Daniel Macadam’s photographic screen prints provoke sentiments from stillness in an uncanny, pacifying way. There’s something about the lack, the rustic subjects in their open spaces that lends a calming effect to potential viewers. When encountering Daniel’s work in person, your eye instantly gravitates to the rugged power of the steel and the silos. Its also suggestive. This viewer can’t help but think about industry, an America of yesteryear. These places refer to times in which we actually made shit, and made it extremely well.
Aside from what one might take from the work, the process and technical aspect of photography meeting it’s presentation by means of a screen print. And back to that calming effect I mentioned; these structures are decidedly matte in aesthetic, then when screen printed, creates a sense of tactility that draws you in. Crucially, the artworks herein give life to the inanimate, while asking questions of where we are headed. Affordable, screen printed, and damn fine if we say so ourselves, Daniel Macadam of Crosshair Chicago makes prints that inspire.
Evan La Ruffa: Thanks for taking the time, we’ve been fans of your work for quite a while… we’re stoked to connect. So, where are you from?
Daniel Macadam: I was born in Scotland, grew up in Kentucky, and have lived in Chicago for 18 years, so I guess I’m from all of those places.
EL: Were you always a photographer? Did you ever dabble in other mediums?
DM: No. I came to photography via printing and not the other way around. I’m still kind of a hack photographer though I sometimes get lucky. I’ve always been fascinated with screenprinting as a means of recreating reality. I saw some Richard Estes prints when I was first learning to print, and they blew my mind with regards to what is possible within the medium. I was heavily involved in screenprinting for many years before I ever hunkered down to try to figure out the sort of intensively multicolor processes I work with now, but it was always in the back of my mind. I think I’ve grown a lot as a photographer recently, but the camera was always a means to an end.
EL: What brought you to Chicago?
DM: I visited Chicago a couple of times to record & play with a band while in college; at my most impressionable age. I met a bunch of people, musicians and artists, who became role models; not in the sense of their art and music, but in how they were able to live in spaces they created themselves, work for themselves, and basically have a viable existence doing their own thing on their own terms here in Chicago. That pretty much sealed it.
EL: What do you love most about Chicago? What do you like least?
DM: I love the creative community and specifically the printmaking community, and I love a whole lot of wonderful people who live here. I hate that our public schools are so hopeless that I face the choice between moving to Evanston or Oak Park, or sending my kids to private school.
EL: How do you feel about Chicago as far as being a city that supports its artists?
DM: This is the part where a good Chicago booster would grasp desperately at straws to make a favorable comparison of Chicago to NYC or LA, and I can’t do that. I just don’t think Chicagoans who aren’t artists themselves talk about art or think about art very much. All the most ardent supporters of the art and music scenes are the artists and musicians themselves, and those are exactly the people least able to express their support with money. So the coasts kick our asses there. There is a silver lining which is that Chicago doesn’t draw the multitude of bottom feeders LA and NYC do… There’s just nothing for a bottom feeder to feed upon, so they move on or wither. People want to see what you’ve actually done, not how well you can BS about it. Pretty much everyone I know who makes art here is 100% committed.
EL: What drew you to silkscreen printing? How’d you start?
DM: I dabbled in art while studying Economics in college, and wound up in a nicely appointed screenprint studio. The process fit my personality. My instructor and de facto mentor was John Pearson, and with him you had to deliver the actual product, or you had nothing. There was no way to BS your way out of a failed or half-assed print with some collegiate identity-politics PC bullying bullshit. The technical rigor was enforced, and it created space for pure aesthetics to matter. I ended up spending my free time in the studio working on personal projects, and I emerged from a few all mineral spirits soaked all nighters spent printing my band’s record sleeves with the addled idea that this was something I could be good at.
EL: Take us through the process of creating one of your prints…
DM: The time spent with the camera is playful and impulsive. The time spent exploding the image and then reassembling it is intense, all consuming, exhausting, and slow. The time spent on press is varying proportions of exhilarating and meditative.
EL: What’s your favorite part of the process?
DM: Printing is the payoff, when I get to see an idea become a physical thing. I love printing the last two colors, which for me are typically a very transparent gray, and black. If a flat piece of paper is going to become a window into 3D space, that’s when it happens.
EL: There’s a potent stillness to your work. What draws you to these bridges, building, and smokestacks?
DM: I’ve always been drawn to them, since I was a kid. I remember an intense aesthetic experience I had when I was 10: my family was living in Denmark and all along the North Sea coast were these concrete bunkers the Nazis built during the occupation. Just hundreds of them, spaced out seemingly forever, rising up out of the sand at bizarre angles. I was able to see them as cut loose from all the historical baggage and they became this vast minimalist sculpture, the length of a whole (small) country. I wanted to stare at them, climb on them, just be among them.
Stillness gives a patient observer the opportunity to see through the surface of a thing. If I can freeze the stillness that is so hard to find in our daily existence, tune out all the extraneous bullshit, then maybe I can give my viewers the opportunity to look past the surface and see what I see. Man made things existing in tension with nature and decay have some pretty gnarled and fascinating souls.
EL: You’ve done a lot of gigposters as well. Do the bands always reach out to you or do you ever offer to work for bands who’s tunes you enjoy?
DM: 99% of the time the bands come to me. The only time in recent memory I’ve approached a band out of sheer fanboy fervor was Codeine. There was no way in hell I was going to let another artist do that poster. I’d have had to kill them.
EL: You’ve said,”Even when I’m taking the photograph, I’m thinking about how the print is going to work, what inks I’m going to use, how I’ll get the most out of the process. It’s all about how do I make this physical thing, not how do I get this to look good on the computer screen.” Does that have to do with your attraction to the printing process as much as the images themselves?
DM: Yes, that and the understanding that the camera is just the first step in the process. I’ll pass up plenty of good potential photo subjects in favor of something I think I can actually work with.
EL: What music are you listening to the most these days? Best concert you ever went to?
DM: I never really got into Lungfish back in the 90’s and now I’m making up for that…they’re amazing. The new Polvo record is in heavy rotation. I’ve recently pulled out the first 3 Throwing Muses records after reading Kristin Hersh’s memoir. I was into those back in high school and they’ve blown my mind anew…They’re criminally underrated. I have a long-running krautrock obsession, and my kids love Kraftwerk. For new music, Circle, Circle, Circle. And metal. This is a good time for metal.
I couldn’t possibly name the best concert I’ve seen; I’ve seen so many great ones, and the most memorable aren’t necessarily the best. The first times I saw The Jesus Lizard, Codeine and The Melvins were all life-changing. The best things I’ve seen this year were probably Blixa Bargeld, and the Bitch Magnet and Come reunion shows.
EL: Name an artist or musician IPMM readers should check out right now.
DM: Frank Kunert is a German artist who builds and then photographs these very detailed and realistic vignettes that all have something absurdly wrong with them. They’re dark and incisive but manage to maintain a sense of humor that is usually lacking in “fine art” with prominent quotation marks.
There is a profoundly weird band from Finland called Circle who are probably the best band in the world right now. Sometimes they sound like Judas Priest covering Can or Neu, then other times like a bunch of magical elves dancing in the forest, or like a Yes record with a bad skip. They sing everything in Finnish. They’re just incredibly unpredictable and creative, and I can’t get enough of them.