“These colors, they decimate. That’s why we do what we do!”
Please pull up a seat and let me transport you across a canvas. Let’s follow a whirling dervish of intensity dance within the shadows, bask in frothy shades, leap in the light, and feel a spirited display of color on full tilt created on a canvas by Alexander Yulish. Experience how he can create a lyrical whimsy that beckons conversation!
First and foremost, I love how there is no certainty about time or place in his paintings. And the colors!
Big blues, taffeta pinks, oranges (a new color for him in his works this year), and texturing brings a feeling of deep exhalation and heightened sensitivity imparted freely and intuitively in and around the paintings. At times, silkscreen will be wrinkled or not fully attached, giving a voyeuristic eye a temptation to peek at what is below it and see what is being covered in the shade. Yulish can shift shapes and collage into intricate color alliances, unveil biomorphic figures with a rich and unique balance of sway and strife over the canvas, creating a lyrical whimsy that beckons conversation!
DP- There are these strokes in your work. Is it a fan brush?
AY- No, it’s a technique I have; the way I move the brush, it’s a mood, and it’s intense. There’s a release while it’s happening that I can’t explain, but I enjoy it!
Alexander Yulish has an energy you want to bottle. He is a sensitive, effervescent good finder with a wicked sense of merriment, creating works that pulse with color and sing with magical spectacle, captivating the viewer with equal parts charisma, relatability, and surprise.
Growing up in New York City, he shared time between living with his father, who worked in PR, and his mother, a well-esteemed artist, illustrator, and sculptor, Barbara Pearlman. He was immersed in an art-centric environment, watching his mother paint for hours in her studio. His parents provided and encouraged a creative setting for him to develop his artistic path by example. He accredits his mother for being the one to foster his technique and teach him to be true to his process.
DP- Do you go to work every day?
AY- When I was upstate for 3.5 months, I would go every day. I have a studio on my property. Right now, my studio is in NJ. I’ll work Mon-Fri- I don’t wait for inspiration to paint, then you sit around waiting forever.
DP- Did you read my article on Chuck Close, when he said, “Inspiration is for Amateurs”?
AY- I love that! Who has the balls to say that in the art world? I have to hear about inspiration all day long. Something always happens when you just do the work. Inspiration is a misconception; people think artists, they get their coffee, they paint a little… No, it’s brutal, man! The more you paint, the more you push. It’s like you’re driving a car, and you want to take that car and burnout the engine. You want a wheel to fall off! That’s what it is like, at least for me. I want to be shaking by the end of it. I want my hand to be exhausted. There is a point, if you get too tired, you get sloppy, and you have to stop.
DP- Tell me about finding yourself in the process.
AY- I was watching a movie, and in it, someone said, “Your narcissism is so mediocre” I thought it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard – I don’t even know how I arrived at that, but I try to laugh at myself a lot and find humor in it. I think my artwork is not original. My artwork is the human condition.
DP- How do you even explain that unless you feel it yourself? Of course, it’s unique.
AY- This is a conversation that no one has had before. Isn’t this the first conversation? You enlightened me, and perhaps you changed my mind; that’s a conversation. That’s exciting! Why be stuck in your ways? To me, that’s boring. It’s like saying I eat sushi all the time, and I can’t wait to share it with you. These colors they decimate. That’s why we do what we do!
AY- “You interpret the story the way you want to interpret the story. I am here to give it to you.” was his response. After carefully observing, I laughed and said, ” It looks like there’s there’s a monkey in the Disco booth,” and that’s what it’s called now. He told me that he doesn’t like to title all of his paintings, as he leaves it up to the viewer to interpret it the way they experience it. It’s more fun for him, and this is how this one came to be.
While visiting him in his studio, He thoughtfully had the Monkey in the Disco booth, waiting for me on one of the walls.
What’s apparent immediately in the studio is his warmth. There are large windows, tall ceilings, and it’s a good thing because a) He is tall and b) He prefers to paint large-scale. He carries around his canvases effortlessly, hanging them up with a big smile, completely engrossing us with his explanations of the works.
DP- How big do you go?
AY- The Largest was 20′ x 18′. I’ve done a 7′ x 13′. I like to do 6.5′ x 6.5′ or 8′ x 10′. I like 4.5′ x 4.5′. The smaller ones are even more complex!
DP- Do you feel confined when you go to a smaller size?
AY- I do! It’s compressed, just getting it in that conversation and saying, you know what? You will have to say everything in 20 words, not 1000 words, and it better be just as clear and just as precise. It’s really difficult at times, but I’m so relieved when I feel like there is work that works! Sometimes, you throw them out and never want anyone to see them, and sometimes you leave it, and others you go back to a month later, and you think, what the hell was I thinking? And there are some you just love, and you don’t want to paint over.
DP- Have you ever done work, put it on the side because you weren’t feeling it, go back later, and think, this is amazing! What was I thinking?
AY- Yes, I have felt that! It’s so funny when you say to yourself, “Oh, it’s amazing, it’s so good, this is a home run”, and someone just walks by and doesn’t even look at it for two seconds, it doesn’t even resonate with them.
I remember being at one of my shows. I looked over and saw someone and it It looked like they literally got punched in the stomach, when they were looking at a painting. I was like, “Oh God!” and I was so happy they really emotionally felt it. Then I literally saw someone else look at it for like a second, look at their cell phone, walk around the show, looking at their cell phone and leave. (laughs)
Sometimes, it takes you a little time to understand something, and those are my favorites, and other times things have to be incredibly visceral. It’s like how you approach life, you know like sometimes you listen to a piece of music. When I listen to jazz, it’s very uncomfortable for me; it’s almost too much how I feel, the disjoints the ups and downs. It can be too personal.
If you listen to it, the soundtrack of my life would be mixing with the same thing, and you will have that rage, for three seconds, then soothing, then bounce back again.
DP- I think people can be psychoanalyzed by their playlists!
DP- How do you feel about sharing your work?
AY- I like sharing my work. In the beginning, I was scared when someone bought a piece, but now I just think they get to go home to someone, and they appreciate it. It becomes part of their family and part of their life. Someone comes home to it, and it greets them. That’s exciting. It really is! They look at my art, and I say hello to them all the time. It’s like a present you give every day.
Alexander is also skillful at escorting the eye around his narrative, allowing him to communicate an intimate dialogue tactfully, creating a thoughtfully crafted connection with the observer.
Perhaps it could be some familial objects in his works. Some examples are doors, lamps, tables, windows, and figures seated with hats and embellished boots. There may be a feeling of restlessness or, perhaps waiting, or boredom.
DP- How do you feel moving forward, with all the new colors?
AY- I’m really scared because I feel like I’m risking something and trying to push it; it may break to pieces, and it may move forward. I want to be able to go to that edge and not know if I’m going to fall down to the rocks. I feel like I’m talking deep down inside to that person to change, push it, and take risks.
Sometimes, there is a secondary script playing beyond what you initially see in Yulish’s paintings. An assemblage of misfit figures, perhaps ignored on the fridge growing up, who have resurfaced in snarky bunches in and around the works. I have come to call them “Yuligans.”They can be mayhem makers, creating a commotion, or perhaps outside a window looking in longingly in one of his timeless realities. They appear under tables, in the windows, slithering up lamps, munching on wires. Hidden in plain sight, once noticed, the pesky or lovable little creatures fight for your attention, demanding their due time in the spotlight.
He has been painting since he was around six and began painting full time in his thirties, and like anything he puts his energy into, it bloomed. Quickly catching mega collectors and art critics’ attention, his work has been on exhibit in galleries in New York Los Angeles and is in the Museo Jumex, Mexico.DP- I heard your work is in Eugenio López’s collection at Museo Jumex?
AY- He is a very good patron. He is a champion of the works. He discovered my work in my first show. I was in Los Angeles in a place called Gallery Brown. I remember, “Breakdancers of NY.” It was a smaller work, I really liked it, and I guess he liked it a lot too. When people live their life for art, there is a camaraderie that happens, and it’s like, look what you have done. When someone is as interested and appreciates something you do, there’s a feeling of we just silently just shook hands.
DP- Do you collect art as well?
AY- I do! I collect other artists too. If the work really speaks to you, they are making you have a better life. My life is better because if you have one of my works, you feel better every time you walk into your home. I have other artists’ work in my house. I just put up an Eddie Martinez in my home.
DP- Have you ever sculpted? For some reason, I feel like you have a connection to sculpting, or perhaps will. I don’t know why?
AY- My mom is a sculptor, she is unbelievable, oh my God! It’s like a hybrid. It’s her own language. I’m excited to try that.
DP- Something in me thinks that you would be really good at that.
AP-It could be something, yes, I could do it, when the time is right.
I recently took a day trip with my friend, art advisor Elizabeth Fekkai to visit him and his wife, Nicole Fuller (who is terrific) in their country home. There is a pure adoration between them and a harmony within him in his element that inspires one to adopt his tone. He is very receptive to energy, whether giving or receiving it and has a nurturing relationship with what surrounds him. He thoughtfully names trees on his property, gives titles to the places he and his wife sit together and reflects with gratitude. I do not know if he is even aware he does this, but it’s an endearing quality.
Nicole, a renowned interior designer, showed us around their rustically elegant country home. And as we looked at the exquisite unique wallcoverings (designed by her) and appreciated the silks, window treatments, and textures, I noticed an abstract painting on the wall. I immediately recognized it as one of his earlier paintings because a large Yuligan (clearly a founding member) proudly danced in the lower-left corner. I smiled and thought to myself, Alexander Yulish, we wouldn’t have you any other way.