Brynjegard-Bialik (aka Nice Jewish Artist) takes a unique approach to collage, pressing classic comics into double-duty as reconsidered Pop culture memories, and even older stories from a spiritual tradition. By first slicing and cutting before reassembling passages from familiar super hero stories, he creates entirely new scenarios which parallel and explore both modern situations and ancient texts on how to live. The results have a ritual, stained glass quality that invokes the historical morality plays in their complex patterns, vitrine formats, and regal aesthetic; while containing evocative gems of dialogue and image that sparkle with all manner of potential new meaning.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
ISAAC BRYNJEGARD-BIALIK: My work is about stories — making sense of stories that have been told to us, telling our own stories, and figuring out how they all fit together.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I didn’t go to art school; I was an English major who discovered graphic design and then found my way to life as an artist. The early designers who inspired me when I was sitting in front of a computer screen with a mouse — like April Greiman and David Carson — are still a source of inspiration to me while I stand at my table with a knife.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I grew up in L.A. just off Melrose, buying clothes at Aardvark’s, records at Aaron’s, and comics at the original Golden Apple. I frequented LACMA and the Temporary Contemporary, I met my wife at a Jewish camp in Malibu, and we both went to UCLA. I’ve always admired artists working in L.A. — Ed Ruscha and David Hockney are two of my favorites — and I love working in the city that has the Eames House and the Watts Towers. I crave culture and experiences to chew through and enjoy, and L.A. has always provided them.
When was your first show?
I first showed my work at an arts fair in Jerusalem when my wife and I were living there in the mid-90s, but it took me another 20 years cutting paper to find my voice.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I’ve got an exhibition going on right now in Cleveland, at The Temple Museum of Jewish Art, Religion and Culture, called “Men of Steel and Women of Valor.” At its heart is a series of oversized portraits of biblical figures, all made of cut-up comic books — and since Cleveland is the birthplace of Superman, most of them are Superman comics.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Kara Walker. Her work in cut paper has driven conversations about race, gender and justice, and I am in awe of her. Exhibiting side-by-side with her, having our different stories about diaspora and freedom coexisting and interacting on the walls, would just thrill me.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I always have music on when I work – I think it occupies the part of my brain that tends to overthink, so I can operate more on instinct. I either have something loud and distracting, like the Offspring, or something inspirational, like the soundtrack to “Sunday in the Park with George.” Sometimes I just put everything on shuffle and see what happens.
Website and social media handles, please!