Grad’s newest work is currently on view at MOAH Lancaster as part of “Beyond the Surface,” a cycle of solo photography exhibitions, and this especially curious and also perfect, because it both amplifies and explores his particular relationship to the medium. His finished works present as sculptural, whether for wall or freestanding, because they are constructed of eccentrically shaped Plexiglas and leaves of layered imagery. But importantly, they are all made entirely of his own original captures and self-portraits, which are augmented with text and rearranged into gestural, kaleidoscopic compositions with the heft of solid objects and the narrative complexity of memories.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ROB GRAD: When I wrote my first song. I was a malcontented 16-year-old and had been playing in a band for a couple years, but hadn’t written anything. The day I came up with a song idea myself, I fell in love with it and crossed a line. I remember where I was sitting.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I work with existential issues, like, why bother? Really. My recent work explores nature and my connection to it, inspired by a poem I wrote called “Delicate Badass.” I like making disparate or seemingly unrelated things into cohesive wholes. Making sense of chaos.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I actually tried to quit a bunch of times years ago. But I always felt like I was dying inside, so I came back to it. I never thought I’d be a visual artist. My creativity mutated itself. It has its own agenda. I follow along.
When was your first show?
2010. Nancy Larrew gave me a solo show at Blue 5 in West L.A. I had two completed pieces to my name at the time and she took a chance on me. I’ll be forever grateful. I was totally in over my head, but it worked out.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I have a show up at MOAH Lancaster right now called “Finding Foreverland.” It’s got my largest piece to date, in the Atrium when you walk in.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Robert Rauschenberg. I was standing in front of a painting of his at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid when I decided to try painting. I also visited his house in Florida and got to meet his staff after he passed away.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I made most of my new work to the new album by The National. Something about it got me going. Mostly I listen to instrumental music though. After being a songwriter for so many years, music with lyrics tends to distract me. Hammock is a staple in my studio.
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