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An Interview with Lisa Kereszi


An Interview with Lisa Kereszi

by Jonah Samson
on 21 March 2007

Dubbed "visual poetry" by Stephen Shore, New York-based photographer Lisa Kereszi is known for her prints of ordinary places in lush, deeply saturated colors. In her current show, Kereszi's subjects are spaces—strip joints, fortune telling parlors, theaters—that aspire to transcend the everyday. Earlier this week, CH contributor Jonah Samson chatted with the artist about her interests, style and background. For the full interview, go here. For an excerpt, read on. And for more images go here.

You have a new show called "Cheap Thrills" opening today at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York. Can you tell me about it?

The show was edited down between me and Yancey from a lot of work. I didn’t set out to make a show called “Cheap Thrills.” My interest is in fantastical and recreational spaces. I didn’t pre-plan set out to have to show that I’m having.

One of the things I love about your work is that you capture a moment that would probably otherwise go unnoticed. You hone in on elements that are very beautiful and fantastic.

I think I’m trying to look at these banal things and to elevate them. I don’t think I’m passing judgement. I think it’s this mixture of love and hate. I walk in and think, “Oh, this is fantastic!” Actually, I think of that word a lot – “Fantastic.” Especially after reading a lot of Diane Arbus quotes. Apparently, she used that word a lot when she approached someone --- “You look fantastic!” or “That is fantastic!” … I also think that I’m one of these people who looks at the ground a lot. I’m always looking down or looking in corners. To give you an example, is one of the projects I’ve been working on on-and-off is about Florida. I was driving around, and I often find myself pulled to a place --- “I’m just going to make a right turn here and see what happens.” So I get to this sea-side park and there’s an X on the ground, which is probably just a marking for some construction thing, but I thought of it like X-marks-the-spot for treasure of something – especially being on the Florida “TREASURE coast.” So I’m taking several frames of this X, and this woman starts yelling at me, “The dolphins are over there.”

What work are you seeing now that is blowing you away?

William Eggleston and Walker Evans and Robert Frank. I look at it and I still get chills. I just discovered Roger Ballen, who is completely weird and wonderful. The pictures baffle me, and are so exciting, like from some other world. It's funny, I feel like I am a little conservative with my pictures. But I look at Ballen's pics, and also at Phillip Pisciotta's pics, and I get totally freaked out. I couldn't make those pictures. I am not saying they are better or worse than mine, just the products of such a different brain. I may have been anti-rebellious, because of my upbringing. I may have an instinct and react subconsciously when making work, but I am not really off-kilter or crazy, I am not making pictures that look “drunk.” They are thoughtful, but not in a conscious way, maybe. Also I just saw Mark Steinmetz's new book, which made me question how important it is what I do. His pictures are real and sincere. I want to be sure that I am too. Also, John Pilson's new book, Interregna is beautiful and telling and meaningful. I just re-watched some David Lynch, who I love. Also, I am dying for the Sopranos to get back on—I love that NJ landscape, often similar to the suburban Philadelphia where I grew up. Everything I take in influences every picture I make.

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