In the studio with Isaac Mann
– the NYC-based artist opens the doors to his practice
Isaac Mann lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He holds an MFA from The New York Academy of Art and a BFA from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mann has been the subject of several solo exhibitions at Thierry Goldberg Gallery (New York, NY). His work has been included in numerous group shows, including at 195 Chrystie Street (New York, NY); 1969 Gallery (New York, NY); Casa Equis Gallery (Mexico City, MX) and The Dayuntang Art Museum (Beijing, CN).
"Themes are always given to my work externally. I don’t mind it [...] but when my subject matter wants to shift, it will. I used to be an abstract painter. It could happen again."
What are the main themes you explore in your work?
I’ve come off the idea of themes. Themes are always given to my work externally. I don’t mind it, sometimes after exploring a type of painting for a couple of years, I’ll even buy into it: orgy painter, faux-intimacy sex, shifting gender hierarchies. It’s not that these aren’t true, but when my subject matter wants to shift, it will. I used to be an abstract painter. It could happen again.
What does a typical day at your studio look like?
I like starting with something mindless in the morning. Prepping canvases or building panels is good, or maybe the early parts of a painting when it’s mostly laying in shapes, filling in colours, etc. On good days this type of painting develops into real risk-taking and I blow right through lunch, stopping at 5 or 6pm to wash my brushes and go home. Other times, I stop for lunch and a cup of tea, switch my tunes and get back to a slower, more workman-like practice.
Could you tell us a little more about ‘Slap Slap Kiss’? What is the genesis of this work?
I’ve always loved paintings of a circle in a square. Something about them makes me smile. The table itself is a misremembered version of the one in my childhood home, 50s laminate, you know? Same with the linoleum flooring. And the figures were meant to reiterate the circle’s form, keep the eye spinning and attempt to resolve the circle within the square. The figures’ actions are all simultaneously occurring. This too keeps the painting reading active and frenzied. I like that kinetic tension contradicting the flat 50s decor.
If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?
That little bunny rabbit by Albrecht Dürer.
Isaac Mann, Slap Slap Kiss, 2021