Artist spotlight: Steve Locke discusses his upcoming ICA exhibit ‘there is no one left to blame’

LizaVollPhotography-6075
Steve Locke in his studio. Photo: Liza Voll

Boston-based artist Steve Locke has been making art for more than two decades. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design prof has exhibited at small, independent galleries and spaces around town including Samsøn, the Rhys Gallery (since relocated to L.A.), and more but, surprisingly, has never shown his work in a major museum show. Until now. Locke’s ”there is no one left to blame” — a collection of eclectic paintings featuring, most prominently, brightly colored images of men sticking out their tongues — opens at the Institute of Contemporary Art on July 31st. We sat Locke down before the exhibit’s big unveiling to talk contemporary art, altered bodies and two hookers he used to know.

What can people expect when they come to see your show?

Well, they’re going to see a lot of paintings, and they’re going to be in different forms. Some of them are going to be on the floor, and some of them are going to be on the wall, and then some of them are going to be IN the wall. There’s also going to be a neon sign, that says “there’s no one left to blame,” which is the title of the show. I have painted portraits my whole artistic career and this body of work really focuses on the thing that I’m interested in, which is the head, as a carrier of meaning. There’s also a different kind of understanding of what the body is, and what the body can do. So that’s what people can expect to see. There’s something for everyone, is what I like to tell people.

What is it about the head that’s so compelling for you?

We have this crazy notion that form and content are separate, right? But form and content come together in the body. Like, you have a form, and you have a content, you have an interior life. So it’s automatic to me that the body would be a way of communicating content, just using the body. And there’s the notion of the head being the end of something, or the beginning of something. And also we see a lot of bodies right now that have been altered by war, altered by surgery or altered by Photoshop. So to me it makes perfect sense to have a painterly investigation of all the ways that the male body has been investigated. So that’s really the crux of what’s happening in the show.

How has the ICA been as a home for your first show?

Oh, they’re heavenly. You couldn’t ask for better. I have said to people before [that] I never expected anybody to be remotely interested in anything I did as an artist. That’s not why I became an artist. I wanted to make pictures, that’s the only reason I became an artist, and I thought if people saw them, that would be great. I love art, I love the art world, I go to museums all the time, and it’s beyond my wildest dream that I would actually have work in a museum. To be alive when my work is being shown in a museum, I’m over the moon about it.

What do you think makes the ICA unique, as a museum?

The idea of a contemporary art museum is a relatively new thing. If you asked someone like Jackson Pollock or David Smith what they thought of museums, they would have said they’re for dead people because museums didn’t show contemporary art. To be where it is and do what it does, which is show the art of our time, is incredibly important. The art of our time talks about our time, so it’s not just things that are easily understandable or easily digestible. There are some things that are really difficult, and some things that are really beautiful and some things that are really terrible and beautiful at the same time. Because that’s what contemporary life is. It can be really amazing and really awful at the same time, and contemporary art can show us that. That’s what they [the ICA] do better than anybody.

How does teaching affect your own work?

It’s really great to be in contact with young artists. That’s the exciting thing, to watch people make these discoveries, and to have them find their own voice. It keeps alive a sense of risk in your own work. When you’re telling someone that they have really have to risk something in their own practice, you have to do the same thing in your own, otherwise you’re a phony. I think that students can always spot a phony. I think that if you’re not doing it in your own practice, and then you go and try to teach somebody, your students will see right through you, so it really does keep you on your toes. And I love my students, they’re just wonderful.

Which has been your favorite place to have a studio?

I loved having a studio in the South End because you’re so close to everything. You could have a problem in your studio and walk right up to Back Bay Station and get on the Orange Line or get on the 39 bus and you’re at the MFA and you could go look at something. Or you could walk right over to the old ICA, which was over on Boylston Street, which was like a ten minute walk. Walk there and walk back, look at something interesting and get back to work. It was terrific. The studio was over on Harrison Avenue, and there were two hookers who lived downstairs. They worked different shifts. Like, one was in the morning, one was in the evening. So I would come back from work and one of the hookers would have my packages. It was great. They were really great ladies. I think in the old South End, people really did look out for each other.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Local

BSL, El to run all night on summer…

Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning starting in…

National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

National

Missouri man charged with sexually torturing five women

A Missouri man has been charged with raping and torturing five women in a St. Louis-area apartment over several years, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.