Tamara Gayer is an artist transfixed by the city. Suspended between the impulses of an image maker and  those of a builder she creates work that mutates from drawing to installation to video. Born in NYC, gayer grew up in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from Hunter College. In New York her work has been show at Foxy Production, Exit Art, Smackmellon and most recently at toomerlabzda. She is represented in several prominent collections including that of the Museum of Modern Art where she has lectured on her work.


Walking into the quirky hyper-dimensional space of Tamara Gayer’s cityscapes can literally throw you into a psychosomatic seizure. It isn’t just the scope and magnitude of the work that mock any conceivable cognitive horizon, or the warped perspective, or the suggestions of order and clarity that fade in and out of existence, it isn’t even the candy store colors and patterns –  it’s the feeling that you are in fact, literally elsewhere. Then you are left with three options: keel over, feel sick or surrender.


Whether beckoned into her installations with their veering angles, kinetic depths of field and sloping plains, or into the 3D duratrans prints housed in light boxes with their kaleidoscopic feats of proximity and alienation, either way the spectator is invited undergo an experience. And this experience is one that forces you to come to terms your subjectivity. For there is nothing else but consciousness: A void that slips and twirls between vertical and horizontal parameters, a depth that is never quite definable: is it deep surface? Is it a tesseract disguised as a Klein bottle? Is it comedy?


There are only cityscapes here. You, the observer, being the only human subject of this entire event – are forced to address your subjectivity. It is precisely the two dimensionality, the symmetrically soothing quality of an image, that forces the subject to say ‘I am’.  But what happens to this orderly geometry, to this ‘good object’ of Gestalt psychology when it is turned into a frenzied and anisotropic experience?

The ‘what is’ opens up. What if it was so? What if failed utopias did not fail? What if we could live in line with the values of urban planning as they dreamed themselves to be? What if childhood wasn’t over?


The coexistence of humor and longing in these cityscapes turns into a walk through wonderland, a journey in space and time.

We play. We give in to this obscene choreography of color, this geometric opening up to probability, this invitation to be ventrally and peripherally sighted, to be anything: dextral, sinister, myopic, to dissociate space into nothing short of an optical crisis. But we also go to the time of potentiality – that which is not yet, or no longer, or once again – the time of what if.


And it is also a game. A toy. A candy. A space for playfully gift-wrapped flirtations, a catalytic kinetic tantrum that demands other ways of seeing/being.  Everything – the house, the housing project, the city – dissolves, haunted with desire for its own potential. It is not coincidental, therefore, that Gayer’s subject is the urban landscape and in particular, its failed, feigned and stretched utopias. For even between Aristotle’s potentiality and dynamis there is a space for failure: the potential for something to be is always also its potential not to be.


In Tamara Gayer’s work some failure is necessary. Whether it is the failure of modernist utopias, the failure to go back and see like a child, or like an evolved human, the failure of the observer’s ability to say “I am” –failure is necessary before the new can shine forth. Her designs become a contingency of an elsewhere in which contradictions can coexist, where they fit a social stratagem that takes the human into consideration. At the core of this incongruity, is Gayer’s extreme a-historicism of her objects; a prioritizing of “space”, while communicating a sense of order and rationality to society and to man as an individual. That which remains possible, draws on the principles of the ideal city. Yet for any ideal to move from potentiality to actuality, it must go through a process of mourning. As happy as an Irish wake.  So finally, there emerges a deep sense of longing in this work, and a sadness. Not only for what is not or no longer is but for the plain, gray and unwanted to once again be loved.


This body of work is a toy that makes laughing and crying sounds. It cries for having lost the intimate, the personal, the human and the beautiful but it laughs at the tyranny of Euclidian fields. Utopia is that which still smiles from the tapering corners, from the empty rhombs and from the gaps between.


– Shlomzion Kenan 2007


100a forsyth street, new york, ny 10002

toomer labzda talks with TAMARA GAYER / featured in the inside STUDIO IMAGES 1 2 3

from / studio: manhattan / greenpoint, brooklyn medium: digital industrial manipulation


what do you use most often in your studio?

i suppose i would have to say the computer. now i depend on my computer a lot because it’s both the drawing tool and fabrication tool. since i’m interested in the process, it really helps make the creative act into a process as opposed to discrete-object-based. the process becomes a very central part of it in addition to what it looks like on its face. so as boring as that answer is, [laughs] my computer gets at least 50% of my time.


what is your favorite part of the creative process?

it’s really exciting when you work with things for a while, but there’s a moment when you’ve stumbled on something and they coalesce into something. and you can see that there’s some [pause] let’s call it magic. [laughs] that being said from a very rational and not very spiritual person. that part is great–when you’ve just learned to use something in a new way, when you’ve just stepped out boundaries of “things are done like this,” or “i was doing it like this all the time” and then something just lets you go to another place. those moments are treasures.


what is your earliest memory of art? 

art and culture were really important for my mother. she grew up in long island, but for as soon as she could move and get out, she was in new york city going to concerts and museums and going to see things in different places. if there’s a festival somewhere or if there’s something to be seen, whether it’s Lincoln Center or on a rooftop in the middle of nowhere, my mother is generally there. [laughs]

and she took me with her around constantly from a very young age. and through today, still, that’s a thing we do together. she doesn’t live in new york anymore, so when she’s here, it’s like that. wherever she’s lived, it’s always been like that.


how did you start working in your current medium?

well i always had a predisposition to really bright, colorful, shiny things. physically, plastics are the material that can be saturated with the most color, except for having just a handful of pure pigment. so i started working with vinyl because it was really cheap and available. i did spend a year or two making things only out of vinyl. i had a friend, not with kind intentions, call it my “shower curtain art.” [laughs] she was not joking.

i started to look for ways to still use the plastic and have some of the physical elements i really like–the saturation, the translucence. i had to move away from that vinyl that you used to be able to buy on Canal Street, which is no longer as easily available. once i started to look for these [materials], i became more involved with things that were more in the realm of the industrial and less in the realm of the art store. there was a several-year transition at the end of which i no longer went to the art store at all.

so i go to the hardware store if i need something. and i source the internet a lot to find the cheapest versions of things so i can play around as much as possible.


what was the last exhibition you saw?

the last exhibition i saw was a combination sculpture and painting show at Feature. he shows a lot of work that i am sympathetic to. and it was all about geometry, and it was a really was an interesting notion of reflecting these repetitive patterns in both 2D and 3D. so. [laughs] it was much more historical than my work is, especially some of the paintings you could even locate in history. it was a very lovely show.


is there an artist you’ve always wanted to grab drinks with?

i have narrowed it down to two.

one is louise nevelson. i always thought that. she branched out in sculpture, which was not the given practice of the era. and there are descriptions of her being the only woman at Cedar Tavern [a famous 1960s New York City hangout for abstract expressionists]. and also there’s a really amazing video of her studio practice when she was old. i think i saw it when i was in high school. she has all these young, super buff studio assistants without shirts walking around, and she’s like “honey, will you move this from here to there?” [laughs] fantastic movie.

then the other person is diane arbus. what’s so interesting about her work is not only the weirdness she finds, but once you spend a little time looking at her photographs and you go out onto the street, you really find that weirdness. and you didn’t see it before. i hope my work does like that–lets you see the city a little bit differently. see the potential of living in a super brightly colored geometric warp time zone.

both together would be really great. because they’re new york women also.


if money was no object, what artwork would you acquire?

i don’t know. i’m just not a collector. if i had lots of money, i think i would get the funding to commission something that lots of people could see, for a large slice of a mixed socio-ethnic crowd. some weird thing that brings them together.

also being a mother, i see my kid get frustrated now that he can walk around because he can’t touch this or that at art events. that’s the thing, a lot of art objects look like you should be able to touch them. so for my art piece, none of this half-play of “i’m very enticing, but don’t touch me.” my public art thing you’d definitely be able to touch.


is there one thing you wish you could do? 

anything? i really want to learn how to do a handstand. i really do. i’ve never been able to master that. i think it would be an awesome moment of both power and fun. and i can totally see that revolutionizing my way of seeing things. it’s weird, there are some things you learn how to do and it changes your whole perspective on everything. [laughs]

TAMARA GAYER interview.pdf


interviewed by Serena Qiu on july 2, 2012 at Tamara Gayer’s studio / contact


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