This is a preview of our feature on Grant in upcoming issue 19, out March 28th. Available for preorder here.
I met artist Grant Levy-Lucero in 2016 when he was knitting for fashion, film, and art performances. I remember being instantly struck by Grant—this tall ass hardcore-looking dude who’s knitting pink Bernie Sanders sweaters. What’s he about? Turns out every summer Grant would be dropped off at his Grandma’s house where she had a knitting group with her friends. He learned how to crochet and knit when he was young. Duh.
Since then, Grant has transitioned to creating ceramics, specifically combining form and painting to create beautiful and humorous sculptures emblazoned with pop culture references (think Greco-Roman forms painted with Nutella or Animal Crackers logos). Grant’s art is instantly recognizable, “I’ve been doing this particular work for three years, and these sculptures represent classical antiquity mixed with hand-painted signs and advertising.”
I sat down with Grant in his Arlington Heights studio and we chatted while he smoked a spliff and gave me the low down on his get down.
I first met you when you were knitting, how did you transition to ceramics?
For ten years I knitted and had a studio downtown. Right next door to my studio was Laura Owens’ studio, who is another artist here in LA. She had a clay studio she wasn’t utilizing that much and every week she would invite different people to come and they could work on whatever they wanted. I started going as a reprieve from the knitting. At that point, I had some clients I wasn’t super inspired to work with. So I needed a break and it was so close. That was the first time I started working with ceramics. I met a great group of people and most of the original “clay day” people are still in touch and we’ve all gone on to do some really interesting things. It was a springboard for different talents.
Your last show was in New York at White Columns and was called Pedigree, which featured vessels painted with different types of dog food brands and portraits of different dogs in your life. You examined and played with subversive undertones like the “dog eat dog” mentality of art and word-play, like what “pedigree” really means. What was the inspiration behind the show?
It was overwhelming to approach New York because it is such a different landscape. Here in LA it seems like we have artists that really support each other and a community that builds together. My preconceived notion of New York is it is a town built on criticism. I was already feeling really overwhelmed and started thinking about words. I thought that the word “pedigree” was funny and the fact that it’s a dog food that’s super cheap and something I would never feed my dog. It’s a funny mix of words. Once I arrived at that starting point it was a way to do portraiture of other dogs that are in our community too. Each one relates to someone’s dog that I know or have interacted with. I did the show at White Columns which is one of the oldest non-profit art spaces in New York. It’s a very legendary place and there was a lot of pressure.
How do you deal with pressure?
I try to not allow it to weigh on me. The art isn’t really about me at all; it’s about other people. I happen to be this person who has a brain and a hand that works just channeling through me. I try to get to a point in my working day where I am really executing. It goes back to knitting too—having to sit there and make a whole sweater. You’re not thinking about the thing, instinctively you know what to do and you are just executing it.
Do you have any rituals you do before you start working?
Coffee and a spliff.
Why do you create? What is your why?
It’s really just an opportunity for people to engage with art, there’s a responsibility there. I’m not educated and didn’t go down that route. For so long I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t go to UCLA or USC or something. But I arrived at all these things on my own. I am trying to be a portal for people to come in and see what’s happening. There are so many good things happening here in LA, so I feel like with this mix of form, paint, and signs, people can already recognize it. The form is instantly recognizable as the birth of cultural representation. If you go to any art history book and you open the page, the first picture is a Greco Roman form with a painting on it. Anyone who’s thought about art can arrive.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Life is long and my personal goal is to just make art for the rest of my life. It’s good to remind yourself you’re on the roller coaster and not the rocket ship. Especially if you’re going to go all the way, you have to keep working and trudging along. Never stop believing. If you keep pursuing with sincerity eventually you put yourself in the conversation. It might not be immediately. No one can deny what you’ve made with your time here. They might not like it and that’s totally fine—not everything is for everybody. But if you keep doing it with conviction no one can take that away from you. Ever.
For more from Grant, follow @grantlevylucero on Instagram.
Photography courtesy of Night Gallery.