09/25/2012 06:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

27 Questions With Irreverent Conceptual Artist Mark Flood

Artist: Mark Flood

Age: 35

Occupation: Retired

City/Neighborhood: Chelsea, Manhattan.

Current Exhibition: "ARTSTAR" at Zach Feuer, 548 West 22nd Street, New York, through October 13, 2012.

Your current exhibition at Zach Feuer, "ARTSTAR," comes with a promo rap video, with some intense snake bite footage and lyrics like "I made a little deal with the devil, y'all/Back when I was just a trickle/Before I became a Flood," lip synced by someone who is not you. It is also being promoted with a press release that introduces the exhibition as a look at the "non-career" of one of "the least important artists of the 20th century." What do you want to convey in the exhibition?


An installation view of Mark Flood's "ARTSTAR" at Zach Feuer Gallery
/ Courtesy Zach Feuer Gallery, New York

A humorous look at the plight of the contemporary artist.

Your career has been a slow build and you've committed a lot of time working as an artist without it being your full-time job, yet your art often has something of a non-committal tone (with painted statements like "Another Painting" or "The Same Artists Over And Over"). What has kept you involved in art?

Low self-esteem and a series of poor career choices.

"ARTSTAR" overlaps with "The Hateful Years" at Luxembourg & Dayan, which focused on your work in the 1980s. How do you think you've changed as an artist since then? Is it strange to go back and look at work from 20 or 30 years ago?

In my younger days, I tried earnestly to learn everything about art, its power and its structures, as well as its relationship to society, reality, and the human body. Now, I'm old and successful and I use what I know to cause as much trouble as possible. Also, I try to reach out to young people who have the art-curse, because what I know might be helpful to them.

It's not strange for me to look at my old work -- I've been looking at it for years. I lived with a huge mountain of it all around me for decades. The strange thing now is that other people are looking at it.

The interview you did with the New York Times this July was one of the first extensive interviews you've done in a while, and you've attended recent openings rather than sending a surrogate as you have in the past. Why did you avoid openings by sending a replacement Mark Flood, and what is drawing you out now?

All the people an artist wants to avoid come to his opening. Glommers, creeps, parasites, and wannabes. Inevitably, they say the stupidest, most hurtful things possible. They look around and say: your art reminds me of myself, now you owe me! Of course, no one buys anything at the opening. So why be there? But then, after a while, why not?

Pop culture figures regularly appear in your art, like a collage of Michael Jackson with ET or a Burger King sign spray painted with the words "Update Your Resume." Do you think that living and working in Houston has made you more immersed in advertising and other mainstream media images than you would be if you lived in New York?

In Houston, advertising and mainstream media seemed very distant, like a mountain or a cloud. When I mutilated celebrity faces it never seemed to have anything to do with real people. In New York, I look around a restaurant and there's John Turturro! There's Snooki! Paradoxically, I think that makes it harder to understand the difference between a person and a picture of a person.

Your work has some surprising contrasts, such as between your rich and delicate lace paintings and the grotesque morphings of famous faces through your collages. Do you approach these works differently?

I approach the delicate work from the left. The grotesque morphings I attack from behind.

What project are you working on now?

I'm trying to develop a form of propaganda that will cure world hunger. It's a follow up to my painting that eliminated poverty, and the one before that, which ended war forever.

What's the last show that you saw?

"Cougar Town."

What's the last show that surprised you? Why?

"Cougar Town," because the third season was the best one yet.

What's your favorite place to see art?

When I'm driving and get stopped by freight trains and watch the tags go by.

What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Talent in a baggy.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

Deep in the barbules of hummingbird gorgets.

Do you collect anything?


What's the last artwork you purchased?

Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow," 1961.

What's the first artwork you ever sold?

My brother paid me a dollar to hold my breath longer than 3 minutes.

What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

Once I saw someone looking at a piece of art for a longer time than they spent reading the label.

What's your art-world pet peeve?

The art, the people, the social structures, and those who complain.

What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

Cougar Town.

Do you have a museum/gallery going routine?

Yes. I stay at home.

Know any good jokes?

My wife likes to talk during sex. The other night she called.

What's the last great book you read?

"Violence and The Sacred" by René Girard.

What work of art do you wish you owned?


What would you do to get it?

I would give up eating healthy organic food for a whole year.

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

Houston, Texas.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

Candi Redd.

Who's your favorite living artist?

De Kooning.

What are your hobbies?

I like to lurk in the shadows, manipulating other people's lives.

-Allison Meier, BLOUIN ARTINFO

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