Cody Trepte.

My studio is small so each surface has a few purposes and there’s lots of storage wherever I can make room. I’ve been working on a series of silkscreens lately which is a mess and always requires a lot of moving stuff around. One desk is usually reserved for storage and computer things, while the other is used for drawing, printing, cutting, etc.

I’ve been trying to incorporate more plants in my life but have never been great with them. It’s been going well at home, but for some reason it’s been difficult at the studio. A few friends recommended these, noting that they were “indestructible,” but the poor little things keep dying. These are the survivors!”

Cody Trepte (born 1983) is a Los Angeles based artist who works primarily in drawing, printmaking and photography. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including: Eleven Rivington, New York; Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Florence; Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles; Austin Museum of Art; Weatherspoon Art Museum; and Kunstverein INGAN e.V., Berlin. He has published writings in …might be good and The Highlights and he recently curated On The Line, a group exhibition for Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions that is up through April 24th. Trepte received a B.F.A. from New York University in 2005 and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 2010.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

CODY TREPTE: The day job keeps my studio days regular so I have a pretty disciplined studio schedule, but once in the studio, the time isn’t planned out at all. Some days involve frantic production while the majority of them are spent in my head sorting through ideas.FYD: How did your On The Line show come about?

CT: On The Line started when a teacher at CalArts recommended that I look into Sarah Seager’s work. As I was doing research on her work, the constellation of artists for the show started to form around the idea of language-based practices from Los Angeles in the 80s.

FYD: Does a curatorial gig force you to look at things with a sharper eye as you can’t include everything?

CT: This is the first exhibition that I’ve curated. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the artists and their work, and I’m still excited when I think about all of the work together in a single space. I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that I was an artist organizing the show and included the artists in almost all of the decisions, including which work to show and how to interpret the role of language in their individual practices. Another interesting component for me was that the majority of the artists included new work, even though they were selected from a historical perspective.

FYD: What is Conceptualism?

CT: Conceptualism is a movement in art that prioritizes the idea over the form. This curatorial project was an opportunity for me to explore Conceptual Art’s limits, both historically and in the present, to try to understand how (and if) it can be advanced. I’m preoccupied with this question in my own practice as well.

FYD: If given the chance, what would you teach in art school?  

CT: I feel lucky to have stumbled upon two programs in both undergrad and grad school that proved to be solid fits for me. That being said, I’ve found myself interested more and more in the intersection of philosophy, science and art. If given the chance, I’d like to teach a class on that. Not a class on theory, but actually how to engage and question ideas of philosophy and science in a visual art practice.

FYD: Was there ever a subject that didn’t do much for you in the interest area?

CT: I studied photography as an undergraduate and always found the classes on technique like lighting and printing to be a bit boring. It’s not that I don’t value the skills, but am more interested in experimenting than being taught how to do something the right way. To this day, I cringe at the thought of the assignment to light a grey cube with a single light so that each face has a specific value on film. Is anyone able to do that?

The last few years I’ve been reading and re-reading everything written by Jorge Luis Borges.

FYD: I’m specifically thinking of your The World is Everything That Is The Case and Everything Has Already Begun. How does language fit into your world?

CT: I see language as a more direct path to meaning than a purely formal experience. While language can still be slippery, it can be understood more clearly than something like an abstraction. I use language to reference ideas that are often circular and point back to themselves. Everything Has Already Begun, for instance, was shown in an exhibition alongside a piece titled Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again. I was interested in the way that both phrases shared the same conclusion, but one pointed forward while the other pointed backwards.

The World is Everything That Is The Case was created by cutting out all of the letters from the seven main points made by Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This text talks about the relationship of language to reality and science. I wanted to create a piece that pushed language to its limit by literally jumbling the letters and photographing them in random configurations.

FYD: Are you a Scrabble fan?

CT: I’m actually not a Scrabble fan, but I do love the game pieces! I have a bag of them at the studio that I sometimes use when playing with word combinations. Bananagrams is another game with great letter tiles!

FYD: What is your font of choice?

CT: I’m obsessed with the Garamond typeface — it’s conservative and flamboyant at the same time. I think that the diagonal serif in the capital T is really beautiful!

FYD: Do you like to read?

CT: I read a lot. The last few years I’ve been reading and re-reading everything written by Jorge Luis Borges. The efficiency with which he can address such unimaginable things is continually inspiring and I’d love to figure out how to achieve this in an artwork. I also read some theory and philosophy, but the denseness of them makes the reading go much slower.

Conceptualism is a movement in art that prioritizes the idea over the form.


FYD: How do you spend time away from work?

CT: I don’t have a lot of down time between the day job and the studio, but I love reading and am totally hooked on Battlestar Galactica. I just started season 4 on DVD and it’s blowing my mind!

FYD: What is next? 

CT: I’m currently working on a new body of work that’s based on the structure of an ellipsis… mostly thinking of systems of meaning that rely on acts of omission. I’m also working on a multiple project that should be in production very soon.

FYD: Do words ever end?

CT: There must be an end somewhere but isn’t that limit also the end of our ability to communicate ideas and to have thoughts?

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