Judson Frondorf is something of a reluctant sage. That is to say that it is not a role he has sought, but as we enter what will undoubtedly be a turbulent new decade, he has a grounding perspective that reminds us of what making art can be about. Prolific in what was once seen as underground art in the ’80s and ’90s, Frondorf stepped back for a while, placing his artistic life in a part-time role. Now retired from a job at APS, he is back at it full time with renewed passion and a part in a group show opening this Friday at Matrix Fine Art in Nob Hill. Weekly Alibi sat down with Frondorf to talk about what’s old, what’s new and what he has in store for his new show. The following is an edited version of that conversation.
You've been around a while. What's new?
Albuquerque is consistently interesting and always has been. I've never been bored here. Whether it's some kind of little political issue or some interesting art opening or good bands coming to town. I wish there were more venues. I wish there'd be more experimental underground stuff going on. There was a lot more of that going on in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I might, because of my age, be out of touch with what university students are doing, but perusing the galleries and calendars and the Alibi and websites I just don't see anything really challenging happening in art or music. Again, I might be prejudiced because I come from a time when it was pretty rich.
The matching question would be what's old?
What's old is the politics of art and art galleries. There seems to be a kind of stature or levels of people that get any kind of notice or shows. It was hard for us to get this show at the Matrix. We're not landscape artists. We're not portrait artists per se. We're not that kind of sellable stuff. It's got kind of a heritage stain over it where they just want it to be Territorial looking adobesque pottery because that makes money and that sells and you can put it in a gift shop. The politics of the gallery world in New Mexico is old. I wish it would get younger.
What don't the kids get these days?
In school they don't get a liberal arts education. The art departments in high schools have to really fight for everything they want. The concept of liberal arts is seen to be a waste of time, at least by the upper echelons in New Mexico education. The kids are missing out on a broad, deep education because it's so much about college prep these days. It's a shame.
Do you think you were born at an opportune time for being an artist?
I wouldn't want to be born at a different time. I think this was perfect for me in many senses. Now it's like people's ideas of perfection changed. When I was in college, I wondered about how you would accomplish something like that because I thought being rich and famous would give me freedom. As I forgot about that, I became much more comfortable.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose?
Tell me about the show.
It’s 10 artists. The name of the show is 100 Fingers.
Everybody's kept all their digits over the years?
Otherwise it would have been 99 Fingers. I've clipped my thumb several times on a circular saw, but I still got it. Most of us, not all of us, but most of us met in the late ’80s. Some of us were in art school. Some of us were just part of what we called the underground arts scene here: comic artists, zine artists, musicians, performance artists. Mark Woody, who put all this stuff together, said, let's do a show based on the premise of collaborative paintings as a problem, as a project. So, 10 artists did six collaborative paintings with two or more artists (working) on each painting. We're all putting in an individual work (as well).
I was given a canvas with three rough grids. I picked whatever grid I wanted, did whatever image I wanted to do. There was no theme in terms of content. I did my little illustration and then I gave it to the second artist. They either used what I put in there as an inspiration or they ignored it completely. If you're the third person, you (are) going to either make it a cohesive whole or completely absent from whatever that content is. In the end, it is pretty interesting.
It's like that campfire story game.
Or what we called exquisite corpse.