Interview with Alex Wang at Kearny Street Workshop, 6/14/12

Tee Vee, Pleez

From June 7 to July 26, Kearny Street Workshop is pleased to present new works from San Francisco-based artist Maysha Mohamedi. For her solo exhibition Secret Spaces Good News on display here at 1246 Folsom St., Mohamedi has created a series of paintings, along with a window installation entitled Mr. And Mrs. Tee Vee for the newly resurrected Musée d’Honneur Miniscule. We spoke with Maysha about the Musée, junkyard poems from the 70’s, and her always humorous approach to making art.    

AW: Would you tell us a bit about the Musée d’Honneur Miniscule?

MM: The Musée d’Honneur Miniscule is an exhibition window situated in the entryway at 1246 Folsom St. The Musée belonged to New Langton Arts and has a rich history of featuring works by artists who also exhibited in the main space inside. My husband worked at New Langton Arts until the end and I would often volunteer at their events. When I realized Kearny Street Workshop happened to be located in that very space, I elected to keep on with the tradition of creating a special site-specific project for this window.

AW: And that project became your installation, Mr. And Mrs. Tee Vee, which was inspired by a poem (see below). How did you come across this poem, and why did it strike you as an interesting place to work from?

MM: I discovered the poem Tee Vee in a seventies children's textbook that I found at a junkyard. It tells the story of a married couple who watch so much television that they fail to realize they are married. The poem was featured in a lesson that asked students to imagine a situation where ‘a person might find a place for themselves and never leave it’. I was inspired to use this poem because of its absurd premise, which has such an uncanny resemblance to my own nighttime activities between the hours of 6 and 10 PM.

AW: The poem seems to highlight the potential ills of a society centered around passive consumption, the numbing effects of mass media, etc. But while many artists might default to an immediate denunciation of such ills, you seem to embrace the fact that this poem hits pretty close to home.

MM: It's true that I watch a lot of t.v. but it's not because I am a boring or simple person, which I'm guessing is the sort of characterization artists are attempting to combat when they make a point of denouncing societal ills. I watch t.v. because our bed is our only piece of furniture and there are a limited number of activities for me in my bed.

AW: That makes sense. I noticed a pattern of yin-yangs and roses in the background of the installation. Tell us a bit about your wallpaper design?

MM: I saw the Charles Burchfield exhibition at the Hammer Museum in 2009, and then again a year later at the Whitney. It mattered to me that Burchfield was a painter who also appeared to generate great inspiration from his commercial work as a wallpaper designer. I came up with the yin-yang and rose wallpaper design for a collaborative project with artist Sarah Hotchkiss, in which we painted a life-size trompe l'oeil luxury lounge. In designing the miniature scene for Mr. and Mrs. Tee Vee, I used the same yin-yang and rose pattern as the couple's matrimonial wallpaper.

AW: You mentioned the site-specific nature of the project. Could you take us through the process of making this piece and talk about how the installation functions, particularly in relation to the site/context it’s situated in? 

MM: Using the poem as inspiration and my own television as a model, I constructed a miniature scene containing the following details: a flat screen T.V., original wallpaper of my own design, and the sedentary couple. An LED "candle" sits upon a tiny hidden shelf behind the t.v. to illuminate the partially translucent screen. I know what Folsom St. is like and I understand that this cozy scene - illuminated at night by the soft T.V. flicker - may bring sadness to someone who might use that entryway to sleep. Although it was also suggested to me that perhaps the installation could in fact inspire these people to find a better life.

Secret Spaces Good News and Mr. And Mrs. Tee Vee will be on display at 1246 Folsom Street from June 7 to July 26.