- Acrylic on canvas , 2018
60 x 60 in
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Soccer, skateboarding . . . art:
When I was growing up I wanted to be a professional soccer player or skateboarder. The lens that a skateboarder looks at the world and environment through is vastly different than most people’s. From about 8th grade on, I knew I wanted to be a professional artist and go to art school, even though I was a bit naïve about what exactly that would look like in reality or how that would be possible.
Classical training, abstract tendencies:
I had a very classical type of training at the Columbus College of Art and Design. I understood that representational art and the skills needed to do it was extremely important. However, once I got a strong grasp on drawing from life I quickly realized I wanted my art to be more enigmatic than what could be depicted in front of me. And I always thought questions may be more valuable than answers.
Connect the dots:
I felt an overwhelming pressure from society that your art was only verified (in the mainstream) if you could draw things from life or have humans and easily recognizable things in your art. For me, this type of work was a strong reaction against those pressures and it made it so the viewer really had to use their imagination and spend time with the work to connect the dots.
Art historical inspirations:
I enjoy most of the artists from the Bauhaus movement, such as Josef and Anni Albers, Paul Klee, Mondrian, Kandinsky. I think for the time, their use of color and philosophy was innovative and they were reacting strongly against purely representational art, too. I enjoy the Russian Constructivist paintings, too, for the same raw geometric nature that responded against the pressure of representational art.
All in the family:
I also come from a family of artists. Four of us have BFA degrees and three have MFA degrees. [Huffman also earned an MFA in painting from the University of Kansas, and is currently an artist-in-residence at Denver’s Redline program.] So a ton of my inspiration came from my siblings and even just making up games and things on the spot—not just art making.
From undergraduate school, Neil Riley, Gordon Lee, and Chris Daniggelis, all truly were solid and pivotal mentors for me in the maturing of my work and I respected their art practices. Gordon Lee introduced me to Shusaku Arakawa and the book, The Mechanism of Meaning, and I always loved his work a lot and the playful nature of it.
One of my best friends and mentors is Craig Dransfield, who had a profound effect on my art. I also appreciate contemporary artists such as Barry McGee and the Beautiful Losers crew—Margaret Kilgallen, Ed Templeton, and Chris Johanson. There are too many good artists to list, but most of my inspirations do not usually if ever come from looking at art.
Usually I love to look at art, but I don’t directly pull things out of others’ work to utilize in my own—though I’m not saying they do not influence me subconsciously and creep into my work. Josef Albers’ philosophy about setting parameters for your art and extracting the maximum always stuck with me, and my love for working on a square format—I took that from Albers as well.
Craig Dransfield literally provided a space for me to be creative and have an exhibition at his gallery, which back then was the Chop Chop Gallery in Columbus, Ohio. He and I lived together and actually met one another skateboarding, like so many of my other solid friends. He used to run with some of that Beautiful Losers crew, too, and was in and out of New York City a lot before those artists were being recognized. His lifestyle, of being a creative in all facets of his existence, has always had a lasting impression on me and we are still super close.
Qs over As = Art:
I believe that the meaning in my work is never fixed or concrete; so it has the power to constantly evolve and change with time and new perspectives. I want people to participate in the enigma of it. Again, I value questions more than answers.
Learning from his past:
What I get out of my work changes with time and perspective, maybe even changes quite literally with lighting and the way the colors are allowed to perform in different spaces and how they’re lit. When I worked on the body of work for the exhibition Modulated: Color and Structure, I did use previous paintings to inform newer works’ palettes and sometimes the exact forms. So I use previous works to study and probe for where these ideas could go for the next pieces and inform how colors may perform and how I want them to perform in new work.
Painting as jazz:
My painting process parallels a jazz musician searching for the right notes. Only I use paint, color, and shape as my instruments.
The whole rainbow:
I love all color, really. But usually, my favorite color combinations are ones I have never seen before, that surprise me.
Aluminum lawn chairs and his sister’s beaded necklace:
For my latest body of work [Modulation], I utilized a lattice grid structure and a type of star-net pattern in all of the works. These paintings and patterns are imbued with references to an intricate and sentimental beaded necklace I gifted my older sister Rachael long ago, before she moved to Berlin. The construction of this necklace spawned the idea of creating paintings based on a gridded structure that appeared to be woven together (similar to most generic aluminum lawn chairs), back in 2014.
Abstract for you:
It keeps my mind on its toes and is more enigmatic for me.
Abstract for others:
Perhaps they feel it challenges them in ways representational art does not.
And hard-edge painting:
Crispy, crispy, crispy edges. Super-clean edges and just a clean paint application, so the focus is on the color and form, not on the emotion of the brush mark.
In the acrylic grid:
Painting with acrylic is a time-sensitive endeavor that involves juggling the viscosity and color chemistry of the paint. The process of harnessing and controlling the acrylic paint for the purpose of subjecting it to such strict and specific hardline configurations is fascinating.
The grid structure started with the simple idea of investigating what paint would be like when woven together.
I also enjoy how we all can relate to a grid. Sometimes I look at them and they’re like a lawn chair. Other times it reminds me of a bird’s-eye view of city blocks.
Not in Kansas anymore—not:
I live in Denver, Colorado. I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. I do think the vast green landscape of northeastern Kansas and the amazing skies there affected me. I have also lived in several mountainous places: Yosemite, California, Whitefish, Montana, and now Denver for the last six years. The colors in the mountains and sky have always had a huge effect on me, too. Growing up in Kansas also made me appreciate the underdogs. It made me confident in investigating my own ideas and not following social norms of painting or movements in bigger cities. I also think that growing up in Kansas is a humbling experience, so that’s important to my work, too.
What matters most:
What matters most to me is caring about what I put into something, pushing myself, working extremely hard, enjoying the process and the end result, and staying humble.