Welcome back everyone! This week I had the opportunity to interview the fabulous Leslie Ross-Robertson, a Letterpress Lab Technician and teacher here at Otis.
KS: Who are you?
LR : Artist/Printmaker who loves music, gardening, architecture, and eating good food. 
KS: What do you do?
LR :  I am the owner and designer of Modern Optic, a contemporary design studio established in Los Angeles in 2001. Inspired by modernism and contemporary art, I create work integrating contemporary technology and the traditional art form of letterpress printmaking. I have produced two lines of stationery, one printed on my Vandercook SP-20 as well as a series of prints. I have collaborated with artists, architects, and designers to provide custom work. In 2012, I started Wavelength Press, focusing on collaboration with contemporary artists producing special edition prints. I also work at Otis Laboratory Press as a lab technician, and I am currently teaching Advanced Digital Letterpress for Otis Continuing Education Program.
KS: Who are you listening to?
LR : I was happy to get used copies of Ratatat Classics and Mission of Burma, Signals, Calls, and Marches EP at Other Music in NYC last week. Listening to everything from Charlemagne Palestine, hauntteddd!! n huntteddd!! n daunttlesss!! n shuntteddd!!, 2013. Twelve-channel sound installation on stairwell landings at the Whitney Museum, an old favorite---Gang of Four Entertainment! The amazing---A Ray Array a film by Sarah Rara with a soundtrack by Lucky Dragons, and Panda Bear Person Pitch among a variety of other artists.
KS: What have you been watching?
LR : I like watching my plants grow. Oh, do you mean on television? Vikings, Portlandia, Anything Project Runway related.
KS: What have you been reading?
LR : Cinema Stories by Alexander Kluge, on the plane to and from NYC.
KS: What projects are you working on right now?
LR : I am working on a collaboration of five letterpress prints with the artist Lecia Dole-Recio for Wavelength Press, and two series of my own prints, one on succulents and the other on crystal formations. If I have time, (!?) some new card designs, and another architectural print.
KS: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
LR : If I was to take this question seriously: The power to heal the planet and raise consciousness. Not-so-seriously: The ability to create green arrow left-turn signals at will.
KS: What motivates you?
LR : Learning about something new, creating new work, helping out in some way.
KS: What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
LR : Is this a job interview? 
KS: What is something you would like to see more of?
LR : liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality, fraternity).
KS: Where do you go for inspiration? LR : My studio, bookstores, outdoors.
KS: What Art publications do you read?
LR : ArtForum, Frieze Magazine, X-tra Magazine. (When I actually have time to read them!)
KS: What are you excited for right this instant?
LR : Myself: Spring; Working on new prints with Lecia Dole-Recio. In the Art World: Mike Kelley at MOCA, the upcoming Los Angeles Biennial Made in L.A. curated by my partner, Michael Ned Holte and Connie Butler at the Hammer Museum opening in June 2014.
KS: Do you have workdays outside of school? If so, describe a typical workday?
LR : Get up, drink some coffee, answer emails, go out to my studio and print on my Vandercook SP-20 for a period of time (depending on how much needs to get done), water plants/bonsai, work on new designs, answer more email…work on new designs…
KS: I heard that you used to be a DJ, is this true? If so could you tell us about it?
LR : Yes, and I used to play in some obscure noise and industrial bands, But I have been mainly interested in writing music, and started at an early age recording found sounds with a portable tape recorder. I was fortunate to have a Lowrey TLO-K organ as a young child that had the incorporation of "automatic accompaniment" features that included the capability to record your tracks and you could play along with it, which was my introduction into multi-tracking. My music evolved as the technology evolved.I am interested in the combination and the collision of sound. My goal is the transformation of raw auditory material into music. My initial exploration of these ideas, through cutting and splicing tape, perhaps seems primitive now, but in direct physical manipulation of the medium I discovered the essence of my work: the structural possibilities of sound and the power of juxtaposition.The sample is a building block. It is the assemblage of these discrete units that matters. I try to create a structure from this raw material: industrial clamor, cinematic snippets, hip-hop beats. Disparate elements are woven into an organic whole into the form of a song. In particular, the human voice is vital to connecting with the listener. Divorced from its original context, the voice assumes an elemental quality, as charged as any note or percussive strike. It becomes an instrument, and it becomes a narrative thread connecting the listener to its source through a new musical framework. My desire is the creation of that which does not already exist. Ultimately, the tools are less important than the depth of imagination. All sound is potential. An indecipherable collection of fragmented noise becomes a beautiful act of music.I have been thinking a lot about this lately--- I completely immersed myself in printmaking and did not have time to work on music. I would like to get back into it again. I have a vintage Moog Prodigy that needs repair!
KS: Who critiques your work for you?
LR : As it happens, I live with an art critic. He has a great sense of design, and I appreciate his input tremendously. Personally, I think as an artist one must be open to criticism, but in the end you must go with what you think is right, otherwise, what is the point of doing it?
KS: Do you have any hobbies?LR : I have been taking bonsai classes and working with bonsai since 2000, at Kimura Bonsai Nursery in Northridge. The trees are like living sculpture. They are very relaxing to work on, and are a lesson in patience and focus. I also enjoy learning about the growth cycle of the different tree species. It is a hobby where I will always be learning new things. 
KS: What is your favorite thing about Otis?
LR : I think the thing I like most about Otis is the sense of community. It is also very fulfilling to help students with their projects, to empower the students by giving them the ability to technically conceive a project and teaching them the skills to successfully realize what they envisioned. We are very fortunate to have amazing facilities at OTIS, which make it all possible!
KS: What is/are your favorite movie(s)?
KS: What would you take with you on a desert island?
LR : Questions arise: Is this for a day, a week, a month, eternity? OK, I will play along…Lots of music, a partner, chocolate and other treats, and perhaps a good computer that somehow has internet capability, depending on the length of my stay on this deserted island.
KS: Why are you at Otis?
LR : I was running an Art/Architecture/Interior Design/Landscape Design bookstore in the Pacific Design Center called Potterton Books, and a combination of a horrible economy, Amazon, and ibooks made it extremely tough times for independent bookstores. I saw the writing on the wall for my beautiful bookstore, and decided to take the leap from the bookstore world and focus on my art work and printmaking. I do not have regrets, and I am happy to be at Otis. Otis has opened up a whole new world for me. (I do miss seeing all the new design books before they are released!) The moral of this story: Take the leap --- and support your local independent bookstores!
KS: Who are some of your favorite artists?
LR : It is impossible to narrow it down to just a few! Some of the classics: John Cage, Agnes Martin, Ed Ruscha, John McLaughlin, Some contemporaries: Lesley Vance, Steve Roden, Paul Sietsema, Shio Kusaka, Charles Gaines.
KS: Where have you worked?
LR : I have worked at Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival in Pittsburgh making costumes, briefly as a film scenic artist in North Hollywood, I managed and worked at many different bookstores throughout Los Angeles, such as Hennessey + Ingalls, Potterton Books at the Pacific Design Center, including bookstores in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, also as a graphic designer... 
KS: Did you consider any other career paths before becoming what you are?
LR : I studied Theatre/Theatre Design and Fine Art, and I thought I would be working in theatre, but ended up on a detour and did not return. I also considered working in the music industry and studying landscape architecture--- both I am still interested in, but not as a career.
KS: What are some of your favorite art pieces?
LR : Where to begin? 
Box in a Valise (From or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy) 1935-1941, Marcel Duchamp (American, born France. 1887-1968) Medium: Leather valise containing miniature replicas, photographs, color reproductions of works by Duchamp, and one "original" drawing [Large Glass, collotype on celluloid, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2" (19 x 23.5 cm)] Dimensions:16 x 15 x 4" (40.7 x 38.1 x 10.2 cm) Museum of Modern Art, New York
Velocity Piece (Impact Run – Energy Drain), Ohio State University,1969. Two speakers at opposite ends of the 17-metre-long gallery played a recording of the artist running into the walls for 90 minutes, Barry Le Va (born 1941 Long Beach, California).
Repetition Nineteen III, 1968 Eve Hesse (born Germany January 11, 1936 – May 29, 1970) Fiberglass, polyester resin, Installation variable, 19 units.Museum of Modern Art, New York.

- Katherine -


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