The following interview with Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Steve Hash, whose monumental new exhibition Poverty / Porn is on display at New York City’s Chase Contemporary Gallery alongside original works from Andy Warhol right now, can pretty much be summed up with the following question: “Dude, what the fuck?” In all seriousness, though, the sculptor has so casually shattered norms in the art world with this show, which features his cement and fabric sculptures next to monochromatic paintings from later in Andy’s life — it truly boggles the mind. But Hash, who strikes us as being naturally cavalier, fucking did it! And in this interview, he tells us how and why Poverty / Porn came to be, specifically how an idea as innocent and optimistic as showcasing an emerging artist alongside a deceased, inimitable American art icon actually became real.
The exhibition is on display until May 26th, so if you’re in or near NYC, we highly recommend you experience it for yourself.
First question, super obvious, why is the show called Poverty / Porn ?
Really good question, I have a lot of personal reasons why it’s called that and I think it brings in more questions than answers when it comes to the respective ideas between reality and fantasy. In the classic sense, poverty porn is a term coined in 1985 that was the same time period in which a lot of the Warhol work was created, but I encourage people to come to their own conclusions based on their own experiences when it comes to the title.
And how did you get your hands on real Warhols?!
That was a feat. The idea for the show began after the gallery owner bought two of my works at Art Basel in Miami this past December, and he offered me a solo show on the spot. And as we were going through that process, I told her I didn’t really want to do a solo show; it didn’t speak to the conceptual narrative of what I’m working on, which is about the connectivity of humankind. So basically, I sat down with him and said, “Yo – let’s do something no one’s ever done before. Let’s do a proper two-person show with me, an emerging artist, and one of the biggest, most iconic artists ever – my current emerging work juxtaposed with his later works.” And he said okay, let’s do it. It took a lot of months of hunting and hunting, tracking down these specific works that I was looking for, all black and white made from 1984 to 1986.
There’s a lot of art critics and reporters that had never seen these before, so it was really important to me to have these obscure, late works that, for me, felt more personal. I’ll never speak for another artist, but they felt personal to me. As artists, we speak for our work, right? So I feel like the only way to have a conversation is to put our work in the same room together. Even though they’re extremely different on the physical and material side.
Were they all privately owned?
Yeah, all of them had been purchased and now they’re being offered for sale again. It was really important to me for this two-person show to have all the works be for sale.
[Laughs] Yeah, the opening of the show was incredible – far better than I’d expected. It was really cool to test the boundaries a little and ask why we can’t do certain things. Why can’t I have my first show in New York City? Why can’t I have a show with a dead artist? Especially a dead icon. Why not?
You clearly just did!
Why did you feel like your works went so well together?
It wasn’t necessarily that they went so well together. Actually, well, okay, there’s two reasons: one was that the later period of his work was mostly all black and white, so just from a palette standpoint there was a similarity, ’cause as a colorblind artist, I don’t work in color, either. So there was a similar aesthetic on just palette tone, and then also it was less about why they worked together visually and more about asking how they could go together. Two different generations of artists doing completely different work, but was there a through-line? It was an exploration, to be honest.
When it comes to making your sculptures, what’s the process like?
I normally get up in the morning, have a cigarette, take a shit, and try not to drink before noon. I primarily work with fabric and concrete, there’s a draped toweling process I’ve refined over time. The draped works are really about disillusion of self and disorientation, this void of gender, race, or socio-economic class. And the solid works, the totems, they’re essentially concrete casting of the interior space of things I’d consumed the contents of over a delineated period of time.
Starting January 1st when I really started putting a lot of this show to up until about April when they shipped (from LA to NYC), I basically saved all the beer and cigarette packs and water jugs and canned goods and all that stuff. So it’s not a representation of the object; it’s a representation of what I consumed from the object. Then once it was consumed through me, it becomes a memory and a totem of something I experienced. Working with, or not really with, but with the work of somebody who identifies as a pop artist was also an interesting challenge and an interesting narrative I wanted to explore.
What else do you want people to know about this show?
I would say what I hope you’d take away from it is an empowerment to tear down boundaries and see beyond.
Can’t think of a better use of art.
At the end of the day, my name’s Steve Hash and that’s Andy Warhol — what the fuck?! Life can be limitless, there’s so much we can do if we just sit down and have conversations instead of screaming all the time.