We got a coffee with artist Jay Batlle outside his Brooklyn studio near the Navy Yards. Batlle’s work has been about exploring value and how it is created in a culture driven by capitalism. Know as the epicurean painter, Batlle is interested in exploring “the good life” — success, fortune, and an abundance of sensual pleasures — and the gulf that exists between this ideal and reality. The artist subverts the gourmet experience into social commentary, mostly on the interchangeability of wealth and power, and the blurring of boundaries between the two as it relates to indulgence and excess. For Batlle’s exhibition on NO SALAD FOR A MEAL, we asked him a few questions to accompany, this poetic short film made by Brooklyn-based, British born filmmaker Chuka Umunna (see below).
What was it like studying under John Baldessari?
JB: This was twenty-years ago..now, but Baldessari’s advice is timeless: “Talent is Cheap.” “You have to will things into existence.” “And being in the right place at the right time.” I think it was a formative experience that gave me an immense boost when I was a young artist starting out. I was lucky. Baldessari is a great mentor.
How did you end up linking your artistic practice with food?
JB: I think that food or more specifically cooking, eating, and the structures associated with restaurants are big themes that most people can relate too. I was cooking and working professionally in restaurants so I saw this as a natural extension of my critique of value and just went with it. Now my life has become an extension of my art. I found a vocabulary there, that I could make my own and express the thing we call life.
If you could have an exhibition in any space or city in the world where would it be?
JB: That’s funny you ask, my last name is spelled Batlle which is Catalan, but pronounced “Battle” so I would love to have an exhibition in Barcelona- where people wouldn’t spell my name wrong (laughs).
Do you have any advice for young artists entering the ‘business’?
JB: I think that if you get into art for business reasons you should choose a different career. It’s a life long commitment and doesn’t really follow a model. I think the exciting part of being an artist is the freedom to create your own rules and breaking them.