Andrew Alba

Artist interview
October 1, 2020
Andrew Alba

What defines success?

For me the most fulfillment I fill from painting comes while im painting. Creating work that you're happy with is so important. I don't feel like artists ever fully get all of their ideas out. Thats why artists keep working, why they keep chasing this idea-chasing the process. I feel most successful when I finish a painting, but then I get hungry to create more.

What role does the artist have in society?

The artists job is to fill in the gaps, the gaps that language leave out. Language is flawed and isn’t going to be perfect ever. The artists job is to fill in those areas and create a new avenue of thought for people. When you see a piece it can trigger something, it can make you see things in a way you’ve never seen it before. That is the artists job, to awaken certain parts of the brain to activate things. Im always trying to propose questions rather than create propaganda, so it’s important for me to pose the question.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I used to share a studio in Portland, Oregon with one of my really good friends. We were having a conversation once and he said the most important thing you can do is just show up to the studio, even if you just sit and eat a sandwich or something, its about discipline. Sometimes its hard for me to want to paint. Its not until I start painting again that I remember how much I love it. After I paint I feel like I vomitted out all the junk from the week and have been baptized in a way. So always just showing up really is key.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.

When I had my show at UMOCA it was the day before they took it down and I hadn’t been there since the opening so I wanted to go see it again and spend time with it. I was in the gallery and a young Mexican mom and her son came in and I heard her start talking to her son saying, “This artist is like you, he has Mexican roots too.” That melted my heart. Thats what I want to see, I know for me seeing brown artists as a kid was so important, artists like Diego Rivera. I never ended up telling them that I was the artist, but that was a very special moment for me.

 What do you listen to when you're making art?

I listen to alot of hip hop, heavy stuff, alot of ambient stuff. One of my favorites is Arthur Russell. His albums and songs are very non linear. That type of music allows me to work without being distracted by lyrics or beats. I listen to a lot of jazz, Pharaoh Sanders, Ornette Coleman. Stuff that I feel like pushes the medium of music. Really, music is the most inspiring thing to me.

 Who are your biggest influences?

Arts that disrupt things. I wouldn’t be an artist if it wasn’t for Bob Dylan. Watching his process throughout his life and how he stayed true to himself inspired me. He started off doing something and people expected that, and then he switched it. Seeing how he moved throughout his career has been inspiring, the amount of work he has put out has inspired me. As far as painters, no one beats Matisse, I think he is ahead of his time in a lot of ways. Phillip Guston, like Bob Dylan was doing something and transformed it completely. He is my favorite out of the abstract expressionists. He is one of the few painters I feel like actually owns a color.

What’s your background?

I would go figure drawing up at the U with my friends from high school. After high school I thought I would get into music, but I got injured and was unable to make music, so I took to painting. It was a dark time in my life and painting really helped me to get my ideas out more clearly than music did. That was when I got very serious about painting. 

What is your process when creating a piece? 

It depends. Sometimes I’ll have a clear idea of what I want to paint and sometime that idea comes on the first blank canvas, but most of the time there’s about three or four paintings underneath all the finished paintings that you see. I don’t like to hold onto an idea if it not working out.