Manny Prieres takes your treasured bookshelf possessions, turns them inside out and inverts them through his own dark, sinister lens. Wonderland talks to the artist.
You are an artist and graphic designer but also somewhat of an anthropologist. How does your research and observations on culture and society inform your art?
It is a huge part of my practice. I love to connect the dots. I am fascinated how culture and ideas organically evolve. That is a big part of the way my work is informed.
Why did you choose the title “Lock Them Out And Bar The Door. Lock Them Out Forevermore” for your latest solo exhibition?
It comes from a film called Häxan, a silent film from 1922 by a filmmaker called Benjamin Christensen. The film depicted the potent superstitions and mythologies surrounding Satanism and the hysteria of the medieval
Christian. The film was banned from the United States and other countries. In 1967 it was re-released with William S. Burroughs narrating. He opens the film with saying, “Lock them out and bar the door. Lock them out forevermore”. When I first heard that in Burroughs’ distinctive voice I knew that I would have to one day create a visual body of work that would answer Burroughs. It was perfect.
You examine censored and banned books. What first attracted you to this?
My work deals with identity within groups and how those identities are often created as a reaction to an opposing group or idea. Books throughout history have been the catalyst. And for this reason censored.
What’s your personal view on censorship?
Nothing should be censored. Ever.
What are some of the first books you chose to work with and why?
The first was Howl and then Naked Lunch. Howl and Naked Lunch came out of the last series I was working on. I was dealing with different subcultures and they affected music, art and literature. Ginsberg and Burroughs were a big part of these subcultures.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus.
Your work is predominantly black. Why did you not incorporate any color?
The color black has different connotations depending on what culture you come from. In western civilization it tends to have a negative association. Black also conjures up feelings of the unknown. Another reason why I use
black in this body of work is that the color black is a straightforward color. The tone on tone with the different shines of blacks give it another layer. I love the way the surface reacts. I have to say a huge influence
for me is Ad Reinhardt.
Will you continue to explore literature and censorship? What are you currently working on?
Not sure but my work has always had text. Maybe not censorship per se, but language and text always creeps up in my work somehow.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or any news you could share with Wonderland readers?
Yes, I‘m in the upcoming group show at Spinello Projects called “Closer” curated by Anthony Spinello. This show will open for Art Basel Miami Beach in December.
Words: Heike Dempster