Monday, November 30, 2015

Video interview with Michael Kareken

Interview with Michael Kareken from Painting Perceptions – Larry Groff on Vimeo.

Painting Perceptions is pleased to present its first video production; an interview I made with Michael Kareken at both his studio and his show “Scrap” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is currently on view until January 24, 2010.

Click image for larger view
Michael Kareken Scrap Bottles, 2009, Oil on canvas, 108 x 168 inches


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14 Responses to “Video interview with Michael Kareken”
  1. Valentino says:


    thank you for this interview. It was really interesting. Learning about the creative process of good artists can help reconsider one’s own methods. I like Michael’s work. It is a nice example of how the objects and scenes which do not have particular appeal nor beauty can be transformed into exciting paintings.

  2. Neil Plotkin says:

    Thank you for another extremely interesting interview. In particular, I found it very compelling that Michael Kareken looks to so many abstract expressionists for compositional ideas – this of course makes so much sense. Then the discussion about Dickenson made me realize that Dickenson’s early big works also have that all over composition (you obviously thought the same thing as you presented those paintings in the video). Dickenson’s paintings really seem so relevant to Kareken’s work and also bring up the question of whether Dickenson taught or was an influence to any of the major abstract expressionists. Thank you again such an great interview.

  3. Larry:

    This was a GREAT production! You really brought together a lot of information in an interesting and informative way. So much ground was covered. I love the way you let the artist and the paintings speak for themselves. You literally made the interviewer disappear which is, ultimately, what one wants with this kind of reporting.

    The artist was so pleasantly honest and articulate – no B.S.. You really addressed the issue of how photography and any other tools that a painter wishes to use (e.g. tracing) are all fair game when informed by experience with painting and observing nature.

    I really love those tornado drawings and he has a very interesting take on the industrial landscape.

    You’ve got a bit of Ken Burns in you.

    Thanks for a first class post.


  4. Carol says:

    Great interview and a great artist! I love hearing about other artists’ process, and I love his straightforward explanations about his work.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for your comments Valentino, Neil, David and Carol. I really enjoyed putting this video together and has inspired me to start thinking about future projects of a similar nature.

      David, Too bad more artists don’t embrace the no B.S. attitude! Sadly, for some, there would be nothing left if they did!

      Neil, I just read an interview with Alfred Leslie (with Alexi Worth) who mentioned that Edwin Dickinson at least once (probably more) went to the Cedar Tavern with the many of big name, first generation Ab. Expressionists. I’ve also read where he was friends with some ab-ex painters and many often respected his work a great deal and he showed with them at times. Many of his premiere coup paintings border on what would later be called abstract expressionism.

  5. erik says:

    another fantastic interview larry. i agree with the comments above.

    Karakan’s discussion of Scrap Bottles immediately made me think of Vincent Desiderio’s Cockaigne and Sleep paintings, both of which draw upon ab. ex. compositional devices or “all-overness”. Desiderio discusses this at length in his book which includes images of a number of studies for both of these large works. some of his studies are, in fact, small abstract paintings that recall de koonning and pollock. karakan and desiderio seem to have used similar working methods as well. both have created truly remarkable paintings.

  6. erik says:

    marlborough gallery has a few of the studies i mentioned above on their site here –

  7. Larry, thank you for giving me a GREAT excuse to break away from the in-laws during this holiday break. I feel rejuvenated and inspired by your thoughtful video interview and Karakan’s work and words.

  8. Tom Wharton says:

    Larry, this was a wonderful interview. It is rare to get a chance to hear the inside working process of an artist like this. His being completely open to sharing his methods and your questions made this one of the most interesting and instructive videos I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll want to watch this again a few more times to take more in.

    It’s interesting how so many of the artists I admire love Dickensen.

    Thank you.

  9. Neil Plotkin says:

    To Erik’s point, both Karaken and Desiderio both came to painting from an abstract start and ended up up in a more figurative realm (this is based upon Desiderio saying as much and I am inferring it from Karaken’s remark that they were his early heros). I also thought of Desiderio’s painting of the table and books in relation to Kareken’s bottle paintings. But the difference, to me, relates to what David Marshall comments on – the honest and straight forward approach of Karaken. The Desiderio painting is all about what HE knows about painting and its history whereas the Karaken paintings are about what WE don’t know and could know if we reflect upon what our world is. It’s much less about the being a part of the cognoscenti than it is just painting the world that we live in and yet his work references all the same painting heros.

    Larry, thanks for the Alfred Leslie link – you seemed to have cherry picked the entire internet for great links. It is really so surprising how Dickenson was really in the thick of all things in the 20th century but is so little known. It seems that has changed a lot since I went to art school (20 years ago) but he’s still not exactly a household name.

  10. Michael says:


    Thank you for putting this together. I was unaware of Michael Kareken, a spectacular artist elevating the mundane to heights of beauty. Now that you are thinking about future interviews and films, I would like to ask you to consider offering a smaller or more compressed version for low bandwidth viewers. Or, you might include the option to download an .flv file to view directly on a computer. In my case it is a combination of older slower computer, Mac OS and marginal bandwidth. …Just a thought.

    Thanks again,


  11. Elizabeth Russell says:

    Thank you for introducing us to this fantastic artist. It is enriching to hear about the process of Kareken’s work and to see the development of his work. Thanks, liz

  12. Larry says:

    Thanks for commenting Liz, He is indeed a fantastic artist and hope to follow his work more in the future.

  13. ZIP says:

    This is an incredibly impressive undertaking. At the same time, it’d be an example of why I don’t let students paint from photographs. Instead of light, you get washed out whites. The space collapses and edges of objects get artificially tightened.

    This would make a great Gursky photograph.

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