There is a lot more fun to be had: Twin Meets Alexander Coggin

20.02.2018 | Art , Culture | BY:

Absurd and a little bit off, but always funny. Alexander Coggin excels in the art of tender parody. This February he shows a broad range of photographs in his largest exhibition yet.

Whether it’s spending 48 hours with Gigi Hadid, snapping pictures of the supermodel being hand fed b12 drops by her mother, taking photos of Frieze art fair visitors’ clavicles, or documenting the colourful country club lives of his midwestern inlaws; Alexander Coggin always finds the absurdity in every situation. With warmth and curiosity he unveils the soft underbelly of any desirable lifestyle.“That image of Gigi with the drops is more telling than anything that you’re going to get from a staged photograph,” Coggin explains, “it says a lot about the relationship between her and her mom, Yolanda. It’s beautiful and funny and bizarre and tender in a way.”

The current exhibition, “Yeah, Magic” at Ninasagt Galerie in Düsseldorf is vast, over a 100 photographs framed and unframed in all shapes and sizes. There are images printed on mugs, clocks, sweatshirts – and on a delightfully ridiculous pair of flip flops.

Over the years Coggin has become known for his personal mix between street and still life photography, a colourful aesthetic and his unique sense of humour. His pictures capture the moments in-between perfection, and they almost exaggerate the flaws and quirks of each subject. But instead of being exploitative or down right mean – a not uncommon thing in the world of street photography – the pictures are loving and relatable. And a great way to ward off any incipient social media depression.

There is something very liberating with an old lady arm purposefully hovering over a large plate of shrimp or the low key eroticism of a gear shift. Most of all it is fun. I think my most successful images incorporate the full human-ness that live art and theatre give you. It takes the character, the specificity of the situation, the personas we see and don’t see about ourselves and filters all of that into a single still image. At best, my work is very much alive.”

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin

Every article ever written (this might not be entirely true) about Alexander Coggin mentions theatre in some way – you have to. It it his one main influence and his educational background. It is also, in an unexpected way, the reason he found and fell in love with photography. Coggin and his husband  moved to Berlin in 2011 to take part of the then booming theatre and performance scene. But the complexity of making and acting in theatre became overwhelming.

– After leaving the structure of school I realised that making theatre is such a collaborative process. You need to find a production, a director, a piece of work, a house that can mount the production. My creativity became stagnant. I got into photography as a way to release this pent up creativity in a solo way, beholden to none other. I really started to enjoy Photography when I realised that I could bring the things I love about theatre into the work. It was an antidote, a therapeutic transformation.

Do you think you’re going to go back to the theatre at some point?

– I think so. I still enjoy the binary of live arts vs. still imagery – it’s either one or the other. I think that ultimately, they’ll both come together in filmmaking. That’s the natural progression, but I don’t want to rush this because I want to do it in a way that feels authentic to my eye and my interests.

Your images are often quite raw and people show sides of themselves that you usually don’t see. How do you make the subject feel so comfortable?  

– There are a couple of ways to get these authentically voyeuristic shots. The work I’ve done with my husband’s family [Brothers and Others], for instance:  Because they are my family, I’m comfortable around them and they don’t change their behaviour when I shoot. It took years to get to that point. When I spend a couple of weeks with them I take thousands and thousands of images, that’s all edited into a finite body of work. I get lucky in terms of numbers. And time.

And when you do a project like the one with Gigi, when you only had a certain amount of time?

– If I have a commissioned piece like that I find that the most effective way is to be a fly on the wall. Which I’m not good at. A flash is very telling. If I wasn’t shooting with flash I could be more voyeuristic, but since I like to mediate images with flash – I stick out. I have to be a little bit more sneaky about it. It’s not a natural place for me to be at all. I like to be engaged, part of the conversation and making people feel at ease with me. But when I don’t have the luxury of time, I have to be a bit more sneaky, a bit more pushy. Again, not at all a natural state for me.

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin

Let’s talk a little more about your husbands family, how do they react to your images?

– Well, it shifted with them. I was always very nervous, kind of looking at the images and feeling like I was taking advantage of them. Especially the British Journal of Photography story that ran. They used the word privileged so many times. I was fine with it, and I know it was a necessary and an honest framing, but I felt nervous about how my husband’s family was going to perceive that frame. I called all of them, and surprisingly, no one cared. I think partly that’s because I have conversations with them when I’m shooting. We talk about how we can amplify their character, or how to take the character into something that is beyond them. Just to kind of satirise themselves, letting them explore what they represent too.

They’re part of the project?

– Definitely. If something lovely happens that is authentic, but I didn’t quite get it right in the camera, I’ll just ask them to do it again and they’ll do it. It’s great. They are part of the image making process, it gives them ownership.

Interesting. Because it can be a tricky relationship, that with your in laws.

– We have had long theoretical conversations about some great quotes by Garry Winogrand. He talks about how when you put four corners on an image you change the truth of it and create a ‘new fact’. The way they are represented is not as they are, but it is as they appear in that moment. And that moment could change from shot to shot; this isn’t the reality of who they are. I think they are comfortable with that persona play. I got lucky with them. We have the safety of our relationship, but I have had a hard time translating that element to commissioned work. Then it’s more difficult, I just don’t have the time, so, as I said, I have to be sneaky.

Have they ever vetoed anything that you’ve done?

–  I’ve given them the option to veto anything. Sometimes I don’t feel comfortable shooting stuff, but they’re like “Oh get that!”.

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin

Are you ever afraid of going to far, of being “mean”?

– If I shot ‘mean’, if I shot in a way that was disrespectful, inconsiderate, or in a way that the subject wasn’t okay with; I wouldn’t even be able to look at that image. I would not want that in my repertoire of imagery, it would make me feel shitty. So I feel like I have pretty good internal awareness of how the subject is feeling when I shoot. As I’m interested in candid moments and character it can be a little bit dangerous. There is one shot that I still feel conflicted about. It’s my friend Susan, and she said it was fine, but she doesn’t look great at all. Still it’s very telling, my favourite part of the picture is the alcohol and the caffein. You can see her displacement. There is something discontented about her, but it’s not a flattering picture.

I feel like art made by millenials often has humour. Do you think there is some reason for that?

– It could just be as easy as a response to the hard times we live in. As a millennial, as an American millennial, I’ve just been handed a shit plate for my entire adult life. But if you look hard enough there is a lot more fun to be had, a lot more life around you. I feel like I have a little more control if I can find humour in it. It’s just how I see the world.

You can see “Yeah, Magic” at Ninasagt Galerie in Düsseldorf from February 16th until March 18th. 


Tags: ,

Dying like Eva Hesse: Twin meets filmmaker Marcie Begleiter

28.01.2018 | Art , Culture | BY:

It’s easy to see artist Eva Hesse’s life as a huge Hollywood epic, filled with love, passion, tragedy and early death. She was not only surrounded by some of the most influential artists of her time, she was one of them. But Marcie Begleiter’s documentary about the artist takes another route, focusing on remarkable artworks and a personality that resonates through time.

It was in graduate school that filmmaker Marcie Begleiter first discovered the artist Eva Hesse. She was looking for something else than the ironic, sometimes distanced work that was lauded in art magazines in the late 1980’s. “I wanted a deeper connection,” Begleiter reflects. “When I saw Hesse’s work in reproduction I was very moved.  It was smart and logical, but it also pushed against that with droopy materials. It had a great shifting to it. Eva didn’t simply find something that worked and stayed there, she shifted and changed.”

It’s hard, almost impossible, to describe Eva Hesse’s work in words. During her active years the expression and method was in constant development, and her journey from painter to sculptor shifted with an almost forceful passion. She would within her short life become one of the most important and influential artists of her time. Showing her work together with contemporaries like Carl Andre, Dan Graham, Mel Bochner and Sol LeWitt – almost always as the only woman in the group.

Her early work is mainly abstract paintings that during a residency in Germany started taking a more physical form – somewhere in between a sculpture and a painting. The later sculptures, made in her final years before losing the battle with brain cancer at the early age of 34, are big evocative constructions made with latex, fiberglass, rope and a mixture of mechanical trinkets. But still with a soft, almost sexual appearance.


Eva Hesse in 1968. Photo by Herman Landshoff. Eva Hesse. A film by Marcie Begleiter. A Zeitgeist Films release.

Eva Hesse lived a life that kept shifting and changing as much as her art. A life that would have been impossible to do justice without the participation of the artist herself:  the documentary is built around Hesse’s journals and letters, kept in the collection of Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio. With this extensive collection of writings (1 200 pages), Marcie Begleiter created a film where the artist’s voice rings clear. Through Eva’s own words (read in the film by actress Selma Blair) we are told an extraordinary story of a rather unusual life.

Eva’s life has the stuff of a true drama: Born to a German Jewish family in 1936 she was at age 3 put on the  Kindertransport and sent to Holland together with her older sister Helen (only 5 years old at the time). Their parents managed to get out of Nazi Germany and collected their daughters at the Catholic children’s home where they were staying before they all fled to New York. The rest of their relatives were killed in concentration camps, a tragedy that deeply affected Hesse’s mother.

But the hardships didn’t end after the emigration. When Hesse was 10, her mother, in the wakes of a mental breakdown, committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a building. Later in life Hesse’s marriage with artist Tom Doyle would end in a bitter separation, and her beloved father would die suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving Hesse anxious and with a deep sense of abandonment. Still, Marcie Begleiter’s documentary isn’t tragic: It’s full of passion, art, humour and most of all of life. Until the very last breath.

– Ten different filmmakers would have made ten different films. I’m interested in artistic process and materials. There are aspects of Eva’s  life that could be made sensationalistic. You have to allude to some of these things, because they are a part of the story, but what’s interesting is this person who faced enormous challenges in her life. Personal challenges and challenges in terms of the world around her, and still she found the persistence and the intelligence to create extraordinary drawings, paintings and sculptures. Even during the last year of her life, when she was greatly ill, she never stopped working. Not even from her hospital bed. And she had a great attitude about it: life doesn’t last, art doesn’t last. We still live our lives in the face of that fact.

The narrative is largely based on Evas letters and notes, could you tell me a little bit more about how you encountered and approached them?

– I had read Lucy Lippard’s book, and she quoted Hesse’s journals. A friend of mine,  an arts librarian, told me that the original texts were in a tiny library in Ohio at Oberlin College. I can’t even tell you what compelled me to do it, but I wrote a grant proposal and I got funding to spend a couple of weeks reading through the material. The people at the library would bring me boxes and boxes and I sat there with white cotton gloves on and went through Eva’s personal papers. In the journals there were drawings,  postcards from friends, announcements for shows. Her friends, once they knew that there was a library that kept her papers, sent in what they had. It’s all sorts of ephemera. It blew my mind. Here was this authentic, smart, insecure but absolutely self confident – kind of flipping back and forth between the pages – woman. I felt such a deep connection with the person that I encountered.

And after that you became interested in her as a subject for a documentary?

– Coming out of that first reading of the diaries I wrote a theatrical piece. A producer and friend of mine, Karen Shapiro, saw it and  wanted to move it to a bigger venue. I felt that we had to get someone from the estate onboard if we wanted to do something bigger. My desire in meeting the people who knew Hesse was to begin a conversation about doing that project. But once I met Lucy [Lippard], Helen [Hesse–Charash] and Tom [Doyle], I felt it needed to be a film. I called Karen and told her that I met some interesting people in New York and that I had another idea. And she said “Oh you want to make a documentary, don’t you? ” and I answered “Yes, how do you know?” she said “I saw it in my meditation this morning. If you want to do that, I’ll produce it.” So I called Helen, to make sure that no one had done it before. She was extremely encouraging and very supportive in terms of giving us access to all materials they had.

Which part of Hesse’s  life do you find most defining for her as an artist?

– I find it fascinating that she went back to Germany. This is 1964, less than 20 years after the end of the war. I went there in the 1980s and I had a hard time with it. But she went back to work in ’64, after everything that had happened to her family. She took the advantage to see Europe as an adult, to live without having extra jobs and just work. It was in Germany, partly under the pressure of being there, that she put aside traditional painting and started making three dimensional objects. That marked a real change for her. She started coming off the canvas. In the film it’s really the inciting incident of her life, that’s the change. She came back and she shot off like a rocket.

Did working with the film effect how you see and relate to Eva’s work today?

– I have come to the point where you can show me a drawing and I can pretty much nail the date of creation, within a year or two. There is a familiarity with the work that has deepened. What surprised me, is that after these years of working with her writing and her art, it has stayed fresh. I still find things that she wrote to be interesting, eye opening, inspiring and so thoughtful. It doesn’t  get old.

Eva Hesse in 1966. Photo by Gretchen Lambert. Eva Hesse. A film by Marcie Begleiter. A Zeitgeist Films release.

I found the quote “Excellence has no sex” very inspiring. Do you think it’s relevant to mention feminism when you talk about Eva an artist?

– You can’t talk about feminism as if she was part of a movement, because she didn’t participate politically in that conversation. But she was defined by who she was, and not by what other people thought of her. In her lifetime she refused to be categorized as a female artist and she wasn’t in shows with only women. She wanted to be, aimed to be, and was, a part of the general conversation. That’s certainly a feminist stance even though she wouldn’t have used that language. Looking back, female artists of the 70s and 80s certainly saw Hesse as a touchstone, as someone who was being recognised as a peer with male contemporary artists. She was just doing what she needed to do and saying “I’m one of the best”.

From seeing the film it seems to me that whenever Hesse faced hardship, she grew. That it adds to her creativity.

– Everyone has tragedies in their life, maybe she had more than others, but it’s what she did with the tragedy that makes it interesting. That compels us to want to know more and gives us, the people looking, a connection to her bravery. Her tenaciousness and humour. I was talking to Rosie [Goldman] who’s in the film, she told me that she’d never seen anyone face death the way Eva did. There was no regret there. No regret. She was living every moment to the end. I really wanted to put that in the film. In our culture death is sort of a taboo issue, in America death is seen as a failure. A failure of modern science, a failure of medicine, a personal failure. We live a good life. We need to have a good death. And that’s something Eva did; she died a good death.

As part of a series of fundraising events in 2018, Orlando will be screening Eva Hesse at London’s Horse Hospital on Tuesday 6 February. Eva Hesse is also  available on itunes and Amazon. Marcie Begleiter is currently working on the screen adaptation of the book “Stones from the River” by Ursula Hegi.


Tags: , , , ,

Naked and free: Twin meets Monica Kim Garza

24.11.2017 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

Monica Kim Garza’s paintings have the feel of lazy untouchable bliss. In her colourful world indulgent, semi nude or stark-naked women go about their business without a care – chronicling the everyday life of the artist herself. The scenes include drinking tea at home, playing basketball and having sex. Her voluptuous ladies are not self-portraits though, nor are they from any specific place or culture; they are more like an embodiment of Monica’s Mexican-Korean-Vagabond-aura. Throughout the years she’s moved around a lot. Her years of traveling to faraway places like Korea, Thailand and Peru have left traces in her work. It wasn’t much more than a year ago that she decided to move back home to the small town just south of Atlanta, Georgia to be close to her a family and to finally focus solely on her hibernating desire to paint.

Twin caught up with Monica to talk chicken wings, sensuality and balancing abstraction.

At the time I was living in New York and I was working a regular job. I felt kind of, I don’t know, kind of suffocated. It was too much concrete.

I started to make some artwork and I thought to myself “oh this is my dream. I should try to pursue it.” But New York is so expensive, and I couldn’t paint and work at the same time – so I just decided to move in order to afford to be more creative. I moved in with my parents and I worked part time at a chicken wing restaurant. It was really sad.

I can totally imagine a painting with one of your girls eating chicken wings.

I was eating a lot of chicken wings.

'i smoke when i drank', 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

‘i smoke when i drank’, 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

Your work is very sexy regardless of the situation depicted, a girl on an exercise bike is just as hot as one of a couple having sex. Do you consider your work sensual?

In think there is sensuality in the sense that the characters in my paintings are free. There is a kind of confidence when you feel free and I think that it’s sexy. You have this sensuality when you’re not burdened by anything and maybe that’s the feeling I’m putting there.

What do you think is so captivating with naked women lounging about in everyday situations?

Maybe the fact that there is not that much fashion, it is so free. I think even men can relate to it, it’s just like a human connection. Maybe people can relate or feel because they can relate to who I am as a person. In a way many of us have experienced the same situations, or can see something similar to it in the paintings.

'basketbol', 2017 | © © Monica Kim Garza

‘basketbol’, 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

What do you like about the female form?

The reason I like the female form is because of the shape. I’ve always really been interested in geometric shapes, and for me the female form is perfect. You can move it in so many ways. If you really looked at a woman you could create a box within some portion of the body, or a circle for the breast, or even a rectangle under them. Whereas the man’s body is a little bit harder. More straight lined. You don’t get all these great geometric shapes.

Is that why you keep coming back to the same motif?

To be honest I just come back to it because it is so easy, it’s something obvious to me. My main focus as an artist is much more on colour, contrast, medium and composition. The motif is just so clear to me that I’m free to explore other artistic aspects of painting, I’m trying to find this balance of being abstract and not abstract. I’m always trying to see how far I can push it.

You mentioned that you keep five to ten paintings on rotation, constantly jumping from one painting to the next. How does this way of working inform your paintings?

Normally when I finished one painting the next one that I go to will have some kind of inspiration from the one before, some kind of element or colour. The reason that it takes so long for me to paint anything is because I change the colours too many times. I just can’t decide.

'2 handlers, 1 curator', 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

‘2 handlers, 1 curator’, 2017 | © Monica Kim Garza

Your women are happy, confident, curvy and of colour, that speaks to a lot of people. But if I’m right you’re not consciously trying to give a more nuanced view of women?

I definitely get a lot of questions about body shape and skin colour, but for me it’s never been done consciously. My main focus is to create these beautiful paintings with geometric shapes and colours I like. But I’m happy to hear any positive feedback on anything.

Have you become more conscious after hearing these comments?

Actually a little bit. I do think about what people say sometimes, and it encourages me to go forward with my love for colour, abstraction and shapes. It’s almost allowing me to do more, because I’m telling myself not to be scared and to do anything in my work. But I don’t necessarily want to be a spokes person. I just really, more than anything, want to be a great painter. Almost desperately.


Monica Kim Garza will show her latest work December 6th at Untitled Art fair in Miami.


Tags: , , ,

Join the mailing list


  • Identifying a comfortable and trendy dog cloth is turning out to be difficult, as more and more cute dog clothes are venturing in the global market on regular basis.