Treadmills and refrigerators alike, New-York based sculptor Brent Birnbaum collects objects from the recent past and arranges them into commentary on the lifespan of design. Moving between the city and the Catskills of New York, Birnbaum collects objects whose design has been improved upon but whose earlier models still exist in the same world as we do. Birnbaum has a lot to say about consumerism and the notions of private and public space, but it’s not without humor. The collections of the artist are replete with whimsy and levity within their realist medium. And the art world is catching on. Birnbaum’s solo exhibition “That’s What He Said” was on display at the Museum Wilhelm Morgner in Soest, Germany through May 17, 2018.
He’s been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine’s Vulture, and Artforum to name a few. And that’s not the end—he maintains a gallery workspace in Amsterdam, New York where he continues to break open the modalities of domesticity and design.
Where are you currently located?
I split time between Amsterdam, New York and Rockaway Beach, New York.
What is the view outside of your window?
In Amsterdam, where I am now - a cemetery and a creek.
What’s the first thing you thought about today?
How do you define your vocation?
I am a visual artist.
Do you feel successful in life? In art?
I feel successful in both, but also see areas where i want to grow.
Who do you see as truly successful?
hmmmm, Trump? too soon? that was a joke. I am absolutely not a supporter, in case i need to say that. not one name in particular comes to mind, but I'm inspired all the time by people who overcome obstacles or have a very pure unique creative voice.
How does the art industry support or hinder you?
I don't feel hindered in anyway. I am very much supported by a gallery in Manhattan, Denny Dimin Gallery. I also feel very supported by my biggest art collector, Carl-Jürgen Schroth, who is in Germany.
How do you respond to doing work on assignment vs. doing work of your own inspiration?
I don't respond well to doing work on assignment, and usually don't do it. But I do respond well to spaces and invitations. If there are certain parameters or limitations, I excel creatively by pushing against those. I set rules for myself in my work to help achieve a clear outcome.
When do you hold on to your vision and when do you compromise your vision to work with others?
I don't compromise my vision to work with others. I am fortunate that I don't have to. I got into this career back in 2003 after a brief stint in the interior design field, where I worked with a team. It was a positive experience and I learned a lot, including finding out i wanted to work alone.
How do you know when a project is done?
Once I'm exhausted and restless, I'm approaching the finish line. The project tells me when it's done. I'll spend years making a body of work. I want to give all my spiritual, physical, and mental energy to a work of art. I feel a lot of responsibility to create an object that enters a world already cluttered.
How would you define your personal style?
These days I'm pretty toned down. I wasn't always. I have lots of hair and about 50 loud tattoos, so i feel more comfortable dressing down to counter whats underneath or attached.
Where do you derive fashion inspiration from?
music, hippie culture, convenience, nostalgia, spirituality
What trend would you bring back to life?
What’s your strangest fashion purchase?
i have only worn them a few times years ago, but i have a pair or bootleg air jordan / sponge bob sneaker mash ups from China. they are an amazing object.
Finish this sentence, “The rich life is actually about…”
finding inner peace, regardless of what's happening outside.