"Wanna see some shapes?" It's the first thing Randy Guthmiller ever said to me. We were at The Power Station for a gallery opening, I had walked out to the terrace, looking for a friendly face who might be my next target for cigarette bumming.
He was wearing a snug gray sweater that, combined with his wizened beard, implied to me that he would understand my plight, perhaps even meet it graciously.
I walked up to him, putting my hand on his shoulder, the request for a cigarette on my tongue. He spun around, smiled, and quickly asked, "Wanna see some shapes?"
Guthmiller is the creator and publisher of Shapes, a local zine currently on its seventh issue. He fills each page of his mini-magazine with a single shape. Some filled with color, some without, all roughly the same size. Want a copy? You'll have to track him down.
He recently had a solo show at Ware:Wolf:Haus, Things and Places, he's the print-maker-in-residence at TCC South Campus in Fort Worth, the producer of a YouTube series titled, "Randyrandyrandy1000" and during the day you can catch him managing the storefront at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Somewhere between all that, we caught up with him about his exhibition, Shapes and his own personal hashtag for 2014, #yearofrandy.
How are you spending your spring break?
I've been working mostly. I have a show opening in September at TCC South Campus, so now it's time to start thinking about that. Today I was able to get to the Kimbell and see that Samurai exhibit. Cool stuff but too many children as per usual with spring time in museums. Also, I have been enjoying the longer days with my new little dog, Snuffy.
Let's chat about the #yearofrandy hashtag. It's a pretty bold declaration.
Using the hashtag for the first time was very empowering. It allows me to focus on the positive things in my life. I really feel like it could be the next #blessed. It's definitely something I encourage everyone to use always. But I'll be saving it for those most special of occasions.
What is the first 'shape' you remember being excited about? The summer after my sophomore year in high school I started spending my summers volunteering at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, they had just installed three Ellsworth Kelly shaped canvas paintings. I was smitten.
When did shapes begin to be the primary filter through which you saw the world?
I was in New York and over some beers I had a chat with my painting mentor, Matt Phillips, he told me to keep things simple. That next weekend, I was back in Texas sitting in my studio and asked myself, "What am I doing?" I sat in silence looking at the work I had been making for quite some time and finally it hit me. Shapes. I am making shapes. That's it.
The first time I met you, at The Power Station, you invited me to your car to see a shape. You ended up giggling and handing me a copy of your zine. Half of this exchange is performative. Why? When I first moved to Dallas I was very nervous about introducing myself to people. Shapes was really created to do two things: a) share my love of shapes and b) as an icebreaker for interesting conversations.
Tell me how you selected Matthew Koons, Alex Revier and Allison Ginsberg to exhibit alongside you at Ware:Wolf:Haus. Really what happened was Arthur Peña said to me "I like what you're doing. You must know some people who are doing cool stuff too. Bring your friends." That's how I framed Things and Places. I reached out to three of my friends who are making cool things and haven't shown in Dallas much, if at all. The relationships in the work really became evident when we put the show all together. Each artist tackles seeing and looking similarly. We all seem to cherish those moments when we slow down and observe without judgment.
This is your first big show. What statements were you making?
I'm saying, Hey, it's Randy. I'm over here making shapes. You should check them out. Also, while you're at it, look at everything. This stuff exists outside of art too.
Which famous cultural shapes sticks with you?
Most of the shapes that really get me are in architecture.
Are you familiar with contemporary artist Allan McCollum's "The Shape Project"? It was a mathematical system used to produce unique two-dimensional "shapes." The system made enough unique shapes for every person to have their own.
I don't know anything about this project but it sounds very exciting. I would like my shape mailed to me. I think people wouldn't know what to do with their shape. It's not something you can judge. It's just something that is. That's what makes shapes so awesome.
I remember seeing a cutesy article a while back on Buzzfeed, that related the major philosophies down to their shape counterparts. Plenty of companies tap into these relations for branding. I feel like your show both counteracts that and plays with it simultaneously.
Shapes are very powerful. Some shapes are definitely more pleasing to the eye -- curvy shapes are good but people really love triangles. When I'm selecting the shapes for a zine or particular project, I look for shapes that do something beyond just being pleasant. I enjoy a shape that is irregular and lumpy. I like the feeling that at any moment that shape could suddenly wiggle. A shape in flux. There is also a strange specificity that I use. Those lumps make it more than just a generic shape it makes it that shape.
What known paintings possess shapes, literal and abstract, that translate to your particular perspective?
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Cave paintings. They were just trying to make sense of this confusing world.
You are relaying some pretty heavy themes in a simple and almost comforting manner.
I just want people to slow down. It's about shifting our pace. Slowing down and looking. The world is crazy beautiful even though it's also this super fucked-up place. We're all just killing time until we die, so let's make our small corner of time/space as beautiful as possible.
How would you describe your own personal shape? A little lumpy and definitely awkward.