by Maria Gabriela Alvarez
“What are you doing to check off your goals? Do you possess mementos of your journey? How do you process what you consume?” Andrew Thiele’s Gallery 8 solo exhibit: Moral Compass posed these questions directly to the viewer. The introspective exhibit highlighted themes of identity, environment, and action through intricate mixed media pieces pulling from a broad range of references. At the opening, the music blared and people mingled around works that posed some big questions yet retained an approachability and vivacity not always associated with the contemporary art world. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to Thiele on all that went into creating the works and the space that harnessed this energy.
The self-made self-taught artist shows an admirable dedication to the craft and the grind of putting your art into the world for others to enjoy and interpret. The show, divided into three spaces (mind, body, and soul), showcased Thiele’s journey as an entrepreneur, New Yorker, and artist. The bright colored highly dimensional artworks created an energy not unlike New York City itself—capturing the grind and the rewards of a city always evolving, changing, and moving. As the artist explained “New York City to the core is something that I represent, it’s something that’s in my bones, something that I really take in and that I love, you know, so from the texture to the signage to the posters, the people, I wanted all that to be embodied in the work.”
Thiele’s works act as an exploration of the self that becomes a reflection of larger societal questions. With clear abstract expressionist influences, Thiele uses dynamic brushstrokes and color to communicate universal emotions. “I relate my paintings to children,” he says. “Just due to the fact that they start very expressive and free, what I love to do more than anything is start painting; you put the brush to the canvas you take a step back after that first session is done and say well what is this really saying,” Thiele’s work makes this process clear exploring the passage of time through an amalgamation of paint residue, or division and evolution with highly textured brushstrokes of primary colors, or success with 100 pairs of sneakers painted gold—no easy feat I’m sure.
However, the parallel between Thiele and the abstract expressionist artist appears both in the explorative nature of the work and Thiele’s exhibit design, propelling the art world forward through wider thinking on the part of the artist. Thiele deals with questions of interpretation and communication that have long loomed over the art world but have seldom been addressed. With direct questions posed to the viewers in the labels of each of the works, the artist removes the initial unapproachability of paintings hung in a gallery and encourages the viewer to engage with the work in a personal way; and casts aside the elusive snobbism often encouraged in gallery settings.
For Thiele, this comes hand in hand with the role of the artist: to act as a reporter and “use your voice proudly”. When asked about his exhibit design Thiele answers: “ I wanted to make sure that the people that went I was able to give everyone a great experience whether it be someone who really knows art… really knows how to look into things ….or the person that the work might have missed; for them to see just Muhammad Ali at face value and understand it’s a metaphor for why I love autobiographies and why I can listen to a fighter podcast for 8 hours and think about their dedication to what they do compared to my dedication and what keeps me going.”
Thiele tackles interpretation and accessibility—questions often approached in the art world as thought exercises—head on and matter-of-factly making sure his viewers have a jumping-off point from which to interpret and enjoy his work. “You’re giving the world a product that you’re proud of, that you stand by and you can hold your head next to and but at the end of the day when you give it to the world it’s almost the world’s at this point.” Thiele guides the viewer but leaves them to pick and choose what connections and interpretations to make, each work speaking for itself while never ignoring the person trying to answer back.
To view more of Andrew Thiele’s work and his upcoming projects visit http://andrewthiele.com/gallery/exhibitions-moral-compass or follow him on Instagram
Maria Gabriela Alvarez is a Honeysuckle Magazine Staff Editor and a rising senior at Barnard College of Columbia University where she studies Art History. In her free time, she enjoys trying on every outfit in her closet and visiting museums around the city.