Interview with Marisa J. Futernick, RA Editions at Multiplied Art Fair, Christie’s, London

Art Sales at the Royal Academy, London, promotes and sells unique work and limited editions by Royal Academicians and invites emerging and established artists to participate. Their stand at Multiplied Art Fair, Christie’s, London, will showcase the RA Editions portfolio – a collection of contemporary, limited edition prints by Royal Academicians, graduates and associates of the Royal Academy Schools. Since 2009, internationally renowned artists have worked alongside some of the most promising postgraduate art students in the country to create the diverse range of prints in the RA Editions portfolio.  All proceeds from the sale of RA Editions prints contribute directly towards the School’s endowment fund allowing the Schools to continue to flourish.

We interview Marisa J. Futernick, an American artist based in London who features in Multiplied. Her work has been shown at the Whitechapel Gallery, London; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; and galleries internationally. She has produced a number of artist’s books, including a recent edition co-published by the Royal Academy of Arts, and was the 2014-15 recipient of the prestigious Deutsche Bank Award.

A: You are American and much of your work focuses upon the failed promise of the American Dream. Was this part of the motivation for your move to London?
MF: Funnily enough, I was actually an Anglophile when I first moved to London, some 15 years ago. That attitude has shifted over time, though, and my work has become more and more about America. In a paradoxical way, there is something about having distance from a place that enables a better understanding of it. In recent years, I have developed a method of working that involves spending intensive, extended periods of time in the USA to conduct artistic research and gather material; then returning to the UK to make work from that material. I have done residencies in Los Angeles and Detroit, and most recently, I drove cross-country for two months on my own, taking in 26 states and covering some 10,000 miles. The primary purpose of the road trip was to visit all of the nation’s Presidential Libraries, as research for a forthcoming artist’s book project.

A: How did your studies at the Royal Academy of Arts in London differ from your undergraduate studies at Yale University in the US and what did you find most enriching about the experience?
MF: Yale is a typical liberal arts university, meaning that students are required to study a wide range of subjects outside of their major. This is very different from the UK system, in which students must specialise as soon as they start university. So, in addition to fine art, I took courses in everything from fractal geometry to Japanese fiction. I have always had many intellectual interests beyond art ­– especially politics, writing, and cinema – and it was important that I was able to continue these pursuits. Indeed, these are fields that now play a big role within my art practice.

I then had a long gap between finishing my BA at Yale, and doing my postgraduate degree at the RA Schools. Having spent many years out in the world, I was ready to take full advantage of every opportunity afforded to me at the RA. It was a luxury to have the space and time to completely focus on my practice (unusually, the RA is a three-year course), and the small size of the programme (only 16 or 17 students in each year) meant that there was a strong sense of community amongst one’s peers.

A: Your art also explores the past and its repercussions in the present day. Which historical period has influenced your work the most?
MF: My interests are very much in the post-war period of my parents’ generation, so mainly the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s ­– the core years of the American Dream. I see 1980 as a real turning point in the story of that dream. It was the year that Ronald Reagan was elected, and the start of the erosion of the American middle class, and the widening of the gap between rich and poor. It also happens to be the year that I was born.

A: In order to convey your messages you use a variety of different media, ranging from photography and installation to painting and printing. Which of these techniques do you most enjoy experimenting with?
MF: I like having a range of tools to work with; sometimes, paint is the most appropriate medium for what I am doing, and sometimes it is writing. Slide installation seems to be an especially rewarding format for me these days. I had been shooting 35mm slides for some time, but was not really sure how to use them. Making Real Estate, my first slide installation, was a crucial moment in my practice. After using text and image in many different ways, it felt like I had finally found a really satisfying and rich way to combine them. I also like the way that it hovers on the edge of being filmmaking.

A: You are showing work at Multiplied Art Fair this October, which exclusively showcases work in editions. What is the appeal of producing work in editions for you?
MF: I work a lot with writing and artist’s books, and so the edition is a natural fit. The artist’s book allows me to use text and image in a format that can function off the wall and outside of the gallery. The photograph that the RA is showing at Multiplied is from my artist’s book, How I Taught Umberto Eco to Love the Bomb. This book has been published by the RA as a hand-numbered, limited edition, and is both a book and an artwork. I am currently busy working on an ambitious new artist’s book project that combines photographs from my American road trip with 13 short stories, in which each president from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush serves as a character.

Now in its 6th year, Multiplied is the UK’s only fair dedicated to contemporary art in editions, and returns to Christie’s South Kensington from 16-18 October. Visit for more information.

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1. Marisa J Futernick, Madonna Inn, Archival Print from 35 mm Slide, 2014. © Courtesy of RA Editions.