Andrew Kuo’s works have a signature graphic sensibility. The Queens-born artist’s paintings often reference charts, graphs and other analytic measurements to render complex—and frequently funny—thoughts or emotions in eye-popping color. A regular contributor to The New York Times, Kuo has turned his eye toward any number of subjects. Now, as a contributor to Public Art Fund’s Art on the Grid exhibition (through September 20), that includes his hometown. The group show features works by emerging artists on bus shelters and LinkNYC kiosks citywide, and was produced in response to the converging crises of the pandemic and systemic racism in our country. In the interview below, Kuo discusses how NYC’s density and speed have influenced him, and his appreciation for late-night food shows and funny friends.
Can you describe how you created work during the shutdown? Did anything change for you? If so, how?
Andrew Kuo: I stopped going to my studio, because it’s a little too far to walk to. I set up a corner in my apartment with a place to paint, and I really enjoyed making smaller things. It was comforting and probably therapeutic. I went through so many pieces of paper. Still going!
How has New York City informed your work? Has that changed in recent months?
AK: The density and speed of New York City has probably affected me more than I realize, but I do make a point to make things that are either dense or fast. The last few months have been an emotional haunted house, so maybe I’ve been looking for a way to work through them by painting charts and flowers. Just letting it fly with big colors. Getting it on paper and moving on to another...
As a contributor to Art on the Grid, how do you hope your work will be perceived? What thoughts or emotions would you like to evoke in the viewer?
AK: I hope people will look at my contribution and think a little about maps and funny moments in their day. Maybe just seeing big shapes and colors can be a quick visual surprise. Ideally, I’d like people to join me in my panic, worry and appreciation of abstract minimalist art, but I’d settle for just agreeing to live next to it.
Does your artwork relate to a neighborhood in New York? Is there a neighborhood in New York that inspires you and your practice?
AK: Chinatown! Mott Street has been one of my favorite places since I was a kid for the noodle-water-steamed windows and souvenir T-shirt shops. It’s changed a lot, but so have I.
What has given you hope and sustained you over the last few months?
AK: Science! Math! Nice people. Television! Songs. My wife! My cats! Texting! I really appreciate my funny friends more than ever. I watch food shows late at night.
What positive qualities do you hope will come out of the pandemic—for yourself personally or for the City?
AK: I hope I can be 5 percent nicer? Maybe care more about my neighbors by caring less about things like how people walk on sidewalks or cut lines. I want to sweat less about the small stuff. As for the City, I hope the places I like can stay open. I wish people would stop leaving. I hope our lawmakers can help us more in every way. They aren’t doing enough.