In conversation with Phong Bui

In conversation with Phong Bui

By Phong Bui for The Brooklyn Rail - April 2019

Art will play an increasingly critical role in the survival of our species.

Every now and then I meet an artist who has found his or her calling rather late in life—be it reaching their maturity after years of searching and struggle, or awakening a moment of clear vision, heightened perception that changes their course of direction. Such is the case of Justin Brice Guariglia.

Although we met in the Spring of 2018, I only began to understand the full scope of Guariglia’s work on a recent visit to his studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn (a profound pleasure as always to be in any artist’s studio, a sacred space where the work is made). On the occasion of a new project commissioned by Somerset House, London to celebrate Earth Day 2019 REDUCE SPEED NOW! (the artist’s largest scale installation to date, consisting of nine large solar-powered LED signs with various texts in the neoclassical courtyard), among two other group exhibits from the Rail Curatorial Projects (Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Occupy Colby at Colby Museum, Waterville, Maine, and Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum at the Venice Biennale as a collateral project this summer), the artist paid a visit to the Rail HQ in Greenpoint one evening to talk about his life and work. The following is the edited version from our longer conversation. 

Phong Bui [Rail]: Justin, you went to College at Wake Forest University, an institution known for its school of law, business, and medicine, and also known for its great basketball team The Demon Deacons, which has produced great NBA players like Mussy Bogues (the shortest to ever play), Chris Paul, among others. You graduated in ‘97, the same year Tim Duncan did.

Justin Guariglia: That’s right. [Laughs.] I used to have class with Tim, but I didn’t realize who he was until basketball season began.

Rail: He was known as a good student. Psychology major, but took classes in anthropology and Chinese literature.

Guariglia: Tim, Randolph Childress, Rusty LaRue and I all had a computer science class together. I think Rusty was the best student in the entire class—if I remember correctly he was a double major with straight A’s, and played 3 varsity sports—he, like Tim Duncan, were rather super-human.

Read the full interiew

Portrait of Justin Brice Guariglia. Pencil on Paper by Phong Bui.