What began as a project in her favorite city, New York, she has realized in over 80 cities worldwide since 2000: we are talking about her Streetprints, with which German conceptual artist Caro Jost became known. She makes real imprints on prepared canvases of street surfaces in various places around the world that have personal, social, or art historical significance. In 2005, she registered her Streetprints as a trademark. In this way, she collects the traces of the past to make them relevant to the present. Each of her works is a document of time and carries its own history. Collecting and archiving has played an important role in her artistic work from the very beginning. The artist, whose works are represented at the Museum für Konkrete Kunst (Ingolstadt), the Mies van der Rohe Haus (Berlin), the Mark Rothko Art Center (Latvia), the Stadtmuseum München, the Museo Jumex (Mexico City), and the Colby Museum of Art (Maine), among others, keeps her own extensive archive of material in her Munich studio. It reflects the forensics and tracking that are the foundations of her work. With these pieces of evidence she wants to document space and time.
Luca Curci – Can you describe your art in one sentence?
Caro Jost – To answer it briefly: “I reuse the past for the future.”
LC – What does this mean more precisely?
CJ – I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of briefly switching a real-life moment to slow-motion mode, or even freezing your emotions for a moment, like you can with the pause button. This fantasy is probably the trigger for why I love to use traces, documents or found objects for my work. Dusty archival material, worn stair treads, relics, found objects, snippets of conversations… each of us has memories and stories to tell. I have always enjoyed researching to uncover these invisible stories and experiences. It has become the main theme of my artistic work.
I collect everything that inspires me… found objects from public places in Istanbul or New York, prints of street reliefs, old Barnett Newman bills, floorboards with leftover paint from Mark Rothko’s studio at 222 Bowery… just to name a few. For me, it’s extremely important to consistently have my own personal archive of material and to keep expanding it. From this archive, I then take something to transfer and process it into my own artworks.
LC – And how do you transform this content into your works?
CJ – The one is the content and the subject around which it is about. The other is how to bring that to the canvas in an innovative way, but still in the tradition of painting. That’s how my technique of Streetprints eventually came about, and years later I followed that up with working with archival materials and found objects. With this I do exactly that: I take relics and traces from the past and make their history visible and relevant to the present again through my work. Once a much appreciated artist said to me, “Caro, you always seem to have one foot in the past and the other in the future.” Yes, how right he was, I actually love this balancing act.
LC – Can you share some career defining moments with us?
CJ – My move to New York in 1999, and like many other artists before me who were searching for their own form of artistic expression, I found it there. The Abstract Expressionists were always my role model, which is why, like some of these artists, I enrolled in the Art Students League. That’s how it began, that step by step I started to follow their footsteps in New York. And this led me to develop the first Streetprints in SoHo. Another important turning point was the collaboration with the Barnett Newman Foundation. Getting permission from the archive to use original documents from the 1950s for my work was the beginning of a whole new body of work that I called Invoice Paintings. In addition, of course, I continue to make my Streetprints.
LC – Invoice Painting?
CJ – For this, I used printouts of original invoices and notes from my favorite artists. These printouts, which document the purchase of paints and materials, represent for me both the immediate creation of these famous artworks and the basis for the creation of my own artworks such as the “Invoice Paintings”. As you can see, I like to follow the traces of the past, and by preserving and commenting on them on collages, I make them relevant to the present.
LC – Do you have a special interest in other artists?
CJ – I am very interested in artists’ studios to find out where and under what circumstances the artworks were created. This special interest has led me to make a documentary film as part of my Art Studios project. My documentary “Last Traces of the Abstract Expressionists” is about the former studios of the legendary abstract expressionists in NYC. As part of my research, I met some of the last living eyewitnesses, like Alex Katz, Irving Sandler, Philip Pearlstein or the widow of Ad Reinhardt. They were all very supportive in helping me make the film. The film premiered at the “Anthology Film Archive” in New York City and was shown in various museums and festivals, such as Kunstsammlung NRW, K20, Düsseldorf and American Documentary Film Festival, Palm Springs.
LC – What drives you?
CJ – I always ask myself how time, places and events can be captured and preserved in all their complexity. How can invisible traces of the past be made visible again and placed in a current, contemporary context? Or in other words, my goal is to make art based on evidence.
LC – You are an artist and filmmaker – what is your background?
CJ – In addition to my art studies at the Art Students League New York and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, I studied literature and law. That may explain my passion for investigative art, because my work always requires a lot of research. For example, I have created various series of works from the previously mentioned found objects, including three-dimensional pictorial objects, the earlier mentioned Invoice Paintings.
LC – What is your next project?
CJ – Currently I am participating in several group exhibitions in Berlin (FS Art), Munich (Rettberg Gallery), Taipei (Bluerider Art) and from May also in Shanghai. I will hopefully spend the summer in New York City, if the current situation allows it. Thanks to a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, I will be able to pursue part two of my “Artists’ Studios” project. This time I plan to expand it to include the Abstract Expressionist women artists and Black Mountain College and Provincetown.