Art-making is often animated by the sustained efforts of individuals working together to advance their visión of beauty. Most often, these efforts are carried out without the support of major institutions, museums, galleries and publications, which give them an "outsider" status. Artist Karl Schneider and playwright Troy Richard have resuscitated the Michigan Gallen in Detroit, and in the process have created something rare - a vanguard space. The following interview with Karl Schneider was conducted by outsider artist and AGENDA Arts Editor, Jacques Karamanoukian on August 7, 1997. Jacques Karamanoukian: Teil me about your new place. Karl Schneider: Well, we're trying to keep the theatre and the gallery separate. I work with Troy Richard, and he's been looking fora building for a long time. The guy who ran the Michigan Gallery wanted to sell it and the building's pretty well known, all the artists that know - I met there. The play's already started, "No Exit" by Jean Paul Sartre, and that has one more week to go. It was Troy's first play and he's done really well with it, full houses every time. Then in October, Ron Allen will be doing his play, "Ritual for a Dead Planet," and I am expecting full houses for that. JK: Fifty to sixty people, right? KS: That's right. The theatre is small by design. Troy wants to keep it very intímate. Our theory is not a very great business theory. We just want to show our art. We're not too interested in making a lot of money, which doesn't make sense, but that's what we have in common. Troy is a playwright and he's always had to rent out spaces to do his plays. This aliows him to do whatever he wants with whomever he wants and he doesn't have to have a middle-man to go through to rent space. He needed somebody to run the gallery and I knew all these great artists, so I figured "Why not?" JK: Why don't you list the artists for the first show and teil about the opening. KS: The name of the gallery is "Zeitgeist," which means "spirit of the times." The first gallery show is a collectiveshow. I wanttosteeraway from themes and group shows, but all these people are just sensational, amazing artists: John Elkerr, George Graveldinger, Maurice Greenia, Jr., Robert Quentin Hyde, yourself, Eric Mesco, Jim Puntigam, Robert Hanson, Cathy Saman Schneider, Vito Valdez and myself. All of these people have been doing art for a good 20, if not 30 years. So the quality and the amount of work is there and it's very exciting. The premier opening for the gallery will be Saturday, Sept. 6 with a preview for collectors on Friday, Sept. 5. JK: And most of these artists are from Detroit ... KS: ... Most are from Detroit. John Elkerr is the only Ann Arbor artist besides yourself - and of course you are moving back to Paris. But we're dedicating our lounge to you, so Galerie Jacques will be moving to Detroit. JK: That makes me feel good, too. Because l've talked to some of the artists over there about Zeitgeist - (Gerard) Sendrey and (Claudine) Goux - and they feel good about it. KS: It will be great to have art from you and your friends. We've been spending a lot of time rebuilding the place which was in pretty bad shape - the roof leaked and the back wall leaked - so we've redone it. We're re-doing the floors and we've had all the eléctrica! work done, which was a major undertaking. Troy put in all new lighting, so the theatre is very modem. The Michigan Gallery has been the real epicenter for years and years and we've kept that old worfd feel, so we're very excited. JK: Let'stalkaboutyourwork, where you're from, and who you are. KS: I live in Detroit on Heidelberg Street, across from Grandpa's [Sam Mackey's] house, l'm married and my wife lives with me there, and now we have a child. The house is wonderful because we've created art there and the house is a work of art. l've been living there almost seven years now. I grew up near Lansing, went to art school and leamed that it's not what art is about. Then I started meeting artists in the city, in Detroit, and started finding out what real art is from people who had been doing art for years and years, some with schooling, some with no schooling. It didn't seem to matter. The real artists were very important to my outlook on art. Then I met you, which changed my whole sense of reality about art. The strength of these artists seemed to have little to do with talent, but more to do with the personality of the artist. Wonderful art. So I just kept on doing my art and drawing. JK: I think drawing is the basic aspect of your art. KS: Yeah. I met Grandpa Sam Mackey late in his life and his work had a big effect on me. It appears as unsophisticated, yet if you look closely, there's something of a self which went beyond art. Something emotional, beyond computers, beyond machines, almost beyond life itself. The work is amazing, just amazing. So slowly I was pulled into his world, but I would always return to my art and my own inner searching. And that'showmy work evolved. My dad is an expert decoy carver and he wanted to do some wood cuts of my drawings. My line work is ready made for wood cuts. So I sent him a few designs and he made three wood cuts. I didn't know how much work was involved and I decided to do a few. It is a pretty difficult process, so I chose to simplify my drawings for them. In the process, my line work progressed, which I consider to be the foundation of my work - an exploration of the line bridging the gap from the sub-conscious to the conscious. I feel like now, finally, after 20 years of doing this, l'm getting to some real stuff. Eventually I might go back to color but for now it distracts me. And living near the Heidelberg Project there's plenty of color around, so I don't feel I have to. So l'm working in line and finding it very gratify ing. I may do that for the rest of my life. I don't know. l've found a mutual, parallel visión with other people who were drawing in their books when they weren't doing paintings: Maurice Greenia and Jim Puntigam and a few other artists, John Elkerr, all working in books and doing great stuff, every bit as good as their paintings. There's no need for me to go and buy a bunch of canvas. I get a pen and paper and go to it! No one's going to teach you howtobeyou.That'sahard lessonto leam. The schools teach you these techniques ... JK: ... More about other artists and not about yourself. KS: ... Right. The inner searching you can't teach. That's the bottom line.
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