With a background in graphic design, Brooklyn-based artist Scott Albrecht creates abstract works in painted wood that draw on typographic forms and the techniques of visual communication. The son of an artist and designer, he states that “I developed an interest in creative work pretty early on. When I was in high school, I started publishing a punk zine called the Uptown Beat. It was before the internet blew up and I was living in a fairly rural area in New Jersey, which didn’t make it easy to get access to alternative or counter cultures. My main motivation when I started the zine was to create something to share all the bands I was listening to at the time that weren’t well known with my friends, but through publishing it, I started to develop an interest in graphic design.”
After pursuing this interest in his studies, Scott worked as a graphic designer in various agency settings, but he ultimately decided to make his own art a priority. He says: “I found it to be extremely important to carve out a space for myself that would allow me to create the work I wanted to make.” Between experimenting with screen printing, curating exhibitions and writing an art-orientated blog, Scott gradually turned his interest into a full-time artistic practice where he could hone his distinctive style and approach.
Working chiefly in wood, Scott makes meticulously composed and mathematically precise formations of interlocking, interweaving shapes. Although there is a strong presence of graphic design elements in his work, Scott’s artistic practice involves, in his words, “using those tools in a way that is independent of how they may normally be used in design.” As such, much of his work consists of forms that are achieved by a process of abstracting letterforms to emphasise their physical makeup over their semantic import.
Speaking of his employment of typographical elements in this way, Scott states: “Because typography is a tool I believe we perceive the use of text differently. Other art forms may invite the viewer to look and interpret, whereas with typography we’re trained to consume a message. There’s a subconscious shift that happens in that way because you’re telling a viewer something versus allowing them to interpret an image on their own. When I started in this direction, my goal with these works was to continue to use typography, but reverse that relationship by putting more emphasis on various qualities of the letterforms and accentuating the mood and sentiment with an aim to communicate the idea through form and colour.”
Scott’s creative process of abstraction is about turning the direct message communicated by words and letters into an evocation, a conveyance of meaning or sentiment in shape and chromatic composition. He tells us that “I also look at the conversation that can happen from having physical letterforms and how they can play off one another. For instance, a piece like Thinking / Feeling” takes the two words and overlays them on top of each other, resulting in an amalgam of forms from both words, meant to represent a visual conflict in perspective as they are both competing for clarity.” By emphasising the visual and tactile qualities of words, Scott’s art draws out the capacity of language to communicate in three dimensions, and explores the subtle interactions and shades of meaning that occur between a word’s existence in the semantic realm, the visual realm and the haptic realm.
On another level, Scott’s work is engaged with events and experiences from both an individual and a collective point of view. For Scott, the initial concept is just as important as the final product, and his method of working involves a preliminary stage of contemplation and writing in order to explore an idea or situation that will ultimately develop into an artwork. In relation to the sources of his inspiration, he says: “Specifically, over the last couple of years, I’ve been drawn to the breakdown of relationships and starting over. This has largely been brought on by the social and political climate here in the US and also worldwide, but I’m more interested in how we as individuals react to and process these situations and in turn, interact with one another as a result of them.” As such, the relation in Scott’s work between different forms and shapes, as well as between viewer and message – where the viewer is required to decipher what is being communicated, or where communication takes place obliquely and via individual interpretations – plays out the ways in which we relate to one another and understand and respond to the world around us according to our own unique set of experiences and dispositions that frame our perceptions.
When it comes to making the physical works, Scott follows a complex procedure of measuring, shaping and constructing. As he says: “Due to the precision of my work, the most challenging aspect of any of these mediums can be just translating a work by hand to a tactile form.” He states that: “The woodworks can be very time consuming, being made up of sometimes several hundred individually cut, sanded, painted and re-assembled pieces at varying heights. The process itself can be lengthy but it requires the most focus when mounting the pieces in their final state, because if the alignment is off just a little bit, it can throw off the entire work, since there aren’t any gaps between the pieces.”
Beyond his works in wood, Scott employs a huge variety of materials, such as wire, stone, metal and paper, as well as creating large scale public artworks – murals and commissioned pieces. Having recently completed an artist residency at the Holdout in Alcobaça, Portugal, Scott plans to keep expanding his practice to encompass a wider range of mediums and formats, with a sustained focus on the communicative capacities of the visual, the chromatic and the tactile.