HYSTM (his-tuhm) is the New-York based collaborative team of Keith Pine and Rich Zitterman. First, I have to start by quoting their wonderful statement:
Every piece is a disguise: the product of several other paintings, each contained within the final work. Often unrecognizable and always of dubious authorship and questionable meaning, the result is a complex and powerful cultural ransom note.
It’s that “dubious authorship” that really gets me. We’re accustomed to knowing whose hand played what role (because typically there’s one) in an artwork, but in HYSTM’s case, we’re pushed back and forth, feeling perhaps one artist’s influence in one more than the other, and vice versa, but how, exactly? and why? Almost glaringly bright in some cases, certainly influenced by street art, and informed by the relentlessness of messages we receive daily from the media, commercials, the city of New York, and so on, HYSTM’s works take a raw view of society and popular culture. Unsettling creatures, staring eyes, grotesque faces, and rough surfaces are layered and occasionally distorted just enough that we’re put in the gaze of the work as much as we put our gaze on it.
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YS: Much of your inspiration or source material is derived from popular culture sources like television, found images, and other images of the modern world. When did you start working in these theme?
HYSTM: We’ve been working like this from the very start. We connect on things that we find interesting, funny or just plain weird and it naturally kicks off the creative process for us. It’s always just a starting off point but ultimately ends up becoming an inside joke of the final painting. A lot of the titles of our paintings contain hints of the inspiration that’s happened along the way.
How long have you known one another, or been working together? When or how did you begin to make work together — what spurred it?
We’ve known each other for 20 years and have been collaborating since day one. It started off with us taking Polaroids and disposable camera pics around Manhattan. It then transformed into using those photos for collages, making animatronic sculptures out of garbage and making videos on the streets of the city. We enjoy each other’s company and love art, it was a natural extension of our friendship to work collaboratively as a team.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a piece?
Each piece starts with a piece of inspiration. It could be a found image, old photograph, magazine clipping or a funny story. One of us gets the paining started and then we go back and forth until we both think it’s done. The only rule we have is, “there are no rules”. We try things, if they don’t work, we try something else.
Are there any recurring themes or subtexts that you find yourself working with?
None that we really try for. All of our work is part of one big series. What comes out as an end result is never planned on and never purposeful. We don’t overthink the process or have strict guidelines. That would just put limitations on the work and compromise the outcome.
What is your studio like? Do you typically work at the same time, or do you alternate? Or just whenever? I
Our studio is in Chinatown. 99% of the time we are working together on a few pieces at once, taking turns as we see fit. The guy we rent the studio from has turtles, pigeons and animals situated amongst us. It’s like working in Jumanji but it suits us.
You’ve been based in and educated in NYC — do you feel that this has an impact on the type of work you do?
Definitely. NYC is an experience unlike anything else. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely for us. There’s a lot of bullshit and nonsense that you have to deal with here that you don’t have to deal with anywhere else, but it’s our bullshit and nonsense and we love it. We think that type of energy and vibe seeps into everything we do.
What do you feel has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far as artists? Or as a duo?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced (just like every other artist) is making sense of the art world. There’s no structure, no rules and it’s elusive. However we are pretty good at blazing our own paths and finding a way to create our own success and we’ve been happy with everything we’ve accomplished.
Or on the other end of that spectrum, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment or moment of success so far?
NY1978 featured us solely at the Scope art fair in Art Basel Miami this past winter. To be amongst so many great artists and galleries was a real honor for us. The positive feedback we got from the public was also incredible.
If you could give your younger selves a piece of advice before leaping head first into the art world, what would it be?
We would have taken our work more seriously at the beginning and definitely saved more of it. We sometimes see things people do today that we were doing 15-20 years ago.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
We will be featured in a group show at the Think Tank Gallery in LA early 2017. More details to come.
Anything else you would like to add?
Respect. Peace and love.
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You can keep up with updates as well as see many more examples of the artists’ work at HYSTM.com.