If you live here at 181 Fremont, there is no doubt you've seen the stunning work of artist Chris Trueman in the elevator lobbies and adorning the wall of the seventh-floor lounge. Trueman describes these "dematerialized paintings" as pretending to live in a mediated state. They are rich, colorful artworks that are captivating and dynamic.
We recently sat down with Chris to learn more about his work and what inspires him:
Q: Great to meet you, Chris. Can you tell us more about yourself?
A: I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2003, earning BFA degrees in painting and in digital media. My work has been in numerous exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and internationally in Milan, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, Rotterdam and Brisbane, Australia. Recently the Lancaster Museum of Art and History presented a solo exhibition of my paintings entitled "Slipstream" and I was included in the group exhibitions, "To Live and Paint in LA" and "The Subterraneans" at the Torrance Art Museum.
Q: How do you describe your work?
A: I would describe my work as a confluence of abstract styles and painting methods that explore the temporality of representation. What I mean is that historically speaking, art in general - and in my case abstract art - has been a marker of time and place; an encapsulation of the ideas that are circulating and social concerns, both philosophically and politically. In Post-War abstract expressionism there was a push toward a non-verbal communication - a more instinctual communication that happened between viewer and object. This relationship calls to be present in the moment. I've thought a lot about those ideas in relation to my work and the world we now live in with incredible technologies as we manage multiple identities simultaneously. So being "present" takes on new meaning and understanding where our online presence is at times, which is as real as our physical reality. With these ideas in mind, I created paintings that combine the contemporary with the historical and they act physically as though they are mediated, despite being handmade and physically occupy the same space with the viewer.
Q: Describe the pieces on display here at 181 Fremont
A: For the large diptychs on aluminum that are displayed on the elevator lobbies, I chose to work on the aluminum surface because it is reflective and will change with the light. When aluminum is reflecting, the perceived color can appear brighter than the white paint and when it is not reflecting it reads as more of a grey. This means that any tone between these values will change spatial relation depending on light activation, with the brighter coming forward and the darker receding. So, the paintings subtly react to the environment, the time of day and ambient light with the presence of people who alter the light.
For the painting on the seventh floor, I painted with acrylic and acrylic spray paint on canvas and took a different approach to similar ideas about how we represent time and place in culture. There are references to historical abstraction, graffiti, technology, nature and digital space constructed out of stacking layers. I was thinking about urban environments and natural environments and the negotiation between the various people that live in a place.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I am a consumer of all sorts of information and experiences. I've traveled fairly extensively and am curious about the way that people live and the way that we create images and objects that reflect our culture. With social media, there is tremendous access to information: people, places, art, cuisine - everything appears to be at our fingertips. However, at the same time the images and pictures provide limited context and many images have been manipulated. So, while the platform provides a broad reach, it may not truly reflect the reality of an in-person experience. I love how we can use social media to connect and start a conversation, but I don't think it is the whole picture and I love to bring friendships and conversations into the real world.
Q: Your work has already been a hit with residents. How do you hope they are inspired by these pieces?
A: The elevator lobbies where the two diptychs are installed are spaces where people will round the corner from the main lobby and see the rich colorful artworks from a distance. As they approach and wait for the elevator to arrive, they can explore the surface more closely. It is a space of transition, where people are coming and going but also one that many people will frequent and I wanted them to discover nuances and details in the pieces each time they are passing through these spaces. The paintings were deliberately conceived for the spaces which they inhabit.
The seventh-floor lounge painting was conceptualized in a different way. It is another transitional space that connects with Salesforce Park and also a commercial entrance, so I sought to create a painting that makes reference to both the indoor and outdoor environments. There are references to nature, the urban environment, graffiti and visual stimulus as we walk the streets, combined with references to digital images and representations of the world around us. Industrial and natural visual textures mingle with San Francisco art historical references such as Clyfford Still and Richard Diebenkorn (two artists whose work I personally love).
Q: What do you enjoy about living and working in San Francisco as an artist?
When I was 17-years-old, I was living in Northern California and I attended a Young Artist Program at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). It was life changing for me and I decided shortly thereafter that I would return to SFAI for undergraduate studies. It wasn't a straight path, but a few years later I found myself back at SFAI where I earned by BFA. After my first semester I was back in my hometown visiting family for the holidays when a friend called and told me to turn on the news. I did and what I saw was my apartment building in San Francisco on fire. When I returned to school a few weeks later, I had nowhere to live, and being new to the city with minimal funds as a college student, I didn't have many friends to rely on. So, over the next several months I ended up painting all day and sleeping at school. Students had 24-hour access to the art studios, so I was allowed to be there, but we weren't supposed to sleep there. It took around three months before I had found a new apartment, but those long months were filled with making art and exploring the city. It was an intense time for me, but so many areas and places in San Francisco are filled with memories of that time, and I feel the hardship gave me verve and tenacity which reflects in my paintings.
Q: Where can people see more of your work?
A: I recently had a solo exhibition at Themes and Projects in the Minnesota Street projects building in San Francisco and they will maintain some inventory of work. I also have a solo exhibition coming up in March in Los Angeles at Edward Cella Gallery that I am very excited about. Instagram is always a good place to connect with me and see my most recent work and projects (follow: @truemanchris).