Undetermined Territory

Right from the start, deep inside every visual artist is the desire is to make art that is original and unique with the hope that the results are recognized by others. Finding success is a journey that is elusive and circuitous.

In my case, I found myself staring at a diner style cup; although normally uniformly manufactured by the thousands, this one had a handle that was put on crooked. That moment triggered thoughts and questions regarding this lone flawed cup, its history, and if it could tell stories overheard from each fresh cup of coffee. Examples from my series "When Cups Speak," "Fragility of Hope," and "Evidence of Phantoms Made Real Between Thoughts" included in this essay all have this concept of the viewer's mental participation.

In my latest body of work, "Evidence of Phantoms Made Real Between Thoughts," I neither plan the work nor make any preparatory drawings. I do not have a particular form or icon in mind. Instead, I choose materials and techniques that force me to think with the material and enable me to confront its limitations until the work speaks to me. I rely on the freedom of the mind's fundamental conscious ability to recognize and resonate, unencumbered by accepted material visual cues of form and content. These are the ephemeral moments of identification that I try to build on over time, each recognition layering on the next.

In other words, my process involves recognition, discovery, and collaboration with the material in a dialogue—attempting to push its boundaries to find unexpected results.

In all my work, it is my aim to shoot a spiritual arrow directly into the viewer's conscious mind, passing through standard visual cues of matter, and finally landing in a place where the mind's freedom can be explored.

Irvin Tepper was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Working as a sculptor, draftsman, and photographer, he has had more than 20 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries across the United States. His work is represented in numerous permanent collections such as the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; among others. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute and lives in New York.