Oct. 13 2015 05:06 PM

The acclaimed abstractionist debuts new work on a billboard

Photo courtesy of the artist

"One of the dilemmas I've always been fascinated with is when art leaves the museum or gallery, then how does it function?" Joseph Huppert says. "How does it compete with advertisement and the real world?"

These questions came in handy when he was approached to do the Open Walls Project, a program commissioned by the Art San Diego contemporary art fair in which 10 artists will have their work plastered on a billboard. All 10 billboards will be unveiled Oct. 15 throughout the city. Huppert admits his work isn't formatted to be a billboard. So rather than just taking a picture of one of his previous works, he teamed up with photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann to take a picture of a barrel cactus. Huppert added a pair of parentheses and brackets similar to how they're used in algebra equations. The result draws viewers' attention to part of the cactus, and not the sum, thus poking fun at the declarative nature of billboards.

"It's a way of segmenting off this certain thing and saying, 'First, you need to do this, then you need to do this, and then you can deal with the rest of it,'" Huppert says. "The billboard itself is a parenthetical space that's meant to draw your attention."

The South Park-based artist has been one of the more acclaimed, yet under-the-radar artists in the local scene. He has shows at Quint and Ice Gallery under his belt. Inspired by the likes of Guy de Cointet and Robert Irwin (who is a close friend and mentor to Huppert), he's mostly known for works featuring abstract patterns that are geometrically dense and aesthetically startling. Working in a variety of mediums, he strives to be anything but formulaic.

"There are always big jumps and contradictions in the way that I work," Huppert says. "What I'm not interested in is a style or a brand. I'm only interested in art as a progressive activity."

In addition to the billboard, Huppert is also working on his first major solo show, which will debut at the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh art gallery in November. It will include drawings, a site-specific installation on the floor and a relief on the back wall. And whether it's the new work or the Open Walls billboard, Huppert says he is open to getting out of his comfort zone more often.

"It's about finding that line that's just off balance" he says. "I don't like balance. I don't like homeostasis. To work in the now and not worry about the balance. That's what I want to do."


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