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Julian Klincewicz’s Boys Grown Tall
Julian Klincewicz’s Boys Grown Tall

Artist Julian Klincewicz on the changing landscape of American identity

The visual artist talks about his latest exhibition Boys Grown Tall, created while on a three-week road trip across the US

For emerging artists worldwide, Julian Klincewicz is a role model. At only 24-years-old, he has collaborated with Kanye West, Beyoncé, Calvin Klein, Eckhaus Latta, and Louis Vuitton. In the last few years, he has made books, installations and videos, recorded albums and staged DIY fashion shows – all to international acclaim. It’s not the big names which make Klincewicz stand out but his integrity – the ability to approach his work with empathy, care, and realness. His new exhibition, Boys Grown Tall at Swish Projects in San Diego, follows the same trajectory but also explores the mental health challenges which come with creativity and personal growth – all in the context of the contemporary American landscape. 

Boys Grown Tall was born out of an acknowledgement that I was in the midst of some growing pains as an artist, and a human – and just really feeling a bit exhausted and confused,” Klincewicz says. On a drive back from a three-week road trip he was taking pictures out of a car window – something he’s always found inspiring. On the Freeway 5 heading to San Diego, he noticed the huge amount of heavy semi-trucks which appeared to have a particular visual language. Klincewicz was inspired by the details, the size, the shape of the truck, and most of all the colour: “I would just get so excited to see a green truck, with a tan trailer carrying red tomatoes, or an orange truck with flames and a burgundy trailer. How those really graphic elements played against the landscapes – blue skies, white clouds, yellow hills, blackish asphalt”.

“The truck is this macho symbol of purpose, of power, of perpetual momentum. So what happens when that purpose is challenged, when that power is no longer valued, when the moment has run away from the intention? That’s so much of what America is right now” – Julian Klincewicz

At the same time, he recognised the semi-truck as a very timely American symbol. “It’s this pop object that’s used to keep America going – transport goods, food, everything,” he says. “But there’s also so much talk about the Autonomous self-driving trucks of the future, that are putting thousands of truck drivers out of their jobs. The whole idea I think is also tied to this sense of masculinity – and traditional masculinity in decline. The truck is this macho symbol of purpose, of power, of perpetual momentum. So what happens when that purpose is challenged, when that power is no longer valued, when the moment has run away from the intention? That’s so much of what America is right now”. 

Despite the fact that the project is shot on the move and explores the very idea of relentless rush forward, it has no video element, only stills. For Klincewicz, it was a conscious decision. “There’s a magical quality to video stills – they hint at a story, at the possibility of a movie, or of multiple moments. They force you to imagine what came before and after, in a way that normal photos don’t”, he explains. The slightly blurry technicolour images of landscapes flashing by, of giant semi-trucks and discarded tires by the side of the road easily fit into the tradition of classic American imagery, American romanticism and American mundanity – they evoke Andy Warhol and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider.

Reimagining American identity in a politically challenging time was also crucial for Klincewiz. “I’ve actually come to see myself as very much an American artist. I never felt particularly American, or had much of an idea of what that meant until I realised the possibility that I’m able to present maybe a different side of America to the world, to be part of what is good in America,” he admits. “Right now it’s so fucked – fuck Trump and all his crooked cronies – and the fact that they are the global representation of America, embodiments of pure cowardice and selfishness. That’s not what I am. I have the possibility to present a better America, a compassionate America, an American that is fuelled by love and imagination.”

At the same time, Boys Grown Tall had a very personal meaning for Klincewicz – a reminder that in the constant race of creating new things sometimes it’s important to take a step back. “In the past few months I’ve been working through a lot of challenging ideas about who I am, or what I want to do, what kind of artist I want to be, what I value, what kind of human I want to be in the world,” he says. “And one of the conclusions I arrived at was just that I needed to be more present, and I need to work less. That doesn’t mean making less work necessarily, but it means dedicating more time to creating with 100 per cent freedom, with no specific outcome, pure process.”

Julian Klincewicz’s Boys Grown Tall is on at Swish in San Diego until 20 October 2019