Derrick Velasquez showed us his famous sculptures and let us ask him weird questions about his art

Derrick Velasquez showed us his famous sculptures and let us ask him weird questions about his art

CultureMarch 19, 2014

Derrick Velasquez is a structural artist whose work deals with forces projected onto manufactured and industrially engineered materials. Inspired by life experiences and the language of structure, Velasquez uses marine vinyl, wood and the occasional fake plant to explore the meaning of shape. We picked his brain during a tour of his exhibit at BMoCA and found out everything there is to know about his insanely cool wall hangings and structural sculptures.

What ideas are you exploring with your work?

What structure is. I think about the body as a structure and how the bones and ligaments and muscles interact. It’s an engineering feat, but over time our body sags, becomes more frumpy and reposes in exhaustion, whereas a something like a bridge doesn't quite do that. There’s a different type of engineering between something that's soft like the body and really rigid like the bridge, so I'm trying to explore different ideas about how structural something can be.

Where do you get the ideas for your vinyl wall hangings? What message or concept are you trying to convey through them?

My wall vinyl pieces are more formalized versions of a bookbinding project I was working on. I was pre-cutting all these strips to act as enclosures for soft-cover journals, and they began to accumulate over time pretty haphazardly. I thought I could formalize that into a more solid form. I want the pieces to act initially as flat surfaces, but as you engage with them more, the viewer realizes they are solid. This reveals the physical weight of the object instead of implied weight as one might think of with a painting. This new surface is about exposing the layers within a manufactured material to create something that references fashion, industry and art history.

How do you come up with this stuff?

A lot of my work is cumulative, so my new stuff will often be tangents that come out of past work, either constructing or deconstructing it in some way. I got the idea for my bridge structures from taking road trips and crossing thousands of bridges and using the aesthetic based off engineering to recontextualize those ideas.

What made you want to do these drawings? You haven't drawn anything in eight years, says you.

I think it was wanting to attempt to experiment with scale or imagine things without actually having to build them. Also trying to work quickly and get messy.

With all this talk about structure and shape, why put something delicate and trivial like a fake flower on your sculptures?

I just think they’re funny. They convey this really bizarre, funny disconnect with the sculptures, and they’re kind of an intermediary frame to look through. It shows a lot of play, too.

Play, huh? What’s the function of humor in your art?

The idea of that brooding, genius artist is dead. These days, a bit of humor and lightness is really important in keeping yourself young and springing new ideas. If you can laugh at something and be a little bit “drunk” in your work, maybe throw a little self-subversion in there, it’ll make your work more relatable.

Does art have to have a purpose? If so, what is it?

It shouldn’t be open-ended, otherwise what’s the point? I think that art and artists are the purveyors and recorders of culture and history. I don’t think it has to be didactic or narrative in some way, but there should be some underlying themes that you can present to somebody. If people get the purpose of something right away, they’re going to stop paying attention to it, so it’s important to have a deeper meaning that the viewer can interact with.

Derrick Velasquez’s work is on display in too many cities to count, but you can check it out here at BMoCA in Boulder or Robishon Gallery in Denver.