Franklyn Project - The First Generation

The New York Academy of Art is proud to be the first home of the Franklyn Project - "a collective born in the 80’s and raised at the Academy."  From their inaugural exhibition we've heard them say: "Our artistic pursuits have placed us unwillingly within the Warhol canon, tasking us with the impossibility of outrunning or rising above His relentless shadow. We wander nevertheless, surveying this Aesthetic Hell rich with the relics left in His multidisciplinary wake." With a moment to spare in their busy lives, we grabbed their attention and caught up on what's happened this year for the Franklyn Project and where they are headed.

How did the Franklyn Project begin? Evolve?
The genesis of the Franklyn Project began toward the end of our first year at the New York Academy of Art and into the summer of 2013. We were so overwhelmed with all the information we had gained that we really needed a way to unwind, let it sink in, and not think too much. It started with a few people in the basement just wanting to have fun with painting again, with no stress. We have a shared respect for each other’s work so we decided to paint a painting in 30 minutes on the same panel at the same time. Every ten minutes we would switch spots and finish each other's areas. People started to crowd around to see the process unfold. 
Next, we did portraits of each other on separate canvases, switching every 15 minutes till we decided they were done. It started to turn into a battle, pushing areas in one pass to find out the next turn it was taken in a different direction. They don’t always turn out, but we all have a shared trust. From that point, we liked some of the things we were seeing, so we decided to bring in more people.  This time we had four people in one studio, four blank canvases on each wall. We rotated every 15 minutes, this was also when we introduced Warhol as our subject matter. It was a beautiful thing to see unravel. 
Since the work wasn't part of anyone's personal body of work, it freed us up to experiment and try things that we may never have been interested in pursuing in our own work. The first project, "Portraits of Our Father", sat somewhere between just having fun with each other, feeling out what it's like to paint with a lot of other people on the same painting, and trying to make a more poignant artistic statement, (probably a little more of the former two). Now, however, the real possibilities of a collective have begun to manifest themselves in our collective consciousness and we're working to streamline a vision and take on projects with a little more organization and gusto. The process is ever evolving but the intent stays true.

What is the collective’s goal/mission? What do you hope to accomplish?
We like to make great art. We appreciate old masters and will bring back painting. The goal is always to make good work. But in this case, a lot of how that comes to be is by actually having a lot more fun than we might usually have in our own work (separate from the Franklyn Project). Maybe the short term goal is to make a lot of work, show it, and see where it leads. Nothing too fancy just yet.

Tell us about your process for the collective work.  How has the process evolved from when you first started?
At first the process was kind of haphazard; Setting up some easels cracking a couple of beers and just going from hand to brush. We were experimenting and not sure where this was going. Once we started bringing in more people we had to organize more and set up times to meet up and paint. Now we all meet in one room, usually once a week on a Friday, there's food, drink and music and a lot of painting. We readdress paintings started before that need work or we start new ones. It's pretty fun at this point because we know each other’s strong points and assign works to certain people to make the piece work. We still paint on the same painting at the same time or switch off or do whatever we want, that's what's great about it.

Your show at Bleeker Street Arts Club (BSAC) garnered a great deal of attention.  Why is that? What sets you apart?
Well, there's always something to be said for novelty, haha. But, really it's a level of real conviction. Even with our love of humor and play, there is a real seriousness and ambition that is fueling whatever we're up to.
What sets us apart besides the fact that we all paint on the same paintings, is the variety that can come out of these shows. You put some of the best up and coming artists from all over the world with different backgrounds and styles into one room and somehow they can not only agree on pieces but thoroughly enjoy what is being produced. What is being made surprises us every time we do it. 

Now that the show at BSAC is over, what’s next? Tell us what’s to come for your collective.
We can't say really, just that we have every intention to make more work and continue to show it. We are still meeting every Friday night as long as we are all still together in NYC and as long as we are still enjoying it.

Where can we find you working? Do you work together in a single studio? What’s the password?
You can find us working in our studios. At times we get together as a group to discuss the work. We often paint together as a group. These meetings are lively and social. They always include food, drink, and music. Of course the goal is to make work, but these meetings also help us stay connected and reinforce our sense of community. The locations and times of these meetings are always changing. There is no password.

Are the Franklyn Project members also pursuing individual careers outside of the collective?
Yes of course. I think it is impossible for Franklyn Project members to collectively agree to an absolute about art, and it would be rather boring if we did. What's great about having multiple practices is the flexibility to entertain ideas that inform both sides. 

Do your parents and families know you are the Franklyn Project?
Yes, my mom is very proud of us although I don't think she even know I am an artist. haha

The first and second rule of FIGHT CLUB is: ‘You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.”  Is this the case with the Franklyn Project?  Why is anonymity important to you?  How do you intend to keep it guarded?
Funny you should ask, because the first rule of Franklyn Project is don't talk about Fight Club. The Second rule is you must drink while you paint.  The Third rule is have fun. Anonymity is important because it's all about the group effort and not the individual, I know people kind of know who's in it but it's not shouted from the roof tops. We are all pursing our own artistic paths and we don't want the project to define us individually.
There definitely is a little bit of fight club mentality amongst members of the group, and rightfully so if we want to keep a certain degree of anonymity. The anonymity allows us to be more creatively free and test ideas that maybe we wouldn't try in our own work. It relieves a certain level of pressure that is usually part of the job description in being an artist and that in turn lets us focus more on creating. As far as guarding it, right now we're resting on a lot of trust.

Will there be generations of the Franklyn Project, like the members of the Bruce High Quality Foundation?
Will there be subsequent generations? Time will tell. Right now though, the first generation is still just getting started.

Finish this sentence:  
In 2014, the Franklyn Project will not only ________, but will also _________.
Hmm...You said it best...In 2014, the Franklyn Project will not only, but will also!
Franklyn Project egg - Fabergé The Big Egg Hunt (on view Spring 2014)

Join us for MFA OPEN STUDIOS on Friday, April 25, 6-9pm to get to know our artists and their work better.  Curious to see more Academy student work from the MFA 2014 and MFA 2015 classes before then, check out the Student Work Online Gallery.

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