is intimidating and confrontational. There are so many things to consider when putting a body or work together.
9. I wanted to as you about this incredible series of busts on your website. These really seemed to push the boundaries of outside materials and processes in your work! How did these come about specifically and did the experience of making these alter your full scale work?
The busts have been a great respite from some of the more rigorous works. I had a shoulder injury that lasted over a year so I couldn’t file and sand the way I had been. The busts were spontaneous and exciting and it really broadened my knowledge ofworking with ceramics in both traditional ways as well as really unorthodox ways. I’m still processing where these are going and how they might fit into the bigger picture of my work. For now I am mostly finished with them. We will see. Anything goes.
10. You've got some very interesting 2D work that takes a different look at your style of representing the human form in a just mesmerizing way. I'm very interested in hearing how your 2D work varies from your sculpture. Are these just side projects? Old stuff? Could we expect to see any more of this?
Again, drawing has been at the core of my practice for years. So it never really goes away. Only recently have I been exploring the 2d work as a more finished work of art. Sculpting for the last 29 years has really informed my sense of a flat piece of paper or canvas. Definitely more to come.
11. Take the platform and plug yourself! Where can people find you? Any exciting new projects coming up? New shows? Anything and everything!
Stay tuned for a solo show at Krause Gallery in NYC opening this September 6. Lots of new works and definitely pushing some norms with regards how the work is presented. Thanks!