LA Weekly interviews Gretchen Andrew on her latest works and the forthcoming solo show Annka Kultys Gallery in London.
Meet SEO Artist Gretchen Andrew
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Gretchen Andrew uses the internet not only as her subject matter but also as muse, nemeses, and raw material. She creates “vision boards” which aesthetically center around alleged feminine imagery and energy, but perform a manipulation of technology with a rogue hacker flair, programmed to hijack targeted search engine algorithms. Her work history at Google gave her not only the expertise but the inspiration to infiltrate the information stream, successfully replacing top search returns for art world institutions from Frieze Los Angeles to the Whitney Biennial, and even the “cover” of Artforum. Her cheeky subversions are tethered to her collages — both digital and in dimensional IRL mixed media works — with images culled from the very search engine results she later subverts — along the way resulting in lively and fractured hyper-pop narratives of life in cyberspace.
L.A. WEEKLY: WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WERE AN ARTIST?
GRETCHEN ANDREW: When I decided to be one. That decision came to me when I was 24, and I was getting overpaid to work at the world’s number one company to work for…and I was unhappy. I mean, I don’t think I really had a choice at that point.
WHAT IS YOUR SHORT ANSWER TO PEOPLE WHO ASK WHAT YOUR WORK IS ABOUT?
My work is about the power of desire. I hack systems of power with art, glitter and code to get everything I’ve ever wanted. I program my vision boards into becoming top search results, using AI and Natural Language Processing to manipulate the internet into making my dreams come true.
WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU WEREN’T AN ARTIST?
When I am not making art, I am poorly playing Taylor Swift covers on the piano and drinking champagne. Is that a job? If gluing gems to canvas and talking about my desires is a job, then I bet I could future that out.
DID YOU GO TO ART SCHOOL? WHY/WHY NOT?
Google “Best MFA” and instead of the top art schools you will get my vision boards about making your own path instead of paying for a formal arts education. Initially, I didn’t go to art school because I didn’t get in. As my practice has evolved, I’ve found that the most honest art I can make is the most personal, the most grounded in my totally individual path, which for me involved working in big tech and studying information theory.
WHY DO YOU LIVE AND WORK IN L.A., AND NOT ELSEWHERE?
I can also easily procure all my craft supplies—such as 500 ballerina cap toppers—in L.A.’s totally unique craft and fashion districts.
WHEN IS/WAS YOUR CURRENT/MOST RECENT/NEXT SHOW?
I currently have work at König Galerie in Berlin in a show called The Artist is Online: Painting and Sculpture in the Digital Age. I then have my first solo exhibition with Annka Kultys Gallery in London, opening April 22, called Other Forms of Travel. It will be the first time that my vision boards are hung in a gallery and you can actually visit them!
WHAT ARTIST LIVING OR DEAD WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SHOW WITH?
At my upcoming residency with London’s National Gallery X, I’m going to get to exhibit with an officially loaned Van Gogh in virtual reality. I also like the idea that our heroes should be ourselves in 10 years. This is just the beginning and every day I create my future.