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Directing the acoustic gaze: in conversation with Oshay Green
Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Mark Pieterson

Installation view, Untitled (brush, railroad tie, rope, charcoal, concrete, ink), 2020; courtesy the artist and AND NOW



“For me, the improvisational skill and experimental language of jazz artists like Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and Sun Ra, gave me permission to seek a plane of creativity that allowed for freedom and liberation, in all its valences”, artist Oshay Green tells me during our conversation outside a Los Angeles cafe. As far as influence, he leaves nothing on the table. Whether it’s the gritty, urban environment near his Dallas studio -- which provides him with an ample source of metal scraps and concrete that compose his sculptures -- or the conceptual approach of 20th-century Japanese and Korean artists such as Nebuo Sekine and Lee Ufan, Green channels his resources and influences to create objects that explore the interdependencies of being. 

The self-taught, Dallas-based artist’s striking, monochromatic-toned works evoke a sense of mysticism and spirituality that foregrounds the potentials of self-determination. Mundane Egg (2021), a lozenge-shaped sculpture with claw-like steel bars grounded to the form’s edges, for example, references the 19th-century theosophical text by Russian author Helena Blavatsky titled The Secret Doctrine. The book represents the mundane egg (also called the golden womb) as the undifferentiated matter from which materials for creation are formed. In the same way there are different eggs in accordance with the several stages the primordial substance goes through, Green renders the process of making as a reflexively dichotomous response to the interplay of lived experiences and the acoustic properties of materials. 

Green centers improvisational gestures in favor of strict determinism as an operative condition of his practice. He isn’t so much concerned with validating the truth conditions of any particular school of thought. Rather, he privileges the production of poetic excesses to showcase how a particular approach can instigate access to novel creative territories. This notion is evidenced in the series of canvases titled Fidelity Fuels My Exhaustion (2021), which feature ink markings made using the same brush featured in Untitled (brush, railroad tie, rope, charcoal, concrete, ink), 2020. The pieces are meant to be liturgical texts that test the physical limits of the body in its making, and continue the artist’s interest in divination and ritual.

In our conversation, we discuss his early beginnings as an artist, his recent presentations at AND NOW gallery in Texas as well as the Dallas Museum of Art, interest in cult cinema, and the search for safe spaces to be vulnerable in the ever-capricious art industry, among other topics.



I came to visual art quite late, to be honest. I was always drawn to music. It was what nurtured me creatively for a very long time. I’m still learning what it means for the work to occupy space and have a life of its own



Mark Pieterson: Let me begin by saying your grasp of material composition and formalism is, for lack of better sentiment, quite mature for a purely self-taught artist. 

Oshay Green: I really appreciate your sentiment. I came to visual art quite late, to be honest. I was always drawn to music. It was what nurtured me creatively for a very long time. I’m still learning what it means for the work to occupy space and have a life of its own, beyond my own intentions.

Were you playing any instruments, or was it just the appreciation of music that interested you?

Much like visual art, I also taught myself how to play instruments in high school. My friend gifted me a guitar and later began playing piano and bass. I picked up pedals along the way to experiment with looping and sample-based work  that I admired from hip-hop. It was actually through hip-hop that I discovered jazz and developed an admiration of its sheer creative force.

Did you make paintings or drawings during this period?

I was drawing, you know, I was fucking around. But, at that time, visual art was not at all my center. It was just something “else” that I was doing. My main interest was developing collages of sound and getting as intimate with sonic knowledge as possible.

Who were some of your musical influences?

I was drawn to the expressivity and philosophical leanings of Sun Ra, Miles Davis (into his late 60s and 70s), Ornette Coleman, and Alice Coltrane of course. It was imperative for me to learn not only from their compositions but to get a grasp of the plane at which they were speaking from -- wherever the fuck that was.


There was just something there that I couldn’t shake. Something that I knew would lead me toward what I was seeking. I guess you can call that purpose. It felt radical and challenging, and there’s so much freedom in that space. They possessed this aptitude, and I wanted to see if I could also channel it within myself.

At what point did visual art begin to take precedence in your creative journey?

It really wasn’t until I began spending a lot of time in the studio of Paul Winker, another Dallas-based artist. Paul was introduced to me by a mutual friend, Pierre Krause. After the first day of meeting, I was at his studio almost every day, mostly just hanging out while he painted. 

It got to the point where he let me use a little corner in his studio to do whatever I wanted creatively.

What kind of works did you make with what you found?

At first, I was into making characters, so more figurative works. Over time, as I began to feel more comfortable with the materials I was working with, I started taking creative risks, moving away from figurative sculptures into installations. I want things to be functional. 

When you say functional, what do you mean exactly? And has this approach changed over time?

I’m interested in the activation of materials. So, for instance, the concrete paintings that were part of my first two solos, I wanted the concrete to form itself. Sure, I was the one doing the pouring,  but I was drawn to how the concrete would form. There is a certain “aliveness” to the whole process that gives way to an interesting ontology because I didn’t really have that much control once I let things flow.

This sort of thinking allows the work and my approach to resist deterministic pitfalls, and provides me with space to be more sensitive to the material. I attribute a lot of that to the 20th-century Japanese and Korean Mono-ha art movement, which lasted from about 1968 to 1973. 

What is it about that movement in particular?

The artists’ whose work came to form Mono-ha, or “The School of Things,” of which Kishio Suga, Nobuo Sekine and Lee Ufan belonged to,  shunned the high gloss, status-driven leanings of the art world in favor of sculptures and installations that were made from basic materials, like rock, sand, grass, rope, oil, metal, and glass. They were concerned with things as they existed, and not too much with embellishing them for market consumption.

Most of the materials that went into the work were unaltered and arranged ephemerally. I found resonance in the artists’ insistence on foregrounding how the use of natural and industrial materials bring attention to the various contingencies in the encounter between elements and surrounding space.



There is more power, ancestrally, with the work we are all making as Black people and people of color. There is more to our interiority than just trauma and joy. We use our gifts to do more than just navigate trauma.



You can look at it like a divination of sorts.

Yeah, definitely. And if you consider the fact that the movement came about during the violent student riots of the late 60s in response to US-Japanese geopolitics, it would not be far-fetched to think that the artist’s found hope in those materials and compositions. I like to think of their work as a form of ritual that is not so different phenomenologically from, say, West-African ritual objects and performances used to praise deities and to affirm their presence. 

We’re dealing with a lot of things when it comes to systemic inequities. I choose to use ritual to navigate through much of it. I don’t subscribe to any dogmatic principles. But, in movements like Mono-ha and, you know, experimental orchestration, there’s a liberation that deals with process. I think contextualizing my practice in this way gives me formal appraisal to keep doing what I’m doing and find hope through it, as best as possible. 

So, moving away from figuration into this realm of abstraction, to what capacity did this shift the relationship you have with objects? 

I think if anything, the content and form has definitely changed. Being able to reference modes of rituals, and the syncretic variations with respect to slavery and migration, provided me with a knowledge base to think about different ways of generating that language within an object. 

And because a lot of these disciplines deal with the phenomenological encounter of the body and space, I was able to expand on the initial impulses and inquiries that grounded my interest in figuration. Instead of rendering the body in accordance with just scale, it became imperative for me to also consider the immaterial exponents that structure our understanding of experience. 


 Pit, 2020; courtesy the artist and AND NOW

Egg, 2021; courtesy the artist and AND NOW

Mace, 2021; courtesy the artist and AND NOW



Like what, for example?

The first thing that comes to mind, especially thinking about Untitled (brush, railroad tie, rope, charcoal, concrete, ink), 2020, is how much I wanted the works in “Members Don’t Git Weary”(my first solo show at AND NOW gallery) to evoke the feeling of going to church with my grandmother.

I wanted the viewer to feel that spiritual presence, which could only be successful by understanding the social locations that make that feeling possible. It’s not necessary to have a full material grasp of the subject position. However, it was my hope that the affective feedback afforded by the interplay of concrete, rope, ink, and charcoal would make the feeling of that ritual space legible enough to viewers.

I approached the action painting that was part of that show as a liturgical passage; a text I composed by repeating what started out as a linear passage giving praise to the afterlife.

That whole show dealt with the afterlife: in religious terms and, more broadly, the afterlife of capitalism. The concrete pit was meant to be a portal to the “other side.”

With your second solo show at And Now, “We Don’t Die, We Multiply”, were you also dealing with these ideas?

Yes, to a degree. The second show dealt more with my mother and my sister. I was thinking about their influence on my life and creative journey deeply; considering them in relation to hereditary patterns.

Their epigenetic influence?

Very much so. And beyond admiration for their strength and resilience, I was thinking a lot about the process of creation and ways of conveying this through maternal shapes, as in Untitled, Shield (Maternal), and Egg (all 2021). The recent sculpture, Mundane Egg, presented outside the Dallas-based Power Station art space as part of the Offsite Nasher Public Project, continues this inquiry. 

Can you expand on this?

The shape of the piece references the maternal womb. The arrangement of carved steel is a deliberate nod to the defense and offense mothers provide. The interplay of the two obsidian pieces, which were sourced from a recent trip to Mexico, also points to the alchemy of creation, as well as the sedimentation of elements that make up our experience of the world. 

I typically don’t include any talking points about my mom or sister in the press release of my work. Making intentional work is the best way for me to really dig deep in order to reveal aspects of my lived experience that have been taken for granted.



Mundane  Egg, 2021; courtesy the artist, AND NoW, and  Nasher Sculpture Center



I’m curious then how you feel about voicing trauma. Particularly, how do you feel about the tendency to think about art made by Black people and people of color in binary terms of trauma and joy?

It makes sense, and I believe it’s great for people to be vulnerable. It’s obviously not our fault we even got to this point where we have to talk about trauma and the aftermath of slavery. But, with all things, authenticity is key. It remains important to not just dwell on the trauma, or how X work or Y artist shifts from or deals with it, but to also continue to create spaces where this vulnerability lends itself to empirical, objective change at the structural level.

I agree.

There is more power, ancestrally, with the work we are all making as Black people and people of color. There is more to our interiority than just trauma and joy. We use our gifts to do more than just navigate trauma.

Your Untitled (cement, black pigment, and resin on canvas) was acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art, and included in the fall 2020 group show “To be Determined.” Do you feel any added pressure given the growing market interest for your work?

No, not at all. I feel very chill about it. I think this is because I’m making work mostly in playful search of what I deem truth and purpose. Whatever market success that comes with this exists solely as an advantageous byproduct to help me get by.

Do you think you’ll ever get to the point where you arrive at what you’re searching for? If so, what’s next from there?

I don’t know if there is an end. If there is one, there’s still an infinite amount of other unknown questions to tackle. But right now, the unknown does seem pretty infinite and provides me with ample ways to visually register its power and potentials.

In fact, there is a suite of 22 canvas pieces or gestures, titled Fidelity Fuels My Exhaustion, that specifically deals with my loyalty to d perform the same action over and over again in a ritual process. Composed in about three months, it was a way to find an answer to the question,  “can I sustain the level of curiosity and desire to learn, even through rather tedious gestures?”

What was your conclusion?

I absolutely can. In fact, I welcome this exercise wholeheartedly. 

What’s next for you?

I’m considering a move to Mexico City, to be honest.

Really? I must admit, it is one of my favorite cities in the Western hemisphere.

I fell in love with it, probably for the same reasons you enjoy it. But in terms of what’s next for my art, I want to continue developing an intimate relationship with steel, and hopefully find space to work more in film and video.

Have you worked in this medium before? Who are some of your film influences?

Not seriously. But I do enjoy crafting narratives, however esoteric. So perhaps I can begin realizing these in the format of time-based media.

As far as filmmaker’s who I draw influence from, definitely David Cronenberg and Curtis Harrington, one of the forerunners of New Queer Cinema. I’m drawn to Cronenberg and Harrington’s respective treatment of horror and occultism.

This is all something I’ve been considering, really in the last couple of months. Nevertheless, I look forward to developing a cinematic language that allows me to tell stories the way I want to. But again, there’s a lot to learn. It’s pivotal for me to listen and observe with intention.


Mark Pieterson is an artist, writer, independent curator and art consultant based in Los Angeles. 

Thanks to Oshay Green for sharing generously throughout this conversation. 

Editorial support by Yani Kong.