We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Nhuch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, what inspires you?
Inspiration strikes in unexpected ways, times or places. The places I live set the stage for the issues I think about then materials, textures or patterns I encounter along the way define the visual manifestation of the works. Sometimes it is conscious, others not. I may be using something and only later realize where it came from. For example, when I created my first bubble series I was living in Miami. I was researching alternative materials to build volume without weight. I found an oversized industrial bubble wrap by accident when I ordered a fridge for my studio. While resolving a material and weight issue the ensuing works reflected the materialism and obsession with youth that I observed around me (not very different than what I experienced growing up in Brazil). The works were finished with shiny auto-paint inspired by flashy sports cars abundant in South Florida. When I lived in NYC, the piles of broken concrete, asphalt and tarmac inspired my relief works. Living in LA led me to think about housing and to approach and incorporate construction materials differently. I started to explore new aisles at Home Depot, by the way a huge source of inspiration, and I was drawn to rebars and cement which I incorporated into my ceramic practice. The pandemic imposed a new kind of domesticity and need for self-sufficiency. I wondered how my ancestors managed during the Spanish Flu. I imagined my great-great mother making her own clothes. This experience led me to buy a sewing machine and to use it to stitch packaging materials together and also to explore it as a drawing tool.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a visual artist focused on sculpture and installation that transform unconventional materials (mostly packaging and construction) from their every day, utilitarian roles into abstract objects. I work to represent fragility and uncertainty, driven from my life experience as an immigrant in urban environments. I also explore concepts of protection and perception and question values and gender roles. I think my choice of materials and how I combine them sets me apart. Inflatable plastic (bubble wrap), a material that is ubiquitous within the art world, normally used to protect valuable objects, is a good example. I focus on subverting it, pointing outward with its glitzy exoskeletons, containing nothing but air. I use it to make sculptures, temporary installations, assemblages and as a mold for ceramics. I also manufacture my own inflatable plastic in my studio adding a playful meaning to the modernist concept of “ready-made”. In my most recent Towers series, inspired by the Tower of Babel biblical myth, I combine the most common materials on which modern society has been built, rebar and cement. These sensuously glazed ceramic pieces address our inability to understand each other given the current state of polarization in our societies despite having so much in common. During the pandemic I started collecting protective packaging materials from online orders and began to sew and collage them with canvas and other found objects. In this series of assemblages I interlace these materials together as an exercise in mending, patching and healing. My work also questions gender-based ideas of who has authority to work with which materials – textiles and sewing machines versus cement and rebar. I am interested in the dialogue created between this distinction and how these materials vary in their functions and protective capabilities. I became fascinated with beauty industry packaging growing up in my mom’s perfume shop in Brazil. I recall gift wrapping and presentation playing an outsized role in purchase decisions and as metaphors protection and camouflage. Over time I also came to see packaging as time travel capsules, environmental polluters and byproduct witnesses of our attachment to immediacy and consumerism. As a child art was my favorite subject. But growing up at the end of dictatorship in Brazil, and in the middle of a financial crisis, a career in art wasn’t a viable option. I got a scholarship to study in the US and was determined to immigrate. I optimized my studies to get a job and a visa, so I ended up getting an undergraduate marketing degree, working in marketing and product development in the beauty industry while taking classes at the Art Students League of NYC. I was finally able to focus on my art full time after we moved from NYC to Miami in 2012 where I connected with an amazing community of artists, curators, gallerists and friends. In 2018 we moved to LA and when I was almost settled the pandemic hit. Now I am getting ready to go back to school for my MFA and looking forward to what lies ahead in our post-pandemic future.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Monday breakfast @eggslut in Venice and a surf lesson with @chriscrashcarson. Lunch at @blueyskitchen in Santa Monica.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Absolutely. I dedicate it to my incredible husband Shaun Abrahamson who has been my biggest supporter always encouraging me to take risks and follow my dreams.