Jason Stopa

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jason Stopa.  I was born in New Brunswick, NJ and I live in work in Brooklyn, NY.  I’m a painter, but I also write reviews and curate exhibits.  I write for The Brooklyn Rail, White Hot Magazine, Art in America and Whitewall.  When I curate, it tends to be in NYC.  

I make abstract paintings with representational references.  Right now my palette is pretty limited - blacks, pastels and neon.  I use a variety of media:  oil, enamel, spray paint, acrylic and glitter.  I’m interested in making images where the frame is really pronounced.  And I love when patterns become form, but then read as patterns again.

Who/what inspires you?

NY is a big inspiration.  The city can be really difficult sometimes and it you wind up in your own head a lot, even though you’re around everyone.  Living in a city also gives you access to some weird stuff - just random people and incidents, not all of it good. My friends are pretty rad.  Outside of that, seeing other artists work is great.  Sometimes I take it for granted, but you can literally see Renaissance painting and contemporary art all in the same day.

What themes do you pursue?

My childhood is a major theme.  I’ll start from the top.  My mom is Black and my dad is White.  When they got married and had us kids in the late 70s/early 80s it was pretty controversial.  They both had rough roots and we were poor growing up.  I remember our block had a crack house and prostitutes on the corner.  The good ole days, lol.  But there were also these moments of hand clapping games, watching my sisters play double dutch and playing basketball till i overheated.  It wasn’t all bad.  In the late 80s my parents got wrapped up in a crazy cult.  As their kids, they raised us in it.  We watched them become really fearful, religious fanatics.  In the 90s they finally had a bit of money, so they moved to the suburbs, and cut themselves off from their families. When I was old enough I had to walk away from them entirely.  I haven’t seen them since.  

Those experiences find their way into my work.  I had this imaginary friend as a kid named Joggie.  It was a way to escape.  I’ve created a whole series based on talking to Joggie.  It’s a way of stepping outside of myself, like an alter ego, a way of accessing stuff that I don’t really have words for.  I lot of heavy emotional stuff.  

I have a series called Brooklyn Zoo.  Brooklyn Zoo is one of the singles off of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s first album.  In this series I often use stereotypical black people stuff like basketball and watermelon and rap music as subject matter. It’s a way to talk about cultural difference, using the language of abstraction, which has predominantly been White male territory.  

Why art?

I like art in general, but I’m more into painting than anything else.  I like that painting has a long history.  I think we’re at this point now where we can play with paintings’ language.  Painting is also one of the most archaic ways to make an image.  Like if you really wanted to just communicate something literally, there are better ways to do it.  I think it stands as one of the few mediums left that can be a record of lived experience. I still think art has the capacity to alter how we think and feel.

Name some artists you would like to be compared to.

This is a funny question.  I have a lot of favorites but I dunno about comparisons.  Perhaps I’ll just list them instead.  
Howard Hodgkin
Katherine Bradford
Clint Jukkula
Roy Lichtenstein’s abstractions in the 80s
Michael Gallagher 
Pee Wee Herman
Richard Pryor