Robert Szot: We’re All Looking To Be Understood

Architerior spoke to abstract New York artist Robert Szot who shared some of his art philosophies and life paths.

Where do you live and practice?

I live and work in New York City.

How did your art career start?

I never planned to be a painter. I imagine there are very few people that have a plan for their future from a very early age and their lives just carry them into one thing or another much like my own life did. I was convinced I was a musician growing up, and then academia led me to think I could be a writer or a poet, so I studied other writers and poets in school.  It wasn’t until my early twenties I even became interested in art. It was when I saw the work of Egon Schiele for the first time, when I was maybe 21, that I became obsessed with painting.  It took over every other notion about who I was up to that moment, so I became a painter and it stuck.

When did you know that you were meant to be working with art?

I don’t think it is a matter of whether I was ‘meant’ to be an artist. I am no different than anyone else in the sense that we are all looking to be understood and this is just the outlet I landed on. I never imagined it would be such a personal venture, however, and maybe that is what you mean with this question.  If it isn’t personal then it probably doesn’t mean much to you and you are meant for something else. Purpose and charity are the two most important parts of anyone’s life.

Between Americans

Can you describe your art style for the readers? Do you have preferences in terms of materials, forms and colours?

All my work is purely abstract. The work is either oil on linen or monotypes on paper with added graphite, acrylics or gouache. I don’t have color preferences really because the editing process on all of this work is very unpredictable. My process is very kaleidoscopic where one move opens 10 other moves and on and on until a conclusion is reached so color and composition predictions are impossible because the work is always informing me and not the other way around.

What’s the hardest part of being an artist?

I think the most difficult part is keeping oneself motivated.  As a working artist no one, outside of an exhibition deadline or a commission for a client, is going to make you work. You really have to continue in the face of complete silence at times and get comfortable with the desire to work just for the sake of working.  The money will often be short, your work may or may not have an audience, the phone will stop ringing.  You must acclimate yourself to a life of tremendous ups and downs and through it all you have to keep working and pushing the work as far as possible.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

Your days are your own. You get to spend an entire Tuesday working something you love and hate and want to fix and want to destroy and ultimately don’t want to live without.

The Course Of A Dull Conversation

What is the best work you’ve done in your opinion?

I am really attached to Between Americans at the moment. I also think my recent works on paper have been strong and I’ve enjoyed doing those very much.

What is the worst artwork you’ve done?

I don’t think there is any one work I can point at as my worst. I will say that looking at older work makes me a bit uncomfortable, not because it’s bad but because my desire to edit everything is so strong.  The best painters are the best editors in my opinion, it’s a difficult habit for me to control.


Where have you mainly exhibited your artwork? Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?

I’ve been showing my work in New York City for 15 years, most of those exhibitions have been with Muriel Guepin in the Lower East Side. I continue to exhibit work with her to this day. Recently I have been branching out and have had a lot of success in Texas and California.  That is my focus this year, to get my work out of New York a bit more. I think my exhibition highlights would have to include The Whitney Art Party in New York City and when I exhibited paintings with Saatchi Gallery in London.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on several paintings for Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco.

Japanese Jar

What does art mean to you?

I don’t want to sound cliché, but really art has meant freedom for me. I am fortunate enough to work full time as a painter and although the journey to get to this position was difficult I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. To work freely is a gift.

What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy?

I think inspiration comes from work. I don’t look for inspiration or motivation outside of the studio. I mean I am certain that the city informs my work but I think it is mostly subconscious. Inspiration and my energy to create singularities comes from getting to work every day.

Mercer Street

Do you have any artists or art styles that you admire extra much?

I have always been attracted to paintings that you can see have been labored over. There is too much low rent minimalism in painting today.  A little spray paint mark here and a shoe print maybe a blob of paint and hang it in a gallery. Too much of that going around lately!  Painting is meant to be difficult and exploratory.  It should transcend scale too. Big painting doesn’t equate to good painting and a lot of what I see today is bad painting on a giant scale. I am really so bored with it.

If you could exhibit your art anywhere/with anyone, where/who would it be?

With Frances Bacon and Philip Guston and let’s say at the Tate in London. They would make me look terrible I bet.

The Walking Phoenix 

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