You heard it here first: Pat Falco — Boston-based painter, illustrator, comic artist, and humble interviewee — is coming to our annex next month. An exhibition of his works called Last Place Ever will run from March 14 through April 25. In eager anticipation of his show, I emailed Pat to ask him a few questions about his studio practice and to get his take on the position of humor in the contemporary art world.
I think my most pressing questions are about the roles that humor and self-awareness play in your work. There is a really dry, straightforward, and sometimes dark approach to the messages in your paintings– like jokes without punchlines, and therein lies the humor. This is a quality I find refreshing, particularly because our current conceptual art culture can sometimes be intellectually burdensome. Can you talk about how humor directs or informs your practice? How do you feel about your work being viewed through a “funny” lens?
Those are really nice things to say, thank you. I think humor is just a great way to communicate, even beyond art. It has a tendency to disarm people and bring them in and they want more. I guess that’s my goal with the art stuff — it’s usually more than just jokes but the humor is there to make it accessible and relatable and whatever. I’m fine with the work being viewed as “funny”, I’m just happy someone’s looking at it.
Some of your works directly satirize or comment on art-making itself, or kind of hold a mirror to themselves as pieces of art. I love that you put quotes around “artist” in the ‘about’ section on your website. How do you situate yourself in the contemporary art world, and is working within that context important to you? Who are your influences and heroes, artists or otherwise?
Yeah, I kind of struggle with all that, I’m making art so I guess that makes me an “artist” but I don’t usually feel like one. I’m more concerned with just making stuff and not really worrying about my role or label, but you also can’t be naive to what you’re participating in. I want to make art and I like showing it so I’m actively participating in it– I think with making fun of it and being self-aware it just helps me feel not as dirty about doing it. That said, there’s a lot of amazing people that do participate — too many to name, that have had a positive influence on me and really helped justify doing this stuff.
How do you define the differences between painting and illustration, and is that an important distinction in your studio practice?
Art categories are weird. I always think of Illustration as being more commercial or client-based, and I don’t relate to that– but I studied illustration in college and I’m not very good at painting so I think I tend to get labeled an illustrator. I don’t really think about it too much though, that’s out of my control.
Can you talk a bit about your background? How did you get to be interested in art-making?
I doodled a lot as a kid, and I always liked drawing to help me pay attention or visually learn things. I never really thought about being an “artist” until after the fact. I just kept making stuff – films, prints, zines, whatever — because I felt like I had to, and now I’m here.
When you install signs in public places, do you make an arrangement with someone or do you just put them there? Do you see the documentation of these pieces as the work itself, or the act of putting the sign in the environment?
Pretty much I’m just putting them there. I guess I consider them both variations of the work– there’s the physical work itself, which probably doesn’t last too long before it ends up in a dumpster or a trash can or something else you put garbage in, and then there’s the documentation which I guess ends up being “art”.
Who is your worst critic?
Yeah, I guess myself, is that too easy?
Who’s your biggest fan?
My Mom, but only for obvious reasons.
(image above courtesy of Pat’s website.)