Meet

John Platt

Where are you from and where do you reside?
Born in New York City, reside in Brooklyn.
When did you begin your current practice?
In 2009 I found the perfect space to work and it’s where I live to this day. Having the right space to make your work is everything, so I trace the origins of my work to that point.
What’s your favorite part of living in Brooklyn?
I like the roughness of where I live, although that is vanishing fast with more and more condos going up. There is a multicultural fabric to New York that is really present in my neighborhood, which has a lot of immigrant families. I have always just felt at home there, it’s where I belong.
What necessities do you require when painting?
I love to work with something else on in the room - music or movies. And I love source materials, which I carefully research for each piece, usually culled from books on art, film, fashion, architecture, and photography.
You have particularly unique inspirations for your work - where did your most recent series originate?
From traveling. I think the best thing an artist can do is get out and see the places in the world that move them. I remember reading that Julian Schnabel got the idea for broken plates while in Spain. I had something similar with my new color field series in Africa: I simply saw the paintings in my mind while in Kenya and immediately started making them upon my return to the studio. I do not think they are directly linked to Africa visually, but I think life experience will give you artistic development.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work?
I think it’s impossible not to be influenced by New York. I notice that I keep mentioning Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman in discussing my paintings and they are two of the definitive members of the New York School. There is an energy in the city that you put into your work.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
I begin with coffee and then get going. I love the early morning sun streaming through the windows, knowing that I have to whole day to get lost in the adventure of painting.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
For years I struggled with different styles, sometimes with success and other times with failure. Dealing with failure is really hard, but it’s ultimately the best thing that can happen because you learn from your mistakes. For me, the hardest part leads directly to the best part, which is the ongoing discovery of your identity as an artist.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
The styles has been streamlined over the past few years. The work used to be more intricate and sometimes more overdone. I love the simplicity of my current work, watching all these colors sing together.
Slant
Dealing with failure is really hard, but it’s ultimately the best thing that can happen because you learn from your mistakes. — John Platt
How does your choice of color inform the final piece?
I think if you have mastered color, you have mastered art. It’s difficult because it’s so infinite, but that’s also why it’s so exciting. This excitement is the basis of my current work. My favorite artist is Mark Rothko because he gave emotional content to pure color, which is what I am seeking to do. The choice of colors gives paintings their context, and can influence emotion, experience, and memory in the viewer.
How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?
Accidents are crucial. Barnett Newman’s first “Zip” painting, for which he would later become famous, was actually a color study he did in 1948 to compare two shades of red. That one accident led to one of the most important bodies of work in America art. I start with a general outline of what I want to do, but I always leave the opportunity for chance.
Are you formally trained?
I attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where the students design their own curriculum. Because of that you have to be very motivated to do your own work without a rigid structure. In a way, I consider myself to be self-trained, but I did do my undergraduate classes there and it was great.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own?
My prized possession is my art book collection. I have a pretty vast library that I have been compiling since middle school. It’s a perfect source of inspiration.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
I think the best artist of my generation is Adrian Ghenie. His work is astounding to me: the color, imagery, psychology and the way he creates a sense of atmosphere.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
Perfectly–Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” in the Museum of Modern Art. I remember that moment when I was little and looked up at it, knowing that this is what I wanted to do. That painting still surprises me to this day.
What’s your favorite part of “Girl Before a Mirror”?
It’s all about color in that painting. Picasso is so daring with his tones, but by 1932 he was a total master of his medium. Looking at the Marie-Thérèse paintings from the early 30s next to his earlier, starker, cubist pieces you can see the development of color use, which my latest series is all about. I feel like I have come full circle back to that painting and to what I originally fell in love with about being an artist.
Have you always worked as a painter?
Since the 8th grade. Before that I wanted to be a Marine Biologist.
Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
I always love to bring other mediums into my work. One of my favorite things to do is have a Stanley Kubrick film on while painting. There is a painting in this series called “Jupiter” which is a direct reference to his color schemes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That is one of the most beautiful movies ever shot, in my opinion.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Spontaneity is crucial in art, you need the work to have a spark that comes with that quick excitement of creativity.
Slant
I always love to bring other mediums into my work. One of my favorite things to do is have a Stanley Kubrick film on while painting. — John Platt
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
My passion for Africa is something people didn’t really see coming. I go every year and one day I want to live in Nairobi.
Is there any artwork on display in your home and studio?
I have a wall of framed paintings from kids I have worked with teaching here and in Africa. They always inspire me.

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