Artist spotlight: Darel Carey
May. 9, 2019
By: Leah Bhabha
In late April, Los Angeles–based visual artist Darel Carey created an installation at Equinox’s High Line club in New York City. Over a period of eight days, Carey fabricated an expansive geometric design on the interior windows using his signature medium: tape. He also collaborated with Equinox on limited edition yoga mats, available at The Shop.
Linear patterns have been an influence in Carey’s work since childhood. “All my schoolwork was riddled with doodles along the margins—most of them [were] a bunch of lines closely fitting together in precise patterns,” he says. He soon discovered the work of M.C. Escher, and was captivated by the idea of illusion and perspective. “I liked how you could draw something as simple as a necker cube [a three-dimensional drawing of a cube], and see it in more than one way,” he explains. But, he didn’t pursue art professionally until 2012, when he enrolled in the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles after 11 years in the Air Force.
Carey talked to Furthermore about his inspirations, creative processes, and more.
When did you start working with tape?
Senior year [of art school], our studio space had a group show at the gallery on campus, and we decided to grid the gallery walls and floor and place our art in and around the grid. I grabbed the tape and gridded up most of the space. It was during this time that it dawned on me that the tape didn’t have to just be used as a background or a means to another end, it could be an art medium itself. My first tape installation was during this group show. It consisted of geometric cubes seemingly sitting in the corner of the gallery space as an illusion. Later on, I combined the use of tape and illusion with the lines I’ve always been drawn to, and for my senior show at art school, I debuted my first installation like the ones you see me doing today.
How do you decide what shape the art will take?
Sometimes I’ll look at a corner and visualize forms specific to that space or vantage point. Other times, I can apply a dimensionality to any flat space. The process is very organic—I don’t sketch beforehand unless it’s requested and even then, it’s just a general idea. I never know exactly where each line will go in a space, only in relation to each other. I set up parameters like whether the lines will be oriented vertically or horizontally, how close together they will be, and the general directions where the implied curved lines will go. Then, it’s a matter of following these rules I set up for myself, staying precise and changing gradually. In this way, the installation comes to life on its own.
Can you talk about the project you’ve been working on at Equinox High Line?
This is the first time for me installing on windows, straight on the glass, so there were several considerations involved. The installation would be seen from inside and from outside, from the street below and from The High Line above, and with different directions of light at different times of the day. The tape color, which is white, looks dark from the inside of the space when sunlight is coming in. Later in the day, the lighting inside shows the white more prominently. The light coming from various angles casts interesting shadows inside and outside the space. At night, for example, shadows of the lines are laid across the sidewalk outside. During the day, up in the yoga studio, the shadows of the lines from the sunlight are sprawled across the studio floor. The mirrors in the studio also double the perceived size of the installation. I’ve learned a lot of new tricks, and developed some new ideas. I’m honored to be working with Equinox and delighted to have my art viewable from The High Line as well.
How do you prepare physically?
It is very tedious and demanding work both mentally and physically. As far as preparation, I stretch, meditate, and pace myself while working.
What are your exercise and wellness rituals?
I do light physical exercise to stay nimble. I stretch a lot and do a lot of walking. I try to pace my movements while working to conserve my energy and get massages as much as I can, especially after I’m finished with a project. I’m bad with sleeping habits, I’m too much of a night owl, so that can be tough on me depending on my schedule.
How do you describe the effect your work has on a space?
My work has a good balance of simplicity and complexity. There’s simplicity in the sense that I am just using lines, one next to the other, only changing the direction slightly. There’s complexity in the sense that from the arrangement of these simple lines emerges other properties of dimensionality and curvature. The units together create something that is greater than the units themselves. When someone looks at a space that I’ve dimensionalized, their perception of space is altered. The beauty of these installations—and the reason why experiencing them in person versus seeing still images is important—is that you perceive them differently. Depending on the angle, concave flips to convex. In short, my work makes spaces look and feel different from various angles, and it compels people to move around them in an interesting way.
What are the biggest challenges of creating this kind of work?
The most challenging aspect of executing the work is the physical demand on my hands, arms, back, and legs. It can also be mentally exhausting because I need to keep track of several things at once, including what’s going on right in front of me and where the whole thing is going. Sometimes different surfaces and spaces can be challenging. I have to think about what tape I’m using, whether it will stick to the given surface, how long it is supposed to stay up, and whether or not I should use paint, which is something I do for more permanent projects.
What are some of your favorite past projects?
I enjoy projects where I have the most creative freedom, which is usually in gallery exhibitions. At the Torrance Art Museum, I was given a hallway to do whatever I wanted with and created a memorable dimensional tunnel experience. At Brea Gallery recently, I tried something new, basing my entire installation from a single point [in the space]. I called it *Singularity in Bloom*. It was risky but exciting and rewarding.
Which artists inspire you?
M.C. Escher’s tessellations and illusory works inspire me. I also find a connection in op art [a style of art using optical illusions] to Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. I like the line work of Carl Krull and Jelena Ristic, the spatial street art by 1010 and Peeta, and the technology-driven media art by Refik Anadol.
Do you listen to music while you work?
Sometimes. I’d say it’s an even split between silence, music, and talks or podcasts. For work, I like instrumental hip-hop or electronic artists like DJ Shadow, Free the Robots, The Crystal Method, Gaslamp Killer, DJ QBert, Tokimonsta, and J-Dilla. Regarding talks and podcasts, I like all kinds of subject matter, from cosmology to psychology to politics.
What impact has Instagram had on your work?
Instagram has helped me greatly from a promotional standpoint. Large art pages took interest in my work and shared my content, which cascaded into other pages sharing my work. I began to get more and more inquiries. It became a matter of trying to keep up, which is a good problem to have. I also like to see what’s new out there in art and technology, and I get inspired by things I see on Instagram.